Any Way You Slice It, Plenty of Hockey Left

With their 4-2 loss against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, October 29th, the Bruins have finished roughly one-eighth of their season, and Boston fans are now officially ready to push the panic button. But it’s a bit early to worry; there are still 72 games left in the regular season. Think of it this way: if the NHL season was a pizza, we’d still have seven slices left. That’s a lot of pizza. But in the “what have you done for me lately” sports world that is Boston – particularly in the wake of the Red Sox’s epic collapse and the Celtics’ lockout-driven disappearing act – the media and fans are acting like this season is going to be all anchovies. Now, it’s true that the Bruins haven’t got off to the start they’d hoped for, but there are some promises of pepperoni and extra cheese ahead.

The Bruins are still nursing their Stanley Cup hangover (beer does go well with pizza) but they need to take two Advil and start playing like defending champions. The one thing nobody can find fault with is the goaltending. Tim Thomas (2.14 GAA and .929 save percentage) continues to keep the B’s in every game he plays in. Tuukka Rask (2.71 GAA and a .906 save percentage) is playing well but the Bruins give him no offensive support what-so-ever. If this trend continues, look for a lot of 2-1 and 1-0 losses for the B’s; after all, Rask is the goaltender of the future.

And then there are the fans who are calling in to Boston sports radio saying that Coach Julien needs to bench Shawn Thornton. Yes, benching a fourth line tough guy who plays roughly eight minutes a game is the answer. This sort of idiocy actually makes the more informed among us miss Michael Ryder. Because at least when Julien was starting Ryder and sitting Seguin, there was something legitimate to gripe about.

What Boston needs to do is take a page from the protesters down on Wall Street and Dewey Square- they need to start an “Occupy the Crease” campaign. Have Milan Lucic camp out in front of opposing goaltenders. Lucic is supposed to be a big and tough player, so he should be utilized that way. The Bruins should simply shoot the puck from every angle and have Lucic try and pick up some garbage goals a la the legendary Phil Esposito. Nobody said the Bruins need pretty goals, though Seguin promises to deliver those in bunches; right now, the Bruins just need goals however they might come. Of course, a similar experiment was attempted with Zdeno Chara last season, but after seeing how much it takes out of Big Z – and how little it delivered – it’s clear that wasn’t the answer. Watching Chara parked in front of the net wasn’t unlike watching a giraffe drink water: just plain awkward-looking. Hopefully parking Lucic in front of the opposition’s goal would yield better results.

To stick with the pizza analogy, it’s going to take more than 30 minutes for the Bruins’ winning ways to be delivered again. In the meanwhile, observers must endure the weird line combinations that Julien comes up with (Seguin and Lucic centered by Kelly) and the 1-0 losses to the Colorado Avalanche. Teams know that the Boston Bruins are the reigning Stanley Cup champions so they’re going to bring their A-game every single night. The Bruins just need to bring theirs, matching their opponents’ intensity level on a far more consistent basis. And when the delivery guy finally shows up with the 18-inch deep dish pizza we know the Bruins are capable of delivering, don’t forget to tip the guy.


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One Response to “Any Way You Slice It, Plenty of Hockey Left”

  1. Matt
    November 2, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    Great piece…welcome to the board Heath Whelan.

    I love the Pizza analogy, simple but true. Hard to argue against goal tending, but is Claude on the hot seat already? Make no mistake it was Tim Thomas that won that championship despite Claude last year, not vice versa. The same chatter from last year is creeping up again.

    Playoff Ryder, top 10 player in the league. Regular Season Ryder, borderline AHL.

    One thing is clear, this team did not come prepared to defend their title.