The Bruins Need Defense; and Thomas

  

Claude Julien coaches a defensive system with a boring strategy. In his fairly short career as a head coach he has carried this philosophy into Montreal, New Jersey and now into Boston. Though fired from the Devils in 2007, they continue to play to this defensive minded philosophy, and the only reason they have remained successful from it, is their rock solid affirmation in goal, Martin Brodeur, and their plethora of veteran leadership, and three zone, two way, offensive players. For the sake of maintaining an argument for success in the NHL and how it has recently been achieved, I will proceed to repeat myself from earlier posts on many factual observations I have made. The first comes in the form of a question which I will then answer. Name a team to win a Stanley Cup this decade, who did not ride a veteran goalie of at least a decade’s worth of experience on a professional level? Listed below are the teams that won the Cup in the given year, the goalies they road out, their goalie’s experience, and their goalie’s total games played in the regular season.  

  • Colorado Avalanche, Patrick Roy, 2000-2001 season, 15 years, 62 games played  
  • Detroit Red Wings, Dominik Hasek, 2001-2002 season, 11 years, 65 games played  
  • New Jersey Devils, Martin Brodeur, 2002-2003 season, 11 years, 73 games played  
  • Tampa Bay Lightning, Nikolai Khabibulin, 2003-2004 season, 10 years, 55 games played  
  • Lockout, 2004-2005 season  
  • Carolina Hurricanes, Martin Gerber, 2005-2006 season, 11 years (Swiss League), 3 years in NHL, 60 games played, (while Cam Ward bided his time on the bench, as the backup) 
  • Anaheim Ducks, Jean Sebastian Giguere, 2006-2007 season, 10 years, 56 games played  
  • Red Wings, Chris Osgood, 2007-2008 season, 14 years, 43 games played & Dominik Hasek, 2007-2008 season, 16 years, 41 games played  
  • Pittsburgh Penguins, Marc-Andre Fluery, 2008-2009 season, 5 years, 62 games played  
The answer is one, in the form of a Penguins team lead by the up and coming “Untouchables“, Crosby and Malkin. 

How many times in the past decade has a goalie-by-committee brought a team a Stanley Cup?  

The answer is one, in the form of Hasek and Osgood, a combined 30 years NHL experience, and the team of the decade in front of them.

How can the Bruins, a struggling team, dependent on a defensive strategy, dependent on an affirmation in goal, the most important of all defensive devices needed for success, be successful platooning Rask and Thomas throughout the regular season, and think Rask could possibly survive the playoffs in only his second year in the NHL?  

The answer is, they can’t, and they won’t be successful if they do so.

I will admit that I am bias to Tim Thomas’ plight. I also have a keen eye to the past, and I have fought through Bruins fandom, watching goalies and goaltending philosophies come and go. Amidst the recent slump, a controversy has immerged. Would the Bruins be out of this slump, or have shut out the Canadiens had it not been for Rask? No. Would they have beaten the Sharks this year, won out at the Winter Classic or been as successful as they have been over the past two seasons, had it not been for Thomas? No.   

  

If the Bruins want to remain invested in the Claude Julien system, they will keep Thomas, and utilize him as the starter into the playoffs. They will also need to acquire a veteran defenseman, to use not only themselves (last year) but the listed champions above as examples, with a defensive, not particularly an offensive, skill set, as opposed to the young men they are rotating up and down from the AHL due to injury. The offense shouldn’t have to buy into a slow moving offensive strategy, dependent on intricate set ups and puck control, not on speedy transition, with rookie defenseman holding their blue lines and delivering lead passes through the neutral zone. It is bad enough Derek Morris and Wideman are struggling not only in these two obvious aspects of defensive play, but neither can hit the net this year. Do the Bruins need an offensive threat, a presence with a quick stick and even quicker skates? Yes. Returning to the Devils comparison, reference Zach Parise and newly acquired Ilya Kovalchuk as examples. But this threat will be moot if a goalie controversy remains heavy over the organization and if the defense fails to find chemistry, or the organization fails to build it.  

 

After Thought –

Do not get me wrong on the rookie system the Bruins have implemented. Their AHL affiliate in Providence pays homage to this defensive strategic philosophy, and they play it well. McQuaid, Boychuk, and even Hunwick last year, are and have been prepared. But as risky as it would be to play all of their chips on Rask this season, is as risky as it is for the Bruins not to acquire at least one more veteran presence to compliments Chara’s wavering leadership, through no fault of his own.  

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3 Responses

  1. In the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Hurricanes found themselves in a two game deficit in the first round against the Montreal Canadiens. Martin Gerber struggled in the series, which prompted Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette to turn to Ward. Ward quickly stifled the Montreal offense, and helped to carry his team to the next round against the New Jersey Devils, where he defeated his personal hero Martin Brodeur.[5] After beating the Devils, the Hurricanes played the Buffalo Sabres, who had their own rookie goalie sensation, Ryan Miller; Carolina won in seven games.

    On June 5, 2006, Chris Pronger scored on a penalty shot against Ward in the Stanley Cup Final, marking the first successful penalty shot in the Finals’ history.[6] Nonetheless, Ward went on to win the game, turning away 34 shots on goal. He eventually won the Stanley Cup, becoming the first rookie goaltender to do so since Patrick Roy.

  2. Cam Ward was also the Stanley Cup MVP that year and has consistently helped a marginal team do damage in the playoffs (see last season for example)

  3. And if Rask can do the same, piggy backing on the shoulders of the Bruins No. 1, Tim Thomas, who has EARNED the position, than so be it. I would rather a Cup than worry about who is in goal, but Cam Ward would never have had his fill if he had been looked upon to pull the weight of that team ALL season. I feel Rask’s timing with this Bruins team is way off.

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