April 14, 2012

Bruins suffer consequences of not making changes

Patrice Bergeron narrowly misses beating Braden Holtby with a shot that rang off the left post during Saturday's game between the Bruins and Capitals. (Getty)

BOSTON – Prior to Game 2 of their quarterfinal series with the Capitals, the Bruins hammered home just how much they realized what changes needed to be made if they wanted to come out victorious on Saturday afternoon.

The B’s knew they were lucky to eke out a 1-0 overtime win over the visiting Capitals at TD Garden on Thursday night. Throughout the entirety of the tilt, rookie goalie Braden Holtby saw just about every shot that made it his way. That is, of course, if the suddenly Ranger-like Capitals weren’t blocking them in front of him.

Boston knew those two things needed to change on Saturday, but the only difference between Game 1 and Game 2 was the result. Washington broke a 1-1 tie less than three minutes into double overtime, as Nicklas Backstrom beat Tim Thomas to give the Caps a 2-1 victory and even the series up at one game apiece.

As for all those aspects of the game the Bruins hoped to rectify? They failed. Miserably.

Holtby was undeniably impressive once again, allowing just one goal on 44 shots in nearly 83 minutes of action. However, as was the case on Thursday, the B’s made life far too easy on him and had little-to-no net-front presence throughout the course of the contest.

“He’s done a good job,” Patrice Bergeron said of Holtby. “But that being said, it’s about us making his job harder and tougher and screening him more and finding the puck for the rebounds and the ugly goals.”

Washington, meanwhile, did a masterful job of making things tough on Thomas, as one Capital or another was regularly parked out at the top of his crease.

“That’s the only way that we are going to beat Thomas,” said Caps forward Troy Brouwer, who tallied in the second period to put the Caps up 1-0. “He is too good of a goalie.  Everything that he sees he is going to stop. On mine, we put it to the net and there was a rebound. 

“There was a screen. There was lots of traffic in front of the net. It is not just our guys. It draws their guys in as well. There were a couple shots that he didn’t see that he made saves on, but we finally got one to go in at the end.”

The Capitals may have been out-shot 44-39 on the afternoon, but Washington absolutely crushed Boston in the shot-blocking department. The Caps blocked a whopping 27 shots in the tilt, stifling attempt after attempt by the B’s to put a puck on Holtby. Conversely, Boston blocked a grand total of eight shots.

“I mean we’re trying to put the puck on net,” Bergeron said. “They’re doing a good job of blocking it – we have to be better at finding that seam, finding that hole to put it there and create some rebounds and stuff like that.”

According to Boston’s bench boss, a change in shot preference might remedy that problem.

“I think a lot of shots that they blocked too were wrist shots,” coach Claude Julien said. “They were coming at our points pretty hard and not allowing our guys to tee it up. And when you just allow the Ds to take a wrist shot, then all of a sudden, it’s easy for Ds to step in front of it and block it.

“I don’t think they want to block guys’ slap shots. [Dennis] Seidenberg, [Johnny] Boychuk, [Zdeno] Chara, they’ve all got good shots from the back end, so if they tee it up, I’m not sure they’re going to want to block it as much, but they’re doing a good job of getting to the point hard, and because of that, they’re blocking shots. So we have to find a way to get the puck to those guys earlier. We’ve got to find a way to get those shots off earlier as well.”

Julien and Co. must’ve felt like a broken record or perhaps experienced déjà vu when highlighting what they need to change going forward. They had the same plan going into Game 2 and never came close to executing it. And now, instead of possibly heading down to Washington up two games to none, they’re even at 1-1.

If the Bruins don’t start digging deeper for solutions to their woes before Game 3, they’ll be forced to dig themselves out of a series deficit after Monday night’s battle down in the nation’s capital.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.