No team is perfect, even the cup winners. Some have more faults than highlights, and those teams end up drafting very high. That’s not quite the case with this year’s Boston Bruins. But they do have faults. Some of them are pretty obvious, some need a closer examination to uncover.
The Obvious Symptoms of their faults:
- They have nothing like a viable backup.
- They have issues scoring.
- A powerplay that is wildly inconsistent
- Incomplete top six
- Poor offense from the backend
- Lack of speed or physicality in some top 9 players
That’s the six problems. Some of this is covered up by some extraordinary strengths. The top six is graced by Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak who are speedy, and near the top of the NHL in scoring. That helps, but Patrice Bergeron is behind even the pace he set in the lockout shortened season, and is still thirteen points short of his 2008-09 season which was frankly dreadful by his standards.
David Krejci is scoring at a lower than expected, if still acceptable pace, but for just the second time in his nine full seasons on the Boston roster he’s got a negative goal differential. Part of this is his linemates, who have been varied and frequently very young. Part of it is that he’s never played the game at even average speed for the NHL, and he’s now on the down-slope to his 31st birthday. I’ve yet to see an NHL player who was faster at 31 than 21.
The defense is masked by Torey Krug who is 10th in scoring by defensemen. The next highest scoring defensemen are rookie Brandon Carlo who is currently at 89, and Zdeno Chara tied with the youngest player on the roster. The other guys are well over the event horizon. As a whole, they are quite good at limiting shot attempts, only two teams have allowed few shot attempts than the Bruins, and they are the Blues and Kings in the wretched western conference. They have also generated the most shot attempts meaning they are doing a reasonable job getting the puck out of their own zone and keeping it in the offensive zone.
But their inability to score is undeniable. Only seven teams have scored less goals per game than the Bruins 2.52 per game.
- The Buffalo Sabres
- Detroit Red Wings
- Florida Panthers
- Vancouver Canucks
- New Jersey Devils
- Arizona Coyotes
- Colorado Avalanche
You can’t win games that way, you just can’t. And as Tuukka Rasks non-contact groin injury proves, he’s not physically capable of playing so much of an NHL schedule. Despite the low number of shots per game, they all add up, and so does the time in the crease. Neither youngster has seized the backup role, and Khudobin is not the guy who was in Boston a couple years back.
So what do we know about the Bruins?
- They have an efficient, orderly defense that has performed its primary duty well, even though only one player (Krug) has played in all games.
- They aren’t getting scoring from anywhere not named Marchand or Pastrnak in enough weight to push them from “hurting themselves by making the playoffs” to “let’s show the youngsters the second round”.
- The coach must be being listened to or the defense would be worse and with the current offense it would have them well outside the playoffs.
- Backup goaltending is spotty at least this year with McIntyre still learning the progame, Subban rediscovering his balance in net after his throat injury, and Khudobin likely playing through an injury.
- They can probably spare a defenseman or two to help secure a good forward because scoring wise after Krug the difference between next and worst is minimal, and as a whole they play well, even through injuries and illnesses.
What are the biggest issues:
1: They need an offensive contributor in the top 6 who is a legitimate top line winger.
2: They need to find a way to compensate for the lack of speed of Krejci and Backes (or move on from one or both).
3: They need to get the powerplay settled so that it continues (as it has the last 5-10 games) to look like a top unit, and keep everyone’s head on straight.
3a: They need to get a backup who is going to get the team to play for him (and themselves) and who will in turn put in a respectable performance.
4: They need to remove guys from the roster/system who can either net a return to solve #1 or 3a (Budaj might be available soon).