With 71 games in the books for the Boston Bruins, there has been one player labeled the scapegoat of the 2009-10 season stronger than any other member of the black and gold–Dennis Wideman. Just one year removed from a 50-point season, including a remarkable +32, good for sixth in the entire league last season, the B’s blue-liner has been a defensive hazard and downright upsetting to watch at times. However, if the Bruins are to succeed down the quickly ending road in the regular season and take the positive turn into the playoffs that the team desperately needs, is Wideman the key to the Bruins success?
A scary thought for some fans to even think of, it’s entirely possible that there is no greater component to the Bruins formula for winning than a competent Dennis Wideman, a sight that has been a rarity in 2009-10.
Notching his 22nd point of the season with a beautiful backhanded goal against Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in yesterday’s 2-1 win in Boston, Wideman snapped a five-game point-less streak and gave the Bruins the eventual game-winner with the third period goal. Of course, while too early to determine, the play of the 6’1″ defensemen has been noticeably better for Boston since the acquistion of Dennis Seidenberg and has left Bruins fans begging the question, is Wideman about to turn the corner and revert to the 2008-09 ways that made the Brad Boyes to St. Louis trade of 2007 look justifiable for Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli?
Sitting with a disappointing 22 points in 65 games this season, an interesting note is revealed when looking at the points that have been few and far between from #6 in black. When registering at least one point in a game from Wideman, the Bruins are 11-4-2 on the season, and when Wideman has multiple points, the B’s are undefeated at 5-0, winning those contests by a combined score of 20 to 12.
The stats are also daunting in terms of the Bruins’ struggles when Wideman has underperformed from last season’s rate. Throughout the month of January, as the Bruins sputtered, finishing the month with a sickening 3-9-1 record, Wideman had just two, yes, two, points in 13 games and finished the month a -12.
Obviously, there are some holes in the game of Dennis Wideman that will simply never be fixed. Such as the poor decision making in terms of using his space to the best of his ability in the defensive zone, the lapses of judgment on coverage, and the gaping hole that has been his play from the point on the power-play, an enormously large part of his success last season. That being said, we can’t simply resort to screaming “Wideman, get off the ice” when he’s also blocked a team-leading 93 shots, has checked in for 93 hits, and averages 27.3 shifts per game.
If I’m Bruins head coach Claude Julien, at this point my best action would be inaction as I wouldn’t change a thing.
Firstly, the defensive combination of Wideman and Matt Hunwick seems to be over, and for good reason. Hunwick, who in my opinion has been far worse than Wideman this season but has received a free-pass based on age and salary, is a complete parking-cone for the opposition and may in fact be better off as a forward in the future for Boston. Pairing Wideman with a defensively-minded blue-liner such as Mark Stuart, Johnny Boychuk, or even 2008-09-staple Andrew Ference could prove to be a vast difference-maker in the offensive capabilities for the 27-year old Ontario-native.
With Derek Morris, the Bruins’ biggest signing of the 2009 off-season, a move made to acquire some offensive productivity from the Boston blue-line, back in Phoenix, the time for Wideman to showcase the level of play shown just over a year ago is long overdue and could in fact be on the way.
One of two defensemen last year to have a 50-point season along with a +30 or higher, the other being Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, the boo’s raining down on Wideman on home-ice on a nightly basis also have to end. Where were the boo’s for Milan Lucic, Michael Ryder, and David Krejci, who have all struggled mightily this season?
After all, you don’t want to be booing the guy who may in fact end up being the difference between winning and losing come April.
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About the Author: Ty Anderson ran the Chronicles From The Garden blogspot account during the 2008-09 NHL season before joining HockeyIndependent as the Bruins Blogger. He is a Seinfeld enthusiast, self-admitted Star Wars nerd, Vezina-quality street-hockey goaltender, and can be found in Balcony 314 of every Bruins home game. Follow him and his tweeting madness on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/_TyAnderson or send him an e-mail at TAndersonBruins@gmail.com.