After a month-long love affair with the local football team on their championship run, the city of Boston once again sets their sights on a reigning champion in the Boston Bruins.
And it seems life has not been all too sweet for the Bruins while their fans were away.
After struggling to start the season, the Bruins dominated the next two months, but have been on a downward turn since the calendar turned to 2012 as their play has leveled out the past two months. Having not won back-to-back games in more than a month, Boston faced a tall order Tuesday night after coming off a dramatic shootout win over the Nashville Predators in their last contest to facing the top-seeded New York Rangers at the TD Garden in Boston.
Suffering a heartbreaking loss the first time these two teams met this season, the Bruins got the early jump on the Rangers, controlling the place of play the opening 10 minutes of the first period. Fortunes changed for the home, though, when captain Zdeno Chara was whistled for delay of game as he picked up the puck behind the Rangers net after he was knocked down on the forecheck. On the ensuing power play, a struggling Rangers power play completed a nifty sequence of passes that pulled Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas well out of position and left Ryan Callahan wide open in front of the net for an easy lay-up and a 1-0 Rangers’ lead.
The normally resilient Bruins, 13-13-2 on the season coming into the night in games they trail 1-0, cowered and the Rangers took control of the game. Thomas, held strong in net, keeping the surging Rangers off the board until a puck thrown to the front of the net by defenseman Ryan McDonagh took a strange bounce off Chara and snuck in to give New York a 2-0 lead with just 11.8 seconds left in the opening period.
Two goals up, the Rangers packed it in at the start of the second period to protect their lead and that was just about the end of the Bruins’ night. Boston started to find life again in the second half of the middle period, but Artem Anisimov quelled any hopes of a comeback as he tucked the puck past Thomas on a 2-on-1 at 2:53 of the third to set the game to its final 3-0 score.
With the win, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist extended his league lead in shutouts to seven with his sixth career whitewash of the Bruins after stopping a season-high 42 shots, while New York extended their Eastern Conference lead over the second place Bruins to nine points and further asserted themselves as the dominant team in the conference.
The Bruins, hoping for a strong performance over the Rangers to spark them before leaving Boston on a six day, 11 game road trip, continued to struggle. They outshot and out-chanced the Rangers, but once again could not put together a strong 60 minutes of play, something they routinely did as they dominated the league throughout November and December, but have rarely managed of late.
Not only is their longest road trip of the season now looming, but so is the NHL’s trade deadline, now less than two weeks away. There was a time this season where many who would claim Peter Chiarelli foolish to go changing anything about his team, but there are now plenty of decisions to be made by the Bruins general manager as his team suffers through a time of uncertainty. Over the next two weeks, the front office will have to do something to shake up a struggling team.
It is hard to believe any kind of major piece will be acquired, akin to the Tomas Kaberle trade the Bruins made last season, but the Bruins should at least be looking to make a handful of moves like those made last year to bring in Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly at the trade deadline to improve their depth.
On the blue line, Chiarelli should be looking for a simple deal to upgrade over the recently sent down Steve Kampfer as the team’s seventh defenseman. What will prove tricky for the GM is what he should do to upgrade his offense. Last year it was just a matter of adding depth with the pair of versatile third liners. Given the concussion uncertainty surrounding winger Nathan Horton, who’s absence becomes ever more apparent by the day, the Bruins are in greater need of a top six forward, rather than a bottom six. The question is what kind of top end talent will they be able to acquire? While many are salivating over the potential of a Rick Nash acquisition, even if the Bruins have the chips to pull it off, too many of those chips are integral parts of the team’s core and the Bruins would have to mortgage too much of their bright future to bring in the Blue Jackets star.
No matter what moves are made, it is the time of year that teams mold themselves into who they will be for the playoffs. The Patriots are done and the start of baseball season is still a long way off, so the Bruins can no longer be able to slide by unnoticed by the public eye and will need to do something, whether reshaping their game internally or bringing in outside help, to once again start playing like the class of the Eastern Conference.
About the Author
Written by Matt Preston
I'm no Heminway or Haggerty, but keeping the dream alive, even if I'm pretty sure my Nana is my only follower. Self-deprecation is key, grammar is optional.