Q. As good as the Bruins are right now, I actually think they can be better. Aside from a couple of hot streaks, the No. 1 line really hasn't played up to its potential at all. If those guys really get hot and maintain some consistency, the Bruins are going to be scary good. Thoughts? -- Nate (Hadley, Mass.)
The Bruins seem very aware of their mistakes and deficiencies -- one of which is the lack of consistency from the top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton. Too many nights it appears that they are out of sync, or that they're merely going through the motions together. They need to step it up and show why they're considered the top line on the team. If not, they very well may find themselves with less ice time and watching Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin emerge as the team's go-to line.
Q. Do you worry that Lucic's suspension might change the way he plays at all? He's better when he plays with an edge, but he's clearly on the league's radar now and you have to imagine the next time he does ANYTHING even remotely questionable he's going to get suspended again. -- Jerry (Vermont)
A. Jerry, while I think that's a valid concern with Lucic, one need only look back to how he played following his collision with Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, for which Lucic was also called into a hearing with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan but received just a warning. Since then his physical play hasn't slowed down, so I don't see that happening now. I do, however, believe that his teammates and the coaching staff will caution him to keep it within the boundaries of the rules. Much like Brad Marchand, Lucic is still learning to walk that fine line, but he must not veer from his game, which has made him successful thus far. I see him doing that but I just hope he does it with more consistency.
Q. I was all aboard the Caron train at the beginning of the year, but Pouliot has been great and has a permanent spot. However I'm not sure Caron is the guy next in line either. Zach Hamill looks like he belongs, especially on that energy line. Would you say that if another injury occurs it will be Hamill, not Caron, who benefits? -- Adam A. (Milford, Maine)
A. Adam, I was right with you on Jordan Caron but clearly he has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff and management. And yes, Zach Hamill is finally making the most of his opportunities and may have a regular spot on the NHL club for now. That being said, when Hamill was called up and was chosen over Caron, I wondered if maybe Hamill was being showcased. The Bruins obviously have plenty of depth at center and even at forward; therefore, it's logical to think that if Hamill performed well, teams would be interested. The Bruins could use more draft picks to build their depth on the back end, and Hamill, a former first-rounder, could net them a solid pick. But that being said, Hamill has really earned the respect and trust of Claude Julien, and the Bruins may decide that they're better off just keeping him on the NHL squad and demoting Caron.
Q. Do you think there's any chance Bergeron makes the All-Star Game? I know he doesn't have the gaudy stats, but I can't believe there's a more solid two-way forward in the entire NHL. I love watching him play. -- Rich (Hartford, Conn.)
A. Rich, I completely agree with you that Patrice Bergeron is one of the best two-way players in the NHL. Problem is, those players aren't necessarily the ones who get voted in. He could, however, be drafted if nominated to be there. But regardless, if I am the Bruins or Bergeron, let him rest that weekend and get his recognition later with the Selke Trophy and hopefully another run to the Stanley Cup.
Q. Which team in the East do you think will be the biggest challenge for the Bruins?
I don't think Rich Peverley gets nearly enough credit for how good he is. Honestly, on a night-in-and-night-out basis, I think that No. 3 line has maybe been the Bruins' most consistent. That play Peverley made the other night off the faceoff to set up Pouliot was awesome. As good as the top two lines are, I think their third line is where they really separate themselves from other teams. -- Jim (Boston)
A. Jim, to address your Rich Peverley and third-line observations, that is clearly where the Bruins distinguish themselves as a deeper squad and an elite team. Also, Peverley is proving to be one of Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli's greatest acquisitions. His speed, versatility and puck smarts have been a great asset to the team.
As for who I think will be the biggest challenge for the Bruins in the Eastern Conference, I still maintain that the Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins are the teams to beat. Even without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang on many nights, they're still an elite team. Just as the Bruins are, the Penguins are well-coached by Dan Bylsma and they collectively buy into his system. That is why they can overcome those injuries and maintain excellence.
Q. What's up with the cap savings the B's received from Savy's medical situation? I would assume B's brass will be looking to acquire the final piece to an already dominant team (and not stuffed away in [owner Jeremy] Jacobs' purse). I assume that cap space is available for them to fill now? Could they be showcasing some of their young cheap talent (Hamill, Kampfer, Caron) to some low-revenue team desperate for cap relief? Could they make a swap now or are they waiting for better returns closer to the deadline? What position should they focus on improving and what specific players do you think the B's might be targeting? -- Brian (UMass Amherst)
A. Brian, first off all, go Minutemen! I am a proud UMass Amherst alum, so it's great to hear from you! As for the cap relief the Bruins would potentially if they placed Marc Savard on long-term injury reserve, they actually haven't filed for that yet and have not put him on LTIR. If they feel they need the money to make a move that will help them win the Stanley Cup and that move exceeds the salary cap, they can place Savard on LTIR at that point and use the $4.007 million from his cap hit to accommodate the move. There is no deadline for this to happen.
Q. As hot as the Bruins are, do you still think there's a chance they try to make a major deal for someone like Parise or Iginla? -- HT (Maine)
A. HT, with regards to the Calgary Flames' Jarome Iginla and the New Jersey Devils' Zach Parise, I think their availability will depend on whether they let it be known to their respective teams if they want to be dealt. As of now, both have indicated they'd like to stay put. Either or both situations could very well change, depending on negotiations for Parise's contract and the respective directions of the Devils and the Flames. If Calgary falters and looks likely to miss the playoffs again, then Iginla could change his mind and decide he wants to go to a Cup contender. I do believe there is a better chance of Iginla getting dealt during the season than Parise. All of that being said, I still believe the Bruins will make a move to improve their club before the trade deadline.
Q. Chara and Seidenberg rightfully get a lot of attention on D, but I think the other four guys have been really solid this year. The one guy I really like is Adam McQuaid. He might never be a top 4 guy, but he's just really solid. Plus, you can tell his reputation with the gloves off has gotten around the league -- I don't know how many times this year I've seen guys on the other team trying to stir stuff up around the net and as soon as McQuaid shows up things settle down. -- Danny (Andover, Mass.)
A. Danny, I'm not so sure I like the Bruins' depth as a whole, and I'm not confident they'd survive without Zdeno Chara or even Dennis Seidenberg. But I do agree with you on Adam McQuaid: He has become a feared fighter and physical presence on the ice. He keeps his game simple and thrives off physicality -- as do many of his teammates. I also think he has improved as far as moving the puck out of the zone in a responsible manner.
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for his next Bruins mailbag here.