NHL PLAYOFFS 2013: Boston Bruins – return to the top?

Image courtesy of Bleacher Report.

Image courtesy of Bleacher Report.

As we get closer to the playoffs, IceNationUK will be taking a look at each team’s roster as they clinch a spot in the postseason.

Next, the Boston Bruins.

SEASON LOWDOWN

The Bruins celebrate a goal. Image courtesy of bruins.nhl.com.

The Bruins celebrate a goal. Image courtesy of bruins.nhl.com.

 Boston had a terrific start to the season, gaining points in all but one game in January (5-1-1), and again in February (8-1-1).  March saw them cool off slightly, going 9-6-2, but they still never lost more than 2 games in a row.  April has seen the team cool off even more, going 4-3-1, but they are still in a strong position – currently battling Montreal for top of their division – and poised to make a splash in the playoffs.

The team looked to be in on every star player available at the trade deadline, but had to “settle” for Jaromir Jagr, who has 7 points in 7 games for the team since coming over, and Wade Redden, who provides some veteran depth at defence – something that all smart teams do at that point in the year.

Boston’s season has been overshadowed by the likes of Chicago and Pittsburgh and Anaheim, but they really have been fantastic all year, and there’s not much more to really say.

2012/13 Season Team Stats (to date):

42 Games – 26 Wins – 11 Losses – 5 OT Losses – 57 Points

Goals For = 118

Goals Against = 94

Goal Differential = +24

Home Record = 14-3-3

Away Record = 12-8-2

CURRENT LINEUP

Forwards:

BRAD MARCHAND – PATRICE BERGERON – TYLER SEGUIN

GREGORY CAMPBELL – DAVID KREJCI – JAROMIR JAGR

DANIEL PAILLE – CHRIS KELLY – NATHAN HORTON

MILAN LUCIC – RICH PEVERLEY – SHAWN THORNTON

Defence:

ZDENO CHARA – JOHNNY BOYCHUK

ANDREW FERENCE – DENNIS SEIDENBERG

DOUGIE HAMILTON – ADAM MCQUAID

Goal:

TUUKKA RASK

ANTON KHUDOBIN

EXTRA: MATT BARTKOWSKI, KASPARS DAUGAVINS, JAY PANDOLFO, CARL SODERBERG, WADE REDDEN

INJURED: MARC SAVARD

TOP SCORERS

BOSTON TOP SCORERS 2013

EVALUATION

Patrice Bergeron closes in on goal. Image courtesy of zimbio.com.

Patrice Bergeron closes in on goal. Image courtesy of zimbio.com.

Whilst the primary weakness of the Bruins has always been offence, or rather lack thereof, they have a wonderful set of forwards, many of whom every team in the league would love to have.  Patrice Bergeron has been viewed for many years as being a “Datsyuk-lite”; well the last couple of seasons, I’d say he’s been ever better than Datsyuk.  He is a phenomenal defensive forward, playing in all situations against tough competition, wins face-offs for fun, and still scores points – perhaps not at a truly elite level, but still at a rate better than most forwards.  As he goes, so does this team.  He must stay healthy for the Bruins to be guaranteed success.  On his left wing is premier-pest Brad Marchand, who continues to blossom into quite the scoring speedster, whilst also being extremely competent at the two-way game.  His shooting percentage is however very high, at 21.1%, and is primed for regression next season.  He’s always been an above average shooter though, so it won’t hurt his totals massively.

Tyler Seguin takes up post on the 1st line right wing spot, and whilst he isn’t scoring points at the same rate he did last year – if this was a full season he’d be on pace for 56 – he’d still be on pace to hit 29 goals again.  Seguin is a hugely talented player, fast and highly skilled and hopefully learning all he can from Bergeron in playing a two-way game – something he doesn’t do just yet, at least in terms of playing on the PK; he is an extremely effective 5v5 player though, playing tough competition and driving play the right way.

Jaromir Jagr a Bruin?! Image courtesy of CBC.ca.

Jaromir Jagr a Bruin?! Image courtesy of CBC.ca.

The second line of Jagr, Campbell and Krejci is a slightly odd one.  Campbell has never been a scorer at the NHL level, but he gets a massive opportunity here to put up some points – he has 5 in his last 5 games, giving him 12 on the season; I imagine he’s the defensive presence on this line primarily.  Krejci would be on pace for a 3rd straight 62 point season if we were playing 82 games, so he’s been nice and consistent, although given his talent it would be nice to see a bit more out of him.  His production has actually stalled since playing with Jagr, but I imagine it’s just a slump and he’ll break out of it soon enough.  Jagr is no longer the world-class talent he once was, but he is still brilliant, playing at not much beneath a point-per-game pace this season.  He’s been money for the Bruins since coming over from Dallas, too, and will be relied upon in the playoffs for secondary scoring and experience.

The Bruins’ bottom six has to be one of my favourite in the league.  They have 3 high quality two-way players in Kelly, Paille and Peverley – the fact that Peverley is their 4th line center is testament to their depth, as he has shown good scoring ability in the past – whilst Thornton, Lucic and Horton provide the muscle.  Lucic is having an awful season by the boxcar numbers, but one look at his shooting percentage and you can see at least part of the reason: he’s having crappy luck.  He’s unlikely to remain at 9% given his career average is 14.9%.  Horton is having a solid if unspectacular year, another guy who’s suffered in terms of bad shooting luck, but he’s still putting up some points and providing a physical presence.

2013-01-28-chara-smashes-into-boards-4_3_r536_c534

Chara smashes a Carolina Hurricane into the boards. Image courtesy of USA Today.

On defence, it starts and ends with Zdeno Chara.  He’s the do-it-all, heart-and-soul captain of this team.  A physical force, a defensive stalwart, and an offensive powerhouse, he really is the center-piece of the Bruins.  His scoring is slightly down this season, but that’s likely an aberration given his recent history.  As I’ve previously mentioned, a team with this type of defender is a team to be feared, especially in the playoffs.  Boychuk is a quality defensive player, who can chip in the odd point although he’s not managing much of that this season.  Seidenberg provides safe two-way play, being a mainstay on the penalty kill but also playing heavy 5v5 minutes and around 1 minute per game on the PP.

Adam McQuaid is a bottom six defender, whom I fear is made to look a little better than he really is given the team he’s on, and doesn’t play a great deal of minutes, but does his job solidly.  Dougie Hamilton, the second piece (after Tyler Seguin) of the Phil Kessel trade, has quietly put together a great rookie season.  At 6’5″, he is the natural successor to Chara once he retires, and things are looking pretty rosy.  He has 15 points and is a +5 in 40 games, albeit in sheltered minutes, but he is destroying the lower-level competition being sent his way.  Last but not least, Andrew Ference provides a competent two-way presence and is looked on for leadership aswell.

Tuukka Rask makes a glove save.  Image courtesy of zimbio.com.

Tuukka Rask makes a glove save. Image courtesy of zimbio.com.

In goal, Tuukka Rask has responded well to the challenge of finally being the team’s number one goalie after Tim Thomas announced his sabbatical (and subsequent trade to the Islanders), putting up a .929 SV% and 1.99 GAA, along with 17 wins in 30 games and 3 shutouts.  He’s a brilliant goalie, and whilst he’s likely partly a product of the quality team in front of him – much like Thomas – he’s definitely not a weak link in the chain.  Behind him is Anton Khudobin, playing his first full NHL season as a backup and certainly not letting the team down.  He has won 9 of 13 games, with a .925 SV% and 2.20 GAA and one shutout, and is a nice option to have should Rask fail them.

STAR PLAYOFF PERFORMER

Rask salutes the crowd.  Image courtesy of Boston Globe.

Rask salutes the crowd. Image courtesy of the Boston Globe.

Rask has played 13 career playoff games, all in 2010, and performed fairly well, but will surely be looking to really take the reins this year, his first as the uncontested starting goalie.  I foresee him playing very well, and being the primary reason for any success the Bruins have this postseason.

PREDICTION

Boston could be in trouble if they meet a team like Pittsburgh.  Image courtesy of guardian.co.uk.

Boston could be in trouble if they meet a team like Pittsburgh. Image courtesy of guardian.co.uk.

The Bruins have to be considered a favourite to win at least one playoff round, and I can’t see them not making the Conference Finals to be honest.  However, if they come up against a hot team, or a healthy Penguins team, then that could possibly give them a lot of trouble should their defensive systems not hold together.

Advertisements

3 comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s