Bruins head coach Claude Julien was asked Thursday night if he felt “fortunate” after his team came back from an ugly start to grab a shootout win over the Anaheim Ducks. Two nights later, with his team on the losing end against the New York Islanders, Julien had no problems criticizing his team publicly.
The Bruins do deserve credit for coming back and beating a very good Ducks team on Thursday, but they deserve no such credit for anything Saturday night against the Isles. The B’s dropped a 3-1 decision to New York in a game that featured not many positives at all.
Under Julien, the Bruins have made a habit of giving workmanlike efforts with strong defensive play. It isn’t always pretty on offense or on the power play, but the one thing you can control is effort. The Bruins lacked in that area Saturday night on the Island, and it hurt them in all three zones.
That’s not just a harsh opinion of the media. Just ask Julien what he thinks.
“They brought some momentum; we brought none,” Julien said after the game. “Simple as that. We didn’t play well enough tonight. Right now, it’s just not good. Everything that we’ve done well when we’ve hockey games, it’s not there. I think a lot of it is based on our effort. Our effort isn’t good enough. We don’t compete hard enough. … For us, we couldn’t even manage the puck well tonight. You’re not going to win too many games playing like that.”
Again, you can live with the offensive issues, especially if the effort is there and you run into a hot goaltender. That was far from the case for the Bruins on Saturday. The main issues, which seem to be a little more prevalent this year than in years past, are defensive breakdowns. The Bruins were burned multiple times Saturday night.
The Islanders’ first goal came when Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton got caught looking at the puck in the second period as John Tarvares batted a puck by backup goalie Chad Johnson. But it’s not just the fault of the defensemen, especially with Johnny Boychuk sitting out after injuring himself Thursday. The Islanders’ second goal after a clean faceoff win in the Boston zone, and the third goal was a product of a turnover and some suspect backchecking.
These issues aren’t yet something to be really worried about. These types of slip-ups are expected in a long season. You also have to factor in injuries to players like Boychuk and Loui Eriksson when looking at the big picture.
That being said, those are all excuses that take the onus of what the real problem was and has been lately. The effort simply isn’t there. The Bruins are talented enough as currently constituted to beat a team like the Islanders, especially when New York played in Canada 24 hours earlier. The answer sounds oversimplified, but it comes down to just trying harder.
“Thinking wise, effort wise, sometimes we’ve hit a bit of a lull there,” Julien added. “We’re struggling to get out of it. It’s going to take a little bit more hard work than we think we’re putting in there and once we start doing that, it will come back.”
Julien and the Bruins are surely hoping that happens sooner rather than later.