By Danny Picard
BOSTON -- The middle of the bench is nowhere you want to be for more than one shift change. Not in the NHL, not in college or high school. Not ever.
But that's where Marc Savard found himself for the final 10 minutes of Thursday's 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild at the TD Garden.
Savard, for the second time this season -- in his second month of play since returning from post-concussion syndrome -- turned the puck over late in a game, leading to the opposing team's game-winning goal.
The first came on Dec. 11, at the Garden against the Philadelphia Flyers, when his no-look pass to the point resulted in a Mike Richards-led 2-on-1 in the final seconds of overtime, which Richards finished off for the Flyers' 2-1 win.
Less than a month later Savard found himself with a similar pit in his stomach, after his attempted flip out of the zone had no juice on it, and ended up on the tape of Minnesota forward Cal Clutterbuck in the opening minutes of the third period.
Clutterbuck took the turnover in the high slot and sniped top-right on Tuukka Rask, who called Savard's turnover "an awful mistake." It gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead and the Wild went on to the 3-1 victory.
"I tried to flip it out, because we had a tired group out there, and I just fanned on it," said Savard. "It was a mistake. It happens. and I just have to try and bounce back.
"I just wanted to get a high flipper out of the zone, and then get a good line change. But the puck never left the ice."
Savard returned on his regular shift, but then wasn't seen anywhere other than the middle of Boston's bench for a six-minute stretch late in the third period. He returned to the ice as the extra attacker in the final minute of regulation, when Rask was pulled, and was also seen on the power play.
Coach Claude Julien's comments after the game indicated that, on this night, he had stopped trusting Savard in 5-on-5 situations.
"We put him in positions where he could help us, and took him out of positions where he made mistakes and probably wasn't at his best," said Julien.
Benching Savard late in a one-goal game at home was the first question Julien had to answer to during his postgame press conference. Mainly because this is the second player in just as many weeks with whom Julien has had to address that "c" word: Confidence.
Last weekend it was Rask, who Julien yanked from Saturday's game after the first period, having had already sat him on the pine for the seven previous games, in favor of Tim Thomas.
The "confidence" debate had reached its peak with the young goaltender. Now, it seems to be hitting the veteran playmaker, even if Julien says he hasn't lost confidence in Savard.
"I think when you make a mistake like that, everybody's got to be accountable," said Julien. "It's one of those things that happens. It's part of the game, and I think, from the first player to the last player, you want to make sure that everybody understands.
"It was a mistake that you don't expect a guy like that to make. It doesn't mean that you lose confidence in him, because you're going to go right back with him next game, and you hope that they bounce back."
But after Julien cut the team's lines down to just three, Savard didn't seem like a guy who was too happy sitting in the middle of the Bruins' bench along with Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell.
"Julien put me right back out there, and I felt like that was good to give me a chance, and then, I don't know, he sat me down for a while," said Savard. "That's part of the game. You'll have to ask him.
"It's frustrating. You know, I feel like I get better and then something like that happens, and then I get sat down. So it's just, my confidence is swaying up and down like a boat. So it's tough, but I've been through a lot worse."
He just hopes he doesn't have to go through this again.
Danny Picard is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radioshow I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Fridayfrom 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.