Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 3/16/12

The Boston Bruins once looked invincible – and that seems like a long time ago.

From the start of November through January 12, the Bruins went 25-4-1 in one of the best 30-game stretches in recent memory. Yet, aside from that great two-month run, last spring’s Cup champs have looked average at best. Now it’s time for the team, losers of a season-high four straight, to look at themselves in the mirror and dig in.

What makes you believe that will happen?

Since January 12, the Bruins have failed to win back-to-back games. Nathan Horton is out of the lineup with no timetable to return. Tuukka Rask is injured, meaning Tim Thomas’ security blanket is in the form of a 36-year-old (Marty Turco) that was playing in Switzerland just three weeks ago. There is absolutely nothing going for this Bruins team that is going in reverse at the worst possible time.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is going wrong in Boston. Many want to bring up the Cup Hangover. Maybe it’s having the reverse effect, bringing the Bruins down in the second half of the season rather than the first half? I doubt that. They don’t look tired; rather, they have lost that ‘Big, Bad Bruins’ moniker for the moment. They have to get that back before the playoffs if they want any chance of a repeat.

Another factor in the Bruins’ free fall is the below-average goaltending from Thomas. He has played his way out of the Vezina Trophy conversation with a dismal second half, posting a 3.01 goals-against average and 13-13-0 record since December 31. Is he simply wearing down after a long, magnificent playoff run and carrying over that success to this season’s first half? Maybe.

Following their 2-1 win over Montreal on January 12 the Bruins looked to be in cruise control, sitting one point out of the Eastern Conference lead. With just over three weeks remaining in the regular season, Claude Julien’s club will now have to fend off the Ottawa Senators just to win the Northeast Division. The Senators currently sit one point back and are playing better hockey than the Bruins.

Here are the remaining schedules for both the B’s and Sens:

Boston has six games each at home and on the road; meanwhile Ottawa has six of their final 11 games at home, including a contest against Boston on April 5.

With no disrespect to the job Paul MacLean has done in his first year with the Senators, it is surprising to see the Bruins still having to fight for the division title given their uber-successful winter. But if you take out that aforementioned 25-4-1 stretch, this team is 15-23-2. That obviously is not a good sign for the defending champs.

As Julien said to CSN New England, the Bruins have to get back to playing together as a team. Until that happens, everyone around the league will come to realize that this isn’t quite the same team that dominated their competition for much of the first half.

Photo credit: Getty Images
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