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The Bruins and the Second Period

A few days after Thanksgiving, with four consecutive days off, the Boston Bruins are exactly where they want to be. The Black and Gold are atop the Eastern Conference, and they’re leading the Atlantic Division by three points with a game on hand over the second place Detroit Red Wings. They’re also red hot in Boston, and they haven’t lost on home ice since October 26th, going 9-0-2 over their last eleven games at the TD Garden. But even with that success, it hasn’t been perfect. So far this year, the Bruins’ biggest rival isn’t on the schedule: it’s the second period.

Overall, the Bruins are second in their conference in goal differential (goals scored minus goals against) with a +20, which makes the following statistics even more shocking. In October, the Bruins were +4 in the first period, +6 in the third, but only a +1 in the second period. In November, things got worse in the middle twenty minutes: Boston was +5 in the first, +3 in the third, and a -2 in the second. A few games can be a statistical aberration, but two months worth of games is a trend.

It’s that middle twenty minutes that has so often served as the barometer for the Bruins this year. In wins this season, Boston is a collective +8 in the second period. When they lose, it’s the exact opposite: during their losses, in the second period they’re a collective -9. Now, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the Bruins don’t put up great second period numbers when they lose (after all, no team puts up great numbers when they lose), but the Bruins aren’t even that bad in the third period of games they lose (they’re on a -5 for the third period in losses). It’s tough to keep winning in the NHL when you’re not putting together sixty minutes of solid hockey, and it’s only a matter of time before these subpar second periods catch up to the Bruins.

The Bruins and the Second Period
Despite being in first place in the Eastern Conference, the Bruins have struggled so far in the second period.
(Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

For the Bruins, if they don’t start strong, the second period seems to be when things really start to fall apart. If there’s game that’s emblematic of this problem, it has to be the November 27th game against the Red Wings. The Bruins entered the second period down only a goal on the road, and left the period down 4-0 with the game all but over. The Bruins played themselves out of that game like they were in a hurry, allowing all three second periods goals in about a four minute span. So what’s the deal with the second? Is it the long change? It’s certainly possible. However, it’s far more likely the mark of a team that knows they can get by not putting in 100% effort all the time. In their defense, it’s working so far. Despite a relatively lackluster performance in the second period more often than not, the Bruins are still in first place in the East, and they’re starting to separate themselves from the other teams in their division. While it might be ugly, and while it’s definitely frustrating, the Bruins are a team built for the playoffs, and they seem to only play the full 60 minutes when they have to.

Again, it’s a small criticism given how well this team has performed up to this point. Still, it’s tough not to wonder what other gear the Bruins have, especially given how well the core of this team played during their run to the Cup Finals last summer. The Bruins play the Canadiens this Thursday in Montreal. Let’s hope they show up for the second period.

Sean Gilpatrick

Sean Gilpatrick

Sean graduated from Roger Williams University in 2011 with a degree in English Literature. He's been watching the Bruins long enough to remember when Cam Neely wore skates instead of a suit. Sergei Samsonov is his spirit animal.
Sean Gilpatrick

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