Over the weekend, they stormed into the playoffs by clinching the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, a stretch drive punctuated by an outburst of three shorthanded goals on Saturday afternoon against the Hurricanes.
Then, the B’s secured the second overall pick in June’s NHL entry draft, when the Edmonton Oilers won the draft lottery on Tuesday. The B’s didn’t win the lottery, but that’s not important. What really matters is that they didn’t lose it. This is a good draft, but it’s top-heavy with two players universally acclaimed as potential franchise players sitting at the top of the list.
Sorry, Cam Fowler — you’re not Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin. I’m sure you’ll be a fine defenseman with Florida, but you’re not what we need here in Boston. We need a goal scorer to help lift an offense that finished dead last in scoring this season.
The guess here is that the Bruins will end up with Hall, and that he will make an immediate impact with the team. The B’s will also pick in the middle of that first round — although they could use that pick in a trade to bring more help to town.
Over the past 24 hours, many hockey writers have pointed out that you can’t bank on a high draft pick turning around a franchise. They point to Joe Thornton’s rookie season (3-7-10) as an example of a young player who couldn’t single-handedly get a losing team back on track.
Thornton never became the franchise cornerstone the Bruins were looking for. Hall (or Seguin) will be coming to the Hub of Hockey under very different circumstances. Jumbo Joe, the first pick in that 1997 draft, was coming to a team that had the worst record in the NHL the previous season. Bruins Country turned its Cup-starved eyes to Thornton and fellow first-rounder Sergei Samsonov to make the team relevant once again.
The difference this time around is that Hall or Seguin will be joining a team that has made the playoffs three straight years. Yes, the 2009-10 season was an adventure, but it was an adventure that ended with the Bruins winning five of their last seven games to set up a first-round series with a beatable Buffalo Sabres team.
Thornton and Samsonov joined a Bruins team that scored 234 goals the previous season. It wasn’t a bad offense — 11 other teams scored fewer goals that season. The problem in Boston was defense. The Bruins gave up 300 goals that season — a full 20 goals more than any other team.
This year’s Bruins club is headed to the playoffs because of its defense. The Bruins gave up 200 goals in 82 games this season. The only team to be scored on less often this season had Martin Brodeur in net and a stingy defense in front of him.
It’s the offense that needs help. With Hall or Seguin, plus a healthy Marc Savard ready to go next season, the Bruins should be a considerably stronger team. They don’t need the new kid to save the franchise. They just need him to add some firepower to a lineup that was lacking it for much of this season.
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