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.