If Pete Seeger were commissioned to write a song by the Bruins right now, it could probably go something like “Where have all the snipers gone? Long time ago.”
Well, it hasn’t been that long ago. Just a week ago, the Bruins were leading their Eastern Conference semifinal series with Philadelphia, 3-0, and Miroslav Satan was being lauded as the best bargain since the U.S. purchased Alaska. Now Boston’s getting its money’s worth, as Satan hasn’t recorded a point in three games.
The bargain-basement veteran winger isn’t the only one to blame for Boston’s sudden regression back to the team that finished in the league’s basement in offense this season. En route to allowing the Flyers to force Friday’s Game 7, the Bruins have gotten nada from Michael Ryder. In this series, he has one fluke goal that Brian Boucher put into his own net after a shot off the end wall. Unfortunately for the Bruins, Ryder’s other two goals came in the same game in the first round against Buffalo. This is a trend we’ve seen before from Ryder, as the right winger scored four time against Montreal last season before registering just one goal in seven games with Carolina.
Blake Wheeler had gone from a net-front presence to a rink-level ghost in a matter of three games. He didn’t even register a shot on net tonight’s 2-1 defeat at the Wachovia Center.
And then there’s Marc Savard. After firing eight shots on goal in Game 4, he’s totaled just four in the next two games and racked up six penalty minutes. The adrenaline flow after his return from a six-week absence has obviously been turned off, and now he’s a shade slow on the forecheck and backcheck and slightly inaccurate with his feeds.
It seems that just like scoring can be contagious, not scoring can infect a team like a plague. Patrice Bergeron is the latest to come down with a case of “scorus interuptus” – or in layman’s terms, allergy to scoring. The Bruins nearly had to put an APB out for Bergeron’s whereabouts tonight, as he failed to register nary a shot on net (he did hit the post late) and was a non-factor until the third period, when desperation seemed to finally settle into the Bruins.
Boston put so much emphasis on getting the defensemen involved in the offense to aid its inept forwards, that now the Bruins suddenly don’t know what to do with the Flyers challenging the points and clogging the passing lanes to prevent any blueliner contributions. Or better put, the Bruins’ forwards know what to do, they just can’t do it. And that’s been the story of the whole season.
When general manager Peter Chiarelli didn’t add scoring help at the trade deadline, he gambled that he had the horses to make a run. He won that gamble for nine games of this playoff season, but now he’s finding out what happens when you put all your chips on some of the streakiest forwards on Earth. Say what you want about the lack of playoff production from the likes of Raffi Torres or Lee Stempniak. However, there’s no telling how those guys would’ve helped the Bruins at this point. You can never have too many scorers, especially when they all lack consistency. Just by the law of averages, if you have enough streaky players with the right set of skills, at least one or two have to be streaking in the right direction at the right time.
But I digress. This isn’t about what Chiarelli didn’t do in March or what those draft picks he has stockpiled are going to be the rest of the decade. This is about a group of players that showed the ability to get the job done for nine games by making the slot and the top of the crease their personal workspace and making puck-carriers hesitate to carry the puck out of the defensive zone and through the neutral zone, lest they get leveled and turn over the puck. Those same players – Satan, Ryder, Wheeler and the rest – now look like they have no idea how to handle success.
Maybe it’ll take the finality of a Game 7 to bring out the beast inside these Bruins. Maybe Wheeler will carve out a spot in front of the goal, or Satan will actually take a shot rather than do a dance with the puck, or Ryder will rejoin the living. Even if just one of them does something he hasn’t in the previous three games, it could be enough to put the Bruins into the conference finals.
Should the series continue to go the way it’s going, and the Bruins forwards fail to solve Philly No. 2 netminder Michael Leighton, that “long time ago” lyric will become more appropriate as the offseason unfolds with the Bruins wondering what might’ve been.