In this new wave, more offensive-minded NHL, even Stanley Cup-contending teams like the Boston Bruins, are finding themselves ‘overwhelmed’ late in games they thought they had secured the two points in.
The Boston Bruins have blown ten third period leads this season as they continue to adapt to life without longtime Bruins centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. While the Bruins obviously want to correct their third period tendencies, they’re not the only team falling apart in the final frame of the game. Throughout the NHL this season, bad teams, good teams, and Stanley Cup contenders are struggling to hold two-goal, three-goal, and even four-goal leads in the third period.
“I think the skill level throughout the four lines is the highest it’s ever been, and if you get opportunities, people are going to score more goals, and people don’t stop pressing,” Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery pointed out recently when asked about the new phenomenon plaguing teams across the league.
Another factor, according to the reigning Jack Adams Award winner, is that rookies entering the NHL these days need to be taught how to hit and be more physical.
“I also think conversely, there’s not as many people who know how to check in the league,” Montgomery bluntly said. “You get younger players in the league that get to the league usually because of their offensive prowess, and they gotta be taught how to check, and that’s why we get overwhelmed at times, and that’s why Colorado does. All the best teams have been overwhelmed. I think that the teams that have lost leads or given up seven goals in a game – I don’t know what the cause is for other teams. I don’t know if it’s goaltending, I don’t know if it’s structure, I just care about the Bruins – but I know it’s happening throughout the league.”
Boston Bruins veteran center Charlie Coyle was asked the same question and echoed Montgomery’s sentiments.
“I guess the game is slowly changing where all this skill is coming in, and it’s not like it used to be years back,” Coyle said. “Even years back, with the clutching and holding, and you let that go, and now everything’s kind of called, and that’s your standard now, and I think you can get wrapped up in that where you’re kind of just playing skill, and not forget to finish guys, but you’re just so focused on puck playing through with a stick, and there’s slippery guys, and they can jump around and make plays through ya, under your sticks.
So yeah, maybe that’s it, but I have to think about that, to be honest, but that’s something that we’ve stressed to play more. Play through guys and finish guys, especially in our own zone, so guys can’t step around you after making a play, and keeping them to the outside, making it harder on them to get to our net and inside our house there.”