BOSTON — The Bruins were up against it Thursday night against the New York Islanders. The B’s were playing their second game in as many nights and their third game in four nights to begin the week. Yet for the first 20 minutes it looked like the B’s seemed ready to take on that challenge and perhaps conquer it.
However, with less than a minute to play in the first, Josh Bailey scored to give the Isles a 1-0 lead. It was a rotten way to end one of the club’s best first periods in a while, and that’s pretty lofty praise considering they outscored their opponents 6-0 in the first period in the two games prior.
It could have also served as a microcosm for the game. Despite dropping the 2-1 decision to the Islanders in a game in which the Bruins certainly didn’t have their best game, players and head coach Claude Julien were taking positives out of the game, despite the outcome.
Maybe they should have just sung Jackson and Browne’s “Running on Empty” in the dressing room after instead and let it end there.
“I think we felt good about ourselves after the first period in this room,” David Krejci said. “We talked about it. Maybe we kind of ran out of gas a little bit [in] the second and third, but then again it was the third game in four nights. We got back last night from New York, but I think the effort was there. We wanted to obviously win. It just didn’t happen today.”
It was clear, however, that the Bruins weren’t necessarily putting themselves in position to score those goals in the second and third periods. After putting 16 shots on goal in the first, the Bruins ended the night with just 31. The passing in all three zones was much choppier in the final 40 minutes, and the skating wasn’t particularly pretty, either.
“I thought the first period was the best first period in a long time,” Julien said. “And the rest of the game, although they were the better team for the most of it, I just felt that I could see our guys were trying, we just ran out of gas. Third game in four nights and the effort, will was there, but [New York] did a great job.”
Is this simply a byproduct of fatigue? It certainly may be. The Bruins are in the midst of a hellacious stretch right now, and there’s no doubt that’s taking a toll on them. It’s nothing really new, though, at least not this season. Thursday marked the end of the final stretch of three games in four days for the Bruins. Their record in the third game of those stretches? It’s now 1-6-1.
However, if they’re going to contend for a Stanley Cup, which is what they obviously want to do, they’re going to have to continue to fight through this fatigue and anything of the sort once the playoffs arrive.
They attempted to do that on Thursday night and just couldn’t. They looked the part of a tired hockey team. While the Bruins insist they don’t want to use fatigue as an excuse, it continues to creep back into their postgame lexicons.
“I thought the last few games — a number of games — we battled through them,” B’s captain Zdeno Chara said. “I thought tonight we really battled hard, we really did. It was the third game in four nights. You could tell that we were towards the end maybe running a little bit out of energy, but I thought we started the game really well.”
Of course, the injury situation isn’t really helping the Bruins’ cause. They played Thursday night without Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron for the first time all year, and their absence was certainly felt. When you take two players who do so much for a team in all three zones, you’re likely going to see a drop-off in production and execution.
“We have two top guys out of the lineup,” Jaromir Jagr said. “It’s not easy to win hockey games against a very good hockey club without [two of your] top guys. I thought we did a pretty good job, and hopefully those guys come back pretty soon.
“I cannot wait for when we’re all healthy. It’s going to be a different game. “
That will be something else if and when it gets here. Until then and until the playoffs, the Bruins certainly seem content with taking positives out of games, even if they’re losses.
Maybe that’s the fuel they’ll need come playoff time, especially if they’re worried about running out of gas.