BOSTON — The Bruins got themselves in trouble once again against the Hurricanes with some undisciplined play and a far too inconsistent effort. But at least they weren't pulling any punches after the game either when it came to assessing their own shortcomings of late.
"Not good enough," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said of the team's effort. "Same thing we've been talking about for the last, however long. Absolutely fell asleep in the second period. Not good enough at all. I don't think we had everyone going again. Seems to be the same old story. We're not that good that we can come out and go through the motions and expect to be successful. When we were on top of our game, it's because everyone was working and that's not happening right now."
The Bruins are now 4-4-1 in their last nine games. Since the emotional rematch with Vancouver nearly a month ago, Boston is just barely above .500 at 6-5-1. The common theme throughout the recent slump has been long stretches of lackadaisical play.
On Thursday, it came in the second period. After outshooting Carolina 22-8 in the first and still managing to fall behind 1-0, the Bruins mustered just five shots in the second as the Hurricanes extended the lead to 2-0. Carolina tacked on another in the third to complete the 3-0 victory and a 4-0-0 season sweep of the series.
"Tonight we were just really bad," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "We just didn?t play well. Just a really bad night for us. You know, I thought we had actually the start of the game and Johnny [Boychuk] seemed liked he got hurt and we all kind of stopped playing, including myself, and boom they zipped it past us and it's past Tuukka [Rask].Then we just, again, we didn't have a good second and, yeah, we couldn't get anything going tonight."
Carolina's first goal came as Boychuk lay crumpled in the corner in pain after jamming his own stick into his midsection along the boards. "I basically made myself into a shish kabob," Boychuk said. "It didn't feel very good at all."
It didn't feel very good seeing Jiri Tlusty toss the puck out of that same corner to Eric Staal for an easy tap-in behind Rask at the far right post. It was a frustrating way to give up the only goal in a frame the Bruins otherwise controlled, and that frustration carried over to a second period the Bruins never bothered to show up for.
"When you're playing the way they're playing, guys get frustrated, and we saw that at the beginning of the year," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We're not playing very smart right now, and we?re certainly not competing the way we should be competing.I guess, as a coach, you?ve got to find ways to solve that, but at the same time, the answer still remains in the dressing room, too.They've got to kind of do their share because we certainly can?t play for them. But we're certainly going to work on that and getting our competitive edge back up to where it should be."
Thornton didn?t see it so much a matter of frustration as just a lack of effort that cost the Bruins.
"We weren't all that frustrated," Thornton said. "We knew that we could have maybe created some more second or third chances and had some more traffic around there [in front of Ward]. It wasn't [being] frustrated. I think we knew that what we talked about, not falling asleep in the second and sure enough, we fell asleep in the second."
Those lapses have been all too frequent of late for the Bruins. They've managed to survive some, such as Tuesday's 4-3 win over Ottawa when the Bruins sleepwalked through the second period again, but got a goal in the final minute to cut the deficit to one and came alive in the third to squeak out the victory.
The Bruins have been a dominant team in the third period this season, outscoring opponents 71-34 in the final frame. But playing just one good period simply isn?t enough, even against a Carolina team mired in last place in the Eastern Conference.
"I mean we got to realize we can't just rely on playing for 20 or 40 minutes," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. "It's too hard and it?s late to win games like that. I mean yes, it?s going to happen once in a while and we are going say we?ll take it, but at the end of the day we need to straighten that up. We know [that], but we got to execute that and put it on the ice now."
The Bruins turned to video work to help them snap out of their 3-7-0 funk at the start of the season. That doesn't appear to be the answer this time around, though.
"We've done some video," Julien said. "We've showed them some different things. It?s more of an attitude thing right now, about getting some urgency in our game, and we've got the guys in the dressing room to make that happen. So we need to push, as a coaching staff and as players as well, and start to see a little bit more urgency."
The Bruins' problems right now aren't about tactics or technique. It?s not a matter of finding flaws on film. It?s about effort as much as execution.
"It's just hard work," Thornton said. "It's simple. Just show up. We need all 23 guys showing up and working hard and playing with a bit of an edge and not going over it. That's when we're successful. We should know that by now. If we have any passengers, then we're not successful."