By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Let’s debunk some myths surrounding the Boston Bruins on social media and sports radio since their series loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning:
Myth 1: Brad Marchand Can’t Be Trusted, Should Be Traded
The Bruins re-signed Brad Marchand to an eight-year, $49 million contract in September 2016 knowing the baggage he brought with him. He’s always going to push his behavior to the line and will cross it a couple of times a season.
This postseason’s licking incident was unique, but certainly not more egregious than some of the illegal hits he’s thrown that earned him suspensions and left opponents injured. This is the way Marchand has to play to be his best and that’s what the Bruins love about him.
He’s a consistent 35-goal scorer that would probably top 40 goals if he was able to avoid suspension and injury. He’s maybe the best defensive wing in the league and is certainly among the elite penalty killers. He’s just 29.
You don’t trade a guy with Marchand’s resume and potential for future production just because he licked someone, especially when that incident didn’t even hurt the Bruins. He’s been warned, hopefully he won’t lick again (he’ll find more unusual ways to pester opponents), and he’ll get his points. And he’ll do it in a Bruins uniform the way he’s supposed while 30 other teams in the NHL try to find their own version of Brad Marchand.
Myth 2: Zdeno Chara Slowed Down Too Much In Playoffs
Auston Matthews would get a good laugh out of the talk in Boston that Zdeno Chara slowed down in the playoffs. That’s the Toronto center that had just one goal and one assist in seven games while spending most of his ice time trying to solve the defensive pair of Chara and Charlie McAvoy.
Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and his linemates didn’t exactly have a field day in the second round against the Bruins’ No. 1 pair. In fact, Stamkos’ trio was held off the scoresheet at even strength until Stamkos’ game-tying goal in Game 4 (the goal every Bruins fan will tell you shouldn’t have counted because Nikita Kucherov hauled down McAvoy).
If the Bruins had scored an even-strength goal or two over the last three games of the series, would there be complaints about the job Chara did? I don’t think so. Instead, we might be looking at a potential Chara-Alex Ovechkin showdown.
Chara had his miscues like the rest of his teammates in the Lightning series against an elite, deep team that nearly led the Eastern Conference wire to wire. Sure it’ll be great if the Bruins continue to expand their depth on defense and cut back Chara’s minutes in the regular season so he could be even sharper in the postseason, especially if the Bruins plan to play more than two rounds in the next few seasons. But the idea you’re going to cut him back by four or five minutes is probably too much to ask and not necessary. Shaving a couple of minutes off his ice time will allow him to continue to be the best shutdown defender in the league.
And while we’re on the topic of left-shot defensemen, I’m not 100 percent sold the Bruins have to go outside the organization to improve this position. Before Brandon Carlo was injured, he and Torey Krug were rounding into a fine second defense pair. Things went a bit haywire in the playoffs when coach Bruce Cassidy tried to get Krug and Kevan Miller to play that role. Perhaps the Bruins need someone bigger and more adept at defending to play the left-side on the third pair, but Krug is a dynamic offensive player that continues to find ways to make up for his lack of stature and shutdown ability with creativity and determination. I wouldn’t overpay in a trade or free agency in search of a second-pair defenseman. Plus Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon are left shots that might be ready to take the next step and play on the third pair.
Myth 3: Tuukka Rask Lost The Bruins The Series Vs. Tampa
You know where I stand on this one. He didn’t “steal” the series when his team couldn’t buy a 5-on-5 goal and couldn’t get any production from three-quarters of the forward corps. There isn’t a goaltender that would have.
Rask stops breakaways galore from Stamkos, Kucherov and the like and the would-be goaltending experts say he can’t win the big one or can’t make the important saves. He took the young and improving Bruins one round deeper than they went last season. He had an outstanding regular season. Now his season is through. You know who else is done for the year? Martin Jones. Matt Murray. Either Pekka Rinne or Connor Hellebuyck will be done after Thursday night. These are the goaltenders that are supposedly worlds better than Rask. And if they make less money than Rask, they won’t for long. Great goaltenders eventually get paid.
Give it a break already folks, unless you’d like the Bruins to become Flyers north. They’ve been looking for a goaltender half as good as Rask for four decades.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.