According to the playoff probability factors on Hockey Reference, the floundering Boston Bruins, 2-1 losers at the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night, still have a 72.1 percent chance of making the Stanley Cup playoffs, a matter helped, no doubt, by the Montreal Canadiens’ dismissal of the Detroit Red Wings later in the evening.
That’s how quickly things deteriorated for the Bruins on Tuesday, left rooting for their hated rivals in the wake of their own incompetence.
When you’ve found yourselves only having amassed two out of a possible 14 points over the last seven games during the stretch run of the regular season, you can imagine the tendency to succumb to little unlikelihoods of the game.
Boston outshot the Devils by a 40-15 margin, yet that’s of little excuse when a team has managed only 10 goals over its last seven games. The Bruins, just as they were one year ago, are a free falling disaster, perhaps slated to miss the playoffs for the second-consecutive season, fueled by a collapse reminiscent of what kept them home in 2015.
You can be forgiven for figuring it’s hopeless.
“Disappointing, frustrating, whatever word you want to use,” coach Claude Julien said. “We could have put that game away in the first period with the outnumbered situations we had. I think we had three two-on-ones, a breakaway, a power play. Nothing to show for it.
“You can look at it whichever way you want. You’ve got to look at yourselves and blame yourselves for this loss. You can say you tried. But at this time of year, it’s not good enough. The situation we’re in, we expect better from ourselves.”
The Bruins traveled to New Jersey for a game they desperately needed to win, came away empty, and within danger of falling out of the playoff picture completely. With 88 points, Boston is hanging onto third place in the Atlantic Division by its fingernails, with the Red Wings trading them by only a point, rendering the Habs’ victory on Tuesday all the more important for Boston. The Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2 winners over the Winnipeg Jets Monday night, have 87 points with two games in-hand on both Detroit and Boston, likely putting a wild card spot in their hands.
Oh, did we mention the next two “must-win” games come against the Western Conference powerhouses St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks?
The Red Wings host the Minnesota Wild and travel to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs for their next two games.
There’s good reason why the desperate gasp of the Bruins feels more like imminent doom than a possibility of one.
“We’ve got to play for our lives, if that’s the case,” Julien said. “It’s our own fault if we make it harder on ourselves all the time. You can only do so much.”
Not exactly an inspired rallying cry, is it?
Only five games remain for the Bruins with the dire intersection of a playoff spot a total uncertainty. Next Thursday’s home game against the Red Wings looms large, but considering the margin right now, every game is huge for Boston.
It was only a few, short weeks ago, of course, that these same Bruins were almost universally etched in as a playoff team before summoning their best impression of the 2011 Red Sox. That was before they hit the road and lost a trio of games in California. They’ve won all of six games this month, only one since their March 12 victory over the New York Islanders.
David Krejci has disappeared. Brad Marchand, who scored against the Devils, has become a shell of the player he was emerging into, and taking stupid penalties when his team can least afford them. Loui Eriksson playing with the puck in the final seconds of Tuesday night’s game might as well be an encapsulation of the season. The Bruins go through the motions, but have a response system that lags somewhere behind Kevan Miller’s latest blunder in terms of its effectiveness.
Boston has scored only 16 goals over its last 10 games, a pathetic output that speaks as much to Julien’s inability to balance effective lines as it does the tools with which he’s destined to fail.
“You want to find ways to win and get at it,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. “You don’t want to start banging on your heads and kind of get frustrated. It’s about getting results and putting your chin up and going out there and finding a way.”
Sure sounds more like a desperate plea than an assuring view of the job at hand.
Still, I suppose there’s a 72 percent chance they’ll still be playing after next week’s season finale. The Red Wings currently have a 50.5 percent chance of making the postseason.
Today. On Sunday, after the Bruins are finished with the Blues and Blackhawks, we’ll see.
Don’t expect much.
A look back at the Big, Bad Bruins