No one ever wants to utter the phrase “It’s not you. It’s me.”
If you’re the Boston Bruins, heading into the second game this week against the Buffalo Sabres, it’s especially painful to admit.
“I saw [Buffalo win 3-2 in a shootout against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night], and they didn’t do anything different than they did against us,” said head coach Claude Julien. “It’s not the mystery of the Buffalo Sabres; it’s probably more the mystery of the Boston Bruins.”
But the Black & Gold, who have been working hard since Tuesday’s loss, are confident they’ve solved that mystery and will be better able to compete with the hard-working and dangerous Sabres.
“We just have to…be a little bit more determined at bearing down on opportunities,” said Coach Julien. “It really isn’t complicated.
“[We need to go] to the net and [bury] pucks,” said center Phil Kessel. “We’ve just got to play our game, battle hard.”
Even after practice yesterday, Coach couldn’t explain why scoring was becoming a problem for his team.
“There’s things that I can answer, and then there’s things that the players have to answer,” he said. “We keep telling them to go to the net, and we keep doing things in practice that force them to go to the net.
“[When they don’t], it becomes a matter of them having to answer that question.”
The goals – both the actual points and following coach’s instructions – are not out of reach.
“They’ve shown at times that they’re willing to do [bear down on the net],” said Julien, “and when they have, we’ve had success, scored some goals.
“There’s a price to pay to do those kind of things, and some days you’re willing to pay that price, and other days, it becomes more of a challenge.”
But the Bruins realize that the techniques they are working on are what will allow them to keep playing hockey into April.
“At this stage of the year, it’s winning your battles and commitment to doing that from start to finish and making strong plays and bearing down,” explained Coach. “The teams that are willing to take that challenge [and pay the price] on every night are the teams that survive at the end and are usually in the playoffs.”
The consistency that would follow, a big confidence-builder, is something the team is striving for.
“We’ve paid the price at times, and we’ve had success,” said Coach Julien. “It really is about consistency…the consistency of doing it game in and game out.
The B’s also may have underestimated their opponents in the last game.
“The team that played us the other night is not the same team that we played at the beginning of the year,” said Coach Julien. Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Bruins were 3-0-1 against the Sabres this season.
“A lot of that is confidence,” he explained. “When you get on a roll, those things come a lot easier.”
“They were pretty good last game,” added Kessel. “They went to the net.”
With the game still fresh in their memory, the B's are ready to take on this new Buffalo team.
“It was a tough loss last game, so we’ve just got to rebound, play our game, and hopefully things work out,” said Kessel. “Everyone’s feeling really good, just ready to go and play a good game.
“[We’ve] got to forget about last game, go out there, and play.”
Coach Julien, too, expects a good show.
“We’re still a team that, in the past, has found ways to do the right things and find ways to win, and I expect our team to do that again [tonight],” he said. “I have confidence in our team that we’re going to be willing to and then wanting to do it.
“I’m expecting my team to respond extremely well.”