Friday, February 20, 2015

Are the Bruins Fundamentally Changing Their Playing Style?

Everyone seems to have their own pet theory for why the Bruins are under performing this season. So far none of the ones I have read are based on inside information, nor are they all that compelling.

I think it's safe to say that the problem with this team isn't age. It's not speed. It's not Chiarelli mismanaging the cap. I think the problem with this team is that they no longer play like Bruins. They no longer beat people down. They no longer intimidate. They seldom make the big bone-crunching hit that makes the crowd roar and the other guy sore.

I've really been struck by this in watching the games from the recent road trip. We've seen evidence that the Bruins are playing differently staring us in the face all season, but it was easy to write off due to changes in personnel and injuries. Now that they are healthy and things have settled down, it is becoming difficult to ignore.

People have often complained that the Bruis are slow, and big Z is sort of their poster child. But as a team, they aren't that much slower than others. What makes them appear slow is their playing style, which has traditionally been heavy body checking. In past years Bruins would go into the corner and take the man, often blowing the player off the puck. But watch carefully what happens now when they meet in the corners. The Bruins appear to be trying to play a much quicker game, where stick play takes the place of body checking. Rather than hit the other player hard, they try to take the puck away and then quickly move it up the ice.

The reason why they might change their style is fairly obvious. This team, as previously configured, was no longer able to beat Chicago, and more importantly, Montreal. People say that these teams use their speed, and they do, but it seems to me that what they really do is play a quicker game. If the guy Lucic is about to hit has ducked away or already gotten rid of the puck, then the hit no longer has the same impact, if you will.

If this is really the case, if someone in upper management has decided that the Bruins need to change their style to keep pace with the changes to the game, then there are no doubt going to be serious repercussions, particularly given how poorly this transition is going so far. More on this next time...

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