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Monday, February 22, 2016

Is It Too Late For the Bruins to Boycott and/or Skip All Their Home Games This Season?

Typically, I am very stubborn so I hate to admit defeat by not coming up with at least a half-ass explanation for almost everything that occurs in life. However, at this point in the 2015-16 regular season, I can only throw up my hands when it comes to the Bruins and say that I have absolutely no idea how a team that is so great on the road (20-7-3) can simultaneously be truly awful at home (12-15-3) after tonight's 6-4 loss to Columbus (24-29-7).

Boston was coming off a 4-2 road trip (its longest of the campaign) and its most impressive victory (7-3 in Dallas on Saturday night) so naturally they returned to TD Garden and laid another in a long line of rotten eggs. After beating the Blue Jackets 3-2 in a shootout here on January 23 and 2-1 in overtime last Tuesday in Columbus, the B's failed to get the all-important season sweep over one of the worst teams in the NHL. The Bruins never led as they were always chasing the game and they wasted a perfectly good performance by their offense (2 goals apiece for Matt Beleskey and Loui Eriksson) and a dominant night at the faceoff dot (44-25).

He didn't have a ton of help on defense but it was a rough game for Jonas Gustavsson (29 saves, 5 goals allowed). Boone Jenner's tip-in from BC's Cam Atkinson and Ryan Murray opened the scoring at 10:52 of the first period. It was the first of two power play goals for Columbus (who had been 1 for their last 16). Conversely, Boston's power play was 0 for 2, another reason why they didn't pick up any points. Eriksson scored his first tally 15 seconds after Jenner's initial score to make it 1-1. He deflected Torey Krug's shot and David Pastrnak had the second assist on Loui's 22nd goal of the season.

Columbus jumped on Boston to start the second period as Jenner sniped one past Gustavsson just 21 seconds into the frame. Seth Jones and Brandon Dubinsky assisted on his 21st goal of the season. Beleskey knotted it at two only 2:36 after that as he deflected in Joe Morrow's shot with Jimmy Hayes notching the second assist. William Karlsson (8th goal of the season, unassisted) blasted in a turnaround shot at 10:17 to put Columbus up for good at 3-2. Then Scott Hartnell deflected in Murray's shot for the other man-advantage goal at 17:21. Alexander Wennberg also assisted on Hartnell's 19th goal of the season. With so many pro scouts in attendance this evening, you'd have to think that a quality veteran like Hartnell would be in high demand (relatively speaking) with the trade deadline now a week away.

Beleskey made it interesting for a while in the third as he worked tirelessly to tip in another shot (from Kevan Miller) that trimmed Columbus' lead to 4-3 at 2:52. Morrow registered his second assist (for the second game in a row). Joonas Korpisalo (26 saves) made enough stops and former Blackhawk Brandon Saad added the insurance goal that the Blue Jackets needed at 14:29. His 22nd goal of the season was assisted by Hartnell and Wennberg. It came on a strange play as Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg went down to block the shot, only to lose his stick which Hartnell "accidentally" shot at Gustavsson. It was reviewed but similar to Columbus' fruitless challenge on Eriksson's first goal, it still stood up.

Eriksson is certainly doing everything he can to make sure his value is at its peak for next Monday: his second goal made it 5-4 Columbus at 17:03. The shot through traffic had eyes with helpers from David Krejci (team-leading 34th assist) and Pastrnak. Good old Dalton Prout lives for games in Boston apparently since Columbus' scrub defenseman scored his second goal of the season via an empty-netter (both of his goals have been here). Normally, home ice in hockey doesn't mean quite as much as homefield/homecourt advantage in baseball, basketball and football but the B's have made sure no logic applies to them this season.

That said, it'll be a difficult rest of the week as they are off tomorrow before they host Pittsburgh (30-20-8) on Wednesday (7:30, NBCSN), go to Carolina (27-23-10) on Friday (7, NESN) then another national TV game on Sunday (6:30, NBCSN) vs. Tampa Bay (33-22-4), who they are currently tied with in the Atlantic Division (although the Lightning have played one less game). You know that the Bruins will play great against the Hurricanes so I guess we should only worry about the Penguins (2 points behind Boston in Eastern Conference, in 2 less games) and the Lightning, two clubs who figure to be battling for playoff position with the Black and Gold the rest of the way.

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