The Boston Bruins should know by now what to expect when the Stanley Cup playoffs finally come. But should they need it, they received a reminder of what the NHL’s second season brings.
Boston played back-to-back games against desperate teams Wednesday and Thursday — and can learn plenty from those games. The Bruins lost both, dropping a 4-3 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs just 24 hours after losing 3-2 in regulation to the Detroit Red Wings.
The Maple Leafs and Red Wings have a lot more to play for than the Bruins. The Wings are jockeying for playoff position, and the Leafs are on life support when it comes to their postseason chances. The Bruins have kind of been in cruise control lately, and they were given quite the wake-up call.
The Bruins must be better in their own end when the playoffs start in two weeks. After a dominant stretch in which the Bruins allowed just 13 goals in an 11-game stretch during the middle of March, they now have allowed 10 goals in their last three games.
Boston’s defensive issues were apparent Thursday night in Toronto. At least in the first two periods, the Bruins had too many turnovers in their own end, and two of them — one from Matt Bartkowski, the other from Dougie Hamilton — led directly to Toronto goals. Even on the game-winning goal — a power-play strike in overtime — the Bruins had some defensive breakdowns. Kevan Miller couldn’t clear out Nazem Kadri in front, allowing the Leafs center to jump on a rebound and beat Chad Johnson.
Add these two games and the Bruins’ shootout win in Philadelphia on Sunday, and another somewhat disturbing trend sticks out: Boston is back into its bad habit of allowing goals late in a period. The Bruins allowed goals at the 19:18 and 19:35 marks of periods in Philly, and they allowed a first-period goal at the 19:48 mark of the first period Thursday night in Toronto. Those lapses are easier to deal with during the regular season, especially when your playoff position is all but set. In the playoffs, though, they can cost you a season. All the Bruins need to do is look back to last year’s Stanley Cup Final for a reminder of that.
The common thread here is attention to detail. The Bruins almost certainly will be fine when it comes to the playoffs. After all, leading up to these two or three games, the Bruins were pretty dominant. This type of dip was almost to be expected, as the team almost had worked itself into a sense of comfort. At least it’s happening now and not in the playoffs, as the Bruins can use this week as a point of reference of how good they’ll need to be when the games start to matter the most.