BOSTON - Coming off the Bruins worst loss of the season, it was going to be instructive to watch the way the team reacted the following day. That day also just so happened to be Thanksgiving, and the Bruins engaged in a crisp, lengthy practice full of skating followed by a 10-minute, closed-door meeting between the players and coaching staff.
Claude Julien stayed away from any temptation to author a Herb Brooks impersonation, and force his players to skate up and down the ice until they tossed up their Thanksgiving turkey dinners.
Instead the B’s coaching staff worked on defensive zone breakouts and spacing between players while taking the puck up the ice, a couple of areas where the Bruins’ sloppiness was making them markedly easier to defend.
It was a fundamental area of concern after watching players crashing into each other at the blue line Wednesday night in a 6-1 spanking at the hands of Detroit. It was right up there with the defensive passivity, blown assignments and complete lack of emotional engagement invested in a game against their new division rivals.
Coaching was also an issue. Making Shawn Thornton a healthy scratch against the Red Wings is essentially agreeing to play Detroit’s style of game rather than forcing the Wings to play in Boston’s strong suit.
So needless to say the Bruins had plenty to work on Thursday.
“When we play that East-West, crisscross game, things like [the Wings loss] happen,” admitted Milan Lucic. “Obviously we want to acknowledge it, and say that it was a bad loss…say it was a bad game. We want to use it as motivation to come out harder in the next game, because that’s not our team.
“We know we’re better than that, and we have pride and character in this dressing room. So we want to do whatever we can to go out and have a big effort [on Friday vs. the New York Rangers].”
Perhaps even more encouraging than the on-ice work was the closed door team meeting called after practice. The Bruins were in good spirits when the doors opened to the media following the meeting, and alternate captain Patrice Bergeron said it was to remind everybody that the B’s hold themselves to a higher standard. Needless to say that Black and Gold standard was dragged through the mud on Wednesday night as things spiraled out of control.
“It was uncharacteristic of our team. We need to learn from it,” said Patrice Bergeron, who has gone pointless in his last six games while searching for two-way game. “We worked on a lot of things [on the ice] that we and the coaching staff thought wasn’t even close to our game.
“[The post-practice meeting] was about realizing that we have high expectations for ourselves, and that we need to always demand it out of everyone, and go from there. That was the main thing.”
There was no yelling or swearing, or blown gaskets as the Bruins leadership group went over things. A big part of that is because the B’s nucleus of players has been in this position many times before, and is keenly aware that hard work and a short memory are the two best attributes needed coming off such a dreadful defeat.
“It was an awful night for us. No matter what we did, we weren’t very good,” said Julien. “It was one of those nights where you really have to turn the page. We’ve been through that a few times before in past years. Every team goes through some of those games.
“You just don’t accept it. You do something about it. We have that opportunity [Friday] against New York, so that’s how you have to look at it.”
The other point of discussion in the B’s meeting?
The Bruins are sitting atop the Eastern Conference with 34 points on the season while still not really playing their best brand of hockey. They’re in prime playoff position with Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror. So, there’s little reason to get too carried away with one humbling loss to a Red Wings team that has been very good for a remarkably long time.
Still, it’s also very clear the Bruins can’t have many more aberrational “efforts” like their pre-Thanksgiving turkey in Detroit, or the concerns will start gaining a lot more gravity.