The Boston Bruins were not expecting a hockey masterpiece in their first game back in about 10 days when they took the ice late Saturday afternoon against the Washington Capitals at TD Garden.
They clearly did not get one as they caught back up to game speed in a “slow” effort that turned into a 2-1 loss that left the Black and Gold with their second regulation loss at home this season, and is their fourth loss in the last five games.
It got better as the game went along after the B’s had dug themselves a 2-0 hole to start, but it was also too late against a Capitals team that was also coming off the same kind of NHL All-Star weekend/bye week respite as the Bruins.
“Start was slow. Slow to react. Hesitant in our decision making, to be expected,” said Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery. “That being said, it was their first game as well, and they were a little bit sharp and simpler in their plays. I thought as the game went on, it was definitely better, and we were getting better looks and better O-zone time.”
Certainly, it’s not like the Boston Bruins were dominated as they outshot the Capitals 28-23 over the course of the game and had their chances to tie things up in the third period after Nick Foligno scored a gritty goal at the end of the second. But it wasn’t like they tilted the ice in the third period when both teams finished with 10 shots apiece, a sign that the urgency wasn’t quite there at winning and losing time like it’s been so many times this season.
“I think our effort was there, I just think our urgency on execution wasn’t,” said Foligno. “There’s no excuse for it, to be honest with you. I think that’s something this group has always found a way to do, and I think every guy in there is not feeling great.
“It’s a feeling that we’re not used to in this room, especially in this building. So, I think it doesn’t sit well with anybody, and we’ve got a good chance to go on the road now and get together after a break and find our game and make sure we have that desperation.”
One area that absolutely needs some help: A beleaguered Boston Bruins power play that went 0-for-4 on Saturday and is now 0-for-17 on the man advantage dating back to their struggles prior to NHL All-Star weekend.
“I think it’s puck movement, we just have to make quicker decisions, but I didn’t like our decisions with puck movement on breakouts and neutral zone counters and O-zone play,” said Montgomery. “Usually when I’m behind the bench, usually when I’m thinking, ‘Move it now,’ it’s already moving and when I said, ‘Move it now [today],’ I could have said it two more times.”
At other times, the Boston Bruins were overpassing while turning down clean looks at the net, which is absolutely a telltale sign of a rusty team that hasn’t played at game-like intensity for an extensive period of time.
“Yeah, for sure,” said Montgomery. “The one that comes to mind is [Charlie] Coyle on the back door, he tried to pass it back across. [Those are] habits that we have to get back to. You saw a lot of guys come to the middle of the net, and when you come to the middle of the net on a pass that’s across the crease, you’re going into the goalie’s space instead of giving yourself more net to shoot at. Those are just habits we have to reinforce and get back to.”
It all speaks to some understandable rust, but the Boston Bruins will need to shake it off quickly with a road swing through Dallas and Nashville planned for this week as a rested B’s group stretches out for their second half sprint.