THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Bob Ryan

Lack of scoring strikes recently has been striking

By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / November 6, 2009

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Patrice Bergeron has the quick hands. He swiped at a loose puck, sending it past Montreal netminder Carey Price. I believe they call that a goal. Been a long time, you know.

It was, in fact, 192 minutes and 6 seconds since the previous Boston Bruins goal. It was kind of cutting it close, too, because it came during a six-on-five situation, 51.7 seconds before the end of regulation. That’s how close the Bruins came to being shut out three games in succession for the first time in 80 years, and that’s not hyperbole. That’s the gospel truth.

They lost the ensuing shootout, 1-0, but at least the capacity crowd of 17,565 went home from the 700th meeting of the Bruins and Montreal Canadiens with a little something positive to talk about.

Now, it’s not as if they’re cured. They have scored four goals in the last five games. This is a goal-scoring drought of the highest degree, and it must end soon if the Bruins are to get in playoff contention.

“Once again, it’s like a broken record,’’ said Blake Wheeler, one of Boston’s three unsuccessful shootout participants. “We say the same thing over and over again, night in, night out. You’ve got to be tired of it.

“You look around; we’ve got a lot of guys who can score goals and all of a sudden we are going on nine periods of no goals. We’ve got to take that to heart; we’ve got to take it personally.

“Look in the mirror, because there’s only so many times you can get stopped by a goalie before, you know, you’ve got to just put the puck in the net; there’s no two ways about it.’’

As far as the coach is concerned, the postgame inquisitions are getting to be a bit repetitive.

“For the last however many games,’’ said Claude Julien, “I’ve been answering the same questions. Defensively, you can’t complain. Forty-six [sic] shots on net. It boils down to an inability to finish around the net.

“The bottom line is that we’re trying. Whether people believe it or not, these guys care. They’re trying. Right now, we’re just not scoring.

“It’s about trying to get their confidence up. Right now, there are doubts. Obviously, our confidence level is not where it should be, and that is what happens.’’

Things are so bad that the Bruins actually drew some positives out of almost scoring a goal.

Early in the second period, it appeared the Bruins had broken through. Marco Sturm put one on Price. There was a skirmish and the net was lifted just a wee bit, and the next thing anyone knew, the puck had somehow gotten through down to Price’s left. The red light went on, the music started, the fans began to cheer, and the play was reviewed. And, of course, the goal was disallowed.

“I had it covered,’’ Price explained. “Bergeron poked it loose, and it went in. I was confused. I thought the only way it could have gone in was under the post.’’

That’s exactly what happened. The various eyes in the sky had it nailed.

“It kind of felt like we scored a goal for a little bit,’’ Bergeron shrugged.

During all this offensive frustration, nobody can utter a peep about the defense in general and the goalkeeper in particular. The Bruins have given up only six goals in those five games. Those kind of numbers win you Vezina Trophies and even Stanley Cups.

Tim Thomas has no choice but to stay positive.

“I’m getting used to it,’’ he said. “Back, actually, before the new NHL rules and in Europe there were a lot of low-scoring games. For example, when I played in Finland, there were a lot of games that were 2-1, so I’ve been in this situation before where you have to keep your goals-against down as much as possible.’’

It was appropriate that Bergeron be the one who ended the madness. He had a strong game in which he had done everything but put the puck in the net.

“I thought he should have gotten a star tonight,’’ Julien observed. “He’s played well for us all along. He’s had a great start to the season. I wish some guys would jump on his back and follow suit.’’

But whoever would have believed at the start of the season that scoring one little goal in a losing effort would generate such conversation? These truly are desperate offensive times for your Boston Bruins.

“Well, we finally got a goal in this game,’’ said Steve Begin, “and we have to build on it. It was a little bit too late, but we still got a point out of it.’’

“At least it’s out of our heads,’’ added Bergeron.

Hey, if this really is the beginning of a trend, the Bruins might actually even score on a power play one of these days. Or weeks. Or months. They are working on a nice 0 for 20 in the last six games. They are 6 for 55 for the season. I wish I were making this up.

To hear them tell it, they’re close.

“I thought we generated traffic,’’ Bergeron declared. “We did some good things out there.’’

“We can’t really panic,’’ agreed Michael Ryder, who was flying around the rink all night, almost making things happen. Almost. “We were doing a lot of good things.’’

It’s a tough time, for sure, but the mentor insists this, too, shall pass.

“We’ll deal with our issues, our dirty laundry, and we’ll go from there,’’ Julien said. “Nobody is feeling sorry for themselves. It is our job to get ourselves out of it. That is where we’re at.’’

“We got a goal,’’ said Ryder. “You never know. Next game we might get three or four.’’

All I can say is that it’s Nov. 6. I think they have time to get straightened out.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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