BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins stormed through November, earning points in all 13 games and seemingly scoring at will. The team that so many saw as a grinding team because of defensive-minded coach Claude Julien proved the critics wrong, and looked more like the Edmonton Oilers juggernauts of the 1980s. But in the past two games the Bruins have resembled the team that had trouble executing during their opening 3-7-0 funk in October.
Yes, the Bruins have run into two hot goalies in the Jets' Ondrej Pavelec, who made 39 saves in a 2-1 Winnipeg win Tuesday night, and the Panthers' Jose Theodore, who shut the Bruins out with 40 saves in a 2-0 win Thursday night. And yes, the Bruins hit five posts against Florida. But as Julien and his players acknowledged after suffering their second straight loss for the first time since Oct. 29, the execution and net-front presence have disappeared again.
Those deficiencies must be corrected if the Bruins are to avoid falling into a slump. The good sign is that the Bruins aren't casting blame on bad luck or hot goalies but instead recognizing what they must do to get back on track.
"In the end we just didn't bear down hard enough to get lucky for those [shots off the] posts to go in," Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "So we just have to be a little bit heavier on our sticks and just bury those chances. We have to put it behind us. ... We just didn't play well enough on both bluelines ... and [we] just made those little mistakes that cost the game at the end."
Prior to the loss to Florida, coach Claude Julien had said his team needed a better net-front presence. Seidenberg felt that was lacking again Thursday.
"I mean it has to do with us not having a net-front presence," Seidenberg said. "I mean we are getting shots there, we just haven't had the guys in front to take the goalie's view away. He has been seeing a lot of pucks and when goalies see the pucks, most of the time they make the stops. We have to get better at that and bear down."
While Julien wasn't really dissatisfied with his team's effort Thursday, he too sees a need for more execution and net-front presence.
"Sometimes it's not so much the effort, more it's, I guess, our mindset," Julien said. "I thought tonight, we had about 40 shots on net, I thought we forced a lot of plays where we could have taken it to the net. I don't think our decision-making was the best at times and certainly didn't make it easy for ourselves. But again, there's four or five posts, and you can say what you want about those, but you've got to find ways to bury goals, and I think we've got to do a better job of that. I don't think that we're driving to the net as well as we have in the past, and that's kind of slipped in the last little while, so we've got to try and do that a little bit better and get our noses dirty around the net area again."
Julien wasn't about to chalk up the disappointing performance as bad luck or facing another hot goalie.
"It was more that, I think, we were a little bit more frustrated with the fact that we weren't playing the game that we'd been accustomed to," he said. "It wasn't smooth passing, it wasn't the transition, breakouts, and even, in the offensive zone, there was a lot of over-passing. The [David] Krejci line, at one point, I remember David, if he'd just kept skating, he was taking it to the net alone, and he passed it through two guys to a guy who's half-covered, and the play died. We could have done better with some of our decision-making, but that's the way the game went tonight."
But just as they knew at the end of October what they had to do to turn things around, the Bruins know now. That has been this team's strength last season and during the first quarter of this season and they're not about to veer away from it now.
"Yeah, the last two, we've done a pretty good job getting shots and scoring chances," Milan Lucic said. "But that's all they are if you don't get results. I think the main thing right now for us is we can't get down on ourselves, we can't get frustrated, we have to pick ourselves back up and start over again, and remember what got us those 14 wins in 15 games. That's what should be our focus right now and not let frustration creep into our game just because we've had trouble these last two games."
Julien didn't seem too worried about the loss.
"This is just one game," Julien said. "We flew back from Winnipeg, does that have anything to do with it? I mean, we came out from out West? I don't know, but we certainly don't think we're heading in that direction, more that we have to, probably next game, make it a situation where we have to play a real strong, solid game and get that good feeling back in our dressing room."