Goalie Tuukka Rask (#40) of the Boston Bruins eyes the airborne puck after rebounding off of himself during the second period of the game between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center. The visiting Boston Bruins defeated the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 4-3 in a shootout.
The 2014-15 Boston Bruins have given us ulcers, induced panic attacks, and caused a media smorgasbord of outcries due to the under-performing nature of our hockey club.
Welcome to Boston. And bring on the rest of the ’14-15 NHL season.
Although some of it might be over-dramatizing and catastrophizing beyond belief, is there really a cause for concern for the Black and Gold?
The Bruins have now played one full month of hockey. They have accumulated a 7-6-0 record, good for 14 points and a fourth place standing in the Atlantic Division (as of November 1). With the losses of Jarome Iginla, Shawn Thornton, and Johnny Boychuk (via trade) that we have become all too familiar with during the offseason, a hovering .500 record for this particular team is not the end of the world as we know it.
The B’s have already endured their fair share of casualties to the main roster, including three key voids on the blue line. The Boston faithful certainly held its breath when Kevan Miller exited the game on October 18 after a scrap that left him with a dislocated shoulder. He has been ruled out indefinitely since then. Even when he does return, that is the type of ailment that could easily resurface and that is never a good sign.
However, the biggest—literally and figuratively—blow to the defensive core came when Zdeno Chara injured his knee on October 23 against the New York Islanders. He will be out of action for 4-6 weeks, but he will not require surgery. To be honest, this could be the best thing that can happen to him. Yes, this will be the first time in his Bruins’ career that he will not play in at least 70 regular season games. But B’s head coach Claude Julien nailed it: “We would rather have it be 4-6 weeks than 4-6 months.”
Let the big guy heal and rehab his injury. Ease him back, no need to rush this. With the heavy workload that the team puts on his shoulders every spring in pursuit of a championship, give him his time during the winter to get his body 100 percent.
With Torey Krug out for 2-3 weeks with a broken finger, Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Seidenberg, and Adam McQuaid will lead a much depleted blue line. Their minutes have already increased and they have all produced points since those key injuries took place.
Now, getting back to the team as a whole. Goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Niklas Svedberg have been solid in net as a tandem. The B’s average 2.50 goals against per game (12th in the league) and the two netminders combine for a .921 save percentage.
They are doing their part, so what is the problem with this team?
Lack of offense.
The Bruins currently possess a 2.7 goals per game average, which ranks them 14th in the league. The two closest players that Boston has on its roster that could challenge anyone in the league from a point perspective are Carl Soderberg (10 points) and David Krejci. The latter only has nine points (53rd in the league), and he missed the first three games of the season. He has produced at a point-per-game rate upon his return from an undisclosed injury that plagued his start, so he has done his part.
The second line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Reilly Smith have been abysmal early on. Bergeron only has one goal, Smith with two, and up until his breakout party against the Buffalo Sabres on October 30 with a three-point night, Marchand only put in a single tally.
Chris Kelly, with all due respect, should not have been leading the Bruins in points the way that he did at the beginning of the season. He clicked unbelievably with Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. All three players are within the top five on the team in points—they posted a point line of 7-17-24 through the first 13 games of the year.
Seth Griffith has turned into a nice player on the top line. He works hard and is not afraid to get into the dirty areas to score goals. However, you have to assume that he is living on borrowed time. He must continue to put the puck in the net if he wants to see top-line minutes.
The coaching staff shuffled the bottom-three lines to try and get a plethora of players the jumpstart they needed. It has worked…for now. They still need to figure out how to boost the power-play output. The Bruins rank 17th in the league, a number that is not problematic but could be improved.
In what seems to be a very weak Eastern Conference, the Bruins still have the talent to win the division. After a month into the season, the dilemma is offense and not being able to protect the lead late in games. At this point, everything is fixable.
Bring on the mustaches, November is here. Let’s see what the Bruins do during this month.