The Bruins lost another game late on Wednesday. It was their ninth loss in such a fashion this season. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)
The Bruins can’t afford, nor do they really want to lose games.
But if they are going to lose, which is inevitable despite what the first four games of the Bruce Cassidy era told us, they’re going to have to figure out how to lose the right way. And just what is considered the right way? Taking advantage of the league’s ridiculous ‘loser points’ handed out like candy this time of year, which is something they haven’t done this year. Or any year of recent recollection, anyway.
Just take a look at Wednesday night’s disaster at the Honda Center.
After the Bruins fought so hard to tie things back up, and did with Frank Vatrano’s goal scored just over the halfway mark of the third period, the Bruins were hemmed in their own zone and allowed the Ducks’ Rickard Rakell to score what would be the game-winning goal with just 2:34 left in the third period.
If there’s any consolation for the Black and Gold, it was the gutpunch that the B’s have been tagged with repeatedly in what’s become a rope-a-dope season. Flip-side: There’s no consolation to be had given what was at stake for the club in that game.
With a victory, the Bruins would have leapfrogged both the Panthers and Maple Leafs — each of whom still have one game in hand over the Bruins — and finished the night back in a playoff position. The Leafs have not made the most of their games in hand advantage over the Bruins, but it’s the Panthers, who have been just on fire of late, that gave the Bruins a break with a loss to the Oilers. They were off the hook and back in the mix thanks to help from the league’s hottest team having an off night. And they did nothing with it. Four-game winning streak or not, the B’s are still very much engaged in a mad dash finish, and leaving points on the table is just inexcusable at this time of year, let alone doing it against a struggling Ducks team and their backup goaltender.
The Bruins should have been better. Or good enough to earn at least one point out of this game. But they weren’t.
And at some point, you just expect the Bruins to leave these breakdowns behind them.
Rakell’s game-winning goal finished as the B’s ninth regulation loss where the Bruins allowed the winning team to score the game-winning goal in the final five minutes of a period this season. It was the fifth time that it’s happened in the third period of a game, too, and there’s a grand total of 7:23 that’s kept the Bruins from at least five extra points in the standings.
Collect those five points and you’re just one point out of first place in the Atlantic Division. Fail to collect those points and you will once again be where you begin Thursday morning when it’s all said and done — and that’s on the outside looking in. Again.
It’s impossible to imagine that the Bruins have squandered five, maybe even 10 points, by an average of a 1:16 in the third period.
Especially given what the club went through a season ago. (Or maybe that makes it all the more plausible?)
This exact thing happened to the Bruins eight times last year, and happened in the third period on four different occasions. So, in essence, the Bruins lost out on at least four points. Oh, and they missed the playoffs by one regulation/overtime win to the Red Wings (who had 11 overtime losses but were tied with the Bruins with 93 points) for third place in the Atlantic Division, and they also lost out on the second wild card to the Flyers by just three points. Do the math.
Fail to frequently collapse and you’re in the dance.
If you go back one year further, it happened to the Bruins five times, including two times in the third period (once with less than a second left if you recall that Columbus Day loss to the Avs from Danny Briere), and the Bruins missed the playoffs by two points.
And naturally, where does this bring the Bruins this season? To 10th place in the Eastern Conference, for the time being, and in a spot all too familiar to where they’ve been for the last two seasons.
The Leafs, with a one-point lead over the Bruins, find themselves in third place in the division, and their lead is over the Bruins is solely due to their number of loser points compared to the Bruins, as the Leafs have dropped 11 contests in overtime or the shootout while the B’s have just six of those. The same can be said for the Panthers, who have three fewer regulation/overtime wins than the Black and Gold, but are saved by 10 overtime losses.
In essence, these teams are better than the Bruins in the standings because they’re better at losing than they are, and will continue to be if the Bruins continue to choke away games before the extra frame.
What a world.