As the Buffalo Sabres celebrated in the corner, Patrice Bergeron slammed his stick against the post in absolute disgust. The generally levelheaded center could hide his frustration no longer as Drew Stafford tucked in the Sabres' sixth goal of the evening, capping off a 6-0 blowout for Buffalo.
The Boston Bruins have handed opposing teams their share of embarrassing beat downs this season, including a dizzying 9-0 assault of the Calgary Flames in early January. But that was then, and the Bruins team of right now is one that found themselves flat on their backs, checking their own teeth as the ref counted 10 on Wednesday night.
The visible anger in Patrice Bergeron's eyes could be seen in Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton, Zdeno Chara and most Bruins players throughout the entire game. Not only were they being embarrassed, but they were being punked out by a lesser team, and that is a feeling that is becoming all too familiar for the Black and Gold lately.
Of the Bruins' 17 regulation losses this season, 12 of them have come at the hands of teams not currently in the playoffs. This inability to get up for games against teams that should be handled has been tough on the team, and Wednesday night's loss must be the tipping point.
From here, the Bruins must find a way to harness that anger and get back on track. The next three games are huge for the B's for different reasons, and will go a long way to showing what these defending champs are made of.
Saturday Feb. 11 - Nashville Predators in Boston
The Bruins return home from Buffalo to find Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators awaiting for a Saturday matinee at the TD Garden.
Barry Trotz's team continues to impress in a brutal Central division, and the duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter always presents a challenge.
This game will be the first since their defeat at the hands of the Sabres, and the Bruins should be well-rested and ready to make a statement.
The biggest challenge may come from Pekka Rinne, one of the best young goalies in the NHL. The Bruins' offense has been inconsistent as of late, and Rinne won't make things any easier. The Bruins have to come out fast and physical, establishing a solid effort in order to move forward from the loss to the Sabres.
Tuesday Feb. 14 - New York Rangers in Boston
Earlier this season, the Rangers snagged an extra point with a last-second overtime victory in Boston. The two top teams in the Eastern Conference meet for a second time, and while the Bruins have cooled as of late, the Rangers look to continue what has been a dominant campaign in 2011-2012.
The Bruins have no trouble getting up for big games, and the previous meeting between the one and two seeds did not disappoint. This game could prove to be a tremendous boost should the B's find a way to knock off the top team in the East.
What makes this game interesting is that the Rangers are one of the few teams in the NHL that will not be intimidated by the Bruins' physical play. These two teams lead the East in points, but also lead the NHL in fighting majors.
The Bruins have strayed from a consistent physical game recently. Coming off a fist-filled showdown in Buffalo, this game will demand that the Bruins bring that physical play back, and hopefully sustain that aggressive style moving forward.
Wednesday Feb. 15 - Montreal Canadiens in Montreal
Any game against the Habs is circled far in advance for Bruins nation. These arch-rivals never need motivation to turn a regular-season game into an all-out war.
While the Canadiens are knee-deep in a season they'd rather forget, The Bell Centre will be rocking when the Black and Gold take the ice against le Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.
By now, the Bruins should be well-aware that every team wants a piece of the Stanley Cup champs. Their mediocre win-loss record against teams with losing records should illustrate the fact that there are no free rides this season.
The Canadiens have struggled this year, but the Bruins will need a strong effort to kick this habit and finish off their season series with their bitter enemies up north on a good foot.
Coming off games against two of the top teams in the league, this matchup, despite their history, will be an interesting experiment.
Will the Bruins be able to carry their compete level down to the bottom of the standings? It won't be easy, but the Bruins must find a way to take care of business when they ought to.