WILMINGTON – The Bruins are being challenged in the resiliency department for one of the final times in this NHL regular season.
The Black and Gold are coming off a demoralizing West Coast trip to California where they dropped all three games to San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles, and in doing so allowed both the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning to gain greater separation from Boston at the top of the Atlantic Division. The three-game losing streak late in the season also has some questioning whether the B’s will fall apart during the final nine games and miss the playoffs for a second straight season.
That might be a tad overdramatic, but it’s also understandable some of this team’s performances this year.
It’s true the Bruins offense has slowed down while producing a paltry nine goals over the last six games, and it’s also wholly apparent at this point the Sharks, Ducks and Kings are operating at a different, higher frequency than the B’s. But there’s something to be said for a Bruins team that’s risen above low expectations, and has managed to avoid losing more than three games in a row this season.
The Bruins will need to keep that string alive on Wednesday night when they travel to Madison Square Garden for an Original Six showdown with the New York Rangers, but Boston has shown that kind of resiliency all year.
Whether it’s the strong coaching job done by Claude Julien and his Bruins staff or the unbending, influential leadership of the proven veterans inside the Bruins dressing room, Boston has never allowed things to get too high or low 73 games into the season. So it stands to reason the B’s will again pull out of their current tailspin, particularly with the knowledge the most difficult part of Boston’s second half schedule is now in the rear view mirror and fading fast.
“It’s consistency. We’ve been fairly consistent, and we haven’t had the big dips,” said Julien. “That’s also important, and hopefully we can end that [three game losing streak] tomorrow [against the Rangers]. It just reflects the kind of team we have as an overall thing. I think you can credit everybody for that.
“We’ve been good enough to manage our losses, I guess, and our wins. So we’re aware of where are right now. But it’s in the past, and right now we’re looking at we can do from here on in.”
They’ve never won more than five games in a row, but the Bruins also haven’t lost more than three games in a row despite some considerable weak spots within the Boston roster. The course correction has been remarkable for the Black and Gold whenever things start to wander a little bit off the tracks. There’s no reason to think that will suddenly change for the worse with the Bruins holding a three point cushion over the Red Wings for the final playoff spot, and a late season home date against the Wings still yet to come.
“It starts with the leaders in the room, and the coaches obviously,” said Torey Krug. “We can realize what is going wrong with our game, and we’re able to correct those things and make sure that we demand that out of our guys in the next game. It just speaks volumes about how we correct things, and how we approach it.
“It’s nice knowing we’re able to bounce back, and we’re able to do that. We talk about how our team may be immature sometimes, but when you look at the veterans in this group they can really come together and say ‘Enough is enough. We really have to get the next one.’ When you’re able to avoid those peaks and valleys through the season then it puts you in a good position at the end of the year.”
That’s where the Bruins find themselves now with a few weeks left in the regular season: their fate is in their hands, and they’ve done enough good work already to make one believe there will be no repeat of last year’s late season implosion.
Now they’ll just need to prove it once again on Wednesday night against the Rangers, then 24 hours later on home against a Florida Panthers club the Bruins are furiously chasing in the Eastern Conference standings.