Leafs cure for Bruins' hangover?
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|The Bruins have been struggling to score at home since the season started. (REUTERS/Frank Polich)
TORONTO - Everyone has their preferred hangover cure, a shower, glass of pickle juice or being buried to the neck in moist river sand (an old Irish remedy).
A Stanley Cup hangover is a lot more complicated. The team comes off a short summer, the fans still consider them infallible, yet 29 other teams are determined to make life miserable the next seven months.
Since the Red Wings last repeated as champions in 1997 and '98, no stars have re-aligned for one team to stage a second parade, though New Jersey (2001) and Detroit (2009) did get within a win. The chances were greatly reduced since 2005 when the salary cap began handcuffing title teams, who sought to hang on to their best players. The 2010 victors from Chicago began disintegrating in a matter of days after winning.
Despite attempts to ward off the same effects, it’s the Boston Bruins now feeling that throbbing headache after six regular season games. They were beaten 2-1 by the Flyers on opening night when they raised their Cup banner and have been struggling to score at home ever since. Complaints are piling up that the Bruins are too passive and that’s reflected in three home losses already this month, scoring one goal in each.
Some blue and white pills should do the trick on Thursday with the Maple Leafs and Phil Kessel representing the first divisional foe to visit TD Garden. Such games are rarely tame and the Bruins at least showed fight in Tuesday’s 4-1 setback to Carolina.
“We play better when we’re more physical,” defenceman Johnny Boychuk said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “And we tried to get our crowd into it last night (when Brad Marchand, Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic and even coach Claude Julien ended up banished to the dressing room). I thought it was a good thing to have guys get involved. We want to follow that up, but we also have to stay disciplined.
“We know the crowd is starting to get uneasy. Maybe we were just doing a lot of things with the Cup beforehand, but we’re going to put our focus right.”
The Bruins had one last fling with the Cup on Oct. 9, bringing it to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro via police escort prior to the Patriots-Jets’ game.
“It’s time to move on after this,” Lucic told reporters of having the Cup passed around the previous 100 days. “I’m going to have to give Stanley one last hug and kiss before we let him go.”
Nathan Horton, repeating his pre-Game 7 motivational ploy of pouring melted TD Garden ice onto the surface at GM Place in Vancouver, took another bottle of slush and sprayed it around the Pats’ logo at midfield. New England dispatched the hated Jets, but things haven’t gone as well for the Bruins since.
Lucic had tailed off so badly on Thursday that Julien dropped him from the first line late in the game and completely re-shuffled the deck at practice on Wednesday.
Chris Kelly was promoted from the third line to work with Lucic and Tyler Seguin against the Leafs, Horton is now on right wing with Marchand and centre Patrice Bergeron, while David Krejci, close to returning after more than week away with a muscle pull, is between Rich Peverley and Benoit Pouliot.
The big difference with the Bruins and Blackhawks going for seconds is Boston has retained almost all its players and most importantly, Tim Thomas in goal.
“It was a difficult task for all those teams to try and repeat,” Boychuk said. “But with the team we do have, we should be able to do it. The only guys missing are Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder and Tomas Kaberle. We stay focused, we should do fine.”
Ryder, now in Dallas, might have cursed the Bruins when the Cup tumbled off its display table and was dented during his day ferrying the trophy around Newfoundland. The New York Rangers sent the trophy back to the league in ‘94 with a noticeable knock in the base from an unknown mishap and not only didn’t repeat despite being co-favourites, the next NHL season was almost cancelled.
The Bruins still have 76 games to fix their problems and see if they can sober up to meet Stanley in the spring.