While you were probably watching the Falcons destroy the Packers 44-21 on Sunday afternoon in the NFC Championship Game, the Bruins (23-21-6) were simultaneously melting down in Pittsburgh (30-11-5). The Penguins won 5-1, handing Boston its fourth straight loss as they dropped to 3-6-2 overall in the last 11 mostly forgettable games. Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask left in the second period with a migraine headache and never returned to action (he also sat out of practice on Monday), forcing backup goaltender Zane McIntyre to come in against the league’s top offense on the road which culminated in a thoroughly predictable result. This all leaves you wondering just what else could possibly go wrong for the black and gold at this particular juncture?
Oddly enough, the B’s are still in third-place in the Atlantic Division but the Maple Leafs (21-14-9) are one of the hottest teams in the NHL (6-2-2 in their last 10 games) and while they are only a point behind Boston, they still have an incredible six games in hand over their Original Six rival. The good news (if there is any at the moment) for the Bruins is that Toronto appears to be their only real threat for third-place. Florida (20-19-9) has been even more of a mess than Boston has all season and similarly, Tampa Bay (21-22-5) has suffered an inordinate amount of injuries to key players leading to a sub-par campaign for them so far.
After a scoreless first period (delayed by an ice issue), Pittsburgh were up 2-0 in the second period before David Krejci mercifully got Boston on the scoreboard. The Bruins only trailed 2-1 heading into the third period before the proverbial roof caved in on them. “I look at some of the mistakes we made, it’s a team that just got unraveled there in the third period,” admitted Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “This is a team that needs all 20 guys going in order to win. We don’t have enough talent to think that we can get away with a mediocre game.”
Boston has two games this week-both at TD Garden (where let’s remember that they are 10-12-0 this season) before the All-Star break begins on Friday. They host Detroit (20-19-8) on Tuesday (7, NESN) before the Penguins come to town on Thursday (7, NESN). The Red Wings are currently four points behind the Bruins and after last week’s dismal 6-5 shootout loss in Detroit, I don’t know how Boston could possibly be lacking in any motivation for that must-win tilt.
With the Patriots’ 36-17 blowout of the Steelers in the AFC Championship, most New England sports fans will be distracted for another few weeks as the Pats go for their fifth Super Bowl title. However, win or lose for the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, by the time Feb. 6 rolls around for the Bruins, then there will be no place to hide from much more of the spotlight for this extremely frustrating club.