BOSTON -- Let the countdown begin to Wednesday afternoon's 3 p.m. trade deadline.
And don't envy Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli's position, as he has to determine whether his team should be a buyer or stand pat. Luckily for the players that want to stay in Boston, Chiarelli probably won't let Tuesday night's 4-1 loss to Montreal at TD Garden be a referendum on what he should do. If that were the case, no one would be safe.
After the Bruins squandered a 1-0 third-period lead and registered just one shot on net after the 9:25 mark of the period, most of the players toed the company line, saying the team as presently constituted is good enough.
"We know we have a team here that can definitely compete in the playoffs and do some damage," said winger Michael Ryder, echoing his teammates' responses to a question about whether the Bruins need to make a trade. "It's not up to us now. We have to play with what we have here and if something happens, something happens. But I think we definitely have the talent and the team here that can go far in the playoffs."
The Bruins team that won the Eastern Conference regular-season title in 2008-09 was pretty much kept together this season, with Phil Kessel being the only major subtraction that wasn't replaced. Tuukka Rask has been a revelation in place of Manny Fernandez as the second goaltender, and Derek Morris and Johnny Boychuk have been an even-up swap for Aaron Ward and Shane Hnidy on the back end.
But the Bruins are last in scoring after finishing second last winter, and they're hanging on to a playoff spot by the slimmest of margins. They won four in a row, even though they didn't always play their best, leading up to the Olympic break. Before that, they lost 10 in a row despite playing some solid games near the end of the streak. All the inconsistency and inability to match up to last season is frustrating to David Krejci.
"What will happen, will happen. It's over my head," the center said of the possibility that a trade might help the Bruins. "I said it already. I like the guys here. We have the same team as we had last year, a couple new guys … last year things were going our way. The players are the same. But you know, we'll see what will happen. I believe in this team, and if some trade's going to happen it's going to be sad to see someone go, but maybe it could be good for the team. So I've got to wait for [Wednesday]."
Chiarelli is going to have to use all of his Harvard know-how to determine in which direction he goes. To the layman's eye, it looks as if the Bruins should consider being sellers rather than buyers. But if making the playoffs at all costs is the only goal, he'll probably need to swing a deal or two to upgrade his team.
While the Bruins players don't want to see anyone leave, they know they can't control what happens.
"I think any time your team gets broken up, it's disappointing," said defenseman Mark Stuart. "It's tough to see somebody go, but that's management's decision. If they think it's going to make our team better, then they have to do it. We all understand that. There's friendship there, but there's also an understanding that there's a business side of it."
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.