With just three wins in their last eight games, the Boston Bruins are officially in a mid-season slump.
After managing to take two points out of their very difficult three-game west coast road trip with a 1-0 shutout of the San Jose Sharks Saturday night, the Bruins failed to build from that momentum as they dropped a 4-3 contest to the Toronto Maple Leafs in Boston Tuesday night.
Tuesday’s win over the Bruins was just Toronto’s third regulation win in their previous 27 games. In other words, Tuesday’s Atlantic Division contest was one the Bruins should have won.
Thanks to their mid-season slump, the Bruins now find themselves tied atop the Atlantic Division with the surprising Tampa Bay Lightning with 60 points. The Bruins do have a game in hand.
“No, again, every year we go through this, guys. Every year, [in the] middle of the season, we seem to go through a struggle, and we work our way out of it,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien after the loss to the Maple Leafs.
“Nothing is different, every team in this league. I mean we’re sitting here, and we’re talking about our team, but there’s not a single team in this league that doesn’t go through this. I’m trying not to be overly critical versus trying to fight our way out of it, and that’s what I’m trying to do here. That’s why I’m kind of avoiding some of these questions here about this and that. It’s not about being negative here; it’s about working our way out of it.”
The way they have worked themselves out of their mid-season slump in the past has been a pretty good indication of how well the postseason will go for the Black and Gold.
During the 2010-11 season, the Bruins lost four out of five in early February to knock them down to the bottom of the Stanley Cup playoff race. The B’s quickly turned that slump around as they went on to notch wins in their next seven games. Six of those seven came on the road and helped build the character of what would eventually be a Stanley Cup Winning team.
The season after that, the Bruins failed to build off of 9-3 month of December as they flirted with .500 for the rest of the season. The playoffs couldn’t bring much more consistency to their game as they were ousted by the Washington Capitals in seven games in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
With 11 games left until the league shuts down for nearly three weeks during the Olympics, the Bruins are trying to find their game once again.
If you ask anyone on the Bruins roster what it is that is hurting the team the most, the answer is the same; special teams.
Since losing Dennis Seidenberg for the season thanks to a torn ACL/MCL, the Bruins penalty kill has struggled.
“Struggled” may be an understatement.
In the eight games the Bruins have played without Seidenberg, the Bruins have allowed at least one power play goal in four of those contests. In total, the Bruins have allowed 11 power play goals in 29 attempts since Seidenberg went down.
For a guy like Gregory Campbell, who leads all Bruins forwards in average shorthanded time on ice per game with 1:59, struggling on the penalty kill is something he takes personally.
“That’s a part of the game I take a lot of pride in,” said Campbell following the loss to Toronto where the Leafs scored twice with the man advantage.
“It’s obviously a big part of my game and it’s just not good enough. It’s not the system, the system that is in place has worked for years and it’s been able to put us at the top of the League. It’s something collectively as a group that we have to look at. Like I said, it’s not the system it’s us as players. The ones that are given that responsibility have to do the job.”
Not only has the penalty kill been brutal of late, but the Bruins power play hasn’t done much to turn things around. After spending most of the season as one of league’s best power play teams, the Bruins now find themselves 10th in the league, converting on 19.2% of their power plays.
The Bruins have failed to find the back of the net on their last 17 power play tries.
January hasn’t been too kind to Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. Despite his 26-save shutout in San Jose Saturday, Rask has struggled since the calendar turned to 2014. He has gone 2-3 with a 3.00 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage in the month of January.
Rask knows that no matter how bad things are for him and his team, they have to turn things around, and turn things around rather quickly.
“Yeah, you don’t play bad, you don’t play great and you get these deflections and plays the back door where you have no chance,” he said. “It’s frustrating, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves and same with me. I just have to battle through it and hope for the better. We showed in San Jose when we were stingy defensively it helps everybody out and then today [Tuesday] was another example of when we make terrible mistakes it ends up costing us big time. It’s frustrating but like I said we can’t feel sorry for ourselves, we have to battle through it.”
Hear what the Bruins had to say following their loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night:
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