The Bruins, now in the thick of the congested portion of their shortened season, were given Wednesday off.
It’s a fair bet that head coach Claude Julien put in some work, though.
While still 14-3-3 for the season and only one point behind first-place Montreal in the Northeast Division/Eastern Conference standings, the B’s are coming off uncharacteristic back-to-back losses entering tonight’s game against Toronto (7:05, NESN, WBZ-FM 98.5).
Julien’s chief concern is undoubtedly his team’s sudden defensive drop-off.
After allowing only nine goals over a 6six-game winning streak, the Bruins have surrendered eight in the past two games – Sunday’s 4-3 loss to Montreal and Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime defeat at Washington. Tuukka Rask, who had given up only seven goals over his five-game winning streak, has allowed all eight goals in the past two games.
Had the B’s been as tight as usual with and without the puck, they wouldn’t have given away consecutive third-period leads, which is also highly unusual. The Bruins, 32-0-0 last season when leading at the end of two periods, are 5-2-1 in that situation this year.
Julien tinkered a bit with personnel after Sunday’s loss, but with the exception of the B’s roaring to a 3-0 lead in Washington, the results weren’t especially positive.
The usual defense pairs of Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid morphed at times into Chara-McQuaid and Ference-Boychuk, while Dennis Seidenberg skated almost exclusively with rookie Dougie Hamilton. Boychuk, Seidenberg and Hamilton were all minus-2 against the Caps, and the Seidenberg-Hamilton duo was beaten by Eric Fehr for the Caps’ overtime goal.
Meanwhile, the curious case of Chris Kelly (1-4–5, minus-7) and Rich Peverley (3-3–6, minus-8) remains unsolved. An outstanding two-way tandem in even strength and penalty-killing situations since the 2011 playoffs, Kelly and Peverley are struggling at both ends of the ice. Teamed on Sunday night with Daniel Paille, they were on the ice for the Canadiens’ tying and winning goals in the third period. With Chris Bourque (1-3–4, minus-6), a healthy scratch against Montreal, back on their line at Washington, the Bourque-Kelly-Peverley trio was on the ice for the Caps’ second and third goals.
Around the boards
Hamilton, now 3-9–12 (minus-3) for the season, has a four-game points streak (2-2–3). … Brad Marchand (12-6–18), tied with linemate Patrice Bergeron for the Bruins’ points lead, is 2-3–5 over a three-game streak. … Bourque scored the only goal and Rask made 21 saves on Feb. 2 at the Air Canada Centre, giving the B’s a 1-0 win in the teams’ only previous meeting so far. … The Bruins are 7-0-1 in their past eight against Toronto, including a 6-0-0 sweep last year. Kelly scored the decisive goal in all three wins at TD Garden. … The Leafs trail the B’s by one point in the Northeast standings after Wednesday night’s 5-4 win at home game against Ottawa. Toronto is 9-4-0 on the road. … Scoring leader Nazem Kadri (10-14–24) took a five-game, 4-5–9 streak into Wednesday’s game. … Ex-Bruin Phil Kessel (6-14–20) is only tied for fourth on the Leafs’ goal-scoring list, but he’s second in points and his linemate, James van Riemsdyk, is No. 1 with 13 goals.