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Wednesday, March 10, 2010
What is wrong with these Bruins?


The numbers are so startling in their contrast, one swears it can't be possible since nearly all the players are wearing the same uniform.

What has happened to the Boston Bruins' offense this season is nothing short of stunning. I know, I know -- injuries are the biggest reason for it. But to go from the second-rated NHL offense to dead last in the NHL over 11 months -- by nearly a full goal per game -- is unbelievable.

"It's a big change from being around here last year to this year," star Bruins winger Milan Lucic told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "It's something that we've had to battle through all year. It's almost like everyone is just waiting for us to break out. Even ourselves, we're kind of waiting for that. But we can't think like that. We just have to do the little things right. If you worry too much about goal scoring, that's usually when you don't score."

This is a team that scored 3.29 goals per game last season, second only to Detroit. As of Wednesday morning, the Bruins were last in the NHL at 2.32 goals per game. Last season, Boston's five-on-five goals for/against ratio -- to me, a more telling statistic since it encompasses both sides of the puck -- was the best in the NHL. Now they're 24th.

Do they really miss Phil Kessel's 36 goals that much?

"No, they've got some good players over there," Kessel, who was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs before the start of the season, told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "Obviously, me and Savvy and Lucic had a lot of chemistry last year. We created quite a bit. But they have guys who can make up for it over there, but I guess right now they're just not doing it."

Savvy, a.k.a. Marc Savard, is out indefinitely with a Grade 2 concussion, and what was already an uphill climb just got a lot tougher. The No. 1 center and most creative player on the team may not be back this season. The Bruins are hanging on to their playoff lives and can't score a goal. So, what now? They opened the post-Savard stretch with a 4-3 overtime loss at woeful Toronto on Tuesday night.

"We've had guys in and out all year, it just seems like that's how it's gone," said winger Michael Ryder. "But it's really tough when you lose a key guy like Savvy. He's a big part of this team. Right now, it's just a matter of the rest of us trying to pick up the slack. It's not going to be easy, but we have to grind it out."

It's not just the loss of Kessel and the massive injury list, but it's also a number of players having down seasons. From Lucic to Ryder to David Krejci to Zdeno Chara, and even Savard before he got hurt again, most of Boston's key players have had disappointing seasons offensively. Add it all up, and you've got a season from hell in the goals department. The Bruins don't have a scorer in the top 100, let alone among the league leaders.

"It's definitely been a struggle to find the back of the net this year. I know for me personally, too, and it definitely gets frustrating at times," said Ryder, whose 15 goals are way down from the 27 he scored last season. "But we have to find ways. We just have to get pucks at the end and forget the pretty plays. We can't squeeze the sticks, we all know how to put the puck in the net. It's just a matter of us relaxing when we have the puck there and not panicking."

Somehow, despite all that, the Bruins have 17 games left to salvage their season and make the playoffs. On Wednesday morning, they sat three points clear of the danger zone in the East. There's a sense in the Bruins' dressing room that reaching the postseason, especially with Savard out, will be a decent accomplishment.

"We have to do our best to find a way to fight through that adversity," said Lucic. "If we can find a way to do that, I think it's going to make us stronger."

"We've had troubles with scoring this year, no question, but I don't want to talk about that," said Krejci. "If you make the playoffs, then nobody cares how many goals you score. It's just about winning."