Blog Entry

Weekend wrap: Bruins' slow start staggers on

Posted on: October 30, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 10:33 pm

By Brian Stubits

Before the season, there was a lot of lip service given to the Stanley Cup hangover. While I could see the thinking behind it, I wasn't sure I believed it would really have a negligible effect.

While it could be pure coincidence, I'm beginning to believe in the power -- or more appropriately pain -- of the hangover. That's because the Boston Bruins are 3-7 to start the season after being swept in a home-and-home by the not-long-ago struggling Canadiens (by the way, that's three straight wins since the Habs axed assistant Perry Pearn). For those keeping track at home, that's good enough to be last in not only the Northeast Division, but the Eastern Conference.

“Honestly, this is so frustrating,” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said after Saturday's 4-2 loss in Montreal. “I don’t know. It’s like we can’t buy a break right now and we just keep getting deeper. We need to turn this around.”

Maybe this is a team that used up all of its breaks last season.

But I didn't see this hangover coming this harsh to start the season. I mean, this is the kind I'd get in college when I'd sleep through breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I was a believer in Boston last season, picking them to win the Cup before the playoffs began. I'm a sucker for plus/minus stats for teams, and nobody was better than Boston in that category a season ago. I took that as a sign of quality balance and partly the product of Tim Thomas' career year.

Thomas hasn't been the problem this year, even if he's not living up to the standard of a year ago. But nobody, and I repeat nobody, expected that season again. It was record-setting as far as save percentage goes, the best in NHL history. That's tough to repeat.

No, instead it's been the offense. It's a group that doesn't seem to possess any elite scorers, but as the playoffs showed, there are numerous guys who are good enough. They have just 22 goals in 10 games. Defensively, there 25 goals allowed is the second lowest total in the East behind only Buffalo.

Claude Julien has tried to fix the issue. There has been line mixing. The team's best player has been sophomore Tyler Seguin, who has four goals and six points. Only five players have at least five points through 10 games.

For his part, GM Peter Chiarelli is not panicking yet. Why would he? This current roster is almost exactly the same as the one that won the championship a few months ago. Obviously it is good enough. But Pierre LeBrun of reported that Chiarelli might be working the phones already, trying to perhaps find a player to come in and inject some life into Boston.

“I’m always working the phones, but I am a little more diligent these days," Chiarelli told on Thursday.

This is the part where we normally remind you that we're only 10 games into the season. There is still a lot of time for the B's to wake up and defend their Cup in earnest. But it's also worth noting that the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference are looking better this season.

They can't afford to sleep in too long until the headache goes away.

Any be-Leafers now?

When do you start believing in what the Toronto Maple Leafs are doing? Ron Wilson's crew is 7-3-1 begin the year. The last three games, including Saturday's OT win over the Penguins, have been with starting goaltender James Reimer injured. They did get tripped up by the Sens on Sunday night in a great game.

We chuckled at the uber optimism Leafs fans were feeling with the quick start and statements such as Phil Kessel is headed for Wayne Gretzky numbers. Now there is a bigger sample size of 10 games and Kessel has 10 goals with eight assists. It's still a small sample size, however it's easier to take big projections. Don't expect Gretzky numbers, but it could be a monster season nonetheless.

Speaking of monsters, Jonas Gustavsson has fared certainly well enough in Reimer's absence. With Reimer sidelined for a little bit, this was Gustavsson's chance to show he could handle the backup duties himself. So far so good. He was good enough on Saturday for Ron Wilson -- one of the few coaches on Twitter -- to pronoune him the starter for Sunday night's game against Ottawa, a loss.

"Great win. Monster was huge and gets start tomorrow. Komo keeps getting better. Dion and Phil are the best at their positions in NHL!"

If nothing else, let's just say it's time to take Toronto a little more seriously.

Streaking Senators

Raise your hand if you saw the Senators winning six games by Thanksgiving before the season began.

Forget Thanksgiving, the Sens have won six games in their last six outings after a great comeback win over the Rangers on Saturday and then a solid win over the Maple Leafs on Sunday. Things seem to be coming together quickly.

It doesn't come as much of a surprise, but Jason Spezza has been his usual spectacular self. He has 15 points through 12 games (7-8=15). But also joining him in the better-than-a-point-per-game pace are Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson, who has an NHL-high 12 assists.

Before the season, a lot of folks had the Senators as the preseason favorites for the Nail Yakupov (top draft prospect) sweepstakes. While they still could be, they are at least giving the fans some fun along the way.

A Star is born

Has anybody noticed what Kari Lehtonen is doing in Dallas? Judging by the attendance, the majority of the Metroplex hasn't.

The Stars are 8-3-0 after Saturday's 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. In those 11 games, Lehtonen is 8-1. He carries a goals against average of 1.75. He has been simply stellar for a team now being led not by Brad Richards, but instead by a bevy of young guns and veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray.

Lehtonen is at that magical age in sports when they are supposedly at their peak, 27. After playing in 69 games a season ago, he looks ready to carry the load again this season.

Just another quality goalie from Finland. Ho hum.

As for the attendance? Well Saturday night only 11.740 were announced to be in the stands to witness the win. I understood the reasons for low attendance numbers earlier this season, baseball's Rangers were fighting for the World Series and, well, the Stars lost their big star in the offseason. But with this kind of start and the Rangers now done, I hoped to see more than 11,740 in the crowd. Baby steps, I guess. Baby steps. If the Stars keep winning, they will come.

Night Caps

The Washington Capitals took on the Vancouver Canucks in the Saturday night cap and it didn't last long for Tomas Vokoun. The Capitals goalie gave up three first-period goals, two of them being on Canucks power plays, and was pulled by coach Bruce Boudreau to start the second.

The reason? Boudreau wanted to give the team a spark. Well, his Caps did come back to the tie game, but it all got away from them again in a 7-4 loss. (On a side note, a four-goal performance won't do much to change the Canucks fans' feelings about Roberto Luongo either.)

Some are seeing it as a deal. Boudreau said Vokoun wasn't particularly sharp. Vokoun said he felt fine.

But I'd like to point out that Vokoun had played every game since Michal Neuvirth was given the opening-night start. If nothing else, Vokoun deserved a break.

We're going streaking!

As already mentioned, the Ottawa Senators now have a six-game winning streak going. But they're not alone.

The San Jose Sharks have also won five in a row. More impressively, all five of those games were on the road, including Saturday's shootout win over the Islanders and a win on Friday over the Red Wings.

Speaking of Detroit, it has lost four games in row since beginning the year 5-0. Maybe that 7-1 beatdown at the hands of the Capitals sent them into a funk?

The Islanders are also in an early tailspin. Make that five losses in a row for them after Saturday's loss to San Jose.

Last but certainly not least, the Edmonton Oilers are very quietly in first place in the Northwest Division, surpassing the Colorado Avalanche. That's because the Oilers have won five games in a row after weekend wins over the Avalanche on Friday and Blues on Sunday. The Kids in the Hall are getting a lot of attention for that, but Nikolai Khabibuln has been spectacular.

Quote of the weekend

Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen was very happy with his team's 3-2 comeback win over the Sabres on Saturday night. He took it as a chance to talk a little, umm, anatomy.

Let's just say he appreciated the marbles his team showed by scoring twice in the final four minutes for the win.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Since: Oct 10, 2011
Posted on: October 31, 2011 1:57 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Oct 8, 2009
Posted on: October 31, 2011 12:52 pm

Weekend wrap: Bruins' slow start staggers on

Personally I think the needless six day break they got after posting that 4-0 start is more to blame for their funk than anything else. But they all know there are no excuses for any losing streak in Detroit. They're expected to go out and win every night. Pick it up, guys. This is unacceptable.

Since: Feb 8, 2007
Posted on: October 31, 2011 12:10 pm

Weekend wrap: Bruins' slow start staggers on

Finally the writer is noting some serious problems with the team. I just wish he'd leave out that "Stanley Cup Hangover" garbage. You did some research! Stand by it! Don't get suckered in by this BS reason fans and lesser writers are chalking it up to.

Stanley Cup hangover? That excuse should have been thrown out by now. October is over. I have NEVER heard this "hangover" non-excuse used so much before in my life. You'll hear it every so often, but now it's officially a buzz term. It's sad. Is it because it was the Bruins that won? A feel good story about an Original 6 franchise previously enduring a long dry spell? Sure, Stanley Cup teams have played more hockey, but it was months ago now. Often Cup teams aren't as good because teams lose some key players. Chicago was pillaged, for example. This is a pretty close team to the last other than a great leader in Recchi.

I don't even remember Boston being all that dominant for the bulk of the season last year other than Tim Thomas. I remember them getting red hot down the stretch and carrying it into the playoffs. They were fantastic when it counted. That reminds me, congrats Cards. 

I have little doubt that the Bruins will make it back to the playoffs. They have a lot of decent talent and can be difficult to score against. Sometimes teams are hot. Sometimes cold.  Right now things aren't looking good, but it'll get better. However this "Stanley Cup hangover" nonsense makes it sound like it isn't their fault and the Bruins shouldn't be responsible for heir poor hockey. That excuse shirks the blame from where it belongs. Boston fans should know better.

How about instead of every fluff writer all piggybacking on this same stupid phrase that they look at how the team is losing and report on that. It'll take work, though. You can't just copy the last stiff. This guy noted some problems where others just gave up.

How about noting that the leadership of Mark Recchi is gone? How about noting that Tim Thomas is still playing very well, but not putting up almost unprecedented save percentages? He saved them at times last year. Now he needs help from his forwards. The author made reference to this. Anyone noticed that they can't gel on the power play? Scoring has been outright difficult for the team as a whole, and that makes it all the more important to take advantage of being a man up. They're designed to be spread out when it comes to scoring, which is smart, but sometimes you need a playmaker to spark the team. A guy that will get the team going by putting a few in. Does Boston have that right now? Who is their spark?? Lucic is not that guy. Nor is Bergeron, Krejci or Horton. Seguin might be one day, but he's got a lot of pressure on him right now. Not only does he have to step up from role player to real threat, but you can't expect to put the load on his shoulders to dig you out of a rut. Where IS Krejci, anyway? Anyone notice him on the ice?

Please, for the love of hockey, put this 'stanely cup hangover' nonsense away. Retire it. Use it if it is apt, but spouting it for 10%+ of the season is too long.

Since: Oct 22, 2007
Posted on: October 30, 2011 8:23 pm

Weekend wrap: Bruins' slow start staggers on

What's happened to the Bruins seems to happen at some level to every Stanley Cup Champion.  When you win the cup, you play a lot of extra games and extend the season into June.  That takes a toll on the body and the mind, while winning takes away a little bit of the edge.

Since: Dec 1, 2006
Posted on: October 30, 2011 7:56 pm

Weekend wrap: Bruins' slow start staggers on

They will get the figured out.  The problems I saw last few games I saw in the early goings of the playoffs.  They just have to get their heads into this season.. especially most of the defensemen not named Chara or Seidenburg.

Forwards need to shoot through a few people as well.. a lot of players are just stcking up between the goalie and the shooter and people seem scared to try to shoot through them.

A few other things, but mostly small stuff and a few practices to get message nailed into their heads and we will be talking about the playoffs in February. 

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