UNIONDALE -- If the Thursday night game against the NHL cellar dwellers in Columbus was in the trap category of games on the Bruins schedule, then Saturday nights tilt against the Islanders might be the ultimate trap game.
Its the kind of trap game at half-filled Nassau Coliseum that would make Admiral Its a Trap! Akbar proud, and could lure the Bruins right into the hockey pitfall. After all the Bruins have important divisional games against the Montreal Canadiens and the Buffalo Sabres at the end of the three-game road trip, and still need to push a little harder to get themselves comfortably within the top eight Eastern Conference teams by Thanksgiving morning.
Its going to be good for us to go on the road. Its a big road trip for us, three games, said Patrice Bergeron. You got the Islanders, but then youve got two teams that are in our division that are going to be huge games. Were going to start with the Islanders and its always tough to play there. Its going to be a good challenge for us to be on the road.
If the Bruins arent in a playoff spot by the time they celebrate American Thanksgiving with the truly patriotic combination of beer, carved turkey and NFL football, then it becomes an uphill climb through the rest of the season. So all three road games are important for the Bruins coming off 13 of their first 17 games on the TD Garden ice, but the Saturday night Isles tilt is the one game they might just overlook.
Claude Julien granted his Bs players an off-day on Friday after determining that his team appeared fatigued against the Blue Jackets, but there has to be a nagging suspicion that the same distracted hockey club might appear this weekend. The Bruins were sloppy with their transition passes, careless with the puck around their own net and their best offensive players never got untracked over 65 minutes of hockey against the Blue Jackets.
There is little reason to think the Bruins can avoid the same fate against the lowly Islanders while they muddle their way through their season with the bizarre three-man goaltender rotation.
The Habs and Sabres are much racier opponents for many good reasons: The Bruins are looking for revenge against their arch-rival Habs after the Canadiens slapped Boston across the face with a home-and-home sweep at the end of the October. The two straight losses to Montreal, actually, have been attributed as the wakeup call that finally snapped the Bruins out of their Stanley Cup hangover.
Then theres the revenge game against the Sabres after Milan Lucic took out Ryan Miller last weekend at TD Garden, and set off a ridiculous open season on goaltenders narrative across the NHL. Much of it could be tossed at the feet of Miller and his profane barbs tossed at Lucic in the postgame locker room, but there is also much for Buffalo to prove against the Bruins.
The Sabres have been ridiculed across the NHL for failing to stand up for Miller after Lucic collided with the Buffalo netminder, and there should be plenty of fire on the Sabres bench to prove theyre not such a heartless bunch of wimps. The NHL might prevent the Wednesday night pre-Thanksgiving match from turning into a complete gong show by simply watching with a heavy dose of scrutiny, but theres no doubt the Bruins are already thinking about it.
Thats the challenge for the Bs coaching staff, and the players. They will all say the right things about focusing on each game one shift at a time, but they need to prove it against the Islanders like they didnt prove it against the Blue Jackets.
You don't take anybody lightly. You know to end a streak you can lose against the last place team or you can badly beat the first place team, said David Krejci. You just don't take anybody lightly and just play your game I think that's what we have to do from now on.
The Bruins got lucky with the shootout win behind Tuukka Rask Thursday night, and arent likely to be as fortunate against the Islanders this time around. The Bruins have experienced some awful performances on Long Island over the last few years in such a challenging environment for a high level hockey effort, and honest-to-goodness intensity and work ethic are the only antidotes for the Uniondale malaise.
Thats the important first step in a three-pronged process for a perfect road trip in the first extended series of games away from the Boston home base of operations for the Spoked B crew.