While a lot of attention was on the return of Johnny Boychuk in his first game with the New York Islanders against his former team, after the first few minutes, it became clear that the emotions that may have been stirred up amongst Boychuk’s former players would be the least of their worries. In fact, as the game continued into the second, emotion of any kind may have been appreciated.
Coming off of their win against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday that saw Bruins’ Seth Griffith earn his first NHL career goal, there had been much talk of how the team was beginning to find their rhythm. The San Jose game also saw Matt Bartkowski back on the blue line, with the news that Kevan Miller would be out indefinitely with a dislocated shoulder.
As the starting line up was announced for the Islanders, the Bruins fans were loud with their appreciation of Boychuk, cheering his name, and were happy to see him on the ice. In fact, when he touched the puck for the first few moments there was clapping. As he fired a Johnny Rocket past Niklas Svedberg, the crowd erupted in a cheer. The goal was disallowed as a result of Anders Lee pushing Bartkowski into Svedberg when Bartkowski didn’t have the puck—which resulted in Lee getting two for goaltender interference.
However, it wouldn’t take the Islanders long to score again, with just one mistake after another taking hold of the Bruins in their defensive zone. And like an impending train wreck from which you can’t turn your gaze, the knowledge and understanding that the Islanders were about to score–which they did–seemed somehow inevitable. And once again the Islanders were on the board first.
Just after his fifth shift of the game against the Islanders, captain Zdeno Chara would disappear not to return and the Bruins defense would once again find themselves having to get it done with just five d-men. A story all too familiar to the Boston Bruins.
And unfortunately another story all too familiar to the Bruins fans, the team would come out lacking in all manner of urgency and, as Dennis Seidenberg would say post game, “sleepwalked through the second.” Given that the Islanders managed to get twice as many shots on goal (12-6) in the second and two goals, Seidenberg’s assessment was certainly accurate.
After the game every player who had to man-up and face the reporters would call themselves out for their lack of production as a team, not just in the second, but also in the first period.
“We missed some opportunities to get back in the game and tie it up,” Patrice Bergeron said. “But if you don’t play for 40 [minutes] it’s hard to win a game only with 20 minutes.”
Bergeron went on to explain why, even when they did have control of the puck in their defensive zone, things were still likely to go wrong Thursday evening.
“We’re taking the extra second we don’t have to get the puck out and it doesn’t get out,” Bergeron stated to media present. “Once we do that we’re on our heels, you know, and we’re not making plays and it ends up in the back of our net more often than not.”
Seidenberg was a little more blunt in his assessment.
“That’s usually what happens when you get caught outside, in your zone. You get tired and you turn brain dead it seems,” he said. “But in that case you have to tell yourself to stay calm and make strong plays. Get out of your zone and go from there. Right now we’re not doing that and we get scored on in those situations.”
The fans will let their displeasure be known, but in the end they aren’t telling each player anything they don’t already know. They know they aren’t playing well. They know that they didn’t play a full sixty minutes. In fact, Chris Kelly wasn’t even too sure they played a full twenty in the last period. However it was at some point in the third that they began to play with an urgency and tempo that reminded the fans, and perhaps themselves, of the team they are and should be.
You know when we’re playing good hockey is when we’re crisp, sharp and making the simple plays. – Patrice Bergeron