I for one, have been terribly frustrated with the Bruins The last 5-6 games starting with the loss to New Jersey two weeks ago. One can make the case that the driving force of Offense has been the Defense and although great goals have been scored, shoddy play in front of Tuukka hasn’t helped. One strange truth may be that when the Bruins have their best roster, they play like it. The Bruins have played 4 games without an active roster player injured, in those games. The Bruins are 3-0-1 and have outscored the opponents 16-5. The fact that the Bruins have been able to stay competitive in losing 4 of 5 prior to last nights game has been more about the quality play of Tuukka Rask than anything the position players have done. Coach Julien has spoken of the team’s compete level and I quite agree, it’s only been there in spurts. It’s showed in the penalties they take and at what part of the game. It’s showed in The Penalty Kill That allowed 5 goals in 5 games including a penalty shot. Defensemen pinching in the offensive end when behind a goal or two and neutral ice turn overs leading to scoring chances and getting trapped in their own end or too many players caught up ice.
Well the bleeding stopped last night. The Florida Panthers, if nothing else, can be a team team that’s good for what ails you. However, we can’t play the Panthers every game and for a third of the game, they had the opportunity to steal this one. Next up, the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that has a grudge to settle, after being eliminated in the playoffs by Boston in dramatic fashion and has been playing well offensively and hot on the power play. They have a few key injuries (Bozak and Bolling) affecting their play up the middle and on face-offs as well as a tendency to give up chances to high speed pressure offenses. What team will the Bruins skate? The team we saw in the last half of the game or the first half. If it’s the first half team, we’ll be down by 3 goals before we try to get back in it. If it’s the second half team, we should be OK and have a chance to win.
Players trending up are Marchand and Smith. Both scored last night and seemed more comfortable helping their line mates the last two games. Krug and Hamilton get high marks for scoring and have been just adequate in their own end. The Krejci line has been consistent and while carrying the load, can’t do everything. The Merlot line has been everything it needs to be short of putting up points. I feel if they got an extra shift or two earlier in games their buzz might carry over more with the Bergeron and Kelly lines. The Problem is that when the team is behind, the Merlot line sits as we try to force offense. If the Coach becomes more confident in Marchand, perhaps he’ll get time with Bergeron on the PK and Eriksson can take that extra time to get more in sync. I hate to second guess the coach, but perhaps an Eriksson and Kelly combo shorthanded might be effective. On the power play my thinking is that the Bruins are a great 5 on 5 team, let the forwards do their job and play together and use 5 of your six defensemen. Boychuk has upside with a heavy shot and has had very little power play time and I think he’s earned some. I’d like to see Krug partnered with Boychuk occasionally and Chara with McQuaid.
While I don’t see disaster for the Bruins, there have been many gaps in the seams and dents in the armor so far. This team certainly has the personnel to be be consistent and domineering night in and night out. As to some of the fringe players? Could the defense be more settled with Bartkowski playing regularly and Hamilton getting bigger minutes in Providence while learning the game out of the spotlight? Caron’s experiment has run it’s course, it’s time for a trade as there are plenty of moveable pieces that can be moved up and down in Providence. I’d explore trading Caron for a second round pick next year with a team that has young maturing players that isn’t expected to make the playoffs this year.
See you next time!!