By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
After another sleepwalking performance on Saturday at TD Garden against the Edmonton Oilers that resulted in a 4-1 loss that was about as ugly as you could get, it’s only those wearing the thickest of black and gold glasses that do not recognize the malaise that the Bruins have been in for the better part of the last month.
Once again, their only score came via their powerplay – another David Pastrnak rifle that ricocheted off the stick of an Oilers defender – and other than when their backs were against the wall in the 3rd period, did they show any life in 5 on 5 play.
“We got guys in the room that can put up numbers, we know that,” the broken record that B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy has become on NESN’s postgame coverage with play by play man Jack Edwards and color guy Andy Brickley.
“We’re just kind of in a team-wide lull here. That’s where guys gotta push through a little bit, support one another. We just gotta keep working our way through it.”
That has been the same tune – perhaps sung with slightly different lyrics since his team has chosen to give minimum effort and concentration for extended portions of play since prior to Thanksgiving – and it seems that his crooning is falling upon deaf ears.
And for the likes of NBCSportsBoston.com’s Joe Haggerty and BostonHockeyNow.com’s Jimmy Murphy – who happens to be my cohost of the Hockey Craic Podcast that will debut on BSD and BOSHOCKEYNOW next week – Ilya Kovalchuk is as far from an answer for the Bruins secondary scoring as a new conditioner is the answer for the hair that has been disappearing from my head for the better part of the last decade.
I have to admit, when I first heard the news that the Montreal Canadiens had signed Ilya Kovalchuk to a contract on Saturday, I laughed so hard that the egg nog I refused to drink a week ago came gushing out of my nose.
(Side note – There is nothing grosser than egg nog.)
Imagine Kovalchuk – a guy who has likely played less than five minutes of engaged defensive hockey in his nearly 1,200 games played in the NHL and KHL – playing for the Habs head coach Claude Julien, who would gladly take a roster full of former Bruins Chris Kellys – even his retired state – and make the playoffs with 82 points from 0-0 tie games if he could.
“I think right now we know the goals aren’t coming easily, so you know it’s gonna be, every goal matters. So, I think that’s in everybody’s head. It’s just the stretch we’re in right now,” said the B’s bench boss after his team saw two points slip through their hands at home Saturday afternoon.
The recently named Eastern Conference head coach for the farce that is the NHL’s All-Star Game/3-on-3 Tournament/waste of time added this borderline excuse for his club’s calamities lately.
“So, mindset is, I think there’s a little bit of a sickness going around the room, so guys were lacking a bit of energy and it showed on the ice today at times, but I think our mindset is good. At the end of the day, we just gotta pull ourselves up.”
As Murphy correctly pointed out earlier this week, given that the likelihood of a healthy Kevan Miller returning to the Bruins lineup is seemingly lessening every day, the Bruins will likely be easily exposed physically – as they were when the Washington Capitals downed both Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy at the TD Garden before Christmas – and that is something that Sweeney can’t ignore if he is intent on his team making another Cup run in the NHL’s second season.
That means that the B’s GM could – perhaps, more likely than not – be in the market for a left-shot defenseman with a bit of heft and snarl very soon.
Let’s face it, the worst kept secret in hockey is that the Bruins need to add to their secondary scoring if they are to make a sustained push for a championship this spring. It’s become increasingly obvious that the prospects that they currently have in their system are bottom six roster caliber, at least for the foreseeable future.
The best-case scenario for Sweeney is that one of his colleagues with an expiring asset up front takes a flyer on one his not so ready for primetime players to help provide the punch his team will need to get out of the East this spring.
That said, spending even pocket change on a has-been that all but one franchise in the league took a pass on seems more like a move of desperation than a wise decision to try to improve your team that – up until they have checked out mentally for the last month – was considered a favorite to bring Lord Stanley’s highly coveted challis home next June.