The Bruins continued their rollercoaster ride through the second half of the season, beating the Devils, dropping back-to-back games to the Islanders and Rangers, then bouncing back with a victory in Toronto.
The inconsistent results continue to be troubling, especially as the injuries on the club continue to mount, but the effort has been better of late. The Bruins also got a little help with the addition of veteran goalie Marty Turco, who cleared waivers on Wednesday and joined the team for the rest of the regular season.
Turco’s addition after Tuukka Rask‘s injury made for a goalie-centric theme to this week’s questions, but there are plenty of topics covered in the latest edition of the Bruins Mailbag.
As always, I’d like to thank all the readers who sent in questions and apologize in advance if I wasn’t able to get to yours. Please keep submitting your questions and I’ll answer as many of them as I can as we head down the home stretch of the season.
What do you think Marty Turco will bring to the Bruins?
Despite the hand-wringing over the possibility of having Turco claimed on waivers, I really don’t think the Bruins are expecting too much out of Turco. There is a reason why he went unsigned this summer and did get through waivers. He was just 11-11-3 last year with Chicago and his 3.02 GAA ranked just 39th among qualified leaders in the NHL and his .897 save percentage was 40th. He isn’t going to be the savior if Tim Thomas falters or joins Tuukka Rask on the injured list.
But Turco is an experienced pro who gives the Bruins the ability to let Thomas have a few nights off down the stretch, and they hope that will be enough to keep Thomas fresh for another long playoff run. Turco has been in playoff races before and with his experience won’t be intimidated by the situation. With Anton Khudobin also injured, the Bruins didn’t have anyone they were comfortable with even for that limited role before adding Turco. Michael Hutchinson could develop into a solid NHL goalie, but right now he’s a 21-year-old kid with no NHL experience and limited time even in the AHL. Throwing him into the fray at this point could threaten his development as well as cost Boston precious points as they look to hold off Ottawa and secure home ice for as long as possible in the playoffs.
Turco’s best days may be behind him, but with Zdeno Chara and Co. in front of him, he should be serviceable enough to give the Bruins a chance to win the handful of games he’ll play down the stretch.
What will the Bruins do if Tuukka [Rask] can’t go in the playoffs? And if [Nathan] Horton is still unavailable, do you think the Bruins still have a chance at making another Stanley Cup Final appearance?
— Jay Jackson, London, Ontario
Rask could be back by the final week of the regular season, though early in the playoffs may be more realistic if his recovery stays on schedule with the 4-6 week prognosis given. Barring a major stumble or injury to Tim Thomas though, Rask’s status for the postseason isn’t going to be a major factor. Thomas played every minute of last year’s Cup run and the Bruins will need to rely on him again if they want to make another deep run. Having a healthy Rask in support would be a nice insurance policy, but the reality is that if the Bruins have to call upon their backup goalie in the playoffs, then they probably have much bigger problems to worry about than Rask’s status.
If Rask isn’t ready to serve as Thomas’ backup in the playoffs, the Bruins will have Anton Khudobin in that role. Marty Turco is ineligible for the playoffs since he signed after the trade deadline, but Khudobin is only a couple weeks away from returning from his wrist injury. He should be back in plenty of time for the postseason and while he doesn’t have the experience of Turco or even Rask, he did enjoy some success in his limited time in the NHL with Minnesota (4-1-0, 1.40 GAA, .955 save percentage in 6 games in 2009-10 and 2010-11).
As for Nathan Horton, he was certainly a huge part of Boston’s championship run last year. While they defeated Vancouver without him after he was injured in Game 3 of the Final, they wouldn’t have reached that Final if not for his Game 7 heroics in both the Montreal and Tampa Bay series. If Horton can’t come back in the playoffs or isn’t able to return to his pre-injury form upon his return, it will be a big blow to Boston’s chances for a repeat. Losing both him and Rich Peverley has had a huge impact on the offense. They need at least one of them, if not both, to be back and productive in the postseason to have a chance to get out of the East and defend their title.
As the Bruins beat the Senators [5-3 on Feb. 25] and seemed to finally right the ship, I noticed young call-ups — particularly Carter Camper — were really contributing, not only with that one goal, but by injecting some energy and sparking more physical play. The very next game [a 1-0 loss to Ottawa on Feb. 28] the team looked lifeless and incredibly out of synch. Why were these guys sent down after the trade deadline and do you see them getting called back up soon?
— Christopher O’Brien, Bristol, R.I.
The simple answer is that they were caught in a numbers crunch after the Bruins acquired three veteran players (Brian Rolston, Greg Zanon and Mike Mottau) without giving up anyone off the roster at the deadline. With the new additions, Carter Camper, Josh Hennessy and Andrew Bodnarchuk weren’t going to get any significant playing time and their development were better served getting ice time down in Providence.
While it was nice to see Camper get that goal in Ottawa, I didn’t really see those youngsters making the dramatic impact that you did. That goal was his only shot in three games and his ice time decreased with each outing, with that Ottawa game his lowest at just 5:57. Hennessy also played a low of 4:25 in that game and Bodnarchuk never dressed while up with the big club.
Camper and Hennessy each played two games after Rich Peverley went down with a knee injury and both played against Ottawa with Shawn Thornton also out with an illness. Rolston took over the roster spot vacated by Peverley upon his acquisition, while Thornton returned after just a one-game absence. Rolston hasn’t been overly impressive so far in second stint with Bruins, but is still defensively responsible and experienced. Claude Julien trusts him in all situations as he’s seen time on power play and penalty kill as well as a regular shift on the Bergeron line, which is a far more extensive role that any of those youngsters are capable of taking on that this point.
Thornton, meanwhile, is obviously an important contributor on and off the ice with his physical presence and leadership. He certainly provides an element of toughness and energy that I don’t think any of those youngsters possess. They added some enthusiasm, but Camper is just 5-foot-9, 173 pounds and had only one hit in three games, and Hennessy (6-foot, 192 pounds) had just two hits.
Also telling is the fact that since they were sent down, it’s been Max Sauve called up on three separate occasions as injury insurance, while Lane MacDermid also came up when Daniel Paille was sidelined. MacDermid did provide a physical presence with a fight on his first shift and six hits in his first two games. Carter and Hennessy aren’t the solution for Boston’s struggles, at least not at this point in their careers, though the first-year pro Carter in particular does remain a promising prospect who could contribute with more seasoning in the minors.
Does Claude [Julien] keep David [Krejci], Milan [Lucic] and Tyler [Seguin] together when Horty [Nathan Horton] comes back?? Will Horty end up with Brad [Marchand] and Patrice [Bergeron]?
— Greg Wainwright via Twitter (@Greg_Dubya)
Well, Horton has to make it back to the lineup before Julien will need to worry about fitting him into any particular line combination. He still has not resumed skating, and assuming he is able to return this season, he will likely need to be eased back into action a bit after such a long layoff. Throwing him right back into a top-line role may not be the wisest course considering it often takes players returning from a concussion a while to get their timing and confidence restored upon their return.
It will also depend a lot on how the new combination of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Tyler Seguin fares together in the coming weeks. They have looked good in the handful of games since being put together, but they still have to prove they can maintain that chemistry. If they do start to struggle, Julien knows that Seguin has a proven track record of production alongside Bergeron and Marchand and that combination could be reunited. Rich Peverley could also factor into the mix on either of those lines when he is ready to return. His speed could play well with Bergeron and Marchand if the Lucic-Krejci-Seguin unit continues to click, and he also has experience playing with Krejci and Lucic if Seguin moves back to the Bergeron line.
At this point it’s a little premature to pencil in any combinations with the uncertainty of exactly when Horton will return, but Julien will gladly welcome the “problem” of figuring out where to put everybody if he has too many options for the top six compared to his current situation of being so shorthanded up front because of injuries.
Has Bobby Orr’s plus-124 for the 1970 season ever been broken?
— Bill Murray via Twitter ( @biiiyb0y)
That mark not only hasn’t been broken, it belongs in the rarified air of the handful of records in sports likely never to be seriously threatened. Only once has anyone come close, with Larry Robinson finishing at plus-120 back in 1976-77. Those are the only two times any player has reached triple digits on the positive side of the plus/minus stat since the NHL began officially tracking the stat in 1967-68. Even Orr himself never finished better than plus-86 in a season, showing how that plus-124 campaign in 1970-71 truly was an amazing feat even for arguably the greatest player in the history of the game.
That isn’t likely to change any time soon. In fact, there’s only been one player to even reach plus-50 since the lockout, with Washington’s Jeff Schultz (who’s never been better than plus-13 in his other five seasons in the NHL) the unlikely owner of that plus-50 mark in 2009-10. That ties for just 117th overall for the best plus/minus in a season. Last year, Zdeno Chara led the league at just plus-33, while Tyler Seguin currently tops the NHL at plus-35 this season.
Have questions for Douglas Flynn’s mailbag? Leave them in the comments section below, send them to him via Twitter @douglasflynn or send them here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week. Be sure to check back to see if your question was answered.