UNIONDALE, N.Y. — There was a lack of urgency, a lack of energy, a lack of focus. There was, in fact, a lack of just about anything good for the Bruins on Saturday night.
In a game in which they saw an opportunity — the Islanders, after all, were in the second game of a back-to-back — the Bruins instead played what coach Claude Julien admitted was “probably the worst” game of the season.
The mistakes piled on each other, one miscue creating another. One player would miss a defensive assignment, another wouldn’t get back to help, and it would all result in a chance for the Islanders, who made the most of them in their 3-1 win at the Nassau Coliseum.
“I don’t know what you want to call it, but I call it not good enough,” Julien said. “There’s no way in the world you should come in here and play the way you play. We’re not competing hard enough. We’re just not good enough right now.
“You see the difference in the team that beat you tonight — the energy and the effort that was put in compared to us. Sometimes you think you’re working hard, but you’re not.”
That, Julien said, has to be rectified.
The Bruins, though, have an unfortunately scheduled day off on Sunday, something that they couldn’t change per the CBA. So they’ll get back to work on Monday — in advance of Tyler Seguin and the Stars coming to town — to try to get the team going in the right direction, toward what it’s supposed to be, not what it is.
“Talent alone is not going to win you hockey games,” Julien said. “The effort and the compete level is what brings the talent out, and right now we haven’t done that.”
Said defenseman Dougie Hamilton: “Obviously it’s frustrating for everyone. The coaches are telling us what to do and we’re not doing it. I don’t think there’s any excuses. Nobody knows what’s going on, obviously, or else we’d fix it.”
The Bruins are in a 1-3-0 rut, the lone win coming on Thursday against Anaheim in overtime. They lost to the Devils, to the Penguins, and now, to the Islanders, games plagued by slow starts and missed opportunities.
“They just wanted it more today,” Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “Very disappointed. We told ourselves to be ready — we knew they played last night — so it was up to us to get up for the start and play like we’re supposed, getting pucks deep and making them skate. But it was the other way around.”
Julien said that the last time the team was happy with its game was weeks ago, in a balanced 5-0 win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 19. In the six games since?
“Since then there’s been some ups and downs,” Julien said. “Certainly tonight was one of our worst.”
There were passes that went awry, bad chances on open nets, minus-2 nights from Hamilton, Zdeno Chara, and Brad Marchand. (Hamilton was on ice for all three of the Islanders goals.)
“Not skating, not focused, not sharp, and that started before tonight, by the way. So that’s been addressed,” Julien said. “Right now I think you’re more of a panic, instead of composure. You panic when you don’t compete hard, right? So that’s a little bit what’s going on right now. I don’t think we should be making excuses for ourselves right now. It’s important that we find our stride again if we want to be successful.”
Julien was critical of certain players — unnamed — who haven’t played well all season. He said those players are “certainly not as confident and certainly don’t have their focus where it should be.”
He added, “Winning can be contagious, and right now I think the poor play is becoming contagious on our players that had been playing well. So we’ve got to turn that tide around.”
Some of the biggest culprits on Saturday were young defensemen, in Hamilton and Torey Krug. Hamilton had three giveaways, as did David Krejci. Marchand, who continues to have a very difficult start to the season, had four.
The game truly fell apart in the second period on Saturday, as the Bruins allowed three goals, starting with one to John Tavares at 6:15, who knocked in a rebound off a shot from Thomas Vanek that was batted into the air by goalie Chad Johnson.
The second came at 13:13, after Patrice Bergeron was kicked out of the faceoff circle. He was replaced with Marchand, who lost the faceoff, with the puck kicking back to Andrew MacDonald for the long-range shot.
The Bruins got one back on the power play, Hamilton scoring at 15:27. But it took just 41 seconds for the Islanders to push their lead back to two as Vanek got his first as a member of the Islanders on a two-on-one on which both Hamilton and Marchand made errors.
As Hamilton said, “I think I went in too far and stayed in too long, and that’s what they want. They were just waiting for that.”
“It’s one mistake on top of another,” Julien said, referring to Marchand not covering for Hamilton on that last goal. “It just kind of snowballs from there.”
That, Julien said, needs to be corrected — soon.
“We’ve got a lot of guys right now that aren’t even playing close to what they should be playing,” he said. “It’s been like that for a while. We know we’ve got a good team on paper. We’ve just got to transfer that to the ice. And until everybody starts playing the way they can, it’s going to be a struggle.”