There is a world of difference when it comes to picking over the carcass of the Boston Bruins’ season compared with the Pittsburgh Penguins or the San Jose Sharks.
The Bruins may have disappointed their fans by losing a tough seven-game series to the Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the NHL playoffs, but unlike the Penguins and Sharks their body of work suggests – no, demands – that a major overhaul is not in order. This may be mostly the same group that had that awful collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 and the close call to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round a year ago, but it is also the same group that won the Stanley Cup in 2011, made the Cup final in 2013 and finished first overall in this regular season.
Outside of a little age, notably with captain and best defenceman Zdeno Chara, 37, the Bruins are not in need of a lot of tinkering. Oh, there’s a lot of bleating, mostly north of the border, about an attitude adjustment in light of Milan Lucic’s behaviour in the handshake line with the Canadiens and the antics of Brad Marchand, but that is not worth getting anyone’s knickers in a twist.
Besides, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and head coach Claude Julien do not need to be reminded to make changes when they are deemed necessary. Remember budding young centre Tyler Seguin, anyone?
Chiarelli did not hesitate to trade Seguin last summer when it appeared the youngster was more interested in exploring life off the ice than in his hockey career. It was one of those trades that benefited both parties, as the Bruins received forwards Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser and all were solid in this year’s playoffs. Seguin, meanwhile, looked like someone who heeded his wakeup call and scored 37 goals for the Dallas Stars.
Centre David Krejci, who led the Bruins in playoff scoring in 2011 and 2013 but had just two points in the Habs series and four in 12 postseason games this time around, tried to shoulder a lot of the blame.
“As a top centre-man if you don’t put the puck in the net in two rounds you don’t give the chance to the team to win the game or the series,” Krejci told CSNNE.com. “I felt like I could have put the puck in the net a couple times, but I didn’t. So, I didn’t do my job in the playoffs.”
Maybe, but the Canadiens’ Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais also did an outstanding job checking him, something that is part of that hex the Habs have over the Bruins. In 14 playoff games against Montreal since 2011, Krejci has just three points.
But there is some luck involved here, too. Krejci had some great scoring chances that would have made a difference in Game 1 against the Canadiens and missed. A lot of other Bruins can say the same. Pucks hit posts, open nets were missed. Stuff happens, so it is no reason to call for Krejci’s dismissal.
Some of the tweaking might involve the fourth line, as the unit that Julien relied on so much in 2011 and 2013 found itself on the bench as the Montreal series went on.
There were also some problems among the younger defencemen but that is not unusual with developing players. Matt Bartkowski had his woes but it was a learning experience and both Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton continued to show they will be NHL stars. That will be crucial since Chara is going to need to cut back on his ice time.
Finally, about that sportsmanship stuff with Lucic and Marchand. Yes, it wasn’t cool for Lucic to threaten to kill Canadiens’ forward Dale Weise next season. But it was just yapping immediately after an intense series.
Everyone likes to go on about how you need the kind of player who ramps up his game and takes no quarter in the playoffs. When you look up hard playoff performer in the hockey dictionary you see the scary visage of Lucic. He can play on my team any day.
Yes, I may have a word with Lucic about being obstreperous in the handshake line. I might even be a little more stern with Marchand about that headslap on Plekanec at the faceoff circle. I’d be even sterner with the referees if I had the chance – it’s not as if Marchand isn’t known for that stuff. But again, we want competitive people and sometimes that comes with the package.