The opening period in a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders (6-5-3) started out like the majority of games this season have for the Boston Bruins (8-5-0). In a disturbing trend, the Bruins once again started a game looking like they were playing their annual black and gold intersquad scrimmage. The first couple of minutes were filled with plenty of lowlights for Boston; Bruins skaters being out worked along the boards, Bruins skaters getting beat to loose pucks, and Bruins skaters making poor decisions with the puck. Fortunately, the team also seems to find their skating legs after the first couple of shifts and starts playing like the team they are capable of being.
For the rest of the first period, the Bruins and Islanders looked pretty evenly matched, both teams trading good scoring chances. The best scoring chance for the B’s came from David Krejci when he narrowly missed the game’s first goal. On the play, Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin made a nice toe save to keep Boston off the board. Poulin, who had lost his only other two starts this season, played well in the win, saving 26 of 27 (.963%) shots faced.
After a scoreless first, it looked like the game would be a back and forth battle between two good teams. The second period however, was anything but back and forth. The Islanders came out and once again started a period by dominating the Bruins in every aspect and eventually their hard work paid off.
Thomas Vanek, who was just traded to the Islanders last week, stole the puck from Krejci’s stick right in front of Bruins goalie Chad Johnson and fired on goal. The shot was saved by Johnson, but waiting in front of the Boston net was Islanders star center John Tavares, who proceeded to bat the puck into the back of the goal at 6:15 of the second period.
After a goal from Andrew MacDonald made it a 2-0 game, the Bruins inched closer by scoring a power-play goal after a holding the stick penalty went against the Islanders. While it may be a small victory, the Bruins looked really good on the man advantage. They had really good puck movement and were not just firing slap shots from the blue line in hopes of a deflection. That was about it for positive takeaways; the rest of the period was filled with defensive breakdowns and uninspired play from the entire Boston team.
Don’t get me wrong, the Islanders are a good team filled with really talented players, but the effort that the Bruins brought to the ice would have brought them a loss against any team, let alone one with all the offensive firepower the Isles have. This was the worst game the team has played, but as coach Claude Julien explained after the loss, the team has not played up to their capabilities in a long time.
“(The subpar play) has been (going on for) a while,” said a frustrated Julien. “The last time we were really happy with our game was (the 5-0 win Oct. 19) in Tampa. That’s the last time I can say that we really played well. Since, there’s been some ups and downs. (Last night) was probably one of our worst.”
Julien is right when he says it was the worst game of the season. While the team often goes through periods of offensive ineptitude, the alarming thing in this game was how many defensive breakdowns the team had. These breakdowns were due in large part to the over aggressiveness of the Bruins young defensemen.
The injury to defenseman Johnny Boychuk forced Julien to start Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton. All three are young, and all three made mistakes in the loss. While they are in the game more for their offensive talents, and their aggressiveness is a nice change of pace from Boston’s other, more defensive minded defensemen, Krug, Bartkowski and Hamilton all need to realize that they do play defense and have to be aware of their responsibilities out on the ice.
While we are piling on the Bruins for their poor play, I have to talk about the player who I believe has been the most disappointing player for the team so far. He’s been called a big ball of hate, but so far this season, Brad Marchand has simply looked like a big ball out on the ice and I’ve come to hate him. Now I do not really hate Marchand, he’s actually one of my favorite players to watch when he’s right. That being said his play this year has been sickening. He’s become the new Tyler Seguin, turning over the puck and playing lazy. It was his lack of effort to get back and cover for a pinching Hamilton that led to an Islanders 2-on-1 odd man rush and a goal. Marchand’s lack of hustle has not gone unnoticed by his coach.
“We’ve all played the game enough to know that if you see a defenseman in there (deep), you cover up for him,” Julien said talking about Marchand. “So it’s one mistake on top of another and it snowballs. You can blame more than one person for those goals. That’s just the way it has been lately.”
Julien has been known for not being afraid to send messages to his team, and Marchand would be the perfect player for him to make an example out of. I expect to see Marchand as a healthy scratch in the B’s next game and Jordan Caron to be in his spot.
The Bruins will have a couple of days to address their lack of motivation on the ice, and I expect them to look much better in their next game. Boston begins a five game homestand on Tuesday at 7pm against the Dallas Stars (5-6-2).