Slumping Bruins given day off Monday


Slumping Bruins given day off Monday

ST. PAUL, MN The Bruins skipped practice on Monday, but it wasnt for any fervent observations of Presidents' Day.

Bruins coach Claude Julien sensed his slumping hockey team is carrying a heavy load on their shoulders while mired in a 7-9-1 slump over the last 17 games. So Julien gave his hockey club the day off Monday, a scheduled travel day to St. Louis.

It seemed like the right thing to do after sensing frustration emanating from the room when the once high-scoring Bs were shut out for the fourth time in nine games Sunday in Minnesota.

Its true every good team has slumped at some point this season. Heck, the Chicago Blackhawks just kicked an epic nine-game losing streak that revealed some flaws within their team fabric. But those losing stretches have been five or six games in most instances before each of those scufflingteams snapped back into form. The Bruins have been fighting a midseason funk since just after theChristmas break. Since then they've been plagued by a long stretch of mediocre hockey with key injuries thrown in for good measure.

The creeping concern isnt about a game against the Blues on Wednesday night or the month of March, but more about snapping out of their team-wide malaise before the real season begins in April.

One day were saying lets get right back on the horse and go at it, and other days were saying 'Lets take a couple of days to regroup,' said Claude Julien in the lobby of the Saint Paul hotel as the Bs were checking out on Monday morning. Theres travel and hopefully a good practice tomorrow. When youre not winning you sometimes think that practicing will solve the issue, but I sense a lot of weight on their shoulders right now.

You can feel it. Its heavy. I dont know if practicing is going to make a difference. I know that our guys are a little tired as well."

The one thing the Bruins dont want to do is deviate from is the long term plan calling for pockets of rest after their elongated season last year. Just as the Bs had fumes in the gas tank starting this season, they now seem to be slogging through the February portion of the schedule.

If nowhere else, the proof is in a third period. Boston had mastered the final 20 minutes of games all season, but now they've watched the opposition outscore them 5-1 in the third over the last four games.

Its that time of year when you get that way, and you keep going back to what we said at the beginning of the year. We didnt have a very long summer, said Julien. All of the other teams and players had an opportunity to have more time off and we didnt. You cant say one thing at the beginning of the year and not stick with it because of the outcome. Its more about the long term plan.

The one thing I can tell you right now is that well get out of this. One thing Ive always said is tough times dont last, but tough players do. We have a bunch of tough players in there that will battle through it.

The Bruins players appreciated a day away from the rink to rest and regroup before seeing a St. Louis Blues team Wednesday that has shut down more than a few offenses this season. The Blues lead the NHL with a scant 1.88 goals per game, and both Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott have been excellent for St. Louis between the pipes.

Not exactly the recipe the Black and Gold are looking for to bust out while averaging 1.8 goals per game, but perhaps a day recharging the batteries will do the Bs some good.

Nobody likes losing and everybody hates thinking about the games weve played in the past few weeks. Its just not the way we want to play, said Dennis Seidenberg. Today is good to relax, shut off from hockey and well get back at it again tomorrow. Hopefully well get back to where we want to be and how we want to play.

Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?


Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?

BRIGHTON, MASS -- It didn’t take last season’s embarrassing Winter Classic result to figure out something has been missing from the storied, legendary Bruins-Canadiens rivalry over the last few years.

The last traces of the latest, great incarnation of the B’s-Habs rivalry were clearly still there a couple of seasons ago when the two hockey clubs met in the second round of the playoffs. After falling short the last few times the teams met in the postseason, Boston was summarily dismissed by Montreal in Game 7 on their own home ice during that series. The following season the B’s simply had so many of their own players struggling to put out a consistent effort, so the games against the Habs didn’t really register highly on the importance scale, and last season both Boston and Montreal suffered through subpar seasons that saw them each fall short of the playoffs.

Since the second round loss to the Habs in the 2013-14 playoffs, the Bruins are 2-7 while being outscored by a 31-18 margin in nine regular season meetings over the last two seasons in an incredibly one-sided chapter in the two teams’ shared history. The real lack of competitiveness has been a noticeable lack of deep emotion or ill will on the ice between the two hockey clubs, and that is very different from the recent past when signature players like Milan Lucic, P.K. Subban and Shawn Thornton were card-carrying members of healthy hate that regularly spilled out on the ice between the two rival NHL organizations.

Instead it will probably be new blood that breathes glorious, hard-edged life into the history between the two Original Six teams, and new personalities like David Backes, Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw are likely to do just that. Certainly the Canadiens wanted to be much more difficult to play against in recruiting players like Shaw and Weber, and, their presence along with the offensively explosive Alex Radulov, could make it a tough matchup for the Black and Gold.

Either way, the Bruins are curious to see what the matchup looks like this season with the electric P.K. Subban removed from the mix as one of the classic Habs villain-type characters from a Boston perspective.

“It’s always fun to play Montreal at home, or in Montreal. This will be our second time counting the preseason, and our first time at the Garden. It’s going to be pretty cool,” said David Krejci. “When you say any NHL team there are a few names that pop out for that team, and [P.K. Subban] was definitely one of them [for Montreal]. But P.K. is gone, and now it’s Shea Weber. So it’s going to be a little different, but he’s a hell of a player as well so it isn’t going to be any easier.

“It’s a big game. It’s a division game. We don’t want to take any game lightly within the 82 games because you don’t know what can happen at the end. When those games against [Montreal] are done you always feel like you’ve played two games, and not just one. It’s high intensity, and it’s obviously a rivalry that you get up for.”

As Bruins head coach Claude Julien would say it, things are a bit too civilized between the two enemy teams when thinking back to the days of Georges Laraque chasing Milan Lucic around the ice challenging him a fight on the Bell Centre ice, or the awful epoch in B’s-Habs history when Zdeno Chara clobbered Max Pacioretty with a dangerous, injury-inducing hit into the stanchion area.

Nobody is looking for players to get hurt on borderline plays when the two teams suit up on Saturday night, but something to introduce a new chapter into the Boston-Montreal rivalry would be a good thing for both teams, a good thing for the fans and a potentially great thing for an NHL that prides itself on good, old-fashioned rivalries.

“We need to make sure that we’re ready to play [on Saturday]. I like the way that we’ve played so far, and except for Toronto we’ve managed to compete with all of the teams that we’ve played against,” said Julien. “I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way, but I’m going to use the word that [the rivalry] has been more civilized for the last few years. There hasn’t been as much of the sideshow as there has been [in the past].

“I think there’s still a lot of hatred between the two organizations when they meet, but I think the way the game is trending, and how costly that penalties can be in a game, both teams are a little cautious in that way. I still think there is great intensity and both teams get up for the games, so hopefully that happens tomorrow, and the fans get to see a good game.”

One thing that should ensure a good, familiar showdown with plenty of hard-hitting and honest-to-goodness rivalry-like behavior: both the Canadiens and Bruins are off to strong starts at the top of the Atlantic Division in the first couple of weeks this season, and there are some new faces that are undoubtedly going to want to announce their presence for these Bruins-Habs tilts with authority.

Let’s hope this happens because last season’s Bruins-Habs games needed a pair of jumper cables and 1.21 jigowatts of electricity to shock them back into their elevated level of intensity, and that’s when hockey is served best after all.