Boston Bruins: Slow Starts Emerging as a Mild Flaw Early in the 2013 Season

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Boston Bruins: Slow Starts Emerging as a Mild Flaw Early in the 2013 Season
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Boston Bruins’ last two games are both living proof that the NHL has the right idea awarding one point to each party when a game cannot be settled within the standard 60-minute time frame.

With Monday’s 2-1 shootout triumph over Winnipeg and Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime falter at the New York Rangers, they have lived through the mixed bags that come with a regulation tie on each end of the spectrum.

Taking two of three points ought to mean feeling content and fortunate to get the better part of the package, but still wishing one could have put the opposition away a little earlier. Settling for the single point ought to have a team simultaneously recognizing what it has to build upon while assessing what denied them that second point.

In the first two games of this first full week of the 2012-13 campaign, the same primary shortcoming yielded differing could-be-better/could-be-worse scenarios. The Bruins fell behind in the tone-setting minutes of their bouts with the Jets and Rangers alike and clawed back for a cumulative three equalizers.

Those three equalizers ultimately amounted to three points out of a possible four gained, but also three points distributed to Eastern Conference cohabitants.

Perhaps if they had been more energized in the opening two minutes of Monday’s action, the Bruins would not have had to leave it up to one-on-ones to polish off the Jets. And maybe they would have sent Winnipeg away empty-handed.

Maybe if they had not let Marian Gaborik loose in the fifth and seventh minutes of Wednesday’s visit to Madison Square Garden, they would be harboring a 3-0-0 record while imposing an acrid 0-3-0 start on the Rangers.

In the wake of his club’s partially rewarded comeback, Boston head coach Claude Julien told reporters on the scene, “It could have been worse. That first 10 minutes is obviously what cost us the game tonight. It’s unfortunate. But what I liked about our team is our resiliency to get back and start playing the way we should have.”

Between Gaborik’s two unanswered goals at 4:36 and 6:49, the Bruins issued their first two tests to Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist. They were fairly manageable 60-foot and 39-foot wristers via Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, respectively.

Interestingly enough, Boston began stepping up its threat each time the game went to a special teams segment. Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton each pelted Lundqvist while Brian Boyle was serving a sentence for tripping called at 9:56―hence Julien’s reference to a slipshod “first 10 minutes” as opposed to a stronger showing thereafter.

Kelly and Gregory Campbell each chalked up a shorthanded bid, Campbell’s coming from 12 feet, in the waning minute of the opening frame. In the tone-setting phases of the second period, Milan Lucic’s 10-foot backhander immediately preceded drawing a slashing penalty on Marc Staal.

By then, the Bruins were finally aiming to beat Lundqvist the same ways they beat him in a 3-1 win at TD Garden last Saturday. During Staal’s sentence, their persistence in that department was rewarded when a screening Brad Marchand tipped home Hamilton’s skipping-stone shot from the straightaway point.

Boston reiterated that deflections and rebounds from a short distance are the way to go when Lucic buried his own rebound for a 2-2 equalizer. But a lack of net-front presence, or much presence on Rangers property whatsoever, in the earlier phases of the evening had effectively forced the Bruins to cram later.

To be sure, a 1-0-1 record when shedding first blood is not worth much of a gripe. Even so, through three games, the Bruins have afforded themselves only one chance to flaunt their forte from last season.

Boston has not held the upper hand in any of its last 125 minutes and 27 seconds of action. And this is a group with largely the same personnel as a 2011-12 team that was an NHL-best 31-5-0 when scoring first, 23-2-0 when leading after 20 minutes and 32-0-0 when ahead at the second intermission.

In addition, each deficit the Bruins have authorized in the first period of the last two games has matched the number of points it has given to the adversary. Winnipeg led 1-0 early and eventually claimed a shootout point while Gaborik single-handedly spawned a 2-0 advantage for the Rangers before completing his hat trick and seizing the two-point package.

As rewarding as the resiliency Julien alludes to can be, the Bruins do not want to make a habit of juggling torches this way. They are, after all, the highest measuring pole for testing the resiliency of other teams.

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