While the Boston Bruins have struggled thus far, they are undefeated when playing on the road. Their recent 5-3 win over the Islanders followed a tough loss in Boston to the Philadelphia Flyers, in which the Bruins held a two goal lead going into the third period.
Notable accomplishments that took place for the Bruins this week included Joonas Kemppainen scoring his first career NHL goal. The goal came 16 minutes and 13 seconds into the second period, tying the game at 2.
Another bright spot in the B’s season so far is center David Krejci, who is currently tied for the most points in the NHL. With Krejci surging and the ever-consistent play of Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins have a solid one-two punch at center.
Furthermore, the Bruins powerplay is the number one unit in the NHL, despite the fact that essential powerplay defender Dougie Hamilton left the Bruins to sign with the Calgary Flames this past offseason. Working at a 38.1 percent success rate, the Bruins’ powerplay unit has shed some light on an otherwise disappointing 2015-2016 campaign. Unfortunately, the bads outweigh the goods for Boston so far this season.
One of the more concerning points of focus for the black and gold has been starting goaltender Tuukka Rask. Rask is 1-3-1 this season with a goals against average of 4.40 and a save percentage .854 according to NHL.com. Rask, who won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender just two seasons ago, has many Bruins fans concerned about how he will perform down the stretch.
In the midst of Rask’s struggles, veteran goaltender Jonas Gustavsson is making the most of his first season as the backup behind Tuukka Rask. According to NHL.com, Gustavsson is 2-0 so far in two starts for the black and gold, posting a goals against average of 2.50. While 2.50 isn’t a spectacular goals against average, it’s certainly better than that of Rask, and has been enough for a Boston team whose offense has certainly not been an issue. The Bruins currently sit third in goals per game, putting up an average of 3.86 goals per game as a team.
Between Gustavsson’s early success and Rask’s issues in the crease, we could be seeing a goaltender controversy brewing. If Gustavsson were to begin starting games on a regular basis, Rask would be getting paid roughly $7 million to sit the bench. Not something you want to see from a goaltender who signed an eight year contract in 2013.
Moving out of the crease and into the defensive corps, Dennis Seidenberg is still sidelined following back surgery that took place during the preseason. Torey Krug, who seems to have earned ‘veteran’ status on a Bruins roster filled with young defenseman, is playing similar minutes per game that captain Zdeno Chara is. Krug is only 24 years old, but has been playing in the NHL consistently since 2013.
Other Bruins defensemen, such as Tommy Cross, Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman and Colin Miller, have yet to play a full season in the NHL. The lack of experience on the back end has created quite a problem for the Bruins.
It seems fairly clear that while Tuukka Rask certainly seems to be a problem for the Bruins, he is far from the only problem. To put things in perspective, Las Vegas odds had Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien being a 3/2 favorite to be the first NHL head coach fired this season, according to Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com. That has since been proven wrong with the firing of Todd Richards in Columbus, but Julien is still under quite a bit of scrutiny.
Defensive inexperience, goaltending struggles and overall inconsistency has made for a disappointing start to the 2015-2016 season. If things don’t turn around quickly, there could be quite the facelift coming to beantown, players and coaches alike.
Crae can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org