Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Bruins Are Embarrassing

Thank God for the NFL Playoffs. The Bruins' disgraceful loss to the Canadiens went under the radar for the most part last night, but those who saw the game may have witnessed the end of the Bruins' as a Stanley Cup contender. The Bruins collapsed in the third period, blowing a two goal lead as well as their hold on first place in the Northeast Division in the final 2:22. The first goal was an embarrassing shot from just above the left circle from Scott Gomez that was deflected off a Bruin skate. Thomas apparently missed the deflection entirely despite the puck changing direction a full 8 feet before it hit the net and the puck went in 5 hole without a save attempt being made. Then, just a minute in a half later, the Bruins allow a DEFLECTION in front of the net for the tie. This goal was inexcusable. Every player and coach in the NHL knows that with a minute and a half left any shot taken is being aimed with the intent to deflect and not a snipe. At this point the game was already over, but the Canadiens ended it with 3:49 left in overtime.

The Bruins did show some signs of life moments after the game ended, when Zdeno Chara went at Max Pecioretty after he scored. It was great to see that fighting spark from the Bruins, especially after, and not during, a division game with first place on the line against your most hatred rival. In all honesty it was good to see Chara show some spark, with recent questions raised about his leadership on and off the ice, but the Bruins answered a lot of questions last night. Most critics have argued their mental toughness isn't there enough for them to be serious contenders for the Cup. Between this and the embarrassing 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild at home, the Bruins have shown complacency in their style of play and have broken whenever tested or had to step up their game late. They've been saying all the right things about how it has to be fixed and how they won't stand for it, but it hasn't shown on the ice.

The B's just haven't been able to put a whole game together consistently throughout the season. Glimpses of their potential have been there, but they haven't played a full sixty minutes of competitive hockey in weeks. The next stretch will be gut check time for the team, to see if they have what it takes to once again be taken seriously in the Stanley Cup discussion. They play Pittsburgh (4th in East but likely without Crosby), Ottawa, and Philadelphia (1st in East).

There's no question this team is elite when things are going their way. The line of Savard, Horton, and Lucic could be one of the best lines in hockey if Savard gets back to full health and confidence and Horton regains the scoring touch he had earlier in the season. Lucic has been great around the net this season, but he's forgotten what made him a star in the Boston. He's been less aggressive in the corners and hasn't shown his physical side deep in the offensive zone, a key factor to the Bruins' deep cycle offense. Past that first line changes need to made. Blake Wheeler couldn't hit a barn, much less the broad side of one, and he's wasting a right wing spot with either Krejci or Bergeron. My option is to move up Thornton, who only has two less goals than Wheeler despite playing more than 5 minutes less per game, and could start producing more if he was given more minutes. The defensive side of the ice looks fine, with Thomas in the MVP race and Rask starting to get back to last year's level with a great game against the Wild. The Bruins lead the league in goals against, and if their offense can get going who knows what could happen, but it doesn't appear that they have the balls to do it.

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