TAMPA, Fla. - Where have you gone, Andy Moog? How about you, Rogie Vachon? A lonely Bruins Nation turns its eyes to you, or Gerry Cheevers, or Andrew Raycroft. Bring Jason Varitek out of retirement if you must. The Bruins need help stopping stuff. Speaking of Varitek, watching Tampa Bay's 19-year-old Dustin Toharski stop 33 of 34 shots against the Bruins after Marty Turco let three shots slip past him in just 4:31 triggered some brief September 2011 flashbacks. That's 2011 flashback Red Sox style, not Bruins style.
The Red Sox, who were also second in the East at this stage in their season last year, had that insurmountable in the wild card over Tampa Bay at this point as well. There was no way they were going to miss the playoffs. The Sox had plenty of big-name, veteran stars, many of whom had a championship (or two) on their resumes. They supposedly knew how to win and win when it mattered. The postseason was set. The plan was to slip into the playoffs and then regroup once they began. The manager was quietly in control. Any of that sound familiar?
Forget the No. 2 spot in the East for a moment. The Bruins have allowed the first goal in six straight games. There are way more holes than net. Walking through the Bud Light Patio Deck - Josh Beckett would love that place - at the Tampa Bay Times Forum as the Bruins trailed 5-0 Tuesday night after giving up just 11 shots got me wondering: Is there was any way the tailspinning Bruins will follow in the Red Sox footsteps and miss the playoffs? Will Tuuka come back too late?
Let's do the math. Boston has 83 points and is nine up on Buffalo, who sits in the No. 9 spot, with 13 games left to play. Those numbers don't sound nearly as secure as being nine games up in the wild card on Sept. 3 with a 99.6 percent chance of making the playoffs. @GlobeKPD reminded us that no only have the Bruins been outscored, 11-3, in their last two losses, they are 2-5-0 in last seven games despite outshooting the opposition each time. We mocked the Lightning fans Tuesday by warning them that the "Bruins will get their revenge in the playoffs for this one" before reminding them that the Lightning are ranked 11th in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning are too far back to mimic what their cross-bay rivals from St. Pete did last year. The Bruins are cutting it a bit too close to the Red Sox. however, for comfort.
No word if Brad Marchand or Tyler Seguin were eating fried chicken in between periods.
The Forum was packed with Bruins fans Tuesday, a good number of whom actually stayed until this 6-1 debacle was in the books. There were a few hearty "Let's Go Bruins!" chants even as Turco and Tim Thomas swapped jobs twice. With all the No. 30 Bruins' jerseys visible in the stands, one of those faux Thomases probably could have done as good a job as Turco. In the end, Thomas and Turco, who have a combined 463 career wins, gave up six goals on 17 shots. Toharski, meanwhile, nabbed his first victory in three career NHL starts as Boston was doubled up on shots 34-17. Yikes. Doug Mirabelli might have helped since he was pretty good at stopping knucklers. If there is ever a need to demonstrate the importance of good goaltending in a "How to Play Hockey - Pee Wee Version" video, this game was it. Steve Stamkos, beyond amazing at age 22, scored his 49th and 50th goals of the season, although he deserves an asterisk since No. 50 came off Turco who appeared to be almost pulling up as Stamkos fired his shot from the point. You knew it wasn't going to be a good night once the Lightning's first goal was scored on a David Beckham kick 1:56 into the game. (Actually it was Tom Pyatt's skate.)
I wrote that Turco would be a stable replacement for Thomas. He did play well against Pittsburgh. Thursday night against Florida might be the tie-breaker. Looking at Tuesday night's performance, I haven't been that wrong since the Super Bowl. With any luck I'll be equally wrong with my concerns about this entire Bruins team.
Off to Fort Myers Saturday. Hope to see you there.
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