BOSTON -- So when exactly is anything going to change with these Bruins?
Give Patrice Bergeron credit after the Bruins dropped a 4-3 decision to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night and couldn’t muster the will needed to actually win on the night they remembered the recently passed Milt Schmidt: He wasn’t going to pass the puck or foist off blame someplace else after it was all over.
“I think we’re the only ones that can really find the answer and turn this around, I guess. It’s up to this dressing room to do it and to all look at ourselves in the mirror -- I said that before -- and be better,” said Bergeron, who scored his fourth goal in seven games to keep the Bruins into the game headed into the third period. “You can’t wait for anyone to do it. It’s up to us. We’re the ones that are playing on the ice, and we have to be better.
“When you don’t get the result, you’re definitely not happy with anything. It’s definitely frustrating to see what’s going on and to have the type of game that we had tonight. I thought we had a lot of good looks and a lot of good zone time in their zone. But then, the breakdowns that we’re giving up, like I said, shouldn’t happen and it’s been happening a lot, especially lately, and it’s been hurting us.”
But one has to ask themselves a couple of question at this point if you’re running the Bruins?
At what point is it clear that this hockey club is too similar to the underachieving, disappointing groups from the last two seasons? When does a change to the existing mix (be it coaching or players) become something that has to happen in order to reverse what’s now been a month of struggle where the B’s have lost 10 of their last 15 games?
A casual follower of the Black and Gold tribe might have thought any one of a number of recent deflating losses in overtime might have been the final nail before a big move was engineered, executed and brought to the fore to at least show some resistance. It’s a recurring, annoying problem when the Bruins continue to lose games where they aren’t ready to play at the drop of the puck, and then continuously resist the need to crash the front of the net as opponents are doing to them while outshooting teams in losing efforts.
That doesn’t even take into account the wimpy efforts that the Bruins continuously put forth on home ice for the second season in a row. Give Zdeno Chara credit for doing he felt was needed to spark his team by challenging Patrick Maroon to a first period fight, and it worked for most of the rest of the next two periods.
“I just wanted to create some momentum and emotions, and I felt it was the right timing,” said Chara. “I wanted to get us in the game and be more emotionally attached.”
Unfortunately these short bursts of “emotional attachment” are never sustainable for the Bruins, and things fell apart on cue in the third period.
There was the comeback in the third period to make it a one goal game and perhaps give some Bruins players a false sense of moral victories because they didn’t lie down after falling down by a pair of scores in the third period. The time for those sorts of moral victories has passed, of course, and the Bruins just need results as both the Maple Leafs and Lightning sit just two points behind them in the Atlantic Division with games in hand.
“Obviously we want to recognize where we’re at and what the situation is, but I think we’ve shown that we’re very capable of playing good hockey against good teams and we just have to make that a habit,” said Tuukka Rask. “A lot of times it’s been play two good games and then you kind of fall back, and maybe play one good game and then fall back. We don’t want to be that roller coaster team, and we have to get on a good rhythm here and get some points.”
The fact that the Bruins have shown some good things against good teams makes it all the more damning, and leads one to believe this comfortable hockey club needs to be shocked into a winning stretch of hockey. This kind of seismic shock paddle to the Bruins hockey club could take one of a couple of forms: the firing of Claude Julien, or a big trade.
Certainly it needs to be something bigger than the window dressing move of waiving Anton Khudobin to make room for Zane McIntyre on the NHL roster. That’s where Don Sweeney and Cam Neely need to come in after both upper management leaders have been just about entirely radio silent during the last month. Times of struggle are usually when the front office types are expected to send some kind of calming message, challenge their reeling club if it’s needed or give their head coach a vote of endorsement if that’s what’s needed.
Sweeney and Neely have done none of those things, and need to close the deal on something to improve the hockey club if they’re not going to take ownership of the way the Bruins are playing. There’s been a lot of chatter about Gabriel Landeskog, and the Avalanche captain could be a really interesting fit for the Bruins given he’s a finisher and a power forward-type with youth and a cost-controlled contract on his side.
The problem here is that Avalanche GM Joe Sakic is going to want Colorado Springs native Brandon Carlo in return for a player in Landeskog that’s been 20 goals/50 points every year that he’s been fully healthy. That’s a difficult one for the Bruins to agree to even as the talented, perfectly solid Bruin Carlo is hitting his first rookie wall with the Black and Gold, and has struggled for an extended stretch over the last month.
But no matter what the Bruins do it’s going to be a painful, controversial move if it’s going to be something of significance.
That’s where Claude Julien comes in. It might not be fair, or deserved, for Julien to get fired after 10 brilliant years in Boston, but the Black and Gold are making the same mistakes with the same flaws as the teams that collapsed over the last two years. Some of that has to be a reflection of the coach right along with the collapses in each of the last two seasons that made the Bruins the worst team in hockey down the stretch each of the last two years.
The Bruins have changed some players on the roster, they’ve made management changes and they’ve changed up some of the assistant coaches on the Bruins staff. One of the few constants during that time of struggle has been Julien as he became the winningest B’s coach in the franchise’s Original Six history last season.
It’s time for Sweeney and Neely to step in and try some evasive maneuvers to avoid a repeat of the last two seasons, and it’s becoming increasing clear that replacing Julien might be the most impactful way to make that attempt. It won’t be popular and it won’t be a fun moment in Bruins history, but it won’t be as dreary as missing the playoffs for the third season in a row if B’s management does nothing about their current stretch of crap hockey.