WILMINGTON — There are losses, and then there are losses. There haven’t been many of the latter this season for the Bruins, games in which they come out flat, play poorly, and look like they don’t have a chance in the world of beating their opponent.
But that was what happened on Thursday against the Canadiens, just as the Bruins had appeared to be hitting their stride, playing some of their best hockey of the season. It also happened Nov. 27, when they lost, 6-1, in an abysmal effort against Detroit the night before Thanksgiving.
“I think there was a sense of embarrassment in the two games,” Bruins center Chris Kelly said with a day’s worth of perspective. “You give both teams credit — they played extremely well when we played Detroit, then Montreal. But I don’t think we did ourselves any favors in those two games.”
So the Bruins spent Friday morning skating at Ristuccia Arena, doing their best to correct some of their mistakes the previous night, and also doing their best to put the loss behind them.
“Losses happen,” Kelly said. “You’re never going to go the whole year, regardless of how well you’re playing through the course of the year, winning every game. I think it’s how you react after those losses.
“Some nights you just don’t have it. I know that’s kind of a terrible excuse or terrible answer, but it’s the case on certain nights. For whatever reason we didn’t play well [Thursday] and they did play well, but the true test is [Saturday] afternoon.”
That was the message from coach Claude Julien, who made it clear he wasn’t running his team through a “punishment practice” on Friday. Instead, he said he did his best to make sure the team’s energy — which was lacking against the Canadiens — is back for the game against the Oilers on Saturday.
“We’re coming in against a team that’s won three games in a row, and we have to respect that and understand that we’ve got to play much better than we did,” Julien said. “As I said [Thursday], I just found our skating was very slow and execution was poor and that’s why we worked on it today as far as getting our passes back tape to tape and getting more speed through the neutral zone.”
But amid all the talk about putting the game behind them, about not making too much of it, Kelly had an interesting take on the loss.
“If we would have lost 2-1, maybe we would have fooled ourselves a little bit, thinking, ‘Oh, we weren’t that bad,’ ’’ he said. “Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that we let in four goals and were outplayed pretty consistently throughout the course of the night.”
Of course, that might be a difficult sell to fans, who finished the evening making sure the Bruins knew they were unhappy with their effort and performance. There were boos by the end of the Canadiens game at TD Garden, as fans voiced their displeasure at a team that had gone 5-0-1 in its previous six games.
“When you play the way you played last night, you’re certainly not going to get cheered,” Julien said. “They were disappointed and so were we. They expressed their disappointment in our game. I don’t take it personally. I take it as we deserved it, we didn’t play well, so let’s move on and those same people are going to cheer us on when we play well and rightfully so.”
Old friend returns
When the Bruins arrived in Edmonton for a game in December, there was Andrew Ference at Rexall Place, a one-man welcome wagon. It was something he had done when he played in Boston, an aspect of his impressive leadership skills that helped him move from alternate captain with the Bruins to captain of the Oilers.
Ference comes back to Boston for Saturday’s game, and should receive a warm welcome from the TD Garden crowd, with the defenseman likely to take the ice after being out for three games with concussion symptoms.
“The thing about Andrew is he cares,” Julien said. “He cares about everything, not just the game. At times he was also a calming figure for some of the players that would panic. He’s a guy that thinks a lot, where he was great was thinking outside of the box — he was one of the guys that would come in in the playoffs with some new idea of what to do for themselves as teammates after a game.
“That’s the kind of guy he is. So that’s one of the reasons why I wasn’t really surprised when they made him captain in Edmonton, because he has that demeanor of a good leader and he was I guess rewarded in a way for being that once he got there.”
The Bruins practiced three-on-three battle drills with both goalies pulled to one side of the ice. Explaining his approach to practice after the bad game against Montreal, Julien said, “I thought our transition was very slow [Thursday], so we touched that up. That last drill is pretty intense but a lot of fun, you learn how to battle in tight areas, so you’re touching up some areas that you want to get better at, you try to make it interesting.” . . . Adam McQuaid was the only Bruin not on the ice at practice. He has not skated with the team since the Jan. 19 game in Chicago, in which he suffered a leg injury. He already has missed 23 games in three stints out of the lineup this season.