BOSTON (CBS) – The question has been brought up numerous times during the Bruins’ recent stretch of dominance, which now stands at 23-4-1 since November 1 after their 4-3 loss to Vancouver at the TD Garden.
I’ve been asked numerous times: “What can stop these Bruins?”
Well, if we learned one thing from the Canucks game – other than the fact that Vancouver still lacks honor when it comes to engaging in physical activity – it’s that the Bruins’ biggest enemy going forward might be themselves.
Boston gave Vancouver 11 power-play opportunities over the course of 60 minutes Saturday. Considering the Canucks arrived at the Garden with the league’s best power play, the Bruins might as well have doused a flame with gasoline. All four Vancouver goals came on the man-advantage.
The 5-on-3 situation in the first period they were forced to kill (and managed to extinguish except for Ryan Kesler’s goal with just 13 seconds remaining in Vancouver’s two-man advantage) might be one of life’s unsolved mysteries. After all, the penalties were assessed after a major scrum near the Canucks’ bench and involved the same amount of players from both sides, including a late-arriving Maxim Lapierre, who leapt into the scrum like he was soaring from the top rope of a wrestling ring.
However, many of Boston’s other penalties were blatant, avoidable infractions.
Prior to Alex Burrows’ tying goal in the second period, Tyler Seguin tripped Ryan Kesler in the Vancouver zone away from the puck. Then, a crucial penalty was assessed to Brad Marchand, who was called for low-bridging Canucks defenseman Sami Salo.
The penalty was a five-minute major and a game misconduct, which Vancouver took advantage of with two goals for a 4-2 lead.
Although David Krejci pulled the Bruins to within 4-3, Nathan Horton’s ill-advised tripping penalty contributed to Boston’s inability to even the score over the course of the rest of the third period.
“So we gave them four power-play goals, and our power play didn’t score. It doesn’t matter what you ask me; I don’t think we’re going to point the finger at the other team because they didn’t do anything wrong,” said head coach Claude Julien. “They played the game the way they feel they have to play it, and they scored some power play goals, they did the right things, and we didn’t do enough to win the hockey game. Let’s be man enough to admit it and move on.”
Alternate captain Chris Kelly was willing to admit the Bruins might’ve crossed some lines of discipline.
“Maybe at certain times … it’s an emotional game,” said the center. “Can’t always be perfect out there, and sometimes emotions take over. I think it happened on both sides.”
The Bruins have been nearly flawless for more than two months. Now they’ve showed where their Achilles heel might reside – in their heads. It’s one thing to act like the “Big, Bad Bruins” and play like the “Big, Bad Bruins” but there has to be a point where it’s better to be safe and smart than big and bad.
The Bruins might pay for their actions beyond the loss to Vancouver. Marchand, who earned a suspension for a hit from behind last season and a fine for slew-footing earlier this year, could face another ban.
Regardless, Boston has come upon its first true dose of adversity this season. Teams will undoubtedly try to imitate the Canucks and attempt to knock the Bruins off their game with physical play when they can’t be beaten with shots and checks.
The Bruins now have to take a step back and make sure that an overdose of aggression doesn’t ruin what their speed and skill has built up over this amazing season thus far.