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Bruins: Mistakes or forced errors?

By John McGourty - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Bruins: Mistakes or forced errors?
The Bruins have had two chances to eliminate the Flyers, only to have suffered two frustrating losses. They seek the answers to right the ship before Wednesday's Game 6.
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- In the wake of Monday's 4-0 Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden, the Boston Bruins blamed sloppy play, a lack of energy and undisciplined actions for their defeat.

Sure, they said the obligatory "give the Flyers credit" statements, but those remarks were minor asides to the main theme, that what ailed them was themselves.

The Bruins need a better answer if they hope to defeat the Flyers in Game 6 Wednesday night at the Wachovia Center and end their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal series (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN). The Bruins lead the series, 3-2.

The danger for the Bruins lies in determining how to respond to the loss. If it was just a lack of energy, a good night's sleep, a steak and pasta is the solution. If it's overcoming a strategy that has worked increasingly well over five games, then the Bruins have a serious challenge, to the players and the coaching staff.

"They found another gear and we haven't matched it. I think we weren't sharp, not playing as well. They played better and we didn't play as well and we were just making the wrong decisions."
-- Dennis Wideman

There's a danger that the Bruins aren't giving the Flyers enough credit, for the Orange-and-Black's trademark hard forecheck, for taking away the Bruins' speed and passing lanes in the neutral zone, for blocking shooting lanes and forcing the Bruins to the perimeter in the offensive zone.

Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk was asked if there's a danger confusing mistakes and forced errors. Didn't the Bruins' problems stem from the forecheck taking away time and space needed to make good decisions?

"They did have a good forecheck and we have to be prepared for that," Boychuk said. "We did make some mistakes and they capitalized on it. That's what it came down to, they capitalized on their opportunities."

The Flyers were supremely on their game Monday night, spreading the distance between the Bruins' forwards and defense, cutting off offensive-zone passes back to the point, owning the boards and keeping clear the front of their net. Time and again, Bruins' forwards' passes back to the point were hurried and the defensemen were handcuffed by bouncing pucks instead of getting passes that they could one-time or redirect to a teammate. As a result, the Bruins were constantly forced to regroup in the neutral zone.

"Some of that is just from a bad pass, bad boards, bad ice," Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman said. "It's not always going to be a flat pass. We have to do a better job, whether it's using our feet, using whatever we need to keep it in."

Tuesday morning's practice did not address issues like overcoming a hard forecheck or line coordination on the attack but did focus on better shooting by the forwards around the net, and defensemen doing more skating with the puck before shooting. More mobility by the defensemen makes blocking the shooting lanes harder.

"It was just trying to get the pucks back to the D and get shots on net," Boychuk said. "It wasn't anything new. We've been working on that the whole season but last game, we didn't do it so we wanted to touch up on that."

Bruins coach Claude Julien said no one answer applies to all situations, but mobility is an option when a clear look at the net isn't available.

"It depends on the situation," Julien said. "If the lane is there, you've got to shoot it right away. If it's there, take it, because it will close up pretty quick. If it's not there, you either move the puck or you move with it. This is where decisions have to be made here. When they do get the puck, they have to look at the situation and read off it. This is not something you can teach, it's hockey sense."

"They found another gear and we haven't matched it," Wideman said. "I think we weren't sharp, not playing as well. They played better and we didn't play as well and we were just making the wrong decisions."

"We're not going to dwell on it. We're going to learn from our mistakes," said Boychuk, who didn't get his hard slap shot on net in the last two games, both losses. "We've played them enough times now that we know what we have to do."

Contact John McGourty at jmcgourty@nhl.com
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