Tampa loss a stark reminder B’s can’t just ‘coast through games’ at season’s end

SUNRISE, FL – It sure sounds like the Bruins are going to take plenty away from effectively getting their tails kicked by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Bruins were shut down by the Lightning on Tuesday night as the two hockey clubs pulled into a virtual tie for the top spot in the Atlantic Division with just a few more days to go in the NHL regular season. The goaltending was subpar, the defense allowed some really good scoring chances on top of 17 shots on net allowed in the first period and the offensive couldn’t hit the net with any of the scoring chances that they did have against Tampa.

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So the Bruins went back to work on Wednesday with a full practice at the BB&T Center home of the Florida Panthers, and brought with them some ideas and adjustments they can make from a couple of sloppy back-to-back efforts in Philly and Tampa Bay.

“Some of it might be physical, but I think a lot of it might be mental,” said David Backes. “It’s staying with it, staying with that edge and staying with our game. It’s not something where you flip a coin, flip pucks out to the neutral zone, hope for a good bounce and go get your breakaway to score on it. We need to play the puck management, really get it in there and grind teams down.

“We have tons of skill where we can make plays off the rush, but that’s not all of our game, that’s only a part of our game. We can grind teams down in their zone as well. That takes a lot of mental concentration and mental fortitude to stay on that shift after shift, night after night. We need to give those guys credit that have done that up to 79 games this year, and the rest of us that haven’t played all those games then maybe it’s our turn to grab the reins and say ‘I can do a little bit more of the work tonight.’

Backes mentioned shorter shifts as an area where the Bruins could improve from times on ice that have grown a little elongated and unwieldy recently, and Brad Marchand said the dose of reality handed them by Tampa might not be the worst thing in the world. Certainly being at the tail end of a 39-day stretch where the Bruins have played 21 games is difficult, but the Bruins leading scorer cautioned there was far too much “coasting through” by far too many Bruins players that had worked tirelessly to get the Black and Gold into first place.

“We have to know that even though we’re a good team and we’re in a pretty good spot, we have to come to play every night. We can’t take nights off. We can’t think we’re going to be able to coast through games because we’ve won games in the past,” said Marchand. “We have to make sure we manage the game the right way and manage pucks at the right times. We didn’t do that last night. We didn’t bring our ‘A’ game and we kind of slept through it a little bit. They were hungry and we weren’t ready to match their tenacity and their game plan, and it bit us in the end.

“We have to be at our best every night, lay our bodies on the line and give it our all regardless of whether it’s Game 1 or Game 82. We need to be ready for that in the next game. We can’t expect to be down a couple of goals every game and come back, especially against a good team like Tampa. We didn’t deserve to win, and most of the team when you don’t deserve it, then you are not going to win.”

Cassidy said he tossed around the notion of cancelling Wednesday’s practice in Florida to give some of his fatigued players some time off the ice, but didn’t want to negatively impact the B’s players that clearly needed the on-ice work this late in the season.

Now the Bruins turn to the still-alive Panthers in the playoff hunt, and should once again be faced with a desperate team as the B’s look for different ways to restore the high level of execution, bank as many points as possible and still win an Atlantic Division they’ve had their eye on for the better part of the last four months.

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