BOSTON (CBS) — Coach Claude Julien, probably still as under the weather after the Bruins’ 6-5 loss to Toronto on Saturday as he was after the morning skate, summed up the demoralizing defeat like this:
“I have to say that tonight we found a way to lose.”
Julien was reacting to the loss that pulled the Maple Leafs within one point of Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division with five games in hand. The Bruins rallied from 4-1 down in the second period and even tied it 5-5 on a Patrice Bergeron goal 2:54 remaining.
But James van Riemsdyk scored his second goal of the game with 1:36 remaining, and Boston had its second straight loss.
When Julien said his team “found a way to lose,” he might as well have been summing up the season. The Bruins are in the position they’re in in the standings because the schedule maker was nice enough to let them play the most games in the Eastern Conference up until this point and because of loser points. They are 26-23-6, which means they have lost three more games than they’ve won and are no one’s idea of a contending team.
For the most part, they lean on one line to score–the trio of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Pastrnak scored twice, Bergeron scored once, and that line combined for seven points. Ryan Spooner finally scored a goal, but he had gone 16 games without a goal and was as close to being healthy scratched as one could come (he didn’t skate in line drills during the warmup). David Backes is making the Bruins’ decision to not trade Loui Eriksson or re-sign the Swede look dumber look dumber by the day. Matt Beleskey, Austin Czarnik and Riley Nash had a solid first game as a trio but only soccer nets would’ve allowed them to get on the scoresheet.
Moving on to the defense corps, all the problems we thought the Bruins were going to have on the back end that didn’t materialize in the first 3 ½ months of the season have come out to roost. Torey Krug is getting overpowered in his own end, giving up a scoring chance for every one he creates. Colin Miller and Brandon Carlo are showing their inexperience. Adam McQuaid — despite his spirit-lifting fight — is still guaranteed to make one or two game-changing gaffes a night.
Despite all this, the Bruins had won three in a row as recently as four days ago. A loss to the NHL-leading Washington Capitals in the second half of a back-to-back situation Wednesday wasn’t anything to cancel the season over. The Bruins had a chance to put more distance between them and the Maple Leafs before Boston’s schedule stalls and Toronto and everyone else stars making up their games in hand.
Instead the Bruins sleepwalked through the first period after taking a 1-0 lead and then fell in a 4-1 hole that sent Tuukka Rask to the bench with 10:17 elapsed in the second period.
Voila! Another way to lose. So often this season the Bruins have relied on their goaltending, namely Rask, who’s responsible for 25 of their 26 wins, to carry them. Suddenly he’s gone haywire and after he allowed four goals on 14 shots against Toronto he has allowed 18 goals in his past five starts. Now Rask has made 12 straight starts and also went to the All-Star game and re-aggravated his early-season injury late in the loss to the Capitals. But the second-highest-paid Bruins player isn’t allowed to use excuses.
He needed to make an extra save or two, and he knew it.
“I just didn’t stop a shot there. That was wrong,” Rask said. “Mistakes happen and then you know I’m there to cover those and I couldn’t. Probably be nice to at least get a couple of those back. But not today.”
Of course, management hasn’t done Rask any favors. The hunt for a reliable backup is halfway through its second year and instead of someone that can rest Rask the Bruins have a second-year pro who’s clearly not ready for the NHL level. Zane McIntyre, who allowed two goals on 12 shots, denied he’s not ready but in explaining his problems, after he dropped to 0-4-1 with a 3.96 goals-against average and .858 save percentage, he basically contradicted his initial opinion.
“I think I’m making it harder on myself I think more than anything,” McIntyre said. “There’s just simple reads that you know for whatever reason I’m not making, and that’s the difference. As a goalie, you make a mistake, you make a bad read, it’s a tough part of the job it ends up in the back of the net and the red light goes on. I think in that respect I’m making it harder than it needs to be. I’m beating myself more so than anything. That’s the really frustrating part I’d say.”
If Julien was sick Saturday morning, he probably wished he didn’t get out of bed by the time the evening was through. A combination of Julien’s illness and frustration was probably what prompted the Bruins to announce the coach wouldn’t available after practice on Sunday.
Maybe he’ll be off praying the Bruins don’t conjure up even more ways to lose with so few points now available and a third straight playoff-less season looking as likely as an Adam McQuaid crucial giveaway.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.