BOSTON -- It’s looking like time for some serious smelling salts and a heater when it comes to the Boston Bruins.
Who knows? Maybe they can ask for those underneath the Christmas tree.
- Bruins fall behind early, can't catch up in 4-2 loss to Islanders
- Talking Points: Early exit for Tuukka Rask
- Julien: Didn't look to me like we were ready to play
- One bright spot: Blidh scores first NHL goal
The Bruins dropped their sixth game in eight tries on Tuesday by failing to show up against a New York Islanders team flailing its way through the season, falling behind 3-0 before ultimately losing 4-2. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were both a minus-2 with a couple of train-wreck goals allowed in the first period, Tuukka Rask was pulled for the first time this year after giving up three goals on just 13 shots, and both Bruins special teams units were outplayed by a woebegone Isles outfit. Things finally kicked into high gear in the third period with two goals and 23 shots on net, but that only served to underscore how pathetic Boston’s game was during the first 40 minutes against a beatable opponent.
"It’s too late to start playing [in the third period] the way we should be playing for the full game," said Bergeron. "We got back in the game and that was a good third period. That being said, it was way too little too late. It’s really simple. You go back to playing your game and being ready from the drop of the puck.
"We talked about this last stretch before the [Christmas] break. It was three games [remaining], now it’s two, but it was three games that we wanted to get those points from. We needed to do the job and we didn’t do that tonight. We didn’t show up for the first two periods and we paid for it."
For all intents and purposes it looked like Boston’s best players weren’t ready to go when the puck was dropped, and that’s unforgivable for a Bruins team nearing full tailspin mode. The Bruins have allowed four goals in each of the six losses over this eight-game span, which speaks to the defensive deficiencies. On offense, they're averaging 2.29 goals per game this season -- 26th in the 30-team league -- despite racking up gaudy, Corsi-friendly shot totals because, with an offense overloaded with playmaking centers but short on true wingers who can play heavy and finish off plays in the danger areas, they don’t fight to get close to the net.
While it’s true the Bruins are still in a playoff spot, it’s a precarious position: Just two points ahead of the significantly underachieving Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.Their flaws have been masked by the brilliance of Rask and David Pastrnak (still second in the NHL in goals scored despite having missed seven games and counting), so on nights like Tuesday -- when Rask is bad and Pastrnak is missing -- the weaknesses are clear for all to see.
And going through the motions -- as they did at the start of Tuesday night's game -- shouldn’t be an option.
Claude Julien picked up on that after watching Marchand and Rask smash into each other playing the puck behind the Boston net in the first period, and thereby setting the game’s tone by giving up an easy goal to Anders Lee. It snowballed from there and it looked to Julien like the Bruins simply weren’t ready to play..
“What you saw in the third period, I don’t know why we don’t bring that in the first," he said. "We wait until we’re in a hole, and the desperation, and I guess our work ethic and our compete level, should be that at the first. Not in the third, when you’re down 3-0. So somehow we’ve got to find that. It’s not good enough, and we know that we struggle to score goals. Let’s be ready to play, and the way we gave up goals tonight, it didn’t look to me like we were ready to play.”
We can assure Julien it didn’t look that way to the 17,565 in attendance, either, and it looks like this flawed, half-hearted bunch needs a jolt to snap out of it.
Some of that will come when Pastrnak returns from his surprise elbow procedure. But one has to wonder if the Bruins are also mulling a coaching change at this point.
There are far too many key players who have underperformed in the first three months of the season, and there was no excuse for not being ready to play last night. The power play has been an unmitigated disaster, and it took the coaching staff months before finally installing Pastrnak on the top PP unit just prior to his elbow procedure. All of these things can be filed under the heading of the coach’s responsibility, and anybody looking at it objectively would be hard-pressed to say Julien has gotten the most out of all his players this year.
If the Bruins falter in these last two road games in Florida and Carolina heading into the holiday break, one has to wonder if there will be a lump of coal and perhaps a pink slip in Julien’s stocking this year.
It’s one of the few cards left to be played by Don Sweeney and Cam Neely to spark a stagnant hockey club, and it would make sense given the urgency that all levels of B’s upper management should be feeling after missing the playoffs in each of the last two years. It might not be fair in the grand scheme of things, but one has to wonder if Tuesday night’s half-hearted loss to New York could be a warning sign that a change behind the bench is approaching on Causeway Street.