The Boston Bruins are struggling mightily right now. With a 10-12-2 mark since their last consecutive wins in mid-January, they’re all but out of the running for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and have the Ottawa Senators nipping at their heels for the Northeast Division title.
Thanks to major injuries to Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley and Tuukka Rask (and many more ‘minor’/temporary losses) the B’s have played shorthanded throughout the past month-plus – causing even more difficulties for the Black and Gold. With their current situation in mind, here are five Bruins who need to ‘step up’ as the regular season winds down:
Brad Marchand – It may seem a bit odd to point at a player with a two-goal game less than two weeks ago as someone who needs to ‘step up’, but with only five points in thirteen games, Brad Marchand has to increase his production.
The B’s need Marchand to produce more and create additional offense now that 20 year-old wunderkind, Tyler Seguin, is no longer a part of the B’s second unit. Marchand must rely on his ingenuity and speed to continue to push the pace with Patrice Bergeron (and whoever rides on their RW – for now, Brian Rolston). While he’s had some intermittent stretches of excellence – the 23 year-old agitator has been far less of a factor in recent weeks.
While he’s already set new career-highs in both goals and points, with the injuries and troubles the B’s have endured there’s even more pressure on their 5’9 ‘Honey Badger’ to drive offense and contribute all over the ice.
Chris Kelly – As the Bruins headed into 2012, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Chris Kelly would win the B’s ‘Seventh Player Award’ as the Bruin who performed the most ‘beyond expectations’. With 12 goals and 21 points in just 35 games, Kelly – a player who’d never reached beyond 15 goals or 38 points, was well on pace for a career-year.
However, Kelly’s offensive output since switching calendars has been anything but ‘beyond expectations’. With just one goal and six points in his last twenty-six matches, his wax wings have melted and the Black and Gold Icarus has fallen back to earth. Even in stints on the top line – centering Milan Lucic and David Krejci – has failed to energize his production.
Despite his offensive stagnation, Kelly remains a steadfast and hardnosed defensive forward. Perhaps Bruins’ fans were (and are) expecting too much of him and the loss of his usual line-mate, Rich Peverley has no doubt hurt his ability to score. Still, because the B’s rely on attacking depth more than overwhelming skill for their offensive production, they desperately need Kelly to recover a bit of his earlier scoring flair, at least until Horton and Peverley return.
Dennis Seidenberg – After the 2011 postseason, where Dennis Seidenberg elevated his game to new heights, much was expected of the German defenseman. As the designated number-two on Boston’s blueline, Seidenberg was projected to pick up where he left off and anchor the Bruins’ second pairing. Some pundits even foresaw contention for all-star honors from #44.
Unfortunately for Seidenberg, his season has seen its share of difficulties. After starting the year ice-cold (like many of his teammates) he warmed through the middle of the season. However, since the start of February, the blueliner has just one assist and a minus-seven rating (in fact, he’s only had one ‘plus’ game in his last twenty-four contests).
While it would be incorrect to assume that Seidenberg has played poorly, the B’s need more from him, particularly while dealing with the overabundance of injuries they’ve sustained in the past month-plus which have put significant strain on their depth.
Joe Corvo – Those expecting Joe Corvo to bring some much-needed offense from the B’s blueline have been sorely disappointed this season. Corvo has only found the back of the net in two games with a Spoked-B on his chest and has only six points with a minus-ten rating in his last 26 contests despite seeing consistent playing time and powerplay action. He’s also been frustratingly inconsistent on defense – turning the puck over at key moments, frequently leading to goals and chances against.
The Bruins need Corvo to provide more offense on the powerplay. Since February, the B’s are just 5-for-43 with the man advantage (a paltry 11.6%). He hasn’t been as much of a defensive disaster as some would insinuate, but he has made some key mistakes and needs to demonstrate that he won’t be a liability in his own zone. If he doesn’t, once Andy Ference returns, Corvo may find himself in the press box with the recently-acquired and defensively-reliable Greg Zanon in his place.
Tim Thomas – With Tuukka Rask likely done for the rest of the regular season, the Bruins desperately need Tim Thomas to return to his previously-elite form. Since the Bruins last won consecutive games in early January, Thomas has allowed three or more goals twelve times – and held opponents to two or fewer in only six starts.
With a very un-Thomas-like 2.77 GAA, a .903 Sv% in that span and only ten wins in eighteen decisions, the B’s are looking for more from the two-time Vezina winner. Of course, Boston was shut out by their opponents in four of his appearances, so he won’t shoulder much of the blame for their recent record.
As a result of Rask’s injury, the B’s signed Marty Turco on Monday. Turco, who played ten games in the Austrian Erste Bank Eishockey Liga this year, is coming off what was a career-worst statistical effort for the Blackhawks last season. Even if Turco is effective, it’s unlikely he’ll see many starts with so much on the line, so the B’s will find themselves leaning on Thomas even more.
While the B’s struggles can’t be attributed to his play, with their plethora of recent injuries and scoring struggles, Boston’s Stanley Cup hero must find a way to regain some of his earlier mojo and steal a few games for the Black and Gold.
Of course, the Bruins who aren’t mentioned among this quintet may need to up their game just as significantly as Marchand, Kelly, Corvo, Seidenberg and Thomas. As they head toward the wire, down so many key players, the B’s need all hands on deck.
Bob is a Boston Bruins Correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He lives in the Boston Metro Area with his wife, Amanda and their five-year-old son, Cormac.