Is Defenseman Andrej Meszaros a Cause for Concern for the Boston Bruins?

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Is Defenseman Andrej Meszaros a Cause for Concern for the Boston Bruins?
Len Redkoles/Getty Images

Andrej Meszaros has been a Boston Bruin for four weeks, having arrived in a March 5 trade and debuted four nights later.

In the last two of those weeks, while playing a string of pseudo-playoff games, he has been the wrong kind of goal-a-gamer.

Meszaros has been on the ice for seven opposing goals in 11 total appearances with the Bruins. The kicker is that six of those setbacks have come within his last five outings. 

He was on the ice for Phoenix’s second strike March 22, Washington’s first goal March 29, two Detroit tallies April 2 and the Flyers’ second goal in March 30 and April 5 meetings.

To glance from another angle, Meszaros logged a cumulative 96 minutes and 14 seconds of ice time in those five games. Joining those figures in the goals-against average formula, the seven biscuits in Boston’s basket give him a 4.36 GAA since March 22.

To put it another way, the Bruins have allowed 12 goals over the last five times they have dressed Meszaros. Despite playing less than one-third of the minutes of those games, the newcomer has shared the liability for half of the opponent’s offensive output.

To his credit, he hit the ice sprinting when Boston placed him in its lineup circa March 9-21. He rolled up a plus-six rating over his first six games with only one goal against along the way on March 17 versus Minnesota

Despite minimal, third-unit minutes, Meszaros fulfilled his tasks in such marquee matchups as a March 12 visit to Montreal. He posted a plus-two rating and blocked two shots in a 4-1 win that evening.

Brian Babineau/Getty Images

Another outstanding bright spot was March 21, when Meszaros joined the rest of the Bruins in blanking the Avalanche, 2-0.

Things started to tilt in the other direction the next night against the Coyotes, another formidable middleweight. Meszaros helped the Bruins draw first blood after saving a play at the center point, only to help authorize Phoenix’s 1-1 equalizer.

Less than nine minutes after setting up Patrice Bergeron’s icebreaker, Meszaros found himself monitoring a Coyotes attack from the porch. When he and Tuukka Rask both failed to corral a rebound, they watched Phoenix captain Shane Doan pump it home.

That would be Boston’s only even-strength error in a come-from-behind, 4-2 victory.

Meszaros did not see extramural action again for another week, returning when the Bruins visited the Capitals. He joined a botched backcheck that Washington exploited to hop on the board via Jason Chimera on a three-on-two rush with 10 seconds to spare in the middle frame.

One of the credited playmakers on that goal, Joel Ward, drew a holding-the-stick penalty on Meszaros on another overlapping shift at 6:30 of the closing frame.

On a trip to his old domain in Philadelphia the next day, the former Flyer was in action for another last-minute strike at Boston’s expense. He and Bergeron could not clog a passing lane for Jakub Voracek, whose cross-ice feed amounted to Kimmo Timonen’s tally. 

Suddenly, the Bruins were confronting a 2-1 deficit. That negated a 1-1 equalizer from none other than Meszaros, who suddenly had three setbacks in three appearances after only one in his previous six. 

That trend swelled in the middle of last week.

Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com singled out last Wednesday’s 3-2 falter, Boston’s lone loss with Meszaros in action so far. In Haggerty’s words:

Andrej Meszaros sleepwalked his way through Wednesday night’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the kind of uninspired, laid back performance that will get a team killed in the playoffs. He watched Darren Helm blow by him on a shorthanded attempt, and then failed to show any real rush to get back into the play once the Wings started threatening to score.

While that was only one game, it juts out on the record due to results. Meszaros has had other prom-night pimples of late, but his teammates’ efficiency and productivity has masked the rest.

This is not to say that the new Bruin stands alone as the liability every time he loses a plus/minus point. After all, he was a scratch this past Thursday, when Boston authorized three regulation goals and eventually dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to Toronto.

Most recently, partner Torey Krug had his blunders in Saturday’s bout with the Flyers, taking a penalty that precipitated the visitors’ first goal and watching the 2-2 equalizer up close.

Although, on the latter play, Meszaros was initially covering Jay Rosehill to the right of the Boston cage, as Philadelphia continued to move the puck, Rosehill broke loose, darted behind the cage uncontested and buried Michael Raffl’s feed.

That play continued the two-week-old trend of Meszaros sharing the responsibility for one of every two blinks on Bruins property. Sharing the fault may differ from shouldering the full fault, but it also differs from earning absolution.

The fact remains that Meszaros has been sharing the fault with more frequency per minutes played than any blue-line colleague. The greater the sample swells, the harder that notion is to escape.

Again, he has a 4.36 GAA over his last five games. This despite playing for a team that last allowed four regulation goals in a single game the week before it acquired him.

These developments have undoubtedly factored into speculation that Meszaros may start watching from press level if the circumstances permit. Bud Barth of the Worcester Telegram penned the following in a Saturday report:

If Adam McQuaid becomes available, he’s likely to get a long look. Julien said McQuaid (leg injury) is close to returning to the ice. That means Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter are probably on the outs unless injuries occur.

Adam McQuaid’s absence since mid-January was one of the reasons the Bruins needed to pursue reinforcement, the top specimen of which turned out to be Meszaros.

McQuaid, Boston’s veteran of four-plus seasons, and Kevan Miller, out with an undisclosed injury, per NESN.com, leave the team with seven available blueliners right now. Matt Bartkowski, Johnny Boychuk, Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Krug, Meszaros and Potter round out that group. Dennis Seidenberg is out for the season.

If and when McQuaid and Miller return, there should be the quorum of six defensemen plus three spares. But McQuaid’s recurring ailments and Miller’s rookie status make them magnets for questions themselves in the playoffs.

Come what may, somebody needs to be ready to play reliable depth defense. Meszaros is one of the candidates to fill that role, and one of Boston’s more seasoned candidates at that.

If he is to retain a regular spot on the game roster, by merit or by default, he cannot turn in performances within the neighborhood of his latest samples.

Depth production can be a critical difference-maker in bigger games. As such, it will be on Boston’s depth defenders to negate that on the opposing side and give their teammates a chance to stand out on the scoresheet.

For Meszaros, this means revamping his attentiveness and assertiveness. While last week’s Detroit game is his only loss and only “minus” game in Bruins attire, it should stand as a gentle yet firm warning.

While most of the single-play setbacks are not yielding much consequence now, they will be inevitably magnified in the playoffs.

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via NHL.com.

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