Bruins out of synch and feeling blank
With eight games serving as a sample size, it is clear how vital David Krejci is to the Bruins.
Dating back to last spring’s playoffs, when he was blasted from Round 2 by Mike Richards, the Bruins are 2-6-0 in the eight outings in which Krejci has been absent. Last night, a 2-0 setback to Ottawa before 17,565 at TD Garden, was just the latest example of how bitter life without Krejci can be.
Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, Krejci’s former running mates on the No. 1 line, each landed just one shot on goal. The power play, which Krejci usually runs from the left side on the No. 1 unit, went 0 for 2. For the second straight game on home ice, there was zero sustained pressure on the opposing net.
“It was a frustrating game to watch,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “It was probably an even more frustrating game for them to play. We definitely were not in synch tonight. The things that made us good when we’re a good team weren’t there tonight.’’
With Krejci and Marc Savard unavailable, the Bruins are down to two dependable NHL centers in Patrice Bergeron and Gregory Campbell. After 174 NHL games on the wing, Blake Wheeler has been filling in at center for the last three outings.
And perhaps it’s unfair to place so much responsibility on Tyler Seguin. But after he was beaten cleanly on a draw that led to Ottawa’s first goal and was on the ice for the Senators’ second strike, the 18-year-old doesn’t look ready for prime-time pivot work. To that end, late in the third period, Julien shifted Se guin (zero shots in 12:02 of ice time) from center to right wing.
“They’re hurting us right now,’’ Julien said of his team’s work on faceoffs. “There’s no Savard. There’s no Krejci. Basically, our experienced guys are Bergeron and Campbell. And even so, they lose draws clean as well.’’
Halfway through the first period, Seguin squared off in the defensive-zone dot against Chris Kelly. With a swift swipe, Kelly beat Seguin (1 for 4 on faceoffs) and pulled the puck back to Erik Karlsson. Michael Ryder tried to challenge Karlsson, but he ran into Chris Neil and couldn’t get to the point. As Karlsson fired a shot, Tim Thomas (31 saves) couldn’t see around a Mark Stuart screen until the puck landed in the net at 9:34.
“Obviously it’s a terrible feeling as a goalie when you can’t find the puck,’’ said Thomas, saddled with his first loss of 2010-11. “I couldn’t even find out who had the puck on that one. It just disappeared behind bodies. By the time I saw it, it was past our last defenseman in the air.’’
It was the fifth straight game in which the Bruins allowed the opening goal. They are 1-3-1 in their last five games.
“We’ve got to take that part of our game to a totally other level,’’ said Zdeno Chara. “We’ve got to come out and establish the game plan that we prepare for. Especially on home ice. Right now, we’re kind of struggling with that, to get that jump and that pressure we create sometimes on the road on quite a consistent basis. For some reason, for whatever reason that is, we’re coming out flat. It takes us another 40 minutes to get going.’’
The Senators cushioned their lead at 4:15 of the third. A Filip Kuba dump-in caromed off the end boards to Milan Michalek, who wasted little time shuffling the puck to Daniel Alfredsson at the far post. Thomas, not anticipating the bounce off the boards, couldn’t get over in time.
It was all the support Brian Elliott needed. The only panic Elliott felt was when Bergeron’s power-play shot trickled through and landed in the crease in the second period. As the puck rolled, Wheeler dived and pushed it over the line with his right hand at 8:01. Referee Stephen Walkom promptly waved off the goal, and video review confirmed his call.
“How are you going to put that in? That’s a tough one,’’ said Wheeler. “It’s sitting on the goal line, and as I’m sliding through, I don’t know, maybe just let my body hit it. I don’t know. You could probably do a million different things there and the puck goes in the net. So that one’s going to sting for a while.’’
The only other bona fide scoring chance came in the third when Shawn Thornton had time to rip off a wrister from the slot. Elliott, however, flashed his left pad and smothered the shot.
It took far too much effort for the Bruins to initiate the breakout. Too many passes in their own zone to clear the first Ottawa forechecker. Too many missed connections from defensemen to forwards. Not enough speed through the neutral zone to break up Ottawa’s gap.
“We’ve lost our transition game,’’ Julien said. “We’re not in synch. That part of it starts from the back end. You’ve got to move the puck quick. You’ve got to move it well. Your forwards have to be able to handle those passes, which I think they struggled with as well. When you’ve got speed and you put the puck in deep, you’ve got some speed to go retrieve it, and then you’re in synch. Tonight, we had none of that. Absolutely none.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.