BOSTON — Bruins coach Claude Julien spoke for less than three minutes after Tuesday night’s game, and most of his responses concerned a lack of finish.
“I can answer 20 questions here or I can give you one thing,” Julien said, addressing the crowd assembled in the TD Garden media room. “It?s an inability to finish, and that?s the main thing here for tonight. Nothing more.”
The coach was referring specifically to his team’s failure to capitalize on scoring chances in its 2-1 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, but his answers also described Boston’s season as a whole.
Since their 5-0-2 stretch in the immediate aftermath of the NHL trade deadline, the Bruins have been in free fall, losing eight of their last 10 games to go from a near playoff shoo-in to a team that, after Tuesday’s loss, no longer controls its own destiny in the race for the Eastern Conference’s final two postseason berths with two games left to play.
The Bruins outshot their opponent in all but two of those loses and lost five of the eight by two goals or fewer.
“It’s do-or-die every game,” winger Brad Marchand said. “We have two left here, and we still have to look at this next one and be extremely prepared for that. So, we’ve got to let this one go and be ready for the next game.”
Even if Boston wins its final two contests — a de facto play-in game against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night and the season finale against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon — it still would need help from either the Red Wings or the Philadelphia Flyers to secure a spot in the field of 16.
The one point the B’s earned Tuesday brought them into a tie with both the Wings and Flyers, but those teams both have one game in hand — against each other Wednesday night Detroit. The playoff picture will become much clearer after that, but either way, a loss on Thursday would all but end the Bruins’ season.
“We can’t start thinking about this loss to much,” said goalie Tuukka Rask, who rebounded from a nine-goal weekend against the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks to allow just one against Carolina. “We have to get back to work (Wednesday), and we know it’s going to be a big game on Thursday.
“But at this time in the season, when you lose games, they’re always tough. They’re pretty much all must-wins. So, we have to get ready for Thursday. It’s going to be pretty much do-or-die for us.”
The Garden faithful, starved for postseason hockey after Boston’s playoff no-show last spring, broke out into sporadic chants of “We Want Playoffs” throughout its team’s latest loss. Unless the Bruins rediscover a finishing touch in a hurry, those pleas will fall on deaf ears.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images