Now that they have returned — and have three out of a possible six points to show for that trip — the sense of urgency remains.
“It’s not the way we wanted it to end," said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. "We all just wanted to come home with five points out of six, but we just didn’t play well enough. We didn’t play well enough at all in a few of the games.
"There were spurts where we kind of played the way we wanted to, but overall, the consistency is still lacking, and again, we have two games left before Christmas, and our goal is to get maximum points."
As of now, the Bruins are still out of a playoff spot. They are still struggling to produce offense, having scored just six goals in those three games against Nashville, Minnesota and Winnipeg. They are still having trouble competing for a full 60 minutes.
The Bruins need solutions, and they need them fast.
“When you leave points on the table as a team, that’s kind of all you worry about,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “[I’ve] definitely been trying to do my part, which is helping the team score goals and keeping the puck out of my net. So far, the last couple of weeks, we’ve been playing a little bit better, but when a team’s not winning, that really doesn’t matter much.”
In nine games in the month of December, the Bruins have just two wins. One of them came in the second game of their recent road trip, a 3-2 overtime win over Minnesota. In that game, the Bruins proved that they have what it takes to withstand pressure. They proved that they can bounce back from mistakes. They proved that they can put the puck in the back of the net when it matters most.
Now, though, they must find a way to do that, night in and night out, for a full 60.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this — not since my first year — where everybody’s feeling a little bit of a drought right now,” said forward Daniel Paille. “We definitely have to look at the big picture and realize that we’ve got to play for one another, and realize that we’re out of a playoff spot, and have to pick up very soon.
“Although we have 49 games left, it can go by quick. Look how 30 games went. So we’re going to have to really come together, really soon.”
Now that both David Krejci and Zdeno Chara are back in the lineup after missing sizable chunks of time due to injury, personnel cannot be an excuse any longer. The offense simply must get rolling again.
“We have the firepower in this room; we have the depth in the lineup to do it, and for whatever reason, whether we’re hitting a lot of posts or we’re not making enough plays, it just happens that way,” Krug said. “Throughout the course of the season, there’s going to be spells like that, and whether it’s five games in a row, five games mixed in here and there, it’s going to happen.
“Now, it’s just up to us to make sure we work ourselves out of it, and I think everyone in this locker room has the mindset to do that.”
Though it has been difficult at times, the Bruins have been doing their best to stay positive. Obviously, mistakes must be corrected, but they cannot dwell on the recent results — or the lack thereof. Somehow, they must try to suppress the negativity as they battle their way out of this slump.
“It’s tough,” Krug said. “It’s very easy to get down on yourself, and as a group, it’s easy to fall back on that, but if you have the right mentality — and that mentality is to keep shooting and try to find ways to score dirty goals — then you’re going to come out of that.
“It’s only a matter of time before guys in this room — we have the names to do it, and the skill and the work ethic to get out of it. And I think we will, for sure.”
Krug, Seidenberg Feeling Good
One defenseman is coming off a major injury that kept him out of the lineup from Dec. 27 forward. Another is continuing to rediscover his game after an injury took him out of the lineup for four games earlier this season.
The good news, though, is that both of them are continuing to improve in the wake of those injuries.
To hear Seidenberg describe it, he was not good at the beginning of the 2014-2015 season. A torn ACL and MCL took him out of the lineup for good just a couple of months into last season, and though he has fully recovered from the injury, working himself back into game shape took some time.
“I obviously [stunk] at the beginning of the season, but I think I’ve come along,” Seidenberg said. “There’s always ups and downs in the season. You’re always trying to get stronger in the downs, and come out better and smarter and more experienced. Everybody goes through it. Let’s hope that keeps going up, and I only get better.”
Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said Seidenberg's early struggles are understandable, given the way his last season ended. Though he has already seen Seidenberg improve from the tough start, he is still looking for more.
"I think when we look at Seids, he’s come off a major injury," Julien said. "I don’t think anybody here thinks Seids is playing at his full potential right now. So no matter where he’s been, he’s had his share of struggles.
"I don’t think it has anything to do with [playing on the] right or left. You can look at Seids, but whoever has played, they’ve had their fair share of struggles. He has to find his game, and once he finds his game, he’ll be a lot better."
On Sunday, Seidenberg didn't dispute that assessment.
“The beginning of the season, I was, I think, a long way off,” he said. “Not playing for nine months, I would say, it’s such a long time. Little things — the timing, all that stuff — comes into play, and you feel it at the beginning of the season, but you get used it and you get back into it, and things should get better.”
Krug’s injury was nowhere near as severe as Seidenberg’s. He took a slash to the hand at the end of a game against Minnesota on Oct. 28, and a broken finger kept him off the ice for four games. Still, he said the injury clearly impacted his effectiveness when he did return.
“With the finger, I wasn’t very confident making plays with the puck, but I guess when that heals more and more, you get more comfortable,” Krug said. “It’s just being more confident, more assertive, and sticking to my decisions and not second-guessing things.”
To Julien, Krug's recent improvements have been noticeable, and much-needed.
"He’s played well," Julien said."He had his little share of struggle there probably about two weeks ago. He’s coming off that injury, and you could see he wasn’t quite comfortable [at first], but he’s been really good for us lately."
Morrow Assigned to Providence
After he was recalled from the Providence Bruins in October, defenseman Joe Morrow made an immediate impact. Julien frequently said he was a fan of Morrow’s work ethic and on-ice demeanor, and he deployed Morrow for 14 consecutive games after the defenseman made his NHL debut on Oct. 30 at Buffalo.
But after serving as the healthy scratch for seven of Boston’s last eight games, Morrow was returned to Providence once the B’s returned from their road trip.
“He’s played well,” Julien said. “He’s played well, but his play dropped a little bit at the end, and it showed. Not a big deal; a lot of players have bad games, so it’s not about picking on him. But again, going back to the minors gives him an opportunity to play there and find his game again.
“I think I’ve seen enough from him where I would have no issues calling him back up.”
Morrow and Zach Trotman served as the healthy scratches as the Bruins took on Winnipeg on Friday night, and defenseman Matt Bartkowski got into his first game in about two weeks, earning 16:28 of ice time.
Bartkowski appears to be sticking in the lineup for Sunday’s matchup against Buffalo, as he took rushes alongside Seidenberg during the morning skate.
Julien did not confirm any lineup changes, but he did say that each of his seven defensemen brings something different to the table, and he will deploy them as he sees fit on any given night. Following the game against Winnipeg, Julien said that he thought Bartkowski played well, and if Bartkowski does slot in for a second consecutive game — which would mark his 100th career NHL game — Julien is looking for him to continue striving for consistency.
“Bartkowski is probably the best of all of those defenseman at skating a puck out of our own end,” Julien said. “Trotman’s been good for us. That’s why I’ve got to make a decision of six out of seven.”
Projected Lineup vs. Buffalo
Milan Lucic — David Krejci — Seth Griffith
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — Reilly Smith
Chris Kelly — Carl Soderberg — Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille — Gregory Campbell — Craig Cunningham
Zdeno Chara — Dougie Hamilton
Matt Bartkowski — Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug — Kevan Miller
Starting Goaltender: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Niklas Svedberg