Disappointed they couldn’t capitalize on a strong start and turn it into a victory over a formidable Western Conference foe. Disappointed they couldn’t turn two straight wins into three straight wins heading into the All-Star Break. Disappointed they couldn’t go out on a strong note.
Mostly, though, they were disappointed that they couldn’t match the Ducks’ compete level throughout 60 minutes of action at TD Garden on Tuesday night.
“We’re still a young hockey club, and there are a lot of guys that realized tonight that when you play against a heavy team, you’ve got to be ready to play,” said Head Coach Claude Julien following a 6-2 loss to Anaheim. “We did in spurts, but there were other times that we weren’t there.
“So again, we chalk those up to trying to get better as a team, and when you’re playing those kind of teams, we have to have good execution, good pace and speed to our game, and when we did, we were able to certainly take some of the game to them.”
The first 10 minutes of Tuesday’s game weren’t a problem for the B’s. In the first 10 minutes, they played the way they wanted to, and just as they have done in each of their last three games, they were able to strike first, courtesy of a Zach Trotman slapshot.
It was the 30 minutes that followed that cost them.
“I think we were kind of up and down tonight until the third period, where we really started to play our game — but I think it came down to them really capitalizing on the chances we gave out,” Trotman said. “We had a couple of slip-ups, and if we prevent those, then maybe we can get one of our chances sooner, and it’s a different game. So I think that’s what it comes down to in the end.”
It has become a theme of sorts for the B’s over the first 48 games of this season: Sometimes, the full 60-minute effort is there. Sometimes, it’s not. In order to hang in there with a team like Anaheim, that effort certainly needed to be there on Tuesday.
“The third period was good; the first 10 minutes was good as well, so that little lull — that middle 30 minutes — it wasn’t there,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “I think they brought it to us physically. They had more emotion than us, and they were hitting us, and we [weren’t] hitting [them] back. So I thought they came out and they took advantage of their opportunities when they did.”
After the B’s went up 1-0, the Ducks were quick to respond. Following a fruitless Bruins power play — Boston would finish the night 0-for-4 on the man advantage — David Perron exited the box, forced a turnover in the corner to the right of the Bruins net and fed Corey Perry, who wristed it in to even the score with 12:06 left in the frame. Just under seven minutes later, Shea Theodore made it 2-1 with a power play tally.
“They came at us hard,” Julien said. “Does it look like we’re tired? Maybe at times it did, but again, we have never used that as an excuse before. We’ve handled back-to-backs before tonight. They just came out hungry and strong, and the biggest mistake that we didn’t want to make and maybe some of you [media] have made is you look at the standings, and that team doesn’t belong there [toward the bottom] at all.”
When the Bruins came out to start the second period, Jonas Gustavsson — who had started in net for Boston — was not in the net, nor was he on the bench. Tuukka Rask took over, and toward the end of the period, the team announced that Gustavsson had been transported to Massachusetts General Hospital for observation with an undisclosed illness.
“You never want to hear that, and your thoughts are definitely with him and hoping he’s OK,” Krug said. “I don’t know anything else. So it’s a tough situation, and you never want to hear that.”
Rask, who had been excellent in the first leg of this back-to-back on Monday night in Philadelphia, made 19 saves on 22 shots in relief of Gustavsson.
“[I] just drink some water and try and stay hydrated and stay focused — that’s about it,” Rask said of staying ready. “Just follow the game; that’s really the idea.”
The Ducks struck twice in the second, increasing their lead to 4-1 by the end of the frame. But in the third, the Bruins pushed. They were rewarded when a Zdeno Chara slapshot found its way to the back of the net just 2:04 into the frame.
Despite a strong stand in the final frame, though, it wasn’t enough, and the Ducks would add two insurance goals — both in the final 55 seconds — to seal it.
“The start of the second, down by a goal, we played pretty good; as soon as they scored that third goal, we kind of let down a little bit, and then we just didn’t do a whole lot,” Rask said. “Then they scored another one, and it was kind of tough to recover from that. But I thought we battled hard at the end of the third period and never gave up until the last minute there, which was disappointing.”
The Bruins were disappointed in Tuesday’s effort, to be sure. They felt they could have been better. They felt they had what it took to finish strong prior to the break.
But when they look at their first 48 games as a whole, they are not disappointed.
“We’re in third now in the division, which is good,” said forward Ryan Spooner. “We’ve won five out of our last seven. Tonight, we would’ve liked to get the win, but it didn’t happen. I didn’t think that we played a bad game; I just think that the full 60 just wasn’t there tonight.”
Though the standings remain impossibly tight, the fact of the matter is the Bruins are still in possession of a playoff berth. That, despite Tuesday’s disappointment, is something to be proud of.
“I think we’ve surprised a lot of people,” Krug said. “We’re not surprised with where we are. We had a goal to be in the top three before the All-Star Break, and we’re sitting right there. So we definitely know we’ve left the points on the table in certain games throughout the season, but at the end of the year, we don’t want to look back and regret some of these games.
“So we’re going to take it game by game in the second half and see where it goes from there.”
The remainder of the schedule will be a fight — most likely, all the way until the end. The Bruins expect that. They are prepared for that.
And given that, they know they must use these next several days to recharge.
“I think we’re happy with being in the top three right now,” Trotman said. “The fact that we could have been in second maybe after tonight is a little disappointing. I think it’s going to leave the guys itching a little over the All-Star Break.
“We’re going to come back, and like I said, we’re in a good spot, and we still have some work to do when we come back.”
Perhaps the All-Star Break comes at a good time for this group. It offers them an opportunity to take a step back, regroup, assess what must be done to make sure that push is there — permanently — when they pick up again one week from tonight.
“I think at the beginning of the year, there were a lot of people that probably thought that we wouldn’t be in the playoffs, and we kind of heard that kind of stuff, and that we would be a younger team,” Spooner said. “But I think we’ve shown that we can play with the top teams, and I think that we’ve proved a lot of people wrong.
“We just have to keep that up.”