'It's just about being more alert and sharper'
After falling to the New York Rangers in disappointing fashion over the weekend, things weren't supposed to play out this way versus Boston.
The Canadiens surrendered seven unanswered goals to their Atlantic Division rivals on Tuesday night en route to their fifth consecutive defeat.
As for why Claude Julien's contingent didn't deliver the bounce back performance they so desperately needed, defensive mistakes proved to be the culprit once again.
"I think with us right now it's not the amount of mistakes, it's the type of mistakes we're making. I think we're making mistakes where they're getting opportunities that are very, very high-danger chances," explained assistant captain Brendan Gallagher. "We're really leaving our goaltending out to dry right now. It's just about being more alert and sharper. You just can't make the mistakes we're making right now."
Video: Brendan Gallagher on coming together as a team
That's especially true when you're battling a Bruins squad that is jam-packed with scoring capability from top to bottom - even without veteran Patrice Bergeron, who was sidelined with a lower-body injury.
Sniper David Pastrnak stepped up with a hat trick in Bergeron's absence, and the Bruins completely dominated the contest.
Like Gallagher, captain Shea Weber pointed to key defensive mishaps that continue to plague the group as a whole.
"The chances we're giving up are A+ chances, and that can't happen," said Weber, who scored the Canadiens' lone goal on Bruins starter Jaroslav Halak. "We're making it really rough on ourselves, and especially our goalies. It's not fair for them. We're leaving them on an island, and that's not something we want to do."
Carey Price was pulled from the game in favor of Keith Kinkaid in the second period after surrendering five goals on 11 shots.
For his part, Kinkaid allowed three goals on 13 shots the rest of the way.
The coach speaks
Julien pinpointed one Bruins goal, in particular, that really swayed the momentum in their favor for good.
It was Pastrnak's second marker that came just eight seconds into the middle frame and extended Boston's lead to 4-1.
"I feel like we melted down after that. Mentally, we weren't strong enough to rebound," stated Julien, regarding the penultimate goal Price gave up before his night was officially done. "I think at that point, you want to talk about confidence, we stopped believing at that point and we got sloppy."
Similar to his players, Julien believes the contest was riddled with defensive errors and the Bruins simply capitalized on their opportunities.
That has to change in short order if this slump is going to end.
"We gave up two power play goals. We gave up at least three goals because of puck management issues. We didn't protect the front of the net well. That's what we have to fix," emphasized Julien. "Those kinds of errors, when you don't manage the puck the right way, they end up in the back of your net. The things we're seeing are easy to fix if the guys want to do the work the right way. The errors we're making are very costly, and we have to fix that aspect of our game if we want to get going again."
His final response essentially summed up the main difference in the Canadiens of late that has led to their ongoing struggles.
"We were better than that in the first 20 games. Did we make some of those mistakes? Absolutely. At the end of the day, though, we had a good winning record," indicated Julien. "Right now those mistakes are more than they were before, so we're trending in the wrong direction."
How do the Habs plan on solving their defensive issues? It'll definitely be a group project going forward.
Gallagher effectively summarized the avenues available to them ahead of Thursday night's matchup against the New Jersey Devils at the Bell Centre.
"This is something that you have to learn from. You take every opportunity that you have to improve. Not all of them are fun. Not all of them are going to be enjoyable. But for us right now, all you can do is we find a way to fight out of this as a group, as a team. That's how we're going to get out of it, through hard work. It's not fun, but it's something that can be pretty rewarding if you're able to do it. If you're not, it's frustrating, and it continues to grow and grow," explained Gallagher. "You have two choices right now. You continue to fight, you continue to battle as a group, or you can choose to shy away from little bits of adversity. That's the opportunity that we have right now. As a group, choose to fight, choose to battle with each other, and work our way out of this."
That resolve to right the ship really is omnipresent in the locker room.
"We've got to simplify things and make sure that we battle this out together. If we don't believe in ourselves here, things aren't going to get better," insisted defenseman Jeff Petry, one of four Canadiens players to register a minus-4 differential against Boston. "We have to fight our way out of this."
Video: Jeff Petry on making key mistakes against Boston
Weber echoed those same thoughts as well.
"It seems like every team goes through a little bit of a tough stretch in their season at one point or another, and we've got to find a way to stop it now. It's a tough league. There's no easy games every night, and when the tough times come, you find out a lot about your teammates," said Weber. "That's when you really need to stick together and dig your way out of these things, and that's what we've got to do right now."