Through the first nine games of the 2011-12 season, the Bruins have tallied only six points with their 3-6 record. After last night’s 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, the defending Stanley Cup champions have now found themselves in dead last at the Eastern Conference and 29th out of 30th in the NHL. Only the Columbus Blue Jackets (three points) have a worse record then the Black and Gold.
Although it’s not unusual for a defending champ to struggle out of the gate, especially with a short off-season, who would have thought that the defending Cup champs would be in the position they are in now? Certainly not two-time Vezina Trophy winner and Playoff MVP Tim Thomas.
“No. I never pictured it this way,” said Thomas after the loss Thursday.
It’s no secret that the Bruins knew that they would have a huge target on their backs as the champs. But even they know they can’t look back on last year’s success.
“It’s a different year and we can’t base this season on what happened last year,” said Brad Marchand, who finally got to drop the gloves with his archenemy PK Subban towards the end of the second period. “It’s a whole new year and a whole new situation. We just have to work on what’s happening in the room and hopefully build ourselves out of that hole.”
The hole, as Marchand alluded to, is pretty deep right now.
At times the Bruins seem to be caught skating in cement and not executing their plays offensively, often hanging Thomas and Tuukka Rask out to dry in net. The Black and Gold, while only allowing 21 goals in the first nine games, have only scored 20 with the only real highlight so far this year being the emergence of former No. 2 overall pick Tyler Seguin. Even defensively, Thomas and Rask have had to bail out the Black and Gold in certain situations due to their team being out of position.
The big question now is how the Bruins get out of this early season hole, and if another shakeup is needed.
Before the Toronto game last week, head coach Claude Julien made several line changes hoping for that shakeup. While the first night of those changes resulted in a 6-2 win against the Leafs, the Bruins couldn’t capitalize on that momentum and have now dropped two straight.
The easy solution out of all of this is for Julien to juggle the lines again perhaps moving David Krejci back with Nathan Horton and perhaps even break up Marchand — who can fit on any line as seen by his fourth line duties last year — and Patrice Bergeron and perhaps have Bergy skate with Tyler Seguin for a few games.
Defensively, however, the Bruins (as strange as this may sound) might need to go back to what worked last year with the pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, who were arguably the top shut down duo during the postseason. Although Seidenberg is a nice fit with Joe Corvo, Chara has not played up to the Norris Trophy candidate he was last year. And perhaps another reunion could be in store with Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference, who were a solid second pairing in the playoffs.
If the matters can’t be held within then obviously some moves will have to be made either by a trade or a Providence call-up.
Although it’s early, keep in mind that a high percentage of teams who are in the top eight during the first month — in each conference — usually have a good shot of making the playoffs, especially where one point is rewarded for overtime/shootout appearances. Despite the struggles, the Bruins are just four points behind Florida, Tampa Bay and Ottawa — all tied for sixth place with 10 points — in the Eastern standings.
Yes it’s early, but desperation has already hit The Hub of Hockey in the first month of the year.