Last night during the third period of the Boston Bruins 4-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the TD Garden, I got up from my seat in the press box to say hello to a colleague. As I made my way around the halo past the Bruins coaches and management suites I heard an overwhelming sigh from the crowd below and a loud thud come from behind the closed door where Cam Neely and Peter Chiarelli watch their team on a nightly basis.
When I say thud, I mean I felt the ground shake under my feet. I jumped back out into the open view of the rink and saw Phil Kessel celebrating his second goal of the night against his former club tying the game at 3-3. Either the current President and one of the greatest Bruins of all time either dropped a bowling ball on the ground or he was showing a little frustration.
Who could blame him? After a third straight loss a little frustration would be nothing but human. Who could blame Cam, the recorder shy locker room, or the herd of fans in black and yellow jockeying for position on the green line at North Station after the game for feeling a little off?
“I think its one of those situations where if you have any sense of pride your embarrassed about tonight, not because the other team played well, but because we didn’t play to the level we should be playing,” explained head coach Claude Julien on his teams troubles “Right now its been creeping into the types of goals we’re giving up…its unacceptable and that sense of urgency doesn’t seem to be there.”
Before this three game skid the Bruins had been experiencing some up and down play at best, consisting of some thrilling wins and like tonight, losses where it seemed like there was just something missing. If there was any time to for that something to be found, it would be before the Bruins take a six-game road swing that starts Thursday against an Islanders team which has found itself in the spotlight as of recent.
But as far as pinpointing a legitimate ailment, it’s harder than one would think. If the Bruins went to a doctor they would be told they look fine. You seem to have everything you need. Veterans, feisty youngsters, some solid defensemen, guys with the ability to score, a goalie who has the best numbers in the league, yup it all checks out.
Tell me Mr. Bruin, have you ever thought about speaking with a psychiatrist?
“Its guys not thinking, not being ready. I don’t know if there’s distractions up in the air that bring that around the team,” said Julien, “but to me, tonight’s game was a very big disappointment.”
Worse than a case of inexperienced defense or the injury bug, a diagnosis of you just not being mentally there might be the scariest one of all. There is no concrete fix. No 30 goal scorer pill or enforcer lozenge you can take.
“It’s frustrating but we got to find a way to get out of it and bounce back,” explained Bruins forward Michael Ryder. “We got two games on the road now and then a big road trip after that so its something we need to get straightened out before then”
After three losses the questions around the room all start to sound the same. Tim Thomas has probably had to explain how he felt about every single puck that has gotten behind his goal line this year. When asked about what he didn’t like about the game tying goal against Toronto he said straight faced “Besides the fact that I didn’t stop it?” the press looking on silently.
It’s as simple as that at this point in the season.
Above where Thomas sits there is a sign that reads, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, is therefore not an act, but a habit” It seems like the Bruins have had only acts of greatness so far. But how they make that a habit, they are still figuring out.
Postgame Video featuring Kessel courtesy of Tim Rosenthal