BOSTON — It’s been one of the more bizarre storylines of this NHL season: How can the Bruins be so competitive when playing in seemingly any arena around the league but so incapable of finding success in the comfort of their own building?
Fresh off earning eight of a possible 12 points on a season-long road trip, the Bruins suffered yet another home-ice loss Monday night, falling 6-4 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in their return to TD Garden.
Boston boasts the NHL’s third-best road record (20-7-3) but the sixth-worst mark at home (12-15-3). Of the 16 teams that held playoff spots entering Tuesday, only the San Jose Sharks had fewer home wins.
“It’s not good enough,” said winger Loui Eriksson, who scored twice in Monday’s loss. “We need to play much better when we’re coming home and playing in front of our fans. I think no one is happy about how we’re playing right now at home, and that’s something we need to address and get better as we go along here. We know we have another big game coming up on Wednesday, so we definitely need to get ready for that one and make our fans proud, to come out and play hard.”
Wednesday’s opponent will be the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were whitewashed by the Bruins in a home-and-home series back on Dec. 16 and 18 but have since surged into the playoff picture. (Coincidentally, the first win of that set represented the last time Boston defeated a playoff team at the Garden.)
Bruins coach Claude Julien declined to address his teams home woes Monday night but said he would do so if Boston’s struggles continue into Wednesday.
“Let’s talk about that after the Pittsburgh game,” Julien said. “If it’s the same thing, I’ll be more than happy to answer that.”
Exactly half of the Bruins’ final 22 regular-season games are home games, including seven of their next ten.
Some additional notes from Monday’s action:
— Defenseman Joe Morrow has been very productive since returning to the Bruins’ lineup, following up his two-assist night Saturday against the Dallas Stars with another one Monday against Columbus.
Those multipoint games — the first two of his career — came after the 23-year-old managed just three points (one goal, two assists) over his first 22 contests this season.
“Just kind of being straightforward, shooting the puck a lot more,” Morrow said, describing his offensive mindset. “When you get in the offensive zone kind of bearing down and trying to create opportunities. It’s not only me; it’s definitely the guys around me. (Matt Beleskey) and Jimmy (Hayes) and (Ryan Spooner) were really good (Monday), and they got to the front of the net.
“If they weren’t winning battles on the walls and getting pucks up to the point none of that would happen, so you got to give a lot of credit to the forwards. It’s been a lot of their doing, too.”
— Spooner returned to action after missing Saturday’s game with an illness, but Bruins coach Claude Julien opted not to reinsert the center into the team’s top power-play unit, where he’s been a staple all season. Instead, Beleskey skated with the unit for a second consecutive game, and Spooner did not log a single second of power-play time.
Beleskey finished with two goals, though neither came on the man advantage.
— Typically soft-spoken Bruins goaltender Jonas Gustavsson nearly blew a gasket after referees did not call goalie interference on Brandon Saad’s third-period goal, which proved to be the game-winner for the Blue Jackets.
Gustavsson’s main gripe: that Columbus winger Scott Hartnell had flung Dennis Seidenberg’s stick toward the crease after Seidenberg dropped it, impairing the goaltender’s vision a split second before Saad released his shot.
“I kind of lost (the puck) a little bit there,” said Gustavsson, who allowed five goals on 34 shots. “The stick came at me there, and I lost it for a split second, and then it was too late. I didn’t really know the rules there. I know you can’t shoot the stick, but they said it wasn’t by purpose. It’s a decision, and they made the decision there, and you’ve just got to live with it.”
— Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby caused a bit of a stir Sunday night when he used a low hit to flip Buffalo Sabres winger Nicolas Deslauriers.
To Bruins winger Brad Marchand, the hit looked very familiar.
“That cost me a lot of money, that hit,” Marchand said with a smile Monday morning. “Yeah, I saw it.”
Marchand twice has been suspended for low hits, most recently earning a three-game ban for upending Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki this past December.
When asked how he felt about Crosby not receiving supplemental discipline for his check — or even being summoned for a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety — Marchand took the high road.
“I mean, that’s not up to me to decide,” the still-smiling winger said. “It’s a very similar hit. I thought maybe they’d take a look at it, but they didn’t, and that’s their discretion.”
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Scott Hartnell