BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins’ current three-game losing streak (0-2-1) has featured losses to two teams, Buffalo and the New York Islanders, who are fighting for a playoff berth, and the Carolina Hurricanes, who are playing out the string into the lottery.
So after not faring well against teams that are supposed to be at least a notch below them in the Eastern Conference hierarchy, the Bruins now get to test their mettle Friday night against one of the teams that’s well above them in the NHL pecking order – the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Entering the Bruins’ showdown with the Pens at TD Garden, Boston is just 2-4-2 against Pittsburgh, Montreal and Washington, who are the three other teams in the top four of the East with the Bruins. Boston is 0-2-0 against Pittsburgh, including the famous loss from March 12, when the Bruins gave up three goals in the third period. Since that date, the Bruins are just 7-7-2.
“We want to feel good about ourselves before the playoffs,” Bruins center David Krejci said about trying to beat one of the league’s heavyweights. “Even though we had a decent game [Wednesday], we still didn’t get the win. So it’s a big game [Friday] and we want to win it for us and for the city.”
Maybe playing a championship-caliber crew will bring out the best in the Bruins, who, win or lose, have struggled against opponents of all sorts over the last month or more. They’re certainly not playing the way anyone would want them to play before predicting a long postseason run.
If any of the Bruins think they can coast through the Pittsburgh game and the five contests after that before the playoffs, Jaromir Jagr has a message.
“I think it’s the most important [to be playing well before the playoffs]. There’s no way you can play easy before the playoffs and think that you’re just going to start and play [better] in playoffs,” the star winger said. “It’s a huge advantage for the teams that are fighting for the eighth spot or seventh spot because they have to have the playoff mentality even before the playoffs start. So there are so many upsets in the first round because of that. And that’s why you have to make sure you play your best hockey before the playoffs start. Otherwise you don’t have a really good chance, or you might wake up and be down 2-0 or 3-0 in that first playoff series.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien looks ready to juggle his lines again and maybe he’ll even sit out Milan Lucic. The appearance of Jarome Iginla, who turned down a trade to Boston last month, in a Pittsburgh sweater might also serve for some added inspiration (although to a man, the Bruins say they’re not thinking about Iginla’s diss).
But the most important thing for the Bruins right now is to get their act together, and prevailing over Pittsburgh would do well to give everyone a better feeling about Boston’s prospects for a postseason run of more than one round.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.