By Matt McGuirk
After a poor showing in their one exhibition game, the Boston Bruins followed it up with an equally disappointing performance in their round robin debut against the Philadelphia Flyers yesterday. They were slow from the start, the top line was noticeably off, and the team just looked flat overall. All are signs of one thing: the rust is clearly still there. Going forward, it’s a matter of how quickly they can get back on track with two more round robin games looming.
The Bruins face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday and the Washington Capitals on Sunday—two teams that haven’t been the kindest opponents over the years. If the struggles from yesterday’s meeting with the Flyers bleed into these two games, it’s not going to be easy sailing for the B’s in this round robin.
The concern for the Bruins recent performance does not necessarily lie in losing the top seed because of a subpar round robin performance. Obviously, it would stink to see the Presidents Trophy winners be anything but the No. 1 seed in the playoffs – but the more pressing concern, at least in my opinion, would be seeing the rust remain after these round robin games. The Bruins have the benefit of qualifying for the standard 16-team postseason regardless of their performance in these three games, but entering the first round with some confidence would be significantly better than stumbling-in. It’s why they need to shake this rust off as soon as possible.
Another thing that’s worth discussing on this topic is the fact that the fourth-month layoff essentially gave every team competing some additional time to recharge their batteries and heal any ailing injuries. It’s basically a brand new season. Statistically, the Bruins might’ve been the best team at the pause, but they have not played like it since arriving in Toronto. That first-place finish means nothing at this point. They are already playing catch-up and need to be better in a variety of areas for Wednesday.
This also leads into the grand question: Is it time to panic? The quick answer is no. It was the team’s second game since March and there weren’t a whole lot of opportunities to play at full speed before the meaningful games began. Think about it, in a normal season, teams play a handful of preseason games so they’re completely up to speed for the start of the season. No one got that opportunity for this postseason.
That said, if the Bruins don’t improve their play before the first round, it might be okay to inch your finger closer to that panic button, especially if they get a less than favorable first-round matchup.
Until then, let’s wait and see how they fare in the last two round robin games before drawing any final conclusions.