March 10, 2012

Day games continue to be a nightmare for Bruins

By Jesse Connolly

BOSTON – You can quip that the Bruins’ internal alarms don’t sound until well after the opening faceoff. You can point out that the team looks anything but ready to play, and instead resembles a horde of zombies skating about in black and gold sweaters.

The jokes are easy and obvious, but there’s nothing funny about Boston’s inability to win matinees. Day games continued to be a nightmare for the Bruins on Saturday afternoon, as yet another early deficit led to a 4-3 loss to the visiting Capitals.

“I don’t know I don’t even really try to think about game time, because what’s the use?” Tim Thomas said when asked about the B’s struggles in matinees.

The netminder said he was unaware of his team’s record in afternoon tilts. He and the rest of the Bruins can’t be pleased after they slipped to 4-7-2 in day games with the setback, continuing an alarming trend that has cost them some vital points throughout the course of the season.

“It’s part of the schedule so you can’t use that as an excuse,” Patrice Bergeron said. “All the teams are going through that so we’ve got to make sure we are ready for early games.”

The early-goings in day games have been a real sore spot for Boston. Last Sunday, the Rangers scored two goals 1:10 apart in the first period, forcing Claude Julien to call a timeout. Boston rallied back to tie things up but eventually fell 4-3.

Saturday’s contest followed the same blueprint. Goals from Alex Semin and Matt Hendricks in the first period, just 25 ticks apart, put Boston down by two. Cue Julien’s timeout.

“It’s about just waking up and finding a way to get that momentum back,” said Bergeron. “I think we did that getting that goal late in that first period there and obviously we found a way to get that second goal also. So, we came back in the game it’s just that we gave up the lead again.”

The B’s certainly didn’t expect to come over to the bench and see a glowing, grinning Julien awaiting them.

“Oh absolutely,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said when asked if Boston’s bench boss was mad. “We weren’t playing good, so I would be too. We knew it was coming so we just have to be better as players and as professionals.”

The Bruins certainly played considerably better for the rest of the afternoon, including a third-period surge that saw them outshoot Washington 13-2. But that early deficit, brought upon by a sluggish showing from the Black and Gold, ultimately doomed them.

“I can’t really put a finger on it. You just got to be ready,” said Boychuk, whose goal in the third gave Boston a fighting chance in the closing minutes. “They can score two goals in the first ten minutes, it’s not really acceptable especially when we talk before the game that we want a good start. That’s not the start we wanted, as soon as we called the timeout it was like night and day. We realize that we are going to play and once we realized that I thought we played good hockey.”

Asked what the solution to their afternoon woes is, Boychuk stressed that he and his teammates can’t wait until things go sour to play with a sense of urgency.

“We have to play the way we did in the third period, the whole 60 minutes,” he said. “If we do that, there shouldn’t be any problems.”

With five of their final 15 games being of the afternoon variety, it’d behoove the B’s to heed Boychuk’s advice.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at Follow him on twitter at @JesseNEHJ.