(Photo: Krista Patronick)
The Boston Bruins were on the ice Sunday morning for their pre-game skate after having returned from three games on the road, where they brought home only three points out of six. To ask if there was disappointment in their performance against the Winnipeg Jets—the final game of the road trip—in which they didn’t get any points, when they expected and wanted to get two, is rhetorical. This is a team that prides itself on bearing down when things get tough and on digging out when they are in a rut. And yet, somehow this season they have continued to struggle, largely as a result of inconsistencies. Of their four forward lines, only one is producing goals right now and that one is the third line.
“That’s been the problem with our team, has been inconsistency in our game,” head coach Claude Julien said after practice. “That certain lines, even though you say well, [Patrice] Bergeron and [Reilly] Smith and [Brad] Marchand are great players, but it doesn’t mean their line is really firing on all cylinders every game.”
This was not intended to call out Bergeron and his line mates, as Julien did say that the game before Winnipeg they had played well. He was using them as an example of the struggles the lines were having in playing consistently from game to game.
“Once we get all our lines being more consistent in that area, it won’t be just saying that the goal scoring is coming from the Soderberg line. So we need a little bit more,” Julien continued. “At the same time [David] Krejci’s just come back, so you know, we hope that sooner than later we’re going to get a little bit more depth in our scoring.”
The fact is that none of the players are satisfied—let alone happy—with how things are going this season.
“We have the firepower in this room. We have the depth in the line up to do it. For whatever reason—whether we’re hitting a lot of posts or we’re not making enough plays, it just happens that way,” defenseman Torey Krug said after practice. “Throughout the course of the season there’s going to be spells like that. Whether it’s five games in a row, five games mixed in here and there, it’s going to happen, so now it’s up to us to make sure that we work ourselves out of it. And I think everyone in this locker room has the mindset to do that”
The Bruins have faced adversity before. Perhaps it hasn’t been to this extent, but even the year they won the Stanley Cup, they found themselves losing, or almost losing, games in which they had the upper hand to begin.
“It’s one of those things that I guess, it’s experience,” Bergeron told reporters. “You have to make sure you rely on that and make sure that we realize that adversity’s something that we’ve faced before.”
It can be difficult to try to explain to those who do not see everything that goes on either on the ice or in the locker room that the players, coaches, and other staff are all aware that the team is not where they want, nor expected, to be going into the holiday break. But they are not a team that gives up either.
“I think we’re equipped to face adversity and we all need to step up,” Bergeron said. “We have to.”
And Bergeron is aware that his line has had their fair share of struggles this season. They understand they are not the same line, at the top of their play, as the final buzzer sounds on each game.
“You always want to get better. You always want to help the team as much as possible,” Bergeron told The Pink Puck. “And when things aren’t working, you’re trying to fix things—look at video and what not and talk. It’s about finding a way for everyone to do their job on the ice.”
And even those who have improved, such as Krug, who after his return from the injury to his thumb struggled to regain his game, do not point fingers at their fellow players who may still be struggling.
“I’ve been playing a little bit better,” Krug acknowledged. “But when the team’s not winning that really doesn’t matter much.”
Krejci has missed a larger number of games and has just recently been reinserted into the line up. As was seen with Seidenberg at the beginning of the year and then with Krug a short time ago, it can take some time to return to his true level of play.
“The little things—the timing, all that stuff—comes into play,” Seidenberg said. “But you get used to it and you get back to it.”
A lot of what the players do on the ice is a result of muscle memory and feeling comfortable. If they are worrying about being re-injured or they are still conscious of an injury that certainly affects their abilities in a game.
“We definitely need to bounce back and we have to do this,” said Bergeron. “It’s nice to be home, being able to have a chance to have two big games before the break.”
All of the players want to go into the holiday break on a positive note. And they are all looking at ways they can fix their own play, as well as how they can play better with the rest of the team.
“I think everybody is looking forward to Christmas, but at the same time we’ve got two games here; two big games,” said forward Griffith. “These are four points that we need. We’re just going to take it one game at a time though and worry about Buffalo tonight.”