BOSTON — It is what allows pitchers to win Cy Youngs, goaltenders to earn Vezinas and quarterbacks to earn MVPs. It is what separates the good from the best; it is what allows a team to surge to the top of its division before embarking on a postseason run that, more often than not, culminates in some shiny new hardware and a subsequent parade. It is the Holy Grail of sports, and a little bit of it goes a long way.
Unfortunately, it’s been the one thing too elusive for the Bruins to get their hands on this season.
Consistency has been a difficult thing for Boston to come by in 2009-10 — and with just seven games remaining in the regular season, there’s no time like the present to try to achieve it.
“It is a little frustrating,” said winger Milan Lucic following Monday’s 3-2 loss to Buffalo at TD Garden. “But we’ve got to just put this one behind us and look forward to the next game [against New Jersey on Tuesday] because it seems like we’ve done a good job bouncing back.”
Since embarking on a four-game winning streak leading up to February’s Olympic break, the Bruins have managed to string together two wins just twice — clearly not the recipe for success when you’re in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and are desperately chasing a playoff berth.
“I think the focus right now is just to take everything one game at a time,” Lucic said. “It’s the way we’re going about things and that’s the way we have to keep looking at stuff.”
Staying positive is no easy task when, coming off a 5-0 dismantling of one opponent, you fall completely flat against another two nights later and fail to establish any kind of rhythm offensively. But staying positive is the only thing the Bruins can do to keep focused on the playoffs and brush off the mounting frustration that accompanies inconsistency.
For Marco Sturm, who hasn’t managed to find the back of the net for nine games and missed a penalty shot in the first period, positivity is far easier to cling to than frustration.
“It’s all in the head,” Sturm said with a smile. “When you’re struggling a little bit, you just have to stay loose. Hopefully I’ll get the first one [soon] like I [have done] all of my career. It’ll bounce in soon. You just have to find a way and stay positive.”
One thing Boston can hang its hat on? After Atlanta’s 4-1 loss to Carolina on Monday, the Bruins managed to stay two points ahead of the Thrashers in the standings. But the Bruins are well aware that good teams don’t back their way into the playoffs.
“It’s in our hands right now,” said center Patrice Bergeron. “If we worry about ourselves, we don’t even need to worry about everyone else. If we keep winning, we’ll be fine and we won’t need to rely on other teams.
“Obviously, [a sense of] urgency is something [we need to feel] — we need to do something to get better. We’re playing well, night in and night out. In the playoffs, you need to be ready every game, and there’s only seven games left. We need to find a way.”
Things won’t get any easier for the Bruins here on out, though, as they go from one Olympic goaltender to another — Ryan Miller on Monday, Martin Brodeur on Tuesday.
Is this — facing hot goalie after hot goalie — just another unfortunate bounce for a Bruins team that has seemingly faced a myriad of obstacles this season?
“We allowed him to be hot,” said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg of Miller, who finished with 40 saves on 42 shots. “He was able to get out of the crease and get a good angle on all of the shots, and when he does that, he’s really good.”
Buffalo’s first goal of the game seemed to tell the entire story of Boston’s season. A harmless pass from Mark Stuart to Blake Wheeler went awry, hopping over Wheeler’s skate and just catching the stick of the Sabres’ Tyler Myers before skidding past Tim Thomas.
Another day, another unlucky bounce.
Now is the time for the Bruins to start creating their own bounces.