RALEIGH, NC --
Head Coach Claude Julien and the Boston Bruins had talked about avoiding a "Stanley Cup Hangover" ever since captain Zdeno Chara
received the trophy from Commissioner Gary Bettman in June. But with a 1-3 record to begin the new season, the party is clearly over for the defending champs and a slow start has given a headache to everyone involved.
"Right now we’re just trying to find our 'A' game," said Julien after Wednesday's 3-2 setback to Carolina. "We’ve got a lot of guys that are struggling right now and probably haven’t found that.
"Until we get everybody playing more to the level that they can, it’s going to be a bit of a struggle. I sense frustration in that room for that reason and instead we’ve got to be more committed to and probably look more for determination instead of that to turn things around," he said.
It wasn't as if there weren't positive notes. Goaltender Tim Thomas
was often brilliant in his 31-save effort and left wing Brad Marchand
hit the back of the net off a nifty pass from center Patrice Bergeron
to bring the B's within one goal at the 16:35 mark.
But the grand experiment on this night was the placement of speedy sophomore Tyler Seguin
between wingers Milan Lucic
and Nathan Horton
as the young center attempted to fill in for the injured David Krejci
Seguin was also a success and put the Bruins on the board early in the third with his first goal of the season.
Right now we're just trying to find our 'A' game. We've got a lot of guys that are struggling right now and probably haven’t found that. - Claude Julien
"I mean he’s one of the guys that scored a goal for us tonight and kind of got us back in the game," said Julien when asked about the forward's performance. "It’s his first game, I thought he handled it well with his line mates and again, it’s not just about one guy. I think if the whole line finds a way to play better as a whole they’re going to be even more effective."
Unfortunately, Boston's heretofore ineffective power play (1/18 on the season for a 5.6%) went 0-5 versus the Hurricanes. The B's struggled with an opponent in the box for much of last season and now Julien has already had to field questions about his struggling man-advantage units.
"I’m certainly not going to go again there this year and start chirping about the power play all year," said Julien. "For whatever reason people want to talk about that and we certainly want to make it better, but at the same time right now I really feel that our game that we played tonight kind of reflects the whole thing.
"Your best players right now aren’t your best players — or aren’t at the top of their game I should say — so they’re not seeing things as well as they can.
"The last thing you want to do right now is press on these guys because they’ve been pressed on all last year," added Julien. "We’ve got to find a solution more than we’ve got to panic
"When you look at the amount of goals we’ve scored [overall], we’re a better team than that. Defensively we haven’t given much, but offensively we’re very capable of doing a lot more and that’s another sign of our team not being where it should be right now."
With an eye to the standings in what should be a very tight Eastern Conference, Julien was asked about the urgency of his club.
"I don’t think it’s any reason to panic right now," said Julien, calmly. "We’re a good enough team that when we find our game we’re going to win more than we’re going to lose and I still have that confidence in our team from what we accomplished -- we’ve just got to find it.
"I think the biggest task right now is to find that as soon as you can. Like I said, we had a group of guys that went out in the third and played much better, competed harder and you saw a little bit more of what we had, but weren’t able to win the game [because of] a couple mistakes.
"You see things happening, like in the second period we had some odd-man rushes and what’s maybe frustrating for them right now is they’re not finding that right guy to give it to...and they just didn’t see him. Those are signs to me of guys kind of pressing or still looking to find their game, because in the past we’ve always found that open man and tonight we didn’t seem to be able to do that."
Julien is concerned with his team's performance through four games, but the head coach's well known calm was clear as he turned the page on the loss in the RBC Center.
"You have to fight through those kinds of things," said Julien of the team's mistakes in Carolina. "Those are things that happen through a season and guys just have to get together here and everybody’s got to find a way to play some better hockey.
"If we do that we are going to turn things around."