BOSTON -- After a posting a brutal 1-3 record on their recent road trip, the Boston Bruins returned home and finished off a home-and-home series with a come-from-behind 3-2 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night at TD Garden.
Bruins coach Claude Julien tweaked his lineup by switching some of his line combinations prior to the game, trying to find a spark. In the third period, with the Bruins trailing by a goal, he returned to his original lines and it worked.
"It was a gutsy effort," Julien said. "It wasn't a pretty effort, but a gutsy one. Until they scored their second goal, we really weren't that good. I don't think the will and desire is not there more than it's, I think, we're a little heavy right now in our play. We lost some speed, and everything else that comes with it. It's a gutsy effort, anyway, from our part."
By playing "heavy" Julien means the team's speed is not where it should be. The coach believes fatigue has set in due to the condensed schedule and he's trying to figure out how to fix it.
"This is certainly a team that when you see them in the room, and then you see them out on the ice, it's not from a lack of will, but more of they seem to be tired right now," Julien said. "That's our assessment of our team."
The Bruins did not have a morning skate on Monday, and after the win, Julien gave his players the day off on Tuesday as they prepare to host the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.
The Bruins and Canadiens both have 45 points, but Montreal still owns the Northeast Division lead due to their 18 wins in regulation. Boston has 16. And the Canadiens play the Penguins on Tuesday night at Pittsburgh.
"It's a big win for us, and we have an even bigger game coming up on Wednesday," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said.
Moving forward, Chara, Julien and the rest of the team are in search of one thing.
"Consistency," the captain said. "At this time of the year, that's what everybody's looking for -- consistency and having the right approach toward the end of the season and obviously the playoffs."
When Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli arrived for work Monday morning, he was carrying his shirt and tie over his shoulder and appeared focused, with his trade-deadline game face on.
No doubt he has been working the phones and doing his due diligence in order to improve the team for the stretch run and into the playoffs. In the Bruins' locker room, the players know there could be changes soon, but they're too focused on trying to find their game. At this point, the trade deadline is considered an outside distraction.
The deadline means "nothing," Chara said after Monday's win. "Right now we can't control that. We understand that's the business side of it. Every GM, every team tries to improve. That's the way it is. Guys have been around and we understand. At this time of the year, teams, organizations want to improve and that's the way it is."
Meanwhile, Chiarelli is on the clock.
With the deals the Penguins have made in the last couple of days -- adding veteran forward Brenden Morrow from Dallas and defenseman Douglas Murray from San Jose -- they are loading up for a Stanley Cup run.
The big name churning the rumor mill is Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla. Reportedly, the veteran forward has given his current employer a list of four teams -- Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Los Angeles -- he would be willing to waive his no-movement clause in order to be traded. All four of those teams are Cup contenders, and Iginla deserves a chance to win a title.
Iginla, 35, has spent his entire career with the Flames, and if Calgary were to move him, it would compare to the deal in which the Bruins sent defenseman Ray Bourque to the Colorado Avalanche in 2000. The next season, Bourque and the Avalanche won the 2001 Stanley Cup.
Iginla becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season, and if the Bruins wanted to re-sign him, the organization would have the resources to do so. Currently, Iginla has nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points.
During Monday's game at the Garden, two Calgary scouts were in the building. Even Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs was present.
Chiarelli isn't focused only on Iginla.
There are other possibilities, but because the playoff races in each conference are tight, fewer teams are willing to sell right now.
The New York Islanders' Matt Moulson is similar to Iginla in that his name is always mentioned in trade rumors at the deadline. This season is no different.
Moulson is the type of player that could fit Boston's needs. He finds a way to score goals and would add a solid net-front presence on the power play. As long as he has someone to get him the puck, he could be a good pickup for the Bruins.
Currently, he has 11 goals and 22 assists for 33 points. His cap hit is $3.1 million and he's under contract until the end of the 2013-2014 season, so he would be more than a rental player.
But the Islanders may not willing to part ways with one of their best players because the team is still in the playoff picture. Plus, Islanders GM Garth Snow would want a lot in return for the perennial 30-goal scorer.
If not Moulson, bringing Brad Boyes back to Boston for the remainder of the season could work. As of Monday, he had eight goals and 19 assists for 27 points in 32 games for the Islanders. Being reunited with former linemate Patrice Bergeron on the Bruins' power play could drastically help the special teams.
The Bruins also need to add a defenseman to the mix.
Staying with a New York/Boston theme, veteran blueliner Lubomir Visnovsky of the Islanders could be of interest for the Bruins. The 36-year-old defenseman could serve a similar role as Tomas Kaberle did for the Bruins in the latter part of the 2011 season.
While other GMs probably are asking for more than the Bruins would like to give up, besides a current roster player and a first-round draft pick, what exactly are the Bruins' moveable assets?
Goaltending prospect Malcolm Subban, the team's first-round pick (24th overall) in the 2012 draft, is likely the focus of many teams, including the Flames, who are in a rebuilding stage. If the Bruins pull off a deal for a top-tier player, Subban most likely will have to be involved, so it's going to be interesting to see whether Chiarelli is ready to go that route.
Another possible trade chip could be prospect Ryan Spooner. The 21-year-old forward recently played three games for the Bruins during a call-up before he was reassigned to Providence of the AHL. The second-rounder (45th overall) in the 2010 draft has played well for Providence with 12 goals and 33 assists in 50 games. He still needs to hone his skills, but has the potential to be successful at the NHL level if given the opportunity.
Providence forward Craig Cunningham has played well of late. He has eight goals and three assists for 11 points in his past nine games. He also was selected in the 2010 draft (97th overall) and has impressed in his second full pro season.
Defensive prospect Torey Krug also could be involved in a possible deal. The 21-year-old blueliner is in the midst of his first full season as a pro. His development has gone well and his game has improved in the past few months. According to several scouts, Krug's potential to compete at the NHL level remains to be seen. At 5-foot-9, 175-pounds, he has the ability to move the puck and skates well.
Even though Chiarelli has said he would like to add to the current roster and not subtract from it, the GM may not have a choice. Despite a subpar season, Bruins forward Rich Peverley still has value. Forward Jordan Caron does too, although like Peverley's, it has dipped.
We've seen that Chiarelli is not shy about pulling the trigger on a possible deal. At the deadline during the 2010-11 season, he dealt a pair of Bruins -- defenseman Mark Stuart and forward Blake Wheeler -- to the now-defunct Atlanta Thrashers (Winnipeg Jets) in exchange for Peverley. That transaction proved crucial and helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup.
The Bruins need help this season. Julien knows it, but he's focused on fixing the team's scoring woes.
"I don't think anybody in there right now is worried about that," Julien said of the upcoming trade deadline before Monday's game. "We're trying to improve our team, and [the deadline] is a thing that happens every year.
"I haven't heard a peep in that dressing room about guys worried about getting moved. If we can make our team better, so be it, and we look forward to that. But right now what we've got is what we've got and we're still good enough to win hockey games and that's what we're focused on."
As presently constructed, the Bruins are Stanley Cup contenders. But for them to have a serious shot at winning their second title in three years, Chiarelli has to go all in and make a significant deal. This team is that close.