Bruins coach Jim Montgomery carves team in intense pre-road trip practice: ‘Wake the f— up!’

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BRIGHTON, Mass. — On Monday morning, Jim Montgomery was still annoyed with the way the Boston Bruins had given away two points in their 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers two days earlier. The coach’s mood soured further when his players began practice by fumbling the drill he and his staff had devised.

Montgomery blew his whistle. He ordered his players to report to the end line in two groups. They were to sprint from one end of Warrior Ice Arena to the other, four times each.

“Wake the f— up!” Montgomery screamed to his players.

“I hated the way we finished the game,” Montgomery explained. “It was a good hockey game. It was playoff intensity. Physicality to it. I don’t think I’ve done a good enough job of teaching the details and game management that we need. And then we weren’t prepared to practice today. So that’s why. Those things coupled together — not ready to start practice on time, guys not knowing what we’re supposed to be doing — I take responsibility for it. But there’s got to be some responsibility on the players too.”

NHL teams do not regularly have bag skates. It is especially out of the ordinary for Montgomery. He is fully bought in on sports science and the importance of pacing players through the demands of the regular season.

But Montgomery, who is usually overflowing with praise and positivity for his players, sensed that Monday was time to play bad cop. The Bruins have 10 games left to get their act together for the stretch that matters. They need every bit of runway.

“I don’t think our team’s ready yet for the playoffs,” said Montgomery. “We’ve got to continue to get tested. And we’re going to get tested.”

The Bruins have lost their past two games in regulation. That hasn’t happened since Dec. 22 and 23, when they dropped back-to-back games to the Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild before the holiday break.

Their troubles are not limited to the past two games. They are 10-7-6 since the All-Star break. Only 10 teams have won fewer games since then. Nine of them are outside the playoff field.

Within this segment, everything about the Bruins screams average to poor: 2.91 goals per game (No. 21), 3.04 goals allowed per game (No. 16), 18.2 percent power-play efficiency (No. 22), 79.4 percent penalty-killing rate (No. 15). 

Montgomery is tired of watching players who fall short of their expected thresholds. Jobs are now at stake.

“Who are the guys that are going to continue to manage the game, manage the puck, protect the puck?” Montgomery asked. “Who’s going to win battles? Who’s going to be first on pucks? We saw some guys who didn’t want to be first on pucks last game.”

The last is a damning statement. Montgomery did not identify who he had in mind.

By the Bruins’ measurements, they allowed five odd-man rushes to the Flyers in the third period. The most distressing one led to the winning goal. 

Danton Heinen controlled the puck in the offensive zone on the right-side wall. He tried to send a low-to-high backhand pass to Brandon Carlo at the right point. Instead, Heinen gave the puck away to Tyson Foerster, triggering a three-on-two counterattack. After playing give-and-go with Ryan Poehling, Foerster snapped the winner over Linus Ullmark’s glove.

“We tie the game,” Montgomery said of Heinen’s third-period goal. “Then we give up another two (rushes) in the last three minutes and they go ahead.”

Montgomery regularly notes how the Bruins are not built to be a rush team. They rely on proper puck placement in the offensive zone, forechecking efficiently and staying above attackers when possession changes. If any of those components withers, everything falls apart.

“When we play within our structure, we play behind teams, we play above teams coming back and we take care of pucks, we control a lot of momentum swings,” veteran Brad Marchand said. “We’re able to nip them in the bud a little quicker than we do when we start forcing it and giving up odd-man rushes. That’s an easy way to give teams opportunities, momentum swings and allow them to get back in the game.”

Marchand is one member of a misfiring cohort. The captain has one goal in his last 15 games. He has not scored a power-play goal since Jan. 13.

David Pastrnak has gone without a goal in four of his past five games. He has one power-play goal in his past 24 games.

Trent Frederic has one goal in his past 15 games. The No. 3 right wing played just 10:23 against the Flyers. It was his second-lightest workload of the season, only beating out a 9:27 day at the office on Nov. 4.

Collectively, meanwhile, the Bruins are falling short of the commitment required to score. It is not going to be easy on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers, who could be a Round 2 opponent. Life won’t be fun the following night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a possible first-round rival.

“Checking has elevated in the league,” said Montgomery. “The league usually goes up right after the All-Star break. I find it’s on to another level here the last two games. We were going up against one of the best defensive teams in the league in Philadelphia. So it’s going to be harder. Do we lose our patience and start giving up odd-man rushes? Or do we continue to fight, have second and third effort and play the right way and get a greasy goal to win a hockey game? That’s what I’m looking for in the Florida game and the Tampa game.”

(Photo: Winslow Townson / Getty Images)

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