The new year started on the worst possible note for the Boston Bruins with a blowout loss to their oldest rivals on the NHL’s grandest regular-season stage. It hasn’t gotten much better for them since.
The Bruins have won just once so far in 2016, following up that disastrous 5-1 beatdown in the NHL Winter Classic with four losses in five games. Those four defeats weren’t runaways like the one that kicked off the new calendar, but rather nailbiters, with a mere one goal deciding each.
The latest frustrating outcome came Wednesday night, when Boston led by a goal entering the third period but surrendered the final two in rapid succession to lose 3-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. The loss mirrored the one the B’s suffered two nights earlier: a 2-1 decision against the New York Rangers during which Boston also allowed two third-period goals and failed to score one of their own.
In all, the Bruins have dropped eight of their last 10 games dating back to Dec. 22 and have earned just three of a possible eight points on their current five-game road trip, which wraps up Friday night in Buffalo.
That swoon has caused Claude Julien’s squad, which just a few short weeks ago sat within a point of first place in the Atlantic Division standings, to tumble down the Eastern Conference table. A New Jersey Devils victory Thursday in Colorado would knock the Bruins out of the playoff picture for the first time since Dec. 5.
In addition to the Devils, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes also sit within two points of the final wild-card spot in the East entering Thursday.
“Right now, it’s a frustrating time for our team,” Julien told reporters after Wednesday’s loss, according to the team. “Missed opportunities at one end and mistakes at the other.”
One silver lining for the slumping Bruins: Their schedule over the next few weeks is relatively favorable. Nine of their next 10 opponents would not qualify for the postseason if the season ended Thursday, with the only exception being a Winter Classic rematch against the Montreal Canadiens next Tuesday.
Included in that 10-game span are three games against the Buffalo Sabres, two against the Toronto Maple Leafs and one against the Columbus Blue Jackets — the three worst teams in the Eastern Conference.
Thumbnail photo via Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Boston Bruins defenseman Zach Trotman
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