Bruins have been lacking
Going forward, they need offense
PITTSBURGH — Yesterday, a day after the Canadiens punted them out of Canada with a 3-2 overtime loss, the Bruins attempted to regroup at the
“I think it was important to go over some video and some situations and try to rectify that,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “It’s very unfortunate that we’re talking this morning about a game in which we played extremely well for 40-plus minutes. There were some times in the third period where we did some pretty good things. But not necessarily every line. We gave them some momentum. Even though you gain a point, it’s something that you should have come out with two.’’
The Bruins don’t need video to understand the reality of their current run, which includes a regulation loss (Minnesota), overtime loss (Montreal), and shootout loss (Buffalo) in the last four games. They have only two top-shelf players who can grab a game by its proverbial collar and alter its outcome: Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara. And that’s not enough to run with the big boys of the Eastern Conference, who all boast high-end talent up front.
“Our best players have to be better,’’ said general manager Peter Chiarelli. “They simply have to be.’’
Philadelphia can turn to Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, Jeff Carter, and Danny Briere to challenge opposing goalies. Same with Tampa Bay, where coach Guy Boucher leans on Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent Lecavalier. Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby (albeit not tonight because of a concussion) and Evgeni Malkin. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin drive Washington’s offense.
The Bruins, who have scored only five goals in the last three games, don’t have any forwards right now who inspire fear in other clubs. During the offseason, one reason the Bruins shopped Marc Savard was because management projected David Krejci to grow into a No. 1 center.
Lately, Krejci has been far from filling such a role. He has submitted a 0-0—0 line in the last four games. Krejci has slipped into old habits, such as coasting through the neutral zone instead of coming back hard and generating speed through center ice. Instead of playing at a higher pace, he has tried to slow the game down and try cute plays with the puck.
Savard, as expected, isn’t close to being the point-per-game playmaker he’s been throughout his career. In 17 games, Savard has two goals and four assists. Considering that Patrice Bergeron, concussed on Oct. 27, 2007, wasn’t his old self for the entire 2008-09 season, Savard may not find his touch for the rest of the year — a reality the center is having a tough time facing.
“I’ve played one way all my life, right? And I’ve always gotten results anywhere I’ve played in my life,’’ Savard said. “For the first time, not to get that stuff has been tough. It’s been really tough. It’s tough to stay positive, but you’ve got to try.’’
Earlier this season, Milan Lucic played like a game-changer. Lucic scored goals, including three against Florida Nov. 18. He created space for his linemates. Because of his straight-line speed, above-average shot, and willingness to bash opponents into the boards, Lucic can change the momentum of a game. But he is scoreless in eight of the last nine outings and has looked a half-step behind the play, chasing the game instead of dictating its pace.
With Krejci underperforming, Lucic slumping, and Savard a shade of his former self, the burden has fallen upon Bergeron. Against Montreal, Bergeron responded with the Bruins’ only two goals. But Bergeron, whose game falls somewhere between a No. 2 and No. 3 center, can’t be expected to carry the offense long term.
Julien has recognized he doesn’t have game-breaking offensive players. To that end, his philosophy always has been to roll four lines, figuring the sum would be greater than its parts. But with too many players off their games, it’s been a frustrating stretch of inconsistency. Sometimes only Bergeron’s line is going. Other nights, the old threesome of Krejci, Blake Wheeler, and Michael Ryder is the only line that creates chances.
“A lot of teams rely on the same guy night in and night out,’’ Julien said. “The team we’re playing [tonight] is one of those teams that relies a lot on the Crosbys and Malkins. You go to Detroit with [Henrik] Zetterberg and [Pavel] Datsyuk. You get that production.
“We don’t seem to have that team that has that kind of a presence. We seem to have our scoring, if you look at our sheet, that’s spread out a lot more. Does it make it better? I think we all wish we had guys we could rely on that could be a threat every night.
“Right now, we’re just trying to get some lines going. I know there’s been some injuries and some changes. We had to change our lines a little. But I really think it’s about the individuals and what they need to bring to the table to make those lines successful.’’
Tonight will mark Savard’s first game against Matt Cooke and the Penguins since the agitator knocked him silly March 10. Savard acknowledged tonight might be more emotional than other regular-season games. “It’s obvious that it’s something that’s hurt my life for a bit and put me through some tough times,’’ Savard said of Cooke’s head-hunting hit. “It’s not easy. It’ll be on my mind, but at the end of the day, I’m just going out with my team and trying to get points.’’ . . . Nathan Horton (undisclosed injury) was one of four Bruins not to practice yesterday. He is considered 50-50 for tonight. Krejci, Mark Recchi, and Adam McQuaid also were given maintenance days off the ice . . . With McQuaid’s availability in question, the Bruins recalled Matt Bartkowski on an emergency basis. In 34 games for Providence, Bartkowski has four goals and eight assists. The first-year pro hails from Mount Lebanon, Pa., a Pittsburgh suburb.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.