For a few third-period minutes on Tuesday, TD Garden was rocking.
David Krejci had shoveled in his 12th goal of the season, just 26-seconds after Brad Marchand had buried his 22nd of the year, and the Bruins were leading the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 3-1 in the team’s first game back after the All-Star break.
And then …
“We let the lead slip away,” said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. “We didn’t defend well enough in front of our net. Usually we’re pretty good at that.”
The Bruins’ franchise this decade had usually been good at protecting leads, let alone net-fronts. In the past four seasons under Claude Julien, a two-goal Bruins’ lead was almost an automatic Bruins’ victory: the B’s were 158-9-7 over those four campaigns.
However, a season that began with three blown two-goals leads in the first six contests of October has been filled with a-typical B’s behavior.
“You know what, I don’t know,” centerman David Krejci said when asked what the difference has been this year in holding leads compared to previous years. “[Inexperience] shouldn’t be an excuse, because we’ve played 50 games already and everyone knows the game-plan. I think we are in good shape in [that] part of the game. We all know what to do. It’s just execution.”
Krejci continued: “We used to have a killer instinct when we were up two goals in the third [period], we’d go out there pushing for the next one. But today, a frustrating game, [Toronto] got two goals, two tips in the high slot. Nothing you can do about that.”
Some might disagree with that ending declaration. Julien, for example.
“Just before [Toronto] scored their second goal, we make a stretch pass in the middle, it kind of bounces, stops at the blue line,” explained Julien. “We’ve got two players that skate by it, don’t even bother to dump it in. They come back, and get a scoring chance. [Our] next line out there, again, another puck management issue and it ends up in our net. We shoot ourselves in the foot in those situations.”
It seems Julien was referring to a stretch pass made to winger Matt Beleskey, who had his pocket picked from behind by Nazem Kadri just upon entering the Toronto zone. Instead of making sure the puck got deep, Beleskey’s line-mates Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes headed for a line change. Kadri was then allowed free entry into Boston’s zone, and some 20 seconds later, Leo Komarov got position on Zach Trotman for a deflection that beats Tuukka Rask, cutting Boston’s lead to 3-2.
“Three of the [Toronto] goals were tipped in,” continued Julien. “That’s poor coverage. All three goals were kind of tipped from 10-to-15 feet from our net, so the slot area was not covered very well. We know they like to shoot for those tips. We didn’t do a good enough job of taking care of that. They did a good job of tipping those pucks, it’s something they work at. Again, the coverage wasn’t how it should have been.”
Defenseman Kevan Miller’s post-game analysis seemed to be somewhere in-between ‘nothing you can about that’ and ‘that’s poor coverage.’
“Good goals, for sure,” said Miller. “They had a good couple of high tips that we need to sort out in our D zone. That’s something that we’ve been harping on a lot this year. We need to sharpen that up. You’ve got to read it, that’s the job as a defenseman to kind of scope out, find that guy. We got a little ahead of ourselves, with guys leaving the zone.”
On Toronto’s game-tying goal – a tip by Kadri who was alone in the slot – Trotman this time had a man occupied in front. Team captain Zdeno Chara, however, was caught in no-man’s land in the left wing circle with his eyes on the point.
It all left Julien searching for the proper descriptive terms to attach to Tuesday’s blown lead.
“I don’t think it was [that we were] relaxing,” said Julien. “Right now I don’t know if it’s a matter of you’re afraid to lose, playing it safe. We go out there in the third determined to win, we score two goals. [Then] we turn around and we get sloppy again. I don’t know if it’s relaxing or losing focus, but certainly not good enough for our hockey team to think that we can contend if we keep making those kind of mistakes.”
“We have to be stronger coming out of our zone, making better plays so everything is a little cleaner,” explained Seidenberg. “If we do that the whole flow of the game changes. Cleaner, with more speed, and create more. I don’t know, it’s little things. Paying attention to details all over the ice. Sticking to the game plan. That should work.”
Only too often, it’s not working for the Bruins.
“Anytime you lead 3-1 you want to keep the lead and end up winning hockey games,” Seidenberg said. ‘That’s one one of those games we let slip out of our hands. Everybody is pretty annoyed right now.”
“That’s extremely frustrating,” said Miller. “Every team is capable of winning on any night but it’s games we should win, especially at home, we need to start getting that in order. It’s different things every time. We’re trying to sort that out. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”