What we learned: Bruins better but not good enough
BOSTON — While the media continually tried to point out the silver lining from the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Capitals Tuesday at TD Garden, to their credit the Bruins players and head coach Claude Julien didn’t take the moral victory route. Yes, with their win at TD Garden, the Capitals moved into the top spot overall in the NHL standings with 61 points and a 29-7-3 record. Yes, the Bruins were coming off their worst performance of the season (5-1 to the Canadiens in the Winter Classic) and definitely put in a better effort, but as they proved before now losing five of their last six games, the Bruins can beat the NHL’s elite teams, not just hang with them.
“There’s no moral victory,” Julien said. “I can’t criticize the effort our team gave tonight. In the situation we’re in, we almost had to play a perfect game to beat those guys, and I think we gave ourselves a chance there. I don’t think we ever quit when we were down a goal, down two came back into it, down two again came back and you know made a big save on ‘Zee’ [Zdeno Chara] at the end in order to keep that game from being tied. I think our guys tried – really tried – but at the same time you know in this league you got to win hockey games so we got to be disappointed, we got to be maybe hungrier for next game so that we can turn things around here and hopefully the bitterness in our mouth from losing tonight is going to carry into Friday in New Jersey.”
Defenseman Torey Krug concurred.
“It’s tough to take away moral victories when you’re so committed to winning,” Krug said. “Every game you come into it with the expectation to come out with two points, especially in your building. So it’s tough to take a good feeling away. We’ll look on it tomorrow, reflect on it, and see where we can improve and just keep moving forward.”
Alternate captain Patrice Bergeron saw a better effort from his team but also knows in order to win, the Bruins need to create more scoring chances and then convert them. In order to do so, the Bruins need to play a heavier game and work harder in the dirty areas.
“The effort was there but at the same time we have to manage to create a little bit more chances and do a better job in our zone again,” said Bergeron, who scored his 15th goal of the season to pull the Bruins within a goal with 8:08 left in regulation. “You know, being a little bit more on the puck I guess offensively. I think we have a lot of one and done kind of type of chances right now, and we have to sustain pressure in their zone and find ways to do that by being on our toes, being on the puck and from there having some good cycles and chances in front of the net.”
Loui Eriksson had the Bruins other goal and now has 14 lamplighters this season.
Braden Holtby Owns The Bruins
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby is arguably the lead candidate for the Vezina Trophy and could even be considered for the Hart Trophy as well, and on Tuesday, he was happy to pad his stats against a team he owns. Holtby was cooking dinner in the Bruins’ collective kitchen as he made some key saves throughout to keep Boston at bay and improve his career record against Boston to 9-2-0.
The Bruins didn’t exactly have sustained pressure on Holtby as the Washington defensemen did a splendid job of boxing out the Boston forwards in front. But when he needed to make a big stop Holtby did. Late in the game, the Bruins had two solid chances to tie the game, once when Holtby stopped Chara with 5:05 left, and then again when he stoned Ryan Spooner with 32 ticks left in regulation.
Rinaldo Needs To Do His Job
When the Bruins acquired Zac Rinaldo in the offseason, it left many in the NHL scratching their heads. Rinaldo is on the repeat offender list with the NHL Department Of Player Safety and is known as one of the dirtiest players in the NHL. In fact, he’s exactly the type of player President Cam Neely despises. Remember Ulf Samuelsson anyone?
The Bruins used the words “energy” and “grit” to describe what they felt Rinaldo could bring to their team. But so far this season, he’s the same old Rinaldo, laying questionable hits on opposing players and leaving his teammates to clean up the shrapnel. If the Bruins were hoping Rinaldo could play a role similar to fan favorite Shawn Thornton who always had his teammates’ backs and now protects his Panthers teammates, they were sorely mistaken, and that was the case Tuesday when early in the second period Capitals forward Zach Sill hit Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid from behind into the boards.
Rinaldo was right behind Sill and watched the questionable hit go down right in front of him but didn’t go after Sill. Tyler Randell did challenge Sill to drop the gloves later in the game with Sill declining, but why the delay in response from the Bruins supposed pest and enforcer? Instead, it was Bergeron — who never fights — who got in Sill’s face and gave him an earful. One could point to the instigator rule as a lack of response from the Bruins there, but as Krug pointed out, teammates need to defend each other regardless of the rules.
“Go fight a guy? Yeah, why not?” Krug answered when asked if there can still be a response in such a situation.
“I mean, personally, I think we didn’t have the personnel out there. I mean, ‘Bergy’ went over and let the guy know that he didn’t like the hit, and I was out there for, you know, a whole shift. You don’t want to go fight a guy at the end of a two-minute shift, but it still happens. I mean, if I got hit, Quaider’s going to go over there and let the guy know he didn’t like it, so one of our star players is going over there and telling the guy he didn’t like the hit. He’s not going to drop his gloves, but, you know, if someone else is out there he’s going to let him know.”
Unfortunately for Krug and the Bruins, he was wrong, the Bruins did have the personnel out there, but it appears Rinaldo is only interested in playing like Sill did last night.
Note: According to Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com, the NHL Department Of Player Safety was reviewing the Sill on McQuaid hit.
With McQuaid Out, Chara, Krug And Miller Racked Up More Minutes
McQuaid did not return to the game after the hit and that meant that Chara — who already is arguably logging too many minutes — had to pick up the slack and play more than they usually do. Chara finished with 27:16 of ice time; Krug logged 25:24 and Kevan Miller finished at 21:14.
While the defense as a whole made a valiant effort picking up the minutes and slack for their injured comrade, it was just another harsh reminder that the Bruins are in dire need of a legit No. 2 or even another No. 3 defenseman to spell some relief for the struggling Dennis Seidenberg. They cannot depend on Krug and Miller to play the roles of the 2 and 3 defenseman, respectively. They’re simply not ready yet. Don Sweeney has repeatedly been searching for another blueliner all season, but it might be time to ramp up that search.