WASHINGTON — The tendency, at times, was to fall apart. A defensive mistake would happen, early, and there was no recovering. Like, say, in Game 6 of the Bruins’ second-round playoff matchup against the Canadiens, when Kevan Miller misplayed a pass from Torey Krug, resulting in a Lars Eller goal just 2:11 into the game.
But that was last year. This year, Krug believes, the Bruins’ defense is more equipped to handle those situations, even with some of their shaky defensive performances of late, including against the Capitals in a 2-0 loss Sunday night. That can only be a good thing.
“I think that we got rattled extremely easily last year, because we were so used to winning and things came easier for us last year,” Krug said before the Bruins faced the Capitals. “We were winning games that we shouldn’t and getting those bounces like we’re starting to get right now, we got those all season last year.
“When things went wrong we weren’t used to it. We were rattled easily and mentally I think we’re a tougher team this year for that.”
That’s why, when asked what this defense needs to do before the playoffs start, Krug immediately went to its ability to recover from the errors that inevitably will be made.
“I think it’s how we bounce back from mistakes,” he said. “Within the course of a game we’ve been able to overcome those things, just erase those from our memories. That’s going to be really important for our team.
“When we do make it to the playoffs and we’re within a series, teams are going to score goals. They’re going to get hot. We have to make sure we can settle that down. It’s something we continue to work on.”
It helps that the Bruins know the six players who will be doing that, barring injuries and call-ups. Last season, there was more of a rotation with the addition of Andrej Meszaros at the trade deadline. The defensemen would sometimes get on the ice for warm-ups not sure which of them would play.
That’s not the case this season, something that is both good and bad.
“It’s a double-edged sword, as far as I’m concerned,” coach Claude Julien said. “When you have somebody there it keeps everybody on their toes. Right now, I think it’s more about pride: We’re the six Ds that are here right now. We’re pretty fortunate that those guys have enough pride that they don’t let themselves get comfortable.”
Still, there will need to be significant improvement defensively over the final few weeks of the regular season. The Bruins have been relying far too heavily on Tuukka Rask of late, including in games against Ottawa, Tampa Bay, and even in their loss to Washington, in which Rask made 36 saves.
The Bruins need to bounce back from those performances. And Krug believes they’re equipped to do so.
“Sometimes things just don’t go your way,” Krug said. “For us to overcome those things is very important. Within a playoff series, that becomes vital. With your life on the line, within a game, within a series, there’s going to be a lot of things that go wrong. It’s not just going to be one or two things. It’s something that we have to sort out as a group, and that’s why I think playing in these games right now is extremely beneficial.”
On Sunday, Krug saw time with both power-play units, replacing Reilly Smith on the second unit. Smith saw just 34 seconds of total power-play time, with Krug leading the team at 5:37.
Smith, who has just 1 point in the last seven games, played just 11:26. That’s only the second time this season that he has seen fewer than 12 minutes of ice time and the third at fewer than 13.
He played 11:10 at Philadelphia on Jan. 10 and 12:39 at Montreal on Oct. 16.
“Just the way things worked out,” Krug said.
With Gregory Campbell donning a shield after taking a puck to the eye last Thursday, that’s one fewer Bruin who doesn’t have some sort of eye protection, at least for now. It’s the way the league is going, with all players coming up now required to wear them.
In Julien’s mind, despite what he did as a player, it’s a smart move.
“I’m one of the proponents that believes it should be worn if you’re used to it,” Julien said. “Eyes are such an important part of your body that you need those, and to protect them is a great thing.
“I also understand — I was in that group of guys that never wore one. When I did with a few injuries, I really felt uncomfortable. So it’s getting used to it. Maybe [Campbell’s] been out of that for a while, but at the same time you’ve got to make those decisions. Hopefully before we know it, most players will be wearing them.”
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.