|Shawn Thornton drops Tim Jackman. (photo: Getty)|
BOSTON – This one was inexcusable.
And maybe the only positive thing to take out of the Boston’s 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders Monday night at the Garden is that the Bruins weren’t clinging to the ready-made excuses at their disposal.
The lack of offense could be explained by the absence of injured stars Marc Savard and Milan Lucic, but that would be a copout.
“Yeah, but we know we’ve had them out for a while,” said defenseman Derek Morris. “Obviously they are going to help us when they come back but we can’t sit here and wait for them to come back.”
The Islanders, long written off as permanent residents of the Eastern Conference basement, have been surprisingly good this year under second-year coach Scott Gordon (Easton, Mass.), but the Bruins should still be able to compete with them.
“Yeah, they are a good team,” admitted Morris. “They are where they are right now because they deserve to be. They are a team that plays real, real hard and comes at you real, real hard. And, you know, we were just flat.”
And that, is the ultimate sin for a Bruins team – a team that laid the foundation for its success last year on the strength of its work ethic and emotion. All of that is suddenly missing this year, and that is what is truly inexcusable.
“Last year is last year, this is a new team that has to find its own identity and play better,” said coach Claude Julien. “I think that’s the biggest problem with our team. We’ve got to find that identity, that excitement, that emotion that made us successful in the past.”
In his post-game press conference, Julien went after his team harder than the Bruins have gone at any opponent in recent memory. He didn’t let anyone off the hook, from starting goalie Tuukka Rask to the mistake-prone defense to an offense that filled up the stat sheet with shot attempts but didn’t fill any nets with actual goals.
“Tonight is one of those games that you can look at the stats and throw them in garbage,” said Julien. “We were 70 percent on draws and we outshot them. Big deal. They were still the better team because they wanted it more than we did. It’s as simple as that. At one point that was something we didn’t accept and we did something about it.”
The Bruins can’t afford to accept that kind of lackadaisical play any longer. The season is still just at the quarter pole, but the Bruins have already dug themselves quite a hole with at 8-8-4 mark for just 20 points through 20 games.
“This is a team that didn’t play well enough to win tonight obviously,” said Julien. “A big game like that where we’re battling for a spot and we just didn’t play smart enough. And again, mistakes keep coming back to bite us and the puck ends up in our net and we’re playing catch-up hockey.
“Our best players right now are not at their best,” added Julien. “When that happens, you can’t expect results. That’s the bottom line.”
The Bruins mistakes included a defensive-zone breakdown that allowed Matt Moulson to bang home a shot at the right post in the first, Rask’s failed clear that led to another Moulson goal in the second and a Dennis Wideman turnover in front of his own net that led to a John Tavares goal in the third.
“Those little details that made us successful aren’t consistent right now,” said Julien. “The little details that meant so much to us, that made differences in games.
“We’re not moving pucks with any assertiveness,” added Julien. “There’s not the confidence or the determination right now that we need to have to be successful.”
Julien was visibly frustrated with that message failing to get through to his players. But the players appeared equally frustrated with their failures, which might finally bode well for changes to come.
“I’m sick and tired of losing and we just got to play hard and be more determined and be hungry for goals,” said center David Krejci, who set up Boston’s lone goal with a steal and feed to Daniel Paille. “We are not right now and that is why we are losing. We’ve just got to play harder.”
Douglas Flynn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.