January 11, 2010
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Well, Boston, that's going to just about do it for you. Teams can withstand injuries to some extent, but the Bruins have lost important player after important player in a very small window and now the roster is spread disconcertingly thin.
It's so thin -- and will be at least until the Olympic break -- that their 10-point deficit in the Northeast will now almost certainly widen and prove insurmountable, as they keep dropping games to teams like the Rangers and Buffalo keeps on 'not-losing.' The Bruins are currently fifth in the East, but that playoff spot, or really any, is in serious jeopardy as well.
Mark Stuart(notes) has been out since mid-December, and there's talk that he has an outside chance of playing in the third game of the team's upcoming road trip, which would be next Saturday in Los Angeles. More recently, Andrew Ference(notes) injured his groin and is out until the Olympic break at least.
So now the Bruins' blue line consists of Zdeno Chara(notes) and Dennis Wideman(notes), both of whom are having ugly years, a past-his-prime Derek Morris(notes), an improving Matt Hunwick(notes), and both Johnny Boychuk(notes) and Adam McQuaid(notes), the latter of whom is so notable that his name is spelled wrong on hockey-reference.com and no one has bothered to fix it since Dec. 19. Not exactly the big, bad Boston blueline of last year. Well, except the "bad" part.
It doesn't get any better up front, either.
(Coming Up: Kipper vs. laser pointer death ray; The Rock becomes an LA King; Souray would be OK with leaving a loser; Sabres fans are spoiled; Client Jaroslav Halak's(notes) big save; Patric Hornqvist(notes) blows up; Sidney defeats a Monster; a pair of Devils make the highlight reel; and Davis Payne channels Bobby The Brain.)
This one is 35 and sat out half a season, but is now he's running the power play three games into his Bruins career.
But where they're really screwed is down the middle. Marc Savard(notes) is out at least three or four weeks with a partially torn MCL; Patrice Bergeron(notes), who had been the Bruins' best all-around player so far this season, is out for about two weeks. And that leaves David Krejci(notes), having a dismal junior campaign, and Vladimir Sobotka(notes), with seven points so far, to carry the water along with Steve Begin(notes).
The only place they've been healthy and moderately good is in net. Tim Thomas(notes) has been just fine this season, having dropped off from his Vezina-winning numbers last year (not that you can blame him) and Tuukka Rask(notes) has been great, but they're fighting a battle they likely cannot win.
The problems presented by these injuries have been painfully evident even in the last few games. After opening up an early 2-0 lead on Chicago Thursday, the Blackhawks just decided they were done trailing such a weakened team and scored five straight almost without effort.
Then, on Saturday, they simply had no answer for the Rangers. Repeat: The Rangers' offense had the Bruins on their heels pretty much the entire game.
There's talk from The Pundits that the Bruins need to sign Chris Chelios(notes) or try to acquire one of Ray Whitney(notes), Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) or (get this) Michael Nylander(notes). Apart from the Kovy pipedreams, I can't imagine how any of those acquisitions stops the Bruins, who couldn't score even before these injuries, taking on water at an alarming rate.
Getting all these guys back from the infirmary will help, for sure. But by the time they do, it'll be time for the break, and the Bruins will probably have an Olympus Mons-sized mountain to climb in the last quarter of the season, and at least a few of the current playoff contenders will have already zipped past them like a shot.
But it's not all bad. They might end up with two top-10 picks!
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Teemu Selanne(notes) played his first game in five weeks on Saturday, and, as he has done so many times before against the Predators, he scored. That gives him 20 goals to go with his 24 assists in 37 career games against Nashville.
Atlanta Thrashers: This Thrashers midseason report credits Johan Hedberg(notes) and Co. for Atlanta being in a position to get a playoff spot. And then the fourth paragraph notes that their GAA is 3.22, 28th in the league. They've also allowed three goals or more in all but one of the last 13 games. Does not compute. The real reason they're in that spot is the offense is third in the league with 3.15 goals per game.
Buffalo Sabres: You just can't please some people. "The Sabres had a six game winning streak snapped last night but I can't remember the last time they played a good game from the opening faceoff until the final horn sounds." Six wins in a row. Points from the last eight. Somebody got awful spoiled in a hurry.
Calgary Flames: Someone in Vancouver spent all of Saturday's game aiming a laser pointer at Miikka Kiprusoff(notes) like it was a Monday Night Raw taping in 1997. Didn't matter, though, since Kipper made 19 saves and got the shootout win. Security "couldn't" find the person responsible until overtime even though the Hockey Night in Canada cameras caught the guy fooling around with it.
Carolina Hurricanes: Another team with a bad injury problem is the Hurricanes, and now Tuomo Ruutu(notes) is out "a couple of weeks." The good news is that they, unlike the Bruins, were in no danger of making the playoffs in the first place.
Chicago Blackhawks: We now have a new Most Embarrassing Comeback of the Season. Chicago was up 5-1 in the third period and blew the game, eventually losing in a shootout. To Minnesota! That's way worse than Calgary dropping a five-goal lead to Chicago because at least Chicago is the best team in the League. Minnesota is one of the worst. Congratulations, Blackhawks. You earned it.
Colorado Avalanche: Watch this -- it's the Avs' shootout win in Buffalo. And when I say shootout, I mean 11-round shootout.
No, I don't know what's going on with the audio.
Columbus Blue Jackets: There's a lot of local Columbus politics in this article that I don't understand, but the headline makes it pretty clear: "Jackets arena deal in limbo." Limbo is a bad thing, and this article says they might leave town if it's not resolved. I hear Hamilton's looking for a team.
Dallas Stars: Much of the remainder of the Stars' season is contingent upon their play in this next stretch of eight games, of which six will be on the road. They're not ludicrously far out of a playoff spot in the very tough West, but these games are at Columbus (last night), at Philly, at Montreal, back-to-back home games against Detroit and Minnesota, then at Vancouver, at Edmonton and at Colorado. Tough part of the schedule.
Edmonton Oilers: Sheldon Souray(notes) would be willing to accept a trade, but has not asked for one. This is the kind of thing that should go without saying though. "I would be willing to no longer live in Edmonton and play for a last-place team." No kidding.
Florida Panthers: Panthers fans are actually happy to have Jordan Leopold(notes) in place of Jay Bouwmeester(notes). Except he's not as good defensively, or offensively, and he doesn't eat as many minutes. And that's with Bouwmeester having an off year. But they are happy nonetheless. In 12th place in their conference while Calgary leads its division. Wait, none of this makes any sense.
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings will name Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (am I still allowed to call him that without Vincent Kennedy McMahon suing/beating the buhjeesus out of me?) an Honorary King next Saturday in conjunction with the release of his new hockey-related kids' movie, "The Tooth Fairy." Incidentally, what kind of lame-ass minor-league goon allows a reporter to turn "The Tooth Fairy" into a nickname without punching him to death? But hey, this meet and greet has an open bar and an "outrageous brunch," so it's all good.
Montreal Canadiens: The reason the Habs got a bonus point Saturday was this save by Client Jaroslav Halak.
New Jersey Devils: To call the Devils' playing just about half a game Friday before the lights went out, traveling to Montreal and winning in overtime, then heading back to New Jersey to finish the Friday game with a different goalie a "weird situation" is a bit of an understatement, no?
New York Rangers: The Rangers have lost just one of their last 12 games in regulation. There are at least six reasons why. None of them involve John Tortorella swearing at anyone. At least not in public.
Phoenix Coyotes: Through a pretty big mix-up by Dave Tippett, the Coyotes accidentally allowed the Islanders to go on a power play that lasted 7:35 in the second period. And somehow they didn't allow a goal on it until Adrian Aucoin(notes) exacerbated the problem with another penalty.
St. Louis Blues: Davis Payne got his first win as Blues coach, and he did it despite putting out an illegal starting lineup. Brilliant. As Bobby the Brain Heenan said, "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat."
Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin(notes)? Exemplary leader. He may only have one goal in the three games since he got the C, but he has inspired the Caps to 17 goals in those, including an eight-spot against Atlanta on Saturday.
Play of the Weekend
P.S. Chill out, Doc.
Gold Star Award
Great fake to draw defenders to him on the Kennedy goal, great job to sneak to the backdoor on his goals. Outstanding game.
Minus of the Weekend
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
Boston 1st Round pick
Because the Bruins can afford to give away centers like Halloween candy.
Wow. We're just blowing through nap time, aren't we?