On Saturday, they were supposed to pick up an easy win over the New York Islanders to win back-to-back games for the first time since January 10-12, and prepare for a showdown with the best team in the Eastern Conference on Sunday. Instead, the Bruins lost at home to the Islanders, then visited Madison Square Garden and were edged 4-3 by the New York Rangers.
On one hand, the Bruins 79 points are good for second place in the Eastern Conference and on paper that would be a good result. But the reality is that the Bruins are just three points away from dropping to seventh in the conference, and that's a greater indication of just how inconsistently they've played over the last two months.
The New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks currently boast the best odds to win the 2012 Stanley Cup.
New York Rangers: 11/2
Vancouver Canucks: 4/1
Rask injured; bigger burden on Thomas
Not only did the Bruins lose a winnable game against the Islanders on Saturday, they also lost backup goaltender Tuukka Rask to a left leg injury. Rask was seen leaving the TD Garden on crutches, which likely means he'll be out a while. That's bad news for lead goatlender Tim Thomas, who will now have to shoulder an even bigger load down the stretch of the season.
As much criticism as the 37-year-old has faced, he's been far from bad this season. He's 27-14-0 with a 2.24 GAA and a .928 save percentage. Overall, most teams would trade their goalie for a shot to have Thomas between their pipes.
But at a closer look, Thomas hasn't quite been himself recently. He's just 7-5-0 with a 2.52 GAA since the All-Star break and his save percentage continues to decline. He's allowed at least three goals in seven of his last 11 starts. So far this month, he's stopped just 52 of 61 shots in three games, which puts his save percentage at a paltry .852.
The Bruins are used to having him either save the team or carry them. Right now, that’s been far from the case. If they have any hope of making another long playoff run, that has to change.
More injuries, more backups
Unfortunately for the Bruins, Rask wasn't the only member of the Bruins to go down on Saturday. Fourth line winger Daniel Paille also succumbed to injury. Neither player is on the two-game road trip, which finishes up in Toronto on Tuesday.
While the loss of Paille might not seem so significant, the truth is that it takes another bite out of the Bruins wing depth, which is already undermanned. Nathan Horton and Rich Peverly, both of whom play on the right side, are also out.
The Bruins are also without defenseman Andrew Ference, who is dealing with a lower-body injury.
Claude Julien's crew still boast good odds to win the East Conference, though.
Boston Bruins: 6/1
Pittsburgh Penguins: 9/1
Philadelphia Flyers: 10/1
Bruins busy week
The Bruins will be back home following Tuesday's trip to Toronto and they'll play two straight at the Garden before heading out for a three-game road trip.
These next two weeks will really test the Bruins mettle. They've lost seven of their last 11 and will have played a total of nine games between March 3 and March 17 when it's all said and done. It would sure be nice to have Rask around to give Thomas a breather with a stretch of nine games in 15 days, but the Bruins will have to prove they can get the job done without him.
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