They’re like the boyfriend that tells you he’ll never cheat … again.
They’re like the mechanic that tells you this time – the 10th – he knows exactly what’s ailing your car.
Just trust them and in the end you’ll be satisfied.
Yes, the Bruins keep telling us they know they might not find it so easy to “flip the switch” once the playoffs open next week. But then they keep producing efforts that make you think their actual plan is to wait until next Thursday (an unconfirmed but educated guess as to when Game 1 will be) to suddenly morph into the all-around juggernaut, buoyed by four lines of firepower and All-World goaltending, they’re supposed to be.
But what have the Peter Chiarelli/Claude Julien/Zdeno Chara-led Bruins done to earn this sort of trust? Why shouldn’t people be worried that the type of play that turns a 3-0 lead in New York into an embarrassing 5-3 loss is going to carry over? Or that a performance that allows Boston to just squeak by the hard-working, under-talented New York Islanders by one goal behind offensive output from just a defenseman and two fourth-line players, might hint at the Bruins not being ready for the second season?
The fact is, you have every reason to worry, starting with many players’ decision to take their foot off the gas and coast through to the end of the regular season. Even if the Bruins do raise their games and win a round of playoffs, there’s no telling if complacency will set in again in the second round or beyond.
It’s one thing for sportswriters and radio hosts to look at these games since the Bruins clinched the Northeast Division title, and with it no worse than the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, as meaningless exercises. Professional players with seven-digit paychecks and alleged pride in their work, however, probably should have a different view of these contests. After all, despite team president Cam Neely’s remarks on the radio to the contrary, the team wasn’t locked into the 3-hole from the time it beat Atlanta. Until Monday night, the Bruins still had a chance at the top seed. And now despite their struggles they can still take the second seed. Plus, the lackluster play began well before the Bruins clinched the division.
That many Bruins players have opted to rest on their laurels rather than plow through the also-ran opponents they’ve had served up to them this week might be less distressing were it not for the history of this team under the current general manager, coach and leadership group. Let’s face it, since 2008-09, the Bruins rarely turn their “things will be better” rhetoric into actual positive results.
The way the 2007-08 eighth-seeded Bruins team pushed Montreal to seven games after being down 3-1 was admirable. It was even a respectable achievement when the Bruins didn’t let Montreal back in the series the following year and completed a first-round, four-game sweep. Battling back to force Game 7 in the next series against Carolina was also an impressive achievement – that is, if you overlook how the Bruins got in that predicament in the first place.
Looking back at the 10-day layoff Boston had to fill before taking on the Hurricanes, you’ll remember a lot of talk about not getting rusty during the down time and not taking sixth-seeded Carolina lightly. Maybe the worst thing that happened to the Bruins was the Game 1 shutout of the Hurricanes, a win that somehow convinced Boston it was smooth sailing ahead to the conference finals. Instead, Carolina took three straight from the Bruins before Boston could finally “flip that switch.”
Last season, the Bruins couldn’t put the finishing touches on Buffalo in Game 5, so they had to do it back home for Game 6. And we don’t even have to resurrect the horrors of the Philadelphia series. We all know that the Bruins had four opportunities to “flip the switch” after convincing themselves they were too good to be on the ice with the Flyers, despite their words to the contrary.
The Carolina loss probably tells us more about what might be in store for these current Bruins than last year’s collapse. Like the ’09 team, this year’s Bruins are going to be favored going into a playoff series with a team that’s been fighting with Game 7-type intensity for weeks. Meanwhile, Boston has been goofing off and talking about taking things seriously instead of actually showing that that’s how it actually feels with some top-notch, 60-minute efforts that would not only prove their of championship mettle but possibly improve their final standing in the East.
There’s been so much talk about the Bruins’ future if they fail to reach the third round this spring after two straight second-round exits. Has anyone stopped to wonder what happens if they don’t make it back to that second round?
Julien last night against the Islanders dressed what figures to be his lineup for the first game of the playoffs. There’s no doubt he did that thinking that if he got the 60-minute effort he wanted, the Bruins would easily dispose of the pesky Isles and then he could rest some of his battered veterans. What he got was a handful of players that were trying and a majority that going through a dress rehearsal – for the Ice Capades, not the NHL playoffs. Now the coach is in a predicament. He probably still wants to rest guys this weekend, but might have to do so without some players building up some positive momentum for the playoffs.
Regardless of how Julien handles his lineup and the resting of his veterans over the weekend during the back-to-back against Ottawa and New Jersey, the pantomime has to end. Every player that dresses against the Senators and Devils has to play to his full potential in order to prove that there won’t be any “switch flipping” necessary.
None of this is to suggest the Bruins won’t come out Thursday, blow out its lower-seeded opponent and then make a run to the second, third or even fourth round this spring. It’s just a cautionary tale of how much to trust what these Bruins say.
After two straight disappointing springtime failures that were preceded by rhetoric similar to what’s emanating from the Bruins’ locker room right now, trust the Bruins to back up their words with the necessary actions at your own risk.