- Matt Kalman, Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- At the 53-game mark of the regular season, the Boston Bruins definitely have co-MVPs.
No, there aren't two players in black and gold sweaters that should be sharing the honor, it's the team's two shrinks. The Bruins to a man seem in a remarkably positive frame of mind, considering they've now lost seven in a row (and earned only two charity points during that stretch) after a 3-2 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday at TD Garden. The seven-game skid is their longest since 1997 and their six-game home losing streak is their longest since 1924-25.
"You can't be too negative right now," said winger Michael Ryder, who scored one of Boston's two shootout goals in a 3-2 loss in the post-overtime spectacle. "You have to try and look at the positive things and it's been tough for us. I think as of late, we've been doing a lot of good things. And when you think negative and stuff like that, things just get worse."
Forward Daniel Paille is seeing signs that the Bruins are rounding into form.
"Definitely, we've got to keep a positive attitude," he said. "We're getting guys back and it looks like we're getting our old form back. It's just a matter of time now and we're going to be ready for it."
Wow, I don't think Stuart Smalley -- even after winning a seat in the U.S. Senate -- could radiate with such positive vibes if faced with as much misfortune as the Bruins are battling right now. Their inability to finish, even with a full corps of forwards after the return of Marc Savard on Friday and Marco Sturm and Steve Begin against the Kings, has left them last in the NHL in scoring and tied (with three other teams) for ninth in the Eastern Conference.
The schedule ahead only gets tougher. Conference-leading Washington arrives Tuesday, the hated Habs from Montreal (who have beaten Boston twice this season) come in Thursday and then the Northwest Division-leading Vancouver Canucks provide the opposition for the homestand finale Saturday.
Maybe the Bruins have a right to be jolly even in defeat. Sturm made an instant splash after returning from a leg-injury-induced six-game absence. He scored a goal, just missed on a couple of more glorious chances and -- who knows? -- if head coach Claude Julien would have let him use his speed and savvy in a shootout, Sturm might've been able to play hero.
In just his second game back, Savard looked like he was rounding into form with an assist and a couple of nifty plays on the power play. Milan Lucic rattled the left post with a shot while facing an open net, and Zdeno Chara ripped a shot off the crossbar from the blue line on a power play. The Bruins, however, didn't hang their heads and kept at it. It's probably no coincidence that in the first game that the team was almost completely healthy in months, the Bruins produced their most complete effort in the same amount of time.
Some might say the Bruins are delusional and whatever head doctors are helping them maintain such a high level of belief should be sent to the dogs. We've seen Sturm and Ryder and Krejci and Recchi score in the past and then regress to a shell of their expected selves. The Bruins have followed up almost every one of their best efforts this season with a dud of a performance.
But maybe two strong performances in a row -- and we know that against any goaltender other Ryan Miller they would've earned at least a point Friday -- is a sign that there are better days ahead.
"I think right now, pounding ourselves on the head is not going to help us get out of it," Julien said. "And it's tough. There's frustration all around us -- not just the players themselves, but there's frustration all around us. And we've kind of got to fight our way through this and we're the only ones that can do it. It's up to us to keep our heads up and keep working hard and keep coming competing hard and at one point you know you might end up getting a break."
Savard summed it up like this: "It's going to come. We're proud of our effort night. We've got to be. We've got to start feeling good about ourselves and I think tonight was one of those games."
If it doesn't start to come, they can lay off the guys that print the playoff tickets and maybe call in the guys in the white coats.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.
Bruins see improvement, but whether it's valid or delusional is TBD.