Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Chris Villani of WEEI,
Wasted first-round draft picks, an overpaid core and a couple of disastrous trades. It's a recipe for a mediocre hockey team in a bad salary cap situation and the concoction that should have the Bruins cutting ties with general manager Peter Chiarelli at the end of the season....
When you trade a player like Seguin, it's the kind of deal that will make or break you as a GM. Couple that with the Johnny Boychuk trade at the beginning of this season. Full disclosure, I was more supportive of the deal than most at the time ... but that support hinged on the "second piece" of the deal I assumed would be coming down the pipeline. We're all still waiting for that, and no question Boychuk has been missed on what's been a mess of a blue line beset by injuries and ineffective play.
Turning this roster over won't be easy, and the outlook isn't completely bleak. A goaltender like Rask and a two-way player like Bergeron are pretty nice cogs around which to build, and Hamilton and David Pastrnak show promise. But the core needs to be broken up and the proverbial deck reshuffled.
That reshuffling has to start at the top.
from Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe,
When they’re humming, the Bruins are a checking team that scores. Lately, they have done neither.
“We can’t give up five goals a game,” said coach Claude Julien. “That takes away our opportunities to win those. When we take care of our own end, the rest usually takes care of itself.”
The Bruins have been a metal-on-metal team for the last two weeks. They got a lucky 3-1 result in Ottawa March 10 when the Senators dominated the pace of the final 40 minutes. Their good fortune continued two nights later in a 3-2 home win over the Lightning. In the second period, they gave Tampa chance after chance.
The wins disguised what was going on. The Bruins were playing with fire. Their shots, especially on the power play, were finding the back of the net. Rask was spectacular under assault.
High shooting and save percentages are difficult to sustain. It was only a matter of time until Rask became mortal, especially under the heaviest workload of his career.
The wheels have since fallen off. In their wins, the Senators and Lightning maximized their speed and skill against the plodding Bruins. They faced little resistance flying over the blue line because of the Bruins’ turnovers, sloppiness in the neutral zone, and slack gaps between the defensemen and forwards. Because of how fiercely they attacked, both clubs chewed up the scrambling Bruins in front of the net. This season, this has been a familiar sight for Rask.
“One mistake always leads to another,” Rask said. “At some point, that ends up costing us a goal. It’s the sum of a lot of things.”
from Chris Kelly of the Boston Herald,
With 73 games done and just nine to go, the inconvenient truth about the Bruins is that they are not one of the eight-best teams in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. Maybe not even top-nine.
The B’s team that performed in Florida this past weekend, losing to the Panthers and Lightning, simply was not a club that deserves a berth in the upcoming playoffs. A team that one year ago was arguably the best in the league is probably now a middle-of-the pack, non-playoff group.
And right now, they are out of the playoffs.
The Senators beat San Jose last night to jump one point ahead of the B’s for the final playoff spot.
Teams as inconsistent as the Bruins just don’t warrant a crack at the Stanley Cup. Consider: The B’s have had two very good periods of play this season. Starting in late-October, from Games 12-21, the team went 8-2-0. Then in late-December, from Games 37-52, its record was 10-2-4. That’s 18-4-4 in 26 games, which leaves 47 others.
And in those games, the Bruins have gone 18-21-8.
from Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated,
If any team in the Eastern Conference is perfectly built to handle the pressures of a tight playoff race, it would be the Bruins. This is a veteran group, loaded with men who earned the Stanley Cup in 2011, backstopped by reigning Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask and coached by a Jack Adams honoree, Claude Julien. They’re battle-tested. Proven.
So how is it that this team, which just eight days ago held the first wild card berth in the East, has dropped five straight and is on the verge of being punted into ninth place tonight if the Senators beat the Sharks?
On the surface, there’s a shocking lack of desperation in the Bruins, an absence of an emotional response to their dire situation. That’s inexcusable. This is a team that was handed a chance last week to bury its two nearest pursuers, Ottawa and Florida, and failed to match the intensity of their opponents on either night. Outside of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, not a single Bruin can argue that he’s been up to the challenge.
Fingers are already being pointed at Julien, whose decision making can be inscrutable at times. His recent over-reliance on defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, for instance, is hard to comprehend beyond a blind allegiance to a veteran who’s gotten the job done in the past.
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via Hometown Hockey,
After being drafted by the New York Islanders in 1996, Zdeno Chara left Slovakia and moved to the other side of the world to pursue his pro hockey career. But before playing in the NHL, the 19-year-old had his first taste of North America in Prince George, where the 6-foot-9 defenseman played a season with the Cougars.
Below, watch Ron MacLean's essay on Prince George, BC....
from Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune,
We have no idea what it means down the road, including the playoff road. But Sunday might have been a big step for the Lightning. It might even go down in franchise lore.
The Night Stammer Brought Down The Bear.
The Lightning finally beat the big, bad Boston Bruins, 5-3. Do not try to adjust your sports column. That really happened Sunday night at Amalie Arena.
But how it happened, or began to happen, was the real story.
Bolts captain Steven Stamkos has 273 NHL goals. He has two NHL fights. But one of the fights came Sunday, when Stamkos squared off with Bruins king rat Brad Marchand in the first period.
Stamkos dropped the gloves, and his giddy, energized teammates nearly instantly scored a knockout, scoring twice inside of a minute as Stamkos was in the penalty box. No. 91 didn’t register on the score sheet, just in hearts and minds.
“I just felt at that moment, it was the right thing to do,” Stamkos said.
Watch the fight below...
from Joe Haggerty of CSNNE,
Along with the general softness across this team’s roster and the intermittent offensive droughts, there are times when the Bruins want things to be easy. It’s a natural human trait, to be sure, but it’s also the sign of a team that doesn’t consistently set the bar high enough. The intensity, desire and compete level of the recently great B’s teams hasn’t been there on most nights.
That needs to change, and the players say they're well aware of that. Good thing, because this three-game road trip -- tonight at Ottawa, Saturday at Florida and Sunday at Tampa Bay -- could make or break their season. The Senators and Panthers are desperately trying to overtake the B's for the final playoff spot, and the Lightning will be looking for revenge after their recent loss at TD Garden.
The simple truth is: The Eastern Conference is completely wide open this spring. The Islanders and Lightning have talent, but they're inexperienced and they have goaltending questions. The Penguins are a top-heavy team that doesn’t feel all that dangerous once you get past Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Red Wings are an interesting mix of youth and veterans, but nobody is printing up Stanley Cup final invites for them at this point. The Capitals, who do have one of the best players in the world in Alex Ovechkin, can be exploited defensively. The Rangers and Canadiens -- full of speed, good goaltending and talented D-corps units -- are probably the two most formidable teams, and would present the most problematic matchups for Boston.
But the pathways are there for the Bruins if they could somehow get their stuff together before the third week in April.
Unfortunately, they’ve given few reasons to be confident that will change with 12 games remaining in the regular season. Tuesday's game against Buffalo was just another sore-eyed example of that.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Bring on the Bruins! That's what the Ottawa Senators are saying after yet another victory, this time 2-1 in overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes after a highlight-of-the-year setup by Kyle Turris that let to Mark Stone's game-winner.
Coupled with the Boston Bruins' shootout loss at home -- to Buffalo, no less -- the Senators are now just four points behind the Bruins for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, with entering Thursday's gigantic rematch between the Bruins and Senators in Ottawa looming.
It appeared the Sens were done like dinner after last Tuesday's home loss to Boston. Yeah, right. Not when "The Hamburgler" is doing his thing. Goalie Andrew Hammond was sensational again against the Hurricanes, and is now 11-0-1 in his first 12 NHL starts and has given up two or fewer goals in each of those 12 games. Buckle up, folks, the Eastern Conference playoff race is about to get even more interesting.
continue for notes on Sabres, Bruins, Blackhawks, the Metropolitian Division and the Sharks from the ESPN hockey writers...
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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