Never Say Die: Boston Bruins Search For Inspiration

Wayne Whittaker@@WayneTwittakerCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2010

Despite all the prognostications of doom, the Boston Bruins still find themselves very much in the thick of a playoff race. Sitting ever uncomfortably in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, the Bruins no longer have any room for error.

Boston does not appear to be getting any help from lady luck however, as NESN reports that the Bruins will be forced to go on without their star centerman, Marc Savard, who will likely miss the remainder of the 2009-2010 season after finding himself on the receiving end of a devastating (legal) cheap shot from Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke.

If it wasn’t apparent through the first three quarters of the season, it’s become quite clear that this will not likely be the year the B’s snap their Stanley Cup drought.

Frustration probably doesn’t begin to describe what Boston fans have felt all year long. But as this disappointing season continues to wind down, there are still some bright spots to look forward to heading into the final stretch.

Mar. 18 vs. Pittsburgh

It’s pretty safe to say that this game has been circled on just about every hockey fan’s calendar. Will the “Big Bad Bruins” reclaim that moniker after a shameful showing following the now-infamous Cooke hit?

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Claude Julien told his team to forget about the incident for the final minutes of Sunday’s loss, and then told the media he fully expected the league to effectively handle the situation.

The league failed to do so.

By keeping blindside head-shots like the Cooke hit legal, the league is basically sending a message to teams that they are responsible for protecting their teammates, and for punishing the perpetrators.

For an organization so adamant about distancing themselves from their history of on-ice violence, the NHL sure isn’t making it easy for themselves.

Officiating is sure to be tight for this rematch, but the Bruins can’t afford to give up an inch of ice to Pittsburgh. This may be their last chance to respond.

The Draft

When all else fails, there’s always next year.

With the Toronto Maple Leafs first- and second-round picks firmly in hand, all eyes are on Toronto as Bruins fans (otherwise known as Toronto Tank Nation) look to see how low the Leafs can go.

The Phil Kessel trade looks better and better as this season progresses, with Boston holding four draft picks in the first two rounds, one of which is almost guaranteed to be a top-three overall.

Will the Leafs or the Oilers help Boston win the race to Taylor Hall? If not, no worries; promising defenseman Cam Fowler is already hot on Taylor’s trail for the coveted first overall slot.

We’ve seen just how important draft picks are in the salary cap era of the NHL, and just how effective those picks can be to their new teams.

Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, and new-comers John Tavares and Steve Stamkos have all lived up to their expectations and worked wonders for their teams.

And players picked second overall haven’t been too shabby either, most notably Evgeni Malkin and Eric Staal.

For a Boston team who’s future is already extraordinarily bright, with countless young gunners champing at the bit for a shot at NHL glory, this draft could launch this Bruins team to the next level.

Enjoy The Playoffs

Let’s not forget that last season was the first since 1999 that Boston advanced past the first round of the playoffs. Getting just that far was a small but important accomplishment for the organization.

And while the disappointment of two consecutive years of Game Seven losses still lingers, let’s not forget just how amazing the ride to Game Seven against Montreal was just two years ago.

Also, as we’ve learned in the past few years, it doesn’t take much for a low-seeded team to catch some momentum and fight its way deep into the playoffs.

Just look at last year’s sixth-seeded Carolina team or 2007’s sixth-seeded Philadelphia team, both of whom made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Or, of course, the Cinderella story, eighth place Edmonton Oilers whose Stanley Cup journey came up just one game short, losing to Carolina in seven games in 2006.

These scenarios are obviously rarities, and the cards are certainly stacked against this Boston squad who has battled injuries and inconsistency all season long. But who doesn’t love rooting for the underdog?

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