By: Patrick Donnelly
Injuries aside, the glaring issue with the Boston Bruins this season is a complete inability to score goals. Even at their best this season, the Bruins have been a one line team.
We can blame the injuries for the lack of five-on-five scoring all we want, but the only injury up front is Patrice Bergeron while all others are on defense. Sure, Charlie McAvoy’s ability to move the puck up ice and start the transition may be missed, and Zdeno Chara’s booming slap shot is not available, too.
However, the real issue is that anyone not named Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, or Jake DeBrusk simply has had the complete inability to produce any sort of offense whatsoever. And after two straight losses at the hands of Detroit and Florida, people seem to be saying the Bruins are being pushed around too much, but being pushed around is not the problem at all.
The real problem is that the Bruins have scored at least three goals just once over their last nine games while only scoring 14 goals total in that span. In fact, David Backes’ circus goal from the half wall then bounced and skipped off the ice and the defender before fluttering over Jimmy Howard is Boston’s only five-on-five goal in the last 210:38 minutes of hockey. It hasn’t been an issue until recently because Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak have played out of their minds lately, combining for the fourth-best all-situation save percentage in the entire NHL at .926, even given Halak’s spotty performances his last few games.
The real problem is that the Bruins have redundancies up and down the lineup with fourth-line players like David Backes, Colby Cave, Chris Wagner, Noel Acciari, Joakim Nordstrom, and Sean Kuraly on a nightly basis.
The real problem is that the scapegoat young guys like Anders Bjrok, Danton Heinen, and Ryan Donato are the only players who have played in the bottom six that are worth a damn for contributing any sort of offense, and that they have been in a constant limbo, either between playing in the top-six or on one of the two fourth lines the Bruins roll out in their bottom six.
These young guys are not the problem. Heinen went from playing with Riley Nash, who had a career year, and a competent David Backes, to having Joakim Nordstrom and whatever’s left of Backes’ corpse as his linemates on any given night. Bjork has fallen victim to the same issue as Heinen, after missing all of last season with a broken collarbone. As far as Donato goes, he hasn’t come off blameless this season, but he’s looked much improved since returning from Providence.
Mind you, Joakim Nordstrom is your sixth-most productive forward with a whopping five points (FIVE, for the people in the back). What’s even more pathetic is that the Bruins’ eighth-most productive player is Charlie McAvoy who has played SEVEN games this season. SEVEN games and he has the eighth-highest point total on the team (1G, 5A, 6P). This spells certain doom in the Atlantic Division which boasts five of the league’s top-12 teams as far as goal-scoring goes.
Is the solution really a guy like Tom Wilson? Ryan Reaves? Milan Lucic (a man who has scored two goals over his last 72 games while carrying a $6M cap-hit with a no movement clause)? Absolutely not.
We can clamor for the days of Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton all we want, those two brought us a Cup, right? But 2011 is gone, the game as changed. We can look for that scoring power forward all we want, but Wayne Simmonds would be a rental and his game doesn’t age well – just look at Lucic. The Bruins have tried that; in fact, they’ve tried it three times. Now they have a little under 8.5 million dollars tied up between salary retention, actual salary, and buyout penalties through Matt Beleskey, David Backes, and Jimmy Hayes.
Teams have skill EVERYWHERE in their lineups. Just look at Toronto and Tampa Bay, your two biggest threats in the Atlantic. Those teams have guys up and down their forward lines who are legitimate scoring threats (see Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, Matheui Joseph, Yanni Gourde, etc.).
It’s time for the Bruins to follow suit.