BOSTON -- Sixty-minute efforts have proved elusive for the Bruins the past few weeks, and consecutive all-out performances have been nonexistent.
If the Bruins don't figure out a way to follow up Tuesday night's impressive 4-1 win at Ottawa with another top performance against Western Conference-leading Chicago Thursday at TD Garden, things could get downright embarrassing.
Chicago leads the NHL in even-strength goal differential (1.48) and ranks sixth in overall power play (20.8 percent) and second in penalty kill (87.2). The Blackhawks' power play is third-best in the league on the road. They come in having won seven of their previous eight games.
"They present every possible challenge probably we can have," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. "We have to be sharp, that's for sure. They have such a skill team and they skate so well. We have to be on top of our game. Anything less than best is going to put us in less chance [to win]."
The Bruins will take the ice against the Hawks without their best two-way center, Patrice Bergeron, and a key member of their top four on defense, Andrew Ference. But they have experience playing against Chicago while short-handed because they were missing both Mark Stuart and Dennis Wideman for their Dec. 18 visit to the Windy City. In that game, the Bruins rallied from a goal down three times before earning a point in a shootout defeat.
This time around, the Bruins will obviously try to control the pace better and not turn this game into a scoring show.
"Defense wins the games. We have to be really sharp in our end and that's the way it's all happening. First we have to take care of our own zone and then we can create something up the ice," said Chara.
Added head coach Claude Julien: "As far as I'm concerned, they're probably one of the better teams in the league right now. They're playing with lots of confidence. They've got good speed; they've got good depth. From the goaltending on out they're pretty solid all around. I think it's more about our team being able to make sure that we skate with these guys. They gain speed with their transition game and we've got to make sure that we kind of don't let that be their biggest strength tonight. And when a team has that much skill, you've got to be ready to battle and skate with these guys."
There won't be any shame in losing to the Hawks as long as the Bruins work hard for the entire game -- something they haven't done in consecutive games for a while.
"It's going to take our best game tonight to beat these guys," said Wideman. "So not only do we need a 60-minute effort, we need 60 minutes of our best."
Matt Kalman is the Bruins blogger for ESPNBoston.com and runs TheBruinsBlog.net.