Friday, March 4, 2011
On hot streak, Lucic's edge & playoffs
By James Murphy
Q. Hey Guys, the Bruins have been playing en fuego throughout this road trip. From watching this core of players the last few years I have learned how to try and stay level through the highs and lows, but it's hard to argue with the way in which they are winning currently. My biggest concern is when they are in the playoffs and they get down two goals. Their system and offense worry me that they can't turn it on and play ultra aggressive in order to make a comeback in an individual game. Have the new additions addressed this concern at all? Will they be able to find a way to turn around games in which they have fallen back? -- Kevin (Northie, Boston)
A. Kevin, that's a question I ask myself a lot and while I like those additions of Kelly, Peverly and Kaberle, the latter would be the only real reason they can do that and it's possible he could be the catalyst. I think their neutral zone game has improved a lot and Kaberle is a main reason why. But while they are transitioning better, they must translate that into goals, and as of now they're doing so to an extent 5-on-5 but they must be better on the power play. They're moving the puck better but not executing there.
Q. When Andrew Ference is healthy again, who do you see being the odd-man out on D? -- JoeS (Boston)
A. I think that will be either Johnny Boychuk or Steven Kampfer. I like the way Kampfer has played since coming back into the lineup and right now with the way Boychuk hasn't necessarily improved, he very well could be the odd-man out.
Q. You guys answered a question about Milan Lucic's physical play a few weeks ago, but to me, it's no coincidence that he's been DOMINANT in the last few games when he ratcheted up his physical play. He's been very good all year, but when he's playing with more of an edge, he might be the best player on the ice. Thoughts? -- Larry (Hanover)
A. Larry, I totally agree and I believe the question was: "Have the Bruins instructed him not to fight?" For that, I say no, but it is better to have him on the ice than in the sin-bin. But you are correct, he thrives off physical play, and that has been evident in the recent tear he is on. He is becoming a newer version of the power forward from the late-'80s and early-'90s. I once thought it was unfair to mention those players like Cam Neely and the other power forwards of that era, but maybe not now.
Q. James, do you think Brad Marchand has a chance to win the Calder? -- Jack (Amherst, Mass.)
A. Jack, I'm not sure Marchand will win the Calder (I'm thinking Logan Couture of San Jose), but he definitely is a candidate in my eyes. This kid has shown he is a legit all-around threat. Once thought of just as a pest, Marchand has become a great two-way player on what arguably has been the best line for the Bruins with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. I like his grit, his speed, his instinct and his scoring ability. He may be a bit small but he plays big!
Q. Hey Murph! I read your comments on Tyler Seguin. Like you, I agree that any comments of him being a bust are ludicrous. The kid's getting 10 minutes a game -- how many points is he expected to put up? That being said, you said you saw him as basically a point-per-game player in the near future. If that is his ceiling, then I will consider him a bust. This kid's being compared to Steve Yzerman -- a perennial 100+ pts/season player, and Steven Stamkos -- a future perennial 100 pts/year player. Is 80-something really what you see as Seguin's peak? -- Bill (San Diego)
A. Bill, thanks for pointing that out, and that, my friend, is why I was never good at math! Let me correct myself and say that, yes, he will be like Yzerman and Stamkos. I do think he has that potential and will fulfill it. Ironically I saw him and Yzerman catch up in the press box Thursday night during the Bruins-Lightning game, as Stamkos was skating on the ice. Must have been pretty cool for Seguin, who idolized Stevie Y growing up and wears No. 19 because of him! But I do see that potential and I know it seems unrealistic right now, but be patient everyone!
Q. What do you think the Bruins are going to do with Marc Savard? Up until Matt Cooke blindsided him it looked like he was their franchise player. Also, do you think the Bruins will try to get any key free agents over the summer? -- Alex A. (Exeter, N.H.)
A. First off, let me clarify that this is totally my opinion and theory on Marc Savard and not something I have been told. That being said, I unfortunately believe Savard is done. Just based on how he described his symptoms and what he's been through, I see him trying a comeback but deciding to hang them up. The Bruins will then give him a severance package and will be exempt of his cap hit. But once Savard takes that, he cannot play NHL hockey again unless he repays all of that money (as former Bruin Bryan Berard once did to return from an eye injury that made him retire).
What the Bruins do with that money, I'm not sure. They could definitely use more scoring on the wing, but the market will be thin. Peter Chiarelli has shown a knack for using the trade route to improve his team, so maybe he does that again.
Q. Do you have any idea if Tim Thomas will have a short leash in the playoffs with Tuukka Rask on the bench -- Johnny (Montreal)
A. Johnny, that's a very solid question and based on the way Claude Julien has handled the work load between Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, he is clearly preparing for possible fatigue from Thomas and maybe the chance his play goes south for whatever reason. So while Julien didn't have a short leash for Rask in the playoffs last spring -- and maybe should have in that Philadelphia series -- I see him having one this season. Thomas is coming off hip surgery and is older, and while it is easy to forget with the way he has played, he's human. The Bruins know that and they will be ready.
Q. I doubt most Bruins fans are aware of these stats but I was wondering what you think. Since the start of the 2007-08 season, Tomas Kaberle has 12 power-play goals. During that same time, Dennis Wideman has 25. In 31 playoff games with the Bruins, Chara has 13 points and is a +1. In 30 playoff games with the Bruins, Wideman had 22 points and was a 4.
A. Pat, I think two things reading your question: First, great point on Wideman, and this shows that while he struggled with the puck last season and became a liability, he is one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL right now. As for Kaberle and his lack of power-play goals, he is what he is and that's a pass-first player. He is the Craig Janney or Adam Oates play-making defenseman of this era. The Bruins know that and that's why they got him. As a result, I believe, Chara's power-play goals will go up with Kaberle dishing him the puck. Everyone has their role now with Kaberle on board and his role isn't to shoot.
Q. What do you expect from the Canadiens next week in Montreal? The Canadiens aren't built to goon it up, but you have to think they'll want to step up and send a message to Boston that they can't be pushed around? -- Nate (S. Hadley, Mass.)
A. Nate, you're absolutely correct when you say that the Habs will want revenge and want to send a message. You're also correct in saying that they aren't built for gaining that revenge with physical play, which scares me. If they can't do it via hitting and fighting, they may seek justice with a cheap shot. I'm not accusing the Habs of being dirty, but if they are truly intent on doing that, they will either run up the score if they have the chance or target a star player for the Bruins. They will also try and bait the Bruins into dumb retaliatory penalties as well. The Bruins need to watch their backs and be disciplined.
|Is Tomas Kaberle's shortage of power-play goals in the past several seasons something to worry about?|
Q. It seems like the formula for winning the Cup recently has included one (usually two) elite-level offensive players: Kane-Toews, Crosby-Malkin Datsyuk-Zetterberg, etc. While the B's have several second-tier scorers, can they really make a run at the Cup without that stud offensive threat? -- Phil (Boston)
I won't put them on the level of players you mentioned there, but David Krejci and Milan Lucic are very close right now, and with the Bruins' depth at forward, yes, I see them having a legit chance at winning the Stanley Cup -- or at the very least making it to the finals. They proved against Vancouver they can hang with an elite team and control the tempo, and while they looked horrible against Detroit, they corrected their faults with their trades.
Q. So right now the B's and Canadiens would play in Round 1. I know the Bruins thumped the Canadiens in the last game, but Montreal worries me. I don't think they're a great matchup for Boston. Any other lower-seeded teams that you'd be worried about? -- Pedro (Boston)
I am with you. I never underestimate the Habs in the playoffs, especially against the Bruins. They simply have their number over the course of history. But this Habs team is markedly different without Andre Markov and Josh Gorges, so I don't see them as being that much of a threat. But still, never overlook your archrival!
As for other teams that could upset them in the first round, I look at the Rangers and the Sabres simply because of their similar styles to the Bruins and their goalies. Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan Miller can steal games and the latter may have revenge on his mind after last spring. Miller has been one of the hottest goalies in the NHL during the second half and he is playing with that Tim Thomas "nobody respects me" attitude after many critics in the first half questioned whether he could truly carry a team the way he did last season. The Rangers have a well-balanced attack and their games with the Bruins always seem to be one-goal differentials, so it would be a tightly contested series.
|Bruins coach Claude Julien could have a short leash on 36-year-old goalie Tim Thomas in the playoffs.|
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for his next Bruins mailbag here.