Usually, players go out of their way to avoid putting too much importance on one single game. The term “must-win” is usually saved for late-season games in which a team faces elimination, or playoff games where the loser is going home.
Earlier this week, Mark Recchi made it clear the Bruins must win Thursday night’s game against the Thrashers at the TD Garden. The 22-year NHL veteran made it clear that a loss would be inexcusable.
“We have to win Thursday,” Recchi told Eric Frede and me during an interview on WEEI on Tuesday.
It was as blunt a comment as you’ll hear from an athlete, at least publicly. It came from a man who’s been willing to pay the price in the high-risk, high-reward areas of NHL ice surfaces for more than two decades.
Unfortunately, he’s about the only Bruin spending serious time in those areas of late. On Monday night, the Bruins fired off 45 shots on net in a 3-0 loss to Anaheim. Has there ever been a quieter 45 shots? Nearly all of them came from the periphery, with very little traffic in front of the net and even less sustained pressure by the Black and Gold.
Bruins fans have seen enough of this type of play. The boos cascaded down from the home fans by the end of the second period and were deafening by the end of the game. There was plenty of optimism coming into this season, and that optimism got ratcheted up when the Bruins finished the first month of the season 6-2.
That optimism has given way to frustration. The Bruins once again seem offensively inept, scoring only nine goals in the last five games. Not coincidentally, the B’s have lost four of those five games. Last year, Boston finished dead last in the NHL in scoring. They are better this year, but not of late.
Bruins president Cam Neely expressed his frustration in a radio interview last week, saying his team needs to pay more attention to offense and reminded everyone that “it’s not about trying to win 0-0.”
Claude Julien responded to Monday’s loss by mixing up the lines, and the team responded by mixing it up at practice in Wilmington. There were reportedly several dustups between players in a high-intensity workout.
Now, they’ve got to take it to the ice. Thursday marks the last home game of 2010. After a three-day break, the B’s play the next five on the road, and they won’t skate on home ice until Jan. 6. Julien, who got a vote of confidence from GM Peter Chiarelli on Wednesday, might be on the hot seat if the team doesn’t come out on top in the majority of those games.
Because, as Recchi reminded us this week, the Bruins need to win.
“We go on the road for five games, and it’s not an easy road trip,” Recchi said. “We’ve been pretty good on the road, and sometimes, it can bring you together, but Thursday is a must-win for us right now.”