Season has gone awry for Bruins

CanWest News Service
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If you think this has been a frustrating season for the Montreal Canadiens, consider the plight of the Boston Bruins.

They headed into this season with high hopes after finishing first in the NHL's Eastern Conference in the 2008-09 season. The Bruins were that rarest of teams, a balance between explosive offence and solid defence.

Boston -

If you think this has been a frustrating season for the Montreal Canadiens, consider the plight of the Boston Bruins.

They headed into this season with high hopes after finishing first in the NHL's Eastern Conference in the 2008-09 season. The Bruins were that rarest of teams, a balance between explosive offence and solid defence.

Last season, the Bruins scored 274 goals - second only to the Detroit Red Wings - while allowing a league-low 196.

This season, things have gone sour for the Bruins, who are 12th in the Eastern Conference standings going into tonight's game against the Canadiens.

The Bruins can take some consolation in the fact that a) they are only two points behind the eighth-place Tampa Bay Lightning, and (b) they have games in hand on most of the teams they are chasing.

But they are also up against the adage that games in hand are only good if you win them, and winning hasn't come easy for the Bruins of late. Their 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night gave them an 0-6-2 record over their last eight games.

"Well, that's what we got to keep hanging onto right now, it's the fact we're still in the mix," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the loss Tuesday. "One of our goals is to try to win those games in hand so it can make a difference. But those things are starting to slip away, so we got to really bear down and turn things around as quickly as we can. And it's got be next game."

Most of the Bruins' woes can be attributed to a team-wide slump on offence. The Bruins have scored only 131 goals this season, and every other team in the NHL has scored at least 140.

It's not unusual for a team to have a player or two whose numbers drop off, but the malaise in Boston has reached epidemic proportions.

David Krejci had 22 goals and 73 points last season. He has 10 goals and 29 points this season. Michael Ryder had 27 goals and 26 assists last season. He has 12 goals and eight assists this season and has scored just twice in his last 17 games. Ryder's playing like he did in his final season with the Canadiens, but there's one difference - Julien is giving him more ice time than Guy Carbonneau did.

Defenceman Zdeno Chara, who scored 19 goals last season, has four this season. He has a bit of an excuse because he has been playing since November with a dislocated pinky finger.

Blake Wheeler had a great rookie season with 21 goals and 24 assists, but he has only 12 goals this season and has only one goal in the last 11 games.

But Julien said he;'s encouraged because the players haven't let the losing streak dampen their spirits.

"I think (it's good) when you've lost so many games, and then still have players believing that the answer is there," said Julien, whose team fired 42 shots at Capitals goalie Jose Theodore Tuesday.

"We hit, I think, two or three posts, we had some really quality chances, and those are the things that if we can make those things happen we're going win some hockey games."

Montreal Gazette

Organizations: Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, NHL Washington Capitals Detroit Red Wings Tampa Bay Lightning Montreal Gazette

Geographic location: Boston

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