There was a time when closing out games was the Bruins’ thing.

Zdeno Chara and his Andean condor wing span shut down comeback attempts very well for over a decade. And even after Chara departed last season, the Bruins managed to hang on to leads better than they have over the past week and a half.

Whether it’s simply an anomalous rut in the road or not, the trend is concerning. In four straight games, the Bruins have allowed goals while protecting late leads. In three (Vegas, Columbus and Los Angeles), the opposition’s goalie was pulled for the extra skater. They took late penalties in both Anaheim and Columbus, creating a six-on-four against the Blue Jackets.

In Vegas, the failure didn’t matter much. They had a three-goal lead when Jonathan Marchessault scored, but David Pastrnak got it right back with an empty-netter anyway.

But in the others, they lost something tangible. Trevor Zegras’ late goal in Anaheim hung a regulation loss on the Bruins. They lost the second point to the Kings when Andreas Athanasiou scored in overtime. And even though they beat the Jackets in a shootout, the late goal against cost them a regulation win, a standings tiebreaker.

More costly than any lost ground in the standings (they have a 14-point cushion over the closest non-playoff team) is the possible psychological effect of repeatedly squandering late leads can have on a team.


After a day off from practice on Tuesday, the issue was addressed in the team meeting before Wednesday’s practice.

“For me, it’s what is the common theme here?,” said Coach Bruce Cassidy. “Is it puck management? It has been in a few of them. We haven’t been as good in the circle in those situations to start. Maybe get first touch and get the clear and put us out of harm’s way right away. But at the end of the day, it’s part of playing hockey, closing out games.

“And I don’t want to say it’s in our heads, but we’re aware of it. We have to be aware of it. Come crunch time, you’re going to be in a lot of those situations. And typically, we have been good. But I’m also not going to overreact for a 10-day stretch of some goals late. But we’ve got to address it, and fix it.

“I don’t know if it’s an automatic fix of ‘We’re just going to win the next draw,’ and that will solve it. Because we have had some situations this year where we did win the draw and we weren’t able to put the puck and the game away. In Colorado (in which they allowed a late tying goal and lost in OT), we had some empty net opportunities. I think it’s as much puck management as anything. We have to make sure we bear down when we do get a touch and make sure it gets out and get it into the other team’s net if that opportunity presents itself, or at least out in the neutral zone where we can regroup.”

• Taylor Hall took a maintenance day but Cassidy said he will play on Thursday against the Blackhawks. Matt Gzelcyk, who missed Monday’s game with an upper body injury, practiced and is expected back in on Thursday.

BLACKHAWKS: Norm Maciver is returning to the Chicago Blackhawks after he was hired as associate general manager under new GM Kyle Davidson.

Maciver, 57, had been working as the director of player personnel for the Seattle Kraken.

Maciver will oversee Chicago’s scouting operation, reporting directly to Davidson. Before he was hired by the expansion Kraken, Maciver worked for the Blackhawks for 14 years in a variety of roles, including assistant GM, director of player personnel and director of player development.

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