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Bruins 2010-2011 Preview: Defensemen

Zdeno Chara (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

When most people think of what went wrong with the Bruins last year, the biggest problem was that they were unable to score goals to win games. Even when they were up against the Philadelphia Flyers 3-0 in the series, they were unable to keep the momentum and ended up dropping four straight games on their way to being eliminated from the playoffs.

What some people don’t realize is that the Bruins lacked major production from their defense and that includes the captain Zdeno Chara. With the 2010-11 season coming up quickly it is important to recognize who will be the common players on the defense this year.

Zdeno Chara

Complain about Chara all you want but that doesn’t mean he is terrible. I know we brought him here to help us win a championship but in the four years he’s been here, nearly every season has been a disappointment. For him though, he has played some of his best hockey while in Boston and that is a fact.

His first season playing for the Bruins he had a -21 rating on the year, but scored 11 goals and had a total of 43 points on the year. Not his best season. Then you look at the 2008-09 season in which he scored 19 goals and had a +23 rating. This past season “could” be looked at as an off-year for him because he only had seven goals. He finished with 44 points and a rating of +19, definitely not bad for a defenseman.

The one statistic that kind of hurts is his percentage of goals scored by the number of shots on goal he had. While scoring seven goals, he had a career high 242 shots-on-goal. That is a remarkable .029% of shots that found the back of the net. You have to figure that if he takes that many shots this season then he will for sure have more than seven goals.

A lot of people criticize Chara for not putting in as much effort as he has before but he also plays more minutes then anyone on the team and he averages just over three shots-on-goal per-game. Also factoring in is that he is 33 years old and isn’t getting any younger.

I do think that he will be the captain that the Bruins need this season and I expect that he will definitely have a rebound year. Something around the lines of 14 goals, 35 assists and a +25 rating is not far out of reach for Chara. Look for him to prove a lot of people wrong, especially now that he has help from Dennis Seidenberg.

Dennis Seidenberg

Seidenberg came over from the Florida Panthers last season in exchange for Byron Bitz, Craig Weller and a 2nd round pick. Seidenberg has definitely been around the league as the Bruins are his fifth team since the 2005-06 season. Although he’s never been a big goal scorer, he is a tough defenseman and will greatly benefit from playing alongside Chara.

He should start out the year on the first line and that should be a good place for him. After arriving in Boston last year, he scored two goals (one of them was a game-winner), and dished out seven assists for a total of nine points in 17 games. Also, in those 17 games, he had 33 hits, showing that he will play tough.

Coming into Boston, it’s not expected that he be a goal-scoring defenseman but rather just be a tough player. There are plenty of people to score goals on the team and as long as Seidenberg is able to get the puck out of Boston’s zone, then those other players will score. The Bruins really struggled last season with getting the puck into the other team’s zone and hopefully Seidenberg can help the team in that category.

It’s kind of hard to predict what kind of numbers he’s going to put up next season but something around six goals, 24 assists with a +15 rating might be close. Of course, his best season came in 2008-09 with the Carolina Hurricanes when he scored five goals, had 25 assists but had a -9 rating. So who knows what his stats might look like, but he will certainly be a good defenseman.

Johnny Boychuk

Boychuk comes into the 2010-11 season as the second-line defenseman. After being drafted in 2002 by the Colorado Avalanche, he failed to make it into the NHL until January of 2008 when he played in four games for Colorado. A couple months later he was traded to the Bruins and then spent some time in Providence before being called up in December of ’08 to play for Boston in just one game.

After he was awarded the Eddie Shore Award for being the AHL’s best defenseman by scoring 20 goals and having 45 assists, he was awarded with a one-year deal with the Bruins.

Last season, he was able to play in 51 games for the B’s while registering five goals, 10 assists and dishing out 92 hits. Like most defenseman, Boychuk isn’t a big goal-scorer and often lays down big hits. He fought his fair share of fights last season while playing in Boston.

Since he doesn’t shoot a lot, he probably won’t score too many goals this season as well. His role on the team is to be an enforcer. Standing in at 6-foot-2 and weighing over 225 pounds, he’s not a person other teams want to mess with.

This season I expect him to score maybe eight goals, have around 20 assists and just basically lay people out. He has a great role model in Shawn Thornton if he ever needs advice with fighting in the league. He is still young too (26 years old), so he will grow in the league this season.

Andrew Ference

Ference is entering his fifth year with the Bruins and is slated to start on the second line alongside Boychuk. Ference hasn’t played as much as other defensemen, and that clearly shows in his stats. Last season he had a meager zero goals and eight assists in 51 games.

Now, he has never been a big scorer either, but he rarely shoots the puck. Last year he only had 60 shots-on-goal, with of course none going between the pipes.

His best season came in 2005-06 when he was on the Calgary Flames. He posted four goals, 27 assists and 17 power-play assists in all 82 games. That was by far the best season he has ever had and I don’t see him duplicating it anytime soon. Just by looking at his stats, it seems like he’s just there, hanging out on the ice. Not really shooting the puck, or getting assists, or getting called for many penalties. He’s just there, there to protect in front of the goal and that’s all.

For this season I predict two goals, nine assists and a -2 rating on the year. Nothing special but that is pretty much all we can expect from the veteran.

Matt Hunwick

Hunwick is another interesting player who had a poor year last season. In 2008-09, he had six goals and 21 assists in only 53 games. Last year he had six goals and eight assists in 76 games. So the guy plays 23 more games and has the same amount of goals but has 13 less assists? Kind of strange.

It could be the fact that he had 58 shots-on-goal in ’08 and only 60 in ’09. The one thing I like about Hunwick? He’s young. No matter how well someone can do from one year to another, if they are young they can learn. He’s only been in the league for three years and in his first season he only played in 13 games, registering only six shots-on-goal.

Another thing to note is that almost every Bruins player had a breakout year in 2008-09, and the whole team struggled last season. So maybe if the team bounces back, so will Hunwick. I expect him to be on the third line for defense this season alongside Mark Stuart.

I’m thinking that Hunwick will put up numbers somewhere around seven goals, 23 assists and a +2 rating in 65 games. Like the rest of the defensemen, he will have to work hard, be physical and add some goals here and there in order for the Bruins to be successful this season. He is still only 25 years old so I do think his play will be improved this season; it just might not show up on the stat sheet.

Mark Stuart

Rounding out the defensemen will most likely be Mark Stuart on the third line with Hunwick. Also a young player, Stuart was drafted in the 1st round of the 2003 draft (21st overall by the Bruins), but he has yet to live up to his potential.

He’s appeared in 82 games twice in his five year-career already, but has not produced many scoring stats thus far. Last season he netted two goals while adding five assists in 56 games with having a rating of +1. Like Hunwick, Stuart doesn’t take too many shots so it’s not surprising that he doesn’t score too often.

One thing that he does do well is hit. Stuart has been known to lay down some pretty good hits and he’s also not afraid to finish off a fight. He’s big, standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing around 215 pounds, so he’s another player on the Bruins most teams don’t want to mess with. In those 56 games he played in, he laid down 103 hits, so it’s good to have him on the team.

As for this up-coming season, I’m guessing he’ll have four goals with 15 assists and a +5 rating. I am really not looking for him to come up big on the offensive end so anything physical he does to prevent the other team from scoring is all I want. I look forward to seeing some big hits and some bloody fights from Stuart this season, definitely.

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