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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Hockey News Bruins Preview

From The Hockey News Magazine-

By David Walter, Contributing NHL Editor

(Sports Network) - After a disappointing season last year, the Boston Bruins made the biggest move this offseason in the National Hockey League: literally.

The Bruins, who were extremely busy this summer re-tooling their roster, made the most significant splash in free agency signing the 6-foot-9, 260-pound mammoth defenseman Zdeno Chara away from fellow Northeast division foe, the Ottawa Senators.

The Chara signing was just the beginning of a brand new start in Beantown.

Boston, which finished 13th overall in the Eastern Conference last season, has made changes from the top down in the organization in hopes of rebuilding a competitive franchise. With new general manager Peter Chiarelli in the fold, along with Dave Lewis serving as the new head coach, Boston is hoping the changes made in the front office as well as on the ice, will get the club back into the postseason.

Along with Chara, the Bruins added the highly coveted center Marc Savard in free agency to give them a strong playmaker down the middle and bolster an offense that was ranked 24th overall in the league last season.

After trading away its franchise star player in Joe Thornton last fall, Boston never recovered offensively and the club hopes Savard can build off his career-year with Atlanta last season.

With adding two of the best players available in free agency in Chara and Savard, a franchise that looked lost and without direction last season, suddenly looks like it is back on track with a fresh new culture and commitment to winning.

Chiarelli also made several other moves to bolster his roster, including acquiring solid two-way defenseman Paul Mara from the Phoenix Coyotes and trading away goaltender Andrew Raycroft to the Toronto Maple Leafs on draft day for netminding prospect Tuukka Rask.

With Chiarelli bolstering the roster of the club with new talent, it will be up to Lewis to fit the pieces together and implement a strong system to get this storied franchise back to playing meaningful games come spring.

FORWARDS - Rising star Patrice Bergeron gives Boston a top play-making center and will form a nice one-two punch with Savard down the middle. Bergeron led the team in goals (31) and points (73) last season and clicked with linemates Brad Boyes and Marco Sturm. Boyes had an impressive rookie campaign last season and along with the shifty Sturm, formed a top scoring line with Bergeron for a club that featured speed and scoring.

While the talented Savard will not be able to provide the Bruins with the all- around physical game that Thornton brought to the ice, the nifty playmaker will supply the team with a go-to guy who makes the players around him better. Savard's 69 assists last season were third-best in the league and the wingers on the Bruins should benefit from Savard's playmaking ability.

Winger Glen Murray will be most excited to play with Savard as his production dropped off last season. Murray averaged 37 goals in his three previous campaigns and last year saw his goal-scoring production dip to 24 goals. Murray brings a solid veteran presence and a willingness to work the corners and crash the net, and should see his production bounce back with Savard getting him the puck.

Role players P.J. Axelsson, Wayne Primeau and Shean Donovan supply Boston with some experience and character as well as some scoring depth.

Keep an eye on 18-year-old Phil Kessel, who was Boston's first-round pick (fifth overall) in this year's draft. The youngster could make the team out of training camp with his excellent speed and scoring ability.

DEFENSE - Chara and Mara will immediately improve the Boston defense corps as both players will log a ton of minutes, taking pressure off of Brad Stuart, who often approached 30 minutes of ice time per-game last season.

Besides adding a physical presence in the defensive zone, Chara and Mara will also significantly improve goal-scoring production from the back end for the Bruins. The two combined for 18 power-play goals last year and should bolster a power-play unit that was ranked 25th in the league last season.

After Chara, Mara and Stuart, things in the defensive zone become a little foggy for Boston. Milan Jurcina was a pleasant surprise last season for the club, playing an all-around solid two-way game and will benefit from playing with one of Boston's top three defensemen.

From there on out there are no certainties as Boston will roll the dice with youngsters Andrew Alberts and Mark Stuart, who have spent significant time at the American Hockey League level. Tough guy Wade Brookbank could also see action as well as veterans Jason York and Nathan Dempsey.

While Boston's defensive unit will be much improved in front of its own net and provide some added scoring depth, the Bruins still lack quality speed from their defenseman and their transition game could suffer and frustrate their speedy forwards by not getting them the puck.

GOALTENDING - With the erratic Raycroft being shipped to Toronto, 32-year-old journeyman Tim Thomas and 22-year-old Hannu Toivonen will share the goaltending duties.

While Thomas' unorthodox style kept the Bruins in several games last season, he has never played a full season in the NHL. Boston rewarded Thomas with a three-year contract extension in the offseason and he is expected to split time between the pipes with Toivonen.

Toivonen is projected to be the goaltender of the future for Boston and very well could start the season as Boston's No. 1 netminder. The Finnish goaltender has quick reflexes for a big netminder and is technically sound.

Rask, who was acquired from Toronto in the Raycroft deal, is just 19-years-old and a solid prospect, but the Finn is still a few years away from playing in the NHL.

WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE - The Bruins are taking the proper steps necessary to get the franchise back on track, although the fruits of their labor might take some time to show on the ice.

Boston should be a better overall team this season, but playing in the Northeast Division with Ottawa and the Buffalo Sabres, the Bruins face some stiff competition. Lack of depth on the blueline and inexperienced goaltending could haunt Boston, but if they overachieve in those areas there could be playoff hockey next spring.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't mean to be a trouble maker, but do you have permission to reproduce this article in full?

2:58 PM  
Blogger Latrappe said...

I don't think there's a problem here since 1- This article is public and you don'T have tp pay to read it and 2- Matt wrote, where's it come from and the author of the text.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I respect your comment, but I will worry about those things. And it is legal since there is source and author, so permission is granted.

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And it is legal since there is source and author, so permission is granted."

I agree that they probably don't care, but you should review the law because I don't think you have it right.

11:15 AM  

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