Sports

Blasberg ’18: Last chance for underachieving Bruins

By
Sports Columnist
Friday, February 27, 2015

This hockey season has left Bruins and Bostonians scratching their heads. After reaching the Stanley Cup Finals two years ago and finishing last year with the best regular-season record in the Eastern Conference, today’s Bruins have been seriously underwhelming. With about a quarter of the season remaining, the Bruins are holding on for dear life as the bottom seed in the Eastern Conference. What happened to the team that was projected to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender? And how do the Bruins create the momentum necessary to make a run in the playoffs?

Much of the Bruins’ inconsistent play is a result of their inability to score. Seeing the Bruins control possession of the puck and dictate the rhythm of play, but still lose a low-scoring game, has become a common occurrence at the TD Garden this season. The absence of goal-scorer Tyler Seguin, who was dealt to the Dallas Stars before the 2013-2014 season, is extremely apparent. Seguin, a graduate of Boston University, first made a name for himself by scoring key goals for the Bruins as a rookie in the 2011 playoffs.

But his immaturity and heavy partying habits did not mesh with the Bruins’ hard-nosed and physical style of play. He was traded just three years after he started with the team. Seguin is now one of the premier goal scorers in the league, with 29 goals and 30 asssists. His finesse and sheer talent are exactly what the Bruins currently lack. Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith, whom the Bruins received in exchange for Seguin, are respectable players in their own right. They do their jobs, yet there is only a small handful of players in the NHL who can bring the same spark to the game as Seguin.

A main obstacle on the Bruins’ road to the playoffs has been an inability to create and maintain momentum. The season started with a knee-injury to 37-year-old Zdeno Chara, the team’s backbone and best defenseman. The Bruins eagerly awaited his return after playing at just over .500 during his 19-game recovery. They viewed his return as a clear turning point in the season, but Chara’s offensive and defensive production has plummeted compared to his last few seasons. He has notched only 15 points this year, far fewer than the 40 he recorded last year and his career-high of 52. He is also maintaining a plus/minus of just plus-one, which is unacceptable for a player of his caliber.

The struggling Bruins seemed to have found their way in early November, as they strung together five consecutive victories, but they were stymied by back-to-back routs at the hands of their rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.

The Bruins once again looked as though they had finally gained some steam by the beginning of January, winning five of seven games, but their momentum was halted by the All-Star break. Since the break, the Bruins are 4-8, including a six-game losing streak, capped off by a knee injury to key center David Krejci. Overworked of late, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has struggled, and if the Bruins can’t stop their skid soon, they may find themselves overtaken by the Philadelphia Flyers or Florida Panthers — and pushed out of playoff contention.

But all is not lost. After having an important two nights to rest, the Bruins travel to New Jersey to take on the mediocre Devils Friday night, before a four-game home stand against four beatable teams: the Coyotes, Flames, Flyers and Red Wings. Despite their inconsistent play, the Bruins have shown that they have the talent and grit to hang with the best in the league. If they can win three or four of the next five games, the Bruins will solidify their playoff chances and could gain momentum for the final 20 games of the season.

The Bruins can also turn things around with a smart move before Monday’s trade deadline. They are in desperate need of goal production, and Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has his eyes on various wingers, most notably the Buffalo Sabres’ Chris Stewart. Talented yet fickle, Stewart could provide the intensity and fresh blood they need to win close games against good opponents.

Another player whom the Bruins have been eyeing is Dallas Stars forward Erik Cole. Cole, though difficult to attain, would be a much better catch for the Bruins, as he has proved far more productive than Stewart and, at 36, has the experience necessary to thrive in the playoffs.

This season has been one of many ups and downs for the Bruins, yet they have managed to stay in the mix for the playoffs. Both an effective deal before the trade deadline and a successful response to their losing ways of late are essential for a serious playoff run.


Charlie Blasberg ’18 can be contacted at charles_blasberg@brown.edu.

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  • Penn Valley

    since you don’t respond to email, I’ll reiterate that Tyler Seguin came through the Canadian junior system and never attended university at all, going pro post draft. check again!