The Bruins have no one to blame but themselves, and if they don’t figure out what’s wrong quickly — in less than 24 hours — their season will be over.
The B’s played an inexplicably ugly game Sunday night in Game 6 against the Maple Leafs, and Toronto took full advantage of it. The Leafs won the do-or-die affair 2-1, and they have forced Game 7 on Monday night back in Boston.
Bruins fans have all the right in the world to be frustrated after the team’s latest disappointment, but then again, they probably shouldn’t be surprised, either. This has been the modus operandi of the B’s all season long. Some nights they’re really good. Other nights, they can’t seem to get out of their own way.
Game 6 was a perfect example of that. After a season in which the Bruins would be up and down from game to game, the B’s appeared to be up and down through three periods of play in Toronto.
Boston played a strong first period in which the B’s limited the Maple Leafs’ chances. They didn’t get much going offensively, but their defensive system was working, and they slowed Toronto in what was a wild environment to begin the game. They got physical in the second period, where they matched the Leafs’ speed up and down the ice.
Things fell apart in the third period when Dion Phaneuf scored 1:48 into the third, and Phil Kessel followed that up 7:11 later. From there, the Bruins became increasingly sloppy and really inspired no hope for a comeback. Sure enough, they fell short, despite a desperation goal from Milan Lucic in the final minute.
However, Bruins coach Claude Julien didn’t really see his team’s effort as up and down throughout the game. He was upset with the way they played from the beginning.
“It wasn’t a difference in the third,” he said. “I thought the whole game, we talked about puck management, I didn’t think we did a really good job. Although it was 0-0, we had to have better puck management. When you look at the end of the game, the way we lost, that’s what cost us the game. It’s simple as that.”
Even so, Game 6 still falls right in line with the Bruins of 2013. The Bruins have gone from looking sharp with road wins in Game 3 and Game 4 to the brink of elimination with Game 7 looming. Some are amazed that the Leafs could push the Bruins to a Game 7, but for those who have watched the B’s all year, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. What was it in the final two months of the season that would make you think that this Bruins team, this “Jekyll and Hyde” club, could win four games in a week and a half?
“There’s really no explanation,” Julien said of his team. “We’ve been a Jekyll and Hyde hockey club all year, and we showed it again tonight.”
So now what? Julien didn’t offer any hints about what he might do with his lineup, telling reporters, “I have no comment on my lines,” but there’s no doubt that something must be done to wake this team up.
It would have made sense that a loss in Game 6 in which the Bruins were no-shows for 60 minutes would light the fire, but it didn’t. Therein lies the problem with inconsistency. No matter what the Bruins may have led everyone to believe after a dominating Game 1 win, you really can’t just flip the switch. We now have no idea which Bruins team will show up for Game 7.
If the final 10 minutes or so Sunday were any indication, however, the Bruins might be headed for summer vacation. They had the look of a team that was already feeling the pressure of a Game 7 before Game 6 even finished.
Yet, there’s still reason to believe to that the Bruins might bounce back and win Monday night. It would certainly fit into the narrative that has been so clearly demonstrated this season. The pressure will certainly be on for a Bruins team that is 3-4 in Game 7 appearances under Julien, with all three wins coming in the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2011.
“As I said to our players after the game, we’ve been a Jekyll and Hyde hockey club all year, and that’s what you’re seeing right now,” Julien said in one of his terse replies at his postgame news conference. “I think it’s important for us to bring the good Bruins team to the table for Game 7.”
The Bruins know more than anyone else, however, that it’s not that simple.