BOSTON (CBS) – Can you believe the Boston Bruins hit the halfway point of their 2011-12 season Saturday night in Carolina?
Time sure has flown. And the Bruins didn’t provide much to celebrate in their 41st game by blowing a third-period lead and generally playing without any sharpness in a loss to the Hurricanes.
Nonetheless, the Bruins established themselves as an elite team during the first half and there are few things to complain about. The second half starts Monday night in Sunrise, Fla., where the Panthers are improved. But that rink has been quite hospitable to the Bruins in recent years.
Read: Bruins-Panthers Preview
Here are a few midseason notes to get you ready for the start of the second half:
– I watched Benoit Pouliot score a big goal in the win over Winnipeg last week and threw out the idea on Twitter that Pouliot could be a candidate for the Bruins’ Seventh Player Award (player who most exceeds expectations as voted by the fans).
Several people shot back at me with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley as better candidates. And an overwhelming majority screamed out for Tyler Seguin, who will probably be your winner based on both his popularity with the fan base and the 34 goals he’s on pace to score in just his second NHL season.
It seems every season the Bruins have several candidates for this award, which is yet another sign of how much the organization has improved in recent years. Here’s one other name to consider: Andrew Ference. The veteran blueliner is plus-13 and continues to be a solid on-ice leader. And in just 39 games, he’s exceeded last season’s point total (15) by one already.
– The Brad Marchand fiasco is now well in the rearview mirror, and the pesky winger is scheduled to return to the Bruins’ lineup Thursday in Newark, N.J. One effect of Marchand’s suspension I’m interested to see as the second half unfolds, however, is how players that usually use the hip check go about their business. Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk has proven proficient with this tool over the years. He says the hip check, when timed right, can be a great way to not only take the puck away from a player, but also take him out of the play completely.
Boychuk rarely uses it, though, when he has the puck. And the other Bruins’ defensemen typically shy away from it in all situations because of its all-or-nothing nature. There have been rumblings from those who don’t play the game that maybe it’s time to take out low hits completely.
“If you can do it, then do it. You don’t outlaw it. You just hip check,” said Boychuk.
– Lots of talk lately around what the Bruins should do, if anything, to upgrade in advance of the trade deadline. Even before the team’s recent run of lackluster play and its loss in Raleigh, I was calling for a potential upgrade on the back-end. The puck movement just hasn’t been efficient enough, even when the team was red-hot.
Joe Corvo has been solid, but also mistake-prone. And he wants no part of being a shutdown defender. When you look forward to the playoffs, you can’t risk Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg surviving the type of minutes they played last postseason, and you can’t expect Boychuk and Ference to form as strong a second pair as they were during the Cup run. In an ideal world, the Bruins stick with their current pairs. But more likely they’ll have to combined Chara and Seidenberg again. If they could get someone else to play with Chara and allow Seidenberg to lead a second pair with Boychuk or Ference, that’d allow them some room to deal with fatigue and injuries.
The Boston Globe’s idea about Carolina’s Tim Gleason is one I’ve been advocating for a few weeks. I like Anaheim’s Lubomir Visnovsky if the Bruins decide they’d rather improve their offense from the back-end and then try to get by with last year’s top four playing at both ends. One cheaper, second-tier acquisition could be Tampa Bay’s Brett Clark.