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The Sky May Not be Falling

Posted By Matt Preston On Mar 20 2011 @ 9:27 pm In Boston Bruins | No Comments

A little over two weeks ago, the Boston Bruins were on top of the world. The Black-and-Gold were coming off a Trade Deadline where they were seen as having been big winners, were riding a season-high seven-game winning streak and were within striking distance of the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They were flat out playing good hockey and has weaseled their way into the serious Cup contenders conversation. As impressive as those seven games were, however, the next seven games were equally unimpressive.

After a being dominated on Saturday night by the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-2, at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the Bruins are now 1-3-3 in their last seven games, a stretch that included a season-high four game losing streak and has seen their Northeast Division lead diminish to an easily surmountable three points. Those Trade Deadline acquisitions have combined for just two goals and seven assists in 38 games played (Chris Kelly – 13 games, 0G, 2A/Tomas Kaberle – 13 games, 0G, 3A/Rich Peverley – 12 games, 2G, 2A) and the power play is 2-for-34 since adding the elusive puck moving defenseman (with no power play points for Kaberle). The team as a whole is playing bad hockey, looking sloppy and lethargic. What is worse, the team’s strongest assets – their goaltending and team defense – have been failing them.

The Bruins have given up an average of 3.71 goals during this stretch, which is well over a goal worse than their season average (2.39 goals against per game) and pails in comparison to the 1.43 they gave up during that seven game winning streak. Goaltender Tim Thomas, long since thought of as a shoe-in for this year’s Vezina Trophy, is just 1-2-2 in his last five starts, giving up 15 goals and was pulled in the second period of last night’s game against Toronto (though was later put back into the game). There just isn’t much good going on for the B’s of late.

In my younger years I would have seen a stretch such as this at this point in the season as a reason to write off any alleged post-season chances the Bruins may have had. With just 11 games left in the regular season, this is when teams are supposed to be hitting their stride, not limping to the finish. This year, however, for some reason I am still cautiously optimistic.

In the Claude Julien era, one noticeable trait of the Bruins is the fact they play suffocating, tough, playoff style hockey all season. The end result of playing in such a fashion is the Bruins will stand out early while other teams meander through the regular season. Then as the regular season winds down and the league starts ramp their game up for playoff hockey, teams close in on and surpass the Bruins. The Bruins are already playing at their top level and therefore can’t step up when everyone else does.

Many a time this season, the Bruins play has left a lot to be desired. They have suffered through a number of stretches this season in which they looked like a team that was just showing up at the rink for the next game on their schedule, playing with little to no effort or passion. To the contrary, they have also had a number of stretches like the seven-game winning streak when they looked as though no other team in the NHL could hold a candle to them. This year the Bruins have proven they can step up and skate with the best. This year the Bruins have that next level to go to.

If one of the downfalls of the Bruins in recent years is they never had the game to go to when the playoffs arrived and this year they seemingly have that next level, isn’t it possible that this rough stretch isn’t actually a sign of the Apocalypse? That the Bruins just may be all right?

There are not may people in this world that would call me an optimistic person, particularly when it comes to the Boston Bruins. There may be a lot about this team that I like, but they still have a lot to prove to me before I am the ultimate believer. There are, however, 11 games left in the regular season. If the Bruins can bring themselves to be that team again, playing like they did during that seven game winning streak or when they opened the season 7-2, why isn’t there reason to believe? For once the Boston Bruins have a greater level of play they are capable of as the playoffs near.

Can they get there? That is a different story.

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