It’s the day when that weird little rodent comes crawling out of the ground like a zombie – for reasons yet to be explained – takes a peek around and if it comes across it’s shadow he becomes frightened and scurries back into his winter hole.
Ground Hog Day is an international celebration, but customs sometimes vary from culture to culture. Take the Serbs, for instance. On the celebration of Sretenje, it is believed that a bear will awake from winter dormancy, and if in this sleepy and confused state it meets its own shadow, it will be startled and run back into hiding – sleeping for an additional 40 days, thus prolonging the winter.
Given the physical beating the Boston Bruins took in Thursday night’s mugging at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres, will the bears be afraid of their own shadow when they come out of the tunnel at Air Canada Centre in Toronto tonight?
Highly doubtful, especially considering how angry and disgusted they are with themselves for getting pushed around by the Sabres, particularly defensively.
“Defensively, I don’t think I remember the last time we were this bad – the breakdowns and mistakes we made,” coach Claude Julien said.
The Sabres wanted to come out and establish themselves physically against the bullies from Boston, and it took less than three minutes into the game before Buffalo’s newly acquired enforcer John Scott dominated Bruins’ tough guy Shawn Thornton in a fight that was as one sided as the third period was in favor of the Sabres.
Thornton skated off wobbly and disoriented from a concussion handed out in the beating and will not see the ice again for at least another week – but by omission, his lingering absence serves more a reminder that the Sabres aren’t going to be pushed around by the Bruins this season as they have been in seasons past, more than viewed a trend going forward.
It was an aberration, an every once in a while breakdown that happens when a good team meets a squad motivated and anxious to establish themselves, and the game gets away from them.
How rare is that for the Bruins? It also marked the first time they’ve allowed at least seven goals in regulation since an 8-2 loss to Toronto on March 6, 2008, so don’t be expecting to see the same sort of effort when they visit those Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.
“We usually pride ourselves on defense and being a hard team to play against,” said center Rich Peverley. “We’ll have to regroup here and look to really play a better defensive game in Toronto.”
And that all starts with establishing physical dominance, clearing guys from in front of the net, getting into the scraps in the corners and giving no free looks.
“It’s just brain farts out there.” said Bruins’ net minder Tuukka Rask, who saw 6 pucks fly past him on Thursday night. “We’re letting guys stand in front of the net for five seconds by themselves. That’s not us. That’s not anybody in this league. It’s not something that’s tough to fix. We just got to be mentally sharp and get back to our game defensively.”
When these two met last season, the Bruins outscored Toronto 36-10 – including victories of 7-0 and 8-0 – while sweeping all six meetings. The Maple Leafs hope to avoid losing their seventh straight to Boston, but tonight they’re getting a wounded Bruins’ squad in no mood for sentiment, just a team that was embarrassed two nights ago and are eager to rectify their issues.
“We gave up a lot of odd-man rushes, and then those two-on-ones, just a quick pass to the backdoor and one-timers in.” lamented Rask yesterday, “Obviously, we have to get better on that. Too many times I think we just let those guys stand in front of the net by themselves. The puck-watching, it’s not like us, so we just got to fix that.”
So the Bruins come out of a one game hibernation tonight, and are not likely to see their shadows – the lighting is pretty good in that place – and even if they did they wouldn’t run and hide from it…
…they’d attack it. Shadows are useless anyway, good only for shade in the summer – and no matter what the groundhog saw this morning, summer is still a ways off.