With just two more games after Tuesday night’s preseason tilt against the New York Islanders, the Boston Bruins are still struggling a bit with communication and chemistry. Of course this no doubt has to do with the fact that the final roster isn’t set—they still have at least six players that need to be cut—and as such the final lines haven’t been decided.
After practice on Tuesday morning, head coach Claude Julien was asked about when he needs to begin to pick those lines so that the chemistry can start to bubble.
“A lot of guys have been together for quite a while when you talk about Marsh [Brad Marchand] and Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] and you look at [David] Krejci and Looch [Milan Lucic] for example,” Julien responded. “Two guys normally with good chemistry, it’s a lot easier to throw a third guy in there. When you have three new guys on a line it’s a bit tougher.”
As Julien pointed out, they aren’t the only team who will be facing this problem going into the opening games of the regular season. However, as the first period continued, some of the missed passes and questionable puck decisions had the assembled fans antsy for better connections and perhaps more shots on net. Of course, generally speaking the fans want the players to “shoot the puck” even when it doesn’t make sense.
Some of the questionable decision making will likely be removed as the roster is finalized—barring injuries. And hopefully by the time the puck drops on the regular season, the rust will have been knocked off of players like Chris Kelly, Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid—all who missed considerable time this past year due to injuries.
Unfortunately it wasn’t just those who were returning from injuries who appeared to be suffering from the struggles, which was a little surprising when considering that some of those fanning on shots and making passes to empty spots have played with each other for some time.
Returning to Julien’s comments after practice, he mentioned the chemistry between Krejci and Lucic. It was disappointing to watch these two struggle in a variety of situations throughout the game.
Post game, Julien was again asked about chemistry, specifically in regard to if he felt that the Lucic, Krejci and Loui Eriksson line could work.
“I don’t think that line as a whole had a good game, either of them. When I say great game, they were just okay,” Julien answered. “I don’t think they were a dominant line tonight. Probably hard to assess as far as will that line work or not. Definitely we need to see them play a little bit better.”
Eriksson was also asked about if he felt there was chemistry forming with his line mates.
“Hopefully we can get something together quickly. It’s kind of a tough game too with penalties, especially in the second there it was tough to get a good feeling out of it,” Eriksson told reporters. “Definitely we need some more games here maybe and get the connection going.”
The team’s struggles to communicate and find chemistry were certainly exacerbated by the almost revolving door that led to the sin bin. Nine different Bruins found themselves sitting for two minutes on ten penalties throughout the second and third periods. And it was this constant need for Julien to roll his specialty units—sometimes with his top penalty killers unavailable because they were the ones serving time—that seemed to cause the ultimate downfall of the Bruins in the game.
Fortunately, when the final buzzer sounded, and the Bruins took a 5-3 loss on the evening, the fact that they lost doesn’t count. Preseason is for trying different line combinations and testing players who may be on the cusp to see if they are truly ready for the crucible that is an NHL level game.
Fortunately it is a time for personal evaluation and the players understand this is part of the preseason.
“Preseason is a good time to show what you’ve got and to show what you’re bringing, but it’s also a time to get comfortable in the sense where you make your mistakes now,” Matt Fraser told the gathered press. “You get those out of the way so when you’re kind of shooting real bullets in the season you’re ready to and you’re ready.”
“I think preseason is about finding your game. I don’t know if this is the time to [make] mistakes,” suggested Carl Soderberg. “There’s never a good time to [make] mistakes, but it takes some time when you get on the ice and you play with a lot of different guys. Maybe the preseason is for that reason.”
“I think everyone assesses their own [play]. I certainly do, especially in preseason because you want to get back to mid-season form, I guess you could call it, or as close as you can to start the season,” responded Matt Bartkowksi, who scored the Bruins’ third goal. “But they’re exhibition games, so there’s stuff that…you know, it’s better that we do it poorly here in a game that doesn’t matter, so we can learn how to correct it.”
There are definitely some things that the team needs to address before the regular season begins. There are player decisions to be made. And there are two more preseason games for them to get the kinks out.