Welcome to another edition of the ESPNBoston.com Bruins mailbag and Happy St. Patrick's Day! As expected there seems to be a good deal of panic and concern over the Bruins subpar play as of late – four straight losses, including the last three by a combined score of 17-5. So without further ado, let's tackle the latest Bruins topics on your minds:
Q: OK, I'm finally starting to panic a little. Up until the last few games I just sort of figured the B's would snap out of it eventually and turn things around. But the team I've watched the last few nights is a one-and-done playoff team as far as I'm concerned. Give me any reason why you think the B's will turn things around? -- Nathan (Wellesley, Mass.)
A: Right now it's hard to find any signs that the Bruins will turn it around in time to find success in the playoffs. But then again, if you recall last St. Patrick's Day weekend, the Bruins went into Toronto and took one of their worst losses of the season, 5-2 to the Leafs. That loss was their sixth on seven games (three of the losses were in OT). We all know how things turned out after that. But the Bruins have really been embarassed in their last two losses and that's not a good sign. They've been outscored 12-3 in their last two games and they seem to lack both confidence and passion right now. It's hard to watch a proud team built on hard work and a defensive foundation be in complete disarray every night. But all of that being said, if there is one thing I've grown to know about the core of this Bruins' team, it's that there are some very proud guys in the dressing room and I would imagine that they are all livid right now. The key will be for them to spread that frustration throughout the room and translate it into a positive on the ice. That's easier said than done, but the Bruins are a team that can do it.
Q: I know injuries are part of it, but there's obviously more to the Bruins' recent struggles than just injuries. If you had to pick one area of their play that has been the most disappointing what would it be? And what can they do to remedy it? -- Jerry N. (Natick, Mass.)
Q: Obviously Claude Julien is a good coach, but how much blame do you think he deserves for the Bruins recent struggles? I know he can't do anything about injuries, but the Penguins sure have had a lot of injuries too, huh? -- Vick (Hadley, Mass.)
A: We'll take both of these at once. The Bruins have fallen behind 2-0 in the first nine minutes of four straight games, so I'd have to say preparation and desire from the get-go is essential to get things turned around. Now many will pin that on coaching, but I know talking to players that they are very prepared to play by Claude Julien. It appears that a good portion of the Bruins' players seem content with taking their time to get going in games and that has to change immediately.
Q: Right now how far do you think the Bruins can realistically go in the playoffs? -- Matt (Mass.)
A: That is a million dollar question and if I knew, I'd take that money and take you out to watch some hockey! But all kidding a side, I'm not really sure. At this time last year, I was asking myself the same exact question, but I also had a feeling that they'd be fine and make a long run. There really seemed to be a team-wide mission to atone for the historic collapse against the Flyers when they blew a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals. But having won the Stanley Cup now, that sense of urgency has never really been there since the start of this season, and now it looks like the players are in cruise control hoping to turn it on for the playoffs. If they get healthy and find their chemistry again, they could very well do that, but I'm not as confident this time around. If they end up playing Ottawa in the first round (right now the Bruins would be the No. 2 seed and the Senators No. 7), I wouldn't be at all surprised if they lost.
Q: Any updates on Rich Peverley? He'd provide a dull lineup a pretty good spark I think with his speed and his talent. I'd like to see Peverley, Pouliot and Kelley back together. Caron, Marchand and Bergeron together as well as Looch, Krejci and Seguin. How about Nathan Horton while you're at it? Anything on him? -- Tyler (R.I.)
A: Unfortunately it's status quo on Peverley (knee injury) and Horton (concussion). As my colleague Joe McDonald reported last week, Horton had just started riding the stationary bike and hadn't made much improvement. As for Peverley, the Bruins have maintained that he is still on schedule for a four-to-six week recovery, so we could hear something new in the coming week.
Q: Love the work on the site, particularly the Rapid Reaction. I do think it is time to stop having the goaltending be blameless. Since January 9th, Tim Thomas' save percentage is .900 [prior to Thursday's game vs. Florida]. That is really bad!... In his last 8 appearances his save percentage is .852. That is beyond awful! Tim was an incredible goalie last season, but is virtually impossible to win when your goaltending is stopping pucks at that rate. -- Rat13 (Waterdown/Ontario)
A: Thanks for the kind words! You make a very good point on Tim Thomas and how he is struggling. I think fatigue has set in for sure and that's not good news considering the Tuukka Rask injury. All signs point to Thomas being the man from here on out, but I can tell you that wasn't the plan before Rask went down with the groin injury. In fact, one Bruins source told me that Rask was set to get plenty of starts down the stretch and had he performed well enough, the Bruins may have even given him a chance to be the starter in the playoffs. Obviously they were concerned about Thomas and fatigue before, imagine now?
Q: OK, so putting you on the spot here. Prediction time:
1. Do the Bruins hang on and win the Northeast?
2. How far do they end up going in the playoffs? -- Kelly (The Cape)
A: 1. Yes, but Ottawa is for real and will be a challenge in the playoffs as well should the Bruins face them. The Bruins will find their groove in the final weeks here and hold on for the division.
2. Second round. I can see the Senators upsetting Boston in the first round but I think in the end experience wins and the Bruins move on. But by the next round they will be exhausted from all the hard work they will have done climbing out of the rut they're in now.
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for his next Bruins mailbag here.