Wow. We’ve seen our share of the Bruins not playing a sixty minute game, but that 5-2 loss to the Flyers must have been the worst game they have played all season. I understand that they’ve got a really rough sprint to the start of the post season, and they’ve already got their ticket to the dance, but it just seemed like there was little to no passion on the ice last night. Thankfully, a visible disgusted Claude Julien agrees.
“That was definitely a step back in our game,” Julien told reporters. “You know, really poor puck management and poor decision making. To me, that’s a reflection of the guys not being ready to play. At one point, they’ve got to take the accountability of not being ready. We do a lot of work to prepare and it certainly reflects on us as well as a whole team, the coaching staff and everyone else. Too much of that lately and not enough focus. We’re running out of time to get this stuff going. You always hope that its’ some sort of a wakeup call, but with the way the season’s gone, you’re questioning whether it will or not. Only time will tell.”
There is no time left though. The only thing that has kept the Bruins atop the leader board with it’s 5-5-1 record in April is that Montreal has only gone 3-6 in its last nine games. Granted, it’s a slim chance at this point, but with so few games left there is still an outside chance that the Toronto Maple Leafs could over take both teams and end up winning the Northeast Division. So, what are the Bruins doing wrong here, and is there any reason why they’ve slumped as of late. There is no time for excuses and again the coach agrees.
“Let’s stay away from excuses because it’s not gonna work.” stated a visibly annoyed Claude Julien. “Excuses is a lot of BS right now. We need to quit hiding behind those excuses because it’s a load of crap.”
So, lets assume for the moment that the coach went back into the locker room and read the Bruins the riot act. What can the Bruins do?
Scenario 1 – Coaching change. It has to be mentioned or suggested. We’ve got a team of (usually) aggressive point scorers playing into a defensive-minded system. Personally, most of the players seem to like playing into this system, and it has brought the once struggling franchise into the playoffs every year since Claude Julien took over as the head coach. He’s now the second on career wins for Boston coaches. While there are fans out there who believe CJ should go, I don’t think a coach change would be wise going into next season.
Scenario 2 – Change of general managers. My family have been rabid to the point of fanatical Red Sox fans for decades. One of my parents pointed out to me last season that no one seemed to like Theo Epstein until after he had left, and the Bobby Valentine disaster had gutted a one time champion club. While some people aren’t fans of Peter Chiarelli, he has been one of the major factors in the Bruins’ turn around. Just because he didn’t have another one of those amazing Phil Kessel trades up his sleeve this season, (although the more I watch him play, the Jaromir Jagr trade slowly climbs towards that level) he’s done an excellent job in his position.
Scenario 3 – The healthy scratch stick. The coach is starting to use it, but I think he needs to use it more. Milan Lucic got his first healthy scratch since his rookie season last week. I think most of us agree that he should have been benched far earlier and more often in order to get a better performance out of him. Maybe the healthy scratch line should have seen more playing time this season just to prove a point to the players who believe their job is safe. I love how Lucic plays when he is on his ‘A’ game, but we haven’t seen nearly as much of that as we hoped to.
Scenario 4 – Line overhauls. With the exception of the Bergeron line (Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand-Tyler Seguin), we haven’t seen a solid performance from any of the offensive lines. We’ve seen players like Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille get bumped up because of injuries, play their hearts out, and get sent right back to the fourth line as soon as the injured player gets well. We keep seeing Jaromir Jagr being put in the third or even occasionally the fourth line. He may be in his forties, but most of us agree he plays with a skill and a passion that far belies the official age on his driver’s license.
Horton’s out for the remainder of the regular season. So why not move Jagr up there? Lucic is still playing like he’s not all there so let’s move Paille up. Figure out what to do with the Rubik’s cube that has been the third line all season. We’re in the playoffs so we might as well take these last few games and just really experiment with what could work. The Bruins need to figure out why things aren’t working and they have nearly no time left to implement a plan.
I can’t recall when a lack luster end season performance translated into a serious Stanley Cup run. Peter Chiarelli agrees as well. “Teams don’t flip the switch, let’s be clear on that,” he said. “It just doesn’t happen. We have to put last night aside, build on what we had been building on in the previous three games. The results weren’t there, but we had good, strong successive periods. That made me feel better, and we have to go back to that.”
If we don’t, it’s another one and done year for the Black and Gold.