Bruins fans have an excuse to feel a bit queasy after the last week. The club went on quite a roller-coaster ride, with the high of Wednesday’s wild 8-6 win over the Canadiens followed by a steady plummet back to earth with back-to-back losses to Detroit.
The home-and-home sweep by the Red Wings was particularly unsettling, as it shows that the Bruins still have a ways to go to be able to compete with the true elite powers of the league. If there was a silver lining to those setbacks, it was the timing of that harsh lesson. The Bruins still have two weeks before the trade deadline to make the necessary tweaks to potentially put them in a position to match up with such high-powered squads when it matters most in the postseason.
So while we wait to see what moves may be made in the coming weeks, here’s a look at a half-dozen items from the past week that may have otherwise slipped through the cracks.
1. Michael Ryder has righted his game after suffering through another brief slump. The streaky Bruins winger went five games without a point and eight without a goal before scoring two goals against his old club in Wednesday’s wild win over Montreal. Ryder then added two assists Sunday in Detroit. The Bruins need Ryder to get on one of his hot streaks to help get some production out of the third line and relieve some pressure from the Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci units. Ryder’s linemates, Blake Wheeler and Tyler Seguin, now that he’s returned from a two-game hiatus as a healthy scratch, need to get going as well. Wheeler hasn’t scored a goal in 14 games, though he was originally credited with one on Sunday. That was later changed to Seguin, who picked up just his second point in 12 games in his return to the lineup.
2. Claude Julien‘s decision to scratch Steven Kampfer on Sunday in Detroit raised eyebrows because it denied the rookie a chance to play in front of his friends and family for the first time as a pro in his home state. But beyond the questionable appearances of that move, the real significance is that it reveals that Kampfer might just not be ready to carry the load as Boston’s primary puck-mover on defense. Kampfer has been a revelation since his recall from Providence two months ago, but his play has slipped of late. It could just be a matter of the grind of the pro schedule catching up to him in his first year out of college, but the slight regression he’s shown in this recent stretch reinforces the need to add more mobility to a defense lacking that element.
3. Time is running out to make such additions. The trade deadline is still just under two weeks away, but several of the top names on the market have already moved, with Toronto sending Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim last week and Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia on Monday, and Ottawa trading Mike Fisher to Nashville. The Bruins may have to jump into the fray early to get the help they need, both in the form of a puck-mover on the blue line and scoring depth up front, rather than wait for the last-minute shopping on Feb. 28.
4. The Bruins may also have to start thinking about shoring up their defense as well. It’s not necessarily an area that will require help via trades, but Boston does have to get back to its solid defensive play. They no longer lead the league in goals-against average, having seen the team GAA jump from 2.12 to 2.32 after allowing 16 goals in the last three games. The Bruins still have plenty of stout defensive defensemen. The breakdowns were more in the application of Julien’s system, with defensemen getting caught up ice at inopportune times, forwards not getting back to help and both goalies having some rough outings. The goaltending is a concern, as Tuukka Rask has yet to get into a rhythm and find his form from a year ago, and Tim Thomas has shown some signs of wearing down a bit from the workload, but that tandem should be fine, especially if the players in front of them can get back to their usual solid defensive play.
5. After their fight-filled game with Montreal last Wednesday, the Bruins brought in a real expert in the sweet science. Lowell, Mass., boxing great Micky Ward was on hand to drop the ceremonial first puck before Friday’s clash with Detroit. So how would the former welterweight champion fare against the Bruins’ resident heavyweight Shawn Thornton?
“Me and Shawn? For me it couldn’t [go the distance], I’d have to go fast and land fast,” Ward said. “But on skates, Shawn would kill me. Hopefully I’d rip his body apart, but on skates? No. He’d tattoo me.”
Such a bout is unlikely, as Ward and Thornton have actually formed a friendship over the last few years.
“He’s a good guy, a real down-to-earth guy,” Ward said. “He’s more than just a hockey player, he’s a good kid.”
6. There were no fights in Friday’s game, but Ward did see plenty on Wednesday, when he was on hand as a fan to watch the donnybrooks with the Habs. Ward was already a hockey fan, but if he had had any doubts, that game would have won him over for sure.
“I was here [Wednesday] too, I loved it,” Ward said. “I was into it big time. It’s not just because of the fights. It was a good game. They were up and they came back. It was a seesaw battle, and that’s what I liked about it.
“And also the fights,” Ward added with a smile.