Hello, Maroon-News readers. My name is Alec Schwab, and I’m a senior here at Colgate. This is my first article for a new NHL column that I plan to write weekly for the remainder of the semester. For those of you who don’t know me, you’ve probably seen me around campus: I’m the guy who shamelessly wears that Boston Bruins hoodie almost every day when it’s cold out. Now, I promise that this column will not be a Bruins rant every week, but since it’s my first article for the Maroon-News, I thought you, my hopefully soon-to-be loyal readers, could indulge me just this once, and then I promise to follow up on various NHL issues for the rest of the year. That being said, let’s talk some Bruins hockey!
Since 2011, the last time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, most hockey people have considered the Bruins a force to fear. Led by captain Zdeno Chara, a tough 6’9” defensemen, Patrice Bergeron, one of the best two-way forwards in the game and Tuukka Rask, the 2014 Vezina trophy winner for best goaltender of the year, the Bruins have built on their leadership to prepare the team for another Stanley Cup run. Alas, the Bruins have had their struggles recently, and even managed to miss the playoffs last year for the first time in seven years.
There were several factors contributing to this absence. I’ll name a few: One huge problem plaguing the Bruins is the age of our captain, Zdeno Chara. Back in 2011, Chara was the Bruins lock-down man. His size, strength and grit made him a terrifying opponent, the last person you wanted to see on the ice if you were on the other team. While he maintains league-wide respect as a player and leader, he is not quite the presence he used to be. Last year, Chara missed nineteen games due to serious knee injury, but even when he rejoined the roster, everyone knew he was struggling. The rest of that season, Chara consistently dropped plays, missed simple cues on defense and struggled to stop the other team from scoring. Even when Chara’s health was back to 100 percent, that 100 percent was not what it used to be. He could no longer quite do the job he used to execute so nimbly of covering gaping holes in team performance. This season has been no different. The fans want to honor Chara, his skill, and leadership, but we’ve reached a point of no return and may need to look to others in the future.
Another problem that cost the Bruins a playoff spot last season was the fact that some forwards simply could not play to the level expected of them: Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg and Loui Erikkson underperformed and could never seem to step up when needed. Since then, Smith and Soderberg have been traded, while Loui Erikkson is enjoying a breakout season, with 46 points in his 59 games this season. Maybe we can look for better future returns on this issue.
This current season, they’ve added some depth to their offense with guys like Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes, but still lack a strong defensive core. Despite a miserable three straight losses to start the season, which had people questioning what kind of heart and grit this team actually has, the Bruins have stabilized and are playing some good hockey of late, sitting second in their division with 70 points. Are they the Stanley Cup winning team of 2011? No. Do they have a playoff future this season? All current signs point to yes.