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Boston Bruins still seeking an identity

01/25/2010 at 10:10pm EST

By: Mark Marino

It was just a month ago where the Bruins were looking decent – playing well enough for second-place in the Northeast Division, and fifth overall in the East. In fact, their 19-11-7 record [43 points] was just five points away from the top team in the Division – the Buffalo Sabres.

Fast forward 14 games, plus a few injuries, and the Black and Gold have tanked to their nethermost point of the 2009-10 season. After stinking up the RBC Center last night – losing 5-1 against the 29th ranked Carolina Hurricanes – the Bruins find themselves down four spots into ninth-place overall in the Eastern Conference [54 points].

The Bruins have now dropped eight of their last nine games [1-7-1] and had recorded a pitiful 4-9-1 record since the “good ‘ol days” just four weeks ago. Over this 14 game span, the B’s have managed to muster just 11-of-28 possible points, as they continue to slip down the proverbial slide. Now 51 games into the season, and the Big Bad Bruins are still searching – a little too late – for an identity to this team.

Who in fact are these Boston Bruins? Fans and media alike are asking themselves that same question over and over again. Was last year and their 116 regular season points an over-achievement? Doubtful. How can this same team – with a handful of additions by a just few subtractions – cause so much grief and not get “it” together? Are they not listening to last year’s Jack Adams winning coach?

Who knows. But one thing’s for sure: the difference between last year’s team and this season’s debacle goes beyond the wins and losses.

Last year, if Bruins got pushed by their opponents, they didn’t just push back – but they smacked them in the mouth. If the B’s took 20 minutes off during a [which they often did] they came out in the third period, dominated, and finished games.

One game in particular that really set the Bruins apart from the rest of the league was on Nov. 1, 2009, against the Dallas Stars. It was one of the most memorable games of that illustrious season in which had 177 penalty minutes and seven misconducts. But beyond all the bloodshed, fisticuffs, and trips to the sin bin, Boston had an identity. It was a team that refused to be pushed around or antagonized, and was when the actual team was truly bonded – players sticking up for one another until the final horn sounded.

The Bruins got five goals from four players that game and points from 11 different skaters in their triumphant 5-1 battle. Prior to that game, the Bruins were 5-3-3 in their first 11 games of the season for a decent 13 points. Post Nov. 1 war at the TD Garden: 11-1-1 in November; 12-1-0 in December; 8-3-2 January…

This year’s team has yet to show that swagger. Maybe glimpses here-and-there in a handful of games, but certainly not on a consistent basis whatsoever. It even took the 2009-10 Bruins games 15 and 16 [Nov. 7 - 10] to string together back-to-back victories, and have a season-high four consecutive victories. That’s it.

And last night was simply the worst of the worst for the Black and Gold this season. After dominating play for the first seven minutes of the first period, a David Krejci turnover in their own zone quickly resulted in the back of Tim Thomas’ net. The 1-0 score rapidly, and somewhat easily, became 4-0 and eventually a 5-1 embarrassment.

Unlike last year’s Bruins, this club [last night] did virtually nothing to fight back. After a solid effort in the beginning stages of the game, the B’s didn’t seem to care that they were staring down their fifth straight loss. A nonchalant performance with a “we’ll get ‘em next time” attitude”.

General manager Peter Chiarelli thought the trade of Chuck Kobasew on Oct. 18 would send a wake-up call to the other players in that locker room. Apparently not. Claude Julien’s minions don’t necessarily need another game where they rack up 77 penalty minutes and a handful of misconducts to right the ship. It could be something as electrifying as a thunderous open-ice hit during a game; or maybe sending some underachieving players to watch a game from the press level for a night or two.

Now that the Bruins have sunk to their lowest point in the Hub, maybe this is wake-up enough for the players to get their act together. From the man behind the bench, to the 6′9″ blue-liner with the Captain “C” etched on his chest, to the underachievers. They all have to get better during these final 31 games.

The Bruins have nine games remaining before the Feb. 13 Olympic break. Of those nine games, four are against Division opponents [BUF and MTL twice each], and four versus Division leaders [BUF twice, VAN, WSH]. And since Boston doesn’t play until Friday against Buffalo, they could find themselves even deeper, in 13th place. Just three points separate the sixth-place Philadelphia Flyers [55] and the 13th seed Tampa Bay Lightning [52]. Even if the Bruins could limp into the break with a .500 record, I think we’d all consider that a great achievement.

There is still some time remaining this season to find themselves an identity. Although it won’t be for a Presidents’ Trophy season, at least they can try to figure out who they are for their own well-being. If not, the Bruins won’t have to worry about which spot they’ll be in throughout the playoffs, but where they’ll be making their tee-times.

By:Mark Marino

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