I've been thinking about the 2006-2007 Bruins and although they have come a long way since the start of the season, overcoming a host of problems, it seems to me that they have consistently been plagued by one major difficulty throughout: throttle control.
No team can play every shift of every game at 100% throttle for 82+ games. There are natural ups and down during the season, and during each game.
I often wonder if individual players don't know, somewhere in the back of their minds, that if they go flat out every shift that they run the risk of sitting out much of the season with injury.
So when do you coast a bit? And when do you turn it on? As a team fighting for a playoff berth, as a team fighting for momentum in a game, and as a player.
Early in the season this was an obvious problem during games. They lacked confidence in everything from the system to each other to their place on the team and it really showed. One of the ways it showed was that they were clueless as a unit when to take it to the other team. Another way it showed was their reaction to another team turning up the heat on them, often utterly collapsing when pressed in their own zone. And another was their reaction to truly getting beat; I don't think it was coincidence that their big slide happened after the Nashville game. After the game the coach seemed perplexed. He said that they had played well. Yet they clearly had their asses handed to them! I think that game led to a team meltdown.
As the season progressed they got better during games, sometimes taking it to another team when behind, and collapsing less and less in their own zone. But I think the problem is still there, it just isn't as obvious.
When the season started they'd come out at 75% throttle for two periods and then try to turn it up in the 3rd. But they soon discovered that it was often too late by then. Then they went through a time when they'd dominate the other team in the first period, only to give up the lead in the other periods. Unable to go 100% all the time, they seem to me to always be searching for that opportune moment to turn up their throttle.
Despite all the talk about momentum and coming out desperate in the first period, the Bruins came out just a bit tentative against both the Caps and the Rangers. They were able to fight back against the Caps, but the Rangers are a much better team. Why didn't they come out at full throttle? Why didn't they stand up on the blue line? Playing defense isn't rocket science! Just be brutal when the other team enters the zone! Poke checks are nice, but you sometimes have to make them pay the price.
From here on out it should be easy. Full throttle all of the time, from start to finish. And when a player enters your zone, for God's sake throttle him!