Bruins

Hell yes, I'm worried about the Bruins after Wednesday's loss to Tampa

Bruins

Bruce Cassidy said back in June that there could be some sort of "preseason mentality" once the Bruins got back and prepared for the playoffs.  

The preseason is something like six games long. The Bruins have played three games in the bubble and lost all of them. If they stay in preseason mode — or whatever this is — for another three, they'll be in a 2-0 hole, halfway to being swept by the Penguins or Hurricanes in the first round.

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It took until the second period of the second round-robin game for this team to even show a pulse. That's better than continuing to suck, but by that point they had already spotted a Steven Stamkos-less Lightning team a 2-0 lead.

And once they had tied it and could have seized a couple points, they let Tampa fire away at Tuukka Rask before finally ceding the winning goal — and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

If you weren't worried about the Bruins going into this game, you figured they'd have some sort of angry, focused response to Sunday's disaster of a debut against the Flyers.

Here's what happened instead: On the first shift of the game, the how-is-this-a-line line of David Krejci with Nick Ritchie and Karson Kuhlman got stuck in its own zone, leading to a Jeremy Lauzon penalty. About five minutes after the Bruins killed that penalty, the top line — Boston's only sure thing up front — gave up an odd-man rush that resulted in a Tampa goal.

 

Three minutes later, Boston's top pair of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy both got on the ice before Brandon Carlo got off, resulting in a too-many-men penalty and an Alex Killorn power-play goal. Bless Torey Krug, who took a Blake Coleman hit on Brandon Carlo as an opportunity to drop the gloves in a desperate attempt to wake up his teammates. It didn't work.

That was the first period.

The Bruins played better in the second period, and if they had shown up at all in the opening 20, their play in the next period and a half was probably enough to earn them at least a point. But they didn't, and now the Presidents' Trophy winner is without a point through two games and perhaps headed for the No. 4 seed, where they could face Pittsburgh or Carolina.

Am I worried about the Bruins? Hell yes I am. It would be a different story if the B's closed it out after tying it, but the final seven minutes or so, when the game was on the line, was all Tampa.

Rask, who was making his round-robin debut and had lost a puck on a first-period goal, had to play out of his mind to keep them in it, stopping Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat on Grade-A chances. He eventually kicked a fat rebound right in front from a shot off the rush, and no one was there but Tyler Johnson to bury it.

So yes, the Bruins did wake up and come back against a team that was missing one of the best players in the world. Yet when it was time to actually take care of business and get two points in regulation (because they shouldn't have wanted Tampa to get anything out of this game), they were the second-best team on the ice.

The Bruins have one more game to get set for the playoffs and they still have some ugly questions to answer about their lineup. A Ritchie-Krejci-Kuhlman line is unacceptable. The Bjork-Coyle-DeBrusk line was a little better than the Krejci line, but DeBrusk should not play the right wing.

In other words, the middle six remains a mess, and if and when Ondrej Kase ever returns, it isn't fair to expect him to fix it.

The Bruins were the best team in the NHL in the regular season. Did they have the best roster? No, and it's fair to question why Don Sweeney didn't do more for it, but they were the best team. Standing points don't lie.

That was a long time ago, though, and with important games being played, the Bruins look far from it.