Going Into the start of 2017, the Boston Bruins are still hanging on to a playoff slot. While they’re doing better than many in the media predicted, they still have a ways to go if they want to be in a playoff position come April.
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The Boston Bruins will be hanging on to a playoff spot as they take on the best team in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. The Bruins are one of only two teams that have beaten the Blue Jackets at home, and hopefully lightning will strike twice for the Black and Gold.
While the B’s are doing better than expected at this point, they could be doing better. The Bruins organization is likely making their New Years’ Resolutions and make a few changes as they power through the last four months of the season.
Fix the Goaltending Situation Yesterday.
This is the biggest no-brainer of the lot. Anton Khudobin has been woefully disappointing for the
Bruins. The B’s brought him back to Boston because they didn’t have confidence in either Niklas Svedberg or Jonas Gustavsson. While those two had their problems, they weren’t the dumpster fire that is Khudobin. He’s 1-5-1, with an ugly .885 save percentage and a 3+ (3.06) goals-against average. That’s bad for the ECHL, let alone the big show.
Tuukka Rask is the best player the Bruins have right now. But he won’t stay at an elite level if the B’s wear him out by playing another 65-70 games this season. They’ve got to figure out a way to motivate or move the Kazakh netminder. Thankfully, the Bruins only have a single back-to-back set of games in the month of January. If they can motivate Dobby to win at least half the games he plays next month, it would go a long way to keep the Bruins in the playoff hunt.
Go With What Works On The Power Play.
Two weeks ago, Bruins head coach Claude Julien decdided to tinker around with his forward lines and power play units. He felt the B’s needed a change. By and large, those moves were successful. The Bruins tweaked lines were producing more goals.
What came is a real pleasant surprise was the power play units. The Bruins have scored power play goals in their last two games. If the Bruins wish to continue that trend, they should try to rely mainly on their number one power play unit.
Right now, the Bruins top unit consists of forwards Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Ryan Spooner. They are backed up by defenseman Torey Krug who often acts like an another forward on the ice. These quintet of players has been getting the job done, and the Bruins should be keeping the focus on these players as they continue to produce goals for the Black and Gold.
Figure Out How Best To Use Ryan Spooner.
The Boston Bruins have been playing some seriously ugly Jekyll-and Hyde hockey these last few weeks. They’ll play great against good teams, and rather terribly against the weaker ones.
Ryan Spooner is a microcosm for the Bruins current style of play. Spooner has gone up and down the lines this year, trying to find a spot where he can play to his strengths. He can be a solid play maker when his head is in the game. He can put up pretty goals as well.
Then there is the other side to Spooner. Spooner can make some bonehead decisions that can lead to good scoring opportunities for other teams. (If Khudobin happens to be in net, those opportunities increase by an order of magnitude.) Spooner is also rather shaky on defense this season. If the center/winger can’t play Julien’s defensive system, he’s going to find his play time cut severly. The Bruins may need to sit him a few games (even if it means giving Jimmy Hayes more ice time) so he can wrap his head around the game again.
Try To Change Patrice Bergeron’s Luck.
Bruins forward and alternate captain Patrice Bergeron has been a shot producing machine for the Black and Gold. He’s fired 115 shots on net this season, just putting him outside the top ten in the league. While that’s par for the course for the Bruins best all-around player, he’s only earned five goals so far this season.
5 goals on 115 shots equals a 4.3% shot success rate. That’s less than half of what Bergeron averages in a season during his 11-year career. For Bergeron, it’s more a question of bad luck than bad playing. Hopefully the Bruins can figure out a way to get their top-line center back to his usual shot percentage rate.