Bruins Heroes and Villains: Contrary to Popular Belief…
Rewind to game 2.
First Vancouver goal: Ference may have been outplayed here, and there was, as there always is, a touch of luck involved on the deflection that didn’t clear. He was in the right position to dump the puck in from the neutral zone and that seemed like a better decision than making a pass through 3 blue jerseys. Ference did not have a perfect game but the commotion regarding this play was severely overblown and reactionary.
Boston’s first goal: Lucic did very well what he once did well on a regular basis: He won a puck battle behind the net. This allowed Krejci to make a gorgeous play, and as Lucic stood his ground in front of the net (where he belongs), he was rewarded off the rebound as Alberts was occupied with Horton, who was probably perceived to be the bigger threat. Overtime winning goals aside, Horton has not been an effective 2-way player in this series, and needs someone to create room for him if he is going to be effective. He has, on many occasions, benefited from Lucic’s presence. This is not to take his past achievements away from him, but Horton is not a hero in this series.
Credit on Boston’s first goal is also due to Johnny Boychuk, who never misses the net from the point. Luongo’s well-known weakness is his lack of rebound control, so the Bruins have to take advantage of that fact and must use their accuracy from the point to create opportunities. For this reason and others, it would have been nice to see Chara’s slapshot on occasion.This is an already defensively weakened Vancouver team and it would serve the Bruins well to have them blocking 105pmh slapshots. So our first villain is Chara. He is simply not using his size to his advantage and he has seemed sluggish on occasion in these first 2 games. This isn’t just a perception that comes from comparing his skating with Vancouver’s speed, which isn’t legendary (especially not compared to Montreal and Tampa Bay).
Chara has been sluggish in part because he was given the impossible role of playing the punching bag in front of the net on the PP in game 1, in which he took a lot of abuse. he was also used against Vancouver’s first line and on the PK. No one defenseman can do all that and still skate with the best of them when it counts most. So perhaps ironically, on the errors that stood out most for Chara (particularly on the winning goal in game 2, on which he was outplayed), he is not the primary villain. If we absolutely must point fingers, this one falls on the coach, who overworked his #1 D. It is no surprise, then, that Chara no longer appears to be the Bruins’ top D-man. Having said that, credit is definitely due to Seidenberg, who has been a hero in every respect thus far in this series and in the last.
Boston powerplay goal: Contrary to popular velief, Seguin was actually very relevant to the success of this powerplay, though indirectly. Bieksa was largely taken out of the PK equation because he was too busy mirroring Seguin, which allowed Chara’s shot from the point to be defleced by Recchi, who often knows where to go when he’s in front of the net. Recchi had all the room in the world to move around and that is probably because because he was not perceived as the greatest offensive threat on the powerplay.
Recchi is definitely guilty of a handful of giveaways at even strength and he simply cannot keep up with the speed of the game but if he can manage to stay in front of the net, his presence on the powerplay is not the liability that it is 5-on-5. We might even classify him as the hero on the PP, provided that there are 3 forwards on the ice. The 3D lineup was an epic failure on the part of Claude Julien, who needs to think offense because the purpose of the powerplay is to score. The villain in the attacking zone, then, is the coach. This is less a criticism of Julien as it is a matter of letting his players off the hook for decisions from the coaching staff that have been les than ideal.
Props to Brad Marcahnd, who was incredibly effective on the PK despite the Vancouver PP goal. The bench was yelling at him to break away with tht puck on the first Vancouver PP, and he came quite close to a breakaway. His ability to maneuver around the D and create plays has increased 10-fold since the first round of these playoffs and he is going to be a great player. With any luck, his ability will pay off for the Bruins in game 3.
Vancouver’s second tying goal: This one was tragic because Lucic finally won a battle along the boards and cleared the puck to an open Chara, who could not seem to get his stick within even 2 feet of the puck. No other errors were made leading up to the goal. Seidenberg could not easily have obtaied possession on the redirected puck. Villan? At first glance, it’s Chara. Is your car responsible if it stalls because you’ve failed to change the oil? Not really. Similarly, Chara is looking tired, and that speaks volumes about the manner in which he has been used. Chara isn’t just big, he is probably in better shape than anyone else in the league. But he has quite literally been played in every scenario and is, at bottom, a human being. Julien must reserve the use of Chara for moments when it counts most, and only for those moments. He must be used to shut down the first line, and only to shut down the first line–this despite the fact that he is a great decision-maker on the PK and PP, when he’s at his best.
Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference, while excellent in many areas, are not suddenly going to become better than they are. They are going to turn the puck over at times. That’s just something that Bruins fans are going to have to come to terms with. This team is as good as it is and not better, and it was good enough to win at least one of the first 2 games in this series in Vancouver. But it did not. Part of the blame for that falls on the coaching staff, and the rest falls on Vancouver’s ability to attack. We have to accept that fact. The coaching staff isn’t perfect and this tam has come this far on the basis of heart, and not talent. Take pride in that fact if you’re a Bruins fan. The Bruins don’t have a Stamkos but they have guys who are willing to sacrifice their bodies for the puck. This goes a long way and brings us to the final point.
Michael Ryder and Tyler Seguin will not hold on to the puck if it means being hit. Call it a conscious decision or call it instinct, but this this is the team we have to work with and these are the facts. The good news is that these 2 forwards have murderous offensive ability and must be played alongside players who are capable of creating space. Seguin could not have done in this series what he did in his first 2 playoff games because his opponents now know he’s a threat and they’ve therefore been able to do a good job at shutting him down. Pair him with someone who will take out the D and he’ll sink 2 goals per game for this team. Natural goal scorers are rare and the Bruins are very lucky to have him. He doesn’t need a good passer who is also afraid of taking the body; he needs the physical play of his teammates. So coaching is a key factor in Seguin’s performance. He needs more than 6 or 7 minutes of ice time.
Here’s to hoping that the Boston Bruins carry out justice for Patrice Bergeron tonight. As a human being and elite player who is respected all over the league, this team cannot allow him or the game of hockey to be ridiculed in the way it has been throughout this series. They must use their size and strength to set boundaries for a disrespectful Vancouver team. This will bring the momentum they need to once again play with confidence, which is probably the single-most crucial element missing thus far in this series.