Bruins must answer early wake-up call

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Bruins must answer early wake-up call

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.

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

BOSTON – The Bruins didn’t show anything on the ice in Monday afternoon’s 4-0 matinee loss, and that’s not really any kind of an overstatement.

The scoring chances were almost nonexistent despite 32 shots on net, the second period was dreadful as the Bruins gave up three goals over the course of a six minute span and there was zero added urgency in the third period once the B’s fell behind. The emotion was missing from the drop of the puck to open the game and it never showed up once the Islanders began taking control of the game.

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It was a bitterly disappointing result after the Black and Gold had played so well in their previous five games, and put in strong, winning efforts against the Panthers, Blues and Flyers.

On Monday afternoon, the passes were sloppy and errant all over the ice, there was zero physicality and the Bruins buckled once the Isles turned the intensity up just a little bit in the second period. The game was basically over once Nikolay Kulemin snapped one home wide open from the slot area with Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid and David Krejci all blowing their defensive assignments, and then Tuukka Rask followed it up by allowing a softie to Josh Bailey from a bad angle close to net.  

So Bruins head coach Claude Julien termed it a “flat” performance once it was all over with, and openly wondered whether it was fatigue-related result linked to the compacted schedule Boston has played through this season. Monday marked the seventh straight day that the Bruins held some kind of formal skate, though most of the veteran B's players stayed off the ice during last week's Wednesday off-day practice in Nashville.   

“We were flat tonight, obviously, flat from the get-go. I think that first half of the game, we didn’t give much until they scored that first goal. We were able to stay in, but we certainly weren’t generating much ourselves, from that point of view,” said Claude Julien. “His is really the first year, for me as well, going through a condensed schedule, and I’m certainly not using that as an excuse, is it fatigue?. . . But we were flat tonight. How do you explain it? I don’t know. I know that it’s frustrating. I know that it’s disappointing. That’s all I can say.

“Whether it’s mental fatigue, whatever it is. We made some mistakes tonight like, from the goals you look at, we weren’t even in the position that we’re normally in. So we were totally out of whack, as far as even defending. When you give that first goal that much room in the middle of the ice, your D’s go on the wrong side, your weak-side forward is way on the other side, and you open up the slot area, that’s something I haven’t seen much of this year. I think it said a lot from our game tonight.”

The compacted schedule certainly could be a factor for a Bruins team that’s played more games than anybody else in the Eastern Conference to this point, but the B’s also had 48 hours to recharge after winning a Saturday matinee over the Flyers. So the fatigue excuse seems a little far-fetched for a hockey club that’s no-showed a few too many times this season, and did it again on Monday afternoon against one of the worst teams in the NHL.