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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Bruins Begin Final Push For the Playoffs

Carl+Soderberg+and+the+rest+of+the+Bruins+have+work+to+do+between+now+and+the+playoffs
Carl Soderberg and the rest of the Bruins have work to do between now and the playoffs

The Boston Bruins’ 2014-15 campaign heading into the All-Star Break could be summed up in two words—inconsistent and lackluster. A team that won the President’s Trophy the year before should come in with high expectations, even with their disappointing playoff exit at the hands of rival Montreal.
The Bruins struggled right out of the gate, searching for their identity after losing key contributors Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton via free agency, and Johnny Boychuk via trade. A reason for the Bruins’ success last season was a rejuvenated power-play. Boston became accustomed to being subpar at best on the man advantage, but that changed with the addition of Jarome Iginla, a proven veteran goal-scorer. With the addition of Iginla, and with Torey Krug now a fixture on the man advantage from the blue line, the Bruins power-play went from 26th in the league at a 14.8% success rate in 2013 to 3rd in the league at 21.7%.
However, the Bruins power-play moved to the middle of the pack this season with a 17.4% success rate, which is good for 18th in the NHL. However, despite all the other factors, Boston did go into the All-Star Break on a high note, winning six of their last eight matches beforehand. They had a great first game back by defeating the New York Islanders 5-2 before suffering a tough loss to the Rangers (3-2). So, here is what you can expect from the Bruins in the second half.
One thing to note is the potential awakening of Tuukka Rask. Rask won the Vezina trophy as the league’s top goaltender last season, but he certainly did not look elite for much of the first half. Rask was the model of inconsistency in the first few months of the season. He went 4-4 in October with a .899 save percentage and a 2.82 GAA. He had a stellar November, going 7-2-1 with a .935 save percentage and a 1.90 GAA. He spiraled out of control in December, going 4-4-3 with a .896 save percentage and an abysmal 2.98 GAA. Rask was giving Bruins fans a reason to worry amidst criticism that he was intimidated by the rival Montreal Canadiens, and the fact that he was 0-2-0 against them with a .848 save percentage. A sky high GAA of 3.99 was not helping his cause.
Rask began to find his game heading into the break, and opened the sprint to the playoffs with a great performance in a win over the Islanders. Tuukka Rask will have one more chance to prove himself against the Canadiens, to maybe turn things around. Despite that, expect Rask to return to Vezina in the second half and backstop the Bruins to a playoff appearance.
Expect more big things from young blue-line prodigy Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton finally showcased his potential in the seven game series loss to Montreal, as he was one of the only bright spots of the series for Boston. Hamilton currently leads all Bruins defensemen in points with 27. He is establishing himself as the heir to the throne of Chara as the Bruins’ top defenseman. If he continues this level of play, the Bruins defense will only get better through the duration of the season. It would be a safe bet to think he will continue the pace he is on.
A wild card for this season is the production of the Lucic-Krejci-Pastrnak line. This is the Bruins’ top line and has been playing well when Boston has found success. Much of the Bruins’ poor play to start the season could be attributed to injuries to Chara and Krejci. David Krejci led the Bruins in points last season and was supposed to be a big part of their offense this year, so his injury did decimate a roster that was already lacking in talent.
David Pastrnak is an interesting case, as he played very well in the beginning of the season before going to represent the Czech Republic in the World Junior Championships. He led the Czechs in scoring during the tournament. Pastrnak came back and made an impact out of the gate, and may have sparked the Bruins’ turnaround. He scored four goals in two games against the Flyers and Lightning and has six points on the season. His numbers are not the best but he has certainly shown enough skill to give us hope.
Perhaps the player with the biggest impact on the success of this line is Milan Lucic. Lucic is basically a bull in a china shop. He is a rough and physical player who makes his money in front of the net and creates space for his skillful and speedy line mates. However, Lucic has a tendency to be inconsistent and “disappear,” for lack of a better term, leading to a lot of trade speculation surrounding the winger. This is when the Krejci line can become a liability on the ice. However, if he shows the commitment to success and brings his intensity, he can be an impactful player both on and off the scoreboard.
The Bruins are a team shrouded in mystery right now as they still search for their identity. Not much is certain, as they could be headed for a myriad of changes. Peter Chiarelli’s track record says that this will be the team on the ice for the rest of the season. However, it would be in the team’s best interest to take a chance and acquire another top winger. Another scoring threat could completely change the dynamic of this team and make it a consistent and more legitimate threat in the weak Eastern Conference. If that happens, they certainly won’t be the “Big Bad Bruins” of the ’70s, but they will be a lot better than they are now.