Coming off quite possibly their worst loss of the 2016-17 regular season (which is really saying something), the Bruins (23-19-6) have no choice but to try and regroup in a hurry since this weekend has to be their most daunting two-game challenge of the entire campaign. Boston hosts Chicago (28-14-5) on Friday (7, NESN) at TD Garden and then they go to Pittsburgh’s (28-11-5) PPG Paints Arena on Sunday afternoon (3, NESN). The Blackhawks are tied with the Wild (28-10-5) for the most points in the NHL while the defending champs (Penguins) are also still one of the prime contenders in the entire league.
It is not a stretch to say that losses like the 6-5 shootout defeat suffered by the Bruins on Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena vs. the Red Wings (20-19-6) can cost coaches their jobs and cause players to be traded elsewhere. Boston stormed out to a 3-0 lead just 8:50 into the contest as Frank Vatrano scored a pair of goals and they led 4-1 after the first period. Detroit goaltender Jared Coreau was pulled after allowing the first three goals and backup Petr Mrazek was put in. Not much else went right from there though for the B’s as the host Red Wings outscored them 3-1 in the second period and Gustav Nyquist tied it at five with only 3:04 left in regulation. After a scoreless overtime, Detroit outscored Boston 2-1 in the shootout to take the stunning two points.
“We collapsed,” admitted Bruins head coach Claude Julien in the immediate aftermath of yet another brutal loss. “It’s pretty obvious. It’s one of those games. We didn’t get the save when we needed it and we made some mistakes which gave them chances so a lot of things went wrong tonight after we took that lead.”
As we all know, Boston has dropped precipitously since their appearance in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finalvs. Chicago. The Blackhawks on the other hand are still one of the NHL’s elite clubs that nobody ever wants to face in the playoffs. Brilliant right wing Patrick Kane leads the team with 47 points (14 goals, 33 assists) but left wing Artemi Panarin (17 goals, 26 assists) is one of the top young talents in the game and center Artem Anisimov (18 goals, 15 assists) is putting it all together after years of underachieving.
The Penguins need no introduction: they are the second-highest scoring team in the NHL and they are coming off a pair of impressive wins: an insane 8-7 overtime win vs. Washington (29-9-6) on Monday (definitely the Game of the Year in the NHL thus far) and a 4-1 win at Montreal (27-13-6) on Wednesday. Centers Sidney Crosby (27 goals, 23 assists) and Evgeni Malkin (21 goals, 29 assists) both pace the team with 50 points while old friend Phil Kessel (13 goals, 29 assists) is likewise putting up nice numbers for Pittsburgh.
There is a good chance that one or both of these games will get pretty ugly for the Bruins so it makes you wonder what GM Don Sweeney’s response (if anything) would be to such a likely scenario?