With the Sunday night 2-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators, the Bruins dropped their Northeast Divison lead and will face their long time rival: The Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins have always played a dominate game against the Toronto Maple Leafs but with the recent slump that the B’s have found themselves in, can they keep up a physical playoff game for a full 60 minutes? Or will their inconsistent momentum be their ultimate down fall?
It might be to early to be pessimistic about how the Bruins will fair in the playoffs, after all they have been pretty good at turning it up when they need to (and when they aren’t injured). Yes, the Bruins fell to a rookie goaltender in 7 games last year to end their reign as Stanley Cup Champions; but you also need to take into consideration that a good majority of the team was struggling with nasty injuries. Patrice Bergeron‘s knee was so badly hurt he couldn’t take face offs anymore, David Krejci was on the receiving end of a really nasty neck injuries from being struck with a pane of Garden glass, Tyler Seguin‘s wrist was injured and it required surgery, the defence core wasn’t fully ready and healthy for the playoffs either. The Bruins this time around, are much better in terms of injuries, but it seems their morale is still in the toilet. What can they do to fix this and light the fire under the respective butts of the Bruins who need it the most?
1. Put Top Scorers Together & Even Out the Depth
Ever since Jarmoir Jagr has arrived to the Bruins, there has been a cry from the fans to put him alongside fellow Czech and Top 6 centre David Krejci. It certainly needs to be done, when Jagr was in Philly he played alongside Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell and in that season Giroux netted 93 Points, Hartnell 67 and Jagr 54. Jagr still has the ability to be a 50 point Top 6 player even at the tail end of his 20+ year career, and the Bruins need to use him and that ability as much as they can. The Bruins Top 6 going into this years playoff should be as strong as it’s ever been. Obviously with Nathan Horton out indefinitely things need to be leveled out with the depth and the remaining Top 6 spot. Something like this should work out pretty well for the Bruins;
Brad Marchand – David Krejci – Jarmoir Jagr
Milan Lucic – Patrice Bergeron – Tyler Seguin
If Nathan Horton returns during the first round he can be swapped in for Milan Lucic on the second line and Lucic, Soderberg, and Kelly can hold up the third line while on the fourth can be Peverly, Campbell, and Paille. Shawn Thornton is obviously a huge difference maker at the times in the post-season, and with long time dueling buddies Colton Orr and Shawn Thornton about to play each other in playoff atmosphere for the first time his presence is needed. This opens up the ability for Carl Soderberg to be expendable during the playoffs. Yes, he was on a pretty good roll in the regular season but he doesn’t quite have his legs here in the NHL and dropping him into an Original Six playoff match up with the intensity at 11 is unfair on the guy. When Nathan Horton comes back, they can use Soderberg’s spot to put Lucic back on the third line and then Thornton can stay on the active roster.
2. Defensive Zone Lockdown
If there was one glaring problem that the Bruins have been having in the tail end slump of April, the defence has been wobbly. Only now have they began to come back in and be the defence that they need to be, but there are still some very serious errors which can cause the Boston Bruins this series.
FIRST: Horrendous coverage of the slot and hash marks in the defensive zone.
The Bruins defence stays to spread out in front of Tuukka Rask and is easily lulled into being caught out of position. They need to collapse down in front of the net and never lose sight of the puck. They need to create a wall between the puck carrier and Rask and keep it solid by any means necessary. Better forecheck and stick work along the corners with help from the forwards would also be a great thing for the Bruins to finally pick up on. Several Bruins defencemen (Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg) have made terrific goal saves themselves by getting across with their sticks, feet, and body. More defence first play from the defencemen is something that the Bruins have been lacking all season, it’s time they get back to being the best in the league.
SECOND: Shutdown and Pinch the Offensive Blue Line
If there is one thing Wade Redden can be applauded for since he’s started playing here in Boston, he has been a solid rock on the offensive blue line. He’s been pinching, making rushes, and being a nuisance for the opposing offence / defence. The Bruins have been struggling all season with effective zone pinching and the defence needs to step up and be involved. If it means they have to come up off the line to settle the puck than do it, if it means they have to come all the way down the boards and run a guy in the corner to free up the puck and make a set up play than do it, if it means being patient and using your size and strength to your advantage to create a passing lane than DO IT.
THIRD: Spreading out the Offence to Defence Ratio.
The Bruins need to put their best defensive defencemen on the Top 4 spots and adding the Two-Way capability of Wade Redden in there isn’t bad either. Keep Chara with Seidenberg, Keep Boychuk with Ference, and on the last 3 put Hamilton and Redden together.). In order to balance out proper ice time for Redden and Hamilton they can work power play units (Hamilton on the first, Redden on the second) and let the stronger defensive core hold down the larger amounts of ice time. The Top 6 forwards should be the offensive work load, with support from their depth on the bottom and their power at the blue line.
3. Take No Prisoners
Since Milan Lucic was benched for a few games he has found his spark. He’s getting back to the top heavy physical Bruin he is best known for. The rest of the team needs to follow in his wake, do not be afraid to take a hit to make a play (Redden’s assist on Peverly’s goal last night is a perfect example), do not be afraid to take a roughing penalty if it means it shut down an opportunity for the opposition, and do not be afraid to separate someone from the puck and generate a play off the turn over. The physical bodies of Milan Lucic, Chris Kelly, and Shawn Thornton should be used to whip out an offensive rush from the opposition and let the play makers and supporting wingers take over and create a perfect play.
Fight when it’s needed, play Bruins hockey when it’s needed. Be the 100+ PIM team, Be the team that is feared, Be champions.