The Stanley Cup playoffs begin in less than a week, but from the way the Bruins are playing you’d think they’re either shaking off the cobwebs from the offseason or they’re looking ahead to their first tee time of the offseason.
That may seem a bit harsh, but the rapid collapse that led to a 5-2 loss to the Flyers was hard to watch to not only Bruins fans but also for coach Claude Julien, who unleashed a postgame rant that has been long overdue.
“These last three games coming up, we need a wakeup-call mentally," Julien told reporters after his team suffered its fifth loss in six games. "We need to be willing to do the stuff that’s given us success. We’re willing to do it some of the time, but we’re not willing to do it all the time. Let’s stay away from excuses because it’s not going to work. Excuses are a lot of BS right now. We have to take the responsibly and quit hiding behind those excuses because that's a load of crap.”
Julien said his players aren’t ready for the challenge of an NHL game right now and while he accepts some of the blame, he knows it’s now or never for the players to step up.
“It was really poor puck management and really poor decision-making,” Julien said. “That, to me, is a reflection of guys not being ready to play. At a certain point, they just have to take the accountability to be ready. We do a lot of work to prepare. This certainly reflects on us as well, the coaching staff and everything else.
“We’re running out of time here to get this stuff going. You always hope this is some sort of a wakeup call, but the way the season has gone you’re questioning whether it will or not. Only time will tell.”
Julien isn’t the only one who has been wondering what has happened to a team only two seasons removed from winning the Stanley Cup and a Cup favorite heading into the 2012 season. We asked three scouts for their assessments of what ails the Bruins and there was one thread throughout their replies: complacency.
Here’s what the scouts had to say:
"Complacency was the big issue; you don't see the intensity you did in previous years. [Milan] Lucic has little fire; young guys are too concerned with partying off the ice and they’re lacking a [Mark] Recchi-type who demanded day-to-day intensity. Every key cog on the team has his contract situation settled so everyone is comfortable there."
1. Signs of mortality. "In recent seasons, the Bruins have faced zero adversity when it comes to losing key players to injury. This year, in a lockout-shortened season, they have had to deal with an aging core group of players who had a long break. On one hand, it is impressive to watch a team play such a physical and aggressive brand of hockey stay healthy, but on the other, players grow so comfortable with one another that when someone does go down, they have trouble finding instant chemistry. I think that is why you are seeing so much line juggling right now by the coaches."
2. Unbalanced offense. "Say what you want about guys like Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder and Benoit Pouliot, but the one thing they brought to the Bruins’ third lines was balance and an ability to help the bottom six create both off the rush and on the cycle. The B’s third line has been imbalanced this season. They are searching for a guy that can create separation. [Chris] Bourque and [Jordan] Caron were not the answer for [Chris] Kelly and [Rich] Peverley. [Jaromir] Jagr is helping some and [Carl] Soderberg is adjusting."
3. Other teams get better. "I know it is a 'crazy thought' but every season there are teams that improve, adjust, tweak and just plan work harder. Teams like the Islanders, Habs and Leafs are all developing young players and finding ways to win hockey games. The 'cruise and bruise' philosophy that has worked in recent seasons is becoming too predictable.”
1. Lacking confidence. "They seem to be playing not to make a mistake rather than being proactive and making things happen."
2. Power play struggles. "They move the puck well in the zone but need to simplify it. Shoot, shoot and then shoot again! This will open up east-to-west passes. Teams dare them to shoot. The perception is that they don't have a shooting mentality.
"Also, their breakout is noneffective. My guess is when they have success, it's because [Patrice] Bergeron won the faceoff and they sustain O-zone time. When a team throws the puck 200 feet, the percentage probably goes up that the penalty will be killed."
3. Cold and lost players. "[David] Krecji, Kelly, Peverly, [Nathan] Horton and Lucic are nowhere near where they were in the past. I think Tuukka [Rask] is great one game then cold the next."
4. No new faces. "Except for Jagr, they have mainly the same guys from the Cup year. The band is still together. It’s the same coach, same voice. (Claude's a real good coach; he's not the problem.) But are the players sick of hearing the same thing? I believe that bringing in 'fresh faces' goes a long way with a coach. That player might be hearing new philosophies/ideas. Bringing in a new guy or two every year is not a bad thing."