Welcome to December, everybody. If you happen to see the sun any time soon feel free to let me know. In the meantime, we have our local hockey team to help carry us through the dark misery that is the next three months.
As for that hockey team, it’s not all misery. The Bruins earned 5 out of a possible 6 points this past week. On paper it looks like a real good week, but it’s a little deceiving. Why? Well for starters two of the games went to a shootout. The Bruins split the shootouts by losing to the Flyers on Tuesday night but beating the Hurricanes Thursday night. They then rolled into Buffalo on Saturday and topped the Sabres in regulation. So yes, a win is a win is a win. You take them when you get them. Especially this Bruins club. But they only scored 5 goals total in the 3 games they played. Averaging less than 2 goals a game is not a good blueprint for success in the NHL.
Currently the Bruins are on the outside looking in on the playoffs with 29 points. They are only 1 point out of a wild card spot. There certainly is still plenty of time left but the Bruins still have a lot of work to do.
So here are BostonPucks.com’s thoughts on the past week and how they can improve in some areas:
Scoring Is On Life Support
On most nights if David Pastrnak does not score a goal it turns into a struggle for the Bruins. They also do not seem to be able to put their foot on the opponents throats and close out teams by scoring that extra goal. For example, against the Sabres Saturday they could not get a second goal in the first period after dominating the first 20 minutes in just about every facet possible. The complexion of the game could have changed dramatically if the Bruins could have gone up 2-0 in the first period. Instead, they make it harder on themselves by not widening their lead until the third period.
One major issue with the Bruins scoring: the power play is absolutely terrible. Not only are the Bruins not able to score but they cannot gain any momentum, let alone a single shot sometimes, with the man advantage. In my opinion the issue lies with David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron. They both have had slow starts and you hope they find their groove soon. Each player has had their moments, but neither is at the top of their offensive game. If Krejci and Bergeron get going to their usual point production it is going to boost both the power play and everyone around them. If they don’t, execution will stay flat and it’ll be difficult for the Bruins to make the playoffs this season.
Claude Doing Claude Things
I believe Claude Julien is one of the best coaches in the NHL, but he has a way of angering fans, and I am assuming players as well. The game he is playing with Ryan Spooner is shitty.
As we stated in our piece on Spooner trade rumors, he is playing left wing on the fourth line, out of his a natural position. Not to mention he’s saddled with Jimmy Hayes and one cannot expect him to be all world there. Yes Spooner has his deficiencies, but he is a skilled speed player that can score some goals and make things happen offensively. As we stated in our previous thought, the Bruins need more offense. The Bruins need to solve the left wing situation on the Krejci line and maybe it gets fixed when Frank Vatrano comes back. But to expect a guy who has less than a half season of NHL experience to come in after being hurt and have a huge impact is a bit unrealistic.
What drives me nuts about the whole situation with Spooner is he’s seen (and is) good enough to be on the B’s first power play unit but he isn’t good enough to be the third line center? It’s not like current 3C Riley Nash is ripping it up and giving Claude no choice but to bury Spoons on the fourth line. Why not put Nash on Spooner’s right side to take some of the burden off of Spooner? How about before you trade the young, fast, cheap, homegrown type of player the team preaches the cap-era NHL is about, why not see if he can be the third line center he was so good at being last year? That’s where he helps this team out the most.
To top it off, Claude has Tim Schaller as the second line left wing. Schaller is a pleasant surprise but he is a utility/4th liner and nothing more. I would rather see them give Danton Heinen another look now that he has a few more pro games under his belt and is about a point per game performer in the AHL. That way Schaller stays on a 4th line, where he’s thrived and been really good this season.
Defense Continues Is Doing It’s Part
This has been a nice surprise. One we brought up last week and are happy to bring up again. When Zdeno Chara went down with his recent injury, outside of the frantic first ten minutes they played without him, the defense has solidified and played very well. In last 4 games the B’s have only surrendered 5 goals. In 2 of those games the Bruins were holding onto a shutout well into the third period.
Even though this current ensemble of defensemen have done their job Chara is now “probable” for tonight’s tilt against the Florida Panthers and that’s good news. But seeing Kevan Miller, Adam McQuaid, and Brandon Carlo away from Big Z, all having success is great. It’s actually something no one anticipated a few weeks ago.
Spin It How You Want, The B’s Are About Where We Expected
A point in the playoffs for the final spot, third in the Atlantic Division, or a point out of the last playoff spot? Take your pick. That’s the juggling act we expected to see back in August when we were all looking forward to the season and it’s exactly what we’re getting.
It’s funny how no matter how you slice it that’s how it’s playing out. A top end offense like last year has turned into a quiet one, and a floundering defense has turned into the teams strength. Unless both are ripping along it’s going to be more of the same from this bubble team. One can only hope Mr. Jacobs doesn’t force management to make dumb personnel moves come Spring if and when they are likely still a bubble playoff team as they are now.
I think the frustrating part about this team so far is that Tuukka gives you a chance to win every night out, especially with the improved play in the d-zone in front of him. So when the offense that was supposed to be the given is actually failing you, it’s almost worse than having a bad defense you expected to get. Because if the defense blew again this season we’d all be like “yeah, I know. That was a given.” Instead, we’re left hoping the offense takes advantage of the opportunity Tuukka and the D provide, and grabs those points that changes the bubble team script they were given at the beginning of the season.
It’s a busy week ahead for the B’s. Three 7pm home games and an 8pm roadie. Tonight it kicks off with the Florida Panthers at the Garden. Wednesday it’s down to D.C. to face the Capitals, followed by a quick turn around to face the Avalanche at home the very next night. It’s all capped off by a visit from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday where you hop those fast young legs from north of the border don’t torch the B’s playing fourth game in six nights.