Bruins Searching for Answers, and a Few Goals, Against Surprisingly Stingy Capitals Defense


Bruins Searching for Answers, and a Few Goals, Against Surprisingly Stingy Capitals DefenseBOSTON — The Bruins finished the regular season tied for second in the NHL in scoring, averaging 3.17 goals a game.

Through the first two games of their opening-round series against Washington, though, the Bruins have managed just two goals despite both games going into overtime, including a double-overtime marathon Saturday at the Garden when the Capitals prevailed 2-1 to even the series.

Simply put, the Bruins aren't getting the job done offensively against a surprisingly stingy Capitals defense and young goalie Braden Holtby.

"We're going to have to score some goals," Bruins center David Krejci said. "Two goals in two games –  it’s not good enough."

Identifying the problems isn't difficult. The Bruins aren't creating enough traffic in front. They aren't getting shots through the defense, and they aren't forcing the issue with their physical play. Correcting those deficiencies isn't as easy, but at least the Bruins do recognize their shortcomings and have shown an ability to overcome in the past.

"I just don't think we're playing our game, especially my line," Krejci said. "We have to find a way to help each other out there. It sometimes seems like there's one guy working, and the two others are just waiting and hoping for the puck to get a scoring chance, but it doesn't work like that. We've got to help each other out there."

The one line doing that has been the third unit of Benoit Pouliot, Chris Kelly and Brian Rolston. They have carried their late-season surge into the playoffs and have accounted for Boston's only two goals. Kelly scored the overtime winner in Game 1, and Pouliot followed up a Rolston shot that had been blocked and chipped it in over Holtby as he crashed the net to tie the game 1-1 at 12:13 of the third period on Saturday.

"I think the first game went pretty well for our line, and today was the same thing," Pouliot said. "But we've just got to score a little more."

That mostly means the rest of the forwards taking a page out of that line's book.

"They are [attacking], and so is our fourth line," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "They're putting pucks at the net, and they're going to the net. Some of the other guys or lines are trying to be a little too cute, and it ends up with, at the end of it, it ends up with nothing. Nothing to show for it. So, need to be a little bit more of a gritty team determined to, like I said, go to the dirty areas, win the battles, because as you can see after two games, that's what it's going to be. It's going to be a matter of winning battles."

The Bruins won more of those battles on Thursday, outhitting Washington 40-29 and wearing down the Capitals defense a bit. That was reversed Saturday, when the Capitals held a 41-36 edge in hits and more than matched Boston’s physical presence.

"I don't think we played the way we wanted to the entire game," Bruins defenseman Greg Zanon said. “We did some good things. We've got to get back to playing our hockey. We were playing physical but I don't think as physical as we did in the first game. So we've got to get back to playing our way."

The Bruins need to get their top two lines going, but that will take a team effort, and even the blueliners have to do their part.

"I think the D's can do a little better job in the transition and just move the puck up quicker and just get going," Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "On the offensive side we just have to get pucks in front of the net, like we always talked about with guys going there, and picking up the rebounds. So, we all know what to do, and I think it's no secret."

Holtby had never started a playoff game before Thursday, but any edge the Bruins may have had because of that inexperience is long gone as he's survived his baptism by fire with 72 saves on 74 shots in two sudden-death pressure-cookers. He’s had help, too, with the Capitals blocking 49 shots in front of him, including 27 on Saturday.

Washington has played the rope-a-dope style well, earning the split in Boston to take away the Bruins' home ice advantage as their patient approach has paid off. The Bruins need to get them out of that comfort zone and get back to their aggressive style to punish the Capitals both physically and on the scoreboard.

"I think, obviously, we can be better with our offensive game," Julien said. "They just sit back. They play a patient game. They sit back, and they get into their 1-4, and if you want to get cute in the neutral zone, then you're not getting pucks in. But it took us two periods to get ourselves going and get some more opportunities, and instead of using our outside speed and everything else, we just kind of made it easy on them. And, you know, at this stage of the year, you would like to see more net-front traffic, and you would like to see that puck going to the net a little bit more with guys heading in that direction, and we don't have a good enough commitment in that area right now to win hockey games."

The Bruins will need to find that commitment, and a few more goals, in Washington next week if they want to enjoy another extended postseason run.

Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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