The Boston Bruins went into Saturday evening’s game with a 5-0-2 record in the preseason, having not lost a single game in regulation. Unfortunately, there final preseason game—a home game against the Philadelphia Flyers—resulted in a loss in regulation.
On Wednesday night, after the Bruins struggled mightily to clear the puck from their end during their overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy called his players out.
“Our breakdowns were just our puck management was not where it needed to be. We just did not manage the puck as well as you need to, to be hard to play against,” he said. “A lot of it is some of the guys tonight haven’t played a lot, so I think they’re still a little bit in circling mode and not detail mode, so we’ll have to address that.”
After Saturday’s game, Cassidy talked about respecting the game; something he brought up last season when the Bruins didn’t seem to be playing the right way. And he pointed out that it was necessary for the players to get dialed in quickly since the puck drops on the season opener, Wednesday night in Washington, D.C. against the Washington Capitals.
“Our respect for the game. That means puck management, details, stopping and starting on pucks,” Coach Cassidy stated bluntly. “Some of that, you allow your veteran guys to play through in hope that their habits will come back to them quickly, but we have some guys that are second-year players that are struggling with that right now. They need to be reminded that 80-100 games under your belt is good, a good building block, but as [Zdeno Chara] pointed out you want to continue to establish yourself as a true NHLer. And I think our guys need to be reminded of the details of why they were successful last year. I think a few of them have gotten away from that, to be honest with you.”
The players understand when they haven’t respected the game. They hold themselves accountable.
“I think, I mean you know, working hard, taking care of the puck, and you know, we’re out there to do a job, and I think we did it for, you know, some parts of the game, but the other parts…,” explained Chris Wagner. “You know, the turnovers is what kills coaches, and you know, it’s tough to watch too. We had a power play goal, but I don’t think, you know, we executed the way we wanted to, but you know, it’s the last preseason game, so we’ve got time to fix it before Wednesday.”
One of the harder things about playing in the preseason is the number of potential line mates a player may have and the communication that becomes necessary. Chemistry is difficult to build when playing just one game with another guy. And the preseason is where players can evaluate themselves and the coaches can get a sense of who might play well on a line. If a team is going to make mistakes, the preseason is the time to do it, since those losses don’t count.
“There’s obviously stuff that happens in the preseason, stuff that you’re not really – maybe plays that you obviously want to prevent, things to look at going forward. But that’s the good thing about the preseason,” defenseman Charlie McAvoy shared. “Yeah, it sucks losing that game, and obviously there’s a lot of things we need to fix, a lot of things I need to fix personally, but the good news is we have some time. We have a couple days; we’re going to be able to look at this film, look at this video, continue to come together more and more as a team.”
Meanwhile, for Anders Bjork, Saturday’s game was his first and only preseason game, having come off a shoulder surgery in February. The speedy forward obviously wants to play in Boston, and while he said he felt good, he recognized that having not played for close to seven months had taken a bit of a toll on his reactions on the ice.
“You know, it’s a fast pace out there; it’s hard to prepare for it, even with our practices. I think I was lucky enough that our camp is really fast paced and pretty physical and stuff, so I think I was as ready as I could be. But, I think when you don’t play a game for seven or eight months, you’re going to be a little rusty, so definitely felt it a bit,” Bjork shared after the game.
The Bruins are off on Sunday and will get back to work Monday at Warrior Ice Arena. Depending on where the staff feels Patrice Bergeron is for Wednesday, and the outcome of the lower body injury that Torey Krug took Saturday the team may not be quite what Coach Cassidy hopes when the season begins on Wednesday.