BOSTON — Longtime Bruins General Manager Harry Sinden once made an especially disparaging observation about the Boston media’s analytical abilities: “Whenever we lose, the press says we played badly. And whenever we win, they say we played well.”

The reply to that, then and now: Nonsense.

There will always be nuances in this game that define a team’s performance, good or bad, beyond the mere final score.

To examine the Bruins of today, well, the results have been quite good lately – five of a possible six points since the All-Star break.

As for the quality of the team’s play, there is still plenty of room for improvement. The Bruins got an off day on Super Bowl Sunday and will practiced Monday to prep for the long-anticipated return of Milan Lucic, who comes to town Tuesday night with the big and rough Los Angeles Kings.

The Bruins then hit the road for a potentially pivotal six-game trip, opening Thursday in Winnipeg.

The Bruins have ended up in extra time in each of these last three games against a pair of teams (Toronto and Buffalo, twice) that, while very improved, are not likely to be taking part in this year’s playoffs.

All three games were quite competitive. But to end up with an OT loss, a shootout win and an OT win – on the controversial penalty shot call in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Sabres – suggests a Bruins team that just isn’t making enough plays. The chances are there; the finish is not.

On the plus side, their team defense and effort have been acceptable lately, and the accrued points were good enough to keep the team in third place in the Atlantic Division and fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

“I don’t think we need to be negative here all the time on the hockey club,” Coach Claude Julien said shortly after Brad Marchand’s confident penalty shot goal won Saturday’s game.

“We come back from a two-goal deficit in Buffalo (Thursday), (and) we don’t get that many accolades. But when we blow a two-goal lead (vs. Toronto last week), we hear about it.”

One thing that’s improved recently is the Bruins’ third-period play. There had been far too many slips in the final period, leading to numerous squandered points. But it’s been somewhat better recently, with the Bruins continuing to compete and avoid the costly mistakes.

“There’s been no panic,” said Julien. “When you don’t blow those kinds of leads, you can’t complain about your team. And when you don’t blow them, but you also had some (scoring) opportunities, that’s because we’re doing something right.”

Julien noted that his team had ample opportunities to score late in Saturday’s game and avoid the situation where the poor call on the penalty shot proved the difference.

“Maybe if we score on two of those really top-notch opportunities we’re sitting here and we didn’t even go into overtime,” Julien said. “We got a 3-1 win (and) everybody’s happy, nobody’s talking about that. So you’ve got to live in the moment.”

Goalie Tuukka Rask would understand better than most that a win doesn’t mean a team played great – and a loss doesn’t necessarily mean the opposite. He thinks the Bruins final 30 games could all be like the last couple.

“After that Toronto game, we really wanted to tighten up defensively and eliminate the mistakes and (opposition) scoring chances,” Rask said. “These last two games we’ve done that for the most part and been able to get the wins. As long as we keep things tight (in the defensive zone) and guys are not wide open all the time, that’s fine.

“But hopefully our confidence keeps building and we’re going to be able to make more plays from our end and in the offensive zone.”


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