What in the World Has Happened to the Boston Bruins?
This is a team that just last year finished first in the Easern Conference with 116 points. A team that was a goal away from going to the Eastern Conference Finals and possibly their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1992.
The Bruins, who currently sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, are just four points away from being out of the playoffs entirely. Granted, its only January and there is still a couple of months of hockey left to be played, but as of right now the Bruins are heading in the wrong direction, and doing it quickly.
Just a year ago today the Bruins were sitting pretty in first place in the Eastern Conference. The city of Boston was buzzing with Bruins fever. My, oh, my how quickly things can change.
Right now, with the Patriots season over and the Celtics struggling, sports radio here in Boston should be talking about the Bruins. Instead, their talking about the Red Sox, who don't even start playing for another three months.
Over the past week I've been comparing this year's season to last and trying to figure out what has gone wrong. I was able to find three key things that have changed from last year's team.
1. What the Heck Has Happened to Tim Thomas?
For starters, when looking at Timmy's numbers, you are probably saying to yourself, "this guy has no idea what he is talking about."
Timmy has put up some good numbers, with a 2.45 GAA and a .918 save percentage. He also has four shutouts. Still, these numbers don't truly reflect his play. Thomas has continued to make amazing saves, but what's been most troubling is his problem with letting in soft goals.
I can't even count how many pucks have gone through his five hole this year. Just yesterday he let in three goals on the first nine shots he faced, until he was pulled. His numbers might resemble his Vezina Trophy winning year, but his play sure doesn't. Look for Tuukka Rask to start to get more playing time.
2. Where Did All the Scoring Go?
I'm starting to get the feeling that these guys don't know your supposed to put the puck in the net. The Bruins, who had one of the best offenses last year, have done a complete 180º. They rank dead last in goals, averaging just 2.44 goals a game.
Some of this could be contributed to the loss of Phil Kessel, who led the Bruins in scoring last year.
The reality of it, though, is that other guys just haven't played as well as they did last year.
Michael Ryder, who seemed to have resurrected his career here in Boston last year, has been terrible this year. So far he has scored just 11 goals this year, after finishing with 27 the year before.
Another guy who has struggled this year is David Krejci. Krejci, who did have offseason surgery, has hit a major sophomore slump. So far this year, he has just eight goals, after scoring 22 the year before. If the offense can't get going soon then this team is in for a rough end to the season.
Now, I'm not one to blame wins and losses on injuries, and I'm not saying injuries have been the sole reason for the Bruins struggles this year, but they have played a part in the Bruins struggles this year. Last year the Bruins managed to stay pretty much 100 percent healthy for the entire season.
This year has been an entirely different story. Andrew Ference, Denis Wideman, Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Tim Thomas have all missed some time this year with injuries. This isn't exactly how you win games.
Thankfully, most of these guys have returned, and if the Bruins want to make it to the playoffs they must stay healthy.
For all the Bruins troubles this year, they are still capable of making the playoffs, and doing some damage if they can get in. Remember, this is a team just a year removed from being the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
For the other NHL teams, all I have to say is: Beware the Bear.
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