As the Bruins left the ice following a dreadful second period performance against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night, there wasn’t a conversation echoed from the 17,565 at TD Garden. There wasn’t even a single boo bird directed towards the Black and Gold in a period where they were outshot 15-8, outmuscled and singlehandedly overmatched against the last place team in the Metropolitan Division.
In a case of one step forward following their marquee win of the season over the Dallas Stars to close out their six-game road trip, the Bruins had a chance to do something that they’ve done quite often: take care of business against teams beneath them in the standings. The final horn of their 6-4 loss that dropped them to 12-15-3 on Causeway Street signified a major step — actually, several major steps — backwards after defeating the second best team in the Western Conference.
“Yeah obviously when you have a big win like you said a couple days ago, you want to build off of that and get this ball rolling and get a few in a row, especially here at home,” Jonas Gustavsson said after the loss. “But somehow we lost today, and we just got to get back to the basics again I guess, and try to win the next game and build off of that.”
The same defensive issues that plagued the Bruins all season long were front and center against the Blue Jackets. Boone Jenner scored twice in instances where the B’s D gave him plenty of open space to work with — including his power play goal at 10:52 of the first where not a single Bruin was in sight leading to an easy tip-in in front of Gustavsson. The ‘Big Bad Bruins’ were hardly resembled as they were outhit by a 31-24 margin and outworked in every puck possession battle.
“Well, you know, if you look at the game I think defensively we failed tonight to do a good job there,” head coach Claude Julien said in his analysis of the Bruins D. “When you give up five goals – whether you’re counting the empty-netter – two of them four-on-threes, I thought we weren’t really good in our own end tonight losing some battles and that kind of stuff. Defensively we need to be better and we scored enough to win, but we didn’t do a good job there.”
Perhaps the long road trip contributed to the Bruins’ sluggish play in their first game back on Causeway Street since the 9-2 debacle against Milan Lucic and the Los Angeles Kings on February 9th. Brad Marchand, the team’s leading goal scorer, didn’t buy into that notion.
“I mean, those are excuses but none that I think we’re going to use,” said Marchand, who was given a 10-minute misconduct late in the third period. “We just weren’t prepared to play tonight.”
Indeed, the Bruins’ preparation against the Blue Jackets came into question. There are bigger questions ahead for the Black and Gold as we’re six days away from the trade deadline.
Will Eriksson still be a member of the Bruins? Will GM Don Sweeney ask Zdeno Chara to waive his no-trade clause to go elsewhere? Does the Bruins’ ‘retooling’ process need to be ‘retooled’? Regardless, those questions won’t do much to solve the Bruins’ identity crisis in 2015-16.
To paraphrase an overused, but accurate, quote from former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green, the Bruins “are who we thought they were.” They’re an average team who at best are a one and done team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and at worst right on par with the rest of the mediocrity plaguing the Eastern Conference.