Aside from a Patrice Bergeron goal and a Shawn Thornton scrap, there wasn’t a whole lot to celebrate.
The Bruins looked flatter than Dean Martin after a weekend bender. They put up less fight than Peter McNeeley against Mike Tyson. They were still in hibernation mode.
This wasn’t the team that finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season. This wasn’t the team that played disciplined, killed penalties and did the little things that win hockey games. This wasn’t the team that made good line changes, avoided turning the puck over and attacked for 60 minutes.
This was the old Bruins. Outhustled. Outworked. Outmanned. Outgunned. Outplayed in every facet of the game.
Maybe they were rusty.
Maybe they were overconfident.
Maybe they just had an off night.
Whatever the reason, they laid an egg and fell to 2-6-3 in their last 11 openers.
Now it’s time to go back to the drawing board, regroup, and return to what made them one of the best teams in the NHL a season ago. Claude Julien is not going to accept the effort the Bruins gave in the opener. He expects more out of his team, and the players expect more out of themselves.
Embarrassment can be a great motivator. A three-goal loss has a way of getting everyone’s attention, and this disappointment was an old-school, 5 a.m., bucket-of-icewater wake-up call. It was a roundhouse to the groin, a baseball bat to the gut.
Nobody wants to be booed by the hometown crowd on opening night, but it could turn out to be a blessing. The Bruins aren’t going to rest on their laurels or get a false sense of security and think they are better than they actually are. They’ve been given a gift, a simple lesson that they can hold onto from now until June — success isn’t guaranteed to carry over.
Like a straight right to the nose, the Bruins got a firm reminder that last season is history. Everything they accomplished in the 2008-09 campaign was nice, but it doesn’t mean a lick in the standings this season. This is a new chapter. That message was driven home with a sledgehammer.
The page has been turned.
The Bruins have been humbled. Adversity arrived early. We all know what kind of character last season’s team had, but what are the 2009-10 Bruins made of? Will they stand up to the challenge and prove the doubters wrong? Everybody in the Hub wants to believe the Bruins are better than the team that showed up at the Garden against the Capitals, but until they prove it, such a thought is just wishful thinking.
With 81 more regular-season contests to go, the Bruins have a shot to redeem themselves. Their first opportunity comes Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. The schedule-makers could not have picked a better opponent.
Scott Walker and Co. left a bad taste in Boston’s mouth last May. Alexander Ovechkin and Co. left a bad taste this October.
One win over the Hurricanes could help the Bruins start to rinse that out.