BOSTON — Call it a midseason slump. Call it getting through the February doldrums. Call it the pre-trade deadline jitters.
Call it whatever you want, but the fact is, the Boston Bruins are not playing their best hockey with 28 games left in the 2011-12 campaign.
Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to Henrik Lundqvist (42 saves in the shutout) and the New York Rangers was just another example of the Bruins’ subpar play in the last several weeks.
“It’s frustrating as with any other night that you lose,” said Bruins’ goalie Tim Thomas (17 saves). “We outshot them, and we controlled the play for the majority of the time, but overall I didn’t think we got the quality scoring chances that we needed to beat a good goaltender like Lundqvist.”
On a night that the Bruins outshot the Rangers by a 42-20 margin, the team’s frustration grew and as a result they now trail New York by nine points in the Eastern Conference standings. Compare that to their first meeting back on Jan. 21 where the Black and Gold were down by one point and looked to jump the Blueshirts for first in those standings.
Things have certainly changed from that time, but more so, the Bruins have not been able to capitalize on the momentum they created in November and December. And as they head on a six-game road trip — beginning tomorrow in Montreal — that consistency is something they are looking to regain.
“That would be what you’re hoping for,” head coach Claude Julien said about the team’s hopes of regaining chemistry during the road trip.
“Whether that happens or not is for us to make it happen. And if you come back and haven’t righted the ship, then it probably wasn’t what you needed. So basically…I’d like for us to find our game in these next six games on the road and come back having found our identity again.”
Recent victories over the Capitals and Predators showed encouragement. But that encouragement turned into disappointment the very next game with losses against the Sabres and Rangers, respectively.
That has been the Bruins trend over the past several weeks win one game, lose the next. They have not won two straight since victories over the Jets and Canadiens on Jan. 10 and 12, while the Rangers have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10.
“They’re playing well, like we did last year when we were playing well, which is what’s happening,” Julien said. “They grind you down and they don’t give you much, and whenever they get an opportunity, they pounce on that. Right now, that’s the type of identity that we are looking for again.”
The Bruins certainly have the ability to turn things around. After all they are the defending Stanley Cup champs and — even with this stretch of mediocrity — remain in second place in the East.
With the trade deadline looming, the Bruins will look to go back to basics and regain some consistency in the last several weeks of the season.
“It’s getting towards the end of the season,” Thomas said. “We need to turn things around on a more consistent basis.”