Can the Bruins lowly offense bring success in the playoffs?

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

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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.

Penguins lose to Flyers and lose another key player to injury

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PITTSBURGH — Even with a ridiculously long injured list that would be the foundation of a pretty good hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins still found a way to go 8-1-3 in their previous 12 games entering Sunday’s contest against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The injuries finally seemed to start catching up to them on Sunday in a 6-2 loss, extending their current losing streak to three games, matching their season long.

While the loss certainly impacts their pursuit of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division (they remain three points back of the Washington Capitals), and even their quest for home ice advantage in the first round, it is still not the worst thing to come out of Sunday’s game.

The worst thing for them would be the fact the Penguins lost yet another key player to an injury when forward Conor Sheary had to leave the game mid-way through the first period.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after the game that Sheary is dealing with a lower body injury and that right now he is considered to be day-to-day. It was initially believed that Sheary was injured blocking a shot, but Sullivan insisted that was not the case and that it happened in the offensive zone at some point in the first period.

With Jake Guentzel still sidelined due a concussion he suffered in a recent game against the Buffalo Sabres, that means two-thirds of the team’s recently assembled top line (Sidney Crosby-Sheary-Guentzel) is now sidelined due to injury. Sheary’s injury is especially concerning given how good he has been on Crosby’s wing dating back to the 2016 playoffs. Entering play on Sunday Sheary was averaging nearly a point per game (50 points in 54 games) with almost all of that production coming at even-strength.

They had yet another scare in the third period on Sunday when defenseman Brian Dumoulin had to briefly leave the game and head to the locker room after he was elbowed in the side of the head by Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

On Sunday, all of the injuries finally seemed to be too much with the Flyers pretty much dominating the game over the final two periods.

The Flyers received goals from six different players (Jordan Weal, Valtteri Filppula, Dale Weise, Jakob Voracek, Radko Gudas and Shayne Gostisbehere) in the win and outshot the Penguins by a 24-15 margin over the final 40 minutes.

“That wasn’t a good effort and at this point of the season we can’t afford to have those,” said Penguins forward Matt Cullen after the game. “I don’t think that was a typical effort for us. I don’t think we had a lot of life, to be honest.”

Even more than winning games the rest of the way the biggest concern for the Penguins has to be getting their list of injured players healthy and finding a way to avoid adding to it, something that has proven to be difficult in recent weeks.

At this point, whether they win the Metropolitan Division or not, they know their path through the Eastern Conference playoffs is very likely going to have to go through both Washington and Columbus, and they are going to need their full complement of players to do it.

One of the biggest factors in winning a Stanley Cup is having all of your key players in the lineup come playoff time.

A year ago the Penguins did.

Right now they are not even close to having that.

Video: Dumoulin shakes off Simmonds’ elbow, but Sheary’s out for Penguins

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Barring a major comeback, the Pittsburgh Penguins look like they’re going to lose to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Their injury losses might be just as big.

On the bright side, it seems like Brian Dumoulin was able to shake off an elbow from Wayne Simmonds. You can watch the hit, which didn’t draw a penalty, in the video above.

Meanwhile, Conor Sheary has been missing since the first period with what might be a lower-body injury.

The Penguins’ list of injuries is already pretty ridiculous, so if one or both of these players miss significant time, tonight will sting deeper than a setback on the scoreboard.

Report: U.S. men’s hockey players may join boycott with women’s team

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Octagon Hockey agent Allan Walsh announced that there’s “word circulating” that potential members of the men’s U.S. hockey team might join the women’s national team in a boycott of the world championships with USA Hockey.

HNIC’s Cassie Campbell reports that she discussed as much with men’s players during the last few weeks about this subject, backing up Walsh.

This update comes on the heels of reports that USA Hockey has been struggling to find players to replace those who are boycotting the world championships. (Puck Daddy provides deep background on that subject.)

The NHLPA has already spoken out in support of the boycott earlier this week. The U.S. women’s national hockey team also released the following statement:

Fight video: Flyers’ Manning vs. Penguins’ Gaunce

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Breaking: the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers don’t like each other.

The stakes might be higher for the Penguins than the Flyers – aside from those who still believe Philly has a shot at a playoff run – their rivalry rarely subsides.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Sunday featured at least one fight, with Cameron Gaunce squaring off against Brandon Manning in a pretty spirited bout.

Manning isn’t shy about fighting, by the way; this was his seventh bout of the season, according to Hockey Fights.

Higher on the radar for the Penguins is the situation for Conor Sheary, who has been absent from the ice since about midway through the first period. PHT will keep an eye out for updates on what could be yet another injury for the health-challenged Pens.