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Home Ice

Who's to blame for the Bruins' slump

Defensive lapses and flat play proved disastrous for the Bruins in their 3-0 loss to the Ducks. (AP Photos)

By Stu Hackel

The Boston Bruins, losers to Anaheim on Monday night, have now dropped four of their last five games and coach Claude Julien is catching heat because his system is too defensively oriented. The Washington Capitals, who just snapped an eight-game losing streak, have a collection of offensively talented skaters and their coach, Bruce Boudreau, has long been criticized because they too often play with little defensive awareness. The solution? B's GM Peter Chiarelli and Caps GM George McPhee should trade coaches.

Okay, that's not going to happen. But the scene in Boston was a bit ugly on Monday night, with chants to fire the coach coming from the stands and boos escorting the home team off the ice after the final buzzer. Even after their playoff collapse last spring, more is always expected from the Bruins in Boston, especially effort. But they haven't played well at home this season (only 19 of a possible 34 points), and they are now sitting in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins didn't seem particularly engaged at the critical moments of their 3-0 loss. Here's how the second Ducks goal developed from deep in Anaheim's zone, and watch how easily the Ducks' Teemu Selanne enters the zone, unchallenged by the B's defenseman Dennis Seidenberg who is hardly paying attention to him...

[vodpod id=Video.5167906&w=425&h=350&fv=hlg%3D20102011%2C2%2C488%26amp%3Bevent%3DBOS374%26amp%3Bserver%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fvideo.bruins.nhl.com%2Fvideocenter%2F%26amp%3Bpageurl%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fvideo.bruins.nhl.com%2Fvideocenter%2F%26amp%3Bnlwa%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fapp2.neulion.com%2Fvideocenter%2Fnhl%2F]

 

...as Selanne gets all the way to the top of the faceoff circle unmolested to take the shot that results in a rebound goal for Lubomir Visnovsky.

The third Ducks goal, this one shorthanded, also shows some pretty loose defending. Watch Corey Perry bust past Patrice Bergeron along the wall and cut to the net...

[vodpod id=Video.5167970&w=425&h=350&fv=hlg%3D20102011%2C2%2C488%26amp%3Bevent%3DBOS405%26amp%3Bserver%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fvideo.bruins.nhl.com%2Fvideocenter%2F%26amp%3Bpageurl%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fvideo.bruins.nhl.com%2Fvideocenter%2F%26amp%3Bnlwa%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fapp2.neulion.com%2Fvideocenter%2Fnhl%2F]....where everyone in white arrives too late to stop Perry from dragging the puck through Tim Thomas's crease and popping it into the open side.

The critics can yelp that Julien's team is too defensive, but it was the defensive breakdowns that hurt them. These breakdowns were coupled with an inability to create as many quality scoring chances as you'd expect when you look at the stats. The B's took an amazing 88 shots -- 45 on goal plus another 20 that missed and 23 that were blocked by the Ducks.

But most of Boston's shots came from distance as Anaheim kept the puck to the outside. The B's are not the fastest team in the NHL and that lack of speed prevents them from mounting a quick strike offense. It allows a good defensive team like Randy Carlyle's to set up shop in their zone, get in the passing and shooting lanes and force Boston to take what they are given. And when the Bruins are unable or unwilling to consistently get pucks and traffic to the net and create many second shot opportunities, the results can be disconcerting.

The characteristic Bruins enthusiasm either remained in the dressing room when the players came out on the ice or it waned after the Ducks scored their first goal in the game's opening minutes, allowing Anaheim to play a simple, safe road game the rest of the way.

Certainly, Johan Hiller in goal for the Ducks made some very good saves...

[vodpod id=Video.5168086&w=425&h=350&fv=hlg%3D20102011%2C2%2C488%26amp%3Bevent%3DBOS619%26amp%3Bserver%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fvideo.bruins.nhl.com%2Fvideocenter%2F%26amp%3Bpageurl%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fvideo.bruins.nhl.com%2Fvideocenter%2F%26amp%3Bnlwa%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fapp2.neulion.com%2Fvideocenter%2Fnhl%2F]....but for the most part, it was excellent team defense that shut Boston down. And the B's didn't help their own cause by playing with little passion. "It's unacceptable," Julien said. "This game's about emotion. I think that's the thing that really irked me."

The fans may grumble about the coach but, sometimes, you have to take the blame off him and put it on the players.

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