The team that time forgot

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The team that time forgot

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

Last night, while the Bruins and Canadiens did battle in Montreal, Dumb & Dumber was playing on Encore.

At the same time, Celtic Pride was playing on Starz.

I know this because I got sucked into both of them.

Even though the Sox were on the other NESN, and the NBA Playoffs were on TNT, whenever there was a break in Bruins action (time outs, intermissions, that time the refs ran off to accept an unmarked briefcase from the mayor of Montreal), I was back and forth between those two movies.

I couldnt help it.

My obsession with the first movie needs no explanation. The second? Whatever. I know Celtic Pride isnt great, but it came out when I was 16, and it was about the Celtics. Of course I was going to watch it over and over and over. Now, it has a special place in my heart. What can I say?

I. LIKE. IT. A. LOT.

I . . . I . . . I desperately want to make love to a school boy!

Wait, what I meant was . . .

Oh right, the Bruins were on, but I kept on getting lost in those two movies. Reciting the same lines, laughing at the same jokes. For one night, it was like the '90s all over again.

I didnt realize the symbolism in this until the game was over and the Bruins were once again on the verge of playoff heartbreak.

You see, the '90s were a difficult time for Boston sports fans. Its the only decade (since the city picked up four teams) that didnt produce a title. At the time, local teams were almost always the underdogs. Or worse, they were just never the favorites. They were average, middle-of-the-road teams. They were streaky and inconsistent squads that sporadically gave you a reason to celebrate, but far more often left you heartbroken. They really tested your faith.

Obviously, that changed with the Patriots first Super Bowl, and since then, the Celtics, Sox and Pats have taken off to a level of performance and expectations that were once unfathomable.

But the Bruins are still stuck in that '90s mentality. Through all the changes this city has undergone, the Bs are still right where they were. Still experiencing the same growing pains, and leaving Boston with the same stomach pains.

The Bruins are the team that time forgot. A living history of everything Boston sports fans endured throughout that decade, right up until the ionic moment when Jason Varitek split the uprights.

This can be both good and bad.

For instance, unlike the Celtics, the Bruins are a team thats still building towards greatness, instead of holding on to whats left of it. When we look ahead, its excitement. With the Celtics, its indecision and fear.

Unlike the Red Sox, the Bruins dont have the unfair financial advantage. When they win, theres nothing to say except: Theyre the better team. Other teams cant cry poor, only weak or stupid. And that's fine. That's sports.

Unlike the Patriots, the Bruins dont have that unhealthy expectation of winning every single time they take the field (or ice). They dont have the nationwide legions of haters, and bad blood stirred up by Spygate and whatever else people are complaining about. Outside of Montreal, the Bs are never really the bad guys.

The Bruins are almost the only team in this city that you can still root for without somehow feeling like youre the bad guy. Not that anyone's losing sleep over the fact that other cities hate them, but theres a certain enjoyment that comes with the Bruins experience, and not enduring that constant loathing from the rest of the country. You can root for the Bruins the way you used to root for all Boston teams, before becoming at least somewhat jaded by success and lofty expectations. (Can the Cs win 70? Can the Sox win 100? Will the Pats go undefeated?) Honestly, it's refreshing.

But with that '90s-style, guilt-free experience comes other nostalgic feelings.

Disappointment. Emptiness. Helplessness.

Will they ever figure this out? Is this ever going to happen? How can they finally get over the hump and break free from a time and place that the rest of Boston left in its dust so long ago? Why does it always have to be something? Never smooth; never according to plan. Just an emotional roller coaster followed by a head-on collision and ultimately tragedy.

What will it take?

For starters, a win tonight at the Garden against Montreal. Without that the Bruins remain stuck in neutral for yet another year. Can they do it? Sure. They can always do it.

But I'd still keep an eye on those movie channels. Just in case we need a diversion from disaster.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

5 reasons the Celtics will get the No. 1 seed

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5 reasons the Celtics will get the No. 1 seed

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Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

BOSTON -- For the third straight season, the Bruins are showing all the ugly, telltale signs of a hockey club poised to take a nosedive out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The short-attention span Bruins returned in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night at TD Garden, and proceeded to blow three one-goal leads in the second period before totally collapsing in the final 20 minutes of the game. Three unanswered third goals later, the Bruins were understandably downtrodden and accountable for a performance that kicked up so many bad memories from the last couple of seasons.

“We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we can’t point fingers. Everyone has to step up and if every guy is going to do their job, including myself, then the rest will follow, you know?” said David Krejci. “But we hadn’t done that [against Tampa Bay] at all. The last two games against Toronto and Ottawa, I thought we worked hard. But for whatever reason [against Tampa] – maybe we thought it was going to come easy – we just shot ourselves in the foot.

“Like I said, each player has to be better, including myself, and if we don’t look at ourselves in the mirror that’s what’s going to happen. We’ll be losing and we need to win games. We have a team, we all believe, we know we can play well. We know we can win hockey games. We have a great game plan, but [against Tampa] I guess we just thought it was going to come easy.”

Even worse there were clear signs of panic in Boston’s game as things unfolded in an unsightly manner on the Garden ice.

Clearly it wasn’t about talent on Thursday night, and instead it was about focus, concentration and paying attention to the fine details that can come back to haunt you late in the season. The Bruins scored three goals in the second period with David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Riley Nash each lighting the lamp, but it took 44 seconds, 24 seconds and 1 minute, 35 seconds respectively in the second period for the Bolts to things up.

That’s the kind of instant buckling and crumbling under pressure we’ve seen in the past from the Bruins late in seasons, and we’re seeing it again despite a different coach and some new, hard-nosed players like David Backes. That lack of composure combined with a pinch of panic is a potentially disastrous mix for the Black and Gold, just as it has been for the last three years.

“Those follow up shifts need to be our best shifts of the game. They’re when you can either bury a team, or when you get scored on to have a great response, and to show that you’re not going away [if you’re the team trailing]. I don’t think they were our best shifts. They were probably some of our least [effective] in the form of execution, least form of desperation and fortitude to just impose what we’re going to do on the other team.

[Tampa] certainly made good on their chances, there’s no question about that. But I think we led into them way too much and the result is the result that we don’t get points again. We’re four [losses] in a row here, but this needs to stop Saturday [against the Islanders] or the bleeding starts to get profuse after that. The guys are in this room. We know it. We’ve seen it. We need to look in the mirror.”

It goes beyond a thoroughly gross second period, however.

The Bruins last line of defense, No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask, crumbled in the second and third period as things were falling apart around him. Anton Stralman beat him high to the short-side, glove side for the game-tying goal on a transition play, and Jonathan Drouin snapped one past him from the face-off circle that dipped under his glove hand for the game-winner.

It was a soft, inexcusable goal allowed in a hugely important game, and was part of five goals allowed on 28 shots for the former Vezina Trophy winner. After the game Rask seemed frazzled, his voice getting soft and trailing off when it was his turn to accept responsibility for a giant stink bomb tossed down on the Garden ice.

“You have to [pick up the team]. A lot of the time that’s the case, the goalie has to make a couple extra stops there and today I didn’t,” said Tuukka Rask. “That’s part of my job to accept the fact that sometimes it’s your fault. There were a couple of times I should’ve made the save, but it happens sometimes…”

The high pressure situation with things spiraling out of control even seemed to be getting to their best, most established players with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand forcing things down a goal in the third period. Bergeron and Marchand were put back together with David Pastrnak in the second and third periods with Bruce Cassidy looking for answers, and they attempted to execute a D-zone face-off play that’s worked a few times for them in the last few years.

It involves Bergeron winning the draw, and then either Marchand or Pastrnak immediately releasing for a home run pass that can turn into a breakaway opportunity if the opponent is caught napping. Tampa Bay wasn’t caught unaware when the B’s tried it in the middle of the third period, but then Bergeron and Co. kept trying to make it happen.

They ended up icing the puck multiple times trying to make the goal happen in one quick play rather than working for the tying goal, and it killed any momentum they could have possibly started building up for a third period comeback. It also showed a fundamental lack of confidence that they could scratch and claw their way back in on Thursday night, and that’s a definite cause for concern at this time of year.

“At the end of the day, it is a focus, and it’s urgency, and it’s understanding time and score. We did not have a good comprehension of that tonight, I don’t think, and of late,” said Cassidy. “We’ve let games get away, and you can look back, even this year, we’ve had some goals scored against us late throughout the course of the year. It’s been built in this year, and we’re still fighting through it, to be perfectly honest.

“It’s a mindset that we’ve just got to get harder and understand the stakes, and what’s required after you score a goal. I think winning teams get through that, and we’re fighting through it this year. Some nights, we’ve been good at it. We’ve had resiliency, I think. It’s just, lately, it’s creeping in, and we’ve got to nip it in the bud now.”

It hasn’t been just the young players at the heart of this four-game losing streak, and the Tampa loss should have been a wakeup call that the Bruins veterans need to find a way to step up their focus, their effort level and their composure at this time of year. After their fourth loss in a row, the Bruins have frittered away whatever margin for error they once had with just eight games remaining in the regular season.

Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.