Boston fans and players have mourned, observed moments of silence and heard rousing chants for the city and its teams.
Even so-called hated rivals have turned down the trash talk and turned up the tributes for the Bruins. The Philadelphia Flyers were the latest team to pitch in with charitable contributions and video clips of marathon first responders and other rescue personnel.
But once you get past the stirring national anthems and cathartic moments, hockey has become the hard part for the Bruins.
In danger of losing the Northeast Division lead, the Bruins have dropped 5 of 6, including a 5-2 loss to the Flyers on Tuesday night. They have had mental lapses while allowing ugly goals and too many turnovers for a team with hopes of winning a second Stanley Cup in three seasons.
Whatever the reason for the ill-timed slump, Coach Claude Julien has seen enough, though the Bruins can still salvage a strong postseason seed.
“We’re running out of time here to get this stuff going,” Julien said. “You always hope that it’s some sort of wake-up call. But the way the season has gone, you’re questioning whether it will or not.”
The Bruins (27-13-5) sit in second place in the Eastern Conference and lead the division. But the Bruins and Montreal (27-14-5) both have 59 points. New Jersey beat Montreal 3-2 on Tuesday night. With three games left for Boston, and two for Montreal, the race for second will come down to the final week.
The Bruins are trying to give their fans a reason to cheer for their play on the ice.
“It hasn’t been easy, mentally,” Julien said. “But everybody has to get back to work. For us to use that an excuse, it would not be a good excuse. We should be using it the other way. We should be thriving on it instead of using it as a crutch.”
The Flyers saluted Boston in the Bruins’ first road game since the Boston Marathon bombings. The Flyers showed a message on the video board that read, “From One Tough Town to Another.” They also had video images of four blue-yellow ribbons that said, “Boston Strong,” on each faceoff circle.
“I had goosebumps the whole time the video went off,” Flyers Coach Peter Laviolette said. “To hear the Philadelphia fans as passionate as they are about the city of Philadelphia and Philadelphia sports, start yelling for Boston as the videos are going on, that was touching as well.”
The 50/50 raffle that usually supports Philadelphia charities went to onefundboston.org. The Flyers raised $85,595 Tuesday night, and team president Peter Luukko and GM Paul Holmgren presented a check for $42,978 to Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and President Cam Neely.
Even if the results haven’t showed, the support has rallied the Bruins.
“I think there’s a real responsibility for us to go out and play and give it all we’ve got,” Bruins defenseman Wade Redden said. “It’s kind of what we can control. So I guess it’s business as usual in a lot of ways. But obviously there’s a lot of people we know in the area and the city that are affected, so it certainly touches everybody.”
The Bruins need to find a way to channel that energy into fuel for a postseason push.
They hope to get that lift from playoff veteran Jaromir Jagr.
At 41 and two decades removed from winning two straight Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh, the Bruins swung a trade deadline deal with Dallas to get Jagr and some needed offensive punch for the postseason. He’s been stuck on the third line though his ice time has remained solid, including 17:28 vs. the Flyers. Jagr, who has 78 career postseason goals, can still be a difference-maker for a team that has struggled to score of late. The Bruins have scored two or fewer goals in five of the last six games, though Jagr did chip in with an assist in the loss to the Flyers.
“It’s up to me how I’m going to produce,” Jagr said. “I understand what the situation is.”
Boston won the Northeast Division by 10 points last season and had the No. 2 seed in the East before losing to the Washington Capitals in seven games, in overtime, in the first round of the playoffs. That was a disappointing title defense, which the Bruins hope to compensate for this year.
Winning the Cup is enough motivation for any player.
Winning it for Boston now would mean about as much as any championship could.
“I think in some ways it’s a motivational thing,” Redden said. “When something like that happens, it puts a lot of things in perspective for a lot of reasons. We’re in a position right now where we’re in the playoffs, and our focus right now is just getting better.
“Obviously everyone wants to move on from all that stuff, too.”