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Haggs: Last-Minute Breakdowns Continue To Haunt Boston Bruins



Jake DeBrusk

DETROIT, MI — The Boston Bruins continue to experience breakdowns in the final minutes of periods that lead to damaging goals against them.

It’s not a new phenomenon, of course, as just a few weeks ago the Boston Bruins went through a stretch of allowing damaging game-tying or go-ahead goals in the final minute of the third period. It wasn’t the third period this time, but rather the end of the opening period where it happened again in Tuesday night’s 5-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesar’s Arena on a first period goal allowed that completely flipped the game.

In fact, the Bruins have given up 23 goals this season in the last minute of any period, the most in the league, which “is a problem” according to Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. One or two of those might be empty net goals and even a handful could be explained away due to circumstance, but this is clearly a recurring pattern where the Boston Bruins aren’t able to shut things down properly at the end of periods where momentum can swing wildly in a hockey game.

“It shouldn’t affect the whole outcome of the game, obviously,” said Cassidy, when asked if the game flipped on the last-minute goal after they’d built up a 2-0 lead in the first period. “We’ve been through it so much. It’s a problem. Guys need to stop on the puck and take care of business there. That’s what typically happens with us. The other night we left the zone early, that time it was two guys in a battle, they don’t get the job done at the end and it finds its way in. I think it gives them life.”

Certainly, other things came into play after Dylan Larkin’s goal from the face-off circle that deflected off Brandon Carlo’s stick before rocketing past Jeremy Swayman for a gut punch score that halved Boston’s lead. The Boston Bruins third pair of Derek Forbort and Mike Reilly had a second period meltdown where failed clear attempts and lost battles led to a pair of goals against, and Swayman wasn’t at the top of his game throughout the contest.

But the Boston Bruins also know that they need to tighten up the focus and execution at the end of periods where a harder, heartier approach will need to be in place. If it isn’t and the last-minute goal pattern continues, it’s going to be the death of the Boston Bruins when they face better hockey clubs in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“I think it’s attention to details all the way through. You can’t let your foot off the gas pedal, especially at the end there late in periods,” said Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron. “That gives the other team momentum. We definitely need to rectify that.”



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The fact that words like “focus” and “attention” come up when the problem is mentioned also could speak to busy, game-heavy stretch that the Boston Bruins are in during these final months of a compacted NHL regular season. But things like fatigue, both mental and physical, aren’t going away for the Boston Bruins or anybody else, and that means drilling down and eliminating a problem that’s recurrent for the Black and Gold.

“Obviously, you talk about momentum swings in a game, and you can’t be doing that at the end of a period,” said Brandon Carlo. “It gives the other team some juice going into the locker room and coming out for the next period. That’s something we need to focus on here. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue as long as we dial in and focus on simplifying those last couple of minutes.”

Is anybody else confident that it’s not going to be an issue if it crops up with the Boston Bruins more than anybody else in the league? The Bruins have said the right things all season about reviewing game video and focusing on corrections to eliminate the problem, and they even doubled down on defense at the NHL trade deadline with Hampus Lindholm and Josh Brown to address the situation.

But it’s beginning to become a self-fulfilling prophecy for the Boston Bruins that this is going to undo them at the worst possible time in the Stanley Cup playoffs if they don’t find a way to once and finally straighten it out in the final weeks of the regular season.


Joe Haggerty has covered the Boston Bruins and the NHL for 18 years with NBC Sports Boston,, the Boston Metro and the Woburn Daily Times, and currently serves as lead Bruins reporter and columnist for Boston Hockey Now. Haggs always strives to capture the spirt of the thing any way that he can.

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