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BOSTON (CBS) – It’s hard to believe that we’re more than halfway through this truncated season, but things are starting to take shape for the Boston Bruins and the rest of the NHL.
Remember at the start of the year when the Bruins opened with the New York Rangers, and everyone was screaming that New York and Boston would be the two teams from the Eastern Conference fighting for the right to play for the Stanley Cup? Two months later, that isn’t quite how it’s played out. New York is clinging to eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, and it’s clearly apparent that all is just not right with the hometown black and gold.
The Bruins have lost their scoring touch, and if you aren’t scoring you can’t win. On their just-completed road trip, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic had zero goals and zero assists for the Bruins. The team only lit the lamp six times, with the only forwards to record a goal being Tyler Seguin, Dan Paille, and Brad Marchand.
When you can’t score, it just puts more added pressure on your goaltending. Say what you want about the Boston goaltenders — and my goodness, a lot of people have — but Anton Khudobin and Tuukka Rask have given up four goals only twice during the month of March. Yes, some of those goals have looked ugly, and the timing of them can be hurtful, but with the skaters in front not burying their chances, the Bruins’ netminders have had to basically pitch shutouts every night — and we all know that’s not humanly possible.
This little slump is nothing new for the Bruins, as it tends to happen every year around mid-season. However, this year there is no middle-of-the-year, and here we are rapidly approaching April. This is the time to hit a stride before the stretch run for the playoffs and lock down ones playoff positioning. It’s not the time to be trying to figure out what’s wrong, which is exactly what the Boston Bruins were left doing over the weekend.
So, what is a coach to do? It seems as though there will be line changes for Monday night’s game back home against the Toronto Maple Leafs, as Claude Julien moved Milan Lucic down to a line with Rich Perverley and Jordan Caron at practice on Sunday. That saw Nathan Horton skating with Marchand and David Krejci, and Daniel Paille matched up with Seguin and Patrice Bergeron. This team needs a spark, and Julien hopes the change will jump start the offensive malaise the forwards have been in.
When asked why he made these changes, Julien’s response was perfect: “Because I can. Because I’m the coach. And every once in a while, you’ve got to do those things. Simple as that. Well, we’ve scored six goals in the last four games, so I think it’s time for a shake-up.”
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Losers of three out of the last four, this week brings three division opponents in the next four games — including the division-leading Montreal Canadiens to Boston on Wednesday night. Boston currently trails Montreal by two points in the standings — a deficit they could have cancelled out with a win in Toronto on Saturday night. But instead, it was just another lost opportunity to catch the Habs for the Bruins.
Monday night’s game against the Leafs is the final game-in-hand Boston has over Montreal. It’s a game they need to use to regain their confidence, compete level and, more than anything, their scoring touch.
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It might take more than one game to re-find all of that, but those are the three things the Bruins will need the rest of the way if they plan on being the team out of the East.