NHL playoffs: Bruins are frustrated offensively in series with Capitals

April 14, 2012

After totaling a pair of goals in the series’ first two games, the Boston Bruins are frustrated.

But it isn’t with Braden Holtby, the Washington Capitals’ rookie goalie, they said. The source of their frustration wears black and gold.

“At this stage of the year, you would like to see more net front traffic and you would like to see that puck going to net a little bit more, with guys heading in that direction,” Boston Coach Claude Julien said after the Capitals’ 2-1 double overtime win Saturday. “We don’t have a good enough commitment in that area to win hockey games. . . . We certainly haven’t made [Holtby’s] life as miserable as much as we can when we’re on top of our game.”

That sentiment was echoed throughout the stunned home dressing room at TD Garden, where Holtby stopped 72 of the 74 shots he faced in the first two NHL playoff starts of his career.

“It’s about getting there, getting into the dirty area, getting in front of the net, screening him, making his job harder than it is right now,” center Patrice Bergeron said. “You know he’s making some good saves, but we still can be better and make it harder for him.”

On the rare occasion when Bergeron and his fellow Boston forwards ventured into those prime scoring areas Saturday, Julien lamented, they allowed themselves to get shoved out of position by Capitals defensemen such as John Carlson, Karl Alzner and Mike Green.

“The goaltender is seeing a lot because their [defensemen] are pushing us to the outside, and we’re letting them do that to us,” Julien said.

Clearing the crease, however, is not all the Capitals have done to get the defending champions off their game and send the series back to Washington tied at a game apiece. In fact, the Bruins’ list of concerns is long and growing. Among them:

●In Game 1, Zdeno Chara and his Boston teammates lived up to their reputation as one of the NHL’s toughest lineups. But they did not deliver as many big hits in Game 2 or show as much commitment to finishing their checks as they did Thursday, when they wore down the Capitals by outhitting them, 40-29.

In Game 2, it was the Bruins who were outhit, 41-36.

“We got to get back to playing our hockey,” Boston defenseman Greg Zanon said. “We got to start battling, getting in there and just really battling, out-battling them and imposing our will.”

●Julien was also peeved because, as he said, his players got beat too many times in puck battles along the walls, in the faceoff circle and in front of the net. Proof, the coach pointed out, came on the game-winner scored by Nicklas Backstrom.

“We win the draw, they outmuscle us to the puck, they get a second effort to make a pass to the right area and they score a goal,” Julien said. “We lost that battle and we lost the game.”

●The Capitals also have done an impressive job of helping their 22-year-old goaltender by blocking shots. Through two games, they’ve turned back a total of 49 Boston shot attempts. In Game 2, 11 Capitals, including skilled winger Alexander Semin, blocked at least one shot. The effort was led by Karl Alzner (5) and Roman Hamrlik (4).

By comparison, the Bruins have blocked 23 shots in the series.

“They’re coming at our points hard and not allowing our guys to tee it up,” Julien said of the Capitals’ efforts. “When you just allow guys to take wrist shots, all of a sudden it’s easy for Ds to step up in front of it and block it. I don’t think they want to block slap shots from [Dennis] Seidenberg, [Johnny] Boychuk, Chara. If they tee it up, I’m not sure they are going to want to block it as much.”

●Washington has been generous in giving Boston power-play opportunities. The Bruins, however, have failed to take advantage. They are 0 for 6 in the series and have mustered only nine shots after coming up empty on both opportunities Saturday.

Julien and his players have much to sort out if they want to regain command of this series. The tone in the Bruins’ room, though, remained resolute.

“We’ll go on the road, where it’s obviously a tougher challenge,” Benoit Pouliot said. “But we’re strong mentally, strong physically. It’s not that we played too bad here. Maybe the second game was a little bit worse than the first. But if we can go there and get the momentum right away, we’ll be fine.”

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