BOSTON – The Bruins have lost three of their last four games, and five of their last eight contests since the traumatic event of losing stalwart defensive warrior Dennis Seidenberg to a torn ACL/MCL injury that ended his season. Their January malaise has coincided with the Tampa Bay Lightning really playing some quality hockey while missing their franchise player in Steve Stamkos, and now the Bruins find themselves tied with the Lightning atop the Atlantic Division at 60 points apiece.
It’s been a fairly even-handed slump for a Bruins that kept the boat steady through the first three months of the season. There have been struggles on both special teams’ units, a rough patch for goaltender Tuukka Rask and an offensive slump among some of their best forwards that’s seen Milan Lucic score just one goal in his last 18 games.
All of that came out in the B’s 4-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night where they surrendered a pair of power play goals, and came up just short against a divisional rival. It was the one home game sandwiched between five games against tough Western Conference foes, and it was difficult for the players to remain positive in defeat.
“I know that it is important to look at the positives, but at the end of the day it’s an important game for our team,” said Gregory Campbell, who scored a goal to make it a one-goal game in the third period. “It’s important for us to respond in a way that we show some urgency, and some desperation.
“Every game and every point, matters at this point and time. There are really a lot of areas that we should have been better in.”
There is some concern about just how much the defense and penalty kill troubles are linked to the absence of a defensive warrior like Seidenberg, and where the solution will come from if they need one from outside the organization. But there’s also an acknowledgement that the Bruins are in the dog days of January, and this has historically been a time when they’ve slacked off for a bit.
Two years ago it was February when they hit a 5-7-1 patch that showed the first signs of the Stanley Cup hangover that would eventually force them out in the first round against Washington. During the Stanley Cup season, the Bruins lost six of seven games in March before hitting their stride in the playoffs.
January actually seems a bit early for their midseason malaise to creep into their game, but Claude Julien wasn’t panicking following their third loss in the last four games.
“Every year we go through this. Every year, [in the] middle of the season, we seem to go through a struggle, and we work our way out of it,” said Julien. “Nothing is different, every team in this league.
‘We’re sitting here, and we’re talking about our team . . . but there’s not a single team in this league that doesn’t go through this. I’m trying not to be overly critical versus trying to fight our way out of it. That’s what I’m trying to do here. That’s why I’m kind of avoiding some of these questions here about this and that. It’s not about being negative; it’s about working our way out of it.”
Clearly the B’s coach is trying to prop up the confidence of a bruised hockey club in a time of difficulty, and that’s the right thing to do. But the biggest confidence booster in the NHL is two points after a hard night’s work, and the Bruins haven’t had enough of those lately.