The Bruins struggled to keep pace in their 5-0 loss to the Wild on Tuesday night. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)
BOSTON – Bruins head coach Claude Julien did not want to assess the play of his goaltenders following a 5-0 trouncing at the hands of the visiting Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. In fact, he would not.
The near decade-long coach of the Bruins understands the unfortunate hand the team has been dealt.
“I’m just going to deal with the issue internally,” Julien said of their shaky goaltending situation. “We know that we’ve got two young goalies from the American League, so we’ve got to deal with that.”
Tuukka Rask has not been seen on the ice — be it at a practice, a morning skate, or in a game — since last Thursday’s win over the New Jersey Devils with what’s been called “general soreness” (and no, Julien did not have an update on Rask after the club’s latest loss). Rask’s absence was only further complicated by the upper-body injury sustained by Anton Khudobin mere minutes into Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, one that will keep Khudobin out of action for three weeks. In a matter of days, the Bruins were down to their organization’s third and fourth goaltenders on the depth chart in Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre.
The B’s coach knows he can’t control the circumstances that brought the inexperienced duo to the Bruins. It was not Subban’s early season AHL numbers (0-3-1, .846 save percentage, and pulled in two of his four starts this season) that called the 22-year-old up to Boston. And though McIntyre’s numbers are more impressive in a smaller sample size and mainly in relief (1-0-0, and AHL-best .977 save percentage in three games played), the 24-year-old McIntyre is still very much in the development stage of his professional career after leaving his NCAA crease with North Dakota in 2015. He’s still a significantly unfinished product in regards to his game at the pro level.
All Julien knew was that Tuesday’s game had to be played with one of them in net.
As it turned out, both were needed.
Subban departed after a 13-of-16 night that came to an end with three goals against in a span of 5:29, including two Wild goals scored in just 12 seconds, in the middle period. McIntyre, in his first NHL appearance and on his second NHL recall in four days, fared slightly better with 15 stops on 17 shots against in a 29-minute relief effort.
Neither were particularly dazzling, but it was the play of the team in front of them that drew the ire of Julien’s postgame conference.
“I don’t care who’s in net. I think when you have some injuries you need to be better in those situations and we weren’t good enough tonight. It doesn’t matter if Tuukka is in net and we had injuries up front or we’re lacking players here or there,” a frustrated Julien said after the defeat. “You’ve got to let the system take care of the game and if you play it the right way, you have a chance to win. When you don’t, you don’t. And that’s what happened tonight.”
Pinned into the defensive zone for several prolonged stretches against a pace-pushing Wild club, the Bruins were credited with 16 giveaways by the end of the game, and once again had missed assignments and blown coverages in their own end lead to ugly goals against their goalies.
“Our game right now has to be better without the puck and the kind of goals we’re giving up are killing us,” Julien, whose team has yet to score first in six games this year, lamented. “I think we need to be much better without the puck and respecting that part of our game a little bit better, and the mistakes or the lack of coverage or not being in the right place right now is doing a lot of damage to our game and it’s hurtful at the end because you end up with this kind of a result.”
In multi-goal deficits often, the Bruins have found themselves looking for the quick fix in the attacking zone too much, something that’s hurt their overall game in consecutive contests.
“It feels like we’re losing puck battles. We’re not staying in the battles, we’re not stopping, we’re just kind of swinging away and they’re getting odd man rushes,” Bruins center David Krejci said. “We’re definitely cheating offensively and that’s not helping everyone.”
And with just four goals scored over their last three games, the Bruins cannot afford to have these lapses, especially in the second period (they’ve been outscored 7-to-4 in the second period of their six games, and three of those four goals scored by the Bruins came in the season opening win against the Blue Jackets), continue to creep into their game.
“Guys have to stay focused for the whole 60-minute game and really pay attention to what’s going on on the ice,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “Not looking for shortcuts, just honoring the game, honoring the gameplan, and really being accountable.
“We’re out there to do the right thing and do the things that we practice every day.”
The Bruins will get another chance to do the “right things” with a quick turnaround as they travel to Madison Square Garden for a Wednesday night tilt against the New York Rangers.