What’s Wrong With The Boston Bruins?

Something’s not right. You can feel it. It’s almost something tangible. The change has inspired a sense of awkwardness, like when you see your ex-girlfriend in public after a long relationship.

What’s this change that I speak of? Teams are no longer scared of the Boston Bruins. Formerly a team that was circled on opponents’ calendars, the Bruins find themselves muddling in the middle of the standings.

The Bruins spent the past few seasons squashing opponents and looking down at their rivals from the top of the standings. As December begins to wind down, the Bruins sit outside the current playoff picture. My, how things can change.

The season hasn't quite gone to plan for the Bruins (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)
The start of the 2014-2015 season hasn’t quite gone according to plan for the Bruins (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Not only have the Bruins enjoyed multiple years of winning, they have dominated opponents. Last year, their +84 goal differential blew the competition out of the water. The Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues tied for second, and only had a +57 differential respectively.

This year, the black and gold have scored 78 goals and allowed 80. A whopping -2 differential. For Bruins fans, it’s almost as big of a letdown as the final episode of How I Met Your Mother. While no fingernails have been chomped off from overly anxious fans, this year’s team doesn’t look nearly as invincible as years past.

In the chart below, via War-on-ice.com, illustrates how Boston is stuck meddling around the middle of the league in many different statistics. This year’s team hasn’t been especially inspiring in the offensive or defensive zones.

The X-axis variable is the fraction of offensive versus defensive zone starts, while the Y-variable is the Corsi for and against per 60 minutes. The color is based on the PDO, which is the on-ice save percentage versus the on-ice shooting percentage, and the size variable is the team’s shooting percentage.



While the Bruins don’t have a glaring problem, they don’t stand out in the graph. The Bruins have notoriously been known as a team that is extremely hard to score against, and one that can also manufacture their own offense. Let’s take a look at why the Bruins haven’t lived up to their standards, and what they could do to turn around their unusual start to the season.

Lack of Forward Depth Is Creating A Personnel Nightmare

Seemingly all the time, my phone pings, giving me the newest updates on Bruins transactions. Players have taken the ride up and down I-95 way too frequently this season, whether on an emergency basis due to injuries, or so that Claude Julien can experiment with different players in his lineups. First round pick David Pastrnak, Seth Griffith, Simon Gagne, Alexander Khokhlachev, Matt Fraser, Craig Cunningham, Ryan Spooner and Jordan Caron have been both flipped and flopped in and out of the lineup.

In and out of the lineup, Alexander Khokhlachev is vying to keep his spot in Boston (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)
In and out of the lineup, Alexander Khokhlachev is vying to prove his worth in Boston (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

In the past, the Bruins have owned the reputation of having one of the deepest forward groups in the league. Consistent production from the third and fourth lines would help supplement scoring and create mismatches. They bottom half would also eat up more minutes than opposing teams’ third and fourth lines, thus giving the top two lines fresher legs come the third period.

Another difference from this year’s team is that there seems to be a lack of chemistry. Before, everyone knew the lines. Julien barely had to shuffle his combinations, and when he did, it generated a sense of panic amongst the media and fans. Due to so many inexperienced players and the rotation of fresh faces, the lines don’t have proper time to gel and grow accustomed to each other’s styles of play. This leads to not making the extra pass, lack of finishing on rushes, and occasional general confusion on the ice.

When standouts emerge, Julien should be able to piece together the puzzle and find some continuity on the depth chart. Having chemistry on the bottom half will ignite the scoring from all Bruins’ lines, and the lack of depth problem should be a thing of the past.

The Defensive Scramble

The defensive lineup has also shifted back and forth due to many injuries throughout the year. Coming into the season, Johnny Boychuk was dealt to the upstart New York Islanders to avoid the problems of a potential logjam in the backline. With the captain Zdeno Chara sidelined for a decent amount of time and numerous other bumps and bruises suffered along the way, Boston’s depth has been tested. David Warsofsky, Joe Morrow, and Zach Trotman have each seen time with the senior squad. Decimated by injuries, the Bruins haven’t provided Tuukka Rask with their top notch level of assistance.

The Bruins haven't been the same dominant defensive team as years past [Photo by Bob Fina/Inside Hockey]
The Bruins haven’t been the same dominant defensive team as years past [Photo by Bob Fina/Inside Hockey]
Ranked 12th in the league in goals against per game, the Bruins have held together well, despite their ferris wheel rotation of line combinations. The story repeats itself, with the Bruins being stuck in the middle when it comes to shots for and against. The black and gold win two out of every three games in which they outshoot their opponent. Fire the rubber at the net, and Rask will do his job. However, when outshot, the Bruins’ win percentage plummets faster than a roller coaster, to an abysmal .286%, a percentage which leaves the Bruins at 27th in the league. The bottom line is, when the defense breaks down, the Bruins have trouble winning games. Plain and simple.

Where’s the Offensive Prowess?

While the Claude Julien tinkers with line combinations, the Bruins top scorers are not getting the job done. While Reilly Smith and Brad Marchand (with seven and eight goals scored respectively) lead the team in goals and Patrice Bergeron continues to move the puck like a certain point guard who also calls the TD Garden home, not too many other options have presented themselves as feasible. While Carl Soderberg continues to impress and Dougie Hamilton shows off his power play capabilities, the Bruins don’t have many places to turn for offense. David Krejci has played a near point-per-game level, yet he has struggled to stay on the ice due to injuries (does anyone else sense a theme here?). Milan Lucic has disappointed, as he has quadruple the penalty minutes as he does points. Peter Chiarelli hasn’t found a top replacement for Jarome Iginla, and Loui Eriksson’s play hasn’t inspired many to jump for joy. While the offense needs a spark, Eriksson has a tendency to look timid at times. In order to be feared as a unit, since the Bruins don’t have a Vladimir Tarasenko human-highlight reel player, the Bruins need to rediscover their offensive prowess.

We aren’t talking about re-inventing the wheel here, just simple hockey. Keeping the feet moving in the defensive zone to create chaos and getting up ice to take the body are key parts to wearing down the opponent. Once possession has been established, the Bruins can do what they have done so many times, use quick passing and smart decision making to score their goals. This team isn’t supposed to weave through five guys, score top shelf where Gramma hides the cookies, and be number one on Sportscenter’s top plays. Goals like this will suffice just as well:


What else can the Bruins do to stop their current slide? Comment below with your take.

19 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With The Boston Bruins?”

  1. So, they played Carolina today, the second yo last team in the league, and were completely embarassed, being outshot 38 to 20.

    As a lifelong fan, I have never seen them play this poorly.

  2. Need a heavy right winger to play with kreji lucic, need a Thorton like player for fourth line, Chris Neil is available, then get the rest of team to buy into some gritty Bruins type of hockey, you know the third line won’t hit, second line is soft as well , that leaves soupy and lucic, Smith will bang but he’s small, they have to buy into playing with fire all of them , mcquaid coming back will help in the toughness department and getting Chris Neil would be huge.

  3. Every season, it seems the refs select out one team to pick on. This year it’s been the Bruins! Along with injuries, horrible refereeing, outlandish calls against them is the reason the Boston team has struggled so much this season. The league should do an internal investigation and maybe even hand out some suspensions.

  4. Lots of problems- 1. Coaching. Claude needs to be more patient with young guys. 1-2 months of evaluation not 1-2 weeks. 2. GM. Chiarelli needs to improve the draft. Since 2007, he has drafted 49 players and less than 5 are NHL regulars. Hamilton, Seguin and Joe Colborne (no goals). The rest have either never seen the NHL or play a handful of games. DEPLORABLE. 3. CAP Mgt. because the draft is so poor and Chiarelli falls in love too quickly with his players, he has a roster of overpaid 3rd an 4th liners. His ‘Core’ should be top-6 fwd, top-4 D-men and a goalie, all untouchable and signed and everyone else is replaceable/fits the system/and cheap. Instead, the ‘core’ that he so often refers to covers everyone from the 2011 Cup year. BTW- they have $12M cap space next year with 12 unsigned players. He’s going to have to shed more salary. 4. Injury. Shouldn’t be an excuse as every team has them. I’d say patience and fix the draft. neither is going to happen soon.

  5. An AHL type defence (Morrow, Bartkowski, Miller etc) isn’t going to play to the same level that the usual Bruins D does. That hurts Rask (he’s on pace for a .500 season, more than .5 GAA increase and .25 decrease in SV%.) This is forcing the Bruins to play from behind / tied more than they are used to and forces them to play a more desperate game, which leads to more mistakes.

    Krejci returning to full health will do more for this team than any trade / healthy scratch will do, and a bit of that showed last night. The offense lags because the team isn’t playing with the lead and with confidence.

    Next 4 games to close out the year (and hopefully with Krejci dressed)

    @ Winnipeg
    vs Nashville
    vs Detroit
    vs Toronto

    could go a long way to show what this team is capable of when (mostly) healthy.

    A #1 RW would certainly help, but the team has survived (just barely) the first 30ish games of the season, lets give them some time as a complete team to get themselves sorted before its a write off..

  6. It all comes down to Talent, GM Chiarelli has done a great job of throwing away 1st round picks for not
    much return. Jagr for a 1st and Kaberle for a 1st and 2nd and a player. Neither player scored a goal
    in the playoffs and then were quickly let go with no return at all. Bad Drafts Zack Hamill in the 1st,
    the scouting report on him said “small and slow won’t cut it in todays NHL. But Chiarelli still took him
    9th overall in the 1st. Jordan Caron another 1st round AHL type player.
    To say nothing of Kessell and Seguin who both got run out of Dodge without being given much of a
    chance. Cam Neely wanted Rockem Sockem Robots, he wanted Lucic to be just like him even though
    some of us think Lucic value is much greater as a forechecker than a goal scorer.
    Chiarelli drafted Subban in the 1st and then signed Rask to a Big Fat Long Term Contract paying
    him 7.0 million compared to Price 6.5 Crawford 6.0 Quick 5.8. All for a goalie that many of us see as
    a product of the system, and who can’t beat Montreal our biggest rival.

  7. The goaltending has been there for quite awhile now..Rask is not the man he should be traded while he still has value and get something in good in return. Trade Ericcson too while you are it. Never mind the no trade clause now you have some salary space. The Seguin trade really hurt them and giving up on a guy like Thorton really hurt

  8. Thornton is missed, someone has to pick up his physicality and who does costs them penalty minutes and offensively. Boychuk gone, Chara injured… They are adjusting to Chara’s return. The administration”s obvious cap management mistakes.

  9. Combination of injuries and personnel decisions have depleted their depth. Their highest paid players that have stayed health (Lucic, Rask, Bergeron) haven’t played well so far this year. Even so, being 10th in the East is pathetic for the Bruins.

  10. pleasefiredan….the Bruins are consistently awarded the least amount of power plays every season (or close to it) Maybe you should watch more Bruins games, think before you speak, or just shut the hell up.

  11. Set the lines, and don’t change them (outside of injuries). Find a couple guys not pulling their weight and have them sit and send a message. This team has no passion and is afraid to shoot and nail opponents on the D-end.

  12. Maybe pleasefiredan should watch a game or two and then make some insightful comments. Sorry the Habs haven’t won a cup in over 20 years, but this post wasn’t about the past was it?
    As for the scoring problems I think it comes down to some players on the 3rd & 4th lines who put up numbers in the past that just aren’t there now. Campbell & Paille come instantly to mind. Ever watch them skate toward the opposing blueline with the puck? It’s (99 times out of 100) like watching a fish on the shore gasping for air. No idea what to do and super easy to defend.
    My idea? Trade off some of the super defensive forwards for some guys who carry the puck, have speed and can shoot.

    • It was tough to watch Campbell get dangled by Kyle Brodziak. Veterans like him don’t make that kind of mistake. Also, getting taken down by Justin Falk after getting lit up along the boards doesn’t help. I don’t hate Campbell, but he hasn’t played well tonight.

  13. It’s very simple! Cam Neely (he of 50 goals in 44 games and 395 in his career) needs to get off his lazy butt, lace `em up and teach these guys how to get position in front of the net, snap off a quick wrister and pick the corners!

  14. Dont need to panic. Wait til the injured come back, work hard and see what happens. We cant win the Cup every year, so if its an off year, use the draft picks wisely, get everyone healthy, maybe a few small trades over the summer to plug gaps, try and clear some cap space, then get right back in the thick of it next season. Just because you make the playoffs as a #7 OR 8 seed doesnt mean you cant do well, look at the Rangers last year….

  15. Don’t get to watch many Bruin games. But maybe they aren’t letting them play cheap and dirty. They used to run players on the board. And go out of their way to take a cheap shot, oh I mean “playoff hockey” But maybe they’re not getting the bs calls that they are used to getting and speed is killing them just like the Canadians did last year?

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