Bruins must answer early wake-up call

Bruins must answer early wake-up call
October 22, 2011, 3:18 pm
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BOSTON -- The Bruins proved they could put everything together against one of their young-and-hungry challengers by pumping in six goals against the Maple Leafs earlier this week.

It was an encouraging sign that they're fighting through the frustration, and coming out of the Stanley Cup hangover, ever so slowly and deliberately.

The Bs have been the picture of inconsistency thus far, and that needs to change. A good, solid victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second game of the season was followed up with a stink bomb against the Colorado Avalanche. A rousing shootout win on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks went for naught when the Bruins couldnt find their composure or their offense in a third-period meltdown against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Each time the Bruins take one step forward this year, theyve followed up with a tumble back. Players have been slow to wake up this year and many are still performing well under their capabilities, but theyre gradually coming out of it.

The best remedy for the Stanley Cup hangover is a winning streak chased with consistent, 60 -minute efforts, and the Bruins are on the search for both this week with home games against the Sharks and Canadiens before their first regular-season trip to Montreal really gets things going.

We all needed to wake up and start playing the way we can before it was too late, said Nathan Horton, who potted his second goal of the season against the Leafs Thursday. Consistency is real important. A win feels good, but we definitely need to keep that going and keep working hard. When you start working hard thats when things go your way.

Thats also clearly when the wins and points start going your way.

Coach Claude Julien again sounded the warning bells on Friday when he watched the Bruins go through a sloppy late-morning practice the night after their Toronto win and thats something he wants to nip in the bud.

We just seem to have good days and then average days. We talked about it in practice on Friday, we have good days and then we have days where were not really mentally sharp out there, said Julien. We cant afford to do that. If you can sharpen yourselves up in practice then it translate over into the game. The biggest challenge right now is being able to sustain our focus.

We can work hard and we have to be sharp and work smartly. Weve got to focus on the mental part of the game at the rink every day whether its practice or a game, and build that consistency from there.

But the Bruins still have much to prove and improve before the NHL rubber really starts to hit the road in November, and teams will begin to sort out a playoff picture that surprisingly doesnt change too much. Since 1993, NHL teams that find themselves in the top eight playoff spots in either conference by the Thanksgiving holiday end up qualifying for the postseason 77.5 percent of the time.

That means teams on the outside of the top eight only climb into the playoffs from the outside 22.5 percent of the time, and teams that are any more then 2-3 points outside of the top 8 playoff spots have close to an impossible task in front of them. Its become increasingly difficult for underdog teams off to bad starts to gain ground on other teams in the shootout era, where points are handed out like Halloween candy, and things can become fatal if a team takes too long to climb out of its offseason hibernation.

Some around the NHL call it the November Effect and its a very real of every teams strategy when the regular season is boiled down to big picture segments.

The Bruins are definitely in the latter category, sitting 11th in the Eastern Conference with six points after seven games, and they now enter an important month where they need to begin racking up points while honing their consistency. That starts with Saturdays Welcome back, Jumbo game against the Sharks, and continues with a home-and-home series against the Canadiens that should keep the Bruins focused and intense for the upcoming week ,anyway.

The old hockey axiom is that that a Stanley Cup cant be won in October and November, but it can certainly be lost if a team doesnt get off to a proper start in the first two months of the season.

The Bruins have 13 games between now and the Thanksgiving holiday starting this weekend, and its time to start building up their playoff portfolio before theyre on the wrong side of the NHLs traditional playoff stats.