No home fixup for Bruins
Their play falls apart in a brutal loss to Senators
From Winter Classic to Winter Clunkers.
In just over two weeks, the Bruins, showcased across the land as emotional winners in the NHL’s outdoor game at Fenway Park Jan. 1, have gone slip-slidin’ away amid a jumble of injuries, minor league emergency call-ups, and a case of battle fatigue, all in evidence at the Garden yesterday in a lifeless 5-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
“When you lose like that,’’ mused defenseman Dennis Wideman, “you aren’t competing the way you want.’’
In fact, the Bruins barely competed, falling behind, 2-0, in the first period, then 4-0 in the second, and finally getting a goal from Danny Paille before Jonathan Cheechoo topped off the Ottawa win with his fifth of the season. Cheechoo was aided by the nifty block referee Dan O’Rourke put on Wideman - one so blatantly vaudevillian that fellow referee Wes McCauley must have been tempted to whistle O’Rourke for interference.
Overall, that kind of day, so bad that even the guys in stripes had their game brought down a few pegs by the stumblin’, bumblin’ Bruins.
“I’m not saying our team didn’t show up,’’ said Boston coach Claude Julien, his club in a 1-4-1 freefall that, if not stopped, soon could have it out of the playoff hunt. “But there is a ‘want to’ and there is a ‘can’ .’’
In other words, Julien’s club, just back from a three-game trip to California, lacked the energy and talent to compete with the Senators, revived of late with the return of the ever-slick Daniel Alfredsson (seventh career regular-season hat trick).
The Bruins were without regulars Marco Sturm, Steve Begin, and Byron Bitz, all sidelined by what the club only would identify as “day-to-day’’ injuries. That led to the return of Patrice Bergeron (broken thumb) from the injury list and Drew Larman being called up from the Providence Wanna-Bs for his Boston debut. Mix in the hangover from the Anaheim-to-San Jose-to Los Angeles 1-1-1 trip, and what you’ve got is a team low on competitiveness, weak on offense, and generally in need of a remedy for melancholy.
“Going into today’s game,’’ said starting goalie Tim Thomas (nine shots, six saves), yanked in favor of Tuukka Rask when the damage reached 3-0 in the second frame, “we were of the mind-set that we didn’t want to let that West Coast trip be an excuse . . . but say what you want, it catches up to you to a certain extent.’’
With only 3 points out of 12 (.250) these last couple of weeks, the Bruins are in need of rest, some quick cures for the wounded, and a roster upgrade. General manager Peter Chiarelli watched a similar meltdown his rookie season here, 2006-07, lasting from the holiday break through January. When it was over, so was any shot at the playoffs. Another 10 days of the Spoked-B blahs, even in a very mediocre Eastern Conference, and last season’s regular-season champs in the East will be slotted among the 7-10 seeds, just one or two spots above or below the postseason qualifying line.
The Senators, meanwhile, look as if their fortunes are trending better, although they were faced with a very malleable foe. Alfredsson long has been one of the league’s more underrated talents, in large part because of Ottawa’s relatively low profile on the Original 30 landscape. After Alex Kovalev knocked in the 1-0 lead at 7:39 of the first, Alfredsson canned goals 2, 3, and 4 in less than 20 minutes over two periods.
The first came at 14:24 of the first off a one-time slapper in the right circle. The second came at 10:04 of the second with Alfredsson cutting to the left post and providing a clever backhand deflection of a Filip Kuba shot. No. 3 came at 13:14 of the second, when he drove in a slapper from the point on a power play. Alfredsson was everywhere the Bruins wanted to be but never seemed able to get.
Paille broke the chance of a Brian Elliott shutout at 4:23 of the third when he picked up a deflected Johnny Boychuk blast and shoveled home a 15-footer from the left of the slot. Cheechoo, with the assist from “Roadblock’’ O’Rourke, rounded out Ottawa’s perfectly fine day with 8:55 remaining in Boston’s home arrest. In all, 13 of Boston’s 18 skaters finished with minuses next to their name. In Internet terms, their ineptness went viral.
“I know our guys are exhausted,’’ said Julien, who also knows that his team has lacked net-front jam most of the season, and especially the last two weeks. “Our job is to come in and defy that challenge.’’
A job not very well done.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.