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Reeling Bruins Facing Red Sox-like Collapse
This is getting all too familiar for Boston sports fans.
The Boston Bruins were contending for the top spot in the National Hockey League while rolling up a 21-2-1 streak in November and December. The way they played on the ice was even better than the numbers in the standings. They were clearly the best team in the Eastern Conference, and it seemed like it was just a matter of how big their edge would be on the second-place team.
It harkened back memories to the 2011 American League baseball season when the Boston Red Sox were the best team in the American League and proved it with a sensational performance in May, June and July. An American League East Division seemed certain as they appeared to have too big an edge over the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays to let it slip away.
The Bruins lost their edge sometime in January. Oh, yes, right about the time that superstar goalie Tim Thomas decided to assert his constitutional rights and not show up at the White House. The lull in January coincided with a New York Rangers hot streak. New York passed the Bruins and never looked back. Instead of dominating with hard hitting, clutch goals and exceptional goaltending, the Bruins fell behind and couldn't catch up.
The Red Sox lost their consistency in August and never got it back. As the season moved towards its conclusion, it seemed like centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury was the only regular player who was really on top of his game. There were injuries and … ahem … distractions. The Red Sox fell out of first place and the Ray started to catch up to them in the wild-card race. It eventually ended up with a disastrous series in Baltimore where closer Jonathan Papelbon could not hold a ninth-inning lead on the last day of the season while the Rays beat the Yankees on a home run by Evan Longoria in their last at bat. That enabled the Rays to pass the Red Sox and earn a spot in the postseason.
Pass the chicken and beer.
The Bruins seem to be a far more earnest and decent sort than to allow the season to disintegrate the same way. A look at the NHL's Eastern Conference standings reveals that they are still second overall because they are the Northeast Division leader, by two points over the Ottawa Senators. However, with a win by the Senators March 14 over the lowly Montreal Canadiens, the two teams will be tied in the standings. If the Bruins lose the following day to the Florida Panthers and Ottawa comes back with a second win over Montreal in its home-and-home series, the Bruins will drop to 7th overall in the East.
At that point, the Bruins would have to look out below for the onrushers trying to make the playoffs. The Buffalo Sabres are in ninth place and have been playing their best hockey. Could history repeat itself - in a very painful way - and keep the Bruins from even making the playoffs?
A look at the schedule reveals a winnable game March 19 at home vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs. There are no other easy games on the schedule. The defense has been awful, goaltending has been leaky and the atmosphere has been panicky. Injuries have depleted the team, but that's the hand head coach Claude Julien has been dealt.
If there is no turnaround, the final game of the season between the Bruins and the Sabres at the Garden April 7 could be for a lot more than just playoff preparation. It could be for a spot in the playoffs, something the Bruins never thought they would have to consider back in November and December.
Boston.com - Bruins lacking in shellacking
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