After the club suffered its fourth loss in five games against Anaheim on Dec. 20, the bleak sentiment that this year?s team had taken a turn for the worst permeated throughout New England.
Sports talk radio couldn?t get enough of the “Fire Claude” calls. Some even went as far as to suggest my counterpart Mike Milbury take over for head coach Claude Julien behind the bench. Upon arriving at Thursday night?s pre-Christmas clash at the TD Garden with the Atlanta Thrashers, a group of middle-aged men enjoying some holiday cheer turned to Milbury and asked, “Hey, Coach, when are you going to get back there and help this team?”
Don?t hold your breath.
In that one final home game of 2010, the Bruins turned the miserable fans into believers again. Isn?t that what the holiday season is all about?
An emotional win against Atlanta, a thrilling shootout winner on Monday night in Florida and a dramatic win over Tampa Bay less than 24 hours later — just like that, the Bruins are back in form.
“The guys wanted to be all in,” Mark Recchi said after his goal with 19.7 seconds remaining in regulation lifted his team to victory over his former team. “We want to compete, and we want to win. We want this road trip to be a steppingstone for our season.
“We talk about wanting to get better,” he added. “So much of the results, it?s about us competing every night and having everybody all in and playing for each other. If we do that, we?re going to continue building this thing.”
Building this thing means continuing to play a solid 60 minutes of hockey each night in order to keep gaining ground in the Eastern Conference standings. Three straight wins have propelled the Bruins into third place, right behind powerhouse Pittsburgh and the suddenly victorious Washington Capitals. The B?s also are holding onto the top spot in the Northeast Division, two points ahead of Montreal with two games in hand.
“No doubt this is where you want to be,” Julien said. “You want to be at first place in the division and as high as you can be in the standings. It’s nice to move up five spots in the standings, and hopefully, we?re ready to hold on to that spot.”
Julien knows as well as anyone that as quickly as the Bruins have turned things around in a week, they can fall back to the eighth spot just as fast. That?s the way an 82-game season works in the NHL.
Holding onto the position is the challenge. However, if the Bruins continue playing the way they have since Thursday night, then the spot is theirs to lose.