April 20, 2012

Continued silence from key cogs will kill Bruins

By Jesse Connolly

Coming into Game 4 of their quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals, it was no secret that nearly all of Boston’s top six forwards simply weren’t getting the job done. Through three games, the Bruins’ top two lines had combined for just two points – a Rich Peverley goal and a Patrice Bergeron assist in a 4-3 win in Game 3. 

Bruins winger Tyler Seguin wipes out in front of the Caps' crease as Mike Green skates away with the puck. (Getty Images)

On Thursday night, there were plenty of positive numbers to reflect upon. Tyler Seguin had a game-high six shots. Milan Lucic dished out a team-high five hits. Ditto for Patrice Bergeron, who also won a game-high 14 faceoffs. But at the end of the night, there were too many zeros littered across the stat-sheet for the Bruins to overcome.

The Black and Gold will head into Game 5 with four of their go-to forwards looking for their first point of the 2012 playoffs, as Lucic, Seguin, Krejci and Brad Marchand were once again blanked by third-stringer-turned-superstar Braden Holtby and the Capitals in a 2-1 setback in Game 4. Peverley scored Boston’s lone goal and remains the only player on the top two lines to find the back of the net in the series.

Krejci, widely known for upping his game come playoff time, failed to put a single puck on net in the loss. The rest of his teammates had 45.

Seguin had umpteen opportunities to bury juicy rebounds, but misplaced shots were either easily gobbled up by Holtby or sailed wide.

Marchand accounted for a few of Boston’s limited number of high quality scoring chances early on, but faded in the third and had little impact in the second half of the tilt.

Lucic had a golden chance when set up in the high slot late in the third, only to fan on his shot, chase after the puck in the neutral zone and release every ounce of frustration into a blistering dump-in.

So where does coach Claude Julien go from here?

The Bruins’ bench boss has doled out plenty of compliments and niceties when asked about his struggling troops. He’s preached patience and confidence that their slow starts will soon be put to bed. He’s tweaked his power-play units. He’s tried mixing up his forward combos. When they continued to fail to click, he shuffled up the deck again in the third period on Thursday. None of it, unfortunately, has amounted to a significant, tangible impact on the ice.

It’s truly a chore to determine what the tougher question is here: Is it more surprising that this series is tied 2-2 despite all of Boston’s shortcomings, or that the very same players that were instrumental in the B’s Stanley Cup run last spring have been so astonishingly silent?

No matter what the answer may be, there’s no doubt that if Julien sits down for his post-game analysis of the stat-sheet on Saturday and sees another array of zeros from his key cogs, the Bruins will likely be fighting for their playoff lives in the very near future.

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