Big trouble

Two games, two goals for and 10 goals against.

Malcolm Subban was chased Tuesday against Minnesota in a 5-0 home drubbing, and Zane McIntyre’s first career NHL start began with promise Wednesday at Madison Square Garden where the B’s took a 2-0 lead on goals from David Pastrnak and Austin Czarnik (his first in the NHL), but were undone by another putrid second period and allowed five unanswered to drop to 3-4 overall.

We knew the Bruins were going to have ups and downs, but to have lost both of Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin…they’re in it deep because neither one of Subban nor McIntyre appears to be prepared to carry the B’s through their current injury woes. Khudobin is on the shelf for several weeks, but the B’s have been completely silent on Rask’s status…that could mean he’s close or it might be the worst kind of news- any long-term injury to the veteran netminder and former Vezina Trophy winner and the Bruins are screwed. Let’s be clear- last night’s loss was not McIntyre’s fault. Sure- he gave up a soft goal to Kevin Hayes (both Boston guys the Bruins courted- Hayes and Jimmy Vesey tallied for the Rangers- file it under “rub salt in the wounds” category) to tie it at two, but he was outstanding at other times in making saves that should have been goals. Unfortunately, the NHL is an unforgiving business and the final score, even though the offense went dormant and the defense left McIntyre in a vulnerable position time after time…that 5-2 end result is what we’re left with.

The defense is struggling, but not in the ways we anticipated. Torey Krug is still not himself since his offseason shoulder surgery. He’s a step behind the play and trying too hard from the looks of it. He’s too good a player to stay in a prolonged slump for much longer, but he’d be the first to tell you he’s played poorly from the beginning. Last night, he was a key contributor to New York’s first goal on the power play by Rick Nash, failing to clear the puck when it was on his stick and then being so far out of position so as to allow Nash two shots to get it in uncontested off to McIntyre’s left. Adam McQuaid, who missed the first five games to injury, is now back and to say he’s not been good is the understatement of the century right now. His lack of mobility has a spotlight on it right now and last night, he was exposed multiple times by long lead passes in the neutral zone. For all the praise we saw Brandon Carlo getting on Twitter last night- he simply wasn’t very good either. He at least battled hard and competed, but he wasn’t effective in several 1-on-1 situations and was burned several times when he pinched up and then found himself behind the play. Note- constructive criticism of a player’s performance is not “hate” but it’s typical of fans to scapegoat certain players while conveniently ignoring the mistakes of the ones they’re solidly behind. Carlo’s a heck of a young defender, but he doesn’t get a pass on his mistakes. Last night, he was part of the problem and not the solution, but to be absolutely truthful- Carlo had a lot of help on the blame line.

We could go on and on…David Backes is out with an elbow injury and his absence could be weeks vs. days…Matt Beleskey is a game hitter but is completely MIA offensively. Ryan Spooner can’t seem to get in gear- the wing thing isn’t working. David Krejci assisted on the Czarnik goal, but like Krug, he hasn’t been himself either after hip surgery. Jimmy Hayes…enough said.  And the beat goes on.

We don’t have the answers you seek. Dan Vladar, he of 35 saves for Providence last night vs. the Toronto Marlies in an OT loss, isn’t one. He’s simply not ready, even if there are promising signs to his development. To those who want the Bruins to go out and trade for a goalie- it’s not that simple. Guys like Ondrej Pavelec (Jets) and Mike Condon (Penguins) can be had, but with their GMs knowing teams like the Bruins and the several others with goalie issues like the L.A. Kings, are over the barrel, the cost is probably not worth it. The type of player that could be had via trade or waivers isn’t going to make enough of a difference to justify the cost. Had a fan on Twitter say yesterday that a guy like Pavelec could be had “for a song,” and perhaps that person is right, but we would submit that unless that song is future considerations or unless Rask is gone for the foreseeable future, what is the point of giving up a pick or prospect just to be stuck with three NHL goalies and a mediocre one in Pavelec when Boston’s 1-2 goalies return to health?

The goaltending position is not the issue here. Yes, Subban and McIntyre aren’t likely to be the answer in the short term, but with the defense and offense misfiring badly, that need not be the focus for change. GM Don Sweeney knew coming in that his D wasn’t very good and was hoping they would surprise and overachieve. That hasn’t happened, and the struggles are now magnified without the top net minding talents, so here we are.

With the schedule getting tougher, it sure looks like things are going to get worse before they get better, but for now- we’ll have to wait for the other shoe to drop on Rask. We’re seven games in, and you’d think the team is 0-7 as opposed to 3-4 but the woes are exacerbated by the knowledge that the defense was a problem area going in. The team was counting on Krug to be a key cog, and right now, he’s not delivered- that puts pressure on everyone else. Colin Miller looks great…at not accomplishing much. We just don’t think he has the vision and head to be anything more than a role player who can chip in with offense but who doesn’t process the game quickly enough to be an effective player in his own end. John-Michael Liles has not been good and looks like he’s 36 after giving the B’s a shot in the arm when he first arrived at the trade deadline last year. Zdeno Chara and Carlo have been the bright spots, but let’s be honest- it’s a mediocre group. We all know it…counting on Kevan Miller to stabilize the blue line play is a pipe dream, too- he’s just not that player. That means some kind of change has got to happen at some point, and the change must be meaningful, otherwise we’re just papering over what is holding the Bruins back.

That’s on management to figure out.

3 thoughts on “Big trouble

  1. Great summary of the season so far. I’m interested on your take on a few things.

    It seems like while the league evolves (speed) – we still have the same ‘ol Bruins (“tough to play against”). It’s never good to be the ones that are late to adapt, but better than to never at all. It seems like two years ago the change was realized and began. It wasn’t easy but our first excuse was personnel. At this point, it’s hard to argue they haven’t tried to, or had time to address that. I see no progress – except that of the wrong direction. Especially in the defensive zone, it doesn’t take an expert to notice. I hear this saying “they’re caught in between who they want to be and their identity” . I don’t think the players and management take much stock in the Bruin “Identity”. Not now anyways as it’s not won them any playoff games in two years. Maybe that’s where I’m wrong, but that leads to my question. What do you think is most to blame? Didn’t start early enough? Wrong personnel moves? Coaching contradictions? Cap troubles didn’t allow for necessary adjustments? Or perhaps it’s not wrong and this is just the growing pains we chose and should expect.

    How do you see Claude’s role in all of this? I’ve been of the “it’s not his fault – if we fire him he’s immediately hired elsewhere” view. But I’m conflicted. Where I mostly credit him for coming so close to the playoffs last year despite a weak defense, it’s getting harder to see it like that when things aren’t changing. There’s also the interesting case of the Penguins going from borderline playoff team to league champions in half of a season after a coaching change. That’s with a rookie goalie and a mediocre defense compared to their competition (on paper that is, and we see how wrong paper can be). Now I understand this is the outlier, coaching changes don’t usually happen this way. But, I can’t help but think after watching the same team for 2+ years that he’s out of ideas. If the current trend continues, how long do you think we start hearing the yearly Claude talks (maybe we have already) and how much leash does he get this year?

    Lastly, the Pastrnak hit. If you want to argue that it’s not a suspendable hit – I’d say to each his own, certainly not the worst hit I’ve seen lately. But, in true passionate fan fashion, I can barely find someone who thinks that it was a hit to the head at all. I’m not sure what replays everyone else was watching, but Giradi’s head was the first thing to go back. What bothers me is that Girardi was just landing from his jump, in a super vulnerable position and standing up tall. Why was there a need to get anywhere near his head? Any body contact at speed would have sent him flying. That just reeked of an overeager hit from someone who doesn’t have much experience delivering them – or someone who is used to be the small guy on the ice and overexerting themselves to compete. If someone hits Bergeron like that, I’m jumping through my TV screen. It was unnecessary and I hope it’s lesson learned. Am I crazy? Am I being too soft on the “NO HIT LEAGUE”?

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