Ten reasons why the Bruins aren’t playing playoff hockey
The 2015 NHL playoffs began Wednesday night. with a handful of entertaining games. Of of the 16 teams fighting to hoist Lord Stanley’s cup, the Boston Bruins are not one of them. The team dismissed GM Peter Chiarelli yesterday, architect of decisions such as the Tyler Seguin trade and significantly long-term mega-contracts to select players the past three years since Boston paraded Lord Stanley in 2011.
Once made, those moves needed to be lived with. Also, all teams get hit with injuries — but good teams find ways to endure such — so don’t expect the loss of Zdeno Chara and David Krejci for stretches this season to be among the following.
Here are the 10 reasons for consideration and debate in order of impact about why the season ended last Saturday night in the Hub of Hockey. The Chiarelli firing and replacement — along with Claude Julien’s fate — will now occupy the media focus.
Water coolers and airwaves, however, will be filled with some of the following chatter for months to come as reason(s) why the Bruins came within two points of post-season play, while needing to be a focus for the 2015-16 season.
10) Final scores — The Bruins played a total of 43 one-goal games. They won only 20. They were winners of only 21 in games won by two or more goals, but only 11 against playoff teams and 10 vs. non-playoff teams.
9) Line combinations — When the roster was finally healthy the final month of the season, there were too many line combinations when stability was key. Yes, the revamped Milan Lucic-David Pastrnak-Ryan Spooner line produced, but that was it overall. So often, Claude Julien’s ongoing post-game refrain was “lack of finish” as the reason for so many key losses. One reason for that lack and those losses was too many players in different roles on different lines – especially at the end of the season.
8) Reilly Smith’s contract extension — In early March — in the middle of the most important stretch of the season — Smith was somehow selected as one of the impending free agents to receive a two-year contract extension worth $7 million after two team losses. Right after, he coughs up the puck for two goals in a mega-loss to Ottawa on March 19. Then he gets benched the next game in Florida. Then he comes back and the team loses two more for six in a row.
7) Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell — They combined for a total of 28 points and a plus-minus of minus-8 in 141 games evenly divided at 70 and 71. Individually, neither produced offensively or defensively, especially Paille, a former first-round draft pick by Buffalo.
6) Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg — $10 million-plus went to this No. 1 and No. 2 rank in the D-corps. They played 63 and 82 games respectively, scoring 22 and 14 points, and were only even in the plus-minus category. Chara did not score his first goal at home until the halfway mark in the schedule. Both seemed to lose a step after last season’s knee injuries.
5) Milan Lucic and Loui Eriksson — The Bruins invested more than 10 million this season in Lucic and Eriksson. They played 81 games each and scored 44 and 47 points, respectively. Not terribly bad in the new offensively challenged NHL, but each, especially Lucic, took the first half of the season off. Neither earned their check the first three months when points are equally valuable to the final three months.
4) The fourth line —Or better still, “What fourth line?” After not resigning Shawn Thornton for a lowly million-plus per year, the team never regained the fourth line spark or production that Thornton, Campbell and Paille provided. Julien kept plugging different players into that final third piece of that line all season — with no impact.
3) Two sets of key games — St. Patrick’s Day loss in the shootout to the lowly Sabres 2-1; a week later losing the lead with seconds in regulation to the Ducks and then the game in OT.
March 15 and April 8 games vs. Washington, both stinkers in 2-0 and 3-0 losses, respectively. Each started losing streaks with key points on the table, especially the latter that ended the season with two final losses to Florida and Tampa — with the whole season on the line.
2) Johnny Boychuk trade — The Bruins opened the season on October 8. Boychuk was traded to the Islanders for draft picks days before. The team never recovered emotionally and the front office never remotely filled Boychuk’s skates on the ice.
1) Shootouts — When the team lost a key shootout game in March, Julien commented postgame: “They suck.” The media wasn’t sure about Julien’s reference to the format — or his team. Regardless, the Bruins ended 4-10 in shootouts this season, near the bottom of the league. Six of those losses were against non-playoff teams. The proverbial shootout question by B’s fans? “Why is it so difficult for the pros to score on a play they began practicing in driveways before donning skates?”