So is it time for Boston Bruins fans to start getting concerned?
It may be a little bit as the Bruins are beginning to show signs of a hockey team kicking it into cruise control in the final month of the regular season. The Black and Gold split a weekend home-and-home series with a Detroit Red Wings team that’s not in the playoff hunt and fell behind in both games while managing to pull out a Saturday Boston Bruins win at home before dropping a 4-3 decision on Sunday afternoon at Little Caesars Arena.
Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery didn’t sound overly enthused about the urgency or execution in either contest, even as some players were trying to search for moral victories in a comeback that fell short in the third period.
“I thought the second [period] was the same as the first. We didn’t have the same compete level for one-on-one pucks,” said Montgomery. “We weren’t first on pucks. Detroit outskated us and outworked us.”
Certainly there are warning signs about fatigue and the grind of the regular season beginning to impact some of Boston’s players. Patrice Bergeron has been a minus-2 in two of the last three games, both regulation losses to Edmonton and Detroit, after having just one minus game in the entire month of February.
“It happens throughout the course of the year. Obviously, it’s something we want to correct,” said Matt Grzelcyk. “It’s controllable as long as we get to our game and just become more mentally prepared than anything.
“They were all over us and [Detroit was] checking really well. We just didn’t want to get pucks behind them, and we turned a few over that gave them possession, and it makes it tougher for the next guys coming over the boards. We were all guilty of it.”
The bigger issue is the recent special teams swoon for the Black and Gold. In the loss to Detroit in the Motor City, the Boston Bruins gave up a power play goal and a shorthanded strike in the span of about four minutes during a brutal stretch in the second period. The B’s have dropped to 10th with a 22.7 percent success rate on the PP, and the top power play unit has become shuffling point quarterbacks while trying to find someone that can be an offensive threat from up top.
On the shorthanded score allowed by Boston, David Pastrnak was simply standing at the offensive blue line with the puck when he was stripped by Moritz Seider, who took it the rest of the way for the special teams highlight. No snap, no puck movement and very little urgency have become a common theme with that group.
— Winged Wheel Podcast (@WingedWheelPod) March 13, 2023
It was an excellent play by a talented young guy in Seider, but it was also an alarming lack of urgency and care with the puck from Pastrnak.
It really brings about the question of whether the Boston Bruins are settling into comfortable hockey with such a huge lead over everybody else and having clinched their Stanley Cup playoff spot earlier last weekend. It’s going to be difficult for them to manufacture the kind of desperation that other teams will be playing with while fighting tooth and nail for their own postseason spot.
And there’s only so many times Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron can rally the troops with a speech on the bench as he did during Saturday’s game when the B’s fell behind by a 2-0 score early in the contest.
🎥 Patrice Bergeron on his message to the #NHLBruins at the first TV timeout: "It was just a reset. It’s 10 minutes in. There’s a lot of time. Going back to just being in the moment, forgetting about what was behind us…that I believed in who we are and what we do." pic.twitter.com/IzuW1d67Nx
— x – Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) March 11, 2023
“He brought us together,” said Garnet Hathaway, of the chat at the bench prior to him scoring the game-winning goal in the third period. “He’s a great leader, we lean on him a lot and it’s a huge testament to how he is and his character, and why you look around this room and you see guys of high character and guys working for each other.
“I think we look at Bergy a lot to say, ‘Hey, let’s think about the future. What can we control our next shift?’ You don’t want to be down 2-0 in your building, especially that early, but the game is not over.”
Certainly, nobody is panicking, and the optimism is through the roof for a loaded Boston Bruins roster that’s still sitting at 50-10-5 for the season despite losing two of their last three games headed into Tuesday night’s road game in Chicago.
But cracks are beginning to show in the team whether it’s their forward depth being tested with both Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno out of the lineup, or it’s the schedule beginning to negatively impact the Black and Gold in the middle of a stretch with five games in eight days, including travel all over the Eastern and Western Conference.
The question now becomes whether or not this Boston Bruins team can break out of the malaise that circumstances and situation seem to be dragging them into, or if they can somehow find a way to elevate their game as other NHL teams around the league are elevating while still fighting for something. It’s been the concern all year for a Boston Bruins hockey team that’s going to easily win the President’s Trophy this season, and it will continue to be the case as the evidence mounts that the B’s might just need a jolt when there doesn’t seem to be anymore coming ahead of the postseason.