Bruins Take Steps Forward, Then Falter

After losing just four games combined through the first six weeks of the season, the Bruins have dropped back to Earth, dropping seven games (one in overtime and one in a shootout) of their packed March schedule. Throughout the recent slump, the Bruins have shown some consistency, as they blew leads in five of the seven games lost in March. The most recent loss came Wednesday night, when the Bruins lost, 6-5, in a shoot-out against the Canadiens.

But while Wednesday night’s loss does follow the Bruins’ recent trend of blowing leads, the Bruins did show some signs of improvement.

“Tonight the lead that evaporates wasn’t the same as the other ones I’ve seen when we’ve totally collapsed as a team,” said coach Claude Julien.

In their other six losses this month, the Bruins have averaged just two goals per game. On Wednesday night, the Bruins showed plenty of offense, more than doubling their average by scoring five goals.

The Bruins also showed an ability to extend leads on Wednesday, a skill absent from many of their other losses in March. Although the Bruins started out flat Wednesday, and found themselves in a 2-0 hole early in the second period, they finally seemed to get into the game as the frame continued, scoring four unanswered goals to take a 4-2 lead by the end of the second period. The Bruins had more than just a lead; they had that ever-elusive insurance goal.

The Bruins continued to seem as if they were in control of the game in the third. When the Canadiens tightened the Bruins’ lead to 4-3 early in the period, Tyler Seguin put the Bruins back up by two goals about seven minutes later thanks to a dazzling backhander.

But then a fluky answering goal that caromed off Dennis Seidenberg’s face and passed Tuukka Rask just 28 seconds later seemed to take the wind out of the Bruins sails, and a difficult late-period Aaron Johnson penalty forced the Bruins to end the game killing off 1:27 of a 6-on-4. The Bruins killed off 1:19 of the 6-on-4 before the Canadiens were finally able to take advantage of their extra manpower and tie the game with just over eight seconds remaining.

“Those last two goals, the fourth one I think it was, ends up going off [Dennis] Seidenberg’s face and right to Gallagher, tying goal,” Julien said. “It’s unfortunate, can’t blame your player – it hit the shaft of his stick and went into the stands and we end up shorthanded. We did our best to kill it six-on-four, but some night you don’t get the breaks or the bounces, so we certainly didn’t get them tonight.

“No doubt we could have been better, I still think there are some guys that can be better for us, but we made some positive strides in scoring some goals, something we haven’t done in a while.”

It is difficult to tell whether the game reflects a step in the right direction by the Bruins, who definitely improved offensively and arguably blew the lead on two lucky goals for the Canadiens.

After all, the Bruins still earned just one point from a game in which, with the exception of the final eight seconds, they would have earned three. They failed to show any spark in the first period of a game against their biggest rival. Despite their better offensive showing, they could not figure out how to keep the puck out of their own net. They still blew a lead in the third period, just as they have been doing all month. In spite of their coach’s upbeat attitude, some Bruins players showed just how frustrating their seventh loss of the month was.

“Yeah, we’ve blown a lot of leads lately and not just to them but some other teams,” said Brad Marchand. “It’s definitely frustrating and maybe we’re gripping our sticks a little tight going into the third but we have to do a much better job at preserving a lead.”

But while Marchand was looking for answers after the game, linemate Seguin was left struggling to digest the latest blown-lead loss.

“I thought we battled hard and then I think they caught two quick goals there at the end to tie it up, so I don’t really know what else to say,” Seguin said. “It’s a tough one to swallow.”

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