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Pat Burns


C - Jason Allison, Anson Carter, Joe Thornton, Tim Taylor. LW - Sergei Samsonov, Ken Baumgartner, Rob Dimaio, Peter Ferraro, Ken Belanger, Landon Wilson. RW - Dimitri Khristich, Steve Heinze, Per Johan Axelsson, Cameron Mann, Randy Robitaille. D - Ray Bourque, Don Sweeney, Dave Ellett, Kyle McLaren, Hal Gill, Darren Van Impe, Grant Ledyard, Mattias Timander, Brandon Smith. G - Byron Dafoe, Rob Tallas.


Darren Van Impe, d (shoulder separation, indefinite); Mattias Timander, d (shoulder, day-to-day).


Recalled Landon Wilson, lw, and Brandon Smith, d, from Providence (AHL).


2/27 Washington    W 4-3
3/02 Phoenix       W 3-2
3/03 at Carolina   L 2-1
3/05 at New Jersey W 4-1
3/07 NY Rangers    L 3-1


Northeast Division  GP   W   L   T   PTS   GF   GA  
  Ottawa            63  37  18   8    82  191  134
  Toronto           64  35  24   5    75  203  187  
  Buffalo           64  29  22  13    71  170  143  
  Boston            63  27  26  10    64  163  148 
  Montreal          65  25  31   9    59  155  174


by Matt Brown, Boston Correspondent

First things first. If all this column's predictions were as bad as the one made before the Chicago game, then the Bruins really will win a Stanley Cup before Ray Bourque retires. This resident boob figured that the Bruins losing skid would continue against the Blackhawks, but just the opposite happened. The Bruins went on a tear, not losing at all while this fan and alleged columnist was on vacation in the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, vacations end, and so do winning streaks. The Bruins have lost two out of three games since then. So if any of the more superstitious readers out there would like to pledge cash to the "Send Matt on another cruise vacation for the rest of the NHL season" Fund, to ensure that the Bruins make the playoffs, all contributions would be welcome.

The Bruins won that Chicago game 6-3, with Dimitri Khristich's first hat trick as a Bruin, and the first NHL goal from rookie Cameron Mann. Dirk Graham, then the Chicago coach, commented that being outplayed in your own building was unacceptable, and apparently management agreed, as Graham was relieved of his duties soon after. The Bruins brought up Cameron Mann a while back, but he didn't seem to catch on. This trip, however, Mann started to click when paired with Joe Thornton.

Then the Bruins went to Kanata, or whatever they call that place where the Ottawa Senators really play, and handed a 5-2 whuppin' to the best team in the east. Mann had two more goals, both assisted by Thornton, and Khristich had two more assists. More importantly, the Bruins solved goalie Ron Tugnutt, who has been a tough nut for them to crack over the years. The Tugger let up three goals in the first and was replaced at the start of the second by Damian Rhodes, who didn't fare much better.

To top it off, the Bruins had a comeback tie against the New Jersey Devils, who had also manhandled them in their last meeting. This time, it was Cameron Mann doing the manhandling, as he scored at 18:19 of the third to force the tie. Byron Dafoe was the difference though, as the Bruins were outshot 39-28, with a 15-7 New Jersey bulge in the third period.

Next came a win over Washington, with Khristich, Jason Allison, and Anson Carter scoring four goals against their old mates, going 3-for-5 on the power play. Byron Dafoe evened his record at 19-19-8, so that he was no longer the best goalie in the NHL with a losing record. He frustrated a 36-19 shot advantage for the Caps, also his old team, leaving the lowly Caps to wonder what might have been.

Next the Bruins beat the road-slumping Phoenix Coyotes, barely, as P.J. Axelsson had a goal and an assist in the third period, and Robbie DiMaio scored his first goal in about a decade (well, more like a month). Cameron Mann scored his fifth goal in five games, and Boston fans were saying "Where have I heard that name before? Cameron?"

Then the vacation ended. A day later, a dreadful 2-1 loss against the Hurricanes, and the Bruins have had a 1-2-0 record since then. Byron Dafoe was blameless, as both shots were killers by unchecked players in the slot, and the Bruins' offense was aimless, with only an Anson Carter goal in the first finding its way past Arturs Irbe in the Carolina net.

After a lackluster effort against the 'Canes, the Bruins went into New Jersey and tromped all over the Devils, winning 4-1, playing their best 60 minutes of hockey all season. The Bs were led by two first-period goals from defensemen Kyle McLaren and Grant Ledyard, and an insurance empty-netter by Anson Carter.

So the Bruins optimistically went against the New York Rangers with a four-point lead for the eighth and final playoff spot. Simply put, they were stoned by Mike Richter in a 3-1 loss. Boston outshot the Rangers 38-18, but as the Bruins proved earlier in the week, shot totals do not get you points in the standings. The worst touch was having Kevin Stevens, ex-Bruin whipping boy, score the winning goal.

The highlight of the game came when Ken Belanger boarded Ulf Samuelsson from behind in the first, rendering the Ulfster unconscious. When Ulfie awoke, he was looking around and seeing 20 Cam Neelys, and the hometown Boston crowd booed the fact that he was able to leave the ice under his own power. It's great to be loved. Ulf left the game with a concussion, and in need of stitches from a long cut on his face where his shield was driven into his cheek. Belanger was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for hitting from behind. Belanger was not particularly contrite, saying essentially that Ulf turned the wrong way. Ulf didn't get a lot of sympathy from the NHL offices, either, because he was on the giving end of so many questionable hits of his own over the years. Heck, when your former coach from last year, Colin Campbell, is the guy in charge of meting out NHL justice, and Belanger doesn't get even a one-game suspension, you definitely have a bad rep.

Overall, a 4-2-1 record over the last two weeks is hard to complain about, compared to the previous stanza of 0-3. Unfortunately, the teams nipping on the Bruins' heels in the playoff hunt did as well or better, so the Bruins find themselves still tied for eighth going into Tuesday's game against Florida, only the tie is with the Rangers, not the Panthers.

One of the trends in Boston professional sports seems to be to give away star players and get nothing in return. The Red Sox have become proficient at this, letting both Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn walk away without getting so much as a pouch of Red Man in exchange. The Patriots joined the Getaway Club by losing Curtis Martin and Tom Tupa and Dave Walabaugh, two of them to the NY Jets, who are rapidly approaching the hate level usually reserved for the Yankees.

Not one to miss a trend, Harry Sinden decided to one-up the other Boston sports teams in free agent futility. Harry, in his wisdom, decided to PAY goalie Jim Carey to leave without compensation! Trader Harry bought out the rest of the Net Detective's multi-million dollar contract so he could jettison the young fellow, who promptly signed on as a free agent with the St. Louis Blues for no compensation. NADA! So in effect, the Bruins paid Carey to leave. Not even a bag of pucks in return.

Now, we all know that trades aren't always what they seem. When an All-Star gets traded for two fifth-round draft picks, you know there are either favors owed, or future considerations, or an agreement to trade my mess for your mess. But couldn't the Bruins, who clearly were not going to use Carey for anything except expansion bait, and St. Louis, which has been about as hurtin' for goaltending as a team can be (excepting perhaps Calgary), have worked out a deal? Boston could have paid part of Carey's salary (no more perhaps than the buyout) and gotten a player or two in return from the Blues, even if only for appearances sake?

Finally, an apology is in order. In writing of possible trades the Bruins could make, I inadvertently confused Mats Sundin of the Toronto Maple Leafs with his former Quebec Nordiques soulmate Owen Nolan, who is indeed with the San Jose Sharks, and hopefully will stay there. The confusion was caused by years of watching these two apparently talented players display, side-by-side, approximately zero leadership and grit. Colorado won a Stanley Cup seemingly minutes after trading these two (well, actually, it was more than a year later, since Sundin was traded to the Leafs in June 1994). Nolan is a big guy who plays soft for his size, and has only been on a playoff team twice in his career. Getting him was arguably the worst trade the San Jose Sharks have ever made (sorry, Al Iafrate) because they gave up Sandis Ozolinsh to get Nolan - it doesn't get more one-sided than that. Note that the Sharks have hardly made the playoffs since. So the meaning in the column was that Nolan should stay a Shark. Sundin hasn't had the privilege.

However, Mats isn't exactly the Gordie Howe of the nineties either - he has only been on three playoff teams (this year's Toronto squad will make four). While he is averaging better than a point a game this year, and over his career, his limited post-season play isn't up to that standard. However, he is not the loser he was portrayed as in the last column. Still, the Leafs can keep him. Maybe subliminal references to the player Bruins fans really want should be sprinkled liberally (Tony Amonte) throughout articles like this to have a potential (Tony Amonte) effect on the general manager. Maybe if enough Bruins fans chanted (Tony Amonte) at the games, at the dinner table, at the Delaware North concession stands, on talk radio, on the T, maybe Harry would hear the mantra of the great collective unconscious. Then, Harry will trade for Owen Nolan - he is a "can't lose" proposition for Harry, because if Nolan stars in Boston, Harry is a genius, and if Nolan crashes and burns, then Nolan is a high-priced bum who took Harry's money on false pretexts. Did I mention Tony Amonte?

Thinking the unthinkable - the Bruins could end up as one of those have-not teams, trading away players at the deadline, if their play does not improve soon. The trading deadline is in about two weeks, so when Pat Burns calls the upcoming games "the week" it isn't too hard to read that as a two-edged sword pointing right at some of his veteran players. One of the guys who would seem to be most vulnerable would be Dimitri Khristich, if only because he has more playoff experience than most Bruins forwards. Khristich has slumped some since the All-Star game, though still leading the Bruins in goal scoring. He might be a hot property for teams looking to add depth, if the Bruins miss the cut. Another might be Ken Baumgartner, if a contender feels a little soft in the corners, or has an injured hit man at the deadline.

One thing for sure - there isn't enough time left on the season for Harry Sinden to bring back Steve Kasper to use as a scapegoat. If the Bruins miss the playoffs this year, it is not a failure in coaching, nor is it a failure by the players, even if some of them did not perform as well as last year. Face it, other teams got better, talent-wise, and the Bruins did not. This would be purely a management failure. It is management's job, for example, to realize that more Eastern Conference teams than ever before will miss the playoffs, because of the unbalanced number of teams in the conferences (14 East vs 13 West). Management must take responsibility for building a team strong enough to withstand the changes, however unexpected, in their competitors. Toronto's management did so, getting goalie Curtis Joseph and young defenseman Bryan Berard, transforming their team into a contender.

Boston, meanwhile, picked up Peter Ferraro and Ken Belanger, hardly household names anywhere but in the Ferraro and Belanger households. Ferraro has been sent to the minors, and Belanger doesn't get a regular shift many nights, so what has the brain trust done to improve the team? Heck, Curtis Joseph has five assists for Toronto, more than Baumgartner and Belanger combined!

This is not a knock on the players on the team, or the guys called up from Providence. The simple fact is that the Bruins do not have the depth and skill to match up to the elite teams in the league, and because of their relative inexperience, sometimes they are overmatched by the middle of the pack teams as well.

The Bruins cannot sell out the FleetCenter regularly now, even with price cuts and promotional discounts, even after having the coach of the year and the rookie of the year last season. Think about the cavernous echo of the FleetCenter all next year if the Bruins are golfing in April.

Think of it this way, Harry: the fans would rather have you do something than nothing. Fans look at the Kevin Stevens deal and the Jim Carey deal and say, "They turned out to be stiffs!" But they don't ever say, "Harry should have stood pat." They appreciated the attempt, because it gave them hope. Have some hope, Harry, even if you have to spend a little of Jeremy Jacob's money to buy it.

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