The good thing about back-to-backs is that if you stink in the first game, you get a chance to make amends the very next night.
That’s the mindset the Bruins will have as they head to New York to take on the Rangers Sunday night. They weren’t entirely terrible on Saturday — in fact, they actually out-attempted Washington 67-44 — but they had some horrific defensive breakdowns that directly led to four goals and a loss.
The Bruins suffered similar breakdowns in Wednesday’s overtime loss against Buffalo, another game they dominated possession-wise. They had two days of practice to try to correct those mistakes, but obviously that didn’t do a whole lot of good.
Perhaps the solution is to just keep playing games. Claude Julien thinks that could be the case.
“I think we’re OK,” Julien said. “I think we’ve played together and played the way we should for long enough that, basically, they need to see it more than they need to practice it. Tomorrow’s going to be a good day for us to look at those things and get ready for tomorrow night. It’s probably not a bad thing that we have back-to-back games. We can put this one aside quickly and work on the next one.”
It makes sense. The Bruins had been playing great prior to the Olympic break. Then everything just stopped for two weeks. It shouldn’t be a total shock that they’ve struggled to pick up where they left off.
The Bruins have still been good enough to control play for long stretches of both their post-Olympic games, but the rust has shown with some miscommunications (like the one Matt Bartkowski and Johnny Boychuk had on Washington’s third goal Saturday), missed assignments (like Alex Ovechkin being left open on his two power-play goals) and bad reads (which Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug were both guilty of on the Capitals’ fourth goal).
Some fans and reporters will use this to fuel the Bruins-need-an-impact-defenseman talk. While getting one would certainly help, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the mistakes made in these last two games are the exception, not the rule. The Bruins are second in the NHL in scoring defense for a reason. They’re a good defensive team. They just have some kinks to work out of their game.
They’ll get another crack at doing that a little more than 24 hours after Saturday’s loss, and that could be just what they need. A lot of teams struggle in the second game of a back-to-back, but the Bruins have actually excelled in those situations this season, posting a 7-2-0 record in second games. That could be a good sign moving forward, as the B’s have eight back-to-backs left this season.
“I think it’s good to kind of turn the page right away and get back at it tomorrow,” Gregory Campbell said. “There’s some things that we need to do better, some things we addressed before the game, and it didn’t really take into account during the game. So I think from our standpoint, it’s good that we’re playing tomorrow night.”