Just fifteen days ago, the Bruins were tied for first place in the Atlantic division with the Tampa Bay Lightning. They had left Florida with two important one goal victories.
With fourteen games remaining in the season, they had managed to achieve a tie for first in their division. Patrice Bergeron and company then came home for a two game set against the Canes and Islanders. They would lose a disappointing game against lowly Carolina but followed up with a victory against the quality New York Islanders.
The B’s then traveled to California to play three strong Western Conference teams: Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Jose. It became a California nightmare as the the Black and Gold lost all three matchups. They only scored three goals in three games and their record against the Western Conference fell to 10-14-3.
The Bruins inconsistency has been cause for concern throughout their entire 2016-2016 campaign. Their poor record against western foes is another important red flag for Boston fans. There is no doubt that the Eastern Conference is much weaker compared to the Western Conference this year.
With an important opportunity to prove themselves against playoff bound opponents, the Bruins failed again.
NHL's Eastern Conference playoff races, through Saturday night's games pic.twitter.com/PEeX1BiJPa
— Dave Stubbs (@Dave_Stubbs) March 20, 2016
The Bruins have nine games remaining in the season at this point. The final push toward the playoffs begins this Wednesday at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers. The following night they head home to take on the Florida Panthers. Two nights later, they head to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs.
The B’s currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division. The schedule is balanced with three divisional matchups, and three tilts against other playoff teams. The other three games are against teams without any playoff shot. The majority of the games are on the road. Luckily for the Bruins, they have been much better when playing away from TD Garden this year.
Boston still only trails Florida for first place by three points, and second place Tampa Bay by one point. They also have a three point lead over the Red Wings, who sit in the final wild card position in the East. Boston is only four points ahead of Philadelphia, a team currently one position out of the final wild card slot behind the Detroit.
It’s do or die time on Causeway Street. Boston needs to stretch together wins in the final stretch. If the Bruins don’t maintain a top three position in the Atlantic while the Wings get hot, it’s possible the B’s end up facing the Capitals in the first round of the playoffs. It’s also completely plausible they may miss the postseason altogether if they play poorly enough.
I previously mentioned that the Bruins prospects of moving on past the first round likely revolves on who they end up drawing as their opponent to start the playoffs. If the Red Wings overtake third in the east and the Bruins draw the Capitals, it’s a nightmare scenario for Boston fans.
These final nine games are the last chance for Zdeno Chara’s team to prove that they deserve recognition as a contender. Seeding will be of utmost importance in this year’s Eastern Conference playoffs. The Bruins need to win now in order to give them any shot past the first round.
Inconsistency has been the Bruins’ middle name. Claude Julien can only hope and pray that his team understands the importance of this final stretch. With nine games left, it’s still possible that Boston could be first in the Atlantic or completely out of the playoffs by April 9.
If they do not make the playoffs, it is likely that the longest tenured coach in the NHL will be looking for a new job.