Home is supposed to be where the heart is. For the Boston Bruins, it has been anything but this season.
Causeway Street has not been kind to the Black and Gold so far. They have just three points from their six contests at TD Garden (1-4-1) through the first month of the season. Were it not for the cellar-dwelling Columbus Blue Jackets, the only team this season yet to record a victory in their own barn, the Bruins would have the worst home record.
However, that can change rather quickly. Starting on Thursday night, Boston will spend the next five games in the comforts of TD Garden after a tough three-game road trip. They will welcome the likes of Colorado, Detroit, San Jose, Minnesota and Toronto to Beantown over the next 10 days, who have a combined record of 32-36-8. It will be welcome change of pace after facing a gauntlet of opponents last week including Dallas, Montreal and Washington.
For the Bruins, this is a prime opportunity to accumulate a good chunk of points in a short amount of time with two division games and two pedestrian Western Conference teams traveling across the country. What can Boston do to make this homestand a productive one?
Third Time Is (Not) The Charm
Bruins coach Claude Julien has seen his club slowly crumble in five of their six home games so far this year. The veteran bench boss told the media on Wednesday that his bunch cannot afford to repeat their mistakes of the past.
“I think for the most part, our team has been really, really good in starting off games, but the fact is we’ve let our game slip at times. It hasn’t taken much for other teams to get themselves back into games and make us pay for it. So I think the home situation we’re in now with this stretch is going to be about extending those good stretches of play and making them last as long as we can. That’s all about consistency.”
The numbers back up Julien’s statement. Boston has fared pretty well in the first periods of home games, outscoring their opponents 8-6. However in the final 40 minutes, the Bruins have a minus-8 goal differential scoring 12 goals but conceding 20, including 11 in the third period and overtime. That’s not a very good recipe for winning hockey games.
The good news for the Bruins is that all five of their opponents on their upcoming homestand rank in the bottom half in the NHL for third-period goals scored. Boston’s defense will have to make sure it stays that way to close out games strong than they have been.
The penalty kill has been the Achilles’ heel all season. The Bruins are not-so-proud owners of the League’s worst shorthanded unit, operating at a tad over 70-percent efficiency.
This just in: The Bruins' penalty kill is not good. 1-1.
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) November 8, 2015
A large part of that has been the killer instinct of opponents on Boston’s ice. They have killed off just 12 of 19 penalties against visitors to the TD Garden this season. That translates to a 63.2-percent success rate…which is cringe-worthy. It’s also the worst in the NHL for any team on home ice.
Their game against Dallas on November 3 is a prime example of what has killed the Bruins late in games. Boston entered the third period down 3-2, still within striking distance of the Western Conference’s best team. Torey Krug took a delay of game penalty just over a minute in, allowing Tyler Seguin to complete his hat trick and make it 4-2. Brad Marchand went to the sin bin for a hook seven minutes later and Alex Goligoski buried the Bruins with his power play tally soon after.
There’s no doubt that the absence of defenseman Dennis Seidenberg contributes to the unmitigated disaster that has been Boston’s penalty killing. The 34-year-old German led the Bruins in shorthanded time-on-ice and was in the League’s top-20 in that statistic among defensemen (209:54). His presence will be welcomed by all who don the Black and Gold upon his impending return from back surgery in September.
The schedule makers in the League office have presented the Bruins with a pretty good opportunity to right the ship on home ice. With American Thanksgiving fast approaching, the time may be now to start gobbling up points in the place that is supposed to be where the heart is.
Joe is a writer covering the Boston Bruins. He is a lifelong native of Massachusetts and is currently a content writer/manager for a newsletter at a Human Services Agency. Joe can be found on Twitter: @JoeCherryTHW