And it showed them sitting 14th in the Eastern Conference after a 2-4-1 start. “You can’t sugar-coat it, it’s reality,” Bruins coach Dave Lewis said Wednesday from Boston. “We didn’t play with team continuity, special teams were no good, defensive zone coverage was weak. At times it was strong but that doesn’t cut it. It’s a result-orientated business.”
A win over Montreal at home on Thursday night would go a long way towards relieving some of that pressure.
“You don’t want to fall too far behind the pack,” said Lewis.
Hanging up the standings in the dressing room for players to see every day is just the latest motivational tool Lewis has tried to get his team going.
“The whole message is ‘When you’re a player, I want you to be aware of your environment on the ice,”‘ Lewis explained. “‘Whether you’re sitting on the bench or playing a lot, you have to aware of your environment.’ And the same thing applies in the locker-room. You have to be aware of your standings, aware of your league, of what’s going on.
“I want the guys to know who has the best power play. I want the guys to know who has the best goals-against. I want them to think about it.”
Lewis has more tricks up his sleeve. Years coaching alongside Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman has given him a long list of things to do.
“I’ll probably steal a page from Scotty’s book and ask some pop quizzes, like ‘What team has the best goals-against or what team is second in points in our conference.’ Stuff like that to make sure they’re aware of their environment outside of the ice.”
Lewis is in the process of also adding a board in the dressing room which shows the league rankings for special teams, goals-against average, all kinds of statistics.
“We’re going to put it up in an area where everybody can see it – media and players,” said Lewis. “You want them aware of it. Winning hockey teams are aware of a lot of different things and pay attention to the little things that really make a difference.”
That special teams board isn’t particularly pretty. The Bruins were ranked 25th on the power-play before Wednesday’s games and were dead last, 30th overall, in penalty killing.
“The best penalty killer has to be your goaltender,” said Lewis. “And then you have to fall within a structure and I think at times we’ve had some structure but we haven’t got the job done and that’s one area that we’ve talked about.”
The goaltending has been an issue. The Bruins are 29th in the NHL with an average of 4.00 goals against per game. Hannu Toivonen is 2-3-0 with a 3.72 GAA and .884 save percentage while Tim Thomas checks in at 0-1-1 with a 4.40 GAA and .866 save percentage.
“Nobody’s established themselves as the guy who is the go-to guy or the guy that can take the ball and run with it,” said Lewis. “And the thing with me is that goaltenders are supposed to make the saves they’re supposed to make, give us a chance to win.
“You don’t have to make spectacular highlight saves, just makes saves that everybody in the locker-room think you should make. And we haven’t been consistent on that yet.”
The Bruins had a huge roster turnover in the off-season and the case could be made that it takes time to come together. They’re also banged up with injuries to defenceman Brad Stuart and winger Marco Sturm, but Lewis wants none of it.
“I had a talk with the team the other day about excuses,” he said. “We’ve got some injuries now with some key guys out but what it does is give opportunities to other guys. I don’t want in any way at all to make any excuses. Chemistry is important and we’re trying to establish that. We’re trying to establish a culture that we as coaches think is important for winning.
“We’re trying to establish all these things and it’s taking time.”