The consistent 60-minute efforts that fueled their memorable run to the Cup this spring seem long forgotten. The Bruins are back to their frustrating habits of simply disappearing for long stretches, showing just brief flashes of their championship form.
That has left them sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-6-0 record. According to TSN stat guru Kevin Gibson, that's the first time a defending champion has been in last place at this point in the season since the league expanded from six teams in 1967.
"Everybody wants to get out of this," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said after Friday's practice. "We have a lot of character in this room. Nobody's laying down. Everybody is pretty pissed off and wants to get out of this."
That sounds good. But it also sounds awfully familiar to what was said prior to Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Canadiens and the comments made before every disappointingly disjointed effort the Bruins have given this season.
The time for talk is over. All the speeches about turning the page from last year's Cup celebration don't mean a thing if the Bruins don't actually show that renewed focus on the ice.
At least coach Claude Julien has made it clear that words are not enough.
"We can talk about it until we're blue in the face," Julien said. "It's really about focusing on playing 60 minutes and being consistent in our game. Right now we're not. One period we're there and the next period we're totally away from everything that gave us success in the other period."
That was especially true on Thursday, when a promising opening period evaporated quickly with a sloppy final 40 minutes against the Canadiens.
"[Thursday] night to me was probably the worst executed game from the second period on that we've played this year," Julien said. "It wasn't pretty to watch."
Since the banner was raised on opening night, there hasn't been much pretty to watch with this team. They entered the season knowing they would be tested like never before with every opponent gunning for the reigning champs, but thus far they have not risen to that challenge.
"It is definitely a new challenge," Julien said. "It's an area where you haven't been and everybody will tell you the same thing. We've been told, we've been warned that it would be a challenge, and it is. I guess right now it's finding the solutions. There's a lot of teams in the past that took a long time to find them and we don't want that to happen. We're trying to work on finding them as quick as we can."
Time is not on the Bruins' side. While there are still 73 games left to play, making up ground in the NHL is not easy. The points they are leaving on the board in October can be just as costly as losses down the stretch late in the season.
"We can't look at it anymore like it's just the start of the year," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. "It's starting to get to the point where we have to be better, and we know that. Once we all are really aware of that and we all want to bear down and step up, then hopefully we'll dig ourselves out of this."
The Bruins should have been aware of the need for a consistent effort all along. It's understandable that they could be affected by the grueling playoff run, short offseason and hoopla surrounding their first Cup in 39 years. But it's not acceptable to continue to turn in subpar efforts, not if they want a chance to put themselves in position for more short summers and long celebrations.
"You're talking to the wrong guy about excuses, because there are none," Julien said. "We're not going to sit here and pretend that we have reasons and excuses, because we don't. And I don't want us to be that way. I want us to take responsibility for what's happened. I want us to accept the criticism that's rightfully coming our way. When you admit and realize, that's when you get better."
The Bruins need to get better now, before the hole they dig for themselves becomes too deep to climb out of. General manager Peter Chiarelli has preached patience, admitting a reluctance to tinker too much with a roster that's already proven it can deliver a championship. But the Bruins are certainly trying Chiarelli's patience with their performance of late, and he may be forced to make some moves soon.
Will the specter of possible moves finally snap the Bruins out of their lethargy?
"Those are all questions that I think will be answered by our play," Julien said. "When you see your team react, that [shows] whether it's had an impact or not. I can't answer that for you. Time will tell."
And the time is now for the Bruins to get this season back on track.