The Bruins looked awful last night and the Garden faithful are probably wondering how bad it can get. It can get a lot worse with only 24 hours before the next game. The Bruins are poised to depart on their first road trip after tomorrows game. Things are always tougher on the road and because the road trip looms, it's time to spot rest Tuukka Rask and have a more desperate Bruins team play in front of rookie Niklas Svedberg just to change the flavor of things.
Looking deeply into the mirror the two players whose game has lacked the most have been Loui Eriksson and Milan Lucic. It was Eriksson's assignment to close off the passing lanes on the left side during the two power plays and he failed to do it and was out of position on both plays. While Chris Cunningham has looked good paired with Dan Paille in limited time on the penalty kill, it's time to move Paille up with Chris Kelly as a tandem and sit Eriksson during shorthanded situations. I'll mention my suggestion latter for the third shorthanded pairing. As to Milan Lucic, his play has been lackluster and as a veteran, he allowed himself to selfishly retaliate on Mike Greene earning the Caps another powerplaay and himself an ejection from the game with ten minutes left in it. While the game was lost by that time, the good news is that Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser played their best offensive minutes with his absence at the end of the third period. With Paille speed and aggressiveness, I'd put him on the line with Spooner and Fraser in the next game and demote Lucic to the left wing of Craig Cunningham. I'd also demote Loui Eriksson to Cunninghams right wing. It's not fair to Cunningham, but he's playing limited minutes anyway, why not send him out with two veteran dogs that need to earn and play their way out of the dog house.
I hope nobody is thinking Tuukka Rask had much of a chance on any of the four goals. He didn't, except for the chance he would have had if his support on the ice hadn't slipped. Kelly, Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid were getting it done on the penalty kill with aggressive play and passing lane denials. Frankly, Eriksson failed them and Rask on both goals. It's hard to stop Alex Ovechkin from scoring when he gets a clean pass on his stick and a nanosecond later it's in the back of the net. Marchand could have impeded Ovechkin on the second goal, but it was McQuaid that coughed up possession in the corner on a bang bang play. Soderberg was responsible for letting Joel Ward get free on the fourth goal, but in fairness, he had his back to the play and didn't see the shot develop and when Ward tipped it, it either hit Rask or went in the net as it did. Bad luck, but the game was out of reach by that point.
What's a Coach to do? Other than demoting Lucic and Eriksson to the fourth line, which I'd definitely do. I'd dress Matt Bartkowski and sit Bobby Robins. I'd move Paille up on the left side of Spooner and Fraser. I'd shift Kelly to the right side of Soderberg and have Torey Krug play leftwing on that line to generate more offense. I'd adjust the second and third penalty kill units by having Paille tandem with Kelly and Krug tandem at forward with Cunningham. On the power play I'd have the first unit be Spooner play the left hand boards with Chara down low and try to have Fraser be the shooter from the right side. I'd also have Krug play right side defense with Seidenberg on the left. Second unit would have Bergeron play right sideboard with Soderberg down low and Marchand on the left. Left point would be Reilly Smith with Doug Hamilton on right side defense. Focus between Smith and Marchand for left side shots. On the fourth line since Lucic apparently can't shoot effectively, limit his minutes as he gets his game back or David Krejci returns to the lineup. When he returns, Krejci can center Lucic and Eriksson and get up to speed together or sit Spooner and get Fraser going with Krejci. Dressing Bartkowski and moving Krug up to wing allows the Bruins to have a more shutdown defense and his corner work and passing in the defensive zone I feel is more consistent that Krugs. Just some thoughts, I wonder what Claude Julien will do? I hope he isn't stubborn as some experimentation might help and certainly couldn't make things much worse.
Until Next Time!