Where to begin? I would love to blame the long road trip, jet lag, and injuries taking their toll – but simply in the words of NESN play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards the Bruins just played “the stinker of the year” on their return to home ice. One would have hoped that playing the Sens, a team that the Bruins have owned this season, would have been just what the doctor ordered. However the Bruins were led in the physical department by David Krejci and Vald Sobotka. Yes, I said David Krejci, which should tell you all you really need to know about this snooze fest.
Somewhat surprised to see Tim Thomas in net for the B’s after the long roadie, and shouldering much of the load in the wake of the Bruins shorthanded status, and the Bruins did him no favors in the defensive zone. Dennis Wideman returned to the Bruins line up, but was again in search of his intensity, looking more and more like a turnstile on every shift. IF (and I say IF) he was not at full strength then McQuaid, who has brought grit and held his own in the defensive zone should have played and Wideman should have sat this one out. Bruins fans in the Garden, while clearly frustrated placed the blame squarely at the feet of Tim Thomas with a mock cheer after a Timmah save in the first. Perhaps they were completely unaware that virtually the entire team was asleep at the switch, hanging Thomas out to dry. The defensive ineptitude was clearly apparent on the cross ice feed to Alfie for his natural hatty, Wideman was posing for animal crackers as Alfie streaked past him. No, I don’t believe Tuukka Rask would have meant a win for the Bruins, but it was a shame to see the Bruins leave Timmah hanging and the fans do the same. How quickly some fans are to forget all the work Thomas has done for this team and I seriously hope than no one has been injured in the race to jump on the Rask bandwagon. Odd how some fans seem to have amnesia regarding Rask’s last two games and the soft goals he gave up which cost the Bruins important points, but can clearly point to each and every Thomas mistake, regardless of the effort of the team in front of the two netminders. Stay classy Bruins fans, remember how funny we all thought it was to see Carey Price boo’ed in his own building in the playoffs? Leave the goalie boo birds to Montreal and their love hate relationship with Roy and Price.
The strong work of Krejci and Wheeler did continue today, but the best scoring chances were for the line of Whitfield, Paille, and Lucic. A line of pure sandpaper to be sure, and Paille finally lit the lamp as a result of a good solid cycle with his linemates.
The afternoon can best be summed up by the Bad News Bears play which resulted in the Sens final goal. Wideman back to retrieve the puck, with his head down, skated into the official. The puck skidded away from him and onto the stick of Jonathan Cheechoo and as Wideman did the Virginia Reel with the referee, Cheechoo walked in alone and slipped the puck past a desperation poke check from Rask. The game was over long before that play, but it was a perfect example of the Bruins inability to get out of their own way this afternoon.
So is today the final straw? Will management look to make a move before the Olympic break ,or allow the Sens, Isles, and Habs continue to close the gap as the B’s slide continues. I am not a hater, but the Bruins blueline is suspect, and a big sniper is nice but I question the health of Zdeno Chara as he has been pushed around, and does not instill fear in the defensive zone the way he did a year ago. He needs a quality partner, and neither Wideman not Morris fit the bill. Bruins dmen have struggled to win the 1v1 battle along the boards in their own zone, and for puck moving defensemen Wideman, Hunwick, and Morris there is no clean breakout of their own zone and no answer for opponents’ two man forecheck. A sniper will not fix what ails the Bruins. The should NOT need to win games 6-4. They need to turn the screws up on their defensive play (see San Jose game) and up their overall physicality by playing with a sense of urgency. Are you reading the result of frustration from today’s disgraceful effort, in part…but this is not the swagger the Bruins demonstrated a year ago, and it has NOTHING to do with the absence of Phil Kessel. The team needs to return to INITIATING physical contact. finish their checks, and play a North-South game with a return to the defensive first identity that fueled their success a year ago.
Chiarelli, Neely, and Sweeney have some work to do. The addition of Satan has been a subtle piece that should not go under appreciated. Perhaps they want to wait for the return of Sturm, Savard, Begin, and Bitz, to further evaluate what they need up front for their “big” move – which is fine. The back end needs to be shored up immediately and I would begin not by looking for another puck moving defenseman, but a stay-at-home defensive stallwart to support Chara’s minutes and create more balanced pairings.
Silver lining for today (IF there is one) The Evils seem to be struggling with the afternoon game on the return from their West Coast swing. Small consolation, but the Isles are gaining confidence and are one of the teams on the Bruins’ heels.
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).