March 15, 2012: Sunrise, FL, USA; Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas (30) takes a knee during the third period against the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center. The Panthers won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
So it seems the wheels have finally fallen off. Bad bounces, weak calls, injuries, call it what you'd like but the fact of the matter is this: the Bruins have now last four straight. What was once a vice grip on the Northeast conference is now clinging on by a thread.
The Bruins allowed the first goal for the seventh straight time and though this one came late after what looked like a decent start for the B's it's been a hallmark of the horrible stretch of hockey they have been playing the past few months. With a short bench and a tired Thomas the Bruins need to limit the amount of time they have to play catch up.
Tonight's game was one of the better examples of why that concept works. Through stretches of the game the Bruins brought some good shifts and strong chances that made it seem like a comeback was possible especially when Rolston's powerplay strike cut the deficit to one. But they couldn't sustain that pressure and their hole only got deeper. It's becoming clearer that it's fatigue more than anything else that is biting into the Bruins' once dominant play.
Paging Tim Thomas
As bad as the score sheet will make it seem Thomas was not completely at fault for the goals that got past him tonight. A combination of screens, tips, and bad turnovers did not leave him with much to work with against the Panthers. That does not take him off the hook though, including tonight's game the Bruins have allowed 37 goals in the month of March. Thomas has come back down to earth and while the d-corps should be able to cover that up it simply hasn't.
Where's the Panic Button?
Ottawa is now one point behind the lead in the Northeast division, eight points separate the Bruins from missing the playoffs altogether. With 12 games remaining it's difficult to imagine that the B's will fall out of the playoff race but the second seed has certainly been thrown back into play.
If the Bruins play .500 hockey through those last 12 games they'll top out at 95 points on the season which should keep them in the second seed unless the Senators go on a tear. Either way the match ups are starting to fall into place and with the Rangers still strong and the Penguins and Flyers getting stronger maintaining home ice and a high seed may play a huge factor.
Bottom line, despite how ugly they look now the Bruins should be in the playoffs but what matters now is keeping whatever health they have left and putting themselves in the best possible position for the playoffs.
The B's next head home for a Saturday matinee against a surging Flyers squad.