by Matt Kalman, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins are lucky a great many of their followers are so bloodthirsty they’re easily distracted from the team’s hockey deficiencies.

In the aftermath of the Bruins hanging on for a 5-4 win Wednesday night in Newark, N.J., many were screaming for a better response to Anton Volchenkov’s elbow that nailed Brad Marchand in the head and sent the Boston winger to the dressing room for the duration.

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Whether any of the Bruins players, on or off the ice, actually saw what Volchenkov did, the answer didn’t have to be an immediate response to make the veteran Devils blueliner pay. After all, Volchenkov has a reputation as a stand-up player with just one suspension on his resume. He’s a former teammate of Zdeno Chara and Chris Kelly from their Ottawa days.

The better answer would’ve been to make New Jersey pay during the ensuing five-minute power play. It also would’ve helped if the Bruins didn’t let up with their comfy lead and instead kept working hard toward making the Devils pay as a team and maybe expanding the lead even further.

Instead the Bruins gave up a shorthanded goal to the Devils and let a desperate team dictate the tempo and mood the rest of the night. The Bruins will try to re-establish their all-around game against the New York Islanders Thursday night.

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“You definitely, when you have a five-minute power play, you definitely want to do something on there, regardless of something happening like that,” defenseman Andrew Ference said after the Bruins’ optional skate Thursday. “Part of having an identity is not just talking about what your team should be like, it’s about doing it and it’s about actions. And just strong forechecks and hits, stuff that is within the game. It’s not about gooning it up or anything like that. And for sure, not just last night in the third, but for stretches of many games that’s been a missing element that in the past has put our team over the top, for sure.”

So the concern shouldn’t be that the Bruins lacked the killer instinct when they noticed their teammate was down on the ice in a heap. The concern must be that the team as a whole lacks a killer instinct, whether it’s up by two in the third period or trailing by a goal with a 6-on-4 and can’t even land a shot on net like last Saturday in Montreal.

The Bruins have nine more games to rectify this situation or they’ll be road kill.

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Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for and also contributes coverage to and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.