They say that the major part of winning in hockey is mental, and right now the Boston Bruins are definitely "mental."
The Bruins have now lost four in a row. This is a team that only just a few months ago won ten games in a row, most in blowouts, and scored 15 goals in just two back to back games. So much has gone wrong since then. To begin with, I think it was too much too soon, particularly after coming off a cup win. Teams who win that easily in the regular season often get bounced in the playoffs by a low seed. Even in the midst of their spectacular play the seeds of doubt were being sown. When the Canucks came to town the Bruins lost to them. When they measured themselves against the Rangers, the Bruins always fell short. For a team that was playing primarily for pride, these losses mattered. Then there were the injuries, followed by the addition of several new players at the trade deadline. Add to this the media frenzy over Thomas' snub of the President, which created a distraction, and the mental garbage started to pile up. In my estimation, by the way, this was about 50% Timmy's fault for the snub and 50% the fault of the media for turning it into a big deal. If neither had selfishly indulged themselves it wouldn't have been an issue.
In recent weeks other teams fighting for playoff spots have been sharpening their game and playing with desperation, but the Bruins literally had nothing to play for. They were stuck in second place in the conference with no way to catch the Rangers and the seemingly hapless Senators being the only real threat from below. Predictably, their play slipped and the losses started to mount. As their momentum stalled and doubt began to set in it became harder to turn things around. Pucks started bouncing the wrong way. Empty nets were missed. So now, after beating their heads against the glass and getting nothing for it except frustration, the Bruins are, in the words of Thomas, "tired."
As a result, people first became worried that the Bruins might not be ready for a cup run when the time came. Then they started to wonder if the Bruins could beat any team in the first round. This morning, we have to face the possibility that the Bruins will lose their lead in the division and the No. 2 seed to the Sens. This would put the B's dangerously close to the bottom of the playoff pack, with the looming specter of missing the playoffs entirely.
If the Bruins fail to make the playoffs it will go down as a monumental collapse, right up there with losing four straight to Philly after taking a 3-0 series lead. We aren't talking historical Bruins collapse here, we're talking historical NHL collapse. People will call for change; players will be dealt, the coach may be fired. Some unhappy people seem to revel in that sort of thing, but it would be a real shame to see this happen. This team has another cup in them.
Time has now officially run out. The time to turn things around has come. The Bruins have something to play for and it is time for them to take charge of their future. The playoffs start now. It is time for them to put all the little things together; to play consistently better defense, to punish their opponents physically, to bury their chances. If they were to put a string of wins together now, not only will they be back in the second seed, but suddenly they will feel a lot less tired.