Bruins enter needed All Star break
Forget about Tim Thomas’ snubbing President Barack Obama.
Forget that the Bruins have struggled in the first few weeks of January.
Forget that the Black and Gold recently completed a seven-game in eleven night stretch — going 3-3-1 — as heavy legs showed in a sloppy 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals Tuesday night at the Verizon Center.
The All Star break has arrived and the Bruins can now spend some time for a little R and R while preparing for the home stretch of the 2011-12 season.
After starting the year with a record of 3-7, Boston took the league by storm by regaining supremacy of one of the top teams in the league going 21-3-1 in that span, which seemingly helped cure the dreaded “Stanley Cup hangover.”
While they remain one of the premiere teams with 64 points — trailing the New York Rangers by two points in the Eastern standings and the Detroit Red Wings by three points for the best record in the NHL — their lead in the Northeast division has shrunk from double digits to four with the surprising Ottawa Senators now on their tails.
Although the Bruins have been surrounded by controversy for most of the season, including Milan Lucic-Ryan Miller incident, that reputation of them being a dirty team is widely talked about throughout the league.
Case in point, the aftermath of the Bruins-Canucks Stanley Cup Final rematch where Brad Marchand received a five-game suspension for clipping Sami Salo. Whether it came from Alain Vigneault, Claude Julien, Peter Chiarelli, Kevin Bieksa, Marchand, and other teams and media members alike — including Vancouver and Boston — the reputation of the Bruins being a dirty team grew little by little to some.
In reality, the Bruins haven’t been the same since the Vancouver game going 5-4-1 in the 10 games since. During that span, the team has given up 25 goals, Andrew Ference earned a three-game suspension for his cross-check on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh last Saturday, Nathan Horton suffered another concussion, and, the very next day, Thomas weighed in on snubbing Obama, and more importantly, left the team high and dry on a day where they were honored for their success in 2010-11 (albeit the event wasn’t mandatory).
Thomas’ political beliefs aside, his recently play that includes a 4-4-0 record to go along with his 2.68 goals against average in his last eight starts has mirrored his 2009-10 campaign that saw Tuukka Rask take over the starting job rather than that of being a two-time Vezina Trophy winner.
Rask, meanwhile — while dropping his last two starts — has been the exact opposite. The Finnish netminder is 7-2-1 in his last 10 contests and has allowed just 13 goals in that stretch and is resembling his success from ’09-10 while creating a goaltending controversy in The Hub of Hockey.
The Bruins will have five days before they return to work in preparing for an important contest with the Senators to start the second half of the season as part of a three-game home stand that also includes the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday (Ference’s return to the lineup) and the Pittsburgh Penguins for a Saturday matinee at the TD Garden.
There are some issues that will most likely need to be resolved before Tuesday — from their defensive lapses on the ice to Thomas answering to a media firestorm that still has questions of “snubgate” off the ice — but the time off could come as a much-needed benefit assuming the Black and Gold returns to their winning ways.