The Bruins are, to borrow an old phrase, "in a family way." A mistake that has been covered up for months by the loose clothing known as Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask is now starting to show, and they're going to have to deal with these pregnant losses in a way that might get someone shipped out of town. Their goaltending can't bail them out and shush the townfolk forever -- they've given up 14 goals while losing three in a row -- so GM Peter Chiarelli is, indeed, trying to deal with it.
Bruins (31-19-7, 5th/E) @ Islanders (21-29-7, 14th)
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
7 p.m. | MSG+ | audio - WRHU 88.7
NOTE: Free Center Ice preview, plus Yahoo stream
Mario will come after them next: Stanley Cup of Chowder
In one shotgun wedding, Chiarelli already added defensive-minded center Chris Kelly (who faces the Isles for the second consecutive game tonight), but he's also been open about his search to add a defenseman.
Everyone is reporting that the Bruins are chasing a puck-mover, and there is much heavy breathing at the prospect of this year finally being the year Tomas Kaberle moves, but I can't help thinking Radek Martinek would be an underrated and inexpensive backup plan for the Bruins or any other Serious Contender who knows, as Vancouver has learned and the Isles have painfully proven, you can never have too many defensemen.
The knee-jerk response to this modest proposal is that there's no offense there, but Martinek hasn't been asked to play the powerplay much in years, and he's a smart defensive defenseman who can move the puck and keep guys like Alexander Ovechkin frustrated. While Kaberle would be a great offensive and powerplay-oriented addition, if they can't hit the home run, then a guy like Martinek would still take pressure off of guys like Zdeno Chara by eating* a share of the PK (he logs 2:39 per game for the Isles) and unsung tough even-strength minutes.
*mandatory Martinek "if healthy" caveat
The Martinek fit is just my impression, but that diagnosis of the Bruins' issues is not mine alone. Here's SBN's Bruins blog Stanley Cup of Chowder:
Despite their rep as a strong defensive team, the Bruins have been mediocre defensively, and have been consistently bailed out by excellent goaltending.
SCoC also mourns the Bruins' declining powerplay. Again, I assume the Kaberle-or-someone rumors are stirred by a desire for an offensive defenseman to free up Chara to be more Shutdown Monster and less Shutdown Monster + Powerplay Stalwart. But sometimes we can't get what we seek at the candy store, particularly when we're already in danger of spending next week's allowance. Teams hoping for a blueline upgrade have to have Martinek in mind as a fallback, particularly since his $1.5 million cap hit allows more flexibility than the average bear.
If Darren Dreger's report is true that Garth Snow has been asking for a 2nd-round pick for Martinek -- the Bruins just traded theirs to Ottawa -- then teams may be hoping that price comes down. Personally, I hope Snow stands firm or stands pat. If the long-time Islander is a candidate for an extension, then I'd want more than a 3rd to let him go help some other gal get out of the fix she's in.
(Thus concludes the strained pregnant-with-losses themed portion of the post. Apologies.)
Game Night: It's Thugs vs. Thugs!
Before the Islanders suddenly became the standard for loathsome thuggery in the NHL, there was the Bruins-Canadiens brawlfest last week, in which the Bruins thumped the Canadiens on the scoreboard and in the boxing ring, including a goalie fight that went quite a bit differently than Rick DiPietro v. Brent Johnson. That night was just "old time hockey," of course -- but Habs blog HabsWatch (they were the "victims" in that one, remember) echoes the same feeling most LHH participants have shared about Friday's brawling with the Pens:
Fighting isn't out of control, incompetence dealing with the dirty crap that causes it to spiral out of control is.
And that is why people make Fire Colin Campbell petitions.
Anyway, while that charged Bruins-Canadiens game was seen as a rallying point, the Bruins haven't won in three tries since (two losses were to the Red Wings, who are rather good). Conversely, the islanders haven't lost since their Frontier Justice Night.
The point is, we can read into these occasions all the team bonding and morale that we want, but wins and losses are still just wins and losses: They turn on a myriad of factors that change from night to night. The best team does not always win on any given night, which is why they play 82 and hope the cream rises to the top. It usually does.
So even if the Isles hadn't won Sunday, or Tuesday, the effect of standing up to the Pens and refusing to take their cheap stuff or their turtling would be the same: If the players believe it helped them, then it probably did.
As for tonight, to a man the Islanders admitted they didn't play their best game Tuesday in Ottawa -- which is what made pulling out the win all the more satisfying. The Bruins are now only tied with the Canadiens for the Northeast lead and the third seed. That's a big deal because the Northeast runner-up is likely to miss out on home ice advantage in the playoffs. As this is only their second meeting of the year, the Isles will have something to say about where the Bruins finish.
And that's the mode we're in right now: Spoil, grow, enjoy. Hopefully that's not the case next February.
Evgeni Nabokov (failure to read fine print) is a scratch tonight.
Links to Breeze through Conference Calls With
- Michael Grabner wasn't in the buff. Just so we're clear. [Vancouver Sun | LHH FanShot]
- As far as Islanders rookies go, Grabner is now bordering on historically good. [Forever1940/Skinny] Bonus: Fun to see a Dave Volek mention there. Which team's dynasty hopes did Volek shatter again?
- NEW: More Grabner - An article in Austrian press on Grabs, FanShotted with some translations by Paumanok.
- As mentioned yesterday, Mark Streit skated with the team but don't get too excited. Still, Newsday's Arthur Staple reports [$5 please] his rehab has gone quite well.
- NHL.com's Brian Compton has much more on Streit, and on Josh Bailey's scoring slump and a visit from his dad. [LHH FanShot here]
- More straight outta Compton: Al Montoya on getting another shot in the NHL.
- Anyone see Stan Fischler during the Devils-Canes game? I was flipping around and missed it, but BC says he was laying into Mario and the Pens. Remember kids: Just because the Penguins started the fighting once they were down 3-0, doesn't mean Friday was anything but completely the Isles fault.
- Don Cherry, too. Nice to know Shero "talked" to Cooke. [ProHockeyTalk | LHH FanShot]
- The Sound Tigers lost in a shootout, and their struggles (1-14-2-2) are getting ridiculous but, well, we have all their players. Fornabaio sheds some light on the game.
- Atlanta overpaid on Byfuglien's contract extension. [Behind the Net]
Per the recent fine-tuning to our First Islanders Goal (FIG) pick scheme, leave your reply to the first FIG pick. Within that tree, if someone's already picked your player, reply to that comment with your pick like so: FIG: Player (assist1, assist2), TIME.
You know, like in JP's FIG 101 FanPost.