Observations, Thoughts, Hopes, and Fears as the Bruins Enter the All-Star Break

Just a few things to spark discussion, or at the very least give us pause (or paws if you consider The Pup’s view) as we spend the next few days waiting for the NHL season to resume.

* Where are the critics who lamented the Milan Lucic signing, and who continued to state he is overhyped or overrated? The kid set a goal of scoring 20 goals THIS SEASON, and has reached the mark at the break with the GWG vs. the Panthers on Wednesday, January 26th. Not too shabby, and after seeing his snipe against Vokoun all the time he spent working on his shot under the tutelage of Mark Recchi over the last two seasons is paying dividends.

* Complete and utter failure by many Bruins fans (and some scribes) who expect Tyler Seguin to be a finished NHL product at 18 yrs old. Remember Steven Stamkos as a rookie?  Give the kid a break, he came straight from juniors where he could easily rely on his natural ability in almost every situation.  The speed of the game, additional defensive responsibilities, and the physical nature of the NHL takes a bit of adjustment.  Give the kid a break, he clearly cares, and wants to learn. He will be a major factor in the success of the Bruins for years to come.

Would LOVE to see Coach Claude Julien cut the kid some slack too.  Glad to see him not put him in situations to fail, especially when the team needs to play tough in the own end to hold a lead late, but give him some line mates to help him grow!! Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder?? I realize Julien thinks Ryder hung the moon, but is he the example you want Seguin to aspire to emulate? Biggest fear is that come playoff time Julien will wreck this kid, his track record with managing young players in the post-season is ugly, at best!

* Hate the fact that people feel the need to weigh in on if Marc Savard should retire or not.  Are these the same people who thought Patrice Bergeron would never come back following his subsequent concussion during his comeback season?  Or that he was never going to return to form and was an albatross?? Yes, concussions are serious business, and there is EVERY reason to be cautious.  I was shocked at the fact Savard played after sustaining the hit vs. the Pens which resulted in him being shaken up and a stiff neck, and to me it indicates management (or the B’s medical personal) still does not know how to communicate the big picture on a SLOW return to Savard, or have the guts to just hold him out as he finds his feet (and 20 games back does not constitute the ability to completely ignore the need to manage his return).

* Nathan Horton needs a new stick, and about 4000 pucks to conduct his own private skills competition over the break.  Seriously, wouldn’t hurt to have a shot “doctor” work with him, it’s not like baseball players in hitting slumps don’t have someone help diagnose their swing, or build confidence via extra time in the cage.

* Steve Kampfer (right now) everything fans hoped that Matt Hunwick would be, and more.  I hope he continues to grow into his role, and his demonstrated mental toughness and ability to play through mistakes leads me to believe he will continue be a true student of the game.

*Brad Marchand: Mayor of Munchkin Land, King of the Lollipop Guild, Motormouth, The NOSE…could just steal the Calder while everyone sleeps.  “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

* Patrice Bergeron is one of the most underrated centermen in the game.  I desperately wanted him to be in the Selke conversation last season, and he has been even better this season. Bergy leads the team in scoring with 40 points in 50 games and is a +/- PLUS 21!  The line of Bergeron, Recchi, and Marchand is a lunch pail line and matches up, cycles, forechecks, and scores gargantuan goals (9GWG between Bergy and Rex).  Pure BRUINS hockey!

* Leave David Krejci and Lucic together, there is clearly very good chemistry between the two, just need to add another winger…hmmm…too bad Miro Satan isn’t available.

* Gregory Campbell is Stephane Yelle, PJ Axelsson, and Shane Hnidy rolled into one…makes me want to say “Thank You Wideman”.

*Shawn Thornton is a going to take Andy Brickley’s seat when he finally hangs up his skates (which is hopefully no time soon), great perspective, excellent understanding of the game, and could get Jack Edwards to finally shut his trap.

* Dennis Wideman and Phil Kessel are a +/- MINUS 17 and MINUS 19 respectively. Horton for all his struggles is +/- PLUS 16; Campbell PLUS 6;  Seguin PLUS 1. Just Sayin.

* Tim “The Tank” Thomas should never have to buy a cheeseburger in the city of Boston again.  He has put this team on his 36 year old surgical repaired hip and is having one of the best seasons of any netminder in recent NHL history.  Oh, and for the naysayers, Timmah has a waffle or two to feed you, just wander into his crease. Dare ya, Triple dog dare ya!

* Last Season the Bruins scored an average of 2.39 GPG and allowed 2.33 GPG, not much of a margin for error.  This season through 50 games they are scoring 3.02 GPG and allowing 2.04GPG. More balanced scoring (8B’s have 10 or more goals at this juncture) and Thomas  and partner Tuukka Rask both sport a sparking  save percentages (.945 for Thomas and .923 for Rask).  The blueline struggled for continuity, especially in the first 25 games, but Andrew Ference and Dennis Seidenberg have shored up their play, and Johnny Boychuk continues to throw bone crushing hits and is a force along the wall and in the corners.  Adam McQuaid has quietly added some grit and demonstrated a willingness to throw down when needed or challenged.  Mark Stuart has, for the second season in a row been sidelined for significant time due to injury, and is either a potential trade piece, or the B’s a showcasing McQuaid for that role, since they are essentially the same player.  Kampfer has been excellent both on the powerplay, and stepping up on the rush, and partnered with Zdeno Chara allows him the freedom to acquire on the job training.

*Chara continues to be a bit of an enigma, clearly possessing the physical tools to manhandle the NHL’s premier forwards but sometimes appears to struggle under the weight of the expectations of his team and a cup starved fan base.  His biggest knock is in his passive aggressive play, which leaves him caught between a rock and a hard place on the ice and with fans.  As the sprint to the Cup commences after the break the Bruins will rely heavily on their Captain to play with composure in high pressure situations while maintaining the physical edge to his play which makes him most effective.

If the Bruins can maintain the traction they developed heading into the break, points in 7 of their last 10 games, and avoid the roller coaster ride of the first 25 games then there is reason to believe, not just hope, that the Bruins have the bears in the den capable of bringing home the Cup.

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About the Author: NHL Blogger, a fan of the Boston Bruins for 40 years, mom to the famous/notorious Bruins dog blogger, The Pup. The Pup is a savvy hockey dog in search of cookies (the jar is on the top shelf).

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