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Lately, these B's are for the birds

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  March 21, 2011 09:48 AM

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In the event anyone has forgotten, there are just 11 games remaining in the regular season. The Bruins are now in a certifiable spin without so much as a single regulation victory since a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 3.

That’s 18 days without a single, pure victory. Eighteen days. From the Far East to the Middle East, the world has undergone massive changes since your beloved Bruins last won a regulation hockey game.

Worried yet?

You should be.

Two nights after losing to the Nashville Predators in a defeat so frustrating that goalie Tuukka Rask was heaving his stick toward the heavens, the Bruins got pancaked in a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. The performance was the stinker of all stinkers. The Bruins continue to preach level-headedness, but April is now rapidly approaching and the Bruins look far more like the Edmonton Oilers than they do the Detroit Red Wings.

Oh, and did we mention that the Canadiens are in on Thursday in what will surely be Max Pacioretty vengeance night?

"This is where it has to start," coach Claude Julien told reporters. "It has to start from here on in. We’ve got to find our game. We’ve got to get some consistency in that part of it as well. Game after game, we have to be good and reliable. Hopefully this is what’s going to start happening this week.”

Said veteran forward Mark Recchi: “We’re going to be fine. Everybody believes in each other in here. Everybody goes through stretches over the course of the year. If you look at our 10-game segments, we haven’t had one under .500 all year. We’ve been pretty good. We’ve been pretty consistent. We’ve got 11 games to really build this thing up again and have some great practices at home. We’ve got all week to practice again. Big games at home. We can build from there.”

Indeed they can.

Or they can continue to crumble.

The last 18 days paint a gruesome picture. Beginning with a 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins that ended a seven-game winning streak, the Bruins have allowed a whopping 26 goals in seven games, an average of 3.71 per game that would rank worst in the league over a full season. Prior to that, the Bruins had allowed 2.25 goals per game in their first 64 contests. Those numbers translate into an increase of 65 percent – yes, 65 percent – and reflect a systematic breakdown from the power play to the penalty kill to the goaltending.

You want some scary numbers? In the last seven games, while the Bruins are 1 for 18 on the power play, opponents have converted 20.7 percent of their power-play opportunities. In the Bruins’ lone victory during the span – a 3-2 shootout win over Nashville – only Rich Peverley’s sensational, shorthanded goal prevented another defeat. Tim Thomas has been brilliant for much of the season, but Thomas’ magic has gone poof in recent weeks and one must now wonder whether he will get it back.

We all know how the Bruins are built. Had the goaltending this season been good – and not exceptional – there is no telling where they would be now. Maybe they would be scraping to make the playoffs at all, as they were a year ago at this time. Everyone from Jeremy Jacobs and Cam Neely to Julien and the players has invested a great deal in this season – the Bruins were as active (or more so) as anyone at the trading deadline – and heads will almost certainly roll if the Bruins get spanked in the second round of the playoffs or, dare we say, the first.

During the team’s seven-game winning streak that preceded this nosedive, Neely himself went so far as to suggest that the Bruins were one of the four or five best teams in the league.

In many ways, to this point, this season has been last year in reverse. The Bruins have played well for much of the year. And yet, they now seem poised to undo so much of what they have accomplished. It was not until the final 10 or 11 games of last season that the Bruins awoke from a season-long slumber, playing inspired hockey right through the first three games of the fateful Philadelphia series.

And then the roof caved in.

As Globe hockey writer Fluto Shinzawa pointed out this morning, the Bruins have played some of their best hockey over the final 10 games of the last two seasons. In 2008-09, the Bruins amassed 16 points in their final 10 games. Last year, in their final 12 contests, the Bruins collected 17 points. On both occasions, the Bruins carried that play into the first round of the playoffs, where they dispatched an opponent with relative ease.

Following tomorrow night’s game against New Jersey, the Canadiens are on the docket for Thursday’s affair at the TD Garden. If things hold to current form – the Bruins are currently the No. 3 seed in the East, the Canadiens No. 6 - Montreal will be right back here come playoff time. Montreal has won all but one of the five meetings against the Bruins this season and has claimed nine of the last 11 overall, so there was enough incentive for the Bruins before the Pacioretty circus. Now there is even more.

In the current Boston landscape, we all know where the Bruins stand. Boston has not won an NHL championship since the Nixon Administration (that’s 39 years) and the other teams in town are legitimate, perennial championship contenders. (For what it’s worth, some of us are a little worried about the Celtics at the moment, too, but that’s a story for another day.) The only way for the Bruins to earn a better place in the current hierarchy is to at least make a spirited run at the Stanley Cup, particularly during a year in which ownership and upper management financially and publicly invested in the team.

But if the Bruins are to garner any trust from us all as spring breaks, they need to wake up.

And soon.

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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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