Last season without their star center, who sat out Saturday with a lower-body injury, Boston went 9-7-1 (with Zdeno Chara also out for all 17 of those games).
So it shouldn’t be a shock that the Bruins were 58.6 seconds away from defeating the Washington Capitals at TD Garden despite missing Bergeron and eight other injured players, including five other forwards.
We’ve come to expect the Bruins are unselfish to a fault, so it wasn’t a surprise to see them get outshot 44-23 and out attempted 66-45 by the high-powered Capitals in a 3-2 loss. Washington not only tied the game on a T.J. Oshie goal in the final minute but went on to get the extra point by winning the shootout 2-1.
Shootouts have not been the Bruins’ friend, as they’re now 0-4 in them and 2-for-16 in individual shootout attempts, so we didn’t expect anything more than what Boston gave Saturday in the post-overtime spectacle.
And then when the dust settled on the Bruins’ fifth loss in their last six games (1-2-3), something else unexpected happened. For maybe the first time this season, the Bruins weren’t talking as though it’s early in the season. They weren’t taking consolation in the one point in the standings in the face of all their injuries or Jaroslav Halak’s 42 saves or their three-point weekend (they won at Toronto 4-2 on Friday) or that they seemed to have escaped this game without any further injuries.
They were downright disappointed, maybe even more than they should have been under the circumstances.
“You want two points,” center Charlie Coyle said. “You take all the points you can get, but we want to be able to shut the door when we get the lead like that that late in the game. And especially for your goaltender, he played so well, you want to end things on the right note for him, he kept us in the game.
“Yeah, it’s tough to get points in this league, it is. But when we’re up like that, we’ve got to be able to come away with two. I think that’s the mindset we’ve got to have.”
The Bruins tried hard to turn the page on the failed run to Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final when they reported for duty this season. But through the tumultuous first six weeks of this season, win or lose, they seemed to always talk as though they were still in the exhibition season. Even-keeled is great, but indifference is a whole other thing. It’s certainly difficult to get frustrated over two points in October after having suffered the ultimate disappointment in June. But that’s the type of mentality that builds up a team’s character for another potentially long run.
To a man, the Bruins seemed they were finally in the 2019-20 season and treating the games with the utmost sense of urgency as a team. Charlie McAvoy was asked by a reporter about the satisfaction in having kept combined with Zdeno Chara to keep Alex Ovechkin off the score sheet.
“I think him ending up with zero is pretty nice. I can be happy with that, but just pretty pissed off that we kind of missed a big two points,” McAvoy said.
There’s no time for individual accolades in a loss. At least there isn’t on a team that has championship aspirations, on a team that cares about winning above all else and a team that is finally back to valuing the regular season and the precious points that add up and determine that extra home game at the end of a series or the better matchup that could reduce the grind of the postseason.
In their win at Toronto, the Bruins got back to playing their structure in the defensive zone. They lost some of that against Washington, but considering they lost their best defensive forward on game day and were on the second half of a back-to-back (just like the Capitals, who didn’t expend as much energy while getting punked Friday 5-2 by Montreal), they nearly took down the top team in the Eastern Conference. They’re back to playing Bruins hockey the best they can with their personnel issues.
And in the dressing room they’re back to talking like the Bruins, regretting that they didn’t slam the door when they could. They’re not panicking, they’re just looking for negatives to fix rather than searching for silver linings.
“The last few games [before this weekend> we haven’t been able to put in a full 60 minutes but the last couple games we’re getting close, we’ve been playing some good teams,” center David Krejci said. “But too bad we couldn’t extend the lead in the third, it was there for us, even in the shootout. You know it was there for us, we just couldn’t get it done tonight.”
With attitude like that, even a banged-up Bruins team is deep and talented enough to close out some more games over the course of the next several months.