‘Flat' loss with almost full Bruins lineup shows they still have work to do

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BOSTON – Well, the Bruins learned the hard way they’re still going to have to grind even if they have close to their full roster back.

On a night where Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Jake DeBrusk returned from injuries and gave Boston close to a full, healthy roster for the first time in months, the Bruins didn’t look like an energized group buoyed by their returning players. Instead, it looked like a team that thought they’d simply roll over the underachieving New Jersey Devils now that most of their pieces were back where they’d been envisioned to be earlier in the season.

The opposite happened as the B’s were flat out of the gate, fell behind early in the game and basically chased the Devils for 60 minutes in a frustrating, mostly lifeless 5-3 loss to  New Jersey at TD Garden. When combined with the final 40 minutes of last Sunday’s loss to Carolina just ahead of the Christmas break, the Bruins have now played five straight periods of mostly crap hockey headed into next week’s showpiece Winter Classic event at Notre Dame.

That should have everybody in Black and Gold on high alert at this point on a night that should have been of the feel-good variety for the Bruins.

“You’re getting guys back [healthy] and okay here we go it’s going to happen for us. I think that certainly, probably was on some guy’s minds. Jersey’s struggling a little but, okay, we’re going to just go out and show up,” said Bruce Cassidy. “They played us hard last year every game even though we only beat them by a goal, so they’re a good hockey club.

“I haven’t watched them that much this year only because we haven’t seen them until now, but they certainly were more prepared. So give them credit. That’s on us as a staff to get our guys ready, and we failed there tonight, obviously. We weren’t their match early on.”

The Bruins were chasing the game from early on when Boston’s top line gave up a goal to the Devils in the first minute of the game. Blake Coleman took a shot at Brad Marchand and took him out of the play, and that opened things up for Damon Severson to snipe one home as the trailer on a play where the B’s only had four guys playing defense.

Then it was a bad bounce off Brandon Carlo on a Kyle Palmieri point blast that ricocheted past Jaroslav Halak, and the Bruins were down 2-0. The B’s scratched for goals in the second and third period, but Coleman stepped up to make the play of the game blocking Torey Krug’s point shot and then scoring on a breakaway at the other end of the ice. There were still details to work out and minutes to be played once that happened in the third period, but the Bruins were essentially done at that point given their difficulties generating offense against New Jersey.

“I think we got on our heels right away. Obviously it’s going to happen in a game where you’re going to fall behind, but it’s all about how you respond. It was pretty disappointing obviously the way we got flat instead of trying to find some energy somehow,” said Patrice Bergeron. “I think [Sean] Kuraly line they gave us some good energy a few times. You’ve got to feed off of it and you know, we didn’t follow up with [enough].

“Obviously there are a few times of the game I thought we had some really good shifts and got the better of them, but, you know, for the most part [it was] not long enough.”

It’s now two games in a row where the Bruins have lost in regulation and played pretty poorly in the process. Some of it can be chalked up to new, healthy players entering into the mix after missing a considerable portion of time, and certainly there is a rust factor with guys like Chara, Miller and DeBrusk that needs to be considered.

But Thursday’s loss to the Devils should serve as a cold dose of reality to the Bruins that they’ll need to continue working hard, grinding and paying attention to details even if they have close to their full lineup ready to compete. After all, it remains to be seen how the B’s stack up with the rest of the Eastern Conference this season given how incomplete their roster has been from the very beginning days of the season.

A passive, disinterested loss to the Devils on Thursday night should be a clear indicator that the Bruins still have some work to do regardless of who’s in the lineup again. 

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