No, Thursday’s opening-night loss to Winnipeg was not what they wanted or expected from themselves. But they know they are capable of better. They know they did some good things on the ice on Thursday, and Friday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena was all about emphasizing those plusses and moving past the minuses.
“I don’t think it’s about finding excuses or the easy way out,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “I think it’s about looking at what you did well and what you didn’t, and I though offensively, we created a lot. I would like to see our team finish a little bit better, and that’s all about confidence and continuing to work at it.
“But defensively, we really had some lapses there that hurt us along the way and just put the game out of hand. So we have to gear up for [Saturday].
“Short-term memory’s about preparing for the next game and fixing what needs to be fixed, so hopefully, we’ve done some of that today.”
Defensive breakdowns were the main culprit that cost the Bruins against the Jets, but those breakdowns can be corrected. Since Julien’s tenure began, the Bruins have thrived upon a sound defensive system and defensive layers, and they know that if they trust those systems, success will follow.
“We’ve got to take the positives from the last game, move forward, continue to create those scoring chances and then just continue to learn the system,” said defenseman Zach Trotman. “[We have to] just shut down the other team more and try and take away a couple of the easy mistakes that we made [Thursday].
“We need to shut them down, and the scoring chances will come; that’s how our system works. So it’s something to keep in mind.”
Once those mistakes are corrected, it will be time to move on.
“We’re not going to better ourselves by being [ticked] off at what happened yesterday, or being sad or upset,” said forward Zac Rinaldo. “We’ve just got to move on to the next task at hand, and that’s Montreal.
“That’s going to make us a good team — to correct the mistakes we had, and to forget about the loss.”
The chances were certainly there for the Bruins on Thursday, mostly in the first period, when they effectively controlled the pace and applied unrelenting pressure to a Jets team that couldn’t answer. But as good as they were, the Bruins weren’t perfect in that first period. They had a barrage of scoring chances — particularly late in the frame, on the power play — and they couldn’t capitalize.
That needs to change moving forward.
“We had a little over 20 scoring chances [total], which is a lot, but we have to make sure we bury more than just two,” said forward David Krejci, who accounted for Boston’s lone first-period goal against Winnipeg. “So we worked on that a little bit today, and we’ll see tomorrow.
“I think we did a pretty good job of creating chances [Thursday] night, so we have to keep doing that, but also don’t forget about our defensive zone. So that’s what we kind of touched up on today, and like I said, it was a good practice, so hopefully we can get it done tomorrow.”
Losses happen in sports. Teams that can move past them are the ones that succeed. Julien pointed to another Boston-area team for proof.
“I just look back at the Patriots last year, when they got beat by Kansas City [in Week 4], and the whole world fell apart because of that, and it seemed like that was going to be the end of that team,” Julien said. “Sure enough, they bounced back.
“I’m not trying to compare our team to the Patriots, but I’m just saying that it’s one game — doesn’t mean that the first game should be assessed in a way that it’s going to be like that the whole season. I think we’ve got a good group of guys here that’s only going to get better. I thought we played well enough [Thursday], we showed that in the first [period]. If we can contain that kind of play, we’re going to be a good team.
“So we’ve just got to keep focusing on getting better and building on those foundation blocks, and get better.”
The Bruins are a young team this year, but they have enough of a veteran presence to understand the importance of perspective. Thursday’s game — though unacceptable, in their own words — was just one of 82.
“It’s a long season,” Krejci said. “You kind of have to forget about those negative things. It’s too bad we lost a game, but there were some good things we can take out of that game.”
Boston will be focused on carrying over those positives into Saturday’s game, and given how their first attempt ended, they are certainly eager to get back out there and try again, as soon as possible.
“You play hockey because you love the game; you don’t play hockey because you love to practice,” Krejci said. “So it’s fun to play, and I think it’s a good thing when you lose a game that you can get right back at it. So we’ll try to make up for it.”
First Shot at the Habs
The Bruins don’t want to dwell on Thursday, nor can they afford to. The Canadiens will soon arrive in Boston for a Saturday night matchup that bodes to be emotional, and exciting, and everything else that a Bruins-Habs matchup always is.
The trick is using that emotion to fuel a victory rather than detract from it.
“It’s something you learn how to control,” Trotman said. “I think energy and excitement is never a bad thing, so like Claude said the other day, it’s easier to pull back on the reins a little bit than to try and push to get going.
“So hopefully we bring that energy again. I’m sure it will be there tomorrow night, and [we] just [need to] learn how to control it.”
Last year, the Bruins did not fare well against Carey Price and his fellow Canadiens. Saturday marks their first opportunity to change that dialogue for 2015-16.
It also marks the first opportunity for a handful of members of the Black & Gold to become acquainted with one of the best rivalries in sports.
“It’s a big game, from what I’ve been told — for the Boston fans, especially — so we’re going to be hungry tomorrow,” Rinaldo said.
Particularly during rivalry games, it can be difficult to toe the line between playing with emotion and playing with recklessness. It can be difficult to stay disciplined and focused.
In that sense, it falls on the veterans to prepare some of the younger, greener players on this roster for what they can expect from Saturday’s matchup.
Fortunately, said captain Zdeno Chara, this group doesn’t need much instruction.
“Whatever needs to be said — I’m sure they’re pretty familiar with that [rivalry] — but whatever needs to be said is going to be said,” Chara said. “I think pretty much everybody is aware of the rivalry we have, and it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Chara Still Day-to-Day
Once again, Chara took the ice for practice with his teammates on Friday. But as has been the case lately, he was hesitant to speculate on when he might be ready to get back into game action.
“It’s getting better,” Chara said of the upper-body injury that has ruled him out since Sept. 22. “The injury is improving, so hopefully it’s not long before I’m going to be pretty much free of any kind of discomfort.”
Now that the season has officially kicked off, though, sitting out has become more of a challenge, particularly for someone as competitive as Chara.
But at this stage, he is just coaching himself to be patient.
“For sure, you don’t want to come back and be half of what you are, and then basically you’re hurting the team and yourself and putting yourself in the position where you’re going to be missing more time,” he said. “So at this time of the season, I think it’s very important to be as close as you can be to 100 percent, and do what you do best.”
It will be up to Chara and Boston’s medical staff to determine when that time has come.
“That’s part of our medical staff — they know when he should and shouldn’t go, and he’s been respectful of that before,” Julien said. “Even if the player wants to play, he’s also smart enough to trust the medical staff to know that if they tell him it’s up to him, he’ll make that decision, and if they feel that he needs a little bit more time, then he respects that as well.”
As such, the defensive corps — though young — understands that for the near term, it may be forced to continue feeling its way without the help of the captain.
But by no means did Thursday’s loss kill the confidence of this blueline.
“We had a lot of scoring chances [Thursday] night,” Trotman said, “and we had a lot of positives to learn from, especially in the first period. So it’s encouraging to know that when we play like we can play, and when we do follow our system, that we can dominate teams like we did in the first.
“Our goal is to do that for three periods [Saturday] night, and we’ll see what the outcome is.”
Friday’s Practice Lineup
Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson
White Jerseys: Matt Beleskey, David Krejci, David Pastrnak
Gray Jerseys: Brett Connolly, Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes, Tyler Randell
Red Jerseys: Chris Kelly, Joonas Kemppainen, Max Talbot, Zac Rinaldo
Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Colin Miller, Adam McQuaid, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman, Matt Irwin
Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson