SUNRISE, Fla. - Coach Claude Julien, his squad mired in a season-long, three-game losing streak, had an unwritten checklist of corrections in mind headed into Thursday night’s loss to the Panthers that stretched the skid to four:
■Better starts. The Bruins have given up the first goal in seven straight games, 10 of the last 11, including last night. Julien had been talking for days, if not weeks, about showing more urgency, better giddyup from the first drop of the puck.
■Smarter defensive play. “We talk about layers of protection,’’ noted Julien. “Layers after layers, so if there are breakdowns, the puck doesn’t end up in our net. We’ve just had too many breakdowns and they’re becoming costly.’’ All part of why the Bruins were 3-6-0 in nine games.
■Consistency and cohesiveness. “The success we’ve had has been by committee,’’ Julien said. “That’s what we’re all about. Our strength has always been as a pack, not as individuals.’’
And though he didn’t touch on it during the club’s morning workout, the power play has been in an extreme state of “needs repair.’’
Upon arriving at the rink for Game No. 70 of the 82-game season, the Bruins had gone six straight games without a power-play goal, all 13 chances snuffed out dating to March 4. They did get one in the third period Thursday night.
Not only has the lack of goals been a concern, but just as alarming has been how few times they’ve gone on the power play. The opposition went on the power play 17 times in those six games. That 31 percent difference may not sound huge, but while the Bruins went 0 for 13, the opposition went 5 for 17, and a handful of power-play goals can go a very long way toward winning in what is often depicted as “the 3-2 NHL.’’ Overall, the Bruins were outscored, 24-17, in those six games. Had the opposition been equally futile on the man-advantage, the difference would have been 19-17.
Hurting their chances
Not having injured wingers Rich Peverley and Nathan Horton certainly has been a factor in the power play’s inefficiency.
Horton, sidelined with concussion-related symptoms the last eight weeks, potted six power-play goals prior to his departure. Captain Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic led the club through 69 games with seven PPGs apiece. Julien said prior to the game that Horton, who suffered a severe concussion in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final last June, has yet to resume skating after his most recent setback, delivered by a swiping hit from Flyers forward Tom Sestito. “Dirty hit,’’ mused Julien.
Peverley, back skating on Wednesday for the first time since wrenching a knee Feb. 15, had but a lone power-play goal prior to exiting, but he is a valued shooter and scoring threat. The club has not set an expected return date for the 26-year-old winger, but management and the coaching staff remain hopeful that he can return for the final handful of games in the regular season. Game No. 82 is April 7.
A local reporter, moments after Patrice Bergeron chatted in English with the club’s everyday media following, began chatting away in French with the Quebec-born Boston center.
Even for a Berlitz-challenged Boston scribe, it was easy to follow the initial bit of banter. The reporter told Bergeron that he was from Laval, just outside of Montreal. Bergeron, clearly delighted to be in his native tongue, informed the reporter he was from Quebec City.
“But don’t let him kid you,’’ a Boston scribe kidded, “he grew up a huge Canadiens fan.’’
A total fabrication, of course, because Bergeron, as he has noted from the day he arrived in Boston, was always a Nordiques fan and was raised with a Boston-like loathing for all things bleu, blanc, et rouge.
“The players I liked were guys like Joe Sakic,’’ said the 26-year-old Bergeron, who still heads home each summer for an extended stay in Quebec City, some two hours north of Habs town.
Have a nice trip
Contrary to standard operating procedure, the Bruins did not fly out right after the game. They will leave Friday morning and have a 2:15 p.m. practice scheduled in Wilmington, Mass. But with the Flyers in Boston for a 1 p.m. matinee on Saturday, it’s possible that Julien and the coaching staff will go over some pointers on the flight home and then give the tired squad the remainder of the day off . . . Tyler Seguin’s minus-4 Tuesday evening in Tampa dropped him to plus-29, three below Bergeron’s team-best plus-32. Prior to the game here, they ranked 1-2 in the league. Bergeron was a career-best plus-20 last year and a career-worst minus-28 in 2006-07 . . . As they ripped through November and December, the Bruins were the NHL’s best scoring team and built a hefty margin in goal differential. Things have changed. Prior to Thursday night’s game, the Bruins and Flyers each had scored 223 times. The Bruins still owned the league-best goal differential (53), but had the Red Wings (48), Blues (47), Canucks (42) and the Rangers (42) hard on their heels . . . The Panthers scored first on a power-play goal, set up by a crosscheck that sent Shawn Thornton to the penalty box. Julien didn’t like the call. “The guy fell down, Thornton didn’t even shove him,’’ said Julien. “A real weak call, and we didn’t need it.’’ . . . The Bruins had gone six straight games without a power-play goal (0 for 13) until Brian Rolston fired home a one-time slapper at 1:44 of the third period. “Nice to get on the scoreboard,’’ acknowledged Rolston. “But this team’s about winning, and that’s what I want to do the most, help this team win.’’ . . . Tim Thomas stopped only 23 of 29 shots, for a .793 save percentage . . . The Bruins have given up three goals or more in eight of their last nine games, and a total of 17 goals in their last three games . . . Boston’s No. 1 line of Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jordan Caron managed only two shots on net - both by Caron. When media members were allowed in the room, Krejci sat at his stall, his head in his hands for a prolonged stretch. He lost 11 of 19 faceoffs.