BRIGHTON, Mass. - Bruce Cassidy is obviously pleased that the Bruins have jumped out to a 5-1-0 start this season, but the B's head coach also knows the team is playing with fire when it comes to their lackluster second periods.
Sure, the Bruins are outscoring opponents by a 4-3 margin in second periods this season, so it doesn't appear to be a big deal statistically. But the B's have also scored first in five of their six games thus far this season, and that plays into a bit of the middle 20-minute malaise that has been one of Boston's weak spots in an otherwise encouraging start to the season.
Cassidy went so far as to call the second period effort "exceptionally poor" in Monday's win over the Ducks as they were outshot 16-6, and admitted after Wednesday's practice that they've been able to get away with the lollygagging as of late against less dangerous teams like the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks. Certainly the superior play of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak in the early going has saved them as well, but that isn't going to be sustainable against a higher caliber of competition.
In fact that's going to change with Atlantic Division rivals in the Lightning and the Maple Leafs on the docket over the next week.
"We could probably fall behind [on the scoreboard] and then we'd see a better second [period]. I don't want to go down that road if we can help it because we pride ourselves on starting on time. [It's about] the details of the game and getting their attention," said Cassidy. "This might happen [against Tampa Bay] or on Saturday. We may start seeing teams that aren't as offensively challenged as the last few that we've had to let them off the hook.
"We might learn just because of the competition that we're playing. I don't think it's anything that they're not aware of. They lose their focus, they lose their details, the line changes are slower and the puck management is softer. Some of these things they kind of lose their way a little bit. Some of it is on us to get their attention, but some of it is on them that it's part of their responsibility as well when they step on the ice. I'm not losing my mind over it, but I know it's something that's going to bite us in the ass at some point."
Will the Bruins tighten up their second period issues, or will it be the fatal flaw that sinks them in some ultra-important games against Tampa Bay and Toronto over the next few days? We'll soon find out as the real regular season begins to get going with Boston's traditional rivals that can expose weaknesses that have been masked over the first few weeks of the regular season.
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