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Friday, January 6, 2017

The Bruins Need To Drastically Shake Things Up and They Should Have Done It Already

It's been a long time since I was applying to colleges but from what I remember, they don't let dumb people into Harvard. My point being that Bruins GM Don Sweeney is a smart man so there is no conceivable way that he can sit by idly and watch Boston (20-17-4) piss away another entire season, right? How many times do fans have to see the same mistakes: slow starts, no offensive firepower, a stubborn head coach set in his (usually winning) ways, an awful power play and a team that you can never count on to perform at a high level at key moments? After sitting through another lackluster performance tonight at the Garden where the Oilers (20-13-7) beat the Bruins 4-3, all I can reasonably conclude is that something has to happen very soon before the Black and Gold repeat the same exact crappy script from the last two years (going to the last weekend of the regular season needing points to make the playoffs then not getting them).

Let's not waste any time, Claude Julien is a wonderful coach, in fact he's still one of the best in the NHL. However, as the longest-tenured guy behind the bench (almost 10 years), don't you have to wonder if many of his players have started to tune him out a bit? If you're not named Bill Belichick and winning at an insane clip year after year, eventually every coach reaches an expiration date. I'm not going to say that Julien deserves to get fired since I don't think you can expect much better results than he's getting with this flawed roster but perhaps it's simply time for a new voice. Changing coaches is always the easiest way to shuffle the deck for a team that's going nowhere fast but nearly all of the current roster needs to be under the microscope as well.

Sorry Danny Ainge, you can't rip off rival GMs on every trade so maybe the Bruins have to trade some of their supposed best players (David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, etc.) to prove that what's happening now and over the last few years isn't acceptable for a club that was one of the league's biggest powers just a few short years ago. How can a team be so good on the road (11-7-4) yet so mind-numbingly poor at home (9-10-0), again? If you've been paying attention, tonight's loss to Edmonton had so many of the usual elements of the Bruins' recent failures: a nobody (Patrick Maroon) had a career-night (his 1st career hat trick), they had a whopping 75 shot attempts (36 on goal, 19 blocked, 20 missed the net!) and the opposing goaltender-in this crease Cam Talbot (33 saves) did enough to gain the two points as the Oilers were up two goals in the third period and held on.

Connor McDavid's first career game in Boston was a memorable one as he had a pair of assists in helping the Oilers get their first regulation win over Boston since Oct. 17, 2000 and first regulation win here since Nov. 7, 1996. In fact, the Bruins had a 16-game point-streak (13-0-3) snapped by Milan Lucic's new team. No word on if Looch actually played in the game because I never saw him out there. McDavid threaded a perfect pass to Maroon for a one-timer only 1:08 into the contest. Leon Draisaitl had the other helper on Maroon's 12th goal of the season. Chara didn't like what he was seeing so he did what any good leader would do: he dropped the gloves with Maroon shortly after that initial tally. Is that still allowed in the NHL? Answer: barely.

Boston put together a short-lived lead as Colin Miller tied it at 7:16 of the first period when his shot bounced in the net off of former Northeastern defenseman Matt Benning. Austin Czarnik and Torey Krug assisted on Miller's third goal of the season. Patrice Bergeron continued to slowly percolate as he finished a pass from David Pastrnak for a 2-1 B's lead at 10:43 of the second period. Kevan Miller (his 1st point of the season) had the other assist on Bergeron's eighth goal of the season. Of course, the Bruins aren't allowed to taste success for very long these days at the Garden so Maroon tied it at two at 13:09. Maroon overpowered Adam McQuaid for a loose puck by Tuukka Rask (21 saves) and spun around to get the shot off. BU's Eric Gryba and McDavid had the assists.

Edmonton is having an unexpectedly good season thus far and they were helped out by a fortunate bounce of their own as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a puck ricochet off his body into Boston's net just 14 seconds into the final frame. After allowing such an early goal in the first period, how could the Bruins double down and give up a way faster one? My head hurts. Maroon completed his hat trick at 9:02 (his career-best 14th goal of the season) after fittingly forcing an ugly turnover by the B's in their own end. He wrapped around Rask and waited for a long time before sliding the puck in. Beautiful goal.

The Bruins had a 5-on-3 power play for 59 seconds and even they couldn't screw that up. With Gryba literally a second from jumping back on the ice from the penalty box, Krejci sent in a shot from the side of the net after Talbot had stuffed Bergeron at a better angle. Brad Marchand notched the other assist on Krejci's ninth goal of the season at 17:04. Boston pushed for a tying goal but as usual, it wasn't meant to be. How many times have we said, "why don't they play like that (as they do when they are coming back) more often?" Therein lies the main issue: who do you blame more for yet another up-and-down season? Make no mistake, the Jacobs' might not hold anyone accountable but someone has to notice that this group is fatally flawed.

Boston has practice tomorrow morning before flying out to Florida as the Bruins visit the Panthers (16-15-8) on Saturday night (7, NESN). They are in Carolina (17-14-7) for a bizarre 5 pm start time (on NESN) on Sunday. I wouldn't recommend viewing either game even though the B's will probably do well in them. Nope, Wild Card Weekend starts on Saturday afternoon and even though the Pats are off for a week, the NFL playoffs are much more interesting than this mess of a team. Look for center David Backes (who is recovering from a concussion) to return this weekend after he practiced yesterday but wasn't cleared to play for tonight.

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