BOSTON, MA - Bruins showed the jump again Thursday night for the third straight game, but this time, they ran out of gas.
Prior to tonight's match-up with the New York Islanders, Coach Julien had noted the game plan for the B's would be to focus on "smart" hockey.
"For us it’s let’s continue to work on making our team better and, if anything, we’ve got to play a real smart game tonight," the B's bench boss told the media pregame. "Having played last night, getting in late, I think the mental part of the game will be as important if not more important than anything else when we play the Islanders."
It was the point of emphasis - but the Bruins searched to find it consistently - and ultimately fell, 2-1, to a rolling Islanders team that has now picked up points in six straight games amidst their playoff push.
"Yeah, I didn’t think we played -- not a smart game tonight," said Coach following the game. "The first period was good, but then you know, that little mistake sometimes. And when I say you’ve got to play a smart game – in those situations, it was two teams playing three games in four nights."
"So it wasn’t quite the same scenario with those guys, they had a little bit more jump than we did."
The Bruins outshot their opponent 16-9 in the first, before surrendering a goal with 20.5 left on the clock in the opening frame, a long shot from the top of the left circle that developed off a turnover that caused a 4-on-2 rush for the Islanders.
Tyler Seguin tied it up on the power play (marking two straight games with man-advantage goals for the B's for the first time since February 15/17) early in the second, but Josh Bailey's second of the game trickled over the goal line to give the Isles a 2-1 lead they wouldn't concede.
"And the second goal was - puck jumps over [Adam] McQuaid’s stick and trickles through Tuukka [Rask]," added Coach Julien, on the eventual game-winner. "So it’s you know, the bounces and stuff like that."
"It’s not about making excuses, it’s about reality. And they were the better team tonight."
"But I’m going to keep mentioning that I’m certainly not disappointed in our team’s approach and what they tried to do tonight."
Sentiment from outside the team right now might suggest that fatigue can't be an excuse - and it's not, especially when focusing on the physical standpoint, as the B's would admit they'd like to see an intensified physical component to their game, especially heading into the playoffs.
It's something that they've addressed, but have also noted that the talk hasn't translated into action as of late.
"Part of having an identity is not just talking about what your team should be like, it is about doing it," defenseman Andrew Ference said earlier Thursday morning, prior to the night's match-up. "It's about actions. Just strong forechecks and hits, stuff that's within the game. It's not about gooning it up or anything like that, but just having that physical presence."
"For sure, not just last night in the third [against New Jersey], but for stretches of many games. It's been a missing element that in the past has put our team on top."
Seguin, who notched his second goal in as many games, acknowledged that the B's weren't able to tap into the next gear to find the equalizer.
"Yeah, I mean I think it’s about being able to get up," said Seguin. "We don’t want to make excuses, we just ran out of gas in the last four minutes."
David Krejci was another Bruin asked about their first-period effort and the team running out of steam towards the end.
"You get kind of tired of saying the same thing, you know, it’s [the] schedule. I think everyone’s got a pretty tough schedule, and I’m not walking away from tonight too negative," said Krejci, in response. "I thought we had a pretty good game. I think they’re a young team, and they had the most energy there in the third."
"I think we played a strong game. We played the way we wanted to play," added the center. "We were down 1-0 after the first, but it didn’t feel like it. I think we felt good about ourselves after the first period in this room. We talked about it."
"Maybe we kind of ran out of gas a little bit [in] the second and third, but then again it was the third game in four nights. We got back last night from New York, but I think the effort was there. We wanted to obviously win. It just didn’t happen today."
While it was frustrating to come out on the losing end, Jaromir Jagr talked about the little details being off for the B's, whether it was him not lifting the puck enough, converting on a chance or a bounce going the wrong way.
"Of course it’s frustrating, you know. You want to win every game, but what’s better right now? The best scenario would be that we would play very well and we would win the hockey game. But it just didn’t happen," Jagr told media, as he sat in his stall in the B's locker room - one that's only been there a week and a half, but with the effect he's already had on the room, it feels much longer.
"The luck wasn’t on our side today, but maybe we were a little tired. Being tired, and then the scoring chances, maybe weren’t the right shots to take and wasn’t hard enough. I had so many chances, but maybe I didn’t lift the puck the way I wanted to."
The Bruins didn't want to give blame to the schedule, but you'd have to think even if physically their legs felt fine, the mental fatigue might have at least been a factor. But overall, whether it was fatigue or not that led to the loss - of the mental or physical kind - the B's sentiment seems to be, at this point, that negative thinking wouldn't really benefit them moving forward.
"Yeah, it’s frustrating but I think we don’t want to be too negative about that," said Rask following the defeat. "It was a third game in four nights and back-to-back situations, lots of travel too. So, we’ve got to try to find the positives. We tried hard, we battled hard, we had some chances, we just couldn’t get the goal. It’s a loss still, so it hurts, but I don’t want to be too negative about it."
Captain Zdeno Chara also mirrored that viewpoint, as he analyzed the game to reporters surrounding his locker room stall.
"There’s no question we’re making a little bit more mistakes now than maybe [in 2011]," said Chara. "There are some nights, maybe, it’s physical or tiredness or mental tiredness. That could be it. But like I said, when we do make mistakes it’s not that we’re going to be ‘okay, who made the mistake?’"
"It’s how we’re going to react after that mistake, how we're going to cover up for [our] teammate."
Game after game, especially during three-in-four and back-to-back stretches, the B's have been asked about being tired, so the Captain was jokingly asked if he was also pretty tired of hearing that question.
"You can ask me if I’m tired of that or I can ask you if you’re tired of asking," quipped the B's leader.
"Like I’ve been saying, everybody knew that it’s going to be heavy, that it’s going to be a lot of games in a short period of time."
"But now we’re coming towards the end of the season and, yeah, it’s not easy, but like I’ve been saying, it’s not an excuse. Everybody has the same schedule. I think we are in a good spot, we just need to get better in certain areas of our game and make sure that we get everything that we need going into the playoffs."
"It’s not going to be perfect season. I don’t think anybody has a perfect season, and those teams that do have, well, good for them. You can’t play a perfect season. That’s just the way it goes."
"You’re going to have some tough stretches."
"I thought the last few games—a number of games—we battled through them," added Chara.
"You could tell that we were towards the end, maybe running a little bit out of energy, but I thought we started the game really well. We had a lot of jump, we really battled, we had a good mindset, so this is a positive thing going towards the next game."
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