Bruins add defensemen, ignore offense

Every trade deadline there has to be a sense of anxiety around the league, as players contemplate how quickly their immediate future may change. Some welcome the change and are hopeful for a new start while others are wary of leaving their teammates behind.

The Boston Bruins were in a situation where management could have decided to take drastic action, especially when the team went on a horrific nine-game losing streak that threatened to derail the season. In those nine losses the team failed to score more than three goals in a game and scored just one five times. The worst offensive team in the NHL was in desperate need for scoring help at the deadline, and the players on the team had a feeling that things might change, according to Tim Thomas.

“I noticed it a little bit in
people’s body language [because Tuesday] was my first day back,” he
said. “Even the few days before the break, because they knew there was
going to be [movement], there was some nervousness. You can’t help it.

“You do your best not to think about it
but that doesn’t mean you don’t think about it at all.

“I just think it’s human nature. If you’re
on a team that’s hit a protracted losing streak like we did back then,
that makes you wonder. But then, if you’re on a team that is playing
really good, you’re wondering, ‘Is this team going to try to add
something for that Stanley Cup run and am I going to be the player that
goes?’


What was interesting was seeing Boston not only keep most of the team in tact, but to focus on the defense first. From the Boston Globe:

“I might as well get this right out there,” Chiarelli said in his
opening remarks, “because I know that a lot of the questions will be,
‘Why didn’t we get scoring?’ And those are very good and valid
questions.

“What you have to look at – at least, what we looked at – was firstly,
we wanted to change the composition of our defense. I can say that was
an equal priority to getting some more scoring. I put it as an equal
priority because I feel that if we change the composition, that will, in
itself, allow us to improve from the back end out. It should result in
better offensive production. It allows the defensemen to play in their
appropriate roles and positions.”

I understand the philosophy, but defense has not been the problem this season at all. Not by a long shot; the Bruins are 4th-best in the NHL with a 2.44 goals-against average and Tuukka Rask is 4th among all goaltenders with a .926 save percentage. Tim Thomas, who is having a ‘down year’ is in 15th. Not exactly a big worry here.

I’ll give them this: the Bruins are in the middle of the NHL in shots allowed per game. Well, that certainly spells reason for adding defense rather than offense.

I can understand the goal behind getting the defense into shape with the hopes that the offense will start scoring. Sort of. But is adding Dennis Seidenberg to your blue line suddenly going to fix the issue that the Bruins don’t have a scorer in the top 100 in the NHL? How is Seidenberg going to help Blake Wheeler, who has 3 points in his last 14 games? With crisp breakout passes and a big shot from the point?

If I were a Bruins fan I’d be pulling my hair out today. Says Stanley Cup of Chowder:

For a team that is last in the league in goal scoring that is still in
the playoff hunt not to land a goal scorer is inexcusable. Peter
Chiarelli and the Bruins brass sent a clear message: this is not “the
year to B here”. A Cup run this year was a bit of a pipe dream but I
figured the B’s would still want to win a playoff series to line Jacobs’
pocket with an extra couple games’ worth of concession sales. Peter
Chiarelli tried to spin it like they were trying to improve for this
year, but it is clear that this deadline was all about the future, not
the present.

The market for scorers wasn’t particularly hot this year and the Bruins did supposedly try. But don’t try and spin it by saying that adding Seidenberg and “changing the composition of the defense” will help scoring. You swapped out Derek Morris for Dennis Seidenberg, that’s it.

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    Tavares says ‘no rush’ to sign extension with Isles

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    John Tavares keeps saying all the right things about his future with the New York Islanders.

    But that doesn’t change the fact he still doesn’t have a contract extension in place.

    Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, spoke with Newsday yesterday, telling the newspaper he was in “no rush” to sign and that he’s comfortable to just “let the process run its course, keep the lines of communication open, keep it all internal.”

    It’s been reported that the Isles’ uncertain arena situation could be complicating matters. It’s still not clear where the team will call home for the long term.

    On that topic, Tavares chose to avoid making any definitive statements.

    “The possibility with Belmont and that RFP coming out, there’s great potential there,” the 26-year-old said. “We’ll see where it goes. A lot of those things are out of my hands. Some things I don’t try to worry about them too, too much. I’m just a hockey player. I try to be as best prepared as I can be. It’s a big decision obviously because it’s eight years of my career, really entering into my prime years and a great opportunity for myself to achieve what I set out to achieve when I was a kid, making it to the NHL, wanting to win a Stanley Cup and wanting to do that with the Islanders.”

    There’s more in the interview, including his thoughts on the Isles’ offseason moves. Click here to give it a read.

    Tavares also spoke with Newday about the thumb surgery he had in April. All’s well on that front, according to the captain.  

    “I felt I didn’t want this reoccurring and the recovery time was only six weeks,” he said, “so it was the right thing to do once the season ended.”

    Related: Tavares open to signing contract extension this summer

    Under Pressure: Derrick Pouliot (again)

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    This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

    For the second straight year, Derrick Pouliot is our pick for the Pittsburgh player under the most pressure heading into the season.

    Perhaps we should just focus on someone else, but the Penguins gave the 23-year-old defenseman a one-year contract extension in July. The eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Pouliot knows time is running short to prove Pittsburgh didn’t make a big mistake.

    It should be compelling to watch how he fares.

    “I’ve got to make an impact right away and show that I belong in the NHL,” he said, per the Post-Gazette. “It’s been three years now. I haven’t fully established myself yet. I want to take it one step at a time and build as the year goes on.”

    Pouliot felt he had a strong finish to his AHL season, and perhaps that will help his confidence heading into camp.

    But it’s worth noting that he’s no longer exempt from waivers. So unless he earns a spot, that could mean a change of scenery, with the Penguins either losing him for nothing or trading him for pennies on the dollar.

    Pouliot could feasibly crack the opening roster as Pittsburgh’s eighth defenseman, behind Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin, Olli Maatta, Ian Cole, Chad Ruhwedel and new addition Matt Hunwick.

    He could then languish on that roster until an injury gives him a chance to play.

    The first step, though, is coming into camp and building off the back half of last season.

    “For me to establish myself as an NHL defenseman, a regular guy in the lineup, it’s kind of playing how I ended the season: solid defensively, consistent in that regard,” Pouliot said, per the Tribune-Review. “That’s been one thing that’s always been brought up about me, inconsistency. So I think it’s starting with that and building each game.”

    Looking to make the leap: Zach Aston-Reese

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    This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

    With a number of departures from a roster that won back-to-back Stanley Cups, it’s imperative that the Pittsburgh Penguins get a push from some of their prospects in 2017-18.

    One of the top candidates to earn a regular spot is forward Zach Aston-Reese, a 23-year-old who just wrapped up an impressive career at Northeastern University.

    Aston-Reese signed with the Pens in March, hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow undrafted NCAA products Chris Kunitz and Conor Sheary.

    In a twist, Kunitz is one of those departed players that Aston-Reese may help replace.

    “He was a college free agent, too, and kind of a goal scorer his last couple years in college,” Aston-Reese said of Kunitz, per NHL.com. “Just made a career for himself playing with good guys and being able to put the puck in the back of the net.”

    Aston-Reese scored 31 goals in 38 games for the Huskies last season, making him a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

    But despite all the accolades, he knows he’s still just a prospect, with a lot left to learn, and a lot left to prove.

    “Whether we start up top or down in Wilkes-Barre, I think it’s important to be in the same mindset that, you’re trying to get better every day you show up to the rink,” he said, per the Post-Gazette. “If we do get that opportunity, we need to have a good mindset, produce and do what they ask of us.”

    Poll: Who will the Penguins miss the most?

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    This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

    After winning back-to-back Stanley Cups, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been forced into making some changes to their roster.

    It’s only normal that championship teams won’t be able to bring all their players back, especially in a salary cap world.

    This offseason, the Penguins lost Marc-Andre Fleury in the expansion draft and Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino, Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, and Matt Cullen in free agency. Each one of those players played an important role in at least one of the two title runs.

    Fleury may not have been between the pipes when the Penguins hoisted the Stanley Cup in each of the last two seasons, but he played a crucial part in each victory. On top of playing 38 games during the regular season, he also compiled a 9-6 record with a 2.56 goals-against-average and a .924 save percentage during the 2017 postseason.

    Without Fleury on the roster, the pressure will fall squarely on Matt Murray‘s shoulders. Murray may own two rings, but he has yet to go through the challenges of an 82-game season plus playoffs. New backup Antti Niemi probably won’t be capable of filling in as well as Fleury did.

    One of the major reasons the Pens were able to go on two championship runs was because of the depth they had accumulated at center. Any team would love to have one of Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, but Pittsburgh is fortunate enough to have both. The Penguins’ depth didn’t stop there. They also had Nick Bonino on their third line and Matt Cullen on their fourth, which is pretty impressive.

    Both Bonino and Cullen will play in the Western Conference next year. Finding competent players to play on the third and fourth line isn’t as difficult as getting top line talent, but those two losses will probably hurt them pretty badly.

    Bonino had 18 goals and 37 points during the 2016-17 regular season and he added a modest seven points in 21 games during the postseason before being ruled out with a lower-body injury. Last year, he put up less points in the regular season (29), but he had an impressive 18 points in 24 games during the playoffs. He was also capable of playing a solid two-way game.

    Cullen, who signed with Minnesota yesterday, also found a way to contribute, despite playing a bottom-six role on such a deep team. The 40-year-old scored 32 and 31 points in his two years with the Penguins and he also added six and nine points during the playoff runs. He also won plenty of key faceoffs and played well without the puck.

    Trevor Daley was unable to finish the 2016 playoffs because of an ankle injury, but he also played a vital role during Pittsburgh’s impressive accomplishment. Daley, who is now with the Red Wings, was able to hold down the fort while Kris Letang was out. He averaged over 20 minutes of ice time during the regular season and 19 more in the spring.

    Ron Hainsey was a smart, underrated trade deadline acquisition by GM Jim Rutherford. The veteran stepped into the lineup and played 21 minutes per night for his new team. He also chipped in with eight points in 25 games. He got himself a nice contract with the Maple Leafs on July 1st.

    Chris Kunitz had been a big contributor for the team, but his production fell off dramatically. After scoring 35 goals during the 2013-14 season, he added 17, 17 and nine during his last three years in Pittsburgh. It became pretty clear that he wasn’t able to play at the same level he had been in previous years, so it wasn’t surprising to see him go elsewhere (Tampa Bay) when free agency opened.

    It’s your turn to vote. Make sure you make a selection in the poll below and feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section.