So, Boston Bruins fans, did you wake up on Friday morning and have a sick feeling of Déjà vu?
Watching the Boston Bruins blow a two-goal lead to the Anaheim Ducks in the final two minutes of regulation on Thursday night, did you not have that ‘I know how this script ends’ thought going through your mind?
If you did, you had every right to feel that way after the Bruins lost 4-3 to the Ducks on a Mason McTavish goal 2:08 into overtime. That goal seemed inevitable after 2023 second overall pick Leo Carlsson scored his second NHL goal to make it 3-2 Bruins with 1:55 left in regulation, and winger Troy Terry tied the game at 3 with 15 ticks left. I am not sure about you, but that brought this puck scribe back to April 30, when the Bruins, after blowing a 3-1 series lead and a late 3-2 lead in Game 7, lost in overtime to the Florida Panthers.
Remember what Boston Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark said after the Bruins failed to close that first round series out in Game 5, and the eventual 2023 Vezina Trophy winner coughed up the puck behind the net in overtime, leading to Matthew Tkachuk’s overtime winner?
“You just have to have the mind of a goldfish,” Ullmark said, quoting Ted Lasso.
“Oh yeah, it’s gonna be great,” Linus Ullmark said of the upcoming and unexpected Game 6. “This is what we play for. Some you win, some you lose.”
Well, it wasn’t great at all for Ullmark and the Bruins, as they lost the next two games and became the latest Presidents’ Trophy winner to go down in the first round.
This was Ullmark after his team – to no fault of his own this time – lost a game in a similar fashion to the Ducks on Thursday night:
“Sometimes you have the luck with you, sometimes you don’t. That’s just how it is. Hopefully, we get a bounce next game. (We have) a pretty tight schedule up ahead. Pretty pissed about it right now, but let it go for tomorrow. Use it as a little bit of fuel for the next one. We’ll get sweet revenge. Nothing else we can do about it. The sun’s going to rise up tomorrow. Take it day by day.”
At least this time, the 30-year-old goalie, who until Thursday night, had only allowed one goal per game in his first three starts, spoke about ‘sweet revenge’ and admitted being ‘pissed off’ but that comment about luck and the sun sounded too much like Ullmark in that seven-game series loss to the Panthers. He and his teammates didn’t use that Game 5 loss as fuel and veered away rapidly from their structure and system in Games 6 and 7. While there are plenty of new faces on this 2023-24 Boston Bruins roster, there are still plenty of players who took part in that epic collapse last April.
After losing a ton of offense in centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to retirement, winger Taylor Hall in a trade, and winger Tyler Bertuzzi and defenseman Dmitry Orlov to free agency, the Bruins don’t have the firepower to get into topsy-turvy periods and games like those losses last spring and Thursday’s loss to the Ducks. Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery has been crystal clear with both his players and the media about the differences between this current roster and the historic one last season. The margin for error is even thinner now, and the Bruins cannot afford to play without a killer instinct at any point of a game.
“Lack of poise with the puck,” Montgomery said, explaining his team’s first blown lead and loss of the season. “We had opportunities, I thought. I thought the game was over twice; we put it in an empty net. Guys whiffing on pucks, guys trying to go for the open net instead of using the walls as an indirect to clear and get off the ice. That was mostly it. … It’s inexcusable. You can’t be up 3-1 five minutes left and end up tied going into overtime.
“You may as well go for the empty net and get an icing,” Montgomery went on. “Because that’s usually what’s going to happen. If you try and finesse it, it’s going to stay in our end. I thought we tried to finesse it a couple of times. They just kept it in at the blue line. Now you’re extending it, right? Under pressure, I’d rather you use the wall if you can, especially short-handed because you can ice it. Conversely, if you’re not under pressure, you’ve got to skate it, gain the red line, and put it in.”
Bruins center Charlie Coyle concurred and intimated that for whatever reason, the Bruins took the Ducks too lightly once they went up 3-1 in the second period.
“We’ve got to get the puck out when the play’s there,” Coyle said. “Teams will make you pay. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. Can’t afford to give them opportunities. We’ve got to make them earn it. A few of those, they didn’t.”
The upstart Detroit Red Wings are at TD Garden on Saturday night, and then those aforementioned Panthers pay a visit on Monday night. It’s only October, and the Bruins obviously have time to right the ship, but they need to heed Montgomery’s and Coyle’s advice soon because with 11 games between now and Thanksgiving (Nov. 23), this 6-0-1 start could seem like a distant memory when they play the Red Wings again in the team’s annual Black Friday matinee.