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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bruins Commentary

Let’s see if they build on this one

It certainly can’t be sold short that the Bruins prevailed in their matinee bout with Philadelphia Saturday; except for the fact that the opposing Flyers didn’t come up short enough.

The most ideal scenario would have been for the Bruins to have scraped out the win in the standard sixty minute window rather than allow Philly to scoop up the automatic point that comes with a bonus round. Instead, they needed to do things the climactic way.

They ended up zapping a persistent 2-1 deficit with 27 seconds to spare in regulation courtesy of Andrew Ference before Aaron Ward inserted the decider at 2:17 of overtime.

Now, how about that? Two lamplighters in a stretch of less than three minutes of play. That was even more efficient than the 2:45 window that pried apart the equalizer and clincher a week previous in a similar 2-1 thriller against Washington.

In dynamics like this, a win is a win, and if terse outbursts such as that get it done for the day, then great.

But this also emboldens the question as to what has been happening to the Bs every other day of the week since the calendar morphed to March. Through nine games over the last 15 days, they have cultivated a 3-4-2 transcript, two of those wins requiring extra action.

In between the most recent outing and a 3-2 shootout shootdown of Atlanta back on March 1, they have failed to hit the net more than twice while authorizing 29 goals by the opposition.

Bruins buffs ought to hope that coach Claude Julien’s public insistence –even if it’s true- that the of late pothole doesn’t reflect the true Black and Gold is not nearly as veiled behind closed doors. Things are near a point where a fundamental Bull Durham pep talk is in order.

This is a simple game, boys. You skate the puck, you pass the puck, and you shoot the puck.

Granted, the Bruins have done all that, but they are hardly lathering their shots with the same effective salsa that they were at other points in the season. The quintessence of the better times just might be the six-game, six-win tear that immediately preceded this muddle. In that stretch, the aggregate goal count read 20-10, Boston favor.

Is there any conceivable explanation behind the post-sugar rush crash we have witnessed more recently? Maybe the fact that they are paying for what they inevitably charged earlier by making up the games in hand they have had for the majority of the season. As noted above, their last nine contests have been spread over a 15-day crunch. The ten that remain on their regular season slate are to be chewed up within the next three weeks.

But that’s where the balancing act really shows. Theoretically, when you have games in hand, the spare time you have early on is best used for storing up the tanks and being ready to take on the sprinter’s mindset when that bill comes to your locker room door.

So far, not so good. After all, in addition to the stalled scoring, captain Zdeno Chara has missed the last three games with an undisclosed injury. And everywhere you look at the NHL scoreboard on a nightly basis, it seems three standings points are being distributed in the games that need it the least –from a Boston perspective at least.

The credit that the 8th-place Flyers got in Saturday’s game nudged them to within two points of the 7th-place Bruins (82 points). Buffalo, 2-1-2 in its last five, is only three knobs behind.

Right behind the Sabres are today’s adversary, the Capitals, knotted with Florida for tenth in the conference with 76 points. The simple conclusion: anything can still happen.

But that goes for the prospect of ascension as well. And when they return from D.C., the Bruins should be advised to make savory, productive use of a rare three days off from game action. The ol’ Montreal menace, perched atop the Northeast Division but only seven points ahead of the Bruins, will be next in line for a home-and-home on Thursday and Saturday.

And, um, when the NHL decided to pit divisional rivals against one another eight times a year, a full-scale sweep was not likely in mind. And over six anguish-saturated drawbacks to the Canadiens already, the Bruins have had nearly triple their season’s share of “Vertigo.”

Just saying.

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