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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bruins Commentary

Good to be greedy

Admittedly, less than 48 hours ago, there was a master plan at the Free Press to build this special piece around the notion that the Boston Bruins –set to hit the halfway mark of their 82-game itinerary tonight- are concocting a run reminiscent of the Providence Bruins from precisely ten years ago. You know, when the still-Providence Civic Center was affectionately dubbed the “Bear Den” as the Baby Bs uncompromisingly mutilated their collective AHL competition.

But, lo and behold, right now is not the time. On Tuesday, the Bruins hit the low point of their startlingly celestial run so far through a 1-0 falter to the Minnesota Wild, spelling their first shutout loss and first set of back-to-back regulation losses all season.

So, instead, now is the time to talk about paranoia. I am sure there are some Bruins Buffs who have frankly missed having at least a dollop of cautionary negativity. It’s reached a peak in the locker room, as evidenced by head coach Claude Julien telling the Boston Globe, “I'm not going to say it's a slump just because you lose two games. But you can see it coming a little bit. We've lost that confidence of moving the puck quick and getting our attack going.”

Friartownies, especially, are acquainted with that dreaded pattern. (Read: PC men’s coach Tim Army telling the Hockey East media mass in Tuesday’s teleconference “When you struggle the way we have in respect to gaining some wins, you don’t play as comfortably as you need to.”)

Paradoxically, though, that’s where the brightness here remains unsullied. With every empty regulation loss –all seven of them- and every shootout shortcoming –all four of them- and a handful of incomplete victories (dare we call them “moral defeats?”), the Bruins have vowed to put their skates down and stop the madness.

For them, what with the new standards they have rapidly percolated since about Halloween, two consecutive slights to the chin –especially on home ice- is simply not okay.

Not okay for a team that is now virtually engaged in a three-way footrace with the Red Wings and Sharks for the President’s Trophy. Not okay for the only team left in the Eastern Conference that has authorized less than 100 opposing goals (89). Not okay for a team that has scarfed all four possible points in six events of back-to-back games, asserting that natural rust need not measure up with All-Star caliber resolve.

There’s no questioning the sincerity in the franchise’s new promotional tagline, “We want it as bad as you.” Fans have boundless privileges when it comes to laying out expectations. They have the right to gluttonously crave up to 164 points come the 82nd third period siren and to lament any setbacks to such an astronomical mission.

The men in control down at ice level are naturally and vocationally more restrained, but the Bruins have yet to shrug off an entire shortcoming and openly assume that the same formula will just happen to click next time. They responsibly pine for exponential improvement whether they’re on a ten-game tear or a two-game skid.

Just as a little voice inside Don Henley’s head (and Bree Sharp and Kris Roe and a handful of others) said, “Don’t look back, you can never look back.” Such aptly applies to the Bruins not exclusively, but especially in this instant. Slumps are a product of one jutting blemish taking a relentless psychological toll and effectively duplicating itself in one continuous string.

The sole antidote: repressing that anxiety with one’s appetite. So if the Bruins fail to professionally defy human nature and let all of the aforementioned realities fetter them, they’re risking a third consecutive home falter tonight –to the lowly Ottawa Senators, no less.

They do that, and they might risk watching the seating bowl of the new “Bear Den” regress to its “Bare Den” state.

It’s either that, or they splash this win-column “drought” and get back to building.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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