BOSTON (CBS) – The Bruins have used some physical outbursts over the last several seasons, including during their Stanley Cup championship season of 2010-11, to pull them out of ruts.
However, Tuesday night’s game against Carolina wasn’t one they’ll put on the highlight reel alongside the Montreal and Dallas victories of last season or the Dallas win from ’08-09. In fact, the Bruins’ 4-1 loss to the Hurricanes, which featured 72 penalty minutes on Boston’s ledger, was an out-and-out embarrassment.
Four players earned 10-minute misconducts, including three who did so in the third period. Nathan Horton, one of those misconduct-earners, also picked up a double minor for roughing at the same time, just 31 seconds after the Bruins had closed to within 2-1 on a Rich Peverley power-play goal.
Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand took early showers because of their actions. Zdeno Chara jumped into a second-period shoving match between Nathan Horton and Carolina defenseman Jay Harrison that earned the Bruins’ captain the misconduct plus a fighting major and a minor for instigating.
While Chara’s motives were probably justified considering his team was down 2-0 and had hit a lull in its play after starting out the contest like water through a broken dam that was plugged up by the all-world play of Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward. That Chara was trying to get a rise out of his guys was admirable. That Horton put his team down two men in the third period of a one-goal game was boneheaded.
Stats: Bruins-Hurricanes Box Score
Considering that Horton and Lucic, two so-called power forwards, have barely mustered the energy to hit any opponent within the confines of an actual hockey game so far this season, it’s laughable they were engaging in extracurricular activities with players on a team that registered just 25 fighting majors last season (the Bruins had 71) shows that a championship pedigree does not necessarily come with a boost in intelligence.
Neither player spoke for his actions after the game. Head coach Claude Julien talked about frustrations that have been building up within his team, as the Bruins couldn’t solve Ward early en route to a fourth straight game where they failed to surpass three goals scored. He even shook up his lines in the third period in an effort to refocus his troops, but instead they got even more distracted and lost all self-control.
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The normally rugged Bruins had registered just one fighting major in their first five games, despite the unrequited efforts of some during Boston’s longer stretches of futility within games. When you can’t get a response from your opponent, however, you’re supposed to back off and not still go ahead with the rough stuff.
A team that features Shawn Thornton, the epitome of an honest, tough player who always abides by “The Code,” should know better. Flushing away two points, or at least one, to put on some sort of macho display shows that maybe the Bruins have let success go to their heads, or they’re struggling to find motivation from the games themselves and need to artificially create a reason to get fired up.
We’ll see how the Bruins respond in the weeks ahead, as the opposition gets stiffer and division rivals Toronto and Montreal come to town. If you think teams don’t know that it’s easy to get under the Bruins’ skin, that Lucic and Horton can be goaded into ridiculous penalties, then you must think every team is going to roll over physically the way Vancouver did last June. The Bruins are not going to win games on sheer intimidation. Teams know that that’s one of their best weapons.
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The Bruins can’t act like the victims after this disaster. They were clearly in the wrong, and it cost them a game. If they learn from the loss to the Hurricanes and get back to playing the type of hockey worthy of a championship contender, then the defeat could be the same type of turning point as some of those fight-filled victories of years passed.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com. He operates TheBruinsBlog.net and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.