Slumping Bruins Escape February

By Wayne Whittaker, Boston Bruins Correspondent

If the Boston Bruins are going to once again lift Lord Stanley’s Cup this June, these are the players that will need to get the job done.

With the trade deadline now in the rear view mirror, Boston entered the regular season home stretch with a 1-0 loss against the Ottawa Senators.  And with it, they somehow escape the month of February still leading the Northeast Division.

Tim Thomas (SlidingSideways/Flickr CC)

It was a month in which the Bruins were proven to be mortal. Inconsistent, and at times just uninspired play allowed the New York Rangers to all but wrap up the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile the Bruins started to feel the heat from the surprising Senators.

General manager Peter Chiarelli was as conservative as ever at the trade deadline, opting to add a few depth players instead of attempting a blockbuster.

Former Bruin Brian Rolston, Greg Zanon, and Mike Mottau aren’t exactly the names that were popping up the rumor mill, but they’re all veteran players who could pay dividends if the injury bug makes its way through the Boston locker room.

But while Patrice Bergeron was right in his proclamation that the Bruins weren’t waiting for a savior, their play still suggests that they could be waiting for something to come along and save them.

Call it the “dog days of winter”, or the Cup Hangover 2, but whatever it is, it’s got a hold of the Bruins’ offensive weapons.

In the shortened month of February, Boston was shut out five times. They failed to score more than two goals on eight separate occasions. Their power play has returned to its more familiar, dismal pace. The shots may be piling up, but the actual quality scoring chances have been hard to come by.

Granted, Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley are currently on the shelf, but realistically it’s not their absence causing the Bruins scoring woes. It’s a lack of execution on the part of the players on the ice.

Too many times Boston has been caught flat-footed and straight legged. The willingness they showed to go into the gritty areas of the ice for puck battles has been absent since their Stanley Cup rematch against the Vancouver Canucks in early January.

For the 17th time in 21 games, the Bruins entered the 3rd period on Tuesday without a lead. This is not winning hockey, and it’s not Boston Bruins Hockey in the terms this team has defined.

During the 2009-2010 season, the Bruins were in a funk. It turned out to be a season-long-funk that could occasionally camouflage its symptoms, but a funk nevertheless. Marc Savard admitted that the team was just waiting for the playoffs, wishing that there were a fast-forward button.

Come May, the Bruins were looking to press rewind. Once the playoffs finally arrived, the bad habits that Boston had established over 82 regular season games (with a little help from the aforementioned injury bug) came back to haunt the Bruins and rob them of their Stanley Cup aspirations.

Thankfully, this year’s club has established pretty good habits thus far- that being said, there is no “On” switch that can be pressed at their leisure. In the next 20 games, the Bruins goal has to be to find more consistent play.

There are some new faces in the locker room, and with them come new challengers for roster spots.

Bubble players like Joe Corvo now have tangible evidence that their starting jobs are in jeopardy, and that should bring the best in them.

Boston has to be happy to get out of February. With the playoffs now in sight, this would be a good time to once again start playing like the Bruins.

Coach Claude Julien’s message has to be “a fresh start and move forward” in the month of March.

While Tim Thomas groups the Bruins recent slump as a two month period, when it comes to wiping the slate clean the goaltender says, “I haven’t thought of it that way, at all. But it’s certainly one thing we could do. I’ll take it.”

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