Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bruins Puckbag: An Assortment of Observations on Boston and Providence

Over Claude Julien’s first four seasons behind the bench, Boston had two significant stretches where it failed to merely string together a set of back-to-back wins. Those both occurred in the turbulent 2009-10 campaign, when the Bruins went through one lull of inconsistency spanning 18 games and 40 days and another lasting 18 games and 41 days.

Regardless of the outcome of Wednesday night’s bout with the St. Louis Blues, those previous winning-streak droughts are bound to be eclipsed. Having lost each of their last two contests, the Bruins will inevitably enter Friday’s visit to Buffalo 19 games and 43 days removed from their last two-win chain.

As Max Sauve goes, so go the P-Bruins, or so the three scoresheets from this past weekend would hold. Returning from a 10-weeek, concussion-induced absence for Friday night’s bout with Hershey, Sauve chipped in two helpers as part of a 6-0 romp. He went pointless and brooked a minus-one rating in Saturday’s 4-1 loss at Springfield, then notched the secondary helper on Jamie Arniel’s goal amidst a 4-3 clipping of Connecticut on Sunday.

Has the search for a satisfying puck-moving defenseman become the Bruins’ answer to the Red Sox’ revolving door at shortstop? The answer to that will likely hinge on Joe Corvo’s performance in the homestretch and playoffs and whatever general manager Peter Chiarelli does with his lone offseason trade acquisition afterwards.

Talk about your opposing trends: The first of four times Boston’s No. 1 backstop Tim Thomas has allowed at least four goals in a single start occurred on Dec. 31. The last of nine times Providence starter Anton Khudobin has authorized at least a four-strike night was on Dec. 26. Although, both masked men have yet to pitch a shutout in this calendar year.

Between Steven Kampfer’s second-period turnover and Khudobin’s third-period tumble behind his goal line that left the cage gaping, the P-Bruins spilled their initial 3-1 lead on the Whale Sunday in one of the most collectively unseemly manners. But even while their two best available defensive pieces were not at their best for a day, the best available striker, Carter Camper, had a most liberating tiebreaker in him to cap his hat trick and the win Sunday.

Speaking of Camper, his Monday call-up to the parent club, even more so than the promotions of Josh Hennessy and Andrew Bodnarchuk, evokes more memories of 2009-10. That was when the likes of Johnny Boychuk, Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid were pressed into supplementing an injury-plagued roster before they were ready to break into The Show. But look at what that ultimately did for them and the Bruins in 2010-11.

The P-Bruins trail Worcester by only one point in the hunt for the last playoff seed in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, but the Sharks still have a luxurious four games in hand. With five confrontations still to come, Providence needs to take at least eight points and concede no more than two or three to Worcester in order to keep control of its own destiny.

We keep coming back to this. As everyone ought to have learned from the 2009-10 season, you cannot really coach against injuries. But as everyone ought to have learned from last year’s Stanley Cup finals, a team can derive quite the effective, emotional sparkplug in the absence of a key player. The Bruins are about a month overdue to rekindle the “Win it for Horty” mentality.