So much for momentum: B's limp into playoffs

So much for momentum: B's limp into playoffs
April 29, 2013, 2:00 am
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BOSTON -- There was plenty of talk about “turning the page” and leaving regular-season troubles behind as the Bruins finally, mercifully put a cap on their 2013 NHL regular season. It wasn’t as good as they probably hoped it would be when the lockout finally lifted in January, but the ending to the Black and Golden story hasn’t been written quite yet.

The Bruins lost again, this time 4-2 to the Ottawa Senators, and dropped to the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference while failing to overtake the Montreal Canadiens for the Northeast Division title. It was tied in the third period, but things finally broke down in the final four minutes with Kyle Turris snapping home the rebound of a Marc Methot shot for the game-winner.

That Turris goal wiped away any hopes the Bruins had of carrying feelings of positive momentum into the playoffs.

The Bruins limped to the finish line while losing seven of their last nine games. They only scored 18 goals over that nine=game span in a pretty clear cry for some kind of hockey help.

They haven’t beaten a playoff time since a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators all the way back on April 2, and they finished the season with a startling 1-5-1 record against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens.

Things could obviously be worse, of course. The Bruins are still the No. 4 seed in the East and will enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs starting Wednesday against the Maple Leafs. But the months of March and April were rough on the Bruins players with 31 games in 59 days, and they’re happy to hit the reset button and get a few days rest before the Stanley Cup tourney gets moving.

“All I know is that we’re starting a new season. We’ve earned a spot in the playoffs, which we should be proud of that. There are a lot of teams right now that are doing something a lot different than what we’re doing,” said Claude Julien. “We should be happy about that.

“You start from scratch and everybody has the same record going into the playoffs. Now it’s a new season. It’s an opportunity for us to challenge for the Cup. So we have to get ourselves ready here in the next few days, and hopefully build some good momentum going forward.”

Sunday night featured many of the things that have bedeviled the Bruins during their times of inconsistency: a failure to finish off chances in the offensive zone despite out-shooting Ottawa, 36-22. The Bruins took some foolhardy penalties, and survived a couple of defensive breakdowns.
 
Above and beyond all of that, the Bruins continue to be the hockey gang that can’t shoot straight and missed 16 shot attempts on the evening.

There were also optimistic signs as well: Milan Lucic trucking opponents and exchanging heavyweight-caliber punches with Chris Neil, Rich Peverley finding the range with his shooting touch and playoff stalwarts such as Dennis Seidenberg, Patrice Bergeron and Johnny Boychuk all rounding into form.

The Bruins are limiting the amount of defensive breakdowns and odd-man rushes allowed, and they’re cutting way down on the sheer number of offensive chances their opponents are allowed.

“The last couple of games we’ve done some good things, and we’ve been more physical. We’ve had not as many turnovers at the blue line, which was a key. We had a lot of scoring chances,” said Boychuk. “In playoffs we will make sure to put them in the net…and that’s the goal.”

The Bruins are still losing games, but at least they recognize the identity of the Black and Gold team they’re building up to become. It might not be an exact copy of the Stanley Cup championship team of two years ago, but the Bruins don’t have to be in order to be successful this time around.

“I’m a little sick of talking about two years ago. That was a long time ago. It’s a new team. It’s a new chapter,” said Shawn Thornton. “Just because we accomplished something two years ago doesn’t mean it’s going to be automatic.

“We should have that anger and hunger that we haven’t been as good as we were. I’m more focused on trying to prove it again.”

That’s what it will come down to the in the end for this current edition of the Bruins. They should have the hunger to prove that their Cup run two years ago wasn’t simply a fluky event aided by an elite goaltender playing at the very top of his game. The Bruins should want to climb the mountaintop once again and feel that elation that comes along with hosting the Stanley Cup.

The Bruins players still think of themselves as champions, though they are two years removed from that magical series against Vancouver. Boston’s young nucleus has now been locked up with comfortable multi-year contracts that pay them handsome amounts to play hockey.

Anger and hunger become much trickier emotions for a successful team like the Bruins that’s been chasing the ghosts of the 2011 Stanley Cup run, and is increasingly in danger of never catching them. Perhaps the Bruins will quickly flip a playoff switch and become the postseason juggernaut everyone has assumed them to be as they turn the page on a frustrating regular season.