Testing 1,2,3

by

Tonight’s visit to the TD Garden by the New Jersey Devils marks the beginning of an important stretch for the Boston Bruins. Three games at home against three surging, hungry hockey teams with post-season aspirations that promise to give you extremely tough games. With the Bruins floundering a bit and looking “too comfortable”, and Claude Julien and others delivering the message that this is unacceptable, it looks like an excellent test for the team. A test of mettle, a test of sack.

As frustrating as it may be at this point of the season, 10 games from the start of the playoffs, the questions remain for the B’s: Who are you going to be, as a team? Which of you, as individuals, are going to elevate your play and emotion? Take things to that next level that Boston fans so desperately crave from their hockey team. They will be there in force for the next three nights, dressed in their black and gold, and their expectations will be high.

What will you show them?

The Devils, tonight, will be no easy start to the test. This is not the New Jersey team that started the season in a total quagmire. Jaques Lemaire has them playing his trademark tight defensive game and they have surged up the standings to within at least an outside chance at the post-season. Seven points out of eighth place might be a realistic long shot but don’t tell the Devils that. They’re 7-3 in their last 10 and ready to continue the hunt until the math says it’s done.

Sound familiar? Like, maybe, the Toronto Maple Leafs? Who pounded you 5-2 just as few nights back?

After that, of course, comes yet another potential Game-of-the-Season match-up with the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. Now, the story lines behind this one are many and monsterous and I could (and will before the game) write a short novella on the topic but you all know what I’m talking about. It’s not just Chara/Pacioretty. It’s the fact that the Habs made you look silly in that last game up in Montreal. They skated circles around you and beat you so easily it looked like you weren’t even in the same league. It was the beginning of this poorly timed malaise and, surely, remains an embarrassing memory for the team.

Again. What are you going to do about it? You need to show us, as fans, and yourself as players that you can play with this team. That they are not the “bad match-up” that everyone is beginning to say they are. Because you might meet them in the first round of the playoffs and you can’t go into that series with everyone, including the Habs themselves, thinking they have your number.

The Rangers, meanwhile, in here on Saturday, remain near the bottom of the 8 Eastern playoff teams and are as badly in need of points as anyone. To their credit, they have won 4 straight at a critical time of the year, playing like the exact opposite of the Bruins. They also have an impressive 22 wins on the road. So, again, a hungry team in the playoff hunt looking for points and promising to give the Bruins a hell of a game, for sure.

We’ll know a lot more about the intestinal fortitude of the Bruins by Sunday morning (when they will be in Philadelphia preparing to face the Flyers, by the way). There is a lot of heat on the team and the ability of Claude Julien is being questioned a lot in the Boston media in recent days. The character of the team is being questioned. People want answers and these three games at home provide the perfect opportunity for answers.

Like I said, it’s an important stretch.

The question is, do the Bruins know that?

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