If pretty much anyone in the NHL or anyone that follows the league saw the schedule for the Boston Bruins’ current four-game homestand – that had them playing the Los Angeles Kings Tuesday night, the New York Islanders Thursday, the Nashville Predators on Saturday and the Washington Capitals next Monday – the consensus would surely be that the game Tuesday was the game the Bruins had to bank two points in. As the saying goes though, that’s why they play the game on ice and not paper and despite holding a 3-2 lead late in the third period, the Bruins couldn’t hold on for the two points though, allowing the Kings to tie the game at three with 2:01 left in regulation and then win the game 4-3 with just 1:37 left in overtime on a goal by captain Anze Kopitar.
The Bruins didn’t exactly admit after the tough loss to open the homestand that maybe they underestimated their opponent, as they did in a 5-2 loss to the Senators in Ottawa December 9, but it was painfully clear in their voices and looks, that they knew they allowed a point they should’ve had slip away.
“You hope not,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, who scored his third goal in five games, replied when asked if there was a chance his team has been overlooking lesser teams?
“That’s definitely the last thing you want to do. I think in this league, there’s not really one team you can take lightly. Look at Ottawa, really hard to play against. LA’s a team that plays hard. I know their stats five-on-five and they’re a really good five-on-five team and they showed that today. So that being said, you want to get results; you want to get that extra point. We were in a position to get that and it’s unfortunate.”
By no means was anyone downplaying the performance of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick – who made 37 saves, including robbing Anders Bjork, Brad Marchand and Bergeron in overtime – but the Bruins know they had their chances to bury this one and not allow the game to get to overtime.
“I think there’s a balance there where there’s some saves that he’s made where you kind of tip your hat, but there’s also areas I think we can be a little sharper and find ways to bare down a little more,” Bergeron said. “It’s obviously everybody (the whole team) and when those chances are there, make sure it’s going in. I thought that once we got closer to the net and we were getting rebounds and getting the loose pucks, that’s the kind of hockey you want to play.”
Despite the loss, that one point still pulled the Bruins (21-7-7, 49 points) ten points ahead of the second place Buffalo Sabres (16-12-7, 39 points) in the Atlantic Division, but still, the Bruins have their eyes on the top spot in the Eastern Conference and the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best team in the regular season. They only have one more shot head-to-head against the Capitals next Monday, so beating teams, in theory, you should beat is essential. Factor in that two solid teams in the Islanders and Predators are sandwiched in between the loss to the Kings and that big tilt with the Caps and this makes Tuesday’s loss even more frustrating.
The Bruins can preach all they want about not overlooking a team but that’s twice in a span of eight days that they have lost to a team well below them in the standings. Furthermore, look at their start in Ottawa and against the Kings Tuesday. In both games, the Bruins allowed their opponent to score within the first three minutes of both the first and second period. That does not resemble a team that came in focused or ready to meet the challenge. The players are human, so no one can blame them for being a bit laid back against some teams, but they also need to be racking up the points they should be getting.
Quick Was On And Rask Was Off
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy didn’t pull punches when asked about his goalie Tuukka Rask’s performance in the loss Tuesday:
“Some of it was; some of it was we didn’t stop the puck at the other end, too. I mean, you don’t give up, you expect certain key saves at key times. We didn’t get them,” Cassidy said of Rask, who stopped 23 of 27 Kings shots and had let at least two goals in he’d definitely like back.
Rask wasn’t shy about hopping under the bus either.
“Gotta make those timely saves to give your team a chance to win… I didn’t make any of those saves.”
Rask is now 13-4-0-4 with a 2.31 GAA and .923 save percentage.