By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Call it a holiday hangover it you would like, but the Bruins no-show against a struggling New Jersey Devils team had on Thursday night was just a continuation of the poor play head coach Bruce Cassidy’s put forth when they got their clocks cleaned by the Hurricanes – posing as the defunct Hartford Whalers and thereby flashing a double-bird to their dwindling fan base down south – last Sunday in a 5-2 loss in Raleigh.
The B’s at least jumped out to a 2-0 lead before getting throttled by a team that will only see the playoffs this spring if they tune in on TV or buy a ticket to a game being played outside the Carolinas. Against the ragged Devils – who are currently in contention with the antiquated Los Angeles Kings for the best chance to score the number one pick in the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery next summer – they simply threw their helmets and sticks on the ice, assuming an easy victory.
And as everyone has been told at some point in their lives, when you assume…well, you know the rest. Cassidy’s club needs to shed the donkey suit they have donned in their last two tilts or they will be kicking themselves in the butt come April for giving away what should have been a relatively easy four points to two of the bottom dwellers in the Eastern Conference.
Following the pre-Christmas break loss to the Canes, the Bruins bench boss clearly wasn’t thrilled.
“The focus, the execution, I’m not going to hide from it, we made some bad plays that ended up in the back in the net. Early on, from below the goal line, we had trouble breaking pucks out. The goalie handles got involved in that, and they were very poor,” said Cassidy.
When asked if the upcoming Winter Classic against the Chicago Blackhawks on New Year’s Day in Notre Dame Stadium after their disappearing act against the former mall dwelling Whale, the man they call Butch brushed such notions aside.
“No, I think this one… maybe going into Buffalo because you’re going on the road, and you’re that much closer to getting away from Boston, but not tonight. I don’t think that’s it. I think its more to Steve’s point where you’re getting guys back and okay here we go it’s going to happen for us. I think that certainly, probably was on some guys minds. Jersey’s struggling a little but, okay, we’re going to just go out and show up.”
So, here’s the rub. The Bruins are not an elite hockey club, even when fully healthy. And although they welcomed the trio of Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller, and Jake DeBrusk against the Devils, they were without Charlie McAvoy, who returned to the disabled list on Friday with a “lower body” injury after blocking a shot in Carolina.
It was also revealed that Brad Marchand is dealing with something that likely will keep him out of Saturday’s game against the Sabres in Buffalo on Sunday, which will hinder the B’s already brittle offense against an Atlantic Division foe is threatening to blow past the Black and Gold in the standings this season.
As currently constituted – and even with the work of the modern-day Florence Nightingale’s on their training staff nursing their injured players back to health – the roster the general manager Don Sweeney has assembled has to show up every night if they hope to come close to building on the foundation that was seeming poured in the surprising 2017-18 campaign.
The bottom line is if the Bruins hope to be among the handful of teams that could become contenders by adding talent prior to the trade deadline this February, they need to wake from the dreams of Touchdown Jesus dancing in their heads and get back to the scrappy bunch that battled so hard for their coach up until this point in the season.
If they don’t wake from their slumber quickly, they may be very disappointed when the NHL’s oft-shifting playoff dust settles this spring.