|Notes and Observations Week 15: Patriots Blow Out Dolphins 41-13; Clinch AFC East||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Defense, Special Teams Carry Home Team||Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 15||Right Idea? Red Sox Bring in Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson|
Happy Halloween, Hub hockey fans! You need not look far for anything scary this year! Just check out the NHL standings, where you’ll find the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins (3-7-0, 6 points) dead last in the Eastern Conference and second worst in the league (thanks to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who at 2-9-1 are in last place). Even the Winnipeg Jets (3-6-1, 7 points) have surpassed the Bruins, who have the worst record through 10 games of any defending Stanley Cup Champion since 1994. While the Bruins’ play cannot be described as “the Skating Dead,” their performance has been ghostlike: present, but not all there.
The Bruins lost their only two games of last week, both to the Montréal Canadiens. At home on Thursday, the Bruins fell 2-1, with their only goal actually being an own goal by Tomas Plekanec off of a face-off. Saturday night in Montréal, the Canadiens won by more than the 4-2 score indicates in a game many Bruins fans were hoping would spark the team back to their winning ways. Ending October with four straight losses, the Bruins played their first sub-.500 month of hockey since January 2010 (3-9-2).
At 3-7-0, the Bruins need to make some changes, a fact as obvious as the ending of any slasher film. Some already want behind the bench to turn into Sleepy Hollow, heads rolling left and right, which is ridiculous. The coaching staff wins a Stanley Cup, which is the first for Boston in 39 years, comes slow out of the gate after a very short, whirlwind summer, and you want them fired? Let’s be clear: the Bruins seven losses aren’t because of head coach Claude Julien’s defense-first system; they’re because the Bruins forgot their fundamentals. They’re getting out-skated up and down the ice, out-hustled in the corners for loose pucks, and hitting more posts than there are sequels to Friday the 13th. The B’s need to play fundamental hockey and finish their checks and, more importantly, their shots.
Concerning personnel changes, I’m not convinced just yet any players are being moved farther beyond the first or fourth line or the first or third defensive pairing. There’s around $3 million of cap space, certainly some expendable players, like Benoit Pouliot, who just hasn’t clicked yet, and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has been non-committal about confirming or dispelling trade rumors, but the team, which has shown flashes of great chemistry, hasn’t changed all that much since winning the Cup. Chiarelli could certainly surprise and be working a trade right now, but I don’t see anything happening before mid-Novemeber or Thanksgiving. If the Bruins haven’t found themselves by that time, then it’ll be time to open up the checkbook.
ESPN Boston is reporting that sophomore star Tyler Seguin has a congenital hip condition that predisposes him to injury. Chiarelli confirmed that Seguin, who leads the team in all point categories (4-6-10), has a hip condition, but refused to confirm that it is congenital or that he is concerned, as hip conditions are one of the most common problems for hockey players. Both David Krejci and Tim Thomas had hip injuries that required surgery, but have perfectly illustrated it need not threaten anyone’s career.
Be sure to buy your raffle tickets for a chance to win a Boston Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup Championship ring! All proceeds go to the Boston Bruins Foundation and NHL Alumni Association.
Jordan Caron, Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand, and Adam McQuaid stopped by Children’s Hospital in Boston on Tuesday dressed for Halloween. Caron (Crayola crayon), Marchand (Dinsey prince), and McQuaid (Fred Flintstone) opted for kid-friendly costumes, while Chara (pink bunny) made Donnie Darko look like the Easter Bunny.
Tuesday, November 1 vs. Ottawa Senators, 7 p.m.
The Bruins play host to the Ottawa Senators, who have rattled off six straight wins to roar to second place in the Northeast Division (7-5-0, 14 points), behind only the Toronto Maple Leafs, whom they beat 3-2 Sunday night. Their offense is their strong point thus far and it is firing on all cylinders right now. Jason Spezza (7-8-15 points) and Milan Michalek (7-6-13) lead the team in scoring, with two defensemen, Erik Karlsson and former Bruin Sergei Gonchar, combining for 21 assists. The Senators have used three different goalies in net this season as they seem to allow quite a few goals, even when they win, but it’s likely Robin Lehner will make his second start of the season following Sunday’s success.
Saturday, November 6 @ Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 p.m.
The Bruins visit Toronto for the first time this season, having beaten them 6-2 when Phil Kessel and Co. came to Boston in the team’s first match-up. Kessel continues to lead the league in goals (10) and points (18), which has helped the Maple Leafs to first in the Northeast and second in the conference. They visit the New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets before playing Boston, which should help them to tighten their hold on the division, although it’s still early in the season.
Prediction: win over Senators, loss to Maple Leafs
Sidney Crosby is still yet to return to the Pittsburgh Penguins line-up, but his team’s city will host the 2012 NHL Entry Draft… Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger is out for a short-term, indefinite period with blurred vision after being struck by the stick of Maple Leaf Mikhail Grabovsky in his right eye. No penalty was called, as Grabovsky was finishing a shot, but the injury has sparked the ever-persistent debate of requiring visors.
Have a Happy Halloween, everyone!