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BOSTON (CBS) – You watch these defending-champion Boston Bruins and wonder what it’s going to take to motivate them to produce a 60-minute all-out effort.
Even the arrival of archrival Montreal Thursday night at TD Garden didn’t spark a performance better than the one-period showing the Bruins put forth en route to their latest loss, which dropped their record to 3-6-0 on the year.
That record has relegated them to last in the Eastern Conference, and maybe now they’ll get their act together.
“I think when you look at that board and we’re last in the East, it’s definitely rock bottom for us,” said Bruins forward Brad Marchand today after practice at TD Garden. “We know it can’t get any worse than this and only one way to go is up. So if we put together a few good games and we get on a streak a bit here, we’re going to be right back in the mix. We’re only a few points out of seventh and eighth. So we can definitely do it.”
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The fact Marchand, and every other Bruins player who spoke Friday, believes in this Boston roster the way it’s currently formulated is a positive sign. We know the track record of the guys in the Bruins’ dressing room, as it’s practically the same exact team – minus three players – that dug out of two 2-0 series holes and won three Game 7s last season en route to the Stanley Cup championship.
Of course, success affects different people different ways. That general manager Peter Chiarelli decided to keep this group together was an admirable attempt to avoid the dreaded “Stanley Cup hangover.” However, now he has to determine which guys are going to actually turn all the talk about turning the page into actions, and which are going to keep polishing their rings, staring at the banner and reminiscing about last June’s parade.
While Chiarelli told the Boston Globe that he’s being more diligent about working the phones for outside help, the solutions to Boston’s problems might still presently reside in the Bruins’ dressing room.
To his credit, head coach Claude Julien is doing everything in his power to find a season-turner.
On Friday, he put his team through a high-pace 40-minute practice session, which included the will-testing “bull in the ring” drill (a 1-on-1 game of keep-away within the center-ice logo). And there was the requisite line juggle, which this time reunited David Krejci with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton – last season’s No. 1 line – and slotted Tyler Seguin to the right of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
Now it’s really up to the players to determine what happens next. There are just so many permutations Julien can create with his forwards until Chiarelli has to take over and give his coach different options. All the words about looking forward instead of back and having enough leadership without the retired Mark Recchi will ring hollow if the Bruins continue to anchor the East without battling better in the next couple weeks’ worth of games.
There were a few questions about this Bruins team coming into this season, including whether the Bruins could make up for Recchi’s loss, could turn their power play around and avoid letting things get stale. In the nine-game (which is admittedly small) sample size, the Bruins have failed on every one of those fronts.
Team president Cam Neely even admitted on 98.5 The Sports Hub this week that being in the top eight in the conference by Thanksgiving is of the utmost importance because of what recent history teaches us about teams that aren’t in the thick of things by then. Well, starting Saturday night in Montreal the Bruins have 11 games to get where they need to be.
If the humbling experience of being the conference’s basement-dwellers doesn’t inspire a turnaround, the Bruins better find something that fires them up in a hurry.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com. He operates TheBruinsBlog.net and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.