BOSTON -- The Bruins have been searching all season for an identity and that feel for the team dynamic that made them so indescribably good last year.
Tuesday nights frustrating it was the word of the night for the Black and Gold, trust us on that 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at a sleepy TD Garden was further proof the Bruins still havent found what theyre looking for.
The Bruins were roundly critiqued for failing to show proper emotion in the seasons early going, and never consistently played with that edge that elevates them to a different level. They actually tapped into some of the proper edge and emotion needed to defeat Chicago over the weekend when Gregory Campbell picked the exact right time to drop the gloves -- and Johnny Boychuk meted out punishing body checks all night long.
It was good, hard hockey for the Bruins, and they were rewarded with victory.
But that was missing from the early portion of the midweek defeat to the Tropical Storms, and then it spiraled out of control late in a game that saw four misconducts whistled on Bs players, one misconduct and ejection for the head coach and 72 total penalty minutes in a game that was practically screaming for discipline.
Its not what we are at this point, said Claude Julien, who got the gate in the third period with the rare game-misconduct call for shaking his head at the refs. Its what we are not right now.
Were not focused for 60 minutes. Were a frustrated team. Right now, I would rather we look at ourselves and take the responsibility to fix that. The referees didnt lose the game for us tonight. We lost the game ourselves. We got ourselves back in the game and then we end up with a four-minute penalty and other penalties followed after that -- and it just got worse.
Many of the gaudy PIM totals and penalty calls were justified, of course, and Zdeno Charas attack on Jay Harrison in defense of Nathan Horton actually worked from an emotional standpoint. It earned the Bs captain an instigator penalty and an early exit from the second period after being slapped with a 10-minute misconduct but it was also the kind of team-building moment revealing the actions of teammates caring about each other.
It was in stark contract to the first-period hit by Brett Sutter on Joe Corvo that sent the Bs defensemen to the dressing room, and apparently didnt arose the ire of either Horton or Milan Lucic while they were on the ice watching the whole thing happen.
But Charas forced donnybrook with Harrison triggered Cam Ward to get in the Bs captains face which in turn got Tuukka Rask involved while challenging the Hurricanes goaltender. Rasks actions in turn got Eric Staal chasing after the Bs goaltender as he returned to his crease, and watched as he was called for a minor penalty for leaving his crease during the scrum. It was a constant flow of angry words, nastiness and hockey violence that the Big Bad Bruins love best.
So the Bruins were invested emotionally at that point.
But thats exactly when things started to turn for the worse.
Instead of harnessing that energy into a fierce forecheck, mighty positional melees in front of the net, or a few good, old-fashioned body checks against the boards, the Bruins continued to pick fights with Carolina hockey players uninterested in engaging while holding a lead.
Its definitely a little more challenging to score taking penalties in the third period, said Andrew Ference. Sometimes penalties happen and sometimes its better timing than others. It has to happen in the first, second and third period where youre hitting, getting involved in battles from the start and in line within the rules so youre not sitting in the box all night.
The sport is designed where youre allowed to hit, youre allowed to be physical and be pretty tough. The rules allow you to do that, but it doesnt mean that youre punching guys in the head all the time. Its solid hits, fore-checking and all those parts of the game. Its not always about punching guys in the head. Theres more to that in being a tough team.
Chara was a little more succinct in his assessment of Bostons moral compass in the third period.
I thought on some occasions it was questionable, said Chara of the teams discipline against the 'Canes without naming names.
Tim Gleason was in the middle of countless skirmishes all night long that drew Boston penalties, but was unwilling to drop the gloves with Shawn Thornton or Lucic when challenged. It was also Gleason in the middle of the games turning point sequence of events in the third period.
Just 31 seconds after Rich Peverley and the Bruins potted a power-play goal to narrow the deficit to 2-1 in the third period, Gleason and Horton got into a tussle in front of the Carolina net. Rather than reading the game situation, and Gleasons motives behind his actions, Horton flew into a rage, wildly throwing jabs at Gleason as the Carolina blueliner crumpled to the ice without fighting back.
Horton was whistled for a double-minor and a 10-minute misconduct, and the Hurricanes scored a pair of insurance goals on a 5-on-3 advantage to salt away a game that could have been a nice comeback story for the Black and Gold. The Bruins were amazingly killing off a 5-on-3 advantage for 5:28 during the game, and a team is never going to win getting suckered into those kinds of situations.
None of his teammates wanted to call out Horton after the game, but it was confounding that the No. 1 right wing ducked out and didnt want to tell his side of the story to reporters following a game that hinged a great deal on his actions.
There are too many individual players trying to do it by themselves, too many lapses in discipline and focus throughout the 60 minutes of a hockey game and too many players still unable to get the feel they enjoyed much of last year.
Julien called his Bruins a frustrated team following the loss to the Hurricanes that dropped them to 2-4 on the season, and thats an accurate description.
The Bruins know they cant win a Stanley Cup in October and November in the parity-filled NHL.
But they can certainly lose it if they dont start banking wins while playing a ridiculously home-heavy schedule in the first two months. Thats something they dont want with so much of the season still sittingin front of them.