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Beantown blues

Bruins goalie Tim Thomas hasn't been able to capture the same magic from last season. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Bruins goalie Tim Thomas hasn't been able to capture the same magic from last season. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The way things are going in Boston, it’s almost like Patrice Bergeron’s bad luck is contagious.

In the eyes of many, the B’s entered this season as a serious Cup contender, based mostly on the fact they finished with more points than anyone in the East last year and returned with virtually the same lineup.

But a combination of things – from bad breaks to lack of consistent work ethic – have conspired to make Boston much more dark horse than favorite.

Bergeron is one of the best stories in the league, making the Canadian Olympic team from, really, out of the blue after battling through serious concussion issues the past two seasons. He is, however, on the sideline with a broken thumb right now, but should resume his role as the team’s best two-way player in the next couple weeks, well in advance of the Vancouver Games.

Center Marc Savard and banger Milan Lucic have also spent big chunks of time on the sideline, further depleting a forward crew that lost sniper Phil Kessel via trade before the season.

Backup Tuukka Rask has shown signs of brilliance, which is not just nice, but necessary for a team that’s not getting the same kind of play it received from reigning Vezina winner Tim Thomas last year.

Boston probably thought it could afford to slide a little this year and still win the Northeast going away, but the stellar play of Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres has changed all that.

Now, a team that looked ready to take the next step could be out of the playoffs entirely with any kind of stumble down the stretch.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
L10
THE SCOOP
1
Chicago Blackhawks
2
31-11-4
7-2-1
Sounds like defenseman Cam Barker could return from a lower-body injury this week
2
Washington Capitals
8
27-11-6
6-4-0
The Caps have yet to lose in the three games since Alex Ovechkin was named captain
3
Buffalo Sabres
4
28-11-5
7-1-2
Tim Connolly is driving the offense; he's on a career-high nine-game point streak with five goals and 14 points over that span
4
San Jose Sharks
1
28-10-7
8-2-0
After losing his captaincy in the summer, Patrick Marleau has responded with a league-leading 29 goals
5
New Jersey Devils
3
31-11-1
7-3-0
Jamie Langenbrunner’s excellent leadership led him to being named captain of the U.S. Olympic team
6
Vancouver Canucks
11
27-16-2
7-1-2
With just one regulation loss in their past 10, the Canucks are closing in on the division lead
7
Pittsburgh Penguins
9
28-17-1
3-7-0
After missing four games with a foot injury, Sergei Gonchar fires two goals and an assist in his return versus Toronto on Saturday. The bad news is the Pens will be in tough to re-sign him this summer
8
Calgary Flames
5
26-14-5
6-3-1
Jay Bouwmeester is on pace for his worst offensive season (30 points) since the end of the lockout.
9
Detroit Red Wings
14
23-15-6
5-4-1
Jimmy Howard has earned the No. 1 job in Detroit, going 5-1-1 with a .959 save percentage in his past seven games
10
Nashville Predators
7
26-16-3
5-5-0
The Preds don’t have a single player in the top 80 in league scoring
11
Colorado Avalanche
6
25-15-6
6-4-0
Marek Svatos, who over his career has averaged 0.55 points per game, has just nine in 35 games and is day-to-day with a groin injury
12
Phoenix Coyotes
10
26-15-5
5-2-3
Have faded the past couple seasons in the second half; let's see if they can see this thing through
13
Los Angeles Kings
12
25-17-3
4-6-0
Have lost three of their past four at home; not good news for a team that will play its next five games in its own arena
14
Philadelphia Flyers
19
22-19-3
7-2-1
Goalie Michael Leighton has gone from the waiver wire to helping Philly get a miserable season turned around
15
New York Rangers
20
22-17-6
6-1-3
Part of the reason the Rangers are winning again is center Brandon Dubinsky, who has five goals and 12 points in his past 10 games
16
Boston Bruins
13
22-15-7
6-4-0
The offensively challenged Bruins will be without Marc Savard for up to a month after he partially tore a ligament in his right knee last week
17
Anaheim Ducks
23
20-19-7
5-5-0
Jonas Hiller has seized control of the Ducks crease, meaning the playoffs are still a possibility
18
Montreal Canadiens
18
22-21-4
6-3-1
Benoit Pouliot has been playing on the top line since coming over from Minnesota and has four goals in nine games as a Hab
19
Tampa Bay Lightning
17
17-17-10
6-3-1
After a fairly quiet December, Steven Stamkos is heating back up with seven points in his past four games
20
Dallas Stars
16
19-15-11
4-6-0
Losing Mike Ribeiro for four-to-six weeks hurts, but not as much as catching an accidental stick in the throat from Chris Higgins
21
Ottawa Senators
15
22-20-4
4-6-0
The Sens are 6-12-1 on the road this season, which is where they’ll play their next four games.  Not good news for a team that has lost four in a row already
22
New York Islanders
21
19-19-8
6-3-1
Will be interesting to see how things play out for Rick DiPietro now that he's had his first start in just more than a year
23
Minnesota Wild
22
22-20-3
5-5-0
Rallied from four goals down in the third to top Chicago on Saturday for the biggest comeback victory in franchise history
24
Carolina Hurricanes
28
13-24-7
5-4-1
Definitely a slightly tougher draw now than in the first couple months of the season
25
Florida Panthers
24
19-20-7
4-6-0
Panthers power play is 24th in the league and the penalty-killing isn't much better at 23rd
26
Toronto Maple Leafs
26
15-22-9
2-6-2
Snake-bitten Phil Kessel has one goal in his past dozen games
27
Columbus Blue Jackets
30
18-20-9
4-4-2
Mathieu Garon steps up to deliver three straight wins for a desperate Columbus crew
28
St. Louis Blues
25
18-19-7
3-5-2
Davis Payne gets his first victory as Blues coach, despite turning in the wrong lineup card to league officials http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/teams/stl/report before the game
29
Atlanta Thrashers
27
19-19-6
1-6-3
I'll be the first to admit I thought this team was for real when they held down a playoff spot for two months
30
Edmonton Oilers
29
16-23-5
1-8-1
Carolina's moderately improved play is making last overall a distinct possibility

The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 each Monday based on a combination of last week’s play and a squad’s overall outlook.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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