Not enough bang for the fans’ bucks
The Bruins were marginally better yesterday, but in a sport in which the margin between winning and losing is inherently thin, they were squeezed out again, 2-1, by the Penguins on Causeway Street.
A quick review of the parade of Black-and-Gold horribles:
■ The loss, their second in three days on home ice, left them with back-to-back losses for the first time since Dec. 6-8, when they fell to the Jets and Panthers. They dipped to 4-5-1 in their last 10 games. Call it a midwinter slump or malaise. Whatever the label, it’s not good.
■ They have scored only five times in their last three games, and only two of those goals have been delivered by forwards (Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand). Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, and Joe Corvo (yesterday’s lone ranger on the scoresheet), all have shown more touch over the last three games than 10 of the Boston forwards.
■ For the 10th time in as many games, the Bruins failed to carry a lead into the third period. A 1-0 deficit grew to 2-0 when the reformed Matt “The Widowmaker’’ Cooke popped one behind Tim Thomas at 1:53 of the third. The Bruins have been outscored, 16-10, in Periods 1 and 2 of those 10 games.
■ The No. 1 line, with Rich Peverley filling in at right wing alongside Milan Lucic and David Krejci, failed to get a shot on net in a combined 46:13 of ice time. Having seen enough, ever-patient coach Claude Julien benched Peverley late in the third and tried Chris Kelly in the No. 1 RW slot. Julien later cobbled together a Benoit Pouliot-Krejci-Kelly combination. To no avail.
“We still need more out of certain guys,’’ said Julien. “There were a few guys banged up. I wanted to find some sort of a little spark when we were down, 2-0. Our guys, you could sense it on the bench that the second goal really hurt a lot. I wanted to give the team another spark.’’
■ The defending Stanley Cup champs are now 1-3-0 since their Bruins Minus-1 visit to the White House. This is their worst stretch since their Blue October start of 3-7-0. Thomas, their lone dissenter on the trip to Pennsylvania Avenue, had won three straight before yesterday. When asked after the defeat what he thought of Thomas’s play, Julien said, “I’m not going to start dissecting every player one by one, that’s not what we do here. As a team, I think we were much better.’’
■ Finally, for a team that prides itself on physical play and making the Garden a tough place for opponents to visit, the Bruins were outhit, 28-17. Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz landed six hits - the equal of all six Boston defensemen.
All of this, in case you haven’t crunched the telling numbers, points to a shakeup. The defending Cup champs either need to shake themselves from their midwinter lethargy or the front office will have to do it for them with a deal of substance before the Feb. 27 deadline. General manager Peter Chiarelli has been looking to add depth, both at forward and on defense, but he may now have to do more than trim the hedges and sweep the front walk.
“If we keep working, keep to our structure, things will work out for us,’’ mused winger Shawn Thornton.
“Still a work in progress,’’ added his opposite winger, Danny Paille, “but definitely an improvement over our last game.’’
“Probably our best game in a while,’’ noted Corvo. “Definitely a step in the right direction.’’
Not a team that sounds fed up, is it? They might feel differently, of course, had they paid full Garden prices to witness the 3-0 loss to the cellar-dwelling Canes Thursday night, and then yesterday’s matinee de melancholy.
It was very quiet in the Garden yesterday, and for the most part the Bruins played in synch with the sound. Once each period, the sellout crowd began chanting, “Let’s go, Bruins! Let’s go, Bruins!’’ But it never put a charge into those Black-and-Gold uniforms.
The Bruins did a decent job of moving the puck out of their zone, and transitioned well overall, but they manufactured almost no net presence. Corvo’s goal came on a wrister from the blue line, with Brad Marchand setting a screen.
Both of Pittsburgh’s goals came on doorstep pots, first by the grand wizard, Evgeni Malkin, and then by the dastardly Cooke, whose filthy smack to Marc Savard’s head two years ago put the No. 1 Boston center on the early road to retirement.
The Bruins are back at it today in D.C., for a 12:30 p.m. fling with the desperate Capitals. There is no return visit to the White House scheduled. None of them needs another presser with the president, or a Thomas statement on how today’s American government doesn’t fit with what our Founding Fathers intended.
What they need to do is revisit the game that made them the hardest team to beat in the NHL in November, December, and the early part of January. They have to get back to their Big Bear game, skating with purpose, banging their way to the net, grinding for a full 60 minutes, and, most of all, paying the price it takes to park forwards around the crease and put the puck in the net.
The Bruins right now are just Lyin’ in Winter, with little growl and fewer goals.