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It’s Christmas and the Bruins just passed the 36 games benchmark which is almost the half-way point of the season. It’s time to evaluate the team on their defensive, offensive and goaltending performances.
Defense: The most improved aspect of the team. Last year, the Bruins were incredibly good at creating turnovers in their own end; allowing the opponent to came back from behind and finally win the game in OT/SO. This year, the team really has a system where each player has a role and where the word “improvisation” is absent. This improvement made/makes a big difference in the standings, since the Bruins were able to win close games but most importantly learned how to retain a lead in the 3rd period. When you look at our blueline, I must say that I’m surprised with their overall performances, especially if you consider that the team lost Ward and Ference for a couple of games. Overall, the Bruins did an incredible job on reducing the scoring chances and most of the shots (from the opponents) are made from the perimeter.
Offense: Our offensive was pathetic last year, and was the cause of lots of losses. This year, the Bruins are definitely not an offensive powerhouse but they forecheck harder and they are more creative then they were under Dave Lewis. Sure, there’s improvements to be made and some players will have to step up: Marco Sturm, Glen Murray (when he comes back from his injury) and Peter Schaefer. The loss of Bergy was a huge blow among the offensive corps and Chiarelli will have to find some help knowing that Bergy can’t be replace. The $4.3 million available from Manny Fernandez’s contract will help in that regard. Our forwards will have to improve on the shooting aspect and quit their bad habit to make fancy plays. In order to score, you have to shoot…
Goaltending: Our biggest question mark, even with the performance of Thomas and Auld. Thomas had a very good start but he seems to falter lately. Thomas has never maintained the same level of excellence through one full season and that’s why Manny Fernandez was acquired from Minnesota. Both Auld and Thomas never proved that they could handle the workload of a #1 goaltender and it remains to be seen if both of them will be able to rise to the occasion. Personally, I have my doubt on both guys and that’s probably the area where the Bruins are the most at risk. Everything starts with goaltending and the injury of Fernandez might hurt more then expected.
Overall: The arrival of Claude Julien was a blessing for the Bruins. Julien makes the players accountable and has established a system where every player has a role and, most importantly, a chance to win every night. Our young players received ice time and were allowed to make mistakes without the fear to be benched at any moment. The record of 18-14-4 is better then i expected since the team was a long, long way from being competitive last year. But, I must stress that the performance of our goaltenders can be misleading and make us believe that the Bruins are a playoffs team. Honestly, I don’t think they are. The loss of Bergy and the necessary learning process of “How to win” make me believe that the Bruins will fall short. After 36 games, the team is 4th in the conference but I don’t expect them to stay that high for a long, especially with the question mark between the pipes.