(Photo: Alan Sullivan)
After Saturday night’s win, it looked liked perhaps the Boston Bruins had finally come to an understanding about who they are as a team and how to make it work. Unfortunately, it appears that they are still struggling with their identity or at least how to embrace that identity to play consistently.
Just 40 seconds into the first period Melker Karlsson rang the post with a wrist shot, and there was a sigh of relief perhaps that it didn’t go in. However, Joe Pavelski was hanging around at the right side of the net and popped in the rebound at the 42 second mark to put the San Jose Sharks on the board first. That was the first shot on goal for the Sharks and the first goal of the night in an up-and-down affair.
A little more than eight and a half minutes later, Tyler Randell would tip in his third goal of the season, with an assist from Dennis Seidenberg. For Seidenberg who had back surgery just before training camp began, it was his first point of the season in his 700th NHL career game. And it looked like that gave the Bruins a little bit of a jump in their skates.
“Well obviously it’s tough to start out the game with a goal against so we’ve got to come out there and do our job as a line and create energy for the guys so we just got it down low and got pucks to the net and it worked out,” Randell shared after the game.
Just about two minutes later the Bruins were on the power play when Joel Ward was whistled for a hook on David Krejci. Perhaps the only thing that seems consistent with the Bruins this season is their power play. They had scored at least one power play goal in 13 of their 17 games going into Tuesday’s game against the Sharks. The Bs would add to that total with two on the evening—the first coming off Brad Marchand’s stick to put the Bruins up in that first period, albeit briefly.
When the end of the first period came, the teams would be tied at two goals a piece and nine shots on goal each. This looked a little too familiar with the Bruins. During intermission there was discussion on what the team needed to accomplish in the remaining 40 minutes.
“Just got to stick to the game plan. Make simple plays, chip it out, chip it in,” Randell said. “Play down in their end and be strong in the neutral zone, turnover pucks because they’re quick to the neutral zone. So we just had to stick to our game plan and we didn’t quite do that for the 60 minutes.”
Indeed they did not. And this has become an ongoing theme this season. The team talks about respecting their game plan and sticking to that plan. However, it appears that at the present they are struggling to get that from their brains to the rest of their bodies so that they can accomplish this.
“We know what we are but it doesn’t mean we necessarily play that way every night. We know that when we play our game and when we play our system that we’re a good team and we give ourselves an opportunity to win. So we just have to make sure we do that and we’ll be okay,” Marchand explained.
But if they know that success comes when they play their system and their game, why aren’t they doing so? Watching tonight’s game as it progressed saw wide open ice for scoring—some of this from both teams. But as has happened in previous games where the Bruins have lost, they begin to take penalties and make the long cross-ice passes that don’t always connect and are not their style. Tonight’s game was like watching a team that was unsure if they should play their position, their man, or just play shinny. And this would haunt them as the Sharks out-shot and outscored them in the second period to go up 5-3 at the second intermission.
“Yeah, I mean it’s definitely what we’re trying to say right now,” said Patrice Bergeron, who cut the Sharks’ lead in half about ten minutes into the third period, scoring their second power play goal of the evening. “We’re too much up and down from periods to another and from game to another.”
They are struggling to find the answers to why they are plagued by this inability. To a man they will admit to not playing to their full potential and not playing their system. The answers have to come from somewhere.
“Within the room, I mean it’s definitely in here and got to find a way to sustain that consistency and yeah it’s within the room. It’s not up to anyone else,” Bergeron explained.
“There’s a lot more than that—than just talking to each other,” Marchand stated in regard to those players not putting forth a full effort. “We have to look in the mirror and each and every one of us have to be better. I don’t think anyone can say they’ve played their best so far this year. Like I said before, that’s what we need. We need everyone to be good every night.”
The Bruins have a short amount of time to try and decide which of their identities is going to be the dominant one this season. Right now there is always a question from game to game and from period to period what team will take the ice. They have two more home games on Thursday against the Minnesota Wild and then on Saturday for a divisional game against the Toronto Maple Leafs before heading back on the road. It’s almost Thanksgiving and in many ways this team is struggling like they are being put on lines with brand new players instead of playing with teammates they have known now for almost three months, if not considerably longer.
We need everyone to be good every night. — Brad Marchand