When we next see the Bruins at TD Garden - on Feb. 24 vs. Vancouver - they could be a much different team. That’s not to say a blockbuster trade is expected well ahead of the March 2 NHL deadline, or that by then they will have changed much in the Eastern Conference standings (currently four points ahead of Florida for eighth place). But their upcoming five-game road trip: the longest and most daunting of their entire 2014-15 season, could very well shape them for the rest of the season.
Boston (28-19-7) had its best month of the season in January (8-1-3), so what has changed in the last week, where they have lost three out of their last four? The easy trend to point to in each of those contests is that they have allowed the first goal each time. Furthermore, their disappearing offense has returned as they have scored a total of eight goals combined in that tough stretch. Head coach Claude Julien didn’t mince words on Tuesday after Boston fell, 5-3, to Dallas (25-21-8).
“We had a poor work ethic on the power play (0-for-4),” Julien said. “It was a real disappointing effort, we only have ourselves to look at and blame for the loss.”
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The Bruins’ road record this season is far from the best (11-10-3) and that will certainly be tested over the next few weeks. Four out of the five games appear to be against clubs that will reach the Western Conference playoffs, with only one mismatch on the horizon. Boston opens at Rogers Arena on Friday (10 p.m., NESN) against the Canucks (29-20-3), a team that should be right at their level. Vancouver is only 14-11-1 at home this season so Boston needs to get some kind of positive result there. Monday’s tilt (9 p.m., NESN) at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary (30-21-3) should be interesting as the Flames are another team that the Bruins haven’t seen yet this season. Calgary has exceeded expectations this season and is 15-11-2 at home.
Without question, next Wednesday’s game (10 p.m., NESN) at Rexall Place vs. the lowly Oilers (15-31-9) is a game that the B’s absolutely have to win as Edmonton is still one of the worst teams in the NHL.
The back end of this trip is definitely the toughest part, however, as the Bruins visit St. Louis a week from Friday (8 p.m., NESN) and Chicago on Feb. 22 (3 p.m., NBC). Either of those teams could wind up winning the Western Conference so Boston figures to have its hands full in both places.