-- Boston Bruins
front-office personnel, coaches and players alike all did their research during the offseason in an attempt to be the ones that could beat the dreaded "Stanley Cup hangover."
Unfortunately for them, a little more than four months removed from winning the Cup, the Bruins are making a different type of history.
After losing to Montreal on Thursday night -- a game coach Claude Julien
described as "the worst-executed game from the second period on that we've played this year" -- the Bruins' record now stands at 3-6-0 and they're looking up at the rest of the Eastern Conference in the standings.
The 2011-12 Bruins (3-6-0) already are assured of having the worst record through 10 games -- and they don't reach the 10-game mark until Saturday's visit to Montreal (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, CBC, RDS) -- of any of the past 17 Stanley Cup champions.
Now it's just a matter of finding the motivation to avoid making more negative history.
"I think when you look at that board today and we're last in the East, it's definitely rock bottom for us," forward Brad Marchand
said after an intense 40-minute practice at TD Garden Friday. "We know it can't get any worse than this and only one way to go is up. So if we put together a few good games and we get on a streak a bit here, we're going to be right back in the mix. We're only a few points out of seventh and eighth. So we can definitely do it."
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Julien opted to keep things short but intense during practice today, with a lot of end-to-end drills and then the grueling "bull in the ring" drill, which consists of two players playing keep-away inside the center-ice logo.
"We're trying to bring some tempo to our game, and execution. Do the things that obviously right now will help our confidence and hopefully help us win some hockey games," Julien said. "But it's got to start somewhere. I thought today was a good time to up the tempo and push on the execution side of it."
The selected drills might have aided the Bruins' efforts to regain their confidence.
"I think it doesn't seem like we're being patient with the puck," forward Daniel Paille
said. "The frustration is building I think a little bit. But the main thing is the speed. Normally when we carry the puck we move very fast, and we haven't been doing that the last few games."
Julien also continued his search for winning line combinations, which has seemingly gone on since the regular season began. During Friday's practice, he reunited the trio of David Krejci
centering Nathan Horton
and Milan Lucic
-- a group that carried the Bruins during the regular season and playoffs last year. That bumped Tyler Seguin
to a line with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron
, and reunited Rich Peverley
and Chris Kelly
on the third line, joined by rookie Jordan Caron
"What would you expect me to do? It's a simple answer," Julien said. "I think it's a coach who's trying to find solutions. It's as simple as that."
While the line changes are meant to spark the League's 26th-ranked offense, Julien isn't putting all the blame on his team's scoring. He's quick to point out that every area of the Bruins' game needs refurbishing. And right now, the reality of what the Bruins are facing is a lot more difficult to overcome than what they heard about in the offseason.
"It is definitely a new challenge," Julien said. "I think for a lot of people, it's an area where you haven't been and everybody will tell you the same thing. We've been warned, we've been told that it would be a challenge. And it is. So I guess now it's finding the solutions. And there's a lot of teams in the past that took a long time to find it. We don't want that to happen. We're trying to work on finding it as quick as we can."
One way the Bruins attempted to avoid the pitfalls that slowed other recent returning champions was by keeping their roster mostly intact, with just a couple tweaks to start the title defense. However, with his team off to a sluggish start and struggling in all areas of the game, general manager Peter Chiarelli recently told the Boston Globe he's being extra diligent about working the phones in an attempt to change the mix.
"I think when you look at that board today and we're last in the East, it's definitely rock bottom for us. We know it can't get any worse than this and only one way to go is up. So if we put together a few good games and we get on a streak a bit here, we're going to be right back in the mix." -- Brad Marchand
To a man, the players after practice said those types of rumors don't work their way into the locker room. However, history has shown that teams that struggle -- regardless of the previous season's level of success -- eventually get shaken up. The defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks
already made a major trade to acquire David Booth
from Florida, and the Canadiens fired assistant coach Perry Pearn this week.
So even if the players were only hearing about Chiarelli's intensified shopping for the first time during their media scrums, they might now have added motivation to get back on a winning track.
"We're a family in here and we don't want anyone to be moved around," Marchand said. "Obviously sometimes general managers and coaches feel like that's the way to go and bringing guys in might spark the team. We don't want it to get to that point. If we turn it around here, hopefully we won't have to worry about."
Julien couldn't predict how his team would respond to the threat of a roster renovation any more than he was able to know how the club would deal with the "Cup hangover."
"Those are all questions that I think will be answered by our play" he said. "I think it's just one of those things that when you see your team react is whether it has an impact or not. I can't answer that for you. Time will tell."
That time begins Saturday night with the second half of their home-and-home series with Montreal at the Bell Centre.