What we learned: Too many points left on the table
It might not have been as bad as losing to cellar-dwellars like the Islanders, Devils and Avalanche a month ago, but Thursday night’s 4-3 loss to the Oilers at TD Garden – on a night where they paid tribute to the late Milt Schmidt – proved another instance of the Bruins leaving points on the table.
On a game where they had more quality chances, the Bruins couldn’t overcome defensive breakdowns that led to all four Oilers goals – three coming from Patrick Maroon for his first career hat trick. On the flip side, the Black and Gold hit four posts and hit some hard luck against Cam Talbot, who made 33 saves in the Edmonton victory.
“I think that sums it up. It’s really frustrating,” said Patrice Bergeron, who tallied his eighth of the season in the second period to give the Black and Gold their only lead of the game at 2-1. “Breakdowns, I guess, in our zone, I didn’t think they had that much time there. And if you let those teams get those type of chances they’re going to hurt you. Especially on a night like tonight with [honoring] the passing of Milt. So it’s really tough right now.”
“Well, you know, again – a wasted good effort, because I thought we played hard, we played well, we had lots of chances, and we didn’t give them much,” added Claude Julien during his brief postgame press conference. “Every breakdown we seemed to have ends up in the back of our net. So, those are frustrating nights; they’re frustrating losses, especially when you need to win. So, definitely that’s how I look at it. We were the better team, there’s no questions there. We just gave them too many gifts.”
Tough for the Bruins to not come away with the victory on an emotional night. Even tougher to face reality as they finished Game No. 41 of the 2016-17.
With the Senators on their bye week tied with the Bruins in points (44), Claude Julien and company had two chances to surpass Ottawa for second in the Atlantic Division. With every team in the division having games in hand on Boston, the importance of those four possible points before the official midway point of the season couldn’t be stressed enough.
They got help from one team with the Lightning losing twice. The Bruins, though couldn’t help their own cause and came away with zero points.
A Maple Leafs win over the Devils on Friday would move them to third in the Atlantic.
“We need to be better and we can be better,” a frustrated Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “We need to keep working on things and keep working hard and be committed to doing better.”
“We’re obviously aware of what situation we’re in at this point,” Chara’s fellow defensive partner Brandon Carlo said, “but we’re not discouraged by it. We’re just motivated to continue to keep going.”
Committing to improvement is one thing. Executing it is another.
Losers of 10 of their last 15 and five of their last seven at TD Garden, the Bruins need to turn things around soon. Otherwise, they’ll be the ones having to chase teams – much like they have on the ice all season long – and play catch up in hopes of returning to the postseason.
As speculation of Julien’s job security and trade rumors circulate, the Bruins assistant captain is looking to the locker room to deliver that turnaround.
“I think we’re the ones that can only find the answer and turn this around,” Bergeron said. “It’s up to this dressing room to do it and all look at ourselves in the mirror.”