Boston Bruins: 10 Biggest Reasons for the Bruins' Recent Struggles

Al DanielCorrespondent IIMarch 6, 2012

Boston Bruins: 10 Biggest Reasons for the Bruins' Recent Struggles

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    As much as it is exponentially starting to sound like a CD in dire need of a Windex wipe, it remains a scientific fact. The Boston Bruins are going on eight full weeks without a single two-game winning streak and have lost sets of consecutive games three times while going 10-12-2 over this lengthy lull.

    It is undesirable to make excuses, especially for a team of this caliber, but it is sensible enough to find explanations. Involuntary personnel shifts, healthy individuals failing to step up and self-imposed, team-wide bouts of ill-preparation have spawned a multitude of contributing factors to what might be dubbed a streakless streak.

    The 10 most jutting aspects behind the incessant funk are as follows:

Mounting Injuries

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    Yes, it does matter that Nathan Horton has been out of commission since Jan. 22, leaving the Bruins to have played their last 18 games and counting without him. The same goes for Rich Peverley, who has missed the last nine outings since a Feb. 15 injury, and defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference, only one of whom has returned.

    Boston relies too heavily on structure and chemistry, particularly on offense, to swiftly supplement a multitude of simultaneous injuries. The protracted absence of Horton and Peverley drove general manager Peter Chiarelli to nab Brian Rolston at the trading deadline, while Boychuk’s brief concussion likely pushed him to pursue one extra defenseman rather than one.

    Quantitatively speaking, the Bruins are in better shape now than they were as recently as eight days ago. But, they might still need to wait a while for tangible gratification after nearly a month of realignment on the depth chart.

    Still, all healthy personnel could do more than they are to supplement the missing pieces. More on that will come later.

Ill-Preparation for the Plebeians

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    On the year as a whole, the Bruins are 6-9-0 against the Southeast Division, where it is all but a matter of finishing third in the Eastern Conference or out of the playoffs altogether.

    Starting with a Jan. 14 visit to Carolina, their first game following their last set of consecutive victories, Boston has gone 3-7-1 against teams who either reside in the Southeast or are currently below the East’s playoff poverty line. Of those three wins, two required a shootout to complete.

    Even when they are shorthanded, a team with as much winning experience as the Bruins ought not to regurgitate cupcakes nearly as often as this.

Unreliable Reinforcements

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    Jordan Caron stepped up his compete level in his most recent outing for his first two-point NHL performance, against Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers no less. But whether or not he follows up on that remains to be seen until Tuesday’s tilt in Toronto at the earliest.

    The fact is that had Caron not been pressed into service for 14 consecutive games and counting when in a perfect world, which it virtually was for the Bruins between Halloween and New Year’s, he would still be whetting his blades in Providence.

    Caron, along with in-and-out stand-ins such as Zach Hamill, Carter Camper, Josh Hennessy and Lane MacDermid, have been largely invisible with the parent club, a telling testament to what the Bruins have at their AHL disposal.

Opportunity Spurned

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    In a vein similar to Caron, the injuries to Horton and Peverley and a five-game January suspension to Brad Marchand have inevitably granted Benoit Pouliot ample opportunity to escalate his game and finally prove he is capable of being a top-six forward.

    Yet ever since he was promoted to fill in for Marchand beginning with a Jan. 10 game versus Winnipeg, the offseason free agent acquisition has sprinkled a mere three goals and two assists over 26 outings. Hardly ideal representation of the Bruins’ depth.

Tank Running Dry

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    As of Saturday, head coach Claude Julien was in a much tighter spot with Tuukka Rask’s injury, but in recent weeks, he was not making the most of his luxurious tandem.

    Since mid-January, Rask has only started one-third of the Bruins’ games, and while he has not performed to a level remotely reminiscent of November and December, Tim Thomas has been equally unremarkable. In his last 18 appearances, including two relief outings, the elder goaltender has brooked a sub-.900 save percentage nine times and allowed three or more goals on 11 occasions.

    Most recently, after allowing four goals and stopping a season-low 76.5 percent of his shots-faced against the Rangers, Thomas made a ludicrous excuse, attributing his poor play to poor lighting in Madison Square Garden. Those remarks just might be the most telling aspect of the reigning Vezina winner’s nosedive.

    Rental backup Marty Turco should give Thomas at least six or seven nights off, if not more, as the regular season winds down. The Bruins cannot have their hardware-laden goaltender this shagged out and shabby if they are to put him in the crease for the playoffs.

Ammo Running Out

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    In five of their six five games, the Bruins have had fewer shots on net in the third period than in either the first or second. The lone exception was in a Feb. 28 home date with Ottawa, when they ostensibly struggled to thaw out their legs after a six-game road trip and accumulated 15 shots in the first 40 minutes, then crammed to thrust 17 in the closing stanza.

    Either way, Boston has all but turned 180 degrees in the wrong direction from its once-trademark third-period dominance. Games are now either being lost or rallies are failing to occur in the final frame, as fatigue, desperation or a combination of the two are cutting down the quantity and/or quality of all shot attempts.

Power Off

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    The power-play plague just cannot stay away from this team, can it?

    Over the first 36 games of the season, before the calendar morphed from 2011 to 2012, the Bruins tallied 25 man-up conversions, taking advantage of roughly 0.69 opportunities per night. In January, they tallied eight power-play goals in 13 games for a median of 0.61.

    Since then, it’s been five conversions out of 16 games, or a ratio of 0.31 for each contest. The rapid downturn comes from a combination of low opportunism when power plays arrive and, in several cases, failing to draw a sufficient number of penalties on the opposition.

Corvo Contagion

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    For the better part of this season, the toe-curling Tomas Kaberle has been replaced by Joe Corvo in the least favorable sense of the word. The puck-moving defenseman has been a nonfactor with his point shot and inconsistent in the way of playmaking.

    More recently, his habitual turnovers have docked his own plus/minus and hindered the Bruins’ cause, to say the least. But the worst part is that there have been multiple nights when even fifth-year captain Zdeno Chara has seemingly emulated Corvo’s faulty, torch-juggling tendencies.

    Nothing good can come of that, and it has, in fact, invited a whole host of pain to Boston.

4th-Line Freeze

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    Until Daniel Paille went down with an injury this past Saturday versus the Islanders, his line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton had been kept intact the most consistently dating back to Nathan Horton’s injury.

    Yet in that time frame, Campbell has been utterly scoreless for 17 games, while Paille and Thornton each have one point apiece to speak of, having collaborated on a goal against Nashville.

    With the rest of the depth chart as shaken up as it has been, the Bruins have needed their fourth line to step up and take tangible advantage of its comparative fortune, which it is capable of doing based on everyone’s numbers in 2010-11.

    But as it happens, one could almost make the case that Paille’s indefinite departure from the lineup has no adverse effect.

Shortage of Self-Assurance

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    When winning habits continue to fail to resurface, a subconscious and unhealthy breed of desperation is bound to settle in.

    With satisfaction as scarce and sparse as it has been for roughly two months now, it is impossible not to include that as a factor in the Bruins’ woes. Snowballing frustration is tampering with their focus and allowing a prolonged negative cycle to live on with little interruption.

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