'Brain-dead' defense sinks Bruins in loss

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'Brain-dead' defense sinks Bruins in loss

BOSTON -- Its not every day that Claude Julien thinks his hockey club played "brain-dead" defense.
But thats exactly what the Bruins coach said about a hockey club that had gone into Thursday night ranked fourth in the NHL while allowing a paltry two goals per game, but they were scorched for seven goals in a 7-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden.

It was the most goals surrendered by a Julien-coached team since they lost an 8-2 decision to the Maple Leafs way back on March 6, 2008 when Phil Kessel was still wearing Black and Gold.

Some of the defensive breakdown is certainly attributable to a red-hot Thomas Vanek, who finished with a hat trick and five points that were instrumental in dismantling the Bs defense. Its no coincidence that Vanek has 28 career goals and 54 points in 46 games against Boston, and hes formed a dynamite combination with Jason Pominville while becoming the NHL's leading scorer.
But, yes, the Bruins were also an abominable mess defensively.
Zdeno Chara was on the ice for three of the goals scored by the Sabres, and finished with a minus-3 to go along with zero registered hits and three giveaways in a listless, invisible performance.
It was the first time Chara was a minus-3 since a March 11 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last season when Evgeni Malkin and Co. toyed with the Bruins.
More than once the 6-foot-9 defenseman was caught up ice or away from the net and Vanek had the puck with ample time and space to make plays, and thats a recipe for Bs disaster.
Chara is the tone-setter for the rest of the Bruins in the defensive end, so its doesnt portend good things for the Black and Gold when teams are getting breakaways and unmolested shots at the net while No. 33 is out on the ice.
It started with the big defenseman getting pick-pocketed by Jason Pominville in the neutral zone that turned into a 2-on-1 for Vaneks first score less than three minutes into the second period.
The miscues happened far too often in Bostons first Northeast Division game of the season with 38 percent of their compressed regular schedule including divisional games.
Defensively I dont think I remember the last time we were this bad. The breakdowns and mistakes we made and the opportunities when you give Thomas Vanek those kinds of opportunities, hes going to make the most of it. I dont think we were extremely good on defense and thats what cost us the game.
I didnt expect this because it wasnt our type of game. When you look at the way we played -- the sloppiness of guys left by themselves around our net, the puck watching all over the place -- it was really disappointing; our guys defensively were just totally, totally out of it. We were told before the game to have our head on a swivel and that they really activate a lot in the offensive zone. Defensively, I guess you would say our guys were brain dead.
Julien singled out the goal scored by Tyler Ennis in the second period as the one that truly bugged him, and that was on the Bruins' captain along with Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand. Andrew Ference was draped all over Vanek in front of the net trying to strip the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder of the puck, but somehow Vanek managed to find a wide open Ennis at the right post as he was tumbling to the ice.

Chara was out of position after chasing Marcus Foligno far away from the front of the net, and didn't have enough time to recover on the bang-bang play. The tiny Buffalo forward had the teams third goal of the night, and Julien went apoplectic at the sight of a wide open Sabres forward attacking the net.

Chara similarly miscalculated on the go-ahead goal for Cody Hodgson and the Sabres in the third period when he was caught in-between on a 2-on-1 rather than cutting off the pass that eventually set up Hodgson's one-timer. Though Tuukka Rask was charged with six goals allowed in defeat, there were at least four Sabres strikes that the B's goaltender legitimately never had a chance to stop due to shoddy defense in front of him.

I almost broke my neck there, I think, with that lamp lighting up, said a wickedly sarcastic and embattled Rask after watching the defensive horror show in front of him. It was just a great defensive battle out there.
We gave up a lot of odd-man rushes, and then those two-on-ones, just a quick pass to the backdoor and one-timers in. Obviously, we have to get better on that. Too many times I think we just let those guys stand in front of the net by themselves. The puck watchingits not like us. We just got to fix that.
Chara wasnt the only defender that had a rough night, however.
Dougie Hamilton was shut out of the score sheet while being saddled with a minus-2, and absorbed a Drew Stafford elbow to the chops for his troubles that went uncalled as a penalty. Gregory Campbell and Lucic both finished a minus-2 as well as Julien attempted to mix-and-match forward lines after losing Shawn Thorntons services just a few minutes into the game.
But neither of those players is considered the best defensive player of their generation as Chara is commonly labeled in most NHL circles. So it was an eye-opening lack of defensive smarts from Chara that trickled down to the rest of the Bruins, and cant be repeated for a hockey club that relies on the bedrock of good fundamental defense and punishing competitiveness.

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

BOSTON – The Bruins didn’t show anything on the ice in Monday afternoon’s 4-0 matinee loss, and that’s not really any kind of an overstatement.

The scoring chances were almost nonexistent despite 32 shots on net, the second period was dreadful as the Bruins gave up three goals over the course of a six minute span and there was zero added urgency in the third period once the B’s fell behind. The emotion was missing from the drop of the puck to open the game and it never showed up once the Islanders began taking control of the game.

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It was a bitterly disappointing result after the Black and Gold had played so well in their previous five games, and put in strong, winning efforts against the Panthers, Blues and Flyers.

On Monday afternoon, the passes were sloppy and errant all over the ice, there was zero physicality and the Bruins buckled once the Isles turned the intensity up just a little bit in the second period. The game was basically over once Nikolay Kulemin snapped one home wide open from the slot area with Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid and David Krejci all blowing their defensive assignments, and then Tuukka Rask followed it up by allowing a softie to Josh Bailey from a bad angle close to net.  

So Bruins head coach Claude Julien termed it a “flat” performance once it was all over with, and openly wondered whether it was fatigue-related result linked to the compacted schedule Boston has played through this season. Monday marked the seventh straight day that the Bruins held some kind of formal skate, though most of the veteran B's players stayed off the ice during last week's Wednesday off-day practice in Nashville.   

“We were flat tonight, obviously, flat from the get-go. I think that first half of the game, we didn’t give much until they scored that first goal. We were able to stay in, but we certainly weren’t generating much ourselves, from that point of view,” said Claude Julien. “His is really the first year, for me as well, going through a condensed schedule, and I’m certainly not using that as an excuse, is it fatigue?. . . But we were flat tonight. How do you explain it? I don’t know. I know that it’s frustrating. I know that it’s disappointing. That’s all I can say.

“Whether it’s mental fatigue, whatever it is. We made some mistakes tonight like, from the goals you look at, we weren’t even in the position that we’re normally in. So we were totally out of whack, as far as even defending. When you give that first goal that much room in the middle of the ice, your D’s go on the wrong side, your weak-side forward is way on the other side, and you open up the slot area, that’s something I haven’t seen much of this year. I think it said a lot from our game tonight.”

The compacted schedule certainly could be a factor for a Bruins team that’s played more games than anybody else in the Eastern Conference to this point, but the B’s also had 48 hours to recharge after winning a Saturday matinee over the Flyers. So the fatigue excuse seems a little far-fetched for a hockey club that’s no-showed a few too many times this season, and did it again on Monday afternoon against one of the worst teams in the NHL.