If Blues want a happy Hitchcock, they need to compete from the get-go

Ken Hitchcock wasn't pleased about the Blues allowing three goals in the first nine minutes of Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Dallas. 

James Guillory/James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Bruins’ worst stretch of the season has reached its lowest point yet.

Mired in their longest losing streak in five years and barely clinging to a playoff spot, the Bruins face the St. Louis Blues on Friday night in the first of back-to-back road games against elite teams in the Western Conference after losing to its worst.

Boston (28-20-9) had lost four straight entering Wednesday’s contest with last-place Edmonton, and quickly fell behind 2-0 before eventually losing 4-3 after a 12-round shootout. The club’s first defeat to the Oilers in 14 years was the latest chapter in a dreadful month for the Bruins, who have followed an 8-1-3 record in January with six losses in seven games.

Coach Claude Julien did not shy away from his dismay after Boston clinched its longest losing streak since 2009-10.

"In that dressing room, coaches and ourselves, we have higher expectations than what we’ve shown right now," Julien told the Bruins’ official website. "So we’re not going to hide behind disappointment and stand here and think that we’re doing OK.

"We’re underachieving right now and our game’s got to get better. I still feel we’ve got the group in there to make it better, so it’s up to us to take charge."

With only a slim lead over Florida for the East’s second wild-card spot, the Bruins wrap up their season-high five-game road trip with West powers St. Louis and Chicago.

Like Boston, the Blues (37-16-4) face a challenging upcoming schedule, next facing Montreal and Pittsburgh to close a four-game homestand. They’re trying to remain within striking distance of Nashville, which leads the Central Division with the NHL’s best record.

The Blues had a three-game win streak snapped Tuesday with a 4-1 home loss to Dallas. It was only their fourth loss since Jan. 3 — fewest in the NHL in that span — but coach Ken Hitchcock was bothered that his club ceded three goals in the game’s first nine minutes.

"I think this was a team that wasn’t ready to compete. Weren’t ready from the start," Hitchcock said. "Troubling. It’s concerning."

Another concern for Hitchcock is the recent play of Brian Elliott, who was pulled 8:38 into Tuesday’s game after allowing three goals.Elliott has a 3.24 goals-against average in eight starts since the All-Star break, prior to which his 1.86 mark ranked fifth in the NHL.

Boston’s Tuukka Rask has had his share of problems lately as well, losing his past five games and allowing 11 goals in the last three. However, he owns a 1.53 GAA versus St. Louis — his second-best mark among West opponents — and made 33 saves in a 2-0 home win over the Blues on Nov. 28 as he outdueled Elliott.

Bruins points leader Patrice Bergeron scored that day and has continued to produce through the team’s struggles with five goals in the past nine games. Carl Soderberg, though, has gone a season-high five straight games without a point even though he’s second on the team with 33.

Boston has earned at least a point in eight straight trips to St. Louis (3-0-5). Nine of these teams’ last 15 meetings overall have gone past regulation, and the Bruins lost all of them.