Bruins Mailbag: Canucks Expose One of Boston’s Few Flaws That Could Prove Costly in Playoffs

Bruins Mailbag: Canucks Expose One of Boston's Few Flaws That Could Prove Costly in PlayoffsWell, that was certainly an eventful week for the Bruins.

The highly anticipated rematch with the Canucks on Saturday lived up to the hype, and things have not calmed down much since that game ended with an ongoing war of words between the clubs, Brad Marchand’s controversial hit on Sami Salo and the league’s even more divisive decision to suspend the Bruins winger for five games.

The fallout from that game dominated the entries in this week’s mailbag, though many of the submissions (especially most of those featuring British Columbia cyber postmarks) were not suitable for print. Way to keep things classy, Canucks fans, you guys are a real riot.

But there were also plenty of legitimate inquiries, and I did my best to get to a representative batch of them in this 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 continue on in the season.

Doug, now that we have nearly gone through half a season, I was wondering which player you think is better for the Bruins power play, Tomas Kaberle or Joe Corvo? Corvo has my vote.
–Roger Teixeira, Fall River, Mass.

Well, I think it’s safe to say that the Bruins are more satisfied with Joe Corvo than Carolina was with Tomas Kaberle, considering the Hurricanes have already unloaded him (and that albatross of a contract) on the Habs. Kaberle has played better for Montreal than he did for the Hurricanes, but his production (1-16-17 totals in 42 games) still doesn’t warrant the $4.25 million cap hit he carries for through the 2013-14 season. The Bruins are committed to Corvo for just this season at $2.25 million, and he’s produced an almost identical 2-15-17 line in 39 games. Their power-play production is similar too, with Corvo posting 1-5-6 totals on the power play and Kaberle 0-6-6 despite Kaberle averaging 4:04 of power-play time a game compared to Corvo’s 2:39. While other players obviously factor in as well, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Montreal’s power play is also dead last in the league at 12.8 percent, while the Bruins are in the top 10 at 19.0 percent, good for eighth overall. Add in Corvo being a plus-18 and Kaberle a minus-14, and I think the Bruins made the right choice in passing on re-signing Kaberle and adding Corvo.

It seems the Bruins are blessed at the moment with a wealth of not only forwards, but centers and the best goalie tandem in the league far and away. The only place I am wondering is maybe a veteran defenseman for the playoffs? The core group again is what any team could want, but I’m wondering if they may need a vet to cover that seventh spot come playoff time.
–Riis Anderson, Victoria, B.C., Canada

I think it’s definitely a possibility that the Bruins will look to augment their depth at the trade deadline, both on defense and up front. I have stood firm in my belief that even though they have ample cap space, the Bruins aren’t likely make a major move to add a marquee player and risk messing with the club’s chemistry unless some major injuries strike. Of the two areas, the blue line may be a more pressing need with just Steven Kampfer currently in reserve for the big club. I’m not sure anyone else in Providence is really ready to step in at this point as Matt Bartkowski struggled early in the season and no one else has really made a push for a call-up. Even Kampfer has been hit or miss in his limited opportunities. It would definitely benefit the Bruins to add a veteran at the deadline as some insurance.

Recent playoff runs have certainly shown that you can never have too many quality defensemen. Last year, Adam McQuaid and Zdeno Chara were both sidelined briefly and Kampfer was unavailable the first two rounds because of a knee injury suffered in Providence, while the previous postseason Dennis Seidenberg, Mark Stuart and McQuaid all missed games and in 2009 Andrew Ference and Matt Hunwick were sidelined. In each of those seasons, the Bruins had at least eight NHL-caliber defensemen at their disposal and needed every one of them, so I would not be surprised at all to see the Bruins make a minor move to add a veteran blueliner before the deadline.

Doug, your articles last year really kept me in the loop when I was deployed. I wanna see the B’s make a huge deal. What are the chances of a trade with the Ducks? I particularly like [Bobby] Ryan but [Corey] Perry or [Ryan] Getzlaf in a deal for [Benoit] Pouliot, [Zach] Hamill, [Jordan] Caron and maybe throw in a pick?
–Scott, El Paso, Texas

First of all Scott, thank you for your service and I am glad that my coverage of the team helped in some small way to bring a little piece of home to you while you were deployed. Unfortunately, I don’t foresee writing any articles this year about a big deal bringing one of Anaheim’s young stars to the Bruins. As I mentioned above, I really don’t see the Bruins making any major moves and disrupting the chemistry of their current core. If the Ducks really are going to part with one of those guys (and I can’t see them parting with reigning Hart winner Corey Perry under almost any circumstances), they will be looking for a far greater package than just Boston’s spare parts listed above. The asking price will be hefty, with someone like Tuukka Rask or Tyler Seguin or a legitimate top prospect like Dougie Hamilton likely needed as a centerpiece of a package to even get Anaheim’s interest.

Beyond the cost of the assets required to land one of those players, there’s also the secondary effect they will have on the salary cap. The Bruins can afford any of them this year, but they have Rask, Pouliot, Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, Johnny Boychuk, Joe Corvo and Hamill all up for contracts this summer and Milan Lucic, Seguin, Brad Marchand, Nathan Horton, Tim Thomas, Andrew Ference and Kampfer up next summer. Obviously some of those guys are expendable, but to add Perry or Ryan Getzlaf (each with a $5.325 million cap hit through 2012-13, then UFAs in 2013) or Bobby Ryan ($5.1 million cap hit through 2014-15) would require cutting ties to at least one of those marquee guys (Seguin, Lucic, Marchand, Horton, Rask) to make room.

The Bruins have won with this group, and that core is young enough to make a run at more titles. I’d rather they focus on finding ways to keep as many of the guys they have in place as long as possible rather than making a major shakeup that might never yield the kind of chemistry and success this roster has already proven it can produce.

Douglas, the recent [Brad] Marchand hit has caused many to overlook the fact that the Bruins lost by just a goal [on Saturday]. If the Bruins were to meet the Canucks in the postseason, will the physicality of Bruins overpower the discipline of the Canucks? Thanks.
–Sean Patrick, Quincy, Mass.

That was the case last year in the Final, and it would certainly be the game plan for the Bruins if they were to meet again this June. Whether it would be as effective would depend a lot on how the games were called. The Bruins need to play at even strength as much as possible. They are dominant 5-on-5, far superior to the Canucks at even strength. But the Canucks still have the edge on special teams. Most of Saturday’s game was played on special teams, and that was the difference with Vancouver scoring all four of its goals on the power play and Boston going 0-for-7 on the man advantage.

Despite that showing, the Bruins do have one of the better penalties kills in the league and their power play is significantly better than it was last postseason. There’s still room for improvement though, and the Bruins will need to be better in those areas to beat highly-skilled teams like Vancouver that rely on special teams evening the playing field against a team like Boston that is deeper, stronger and tougher. Being able to use those advantages will depend on the officials letting them play that style. On Saturday, there was some truly atrocious officiating that saw the Bruins lose Lucic on an erroneous call and the Canucks get a two-man advantage after starting a brawl. Even taking that as simply a bad day for that particular crew, the Bruins are susceptible to games being called very tight, even if called the same way for both sides. Ticky-tack penalties and a ton of power plays would play right into the Canucks’ hands and Boston’s physicality could actually be a detriment under those circumstances.

I’m curious why the league does not look at Marchand ducking hits when he is off the boards. It seems like a dirty move to me. He is protecting himself but at the same time putting the opposing player in a dangerous position. It’s exciting to watch but is there a better way to protect yourself when expecting a hit?
–Kris, Stoneham, Mass.

I’ve steered clear of the Marchand questions in this mailbag as I’ve already written so much about the situation in recent days, but I did have to include Kris’ question for one simple reason: It was sent in last Wednesday, four days before Marchand’s controversial hit in just the fashion Kris describes took place against Vancouver. Kudos to you,  Kris, for being ahead of the curve on this one. Since you obviously got a knack for seeing into the future, how about hooking us up with next week’s Megabucks numbers?

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.

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