SUNRISE, Fl. — Bruins bench boss Claude Julien has apparently seen enough after Saturday night‘s half-hearted 2-0 loss to the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center.
Julien has watched his team alternate between encouraging (third period against the Carolina Hurricanes) and overmatched (third period against the San Jose Sharks) over the last two weeks, and was fuming after watching his team shy away from the front of the net while still rifling 41 shots at Panthers netminder Tomas Vokoun.
Vokoun was solid between the pipes, no doubt, and came up large a pair of times: with an extended leg pad stop in the second period on a Milan Lucic tip of a pass from the sideboards by Blake Wheeler, and later on a Patrice Bergeron wraparound attempt midway through the third period.
But the B’s didn’t bring their hard hats to the frozen sheet amid the sun and adjacent palm trees, and couldn’t create a much traffic or flying bodies in front of the net while Vokoun was shutting the B’s down. There were several desperate attempts to crash the net for rebounds or tipped pucks, but there wasn’t nearly enough willingness to get to where the action was in the dirty areas.
The B’s players might want to get ready for some Herb Brooks-style practices in the near-future as Julien was clearly teed off after the 60 minutes of futile hockey had ended.
“I think we had a lot of energy tonight. That wasn’t the issue,” Claude Julien said. “It was more of concentration and a lack of willingness to go to the dirty areas. We can have 41 shots on net. But if everything is from outside and the goaltender can see everything, I don’t think you’re going to score too many goals that way.”
“There are times throughout the year when guys need to be reminded that they need to get to the dirty areas of the ice to make things happen. Maybe some of our guys need a reminder,” added Julien. “Maybe things have been too easy for them lately, and they have to go back to getting their noses dirty.”
Bergeron led the team with eight shots on goal and the energized Wheeler was just behind the centerman with seven shots on net, but many of the Bruins felt that the Panthers, obviously hungry to climb up the charts for playoff pole position in the Eastern Conference, were able to turn the tables on them last night. D-men like Nick Boynton, Keith Ballard and Jay Bouwmeester were able to clear the B’s forwards away from the front of the net, and keep much of Boston’s offensive attempts to the outside.
Then when an opportune moment to strike popped up, the Panthers pounced as they did in the third period on their shorthanded strike. Bouwmeester was able to flip a puck past a turned-around P.J. Axelsson and Zdeno Chara, and found Radek Dvorak flying in from the right side of the ice. Dvorak roofed a backhanded bid and beat Thomas to finally break the scoreless spell in the third period.
The formula was pretty damned for ther Big Cats from Florida: the Panthers simply played solid ‘D’ and then waited for the perfect moment to counter-strike, and Vokoun was able to rise to the occasion when the Bruins attempted to answer.
“A lot of shots doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of scoring chances,” said B’s defenseman Dennis Wideman, who was sporting a gash on his nose from a first period high stick following the game. “We had a lot of shots, but we didn’t generate a lot of good scoring chances. There have been plenty of times during the year when we’ve been outshot by others team, but had the clear advantage in the game.
“That’s kind of what tonight felt like,” added Wideman.
Adding to Boston’s recent spate of issues was the continued downward trend by the power play, which this time dropped an 0-for-6 into a hockey game when they badly needed a PP strike.
One thing worse than the power play, you ask?
That would be have to be the game presentation at the BankAtlantic Center that includes the Panthers Dance Team shaking their booty in between periods like the cheerleaders/strippers from “The Replacements”. Somebody needs to send a memo out to Panthers ownership that this ain’t the NBA. Then the JAM’N 94.5 soundtrack boomed throughout the entire hockey game. Hockey feels forced enough in Florida locales, but the between period dance routines makes you feel like you’re a mighty long way from the good ole Original Six.
Bad atmosphere, lukewarm effort and a terrible result against a potential playoff opponent in southern Florida on Saturday night.
Injury Ward: Wideman was hit in the face with a high stick but returned to the game just minutes later. Andrew Ference was similarly hit in the face with another errant high stick from the Panthers, but remained in the game without missing a shift.
Player of the Game: Got to be a combination of Dvorak (two goals) and Vokoun (second shutout in his last three games and an NHL-best .940 save percentage over the last month), who both teamed up to bury the Bruins. The Panthers aren’t the most talented team in the league, but Vokoun and their solid defense corps could be a pain to deal with in the playoffs. Andrew Ference earns some Bruins points for two things: A) blocking a game-high 8 shots including a two potentially painful body blows in the final seconds while guarding the net against a pair of empty net bids. Ference made two “saves” without the aid of important things like goalie pads and a mask; and B) sticking around to answer questions about Boston’s less than lustrous effort following the loss to the Panthers.
Goat Horns: The whole team. It’s not often that an entire squad will be fitted for some Pan pipes and supplied with a little bit of wine, but everyone seemed to own up to the lackluster performance after the game was finished. Not enough willing bodies in front of the net. Not enough grit to crash the pipes and force back rebounds. Not enough willingness to make a statement after a few days of fun and sun in Florida. The good news? The B’s have a quick turnaround with a 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon tilt against the downwardly mobile Tampa Bay Lightning.
Turning Point: The Bruins were already trailing 1-0, but were putting heavy pressure on Vokoun and the Florida defense when Bergeron appeared to have an open net for the wraparound goal. Instead the Florida netminder quickly recovered with his back on the ice and somehow blocked the puck with his right pad, and then closed his legs. The puck shot right back out of the net, and the Panthers stormed down the ice on a 2-on-1 and Dvorak banged home a nifty behind the net pass from Gregory Cambpell. The Panthers were up 2-0 in the third period and the game was O-V-A-H.