BOSTON — It was not just that the Boston Bruins were lousy on Saturday. It’s that a pattern may be developing.
The 3-0 loss to the Washington Capitals was their second stinker in the last three games. On Tuesday, they floated through a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames.
“It’s not acceptable,” said coach Jim Montgomery. “And we’re not going to accept it. We will change. Or things will change.”
Coaches can live with bad execution. There was plenty of that against the Capitals and Flames.
But they cannot bear poor effort. Whether it was losing races, being wary of approaching dangerous ice or ejecting from a battle to avoid physical punishment, the Bruins showed too often they were unwilling to meet a professional standard of performance.
“It just comes down to if there’s a puck between you and I, I want to break your leg to get it,” Montgomery said. “And we don’t have that right now, two of the last three games. That’s what it boils down to. It’s not acceptable. We were just bad.”
T.J. Oshie gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead in the second period during a five-minute power play. Matt Grzelcyk had been tagged with a spearing major on Max Pacioretty.
In the third, Dylan Strome scored on a two-on-one rush. Alex Ovechkin scored his 834th career goal with an empty-netter.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 10, 2024
The Bruins were 0 for 4 on the power play. Pavel Zacha, Morgan Geekie and Jesper Boqvist, three of their four centers, combined for zero shots. David Pastrnak steered more pucks wide of the net or into shot-blockers (six) than he put on net (three). Washington’s in-your-face man-on-man coverage denied the Bruins from generating anything resembling offensive pressure.
“We have a standard here,” said Coyle. “We weren’t even close to meeting it tonight.”
The home crowd at TD Garden let their heroes know they did not like what they saw.
“I love our fans. That’s what I think,” said Montgomery when asked how he felt to hear booing. “They’re hockey knowledgable. They’re not wrong.”
Montgomery dipped into the coaching bag of tricks. During the first intermission, he reminded his players of their flat-line game against the Flames. He asked them what they were going to do to make sure they didn’t lay another egg.
One intermission later, with no results to speak of, Montgomery let Brad Marchand address his teammates. That didn’t work either.
During play, Montgomery moved around his players. Danton Heinen went up to the No. 1 line with Marchand and Charlie Coyle. Jake DeBrusk skated shifts with Zacha and Pastrnak.
“It’s one thing if you’re not getting the bounces,” Coyle said. “But you can’t just mosey through a game and expect to get bounces. That’s not how it works. You’re not going to win many, if any, games like that. So if we start to see that and things start to slip, it’s up to us to address it.”
The Bruins should have had an internal injection of energy. Fast-moving wing Anthony Richard, recalled from Providence two days earlier, made his Bruins debut.
Richard, 27, skated on the fourth line with Boqvist and Heinen. Oskar Steen was a healthy scratch. Competition for ice time is required.
“If he plays well, he’s going to continue to play,” Montgomery said of Richard before the game. “It doesn’t matter who. If someone doesn’t play well, they draw out of the lineup. We work with them. We show them video. We continue to work with skill development. When they get the opportunity, it’s incumbent upon the player to play well enough to stay in the lineup.”
Richard had a scoring chance in the first period off a stiff forecheck. There wasn’t much more after that. He finished with 10:48 of ice time.
Perspective, of course, is also required. Between the two bombs, the Bruins cleaned house on the Western Conference-leading Vancouver Canucks, 4-0. They remain atop the Eastern Conference, four points clear of the New York Rangers. The Tampa Bay Lightning, their next opponents, are in a dogfight to stay in wild-card competition.
“It’s not concerning,” Marchand said of the two-in-three nosedive. “You don’t want to see it happen. But it’s not concerning. We’ve just got to get back to the consistency we had the last little bit. Back to our game again in the next one.”
(Photo: Brian Fluharty / USA Today)