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Bruins in ruins after Capital punishment

WASHINGTON -- Bulletin to Bruins Nation: Batten down the hatches.


You think the Northeaster last weekend was memorable? That might be nothing compared with the gale-force winds that could blow through the Bruins if something doesn't change soon.

General manager Mike O'Connell, on hand for last night's 6-5 loss to the Capitals at the MCI Center, said the work ethic and the passion are missing from the Bruins. Not all his players. He singled out captain Joe Thornton, goalie Andrew Raycroft (the clear-cut No. 1 after last night's 19-save performance in relief of Felix Potvin), and coach Mike Sullivan for living up to their responsibilities.

If you factor out 18-year-old center Patrice Bergeron, whom the organization thinks is a gold mine, and frequent minor leaguers up with the big team (Ted Donato, who scored for the second straight game, Doug Doull, and Patrick Leahy), that leaves a lot of other people O'Connell doesn't think are doing their jobs.

This is not the first time the GM has expressed his dissatisfaction. One day after a lackluster 2-0 victory over Dallas Oct. 15, made possible almost exclusively by Raycroft, O'Connell publicly called out his best players to answer the bell.

Last night, between periods, O'Connell threatened changes, with the Bruins having only one win in their last 10 outings (1-4-4-1). He said he was having trouble putting a finger on what was wrong but he promised he wasn't going to let it continue ad infinitum.

"It's not early anymore," said the GM. "The players have got to figure it out. You can't look to Joe every game. Players have to step up or I've got to do something, I've got to change it."

Left wing Mike Knuble, playing with Bergeron instead of Thornton, put the Bruins up, 1-0, at 2:19 of the first. But the Capitals -- playing their first game under new coach Glen Hanlon -- scored three goals on three shots (two on the power play) to go up, 3-1. Marty Lapointe was whistled for hooking at 2:26 and Glen Murray joined him at 3:10, giving the Capitals a five-on-three for 1:17. They scored on the two-man advantage (Peter Bondra at 3:45) and the subsequent five-on-four (Jaromir Jagr at 4:45) before Matt Pettinger chased Potvin with the third strike at 6:37.

"We started off pretty good and then bad goals and stupid penalties," said O'Connell.

Defenseman Dan McGillis brought the Bruins back to within one at 9:37, but the Capitals rallied early in the second when Bates Battaglia potted his first goal as a Capital at 4:55. Lapointe closed it to within a goal again at 7:55 as the Bruins outplayed and outshot the Capitals, 14-5. Dainius Zubrus scored on a penalty shot with 5:12 left in the third, which got wackier as it wore on.

Jeff Halpern made it a 6-3 game at 18:36 with an empty-netter, which the Boston bench thought should have been icing, but the Bruins weren't done. Donato scored with 1:02 remaining and center Travis Green made it a one-goal game again with 7.1 ticks on the clock but they ran out of time -- and the front office is running out of patience.

Coaches are paid to look at the games one at a time but GMs are paid to worry about the big picture and O'Connell is plenty worried.

"You're always looking for the positive," he said. "We're getting too little from too many players. It'd be one thing if I thought we were working our tails off, but that's not happening. We're not working hard enough. You can't rely on the goaltender. You've got to have goaltending in this league and [Raycroft] is providing that for us. If certain players don't show up, it doesn't go on their record. It goes on Raycroft's record, it reflects on Thornton, it reflects on the coach. I haven't seen enough effort from everyone night in and night out."

O'Connell doesn't think some players are upset by what's been happening.

Sullivan benched defenseman Jeff Jillson for one game Wednesday because but O'Connell said in light of the protracted malaise, he's considering something more drastic.

"You can send some guys to the minors and bring guys up who want to play," he said. "You look at Ted Donato, he looked like he tried hard. [Zdenek] Kutlak really tried hard. Doug Doull looks like he wants to get involved. They're ecstatic to be here and to play in this league. I don't see night in and night out that we're getting that from everyone. I don't understand it. The coaches treat them like men. We treat them all very well. Maybe we've got to find another way to motivate them."

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