If the Bruins’ current three-game California road trip was a midseason test for the Atlantic Division-leading B’s, they certainly have failed the first two sections of the midterm exam.
The Bruins dropped a 4-2 decision to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night at Staples Center and have now lost the first two games of a three-game swing through Cali. They have lost those two games — Thursday in L.A. and Tuesday in Anaheim — by a combined score of 9-4. The B’s have now lost five of their last six road games and haven’t defeated a playoff team since beating the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 7.
There’s not one culprit, either, as the Bruins have proved through the last two games. On Tuesday night against the Ducks, special teams play was Boston’s demon, as the B’s allowed three power-play goals and a shorthanded goal to boot. On Thursday against the Kings, it was a slow start that put the Bruins in trouble.
The Kings didn’t necessarily dominate the first 20 minutes, but they certainly got the better of the chances. It was pretty telling that Jeff Carter — who gave Los Angeles the lead with a goal in the first — had six shots on goal in the first 20 minutes while the Bruins as a team had just five. That was in stark contrast to the Anaheim game, when Boston dominated the opening frame only to see Jonas Hiller stand on his head and keep the B’s off the board.
Where the wheels really started to fall off for the Bruins on Thursday was in the opening minutes of the second period. The B’s killed off an overlapping penalty to Dougie Hamilton, but he made the mistake of playing the puck before he had fully stepped out of the penalty box. That resulted in a seldom-seen interference penalty that put him right back in the box. Eighteen seconds later, Justin Williams scored — the eighth power-play goal Boston has allowed since Dec. 31 — to really make the brain fart hurt. That was followed about a minute later by an Alec Martinez blue-line blast that beat Tuukka Rask to give the Kings a 3-0 lead.
“It took us almost a half a game to get us going,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told NESN’s Jamie Erdahl. “The second half was better, but by that time we had already dug ourselves a hole. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot with the way we’re giving up goals these days, so it’s not helping us. We responded in the second half, but it was too late.”
That third goal, which for all intents and purposes put the game out of reach, also signaled the end of the night for Rask. The Bruins goalie hasn’t necessarily elevated his play to help try to combat the recent slip-ups of his teammates. Rask has now been pulled from a game three times in the last month. The goaltender has been especially leaky on the road, where he’s just 1-4-0 in his last five road starts with a 5.62 goals against average and an .841 save percentage.
Rask’s issues are far from the only thing hurting the Bruins right now. The loss of Dennis Seidenberg has taken its toll, and it’s starting to look like general manager Peter Chiarelli might have to put his thinking cap on pretty soon to try to find a solution. It’s not a total coincidence that the B’s have allowed 21 goals in the six games since losing Seidenberg for the season. Like Rask’s struggles, though, the problems extend beyond Seidenberg’s absence. Prime real estate has been all too easy to come by for opponents as of late, as the defensively responsible Bruins have been anything but recently.
Boston certainly hasn’t been helped by any sort of puck luck in this recent skid, but the Bruins haven’t really done much to earn any sort of bounces. The B’s attempted 45 shots against the Kings, which might seem like a lot on the surface. However, comparing that to the 60 shot attempts (35 on goal) that Los Angeles had, it’s obvious to see why the Kings might have gotten the extra bounce or two Thursday night.
The Bruins are being reminded right now that, when starting to play playoff teams like Anaheim and Los Angeles (and San Jose coming up on Saturday), especially on the road, they need to be at their best. The Bruins have been far from their best to open this road trip, and the results — or lack thereof — have certainly backed that up.