Following a win in New Jersey, the B’s felt they probably could have beaten Ottawa in overtime, but they fell in the waning seconds. Two nights later in New York, they took a one-goal lead into the third period but let victory slip out of their grasp in regulation.
They have claimed three of a possible six points. But they feel like they easily could have seized three more.
“I think we could be sitting here talking about the last three wins, but the reality is that we’re not,” said forward Max Talbot following Wednesday’s optional morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center. “That’s because we’ve missed some chances. I feel sometimes instead of putting the puck in and bearing down on some chances, [we’ve] been lacking. Sometimes, the difference between the post and the goal is so slim that you can’t think about it too much.
“The reality is, we didn’t win last game — the last two games, actually — and we need points in the standings. So we’ve got to start winning some games.”
The Eastern Conference standings have been impossibly tight all season long, and it was no different when the B’s woke up on Wednesday morning. At present, they are in possession of the final Wild Card spot in the East, but their 47 points have left them knotted with ninth-place New Jersey. The Flyers and Bruins are two of seven teams in the Eastern Conference currently battling for those two Wild Card berths, and a mere four points separate them — all seven of them.
“We know that every game right now is huge for us,” said forward Brad Marchand. “It seems like every night, you can jump a couple spots or drop a couple spots, and we have to feel that, and make sure that we’re prepared to play tonight.
“[The Flyers] are playing good hockey, and we have to make sure we have our best game of the road trip so far.”
In each of their last two games, the Bruins have been frustrated by their own lack of consistency. At some point — whether it be in the first period or the third — they have let up. They have let the opponent outwork them.
That, they said, can’t happen on Wednesday.
“I think performances have been pretty good,” said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. “I think last game, we had a chance to win the hockey game, and the game before, it was overtime. So we’ve been playing decent hockey. Now, all we need is the results.”
The Bruins also need to rediscover their scoring touch — perhaps easier said than done, given the fact that David Krejci still remains in Boston nursing an upper body injury suffered back on Dec. 27. In their last two games, the Bruins have scored just two goals, but their chances have been abundant.
“Sometimes, you’re snakebitten; sometimes, you’ve just got to find ways to get those in,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “We had quality chances. If you take the time to look back at all the scoring chances we had, from [Ryan] Spooner’s post to Talbot, [Brett] Connolly, those guys — all posts. Empty net chances that we’ve missed, we’ve got to bear down on those. If you do, and then you get a little bit of luck to go with that, then you turn those things into a win.
“I guess sometimes we like to use the word hockey gods, and sometimes, they’re with you, sometimes they’re not.”
The fact that the chances are there is certainly a good sign. But on Wednesday, the finish must be there, too.
“It’s playing for 60 minutes, and I think we’ve put really an [emphasis] on doing that,” Talbot said. “Knowing the importance of every little play, whether it’s the first shift of the period or the last one, we’ve got to play the same way. If we do for 60 minutes play like we can, and like we’ve been for most of the time right now, we will, I think, beat most teams.”
Some how, some way, the B’s said they need to find a way to get the job done on Wednesday. Whether it takes overtime, whether it takes a race to the finish, they simply must find a way.
“I feel you look at the standings every night, every morning, like, ‘Wow, this is tight,’” Talbot said. “Every little point matters, and whether you look back at last year, where we’re one point out of a playoff spot, you can’t just look at the last couple games of the season. These are games right now that we need the points, and we need to win, and it is a grind because every team is doing so well, and it feels so tight.
“We’ve got to get some wins.”
As the Bruins reflect on their most recent stretch of games, in which they have dropped seven of nine, it could be easy to let the negativity seep in. But they won’t let themselves go there. That, at the moment, is a point of emphasis for Julien, for one simple reason.
“Our team’s playing well,” he said. “When you look at our efforts, from Ottawa to New York, I think we were the better team in New York. When we played in Ottawa, we could have won that game as well. So you’ve got to make sure you don’t jump on guys for the wrong reasons. The effort is there right now; just the wins have to follow.
“It’s a business that relates to wins and losses, and we’ve just got to win some games here because we’re looking at the standings. We’re all crunched up again.”
The Bruins have long prided themselves on being a hard-working team, and they still are. That is something that matters — a lot.
Chances are, if they keep working as hard as they are, and if they keep firing quality opportunities on net, things are going to turn around.
“I don’t think that with this group we’re going to allow ourselves to look back on past games and think that we’re not as good as we are,” Marchand said. “We know that we have a good team in here, and we could have won pretty much any of the games that we’ve lost. So you want to continue to improve on each game, and take the positives with what you can, and learn from it, and be better. I thought we had a good game last game in New York, but little mistakes cost games, and we have to realize that and make sure we tighten up a little bit.”
A Worthy Adversary
The Bruins might like to forget the last game they played against these Philadelphia Flyers. Back on Oct. 21 at TD Garden, they took a 4-2 lead into the third period only to let it slip away and eventually drop the game in overtime, thanks to the heroics of Claude Giroux.
This time, they know they have to be present for a full 60 in order to get the job done.
“We know they’re a strong offensive team and move the puck well and have good offensive players,” Seidenberg said. “So it’s just about us playing good defensively, playing our style, and if we do that right, we’ll win.”
The Flyers may find themselves four points behind Boston in the standings, but of late, they haven’t been playing like a team on the outskirts of the playoff picture. They have won their last three straight games, including Sunday’s 4-0 shutout of the Islanders.
“We have a lot of work to do, but we’re playing pretty good hockey right now, and I guess that’s the
most important thing to me,” said Flyers Head Coach Dave Hakstol. “And we have to continue that; we have to continue what we’re doing, and most importantly, every night, you have to work to win games and game points. So that’s how I evaluate us right now.”
One reason for the turnaround has been the play of goaltender Steve Mason, who posted his 29th career shutout on Sunday against the Isles. He knows he will have to continue to be a stalwart in net if the Flyers are to turn three straight wins into four — or five, or six, or seven.
“We have a number of games in the next little while against Eastern Conference teams — teams that we’re chasing for playoffs,” Mason said. “Tonight, we have Boston, who is four points ahead of us, so tonight’s a huge game for us to make some ground up on them, hopefully. We just have to realize to take it one game at a time, not [look] too far ahead, because when you’re starting to look too far in the future, the task seems to be a little bit more unmanageable.
“So you just take it one day at a time, one game at a time, and that’s the way we’re going to approach it.”
If the Flyers were to take two points from Wednesday’s matchup, they would find themselves a mere two points behind the Bruins — two points out of the playoff picture.
For that reason, these points mean every bit as much to them as they do to the Bruins, and as such, the B’s should expect Philadelphia’s effort to reflect that.
“[This game] is going to make a difference if we make the playoffs or not,” said Flyers forward Jakub Voracek. “We have to stay in the hunt because last year, we were chasing, chasing, chasing, and in the end we didn’t have enough energy to make that push. We just have to make sure we stay in the playoff push, and tonight is a huge game for us.”
Optional Skate for the B’s
Boston’s optional morning skate was well attended on Wednesday, as 11 forwards, five defensemen and one goalie took the ice.
The forwards who skated were: Zac Rinaldo, Tyler Randell, Joonas Kemppainen, Brett Connolly, Max Talbot, Jimmy Hayes, Frank Vatrano, Landon Ferraro, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Spooner and Brad Marchand.
The defensemen who skated were: Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman and Dennis Seidenberg.
Jonas Gustavsson was the only goaltender who took the ice, suggesting Tuukka Rask will be in net against Philadelphia.
Projected Lineup vs. Flyers
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — Jimmy Hayes
Matt Beleskey — Ryan Spooner — Loui Eriksson
Brett Connolly — Joonas Kemppainen — David Pastrnak
Zac Rinaldo — Max Talbot — Landon Ferraro
Zdeno Chara — Zach Trotman
Dennis Seidenberg — Colin Miller
Torey Krug — Kevan Miller
Starting Goalie: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Jonas Gustavsson