The Boston Bruins, once the most dominant team in hockey this season, have recently slipped to a point beyond recognition. The same team that used to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents and seemingly be able to score at will, have fallen into a rut that has left them with just 4 wins in their last 11 games. So where to do they go from here? Is there a way to redeem these recent problems and make a return to the top of the Eastern Conference, or are the Bruins doomed to end up like the self-destructing Canadiens?
To answer these questions one must not look at injuries, coaching or management, for those have been consistent throughout the great success and recent problems of the Bruins. To identify this problem one must examine the team itself, and how it reacts under certain situations. When it comes to gameplay statistics, the B’s have not lost a game this season in which they have had a 2 goal lead. They are also extraordinary in the third period, revealing their killer instinct and ability to perform when games come down to the buzzer. This is perhaps the key to their success, and the reason why they are Stanley Cup Champions. This team simply plays when they have to. For the past 30 years, the Bruins have been an underdog in the NHL, which is something that has been ingrained into their identity. They have earned a reputation as a team of bruisers, goons and hooligans, but never as one of champions. However, that is exactly the type of hockey they were playing after their early 3 – 7 start. They played hard, they played well, and they played for each other, and with every game following their rocky start they began to remind Boston of the championship team they once were. They have the ability to dominate teams, to put up 9 – 0 blowouts, and to play like champions, but as of late, they simply do not need to.
There is a reason why no team in the NHL has gone 82 – 0, and that is the problem the Bruins are experiencing now. Once continuously ranked at the #1 spot of the power rankings this season, this team has the potential to overcome any obstacle when provoked. Consider last postseason for example. 3 games sevens, and one sweep. The sweep, however, happened to be against the team that embarrassed not only the Bruins but the entire city of Boston in 2010, and the B's knew they needed to make a statement. They won 4 games in a row against the red-hot Flyers, proving that the days of blown leads and soft goals were over. Fast forward to the Stanley Cup final, when Nathan Horton received a concussion courtesy of a cheap shot by Aaron Rome. The Bruins responded with a blowout, putting up 8 goals against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Canucks, and winning the remainder of the games by a score 21-3. The rest of that series is history, but the fact remains that this team performs for each one another, and as a team, when necessary. This is not a team of superstars, but rather just a group of motivated men willing and ready to do what it takes to be champions. That is why there is no reason to worry about the recent problems of the Bruins. They know what it takes, and how to execute a championship postseason run. The only question that remains to be asked of this Bruins team is when they will decide its time to start winning again. Whether it will be another backlash from a Nathan Horton like incident, or a vengeance-ridden series like that of the Flyers, teams in the NHL need to recognize that all the Bruins need is a poke in the right direction. But as they saying goes, and as the Canadiens, Flyers, Lighting and Canucks know all too well, you don’t poke the bear.