Operation: Don’t Miss The Playoffs (Part III) is nearing it’s climax and the Bruins trilogy is trending towards a familiar ending as the first two installments.

Torey Krug’s “Orr-tribute” goal that tied the game in the third period against Ottawa on Tuesday wasn’t enough to spark a Bruins win:

To make things worse, last night Toronto beat Columbus while the Islanders topped the Rangers. Add it all up and that puts the Bruins in the 2nd wild card spot, a point behind Toronto in the Atlantic and two points ahead of the Islanders for the wild card. Both the Leafs and the Isles have played one less game than Boston.

Everyone needing points in the Eastern Conference playoff race is going out and getting them. Except the Bruins. And now, unfortunately by their own doing, the Bruins have put themselves in a position where they also face questions about the past two late season choke jobs they’ve endured. The previous two seasons, like this one, the B’s have been within closing distance of a playoff spot where they simply win and they’re in. Each time they’ve sharted. So it’s not unreasonable to wonder if we’re going to see the same thing again.

The Bruins now face a must-win tonight at the Garden to really avoid that disaster feeling. But beyond that obvious fact there are a few things that have come into play in this self created debacle the Bruins are putting themselves in:

  • The boost from the coaching change was real. And now the honeymoon phase is over. Bruce Cassidy has done a real nice job and gave the kids what they wanted in the process. He’s let them play an open style offense. He believes in it himself. But the boost the team got from his promotion had a shelf life of about 15 games. It actually lasted longer than I thought it would. I don’t expect to get that “wow, where was this team all year?” feeling anymore now that the buzz is wearing off but one positive that remains is that we know the team is still going to respond to Cassidy. They’re still putting themselves in position to close out games like in the last two and they still can.
  • It’s time to get over the refs. Yes, they suck worse than a border town brothel. They’ve missed more than the little boy petting his pretty bird in Dumb & Dumber. There’s nothing more we can say about the officiating that hasn’t been screamed about. The game has gotten too fast for them. But it’s not why the Bruins are losing. They simply aren’t finishing good chances (they out shot Ottawa 36-22), they’re giving up a lot of soft space defensively, and relying on just two guys to score goals. You can also sense a bit of their frustration towards the officiating. That’s not a long-term recipe for sustained success when the refs do make bad calls that compound some of their recent on ice struggles. But it’s time to get over it before it does and we know it will happen again.
  • Some one not named Pastrnak or Marchand needs to step up. Yeah so, those two guys that are carrying the offensive load?  Let’s throw them a rope here. Give them a hand. Pasta didn’t have the best of times in the Tuesday tilt with Ottawa but I can’t see him going ice cold after this recent (gasp!) two game goalless drought. The Bruins can’t afford him to. So whether it’s Drew Stafford, Patrice Bergeron, Frank Vatrano, or Ryan Spooner, some one needs to emerge from that bunch, and beyond, to pop a couple 5-on-5 goals. Though I’m not holding my breath that any depth scoring is on the way. But if it comes down to whether 63 and 88 can score enough for the entire team in the final ten games then you might as well blast Travis Tritt’s “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” in the streets of Boston right now.
  • Tuukka Rask may have to save the day. He’s been ripped so many times over the years by the #TradeTuukka crowd you’d think he was Jimmy Hayes. But in his last 11 games Tuukka has posted just a .901 save percentage alongside a 5-6 record. Those aren’t $7 million starter numbers. I do believe the guy can get it done, as was highlighted by his lights out performance against Toronto. So I hate to say “he’s got to be better” but in this instance he may have to be Vezina Rask. Great goalies always seem to find a way to steal a game in a playoff series. These next two weeks are the playoffs for the Bruins. There’s never been a better time for Tuukka to commit a little robbery than right now.

The Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Garden tonight for a 7PM puck drop. A game I had to give my tickets away to because of a scheduling conflict. Which is unfortunate because the Bruins haven’t lost a game I’ve attended over the past three seasons. No joke. Guess I need to fix my schedule.

5-2, Bruins win. Book it.

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