Bruins aren't cashing in their chances

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The Bruins have an on-again, off-again relationship with the win column, and right now it appears the mistress is making things difficult.

The defending Stanley Cup champions haven't been able to string together a pair of wins to this point of the season and stand at 3-5-0 with a home-and-home against their division rival Montreal Canadiens, beginning Thursday in Boston and concluding Saturday in Montreal.

In all three of the Bruins' victories this season, Boston played with a consistent effort. The problem is the black and gold haven't been able to follow those games up.

"It's frustrating because you win one, you lose one, you win one, you lose one," defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. "You need to put together some games with consistent wins to be up in one of the top eight positions. Going 1-1 and 1-1, back and forth, doesn't help the team."

Sure, the first month of the season isn't even in the books, but entering Monday night the Bruins were only two points ahead of the Canadiens for the lowest spot in the Eastern Conference.

Bruins coach Claude Julien made more than a few comments following the team's 4-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday at TD Garden about how close his team is to figuring it out. Boston is producing enough quality scoring opportunities, but it hasn't been able to capitalize while allowing opponents to cash in on theirs.

At the start of practice on Monday morning at Ristuccia Arena, Julien had four nets on the ice. There were two at each end of the rink and two opposite each other in the neutral zone. Goaltenders Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask were not present for the drills; in their place were stacks of foam padding to block the lower half of each net. Each line, along with the defensemen, simulated net-front scrambles.

"We're tying to obviously improve our scoring and we need to get a little bit better in those areas that are important for us, so it's not a bad thing," Julien said of the drill. "We've done it in the past and it's helped us along the way."

The Bruins' record doesn't give an exact indication of how they are playing; they just seem snake-bitten right now.

"You've just got to bear down on your chances, that's all," Boychuk said. "We have been doing good things, but we've also been letting in more goals than we've been putting in."

The Bruins aren't making excuses for their subpar performances, but from a scheduling standpoint, the team has been going nonstop since the beginning of the season with all the Stanley Cup celebrations going along with the daily grind.

Julien gave the team Sunday off before putting the players through a vigorous practice on Monday with the intention of giving them another day off on Tuesday.

"Every break is what you make of it," Thomas said. "If we use it as well as we can then it will be a good break."

Even though an extended break is warranted, it won't help with the Bruins' inconsistent play.

"I don't think a break can help you with that," Thomas said. "That has to come when you're playing. It can help prepare you to get to that level of consistency when you start to play, but you can't build consistency when you're not playing a game."

The Bruins will be back on the practice ice on Wednesday in preparation for their set against the Habs. No doubt it will be an emotional two games and this would be the perfect time for the Bruins to string together a pair of wins.

"We're not too far out. We're not getting completely dominated," Thomas said. "We're making some mistakes and not scoring enough. We're right there, but in this league every game is a battle."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.