BOSTON (CBS) – To a man, most of the Bruins’ players were singing a song about improvement and a better effort after their loss to Pittsburgh Saturday at the TD Garden.
After all, they actually scored a goal in coming up one score shy of tying the Penguins, whereas Thursday against lowly Carolina they were blanked on home ice.
That Boston’s “improved” play wasn’t better enough showed up not just on the scoreboard but on head coach Claude Julien’s bench.
Julien tweaked his lines throughout the third period, which included benching veteran forward Rich Peverley for just about the last six minutes of regulation, in an effort to find the right combination that could make the Bruins’ offense once again resemble the natural disaster it looked like throughout November, December and much of January.
Peverley, who’s been nursing an injury for several months, wasn’t bothered by anything against the Penguins, Julien said. What was probably more bothersome was the right winger’s inability to get a shot on net during the 14:06 of ice time he actually played. In fact, Peverley’s usual linemates in the absence of Nathan Horton, David Krejci and Milan Lucic, also combined to put a goose egg in the shots column.
So while there were players coming and going out of the lineup because of ailments (Dennis Seidenberg required stitches, Brad Marchand got shaken up during a collision) throughout the loss, Julien was also trying to light a fire under some of his better underperforming players.
“It’s a little bit of everything. We still need more out of certain guys,” Julien said after his team lost for the third time in four outings. “At the same time, there were guys banged up and guys going off for a little while. So you kind of mix them up. But I wanted to find a little bit of a spark there when we were down 2-0. Our guys at one point, you could sense it on the bench, that that second goal really hurt us a lot and I really wanted the team to get another spark and start focusing on battling back.”
The Bruins cut the lead to 2-1, but failed to bury the equalizer. They scored one goal in their last two games of a three-game homestand and endured a stretch of 119:36 without a goal en route to their first pair of consecutive home losses since October.
There won’t be much time for Julien and his staff to devise a new plan to generate more offense because the Bruins will be right back into action Sunday afternoon in Washington. The solutions are going to have to come from within the corps of players he has at his disposal, immediately and maybe for the future.
The Bruins have picked the worst possible time to struggle.
In the past, they’ve stemmed the tide without a player like Horton. Their depth has won out in most cases. Now that they’ve hit a rut, and they’re not sure how long they’ll be without Horton, acquiring a replacement from elsewhere is going to be difficult. Teams know the Bruins are on the hunt for offense and won’t let Boston get off cheap in a deal for a top-six or even top-nine forward.
Peverley was once a formidable band aid on Boston’s first line during the team’s run to the Stanley Cup championship. He’s proven during his recent stint in Horton’s spot that he’s being miscast. It might be time for Julien to do more line juggling and make sure his top six forwards on a given night are all playing together and often. That could mean putting Seguin with Krejci and Lucic, or adding Lucic to Bergeron and Seguin.
Regardless, the Bruins shouldn’t brag too much about being “better.” When you score just one goal and your defense corps records 20 of your 29 shots, there’s still a lot of room to improve and more hunger has to be found. Starving some of Boston’s underachievers of ice time might be the only way to get the best players on the ice more often and wake up the would-be producers.