By Mike Miccoli, Boston Bruins Correspondent
The Boston Bruins say that they’re confident.
They talk about having a good team but also that they know they have to be better. They talk about how they have really strong periods but then say that they’re still not playing the full 60. They talk about how they don’t like to make excuses for their play but still refer to the grueling schedule that this shortened NHL season has blessed them with.
They’ve talked a lot this season.
We’ve listened. We’ve watched. We’ve even wrote about the potential that this team has once everything clicks. And here we are, eight regular season games away from what could be the most uncertain postseason for the Bruins in recent memory because nobody knows what this team is capable of yet.
Not even themselves.
On Thursday night, the Bruins lost to a New York Islanders team that looks nothing like the Long Island clubs of seasons’ past. They were faster, stronger and better in all three zones compared to Boston. Maybe they weren’t playing their third game in four nights like the Bruins were but excuses are excuses, right?
Still, something happened to the Bruins during Thursday’s game that has been a repeating occurrence throughout the season: they stopped caring. Sure, the first period was a decent 19:40 minutes of effort, up until Josh Bailey’s laser put the Islanders on the scoreboard, but for the rest of the game all of the flaws became a lot more noticeable. Chris Kelly couldn’t bury the puck in the second period, even though he was right on Evgeni Nabakov’s doorstep. Milan Lucic couldn’t carry the puck from one zone to the next without a turnover or a misdirected pass. Adam McQuaid was rusty as hell and a bunch of other Bruins just didn’t bother to show up.
It didn’t help that the lines were completely discombobulated and that the Bruins were missing two of their top players with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand sidelined with concussions. But the passion wasn’t there. The drive to win wasn’t either. This was another game where the Bruins lost well before the scoreboard declared that the game was over.
Of course, their record indicates how good of a team that they really are. They’re still one of the top five NHL teams, barely struggling in the grand scheme of things. But it’s hard to think that this will be championship-caliber team if their play doesn’t pick up. Still a point out of first place in the Northeast Division with eight games left isn’t terrible, but something has been missing with this team all season. That next level we all talked about was never there.
No more excuses and no more blaming the schedule. The Bruins have to be better and revert back to their style of hockey if they’re going to be successful. If not, it could very well be an early round exit for Boston.
The Bruins have been talking plenty lately. It’s time for them to start listening to what they’re saying.
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Mike Miccoli covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers and has been a credentialed member of the media for all Bruins’ home games for the past five years. As a former player, coach and official, Miccoli has been around the game of hockey since the age of three. Along with his work on THW, Miccoli has also been published in the New England Hockey Journal, Improper Bostonian magazine and on BostInno.