Could a four-night, two-game business trip to Florida be the cure for Brian Rolston’s frostbite? The Boston Bruins can only hope so, for the veteran forward’s grace period after being obtained at the trade deadline has long expired—especially with at least three AHL forwards filling an injury-plagued depth chart at any given time.
It has been precisely two weeks since Rolston was acquired from the New York Islanders to give the Bruins the extra forward they desperately needed and would still need even if all other bodies were healthy.
Yet other than an assist in his second game, a 3-2 loss to his previous employer last Saturday, he has hardly made a split-second ripple over seven appearances.
Rolston’s blown opportunity to tally the first goal of his second term with the Bruins may have barred his team from harnessing and reprogramming the momentum in Sunday’s bout with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In the seventh minute of the first period, with Boston already nursing a 1-0 deficit, Pittsburgh’s defensive miscue left Rolston unattended in the slot before Marc-Andre Fleury. But when he converged with the puck, he failed to utilize his embarrassing allotment of time and space.
As a primary consequence, Rolston was easily stoned by Fleury on what would be his only shot on goal for the day. As a dire secondary consequence, the Penguins recovered and swiftly converted flimsy defense to assertive defense and assertive defense into assertive offense.
A mere 18 seconds after Rolston’s vain stab at an equalizer, Pittsburgh blueliner Matt Niskanen sent a low-flying slapper through a forest of bodies and behind Tim Thomas, augmenting his team’s lead to 2-0 at the 7:12 mark.
Between what could have been but wasn’t and what ultimately transpired on the transition, the effect on Boston’s morale could not be more contrary.
It certainly did not help that defenseman Adam McQuaid was hurt and forced to withdraw from the game when he hit James Neal between Rolston’s shot and Niskanen’s goal. But then again, if Rolston had taken better care to bury the prospective equalizer, odds are McQuaid would still be healthy.
As much as that analysis may sound like a summary of a typical episode of The Simpsons, when ostensibly unrelated events succeed one another to form a plot, the entire sequence does underscore one of the Bruins’ most pressing problems. Namely, they are hurting in a figurative sense, and now arguably a literal sense, from their new striker’s lack of impact.
Rolston’s veteran presence and lately unfulfilled hunger for success, which have been missing from the Bruins’ strike force since Mark Recchi retired, are no good if he does not perform. His aptitude and appetite cannot be verified until he translates it to the scoresheet and begins to boost Boston’s cause.
But there is the jutting potential for a turnaround in the fairly distant excursion that has the Bruins dropping in on Tampa Bay Tuesday and the Florida Panthers Thursday night.
Recall that, last season, general manager Peter Chiarelli took care of his final trades ahead of the deadline and in the young phases of a six-game road swing. Before they even had a chance to settle into their new city of business, Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley and Tomas Kaberle each logged no fewer than three games played while having boundless time to jell with their new club.
Although this trip is comparatively shorter in distance, Rolston will still have the flight from Pennsylvania to Florida followed by three-plus days with his teammates and without distractions.
The same goes for defensemen Mike Mottau and Greg Zanon, one of whom will surely be summoned back into game action if McQuaid cannot suit up.