The Boston Bruins started the week off so positively. By the end of it, they were right back to where they started: scratching their heads about the exact same problems.
The Bruins picked up two wins on last Tuesday and Thursday, and then finished it up with two bad losses on Saturday and Sunday. Questions about their consistency, Tim Thomas' goaltending and their ability to play with the lead are all under the microscope once again.
The good news is that they're still in second place in the Eastern Conference with a tenuous two-point lead over the Ottawa Senators — although they have two games in hand.
The Rangers and the Canucks continue to headline the list of Stanley Cup contenders.
New York Rangers: 11-2
Vancouver Canucks: 4-1
The Bruins finally figured out a way to win back-to-back games for the first time since early January with victories over the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres. It looked like the B's finally had some momentum going.
And then they followed it up with back-to-back losses, bringing them back to square one.
Facing a sluggish Washington Capitals team at home, the Bruins fell 4-3 in a game in which it never really looked like they had a shot to win. The same can be said for Sunday's contest in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins were leading 3-0 by the end of the first period.
What's unnerving is that the Bruins had a chance to snowball the confidence before they headed out on the road. Saturday wrapped up their three-game home stand, and the loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday started a stretch of three road games along with six of their next eight being away from home.
No matter what Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas does, he can't seem to get out of the spotlight. For a few years now, he's received credit for the Bruins' consistency and now that the team is up and down, he's also catching some heat for it.
Heading into Sunday's affair, Thomas had a 2.71 GAA since the All-Star break with a 9-7-0 record. That's not bad, but when drilled down further, the numbers get worse. Thomas has a 3.27 GAA in March and a lowly .871 save percentage. That doesn't include Sunday's game, when he was pulled after the first period, giving up three goals on 10 shots.
Although backup Tuukka Rask hadn't been playing much better, at least he was reliable enough for the Bruins to trust. He's out for a prolonged period of time, and the Bruins are more hesitant to give their 37-year-old goaltender a night off. Thomas has now started nine straight and counting.
The Bruins' topsy-turvy play has continued to hurt their chances at winning the Eastern Conference this season.
New York Rangers: 5-1
Boston Bruins: 8-1
Pittsburgh Penguins: 8-1
The Bruins are 12-14-2 in their last 28 games. They're just 1-11 after their last 12 wins. Those aren't pretty numbers -– not for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
So what's been the problem recently? Digging a hole.
The Bruins have been trailing consistently throughout this erratic stretch of 28 games. On Saturday, the Bruins faced deficits of 2-0 and 4-2 versus Washington. On Sunday, they were down three goals in the first period and never recovered.
In the last 28 games, the Bruins have been trailing entering the third period 23 times. Normally, the Bruins are perceived as a defensive team that prefers to protect leads, but they just haven't had many leads to play with. When trailing, they're forced to take more risks on offense, and that's opening things up in the back end that their opponents are taking advantage of.
The Bruins need to find a way to play with the lead again as this clearly isn't their recipe for success.