Consistency is paramount in the sports world. That is, unless you’re consistently missing the playoffs with three or less games remaining in the season. For the Boston Bruins, that has been their cruel reality in last two seasons.
365 days ago Ottawa swooped in late and crushed the fragile line of hope that Boston clutched on to for dear life. Similarly, this season Ottawa entreated a typically hostile TD Garden and made a mockery of Boston’s last second hopes for a playoff spot.
Andrew Hammond was once again, spectacular, aside from a minor hiccup on an arguably off sides play which resulted in Boston’s one and only goal. For the most part, the Bruins were exposed. They showed their true colors after battling hard against a motivated Red Wings team just a few nights earlier. Appearing lethargic and nervous while attempting to maintain their brief lead.
It was a true lack of beauty which killed the beast. Boston went absolutely ice cold when it came time to ante up. To be honest, they weren’t a tough team to figure out. Aside from the Bergeron line this team typically doesn’t score. Speaking of which Bergeron, Marchand, and Eriksson all scored 30 or more goals this season. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you think that type of production will miss the playoffs. Coupled with their inexperienced defensive core who are prone to hideous turnovers and you have a mentally unstable hockey club.
While the loss in it of itself is as close to inexcusable as it comes. What’s most peculiar was the goaltending situation. Tuukka Rask took a very brief warm up in which he looked hazy and lost. It wasn’t until puck drop that we realized he was dealing with an illness. So, playing with the cards he was dealt, head coach Claude Julien started backup, Jonas Gustavsson.
In turn he did all he could.
17,565 fans looked on with pure disgust as Ottawa tagged on goal after goal with ease. Boston’s moral was just as low as the Gardens attendance with just under 10 minutes left in regulation. When the dust settled Boston had the proverbial fork driven through them.
6-1 your final score.
By dinner time on the East coast Boston was mathematically eliminated by virtue of a Flyers regulation victory.
Now comes the fun part. The blame game. Make no mistake, it wasn’t the Senators, Flyers, Red Wings, or even Claude Julien’s fault. It was the players.
Claude will undoubtedly take the most abuse for how this season played out. But it’s hard to win a horse race with a team of ponies. I’ve given Julien plenty of grief in the past, but what he was able to accomplish with this defensive staff is truly impressive. This was not Julien’s team. Last years squad was. But for the most part, he made this season work.
Ultimately, what we had here is a failure to communicate. Between both the management and the coach. To quote yet another movie, this is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immoveable object.
You have the coach to win with, I suggest you take considerable time to figure out who you are as an organization. Free agency is going to be a huge stepping stone for Boston. Chris Kelly’s 4 million dollar cap hit is officially off the books and rumblings of a Chara trade are persistent. Boston could enter the July 4th melee with a plethora of cash.
Not to mention they have some good draft picks they could potentially move to make something work.
Regardless, this off season should be approached with tempered expectations. If you’re a life long Bruins fan, you will understand.
It’s hard to ignore the obvious gap between Sweeney and Julien. Its a tug of war match that Julien is deemed to lose.
The market for a playoff caliber coach is quite high.
Everyone wants one and those who don’t are desperately searching for one.
So, unless a verbal agreement has been reached with Toronto regarding Mike Babcock, which is a pipe dream, handing Julien a pink slip is the wrong move. Give yourself another half season to internally decompress, clearly they need it.
Quite obviously they are a marathon away from being a contender, and just as I predicted, they’re good, but nowhere near good enough.