What we learned: 1-0 final may spell deeper loss
“Statement game,” “turning point,” “gut check.” Any other clichés come to mind in reference to Friday night’s 49th game of the Bruins’ season that has thus far been anything but consistent?
How about: “Win one for the coach.”
After Monday’s stinker against the Islanders and Wednesday’s armageddon in Detroit, all eyes were on how Claude Julien’s charges would respond against one of the best teams in the Western Conference in the Chicago Blackhawks. With rumors circling all week about Julien’s fate as coach while the team clings to a playoff perch like the last leaves of Fall, a Friday night win was a must.
A weathered Tuukka Rask with 22 of his team’s 23 total wins vs. backup Scott Darling at 2-1-0 in three career games against the Bruins.
Maybe having Corey Crawford on the bench gives one necessary pregame boost to Boston. Ditto about Matt Beleskey back after 23 games lost to injury. Or Patrice Bergeron finding his offensive touch of late with nine points in seven games.
Or just seeing their home slate at 10-11-0 enough motivation for Boston to even that score.
Cliches aside, here’s what we learned in a 1-0 last-minute loss that dropped the Bruins two games below .500 at home while scoring one goal in the last eight of nine periods of regulation play.
B’s get early jump
Wednesday in Detroit, the B’s scored 44 seconds in, en route to a four-goal first period. That didn’t happen Friday, while the Bruins outshot Chicago, 17-6, with a wide margin of scoring opportunities led by partial breakaways by Joe Morrow and Patrice Bergeron. And a pipe-clanging effort by Ryan Spooner with a minute remaining.
“At the end of the day, we have to get some pucks in net – we have to score,” Spooner said. “I had a couple looks, hit a couple posts but I have to bear down on those you know?”
The second 20 minutes was a repeat of the first, albeit total shots even, power-plays exchanged, but scoring chances in favor of the Black and Gold.
Third period zip-zip until Hossa and Hawks snatch the two points
Rask saved the day with a brilliant glove save on a game-winning bullet at 16:52 by Artem Anisimov. This one was headed to overtime until Marian Hossa, Vinnie Hinostroza and Tanner Kero went 3-on-4 against a Bruins’ line and defense caught in disarray.
At 18:34, the Hawks’ trio played tic tac toe with Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid until Hossa took toe to the bank with a forehand wrist shot and Rask hanging out to dry.
“That winning goal was a 3-on-4,” Julien said. “When you give up one goal like you did tonight there’s not much you can do. That’s on the people in front of [Rask].”
“They just came with some speed and made a play that we have to be better on,” McQuaid said. “Late in the game like that, you just have to manage the puck and we didn’t do that, and it came back to bite us.”
The last time the Hawks shut out Boston on Causeway Street was 47 years ago — January 17, 1970; yep, same 1-0 final with Tony Esposito in net.
On to Pittsburgh
Two big games Sunday between Beantown teams and those of the Steel City. The Bruins play the Penguins on the road in the prelim to the big one in Foxboro.
We know who will be coaching the Patriots. With abbreviated postgame comments from Julien – and a shortened access to players in the locker room – the same may not hold for the Black and Gold.
“It’s the question people ask every year, and we’re just players,” Rask said after in reference to Julien’s coaching status. “I think we’re just focused on doing our job as good as we can, and trying to get those wins. Obviously, losing three games is not great.”
That job is not good enough to get those wins.
“Well at the end of the night it is another loss and that’s the biggest thing,” Julien said.
Maybe not the biggest.