The puck came close to crossing the goal line multiple times, with the Bruins swarming and flailing and just missing. There were chances, in five-on-five situations, on the power play, from close in, and from far away. They just didn’t quite get there.
Boston, in fact, notched 30 shots to Detroit’s 27, plus added 17 missed shots, and had a whopping 22 attempts blocked. That meant that Red Wings backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson seemed to be under fire most of Monday afternoon.
Still, it didn’t result in much for the Bruins, who scored once in the first period — a Loui Eriksson tip of a Johnny Boychuk shot from the blue line — and didn’t score again until 80 seconds remained in a game they would lose, 3-2, to Detroit in front of 17,565 at TD Garden.
“We’re really struggling with our finish lately,” coach Claude Julien said. “It looks like we’re feeling the pressure of scoring goals and they’re not coming easy. Even the game in Columbus, took us a while to get going there, obviously Colorado. I think our goal-scoring confidence is probably not where we’d like it to be right now, but you’ve got to work through those things.”
But, later in the news conference, Julien corrected himself.
“I should have put it this way: I think we’re pressing,” Julien said. “That’s what we’re doing, we’re pressing right now. I don’t think our guys don’t feel they can score. I think we’re pressing right now and that’s probably what you’re seeing.
“Once we get some goals I think we’ll be pressing a little less. So I guess everything I said earlier about the lack of confidence is a lot of BS.”
Of course, it didn’t help that Gustavsson was playing “probably the best game I’ve seen him play,” as Milan Lucic said.
“We were creating chances, moving the puck, but the finish wasn’t there,” Lucic added. “Obviously right now, if you look at the last three games, bearing down is probably the biggest thing.”
The Bruins have been saved by the performance of Tuukka Rask so far, with the goalie allowing only a single goal in each of the four games to start the season. But some defensive lapses Monday led to three tallies against him, including one by Daniel Cleary that he didn’t see. Julien called all three goals “poor coverage on our part — it was of our own doing.”
“It was mental errors,” Rask said. “It’s not good enough that you’re almost there. You’ve got to get there and have the guys. Little mental mistakes today, but today it was more costly than the other nights.”
The Cleary goal turned out to be the winner, and it came at 10:41 of the second period, just 2:20 after Stephen Weiss had scored Detroit’s second of the game. The Red Wings got their first goal at 11:33 of the first period, when Patrice Bergeron had the puck taken away by Pavel Datsyuk, who got it to Henrik Zetterberg for the score.
“All those three pretty much, we just fell asleep for a second there,” Rask said. “The guy had an extra second and all of a sudden the puck’s in the net. I’m not blaming myself, really, but still it’s a game like that when you don’t really get that many scoring chances, and once they get them you’d like to be there and stop the puck.”
There were chances for the Bruins to get back in the game, including a lengthy five-on-three opportunity starting at 4:56 of the third after Cleary got nabbed for tripping just seven seconds after Niklas Kronwall got called for hooking.
That unit went without normal quarterback Torey Krug, who couldn’t get on the ice during the power play, and couldn’t convert, that the most egregious of the missed chances on five man-advantage opportunities. The Bruins, in fact, haven’t scored on the power play since the second game of the season, against Detroit, when the team scored twice.
Asked why the power play struggled Monday, Krug — who had four shots blocked — started with the obvious: “We didn’t score goals. That’s what we’re judged on.”
And that’s true. It’s tough to win games when the team isn’t scoring, and for the most part, the Bruins are having difficulty getting the puck past opposing goaltenders, averaging just 2.40 goals per game. (It helps that they’re allowing just 1.60 per game, third-best in the league.)
The Bruins did find the back of the net once more after Eriksson’s score. With 18:40 gone in the third and the team in desperation mode, the Bruins made a bid to be the third local comeback story of the holiday weekend.
Lucic backhanded the puck past Gustavsson, recording the 100th goal of his NHL career. But the Bruins couldn’t find the requisite magic, and they fell to the Red Wings.
The Bruins now sit at 3-2-0 on the season as they attempt to find some rhythm. After a strange start, the Bruins begin a stretch in which they play more regularly and, perhaps, can start to get into a flow.
Asked to give his assessment so far, Rask said the team had been, “Not awful, not great, not bad.”
He added, “You would like to be there right off the bat. There’s no excuses for us not to be on top of our game. Everybody knows each other and knows our system. But, then again, it’s a long season and there’s going to be ups and downs. We’ve just got to stick with our game plan, work hard every night, and bring in the effort. Play with emotion. That’s when we are at our best.”