Bruins battling to find their game, as they prep to face Toronto again tonight
Prior to Saturday night's 3-2 loss in Toronto, the B's were looking for a spark in their scoring output. And after their third defeat in four games, in which they've scored just six goals, that rightfully remains the main focus.
"I just think, as I said all along, we’re fighting to find our game right now," Coach Julien said this morning at TD Garden, where he addressed the media, though his team did not skate. "It’s through the course of a season - I don’t see us different than any other team in regards to that, that happens at different times. It’s more about getting us to fight through it."
"Obviously, when you don’t win many games on the road trip, you can’t be happy with it."
"I think there’s times where the effort is there, maybe the mental aspect of your game isn’t there. Some other times, you’re working hard, but it doesn’t mean you’re working smartly. Other games maybe we needed a better effort. So, it was a combination of a lot of things."
After a stretch of games to start March that saw the B's drop four third-period leads to the Canadiens (March 3), Capitals (March 5), Penguins (March 12) and Jets (March 19), their third period efforts have been the difference makers in their past two games against Ottawa and Toronto, though the latter ended up in the loss column.
But the B's know that they need a more consistent effort through the full 60, something they've found at spurts throughout the course of the season. Right now, it's about jump-starting their offense and finding the finish to bury chances.
As a barometer, the Black & Gold finished Saturday night outshooting the Leafs 33-13 and put up 29 shots against the Senators on Thursday - but only scored three goals in those two games, with two coming from defensemen (Paille the only forward to find the back of the net in that span).
"Obviously scoring goals is how you win games, but we had to create the opportunities and we didn't create too many, especially against Pittsburgh and Winnipeg," Daniel Paille said following Sunday's practice at TD Garden. "We started playing better in Ottawa and Toronto, but we had a bad patch where we needed to recuperate and find our game again."
"Even though we lost [Saturday], I thought it was a strong game for us. Just a couple of bad plays defensively that cost us the game, and we could certainly improve, of course. I feel that we're just trying to go in the right direction."
When looking back at arguably the B's two most complete games this month (3-0 win over Philadelphia on March 9 and 4-1 win over the Caps on March 16), the fight and physicality was there.
So, when asked Monday morning if the Bruins need to play an "angrier" game to break out of the current slump, Coach Julien responded, "I think we need to be angry at ourselves, not at the Toronto Maple Leafs."
"I’ve said it before; this is a team that’s improved a lot. Randy [Carlyle] has done a great job with them," Coach added, on tonight's opponent. "There’s a lot of good things going on with that team, so we recognize that."
"But what is disappointing is that right now we’re not playing the type of game we should. Tonight, if we’re mad, we've got to be mad at ourselves for not playing our game and going out there being a little bit more hungry. Hopefully, our work ethic and the talent that we feel we have on our team will takeover."
In an effort to get his team going, Coach Julien switched up the lines at Sunday's practice, with Brad Marchand joining the line of David Krejci and Nathan Horton, Daniel Paille slotting in alongside Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin, and Milan Lucic joining Rich Peverley and Jordan Caron. A new look - if it sticks - for a team that, barring injuries, had consistently rolled the same lines on a nightly basis.
But there isn't one player Coach is looking to jump-start - it's the whole team.
"I’m expecting everybody. It’s pretty simple," said Coach. "When you don’t play well, you don’t look at just one guy. You don’t look at one line. You look at the whole team. Right now, it’s not about one individual."
Merlot Raising Their Game
If Daniel Paille joins Bergeron's line tonight against Toronto, it won't be the first time the Merlot Line has been broken up this season. But Paille getting moved up a couple of lines is really a testament to the energy and high compete level the speedy winger and his fourth liners have been providing during this tough stretch.
For the past two games, Coach Julien has given the trio of Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton "third line" minutes, though different situations in the games have also resulted in Campbell and Paille's upped minutes, including time on the penalty kill, and the combination of their forecheck and speed with the B's trying to make third-period comebacks.
"Yeah, absolutely," Coach said, when asked if players like those on the Merlot Line had actually raised their games throughout the recent skid. "And then the question mark is, do you break that line? It's been a good line, absolutely. But, you can't win with one line, so we're trying to get a spark out of our team. Sometimes, as a coach, you make a change and that's what I'm able to do, so we'll see."
"I try to make decisions based on my knowledge and what I know, and what I think our team needs, and you go with that. If it doesn't work, it's very easy to move guys around or put guys back together. It's not a bad thing, it's not a bad thing to have those guys play with different players."
Injury Updates on the Back End
During his pregame media availability, Coach Julien said that there has been no change to Adam McQuaid's status (out 3-4 weeks, shoulder strain) and Johnny Boychuk is still day-to-day and will not be in the lineup against Toronto. Matt Bartkowski and Aaron Johnson have been the two defensemen to fill in on the back end for the B's.
"He’s come into our lineup, a guy that hasn’t played much; at first, it’s not an easy thing to step into, when you haven’t played much, but he’s been fine," said Coach, on Johnson stepping in. "He’s played in this league, he has experience, so to me, he’s been fine."
"I don’t think he, or even Matt Bartkowski – I said we only allowed Toronto 13 shots last game - so I don’t think we’re looking at our deficiency in the back end. I think it’s pretty obvious that we need to score a little bit more right now."