As the Bruins return from the Olympic break, Bruins bloggers around the Internet are wondering just what the team can do to hoist the Stanley Cup this year. Did the break hurt them? Did Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli make the right decisions at the trade deadline?
Let's find out.
What aspect of the Bruins? game must improve for them to be Stanley Cup contenders?
Sarah Connors, Tea Party Throwdown: This will sound fairly obvious, but the primary difference between last year's team and this year's team is the goal scoring. Last year we had multiple 20-goal scorers. This year, Marco Sturm is the only one close to that platform with 19. David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Milan Lucic and Michael Ryder have underperformed. Our defense is solid, comparatively, and our goaltending is not the problem. The problem is entirely on the front end. Because of that, I don't think this year is a year to make a legitimate Stanley Cup run. It's a year to go into the draft with good, really high draft picks and do some rebuilding.
Cameron Frye, Beantown Athletic Supporters and According to Cameron Frye: For whatever reason this year, the Bruins can?t seem to get the puck in the net, and the lack of goals is what?s killing them. You look at the numbers Marc Savard and Co. had last year, while comparing them to this year?s stats, and you can?t help but get sick to your stomach. Granted, last season was a contract year for Phil Kessel, but the kid scored. He might have been a tremendous problem in the locker room, but he produced, and that?s something the Bruins can?t seem to do this season.
Matt, Bruins Rumors & News: The Bruins have been an elite team over the past two years when it comes to keeping the puck out of the net, but they have struggled since the lockout, except for 2008-09, when it comes to scoring. If they had a player who is a threat to score with Savard, they would be contenders. Last year, they had that and were one goal away from a conference final appearance. This team lacks anyone an opposing defense is afraid of and backs off of. Such a player would open up the ice for the rest of the team and allow for more scoring opportunities. In my opinion, the Bruins are a 30-40 goal scorer and maybe a top-four defenseman away from being a contender.
Evan Coburn, Stanley Cup of Chowder: The Bruins need to find a way to put the puck in the net. I thought they needed two things at the deadline: a winger with goal-scoring ability and a puck-moving defenseman. Unfortunately, they didn't get a goal scorer. It will take a miracle for them to be legitimate Cup contenders. You can't win if you can't find the back of the net.
How did Peter Chiarelli and the Bruins do at the trade deadline?
Connors: Peter Chiarelli's actions at the trade deadline are not the actions of someone who thinks this team is going to make it deep into the playoffs this year. If he had made a move for a top-six wing, then maybe, but it didn't seem like many teams were shopping players of that caliber for anything less than a first-round draft pick. If there's one thing I think Chiarelli did right, it was refusing to deal away those two first-rounders. I think Chiarelli ultimately recognized that one player on a struggling team does not make a Stanley Cup run. This year's draft class is incredibly deep, and in the long run, a guy like Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin will be more useful than a short-term rental.
Theresa Hofacre, Giving 100% Every Shift: I don?t think that all of the needs of this hockey club were met at the trade deadline. However, it wasn?t without good reason. While I was sad to see Derek Morris go, the acquisition of a good, mobile defenseman in Dennis Seidenberg will be greatly appreciated. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that I would rather see the young talent on this team develop than watch it be traded away for players who aren?t part of the long-term plan. Peter Chiarelli did the smart thing in holding on to all of his very valuable assets instead of making hasty (and costly) decisions.
Chris, Hub Hockey: Many fans may not agree with me on this, but I feel like Chiarelli did a good job at the deadline. In a perfect world, Chiarelli could have done a little more work on the blue line, even after the Seidenberg deal. But honestly, how much can you really do to repair a top-five-ranked defensive unit? As for the lack of gaining an offensive threat, you really can?t complain based on what was actually available. In the end, Chiarelli showed why he gets paid the big bucks and the fans don't when he made the hard decision to do nothing. You can call it a lack of [guts] or whatever helps you sleep at night, but making a move just for the sake of making a move to appease the fans would have been a huge mistake. Plus, would a guy like Raffi Torres have realistically changed this team that much?
Greg Ezell, Something's Bruin: I think his performance was horrible. The biggest reason was that he didn?t address the biggest need of the team, acquiring a scoring winger. All Chiarelli did was make a lateral move from Derek Morris (now in Phoenix) to Dennis Seidenberg and pick up a couple of college defensemen along the way. A scoring winger may not have led the team to the Stanley Cup, but these guys are in a dogfight for a playoff spot. It was a disappointing deadline, to say the least.
Both Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask are performing well. Who do you feel should be relied upon for the remainder of the year? [Editor's note: This question was asked before the Bruins listed Rask as day-to-day with a knee injury on Thursday.]
Hofacre: In this situation, the team has to go with the age-old practice of playing the "hot" goalie. Tim Thomas has struggled to find his Vezina Trophy-winning game this season, and all things considered, Tuukka Rask has done an exceptional job of picking up the slack. Rask currently leads the league in goals-against average and is fourth in save percentage. Only time will tell if the young goaltender can handle the pressure and demand of playing increased minutes.
Chris: Both of them. Many people forget, thanks to Tim Thomas? standout performance, that last season the Bruins went most of the year rotating Thomas and Manny Fernandez between the pipes with great success. Going into this season, I thought coach Claude Julien would bring that same game plan back to the table. However, after a slow start by Timmy and the growing fan support behind Rask, last year?s Vezina winner was reduced to bench duties. I know Rask is the team?s future and many fans view the future as now, but you can't throw in the towel so quickly on Thomas, especially when taking into account that the Bruins will be playing 20 games in the next month-plus to close out the season. The only way the team makes it out of that alive is by utilizing both goalies intelligently.
Ezell: I think the Bruins have made up their mind on this one — they?ll be sticking with Tuukka Rask. Thomas hasn?t played in an NHL game in over a month, and the last time he saw the ice, he was pulled against the Canadiens. For those that need any further proof that Rask is the guy, watch the game against the Canadiens on March 2, because Rask kept them in that game despite poor defense and poor shooting.
Dan, The 2-Man Advantage: The B's should go with the hot hand down the stretch, and right now, it is Tuukka?s net to lose. If suiting up Miroslav Satan will help win games, then Julien should start him.
Will the Olympic break help or hurt the Bruins?
Connors: It will help in that it gave some players two weeks to recover from injuries. Johnny Boychuk picked the perfect time to get injured, right before the break. As far as the players who spent time in Vancouver, I want to hope that the Olympics gave Krejci a taste of the success he had last year. Hopefully, that can translate into some increased intensity — I liked the role the Czechs had him in on their power play. Patrice Bergeron should be good to go soon, and everyone else is back unscathed, so I don't think the Olympic break hurt at all.
Chris: This is a tough one. My initial thoughts were positive as the Bruins would finally have a chance to relax mentally and get healthy. The break seemed to be a blessing in disguise and the savior for the 2009-10 season in many people's eyes. That was until the locker room got its hands on some magic smelling salt and went on a four-game tear (on the road) right before the break. Who saw that coming? Hopes were restored as the team quickly crawled out of the Eastern Conference cellar. The Black and Gold were finally clicking and playing up to their potential, but at what terrible timing. Now, a few weeks later, the Olympics are in the rear-view mirror, but sadly, so is that spark and intensity the B?s seemed to discover. I can?t explain what spawned that spark or where it went so quickly, but thanks to the break, that momentum has been halted. But hey, at least people will stop using injuries as a scapegoat.
Frye: Prior to the Olympics, the Bruins were on a four-game win streak and during their first game back, they completely fell apart at the seams in the third period and lost to the Habs. Taking that into consideration and the fact that Bergeron managed to injure his groin in Vancouver, you can?t help but wonder if they should ever compete in tournaments like this during the season. As amazing as it was watching them compete in the Olympics, players need to remember that it?s not the Olympic committees of their home countries paying their salaries.
Dan: Krejci was a beast in Vancouver, so if he can keep up that level of play, it will certainly help the squad. But all in all, the added rest for injured Bruins will be totally offset by the added wear and tear on Zdeno Chara and Bergeron during the Olympics.
Are the Bruins better than, worse than, or exactly as their record indicates?
Chris: I believe the team is a lot better than its record indicates. We have all heard about the injuries plaguing this locker room all season long, but I'm not going to beat that dead horse. My analysis: the players are simply underperforming. I still don't accept the excuse that last season?s second overall offense was simply a fluke. This team is still young and many of the players who we looked to make an even bigger splash this year are just not getting it done. It could be nerves, pressure or even, for a few, the dreaded "sophomore slump." What it isn?t is a lack of talent. All the pieces are there for Boston — it is just a matter of getting them to all catch fire at once.
Frye: While checking out the standings recently, I couldn?t understand how the Bruins could still be in a position for a playoff spot after having a 10-game losing streak. OK, so they won four games in a row — but is the East so bad this year that a team like the Bruins (who are lucky to score three goals in a game) seriously could have a chance to win a Stanley Cup?
Ezell: As a famous New England Patriots coach once said, "You are what your record indicates." I don?t care what the fans think, what the general manager thinks or what the coach thinks. You are what your record indicates. The Bruins are a baby step above a .500 team, which is sad considering the year they had last year. Either this team is underperforming or last year?s team overperformed.
Matt: I don't think they are as bad as their record indicates. If you look at the game logs, they have lost numerous low-scoring, one-goal games. It seems like most of the team is underachieving this season with the exception of Bergeron. They have had many games in which they just needed to bury a goal to make it a two-goal lead, and they would have won, but they couldn't and ended up losing. They've also blown a lot of third-period leads of late. This team could easily have a good extra 10 points this year, contending for a division title, but the lack of goal scoring has really hurt.