Does "Claude Julien" mean "Terry Francona" in French? Perhaps they were just separated at birth. They are becoming too close in dearth. Things are so ugly that Bruins fans ought to hope the Canadiens win tonight.
The parallels between the 2011 Red Sox and 2012 Bruins we discussed here after Tuesday's beatdown in Tampa pulled even sharper into focus Thursday after sunset in Sunrise with a 6-2 shellacking at the hands of the Florida Panthers. It was the Bruins who played like pussy cats, de-clawed domestic shorthairs at that. The Bruins closed out their regular season in Florida by being outscored 12-3 in two games, resulting in their fourth straight loss. During last September's 7-20 swoon, the Red Sox closed out their final 2011 Florida swing on Sept. 11 with their fifth straight loss after being outscored 22-8 in three games at Tampa Bay. We saw defending champion UConn get knocked out in the first round Thursday night. The Bruins might be lucky just to get that far given their March badness.
Right now, the Bruins are just two points away from falling to the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference. It could happen as soon as tonight if Ottawa wins. The focus is on the verge of shifting from holding the No. 2 or No. 3 spot in the East to hanging on to the seventh or eighth spot. Who would have thought just two weeks ago that "Montreal vs. Ottawa" on March 16 would be so pivotal in the Bruins' playoff picture? It's gotten so bad we have to ask: Should we root for the Canadiens under these circumstances? Hell, no! Never. Remember what happened on Sept. 28 when we rooted for the Yankees just once? Faustian deals be damned. No way, not me. Go Senators.
After Thursday's game, Julien haplessly summed it up as "a whole team collapse." The beleaguered coach added: "We do have some guys that are tired and unfortunately guys that are not playing up to par. At the same time we've got lots of games and we have to fight our way through it." Here's what Terry Francona had to say, according to The Associated Press, after the Red Sox played their final game in Florida last season and their once gigantic lead in the AL wildcard had shriveled to 3 1/2 games. "We're kind of in a fight right now, we know that ... It's not real pretty. We'll come out and fight, and hopefully play better. I always feel like we're going to play well and when we don't, we're going to fix it. I still feel that way." Close enough for discomfort.
There remains no guarantee the Bruins will make the playoffs. Nor is it written beneath the Garden ice in black and gold that the defending Stanley Cup champions will fall completely out of the playoff picture (or end up in eighth place) due to a mixture of one exhausted goaltender, sloppy defensive play and the coach's unwillingness to shake things up when nearly everyone appears to be on cruise-control into oblivion. Boston has 12 games to play. The pilot will not be turning off the "Fasten Your Seatbelt" sign. The turbulence continues.
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