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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    Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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    He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

    The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

    From the AHL:

    With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

    Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

    Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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    The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

    And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

    With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

    Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

    Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

    “Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

    The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

    Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

    What is wrong with the Sharks?

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    Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

    On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

    The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

    San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

    At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

    Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

    “When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

    This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

    The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

    Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

    The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

    Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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    Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

    It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

    Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

    The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

    Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

    The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

    However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.