Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
The Boston Bruins have been going through a bit of a tough stretch lately: Losing three of their last four, blowing third-period leads in a way that few Claude Julien-coached Bruins teams have, and causing the entire city to have a crisis of confidence about whether the team is good enough to compete for a Stanley Cup.
All the nail-biting and finger-pointing in the world — and there's been a lot of both in the last week — does little to actually get to the heart of the issue: There's no really good reason why the Bruins aren't playing especially well right now, or why they can't hold a third-period lead.
Let's start with the very basic fact that none of this, no matter what the media wants to believe, has to do with how "clutch" Tuukka Rask is or isn't. Claude Julien made a comment after the loss in Winnipeg last Tuesday, in which Rask gave up goals less than a minute apart, that the team wasn't getting "timely saves." That was all anyone needed.
Anton Khudobin got a start at Ottawa after that, and the Bruins won 2-1, leading many in the local media, sage surveyors of the sport, to wonder if it was time to start splitting time between the two. This despite the fact that Rask's goals-against average is below 2, and his even strength save percentage is among the best in the League.
Now Rask knows how Roberto Luongo feels, because people are trying to squeeze him out of his job for not being "clutch" with almost 20 games to go in the regular season, despite the fact that his team scored one (1) goal to support him.
And as for Khudobin, the media's heir apparent to Rask's shortly-held throne? Got the hook after giving up three goals on 11 shots to Toronto Saturday night. So it's back to the drawing board there.
When can they call up Malcolm Subban?
That latter fact is the real reason for the Bruins struggles, and one can't imagine it lasts all that much longer. Milan Lucic doesn't have a goal in 15 games. David Krejci has two goals since the beginning of March. Nathan Horton has one. So if you're looking to lay out some blame, you might want to start with the second line, but all anyone's interested in for them is excuse-making.
The offensive problems are pervasive, though. In this run of four games, the only top-flight Bruins forwards with goals are Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin, and they have one apiece. The Bruin with the most goals in this disappointing stretch is Dennis Seidenberg, with two, and that should tell you just about everything you need to know as to where the problems lie. Six goals in the last four games and people want to blame the goalie. Makes a lot of sense.
With this all in mind, though, Claude Julien shook up his lines ahead of tonight's return tilt with the Maple Leafs, and maybe that will get everyone going again. Or maybe it won't. But let's say the Bruins lose to the Leafs tonight. Maybe they even lose to Montreal on Wednesday. While no team wants to lose five of six at any point for any reason, it nonetheless won't matter much for Boston, who seem a lock for home ice in the playoffs and are still, despite all these mighty struggles of theirs, just two points back of Montreal with a game in hand for tops in the Northeast.
The Bruins put 122 shots on goal in the four games that have caused so much worry in the market, and scored on just six of them. Those goalies — Tomas Vokoun, Ondrej Pavelec, Robin Lehner, and James Reimer — weren't exactly the brass of the National Hockey League either. So what do you think is more likely to happen? That Rask will continue not making "timely saves" against offenses like the Jets (20th in goals for), or that the Bruins' offense will start shooting 4.9 percent through the end of the season?
It's a slump. It happens. There was a stretch when the Penguins scored only one goal in both sides of a back-to-back against the Devils. No one tried running Marc-Andre Fleury out of town. And Tuukka Rask is much, much better than Marc-Andre Fleury. Give this a week, maybe less, and everything will be back to normal.
A prediction that the Bruins would be one of the three or four best teams in hockey this season is as likely to come true now as it was on Jan. 19. They're great, and deep, at every position. It's all fine.