The Bruins are now 5-6-0 to start the season, and with plenty of injuries keeping players sidelined, the future doesn’t look too bright. While the core of this group has always been the driving force behind this team, its key players have been….less than stellar.
Zdeno Chara’s out 4-6 weeks with a torn PCL, Patrice Bergeron has been uncharacteristically subpar, and Tuukka Rask’s performance in net hasn’t been too awe-inspiring thus far. While most of us can chalk it up to it being the beginning of the season, the nagging voice in the back of our minds keeps asking us: is this what the Bruins will look like for the rest of the season?
No. It is early, and this quality of playing is out of the ordinary for the Boston Bruins. While the Bruins aren’t impressing us right now, there’s reasons as to why it’s happening – logical reasons with real solutions.
One major thing that has stood out is that Tuukka Rask has looked very un-Tuukka-like in net. His numbers are down; last year, Rask had a .930 save percentage and a 2.04 goals against average for the season. Within eleven games so far, Rask has a .899 save percentage and a 2.81 goals against average. The discrepancy is, as I’ve said, uncharacteristic of Rask and concerning for fans of the team. But is Rask entirely to blame?
The answer is complicated. Somewhat yes, somewhat no.
Our defense is depleted. Chara is out with the aforementioned injury, Kevan Miller has been out since the Bruins last faced Buffalo, and it was announced today that Torey Krug will miss 2-3 weeks with a broken finger. Half of what was this team’s top-6 pairings to start the season is now sitting. That means three Providence Bruins defensemen will slot in– Zach Trotman, David Warsofsky, and Joe Morrow. While that’s a scary thought in and of itself, what makes it even more frightening is who is left out of the top-6: Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid, and Matt Bartkowski.
Fanbase scapegoat Bartkowski’s confidence has been shot repeatedly since the series against Montreal, where some ill-timed penalties cost the team a few goals. While Bartkowski isn’t close to being the most dazzling defensemen on the team, any confidence he has in himself is nullified by the fans’ hatred of him and what seems to be a lack of trust in Bart from the coaching staff. Seidenberg is coming off a torn ACL, so while he’s technically a top-2 defenseman in Chara’s absence, he’s been noticeably slower since the start of the season.
McQuaid, pretty much a walking injury, has been pretty impressive since the start of the season, but shouldn’t be taking a top-4 slot. Hamilton’s 28:32 of ice time in last night’s game against Minnesota shows you that he’s the defenseman that the Bruins are leaning on to pick up the slack in the wake of these injuries – adding Krug to the injury list will only increase the amount of pressure put on Hamilton.
The defense in front of Tuukka Rask is scary, and sometimes, a goalie is only as good as his defense. The defensive depth of this team isn’t anywhere close to what we believed it was. It’s going to be a work in progress, and even when all players are back from injuries, it’s going to remain a work in progress. The loss of Boychuk and Chara’s injury happening so close to one another has seriously hurt this team, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we should lose hope.
Something needs to click. The defense obviously needs to be better, and while it’s unfair to ask Rask to stand on his head night after night, the dire situation that the Bruins are in might call for it. Some goals get away from you, but the focus needs to be turned on in the ugly stretch ahead. Rask needs to bring his A-game every night. While every piece of news seems like bad news, you can only expect Rask to hit the gas and pick up the pace in the next couple of weeks.
If we’re halfway through the season and the same problems keep arising, and our record is so far gone from what we’re used to seeing, then yeah, changes should be made. But the injury bug has bitten this team hard, and that’s a major reason why this version of the Boston Bruins doesn’t look like the Boston Bruins we’re used to seeing.
The Boston Bruins have played 11 of 82 games. While questioning the defensive depth is a valid critique, I don’t think losing faith in Tuukka Rask is necessary.