Bruins blank out at home
Artistically, it was a failure.
Statistically, it wasn't much better.
From a marketing point of view, it was a five-star bust.
But thanks to, shall we say, the idiosyncrasies of NHL record keeping, the Bruins tacked up 1 point in the standings last night despite 60-plus minutes of lackluster effort and execution that in the end translated into a 1-0 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
A crowd of 14,377 at the Vault saw ex-Bruin Joe Juneau slice through a botched bit of four-on-four coverage, work his way down the slot, lose control of the puck, and record the winning goal with 1:39 gone in sudden death. It wasn't a shot, because Juneau lost possession as he was tied up by defenseman Sean O'Donnell. But a combination of physics (puck in motion) and a rare bit of poor judgment by superb Boston goalie Felix Potvin opened a path for Juneau's first goal of the season and Boston's second straight shutout loss on home ice.
"They trapped it up on us pretty good," said Bruins winger Brian Rolston, who saw the Carolina Hurricanes carry the same strategy to a 2-0 victory on Causeway Street last week. In two games, the Bruins have gone 121 minutes 29 seconds without a goal on home ice. "Hey, that was a strong road game for them, and I didn't think our urgency was there."
The road -- where the Bruins have played with far more urgency thus far this season -- has been a far friendlier place. They are 6-1-1 away from Causeway Street, but they have been anything but high-riding homeboys on home ice. They opened the new season with a 3-3 tie here with the Devils. Last week, they were rubbed out by the Hurricanes. Now they've gone six-plus periods of shooting blanks.
"We've only played three home games so far," said Bruins coach Mike Sullivan, not pleased by the effort. "In my mind, there is not enough evidence to say we can't play as well at home as we do on the road."
Not only did the Bruins struggle to score throughout the night, they failed to generate much in the way of offensive energy. By the end of 40 minutes, they had been outshot, 24-14, barely resembling the club that began the night first overall in the Eastern Conference. They finished with a lopsided 38-21 shot disadvantage, tied up by one of the weaker offensive teams in the league.
Meanwhile, the Habs haven't exactly been lighting up the scoreboard in 2003-04. Prior to arriving on Causeway Street, they had been shut out in two straight games, blanked by the Flyers (5-0) and Bruins (2-0). When they entered OT, they were trying to get out from under a scoreless streak of 199 minutes 46 seconds. Juneau snapped the streak at 201:25.
Potvin, sensational throughout the night, got a clear view of Juneau as he came down the slot, with O'Donnell tugging from behind. It appeared Juneau would carry the puck toward the post to Potvin's right, and Potvin shifted to that side to cover the anticipated shot. As he went right, the puck went straight, and it slipped through his pads for the winner.
"[Juneau] lost it," said a chagrined Potvin. "I just followed his stick, and the puck went through. We had a sense after the first period that a lot of goals wouldn't be scored."
Potvin, who was working with a 178:47 shutout streak (including Tuesday's 2-0 win) of his own through three periods, flashed some of his best work in the third. He turned back Jan Bulis at his doorstep only 3:25 into the period, for his 26th stop of the night, and followed a couple of minutes later with a nice glove of a wrister from the left point by Ron Hainsey, the former UMass-Lowell blue liner.
A weak night of offense is not reason to panic, but the Bruins can't be pleased with how they've performed in what should be the friendly confines of their own building in the early going this season. The last 11 seasons have been lean here, with virtually no postseason success, and the paying customers remain skeptical after last season's dazzling start and dreadful finish. The product appears far better this season, but there's no proving it by how they've played here.
Boston's best chance to break it open came with 9:22 gone in the third when the speedy Brian Rolston, off to a great start this season, broke in alone on Jose Theodore from above the right circle. Blitzing diagonally through the slot, Rolston drifted toward the far post and tried to connect with a wrister along the ice from the top of the crease. But a diving Theodore smothered it.
"I brought it to my forehand," said Rolston, foiled on what would have been his sixth goal of the month. "He dove at me, and all I had to do was flip it over him. I came with speed, but . . . you've got to make that play."
There are 38 more games on the home schedule, plenty of time to make some hay, if they can ever make it out of the high grass of the neutral zone.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.