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Bruins keep spinning their wheels

Frustrating patterns of past preventing Boston from climb up standings

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- They have learned these lessons before, last season and the season before that. The Boston Bruins watched as their mistakes added up, as their missed chances combined, as the points they could have earned or should have earned slipped out of their grasp.

They see the same thing happening again. So, yes, there is frustration. Yes, there is disappointment. Yes, there is a vow to alter the course and make needed fixes and become the team they want to be.

That all boiled over on Thursday after the Bruins had lost 4-3 to the Edmonton Oilers, a game they believed they had played well. It was a "wasted good effort," as coach Claude Julien said in a brief postgame press conference. And it was especially notable given how much the Bruins needed a win.

"We understand after the last two years how valuable each game is," defenseman Torey Krug said. "It doesn't matter who you play, whether it's the last-place team or the first-place team, every game is worth only two points, so it's about making sure we have the right mentality and moving forward.

"It is frustrating. We're not getting the results. We feel we're playing solid, but you've just got to work through it. There's no option besides continuing to do the things that we do and hopefully you break though at some point. But you can't piece together a few wins until you get the first one."

Video: EDM@BOS: Bergeron gives B's lead with top-shelf goal

The Bruins have won five of their past 15 games; they are 5-7-3, starting with an overtime loss at the Washington Capitals on Dec. 7. That makes it a solid month in which Boston has struggled to find its footing.

Still, the Bruins are in third place in the Atlantic Division, behind the Montreal Canadiens (54 points) and Ottawa Senators (44). The Bruins also have 44 points, but the Senators have four games in hand. And the rest of the division is creeping up. The Toronto Maple Leafs, also with four games in hand, have 42 points. So do the Tampa Bay Lightning, with one game in hand. The Florida Panthers have 40 points and two games in hand.

Halfway through the season, that isn't where the Bruins would prefer to be. They are twice burned already, having missed the past two postseasons. They lost a spot to the Detroit Red Wings on the last day of the 2015-16 season, based on the regulation-and-overtime wins tiebreaker. In 2014-15, they finished two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild card berth in the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

One or two games would have made the difference. They don't want to see that happen again.

"Certainly a lot of hard lessons learned, a few too many games that you look back at and go 'We should have had points there, we should have had points there, we should have had points there,'" forward David Backes said. "And in the second half, we need to erase those moments and maybe have a few stories where we stole a couple points there, we stole a couple points there, and then we'll right the ship and be back on track in order to be playing after the regular season's over."

Perhaps the most vexing part is that the Bruins don't believe they should be struggling the way they are. They lost 3-0 at the New Jersey Devils on Monday, but bounced back against the Oilers. Boston has not gone on a significant losing streak, but can't seem to sustain a winning streak, either.

"The frustration is because the way we play we should be winning those games," Julien said. "When you dominate a team the way [we] did [Thursday] night; they had nothing. They barely had any scoring chances, but they still scored four goals. So that's on us."

Video: BUF@BOS: Bergeron finishes slick passing with PPG

The Bruins did do something Friday to address one of their current weaknesses. After backup goaltender Anton Khudobin cleared waivers, he was sent to Providence of the American Hockey League, with Zane McIntyre being recalled. Khudobin had gone 1-5 with a 3.06 goals-against average and an .885 save percentage.

Exchanging him for McIntyre was one step toward finding a solution to that particular problem, finding adequate relief for No. 1 Tuukka Rask. But it won't solve everything for the Bruins. The only thing that will do that is points.

"You hope that the tide's going to turn around," Julien said. "We need to keep our guys positive, determined and believing that eventually those things are going to turn into wins."

For now, the Bruins are leaving behind TD Garden, where they are 9-10-0, for the road, where they are 11-7-4. A four-game trip will take them to Florida, Carolina, St. Louis and Nashville. The hope is some of those stops will come with points and wins and progress.

"We obviously have some confidence going on the road and going into a couple buildings where we've won before," Krug said. "But it doesn't matter unless we show up."

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