Can Tim Thomas do it again?
After winning back-to-back games for the first time since the middle of January, the Bruins hope they're headed in the right direction. But that doesn't mean there aren't questions to answer.
Q: What are your thoughts on Tim Thomas? Is he tired from the extended run last year, the outside distractions, not in a rhythm possibly? Maybe due to his incredible play the last few years he is thought of as unbeatable, but this year, with the help of some spotty D, he has let in some "bad" goals. Secondly, do you expect him at peak performance come playoffs? -- Brian M. (Baltimore, Md.)
A: Not sure if you wrote this question before or after the injury to Tuukka Rask and the signing of Marty Turco? But after that, he really has no choice but to be the Tim Thomas we saw in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs and the first half of this season or the Bruins' season will end earlier than they want it to. As for fatigue, I definitely think there might be some of that, but that's to be expected. But the problem is once the regular season is over, Thomas could very well be on his own in goal (Turco can't play in the playoffs and it's unclear when Rask will come back, which would leave the B's with a very inexperienced backup). That being said, Thomas did it last season, playing in all 25 of the Bruins' playoff games, and he can do it again. Thomas thrives off adversity and challenges and he has one in front of him now.
Q: So ... The Bruins signed Turco (I like it). My question is, if Tukka isn't healthy when the playoffs begin, could the Bruins use Turco in the playoffs if Thomas gets hurt or pulled from a game? Thank you. -- (Jim Osgood, Massachusetts)
A: By now you probably know the answer, which is that Marty Turco cannot play in the playoffs. But that being said, like I mentioned above, Thomas played every game in the Bruins' 2011 Stanley Cup run, turning in one of the best performances in the modern era of the NHL. Thomas has proven he can handle the load and while he probably is a bit more tired this season, the adrenaline of the playoffs will take over. I think he will be fine.
Q: Is it me or are the Bruins horrible right now with consistent puck support in both ends? On the power play and even dump and chase plays, while the B' may be first to the puck, they are immediately out numbered. Guys are standing around waiting for the pick to squeak out to them and it's not happening. On defense, it's the same thing. Players are coming down low enough to help out, and forwards are so hesitant to challenge a shot from the point. Lastly on offense, have you noticed that every team is now able to play the Bruins attack and force them outside? With the exception of Seguin, I keep watching these teams just read the same entry plays and force forwards out. There is no net front presence to keep opposing D at home and therefore they can aggressively and successfully thwart the Bruins attack. Whew, I feel better now. -- Josh Cohen (Hartford, Conn.)
A: Wow! Now that was a rant and I do hope you're feeling better after unloading there! I'd actually have to agree with everything you're saying there and I think the Bruins' failure to adapt this season has hurt them. Last season, Mark Recchi told me that one of the main reasons the Bruins were able to succeed and have that Cup run was Claude Julien switching things up when he had to and adapting to other teams while maintaining the team system. I haven't seen that as much this season and the Bruins need to do it once again if they are to have similar success.
Q: How long does Julien wait to sit Corvo? They picked up Zanon and Mottau and with Ference returning do you think a message will be sent to Corvo, or will Julien keep going to him even though the Bruins have better defensive options? -- Mac (Los Angeles, Calif.)
A: My guess right now based on how defensive Claude Julien has gotten when pressed on this topic by the media is that Joe Corvo's time is winding down. I do believe that if he doesn't at least provide some consistent offense before Andrew Ference returns then Julien will turn to one of Mike Mottau or Greg Zanon and Corvo will be a healthy scratch. Corvo was brought here for offense with the understanding that he can be a risk defensively, but he hasn't provided much offensive flair, so there is no point taking that risk.
Q: I'm always surprised at how quickly traded players are able to adapt to playing with new teammates and a new system. The day after being traded, Ralston is manning the point on the power play. Is this just that there aren't that many different systems/plays in the NHL or are these guys just that good? -- Mark (Astoria, N.Y.)
A: I think maybe a combination of what you mentioned there and also just experience. Brian Rolston has been around the block and in his travels he has played under similar coaching systems to Claude Julien, such as Jacques Lemaire three times. Julien and Lemaire have their own unique nuances to their coaching styles but there are strong similarities, so that allows Rolston to assimilate quickly. Plus you factor in his experience and the transition is somewhat seamless.
Q: Is it possible for the Bruins to sign both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter this summer if the current salary cap structure remains intact where the cap will go up as it has every year since the lockout? What are the chances either or both sign with the Bruins? -- Jay (Medfied, Mass.)
A: That would be quite an accomplishment by the Bruins. While it is possible that they could sign both, you have to factor in other elements than just the salary cap. That being said, chances of the salary cap going up are very slim with the current CBA expiring September 15. It will go up temporarily this summer but a smart and calculated general manager like Peter Chiarelli isn't going to be fooled by that. He also won't be fooled by the fact that if he were to sign Suter and/or Parise to long-term deals, he would eventually be forced to break up his young core of Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, and Tuukka Rask, who all have contracts expiring in the next three seasons. David Krejci's five-year contract that will begin next season could also come into play. That's why I don't see the Bruins signing both.
Q: Seems like the Bruins lack of depth at the AHL level has really showed up late this season. As much depth as the Bruins had on their NHL roster (top to bottom guys that can contribute), they clearly lacked NHL-ready depth in Providence, which is hurting them right now. Do you think that's a long-term issue or is it just that most of the B's best prospect are a little further away (still in juniors or college). -- Larry J. (Boston, Mass.)
A: That's a great and accurate observation and I think it's a combination of both their best prospects still being in juniors, some of their best prospects in recent years leapfrogging the AHL into the NHL and also that the Bruins must draft better. Their depth on defense and between the pipes is thin and they must focus on that in the upcoming drafts.
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for his next Bruins mailbag here.