Can the Bruins lowly offense bring success in the playoffs?

5 Comments

bruins1.jpgBoston Bruins vs. New York Rangers
12:30 p.m. EST – Sunday, March 21, 2010
Live on NBC

Join us for a live chat during today’s game at Noon EST.

I know it’s tough to do, but it’s something that is key to winning
games that the Boston Bruins are having major problems actually doing:
scoring goals. The Bruins are dead last in the NHL in goals scored per
game, and somehow still find themselves in position to make the
playoffs. Heck, they’re actually in a playoff spot right now.

Even
if they are able to hold onto a playoff position, what’s the chance
they are going to be successful in the playoffs? Has any team recently
been able to actually have success in the playoffs, even if they were in
the bottom five in the NHL is scoring? The answer will not surprise you
at all.

History is not on Boston’s side.

I only took
a look at the scoring stats for playoff teams since the lockout, since
that’s when the NHL changed the rules up to make scoring so much
better.

There’s actually been a surprisingly high number of teams
able to make the playoffs with a bottom-five offense; the 05-06 Calgary
Flames, the 06-07 New Jersey Devils, the 07-08 Devils and Anaheim Ducks,
and the 08-09 New York Rangers. All of these teams made it to the
playoffs with incredibly sub-par offenses; the Flames in 2006 were even
division winners. None of these were dead least in offense, however.

Yet only the Devils in 2006-07 were able to
actually get out of the first round; they promptly lost in the second
round, and were dominated by the Ottawa Senators.

Defense alone will not win
championships.

The old adage, especially in football but even
in hockey from ten years ago, was that great defense and goaltending
could carry you to a championship. The Devils alone are proof that this
does not work any more in today’s NHL. They have the great Martin
Brodeur and the world’s stingiest defensive system; even they could not
muster much of a fight without the ability to put the puck in the net.

Every
team, for the most part, that is in the playoffs will have
good-to-great goaltending; it’s the ability to overcome your opponent’s
defense and goaltending that drives teams on to the next round. Goals
are at a premium once the playoffs start, and teams need the ability to
actually put points on the scoreboard to even have a shot at advancing.

So
now what?

The Bruins have more
problems right now then just
an inability to score; they have no fight, no motivation and supposedly
their locker room is falling apart
. Perhaps the offense is the
least of their worries — although I’m pretty certain it’s a major
concern — as they try to get their team to actually start playing
together again.

The Marc Savard injury is painful for this team to
bear, but fans cannot blame his absence for the lack of offense; Boston couldn’t score to save their life long before he was lost for,
most likely, the season.

The Bruins have to actually make
the playoffs first and that’s a sticky situation at best at this point. Could
they have success once they get there, even with Tuukka Rask playing out
of his mind? The history books — well, the recent ones — say no.

Agent: Schultz likes Pittsburgh, but wants to be ‘rewarded’

Getty
Leave a comment

Justin Schultz took a significant pay cut to re-sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins last year.

He doesn’t begrudge the deal he signed, as the Penguins have been a big part of turning his career around.

One assumes winning a couple of Stanley Cups has been pretty fun, too.

That being said, the 26-year-old defenseman wants a raise.

“We took a one-year, discounted deal to come back from last year and build upon what he did,” Schultz’s agent, Wade Arnott, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The player took a lot of the risk. The player performed. Now the player should be rewarded.”

Schultz, a restricted free agent, had a career-high 51 points in 78 games last season. Those 51 points were the seventh most among NHL defensemen — just five fewer than this summer’s biggest UFA, Kevin Shattenkirk, managed.

Schultz then added 13 more points in the playoffs, as the Penguins managed to win it all without Kris Letang.

For the record, Schultz wants to stay in Pittsburgh. The question is whether the Pens can afford to keep him, or if they’d be better off selling high in a trade.

“We’ll probably have some more direction here this week with where we’re going with [a possible extension],” Arnott said. “But we’ve had some good discussions.”

After Stepan trade, Zibanejad negotiations become even more crucial

Getty
1 Comment

For a good while, the center position in New York was largely carried by the one-two punch of Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan.

Now, the Derick & Derek show is no longer.

Stepan was shipped out during draft weekend in a blockbuster deal with Arizona. Brassard exited a year earlier in a move to Ottawa that brought Mika Zibanejad to the Blueshirts.

Zibanejad, 24, was acquired by GM Jeff Gorton in the hopes of one day becoming New York’s No. 1 center. He certainly showed he was capable this season — despite missing nearly 30 games with a broken fibula, he put together a fine offensive regular season and then surged in the playoffs, finishing with nine points in 12 games.

And now, a big negotiation sits on the horizon.

Zibanejad is a restricted free agent coming off a two-year, $5.25 million deal with a $2.625M cap hit. As we wrote earlier, Gorton is “open to anything” with regards to the extension, saying he’d be willing to go either short- or long-term.

One has to think Zibanejad has a ton of leverage. His acquisition price (Brassard) was significant, Stepan is now gone, and so too is depth center Oscar Lindberg, who was acquired by Vegas at the expansion draft. Right now, New York’s center depth consists of Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes and maybe some spot duty from J.T. Miller.

Lias Andersson, taken seventh overall at Friday’s draft, said he wants to make the Rangers this year. But there’s no guarantee he’ll even play in North America this season, as Gorton could opt to send Andersson back to the Swedish League for further development.

The free agent market isn’t especially inspiring down the middle, unless someone thinks they can land Joe Thornton, and there’s no doubt Zibanejad’s seen the paydays scored by some other good, young, top-line centers. Winnipeg gave Mark Scheifele $49 million over eight years, while Calgary gave Sean Monahan $44M over seven.

Is Zibanejad at their level? If you surveyed folks around the league, the answer would be probably no. But he could be soon and, what’s more, the Rangers may be forced to pay him as if he already is.

Sabres bring back defenseman Fedun on two-year deal

Getty
Leave a comment

Taylor Fedun, the Sabres depth defenseman that was set to become a UFA on Saturday, has agreed to a two-year, two-way extension, Buffalo announced on Monday.

Fedun, 29, appeared in 27 games for the Sabres last year, splitting time between the NHL and the club’s AHL affiliate in Rochester. He was a very productive player for the Amerks, scoring 23 points in 29 games.

Moving forward, most expect Fedun to continue in the same role he served this year — a guy that can provide veteran stability at the minor league level, and fill spot duty at the NHL level when injuries strike.

Ottawa extends Pyatt — two years, $2.2 million

Getty
Leave a comment

Tom Pyatt, the veteran forward who enjoyed some success reuniting with Guy Boucher in Ottawa last season, has re-signed with the Sens on a two-year, $2.2 million deal, per TSN.

Pyatt was a steady contributor for the Sens, scoring nine goals and 23 points while appearing in all 82 contests. He averaged over 15 minutes per night and was a vital part of the club’s penalty kill, leading all forwards in blocked shots.

He also appeared in 14 playoff games, scoring twice.

Prior to playing in Ottawa, Pyatt had skated under Boucher in Tampa Bay. They spent parts of two years together with the Lightning, before heading off to Switzerland — Pyatt with Geneve Servette, Boucher with Bern SC.

Pyatt was set to become an unrestricted free agent on Saturday, but clearly liked the fit in Ottawa. He’ll get a pay bump — up from the $800,000 he made last year — a bit more long-term security, and possibly a bigger role with the Sens moving forward.

Ottawa has already stated it will cut ties with veteran tough guy Chris Neil, and decisions are still looming on UFA forwards Viktor Stalberg, Chris Kelly and Tommy Wingels.