Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bruins Flat - Handled by Rangers

As I watched the Ranger fans rise in excitement towards the end of the first period yesterday, it was instantly clear to me the Bruins were already on the ropes. Marco Sturm's missed penalty shot was the chance the young Bruins team had to grab momentum in this game - a chance that went right by the wayside. Despite only being down 1-0 at that point and outshooting the Rangers through the end of one period, the Bruins were a team on the ropes from the first faceoff yesterday and this will remain the case against most teams for the next few weeks.

Offense is key, and no doubt the absence of Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron is going to be front and center with every broadcast of a B's game over the next 2-4 weeks. The bigger problem this team faces though, is the lack of depth on the blueline. Last year, when Andrew Ference, Aaron Ward and Dennis Wideman missed extended periods of time, the Bruins were able to tap into a plethera of defensive reserves chomping at the bit down route 95 in Providence. Guys like Matt Hunwick stepped up and showed how deep the organization was in young, talented defenseman. This year? Not the case.

As I witnessed firsthand yesterday, there is no Matt Hunwick or Matt Lashoff waiting in the wings this season to step up. All three goals in the Bruins 3-1 loss to the boys from NYC were a result of defensive lapses that can be specifically pinpointed to a young, inexperienced defensive corps. I'm betting if I told you at the start of the season that the Bruins' momentum in mid-season would be most jeopardized by the loss of Mark Stuart and Andrew Ference, you'd have laughed it off. But let's take a look at the replacements for these guys...

Johnny Boychuk - 24 career games played and personally responsible for the second goal last night. He made a number of mental mistakes giving up the puck in his own end or at the opposing blueline. Worst of all was his overreaction to a bump from Brandon Dubinsky in the second that led to Dubinsky scoring the second NY goal.

Adam McQuaid - 5 career games played. McQuaid looked amazingly slow to the puck last night (worse than Mark Stuart, believe it or not) and is a -4 in these first 5 games.

Now granted, Boychuk is promising offensively and set a franchise record with 66 points from the blueline for the P Bruins last year, but he's basically a bigger, slower Dennis Wideman with a harder shot. Good for offense, not so good for a team that is built on keeping the puck out of the net.

Finally, when a pretty good team loses top players like Savard and Bergy, the other top players have to be playing at their peak, and guys like Chara simply were not yesterday. Z made a really poor decision pinching up on the first Ranger goal yesterday which left a 3 on 1 behind him down in the slot. This kind of breakdown kills a team that's already on the ropes.

The Bruins need to weather the storm out west for a week or so now. How much water they take on is going to depend on these young d-men.

1 comment: