It was just 14 days ago that Bruins fans, myself absolutely included, were consoling themselves about the Bruins being 8th in the East with the team also being 6th in corsi in the league. That’s now dropped to 10th in the few games since the All Star break that the Bruins have played, while their competition has played a few more in that time. And the B’s are all the way down to 14th in fenwick, so it’s only fair to ask, are the Bruins that good?
It’s 100% fair to question the Bruins as legitimate contenders based on those numbers. The team’s fenwick/corsi for percentages are 51.2/51.6% compared to 53.5/53.9% from last year. That’s a sizable dropoff, and it looks even worse when the team’s goals for percentage has fallen from 61.4 to 52.5.
The good news for the Bruins, as has been the case for about 7 seasons now, is that the B’s don’t have to win with just their skaters, because their goaltending can make up some of the difference. Tuukka seems to be getting back on track, which will be huge for the team come playoff time. But obviously, that kind of dropoff really makes it seem like the Bruins are merely a good team and not a great one, doesn’t it?
The question seems to be whether the Bruins’ decline last year — in terms of skaters — is primarily due to the departures of Boychuk and Iginla and the injures earlier in the year, or whether it’s much more than that. Call me an optimist, but I think the decline this year is mainly the result of losing those 2 guys and Krejci and Chara early in the season, and has little to do with an overall drop in the team’s level of play otherwise. The reason this distinction is important is because, if the B’s are able to solidify the spots vacated by Iggy and Johnny Rocket, then they could be pretty close to as much of a threat in the playoffs as they were last year. They could be an elite contender and not just a contender.
IF the team solidifies those spots, definitely name me king of the “Bruins are a top contender” bandwagon. IF. But the B’s really need to find replacements, or it will be an early summer again this year.
The key guy to help out the forwards is clearly David Pastrnak. The key guy to help out the defensemen is clearly not on the current roster. Pastrnak could provide enough of Iginla’s production that the forwards are Stanley Cup worthy, especially because Eriksson and Kelly are playing better than last year and the team no longer employs Shawn Thornton. That means that the real pendulum in this season for their Bruins is general manager Peter Chiarelli. Chara is still elite but not the same Chara, but Dougie Hamilton has actually made enough of a jump to cover that gap for Chara. But the Bruins have a 3-6 blue line corp that is one of the 10 worst in the league. They NEED a guy to step in and play solid minutes.
Who could they get? Well I’ll be writing about 6000 posts until the trade deadline on possible acquisitions, and I’ll be going that hard because the Bruins had better get someone. If they don’t that will be the death of them.
So to answer the question in the title, the Bruins are 1 defenseman away from being an elite contender and not just a contender. That’s where they are right now, and Peter Chiarelli shouldn’t be happy with that being their status right now.