Thursday, December 2, 2010

Game 23: Where The Bruins Stand

I've been waiting for a moment to sum up the season so far when I had both something to say and the time to say it. So here we are after game 23. Where do the Bruins stand?

The word today is that Marco Sturm has been traded to LA. Hunwick was traded last week to clear cap space for Savard. So when it comes to the roster it looks like things are pretty much set--at least until the trade deadline should Chiarelli need to shake things up or add a rental for the playoff push.

So far the team play has been a roller coaster. Two years ago at this time they were building momentum toward an incredible run that would end at the top of the Conference, only to lose in the second round of the playoffs. Last year they started out as if they thought the regular season wasn't worth their effort. Injuries mounted. They came on strong at the end but lost again in the second round. It looks like this time around we are going to get a season of highs and lows, with streaks of both the winning and losing variety.

I've heard it said that a team that doesn't play hard every game is more prone to injuries than one that's on a roll. That seemed to be the case for the Bruins last year. I suppose it makes sense: it is better to be the one making the hits than receiving them. Nobody wants to make excuses, but there were so many key injuries that one can only wonder what would have happened had the Bs been even just a bit less banged up in the playoffs. The way I see it to go deeper in the playoffs the Bruins will need the following core players to be healthy: Chara, Savard, Thomas, Bergeron, Lucic and Krejci. Of these Chara and Lucic are absolutely key. Without both of them near 100% come playoff time there will be no cup. Their physical play is crucial not only as a direct impact but in a leadership role. Witness Lucic last summer against Philly: the Bruins lost four games straight only after he was no longer able to play with that dominant physical style he brings at crucial moments.

Some of the highlights so far this season: Chara storming the offensive zone, going on the forecheck behind the net and tossing defenseman aside like ragdolls, resulting in an important goal. Tyler Seguin scoring off the give and go with a huge drive toward the net early in the season. Tim Thomas with a perfect record on the road, six shutouts, and that big grin getting wider with each passing game.

What are their chances in the post season given what we have seen so far? I think they should at the very least make the Conference Final and if things go their way this team is fully capable of winning the Cup.

My concerns so far? Lack of depth at defense--if Ference or Seidenberg aren't available for the playoffs it may mean another second round exit. Lack of big bruising forwards--Lucic is crucial in this regard come playoff time, but he can't do it alone. This team is at its best when they turn up the heat and overpower other teams physically. Lack of speed may hurt them in the regular season but their playoff chances depend on physical domination. Wheeler needs to become a heavy hitter. The rest of the wingers need to be ready to throw their bodies around--with purpose--when the time comes.

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