Bruins (38-29-6) fans have to be thinking only one scary thought as there are only nine games remaining in the 2016-17 regular season: “Please no, not again guys.” A team that was firmly in the Eastern Conference playoff picture as recently as last week now finds many more potholes on the road to hopefully the club’s first postseason berth in the past three years. The frustration of both the players and interim head coach Bruce Cassidy (12-6-0 overall) was evident on Tuesday after they lost 3-2 to Ottawa (40-24-8) at TD Garden. This came on the heels of another excruciating loss, 4-2 at Toronto (33-23-15) on Monday at Air Canada Centre.
Boston is still clinging to third-place in the Atlantic Division but the more points they drop means that they will lose more control ultimately over their playoff fate. A regulation win over the Maple Leafs would have put their Original Six rivals five points behind of them but instead Toronto has pulled to within one point (with two games in hand). Similarly, a regulation victory against the Senators would have brought Boston only two points in back of Ottawa (who has one game in hand). The B’s are left staring at a three-game losing streak in the most important week of their entire season.
After the loss to the Senators, Cassidy was quick to distance himself from the failures of former head coach Claude Julien and his players in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
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“Every year writes its own story, there are many guys in that dressing room including myself who weren’t here before.” You can tell that he senses the pressure after the black and gold had gotten off to such an unexpectedly fantastic start under him (12-3-0 overall including 7-1-0 at home).
This week has two more absolute must-wins for the Bruins or at least two more instances where they really can’t come away empty-handed with zero total points. They host Tampa Bay (34-29-9) on Thursday (7, NESN) at the Garden and then go to Brooklyn on Saturday night (7, NESN) to take on the Islanders (33-26-12). Desperate hockey will be the appropriate buzz words since the Islanders are three points behind the Leafs for the second wild card in the East and the Lightning trail New York by a point. Two wins can serve two main purposes for the Bruins: They can further solidify their current shaky playoff position while putting a real dent in both Tampa Bay and New York’s plummeting chances of reaching the postseason.
Like his new head coach, Boston’s captain Zdeno Chara was ready to quickly turn the page following the setback to Ottawa.
“We can’t get down or look back, we did a lot of good things in this game [outshooting the Senators 36-22]. We have to put that behind us because tomorrow’s a new day. It’s not about what happened last year or the year before.” Bruins fans desperately hope that he is right since they are already starting to have painful flashbacks from the last two seasons.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate