Kukla's Korner

Anatomy Of A Slump

4-5-1 and 5-4-1…not great records, but not exactly the end of the world. Still, when you’re the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks, respectively, greater things are expected. Let’s look at how the Bruins and Sharks fell back down to earth over the past ten games:

Boston’s last ten
2/17 Carolina W 5-1
2/21 Florida L 0-2
2/22 Tampa Bay L 3-4
2/24 Florida W 6-1
2/26 Anahei W 6-0
2/28 Washington OTL 3-4
3/3 Philadelphia L 2-4
3/5 Phoenix L 1-2
3/7 Chicago W 5-3
3/8 New York Rangers L 3-4

San Jose’s last ten
2/17 Edmonton W 4-2
2/19 Los Angeles W 4-2
2/21 Atlanta W 3-1
2/23 Dallas W 1-0
2/25 Detroit L 1-4
2/26 Ottawa W 2-1
2/28 Montreal L 2-3
3/3 Dallas L 1-4
3/5 Minnesota OTL 3-4
3/7 Vancouver L 1-3

For Boston, Phil Kessel’s torrid goal-scoring pace stopped when the calendar turned to 2009. The young American star has only popped in four goals since January 1. While David Krejci hasn’t slumped to the level of Kessel, he still hasn’t been ripping things up like he did November and December. Boston’s penalty kill, near the top of the league for most of the season, has dropped off as the Bruins consistently failed to kill off key penalties during this extended slump. A handful of day-to-day injuries, along with the extended absence of Michael Ryder, have also prevented the Bruins from fielding a full lineup.

For San Jose, a number of things have gone wrong all at once. Key injuries have essentially depleted the regular shifts on the third and fourth line, leaving those responsibilities to a handful of AHL callups (including some guy named Claude Lemieux). Evgeni Nabokov hasn’t been his best when he’s been healthy and normally steady backup Brian Boucher has let in a few real stinkers in net. At the same time, the top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Devin Setoguchi have gone dry for the first time this season.

Sure, some of these games for both teams can be attributed to bad bounces or shaky officiating. But those are the breaks for every team, and to point the finger at those excuses or the injury sheet becomes an exercise in avoiding blame. Ultimately, both the Bruins and the Sharks found their groove in the first half of the season thanks to buying into their system and doing the little things that you learn in Hockey 101: take shots, move your feet, crash the net. Poor plays can quickly become bad habits, and those bad habits can trickle through the entire lineup.

Should fans in San Jose and Boston be worried? No; these teams are too talented and too well coached for these slumps to be the death knell of a great season. Remember, last year’s Red Wings went through a long winless stretch after the All-Star Game as well.

These types of slumps are to be expected for any team that has easily torn through the competition. If you’re going to slump, late February/early March isn’t the worst time to do it. Look at it this way: by this time of the season, the Sharks and Bruins have established enough of a lead that they don’t have to worry about falling out of the playoff race; instead, they can take a step back and examine the bad habits that have taken them off their game. As a team, the process overcoming these slumps can be the final thing that solidifies mental toughness and brings the team together for a long playoff run.

Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: boston+bruins, san+jose+sharks

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