RALEIGH, N.C. — A bit bedraggled and with their confidence dented for the first time this season after three consecutive losses, the Bruins flew home Sunday night and will try to rejuvenate their game with a practice Tuesday prior to taking on the Maple Leafs Wednesday night in Toronto.
Truth is, it appears they need rest more than practice, and it’s perhaps the promise of an upcoming respite that factored into their 0-2-1 slump across stops in Tampa, Sunrise (Fla.), and then here in Sunday’s substandard 4-1 loss to the Hurricanes.
Asked if fatigue factored into Sunday’s game — which the Bruins often looked to be playing in dial-up speed — captain Patrice Bergeron said, “I think so. You can’t deny that. That being said, we have to be pros, make sure you bring it every night.
“But you know, back-to-back, on the road, lots of hockey, that’s part of it. But we have to be better.”
Their workout Tuesday in Brighton will be their last tour around the test track until they reconvene at Warrior Arena ahead of their Feb. 11 matinee with the Capitals at TD Garden. Now 38-7-5 through 50 games, they remain the Original 32′s top dogs, their four months of astounding success built on scoring depth, solid front-to-back defense, and the stellar netminding of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman.
Ullmark, despite losing in Tampa and here, was sharp in both performances, while his surrounding 18 skaters weren’t nearly as plucky or proficient. Now 25-4-1, it would not be a surprise to see him return to the net in Toronto, especially if coach Jim Montgomery senses Tuesday that the obvious fatigue did not shake out of his charges with a day of rest Monday. Swayman has been hot of late, too, but Ullmark has been the NHL’s top stopper in 2022-23.
“We are lucky that we are in this position,” said Ullmark as he packed up late Sunday night. “Facing a little adversity is something that you do in this league. Nothing uncommon. I’ve faced a lot of adversity through my career here in North America, so I know what it’s all about. We are in a great spot still.”
Following the All-Star festivities, in which Ullmark will be joined by fellow Bruins David Pastrnak and Montgomery, everyone hopes to “recharge the batteries,” the goalie noted, during the bye week leading to the Capitals game.
“And then,” he added, “try to get on a heater again.”
One focal point, if not the No. 1 focal point, of Tuesday’s workout will be the power play. It went 0 for Tampa-Sunrise-and-Raleigh on a total of 12 chances.
The six blown opportunities vs. Carolina had the Bruins looking their worst this season on the advantage. As the frustration mounted, they scaled back and attempted simple dump-in plays that the Hurricanes found increasingly easy to defuse.
“Their work ethic, and how hard they were to play against, led to us being tired over time, because we didn’t have the puck a lot,” said Montgomery. “We were chasing it a lot because they checked us really well and then they protected it well in the offensive zone.”
Montgomery began the night with a new look on the first power-play unit, shifting David Krejci into the mix and moving Taylor Hall (the night’s lone Boston goal scorer) to the No. 2 unit.
“We cannot say we liked what we saw,” noted Montgomery. “We didn’t generate chances.”
The Leafs, easy winners (5-1) over the Capitals Sunday, will be without Auston Matthews when they face the Bruins. Matthews, who scored 60 goals last season, sprained a knee last week and is expected to be sidelined at least until mid-February . . . Jakub Zboril remains with the Bruins. The one-time first-round pick has suited up only twice since Nov. 13 — now a span of 10 weeks — which can only serve to stunt the growth of his game . . . Joona Koppanen and Marc McLaughlin were returned to Providence. The moves are likely a paper transaction, removing both players temporarily from the Bruins’ cap hit. They are likely to be recalled ahead of Tuesday’s workout and join the club for the trip to Toronto . . . The Bruins never had a lead in Carolina, the second time that happened in the three-game losing streak (ditto Tampa). In their 50 games to date, they logged 00:00 lead time in only nine games. After two periods, they trailed the Hurricanes, 3-0, the first time they trailed at the 40:00 mark since their 3-0 loss to the Kraken Jan. 12 at the Garden.
The Bruins need only 19 points over their remaining 32 games to reach the 100-point plateau. They hold a 9-point lead over No. 2 Carolina in the league’s overall standings. The focal point as of now is to try to lock down the No. 1 spot and clinch home ice for every playoff round . . . It’s possible that Jake DeBrusk, skating on his own since last Monday, will participate in Tuesday’s workout. Injured in the Jan. 2 Winter Classic, he is not expected in the lineup until after the bye week.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.