Unfortunately for Boston, it took more than 56 minutes for anyone to get a puck past New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden in a 3-1 loss, which was the Bruins' third in their past four games.
That lone score came from defenseman Dennis Wideman, who lit the lamp for the first time after 15 games and broke a four-game point-less streak. The goal, however, wasn't any consolation to the struggling Wideman.
"I don't care about the goal. I've got to try to keep the puck out of my own net first and build off that," he said. "It's been a struggle every time I get out there, it seems like. There's a bounce one way or another and then it's in. That's where I want to start. I want to start with being a plus and then if the points come, that's great. But that's usually where things start to go well for me. The less time I spend in my own zone, the more I can help out offensively."
All season, Boston has been in the bottom quarter of the league in terms of goals per game. And Wideman isn't the only one who has failed to aid the team from the back end. Zdeno Chara and Derek Morris, Boston's leading and third-leading minute-men on the club, have just three goals apiece on the season, one more than Johnny Boychuk, who has played half as many games. There are plenty of teams that rely on their back end to provide offense. So with a firepower shortage up front, the Bruins might have to get into that mode between now and the Olympic break.
"We certainly have encouraged our guys to do that, as far as Ds supporting the attack, as far as even our forwards when they don't have a play, instead of forcing something, taking a look back for a late man. We've kind of encouraged that. We've seen it a couple times but we have to maybe get better at that," said head coach Claude Julien. "But those are things that absolutely, when you're looking for goal scoring, you have to look for it from everywhere.
"You can't put the onus on just the forwards and leave our D out of it. Our forwards are responsible for goals against as much as our D, so why wouldn't our D be the same offensively?"
The Rangers, a solid shot-blocking team, denied Boston shots on goal with their sticks and bodies 14 times. It seems every night the opponent cracks the high double digits in the shot-blocking department while the Bruins' blueliners struggle to get pucks beyond the point, never mind on the goaltender.
"We should be creating more from the back end," Chara said. "That's what we're trying to do, but a lot of times it's so crowded and you're trying to find the holes and you don't have much time. For sure, power play is one of those things that you need to work on from the back end -- try to get something going on top and spread them out, the three high guys, and get something going that way."
Despite the goal, the loss to the Rangers wasn't exactly a great starting point for Wideman in his quest to get on the right side of the plus/minus rating. A minus-1 for the game, he is now minus-5 on the season. That might be acceptable if he was contributing at the offensive end the way he did last season en route to 13 goals and 50 points. But the goal was just his third of the year and 14th point of the season. While his minutes are down a couple on average for the season, he still logs the second-most ice time on the Bruins. And he's been getting plenty of power-play time and avoided injury except for five games on the sidelines over the season's first three-plus months.
A little more than a month ago, Wideman put a few points on the board and was filled with optimism that he could get on pace. After the loss to the Rangers on Saturday, he admitted to getting frustrated. Luckily, he recently identified his problem.
"It's just I got some bad habits going into the start of the year and it's going to take a bit to get out of it; just plays that I shouldn't be making or pushing the envelope too much, I think. I have to get back to just starting from scratch, keep it simple and just build off that," he said.
It's too bad for Wideman and the Bruins that recognizing those bad habits took a while.
"It doesn't happen overnight. It takes a little bit for me to see, but I'm sure the coaches see them quicker," he said. "It's just something that starts right from practice. I've just got to get back to concentrating on just doing the simple things and then following up the play as much as I can."
While he was speaking for himself, Wideman easily could have been diagnosing the problem for all his mates on the back end. Now that the problem has been identified, it's time to rectify it.
Matt Kalman is the Bruins blogger for ESPNBoston.com and runs TheBruinsBlog.net.