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Thursday, January 12, 2012
Mailbag: Marchand and more

By James Murphy
ESPNBoston.com

It's time for another set of Bruins questions, so let's get right to it.

Q: Joe Corvo has been OK this year, but certainly nothing special (he was brutal Tuesday against the Jets). Out of all the Bruins' needs, to me a more offensive-minded defense is still at the top of the list. Thoughts? -- Phil (Nashua, N.H.)

A: I'd completely agree with you on what the Bruins' needs are at this point. But I'm not so sure Joe Corvo has been as bad as you believe. Did I expect more points from Corvo at this point? Yes. But that being said, his play has steadily improved as the season has gone on. Just as the team did as a whole, Corvo struggled early on, but I think he has fit in better as of late and been able to use his offensive skills. Yes, he wasn't that great on Tuesday against the Jets, but again, that was a teamwide problem as the Bruins struggled in the first two periods. Still, another offensive-minded puck-mover could help at the deadline.

Q: I know Thornton addressed it some after the game, but it has to be tough to fight a former teammate and friend like Mark Stuart (I guess it would be different if it was a former teammate you didn't like). I know it's Thornton's job and to him it's just part of the game, but still, that can't be easy? -- Matty (New Haven, Conn.)

A: You're right. Thornton told the media (and then me privately) that it was difficult, and he actually reached out to Mark Stuart following the game to meet up with him for a beer, but Stuart was exhausted from the Jets' long road trip and also not happy with the loss, so he decided to order room service and stay at his hotel. But I think both Stuart and Thornton understand it's part of the game and there truly were no hard feelings there. Stuart was a huge part of that Bruins dressing room for the last couple years until he was dealt at the trade deadline last February, and every Bruin was sad to see him go. Stuart was sad to go as well, and I think there will always be a mutual respect between him and the Bruins.

Q: It's all well and good to say that the Bruins (and Marchand) shouldn't change the way they play. But isn't it pretty obvious now that the Bruins have a target on them (just look at the penalty call on Thornton against the Jets the other night) and have to at least try to be a little more careful? They already have two guys that have been suspended -- Marchand and Lucic -- with each one of them staring an even longer suspension right in the face if they do anything else. So much for all the conspiracy theories about the league favoring the Bruins ... -- Rick (Boston)

A: First, I have to completely disagree with you if you are implying there is some sort of conspiracy against the Bruins from referees and the league. Let's look back, and I bet you can find plenty of instances (if you look at it objectively) when the Bruins got away with penalties and/or suspensions and fines. Referees and the powers that be in the NHL are human like all of us, and they make mistakes. Do I think they showed their human side in a big way Saturday and let that game against Vancouver get out of hand? Yes, I do! But they did so on both sides and it resulted in complete mayhem! As for your point that the Bruins must change their style to avoid more penalties and suspensions, the Bruins have an identity and teamwide concept that has won a Stanley Cup and has them in position to repeat. They definitely could be a bit smarter and less obvious with some of their infractions, but they shouldn't change their style. Remember that this physical style won't be as penalized in the playoffs, and that is how the Bruins won the Cup.

Q: The stats show a Bruins goalie has led the league in GAA for three straight years [and is leading again this year]. I only see a couple games a year in Texas (formerly Prov RI). Is it the D scheme or is it really the goalies? -- Mighty Mike (Austin, Texas)

A: I think the Bruins' success in goals-against average has been a combination of the team sticking to its defensive foundation and the goalies being that good. Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask are elite NHL goalies and have stolen plenty of games for their team. But some nights the team has picked them up, as well. It's a case of the entire team buying into Claude Julien's system and having two No.1 goalies at your disposal.

Q: Every time Boston has given up two or more power-play goals in a game this season, they have lost. Would you say that the number of penalties ... is what has been the biggest problem for Boston this season? -- Jorge Melendez (San Juan, PR)

A: I'm not sure that penalties have been the main issue in Bruins' losses, but that is a glaring stat and obviously plays a role in those losses. However, as I pointed out above, the Bruins are at their best when they play within their system and don't veer away from it. Taking bad penalties is veering away from it, and I do think that controlling emotions and a lack of discipline can be the Bruins' biggest weaknesses. I recently said on a radio show that it's ironic to me that, in my opinion, the Bruins' physicality and emotion are their biggest strengths but can also be their biggest weaknesses when they don't control those emotions.

Q: Is the NHL looking into statements Coach of Vancouver Vigneault about players intimating that other players should injure Marchand? -- Dan

A: Unfortunately, I don't believe the NHL took any actions to investigate the comments of Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, but I definitely think they should have. Is what he said about Brad Marchand "getting it" -- and his accusations that Marchand is dirty -- on the minds of many across the NHL? I can tell you from experience (and what has been told to me) that it is. But to make threatening comments and basically put a bounty on the head of Marchand was irresponsible and definitely not what should be said in the current climate of the NHL, where the league is doing its best to eliminate head shots.

Q: I think the suspension to Marchand was excessive and not supported by the facts so I wonder if the player can appeal the suspension through the players' union. -- David Dalrymple (Nashua,NH)

A: I'm not sure the suspension was excessive. I pegged Marchand for a three-game suspension, but his clipping penalty on Sami Salo was exactly the type of dirty play the league is trying to eliminate. The NHL is definitely trying to rid the game of dirty plays and I'll support it. As for your question, in this case, I believe Marchand can appeal the suspension but he chose not to.

Q: Hey Guys, the Bruins are in a very good place in terms of the salary cap. Do you think the Bruins will look to add a big piece around the deadline or will they use that cap space to re-sign guys like Rask? -- Greg (South Hadley, Mass.)

A: I think the Bruins will do both. They can still take Marc Savard's $4 million off their cap hit, and that will give them over $6 million. But that can be used only to acquire salary at the deadline and then goes back on the books over the summer. Still, after that they will have six unrestricted free agents this offseason, and chances are they won't sign all of them and instead will look to use some of the money to re-sign their core restricted free agents. So as of now, the Bruins are in prime position to add a piece or two for another run at the Stanley Cup and also to sign the players they need in the offseason.

Q: Pierre LeBrun just put up his midseason awards. And it was extremely nice to see Bergeron at the top of his list for the Selke. However going through all the comments, it appears most people aren't satisfied that he even belongs in the same conversation as Kessler, Towes, or Datsyuk. Anybody who watches Bergeron knows he is in that conversation, what would you say to help convince other fans of Bergeron's Selke worthiness? -- Adam A (Milford, Maine)

A: Right before answering this question, I received an email that Patrice Bergeron was not named to the All-Star Game, which even adds to your point that he doesn't get enough respect across the league. I agree that he should be a prime candidate for the Selke and I also think he should've been named to the All-Star Game. But I think that Bergeron's humble personality and game is why he may not ever get the proper attention he should from fans and media. But trust me, coaches, players and management across the NHL know just how valuable he is to the Bruins and know he is one of the best two-way players in the NHL.

James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for his next Bruins mailbag here.