BOSTON – What happened to that vaunted Boston defense? The Bruins entered Wednesday night having allowed just eight goals in their last eight games. But in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, they couldn’t get out of their own way en route to a 6-5 overtime loss. They kept coming back, but ultimately turnovers, failed clearing attempts and an inability to clear the front of their own net were too much to overcome.
Much like Game 2 — a game Boston ended up winning in overtime — the Bruins found themselves pinned in their own end for much of the first period. They weren’t strong enough on the puck, and they were consistently half a step too slow in 1-on-1 races. The lackluster play caught up to them 6:48 in, when an unaware Tyler Seguin had his pocket picked by Brandon Saad, leading to a Chicago 2-on-1 and a shorthanded goal at the other end of the ice.
“I don’t think we played our best game tonight,” said coach Claude Julien. “I think our decision-making wasn’t very good at times. I didn’t think we were moving the puck as well as we had been in the past. They came out hard, played extremely well. Somehow, again, they had the better of us for the first half of the game until we got ourselves going a little bit.”
The Bruins got better as the first period went on and managed to tie the game going into the intermission. But then they started the second period just as slowly as they started the first. This time it bit them twice before they once again turned things around late in the frame.
Jonathan Toews managed to carve out some open space in front of Tuukka Rask and wound up with a tip-in goal to give Chicago a 2-1 lead. Two minutes later, the Bruins failed to clear the front of the net again, and this time Patrick Kane buried a third chance after Rask had already stopped two shots in quick succession.
Chicago’s fourth goal came on perhaps the most inexcusable mistake. Dennis Seidenberg made a bad pinch in the offensive zone on a puck he really had no chance of keeping in, and the Blackhawks turned it into an easy 2-on-1 the other way. Once again, Rask made the initial save, but no one got back in time to break up Marcus Kruger’s second bid.
“I just think we weren’t very sharp in our decision-making,” Julien said of the second period. “Where we talk about having layers, our D’s were pinching, and our forwards weren’t really covering up, weren’t totally committed to that part of the game. That’s when you saw 2-on-1s.”
The fifth goal, which came midway through the third, came at the end of a 5-on-3, which no one can really do much about. But the reason the Blackhawks had a 5-on-3 is because Milan Lucic committed an awful turnover at his own blue line that led to a chance for Kane that David Krejci could only break up with a hook.
The overtime winner was the result of a great shot by Brent Seabrook more than anything, but you could point a finger at Seidenberg for missing on his block attempt and possibly screening Rask in the process.
It hasn’t happened much, but believe it or not, this isn’t the first game of these playoffs in which the Bruins have had some defensive breakdowns. The other times it’s happened, they’ve been able to bounce back. They’ve allowed three goals or more five other times this postseason, and they’ve given up two goals or fewer in the next game each time.
The Bruins can absolutely bounce back from this loss. Just in this series, they already bounced back from what was probably an even more devastating loss in Game 1. But they know they need to play a lot better to make that bounce-back happen.
“I think if you look at what happened the last game, it didn’t stop [the Blackhawks] from bouncing back,” Julien said. “At this stage of the year, you have to kind of push the games aside, win or lose, and you have to focus on the next one. We know we have to be better, and we know we can be better.”