The Players Have to Want It
posted at 3/4/2010 1:00 PM EST
First off, sorry for the long diatribe...
Other teams have done a very good job on limiting the Bruins chances to skate with the puck into the offensive zone. It seems like whenever a Bruins player rushes the puck into the zone, he is immediately sealed off by a defender and stripped of the puck by a back-checking forward (or something like that).
"So," I asked myself, "If they can't seem to skate the puck into the zone, they have to get those D deeper in the zone by dumping and chasing. Then, some space should open up at high at the blue line on the rush." The Bruins know this much at least, and have been chipping the puck in to try to create space.
BUT, the whole thing fails because the Bruins forwards are not aggressive enough to win the puck down low. Instead of flying into the D-man, and making him sorry for ever playing the puck, most Bruins players try to seal off the boards, a futile attempt at a forecheck (I seriously saw it work once the entire game against Montreal). As a result, the D-men from the other team don't have to cheat down low as much (to beat what should be impending destruction from a Bruins forechecker), which allows them to still stand up the blue line and deny a Bruins rush into the zone. Other teams seem empowered when the Bruins are on offense, but it's actually because the Bruins forwards try to avoid contact like a person playing Operation avoids touching the metal edge while removing the "bread basket."
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying no one should ever try to seal off the boards, but the point I am trying to make is that the primary difference between this year and last is AGGRESSION. I see a talented team that is emotionally dominated night after night. I mean, seriously, Lucic hasn't landed a big hit since '09, taking the body has become a low priority in general, and the Dmen don't respond with enough vigor when players crash the net.
I see a team that is not dictating the play. The theme of last year was "Let's take it to them and the game will be over before they knew what hit 'em." This season's theme is "Let's wait and see what the other team is going to do, and then we will try to react." I'm utterly shocked by the team's inability to see that problem and react accordingly. CJ must know, but the message is being lost in translation (maybe literally). It's easier said than done, but the Bruins need to stop worrying about saving games from the opening faceoff, and start focusing on taking control early. It's the only way they will be competitive enough to be taken seriously in the playoffs, if they even make it.
This stat proves my point about the Bruins waiting to react rather than taking control: Out of 61 games, the Bruins have only led by 2+ goals (at ANY point in the game) 19 times.
Lucic, Ryder, Ference, and Wideman should all be taking turns in the press box while CJ figures out who actually wants to play. I know some pople call for Hunwick to sit, but I like his speed. There is a time for coddling and a time for laying down the law. It's time to lay down the law. I would tell the players out right, "I don't care if your name is Wayne Gretzky. If you don't put in the well-rounded effort, you'll watch from above."
Finally, I know this team is still in playoff position (which can mostly be attributed to goaltending), and I'm not counting them out. But they need to revert to their old philosophy of establishing their game, because there is no way this team competes with anyone else in the Top 8 the way they are playing right now.