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What should we expect from Marc Savard?

Marc Savard will return to play in the second round of the playoffs. Ok, so it’s old news by now, but has it really sunk in? Have you fully grasped the fact that the Bruins are not only firing on all cylinders and have a favorable second round match-up, but they are getting back their franchise player? Ok, so Savard’s probably not going to jump into the lineup and take over the game right away, but expect him to impact the game. Here’s a look at how the Bruins fared with Savard in the lineup versus when Savard was not in the lineup:

  • Overall: 39-30-13 (91 points, 55% of the possible points)
  • With Savard: 21-14-6 in 41 games (48 points, 59% of the possible points)
  • Without Savard: 18-16-7 in 41 games (43 points, 52% of the possible points)

The difference may not seem major on the surface since the Bruins only tallied five more points in the standings with a

healthy Savard, but consider this: If the Bruins finished with five less points, they would have finished 10th in the Eastern Conference and out of the playoffs completely. More importantly, the Bruins are 15-4-4 (34 of 46 points) this season when Savard tallies a point.

“He really works on the two-way side of his game in the playoffs,” said Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli of Savard’s return. “It’s like a trade deadline acquisition. We’re adding obviously a very good player to our mix for the next series.”

Where Savard’s true impact was felt this season, and has been felt since his arrival in Boston in 2006, was on the power play. It’s no secret that the Bruins were horrendous on the power play and Savard’s absence was a huge reason why. After he went down, the Bruins pulled a Chuck Cunningham and completely disappeared on the man advantage. They went 5 for 53 the rest of the way, which equates to an anemic 9.4%. Even more embarrassing was the 1 for 25 stretch that they suffered to close out the season.

Fortunately, the Bruins seemed to solve their power play issues versus Buffalo, going 6 for 22 (27.2%). Still, one can’t help but remember the Bruins vanishing act down the stretch and wonder if a return to mediocrity is inevitable. Savard should reduce the risk of such.

The first unit (Krejci-Bergeron-Recchi-Chara-Hunwick) will likely stay the same since they were responsible for four of the six power play goals versus Buffalo. Breaking up that fluidity would be foolish, especially since lineup consistency was rarely achieved during the regular season. Savard is too good to keep off the power play completely though; the numbers show it. In all likelihood, he will be added to the second unit, even if it’s in a minimal role at first.

Adding Savard to the second power play unit has to be a scary thought for the Flyers. Him centering some combination of Satan, Ryder, Sturm, and Lucic could create a world of problems for a secondary penalty kill unit. In what is expected to be a physical, crash-and-bang series, winning the special teams battle becomes even more important.

As far as even-strength, it remains to be seen where Savard will fit into the lineup. He centered Vladimir Sobotka and Michael Ryder on Wednesday. Today, Sobotka was replaced by Daniel Paille. As far as the ongoing shuffle, expect Head Coach Claude Julien to continue playing the role of Vegas dealer up until game time.

“We’ve got to find the right group, or the right trios, and we’re working on that,” he told NESN.com’s James Murphy.

Julien has also continued to insist that the Bruins will be careful with Savard and not rush him into things to start the series. One could reasonably expect Savard to be on the ice for eight-to-12 minutes, rather than the near-20 minutes that he is used to. From that, however, Julien should be able to gain a sense of where he is at and where to go moving forward in the series. What is most important though is that we will actually get to see #91 take the ice, a thought that was simply a pipedream just a few weeks ago.

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Tags: 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs Boston Bruins Claude Julien Marc Savard Peter Chiarelli

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