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Hot goaltenders contribute to B’s woes

Boston has not seen its hockey team have a stretch this bad since the days when Vic Stasiuk used to lace up his skates at the old Garden in 1956 when the Bruins had a stretch where they went 0-8-0.

With an 0-6-2 record in its last eight games, this season’s Bruins have not seen a win since beating the Western Conference leaders from San Jose  on Jan. 14. It would have been odd to see the Bruins sandwich seven losses in a row with wins against both conference leaders, but it was not to be in a 3-1 loss to the Capitals on Tuesday.

Everybody knows what the problem is. There’s no hiding what ails these bears ‘€” they cannot score. Through the past eight contests, the Bruins have 12 goals, or 1.5 per game. After a stretch where the team simply did not play well, the Bruins have had decent efforts and good scoring chances in the past few contests and have run into some pretty good goaltending along the way. Why can’t the Bruins score? It is kind of a chicken or egg type of question.

Is the Bruins inability to find the back of the net a lack of talent or emotion. Or is it luck? Or does the problem have more to do with a string of opposing goaltenders playing great games against the Bruins?

“It is pretty par for the course,” Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas [1] said of his opponent on Tuesday, Jose Theodore. “I’ve seen just about every other goalie in the league stand on their head. Other goalies are having their best nights against us.”

The Capitals goaltender saw 42 shots and stopped all but one, including a couple from point-blank range in what was essentially an empty net, when Theodore was caught out of position by Blake Wheeler [2] and David Krejci [3] in the second period.

“Yes, I made the save coming across,” Theodore said of the Wheeler save. “I kept sliding out of the net, it was going in, and I was able to save it on the goal line.”

The Capitals coach thought his goaltender was quite impressive.

“Jose was tremendous. Tremendous,” Bruce Boudreau [4] said. “They had several more chances than we did. And what happens is you keep letting a team hang around and hang around that’s not going playing good … eventually in this league they’re going to do something in one period.”

But Boston did not score.

Have a look at the save totals from the opposing goaltenders in the last eight games (from newest to oldest): Theodore 41, Jonathan Quick [5] (Los Angeles) 31, Ryan Miller [6] (Buffalo) 30, Cam Ward [7] (Carolina) 27, Brian Elliot (Ottawa) 32, Steve Mason (Columbus) 32, Elliot (Ottawa) 22, Quick (Los Angeles) 21.

Take note that five of the 12 goals the Bruins have scored during the losing streak have been courtesy of the Kings’ Quick (in two separate games), who is going to represent the United States in the Vancouver Olympics in a couple of weeks. Another two were against the Senators’ Elliot (also in two games). It is easy to see by those shot totals what games the Bruins did not compete well in, mainly the first Ottawa game and the Carolina game, which were both 5-1 losses. The first game of the losing streak was also the last time Boston scored more than two goals, a 4-3 shootout loss in Los Angeles in the last game of the Bruins recent California swing. Boston was competitive in that game, so the shot total is a misnomer in the overall equation.

The answer to the question of hot opposing goaltender vs. team on a string of bad luck with an undermanned roster lays somewhere in the middle. Yes, the Bruins have seen some quality net minders recently, especially the Millers, Quicks and Theodores of the world. At the same time, some key production that was present last year is missing this year. Michael Ryder [8], Wheeler, Dennis Wideman [9], Krejci all have been relatively healthy (as far as we know) and are coming nowhere near what was expected of them at the start of October. Bruins coach Claude Julien [10] thinks it may only be a matter of time.

“I think a lot of those players that right now are not scoring have scored for us in the past,” Julien said. “I’ll use an example. I thought [Ryder] played a real good game tonight. He got nothing for it. He had some great chances and if those guys can start producing, I thought they were much better tonight.”

Krejci understands that it is not just the opposing goaltender that is causing the problems. Tuesday, the Bruins could not find the back of the net, but it was not (only) Theodore who was the culprit.

“I wouldn’t give him too much credit for as much as he did,” Krejci said. “We had 42 shots. I don’t think he was that good to stop us. We got him to make mistakes and we just couldn’t bury those chances. Those chances, we usually score those, but today we just couldn’t find the back of the net.”