Despite fans clamoring for one of those fabled puck moving defenseman, the Bruins defensive corp is certainly a strong point. Unless one of the “bubble” players blows away management during training camp the Bruins top six will likely include Captain Zdeno Chara (duh), Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny “Destroy of Worlds” Boychuk, Mark Stuart, Matt Hunwick (looking less likely) and unfortunately Andrew Ference. Hey, five out of six ain’t bad. Let’s explore.
Last year: Chara had a “down” year by his standards, but 98% of the Bruins did. He dealt with a dislocated pinky all season, an injury that affected his ability to drop the gloves and defend teammates and likely affected his booming slap shot.
He scored 44 points, his second lowest point total since coming to the Bruins but certainly not bad. He had just seven goals, down from the 19 his scored during his Norris winning campaign. He fired off 242 shots, but held an accuracy rate as low as Ference’s games played rate (2.9%).
In the playoffs the Captain scored seven points in 13 games and upped his shooting percentage to 5.9%, perhaps a result of his pinky feeling a bit better. As usual he was rock solid in both the regular season and playoffs and still remains one of, if not the, most feared defenders in the league.
Role: We’re expecting a big season out of Chara. Norris level again. Not exactly a bold prediction, but like many of his Bruins teammates Chara seems extra motivated. We loved that he showed up for a voluntary Captain’s practice to lead his troops. He had to leave for a day to go to LA for another nude photo shoot…. ah, Easton hockey shoot but then came right back.
He’ll still be the Bruins shutdown defender, working his magic at even strength, on the powerplay and the penalty kill. He’ll dominate physically and should be back to his fiesty self. A lot of the leagues agitators knew Chara couldn’t fight back within the rules of the league without suspension (when he had his splint on his finger) and certainly took advantage. His problems behind him, we expect Chara to put the fear back in his opponents.
Seems like he wants hockey to start right now. Like… this season. We’re expecting better powerplay numbers and better accuracy, and as a result more goals for the big man. He will likely be paired with Seidenberg but also showed great chemistry with Boychuk in the playoffs. The Bruins slogan last year was Big and Bad are Back. We have a feeling that this year Chara will personally live up to that slogan.
Patrice Purrgeron says: Chara will break you.
After the jump, we look at the rest of the Bruins D-men…
Now that Seidenberg is done being emo and cutting his wrist to see if he still feels and writing poetry alone in his dark room, we’re expecting big things out of him. Noticing a pattern?
Last Year: Seidenberg notched 9 points in 17 games with the Bruins after Boston send Bitz! Bitz! It’s a Byron Bitz! and some change to Hockey Hell Florida at the trade deadline. Seidenberg made an immediate impact while anchoring the top pairing alongside Chara. He was a shot blocking machine and wasn’t afraid to throw a hit like some people. *cough**Wideman**cough*
Are we expecting Seidenberg to keep the same point pace he showed late last season? No. But that is not a bad thing. We loved what we saw out of him in his limited time in a Bruins uniform last year. He was great positionally, jumped in front of every puck he saw and was accurate with his shot from the point. He produced a ton of rebounds and second chance scoring that the forwards unfortunately could not convert on more often than not.
Role: Seidenberg is not one of those flashy defenseman or a player you’re necessarily going to notice every shift but he’s been incredibly efficient the past few years and just keeps getting better. As fans we feel comfortable with him in front of Rask/Thomas, something we can’t say about a few current and recent Bruins defensemen.
As we said, he’s great at blocking shots and getting pucks to the night. He’s also great at gauging when to hang back on defense and when to jump up and join in on a rush or an opportunity in the offensive zone. Great pick up by Chiarelli and we don’t expect his contract to become one of those we as fans hate (like that jerk Ference).
Patrice Purrgeron says: He’ll invade you Poland 1939 style.
We do not try to hide our love for Johnny Boychuk on this blog. Not one bit. We love the guy. When this is all over we think us and Boychuk should get an apartment together.
Last Year: With Boychuk, as good as he was last season we feel like we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg so to speak. Boychuk spent almost the first quarter of the 2009-10 up in the press box watching and learning before the injury bug gave him the opportunity to prove himself. Once he got his chance, Boychuk and the Bruins never looked back.
He scored five goals and fifteen points in 51 games, his first season playing regularly at the NHL level. He provided a sturdy, reliable force on the ice and he continued to develop. He had a coming out party of sorts in the playoffs as more injuries thrust him full time into the top pairing with Chara and Boychuk certainly held his own. When Boychuk was on the ice Rask rarely saw shots get to him from Boychuk’s side of the ice and his physical presence intimidated his opponents. And he’s only going to get better.
Role: Bad ass mother fucker. He’s one of those players that is just naturally calm and collected, a great trait to have if you’re a defensmen. He blocks shots, has a booming yet accurate slapshot from the point, he’s sound positionally and he ruins lives and destroys egos with his hits.
Does he need work? Well we’re sure he does. No one is perfect, right? Except maybe Boychuk. But he’s going to be a stud on the ice. Despite spending roughly the first quarter of the season in the pressbox watching Andrew Ference stink it up on the ice, Boychuk didn’t get mad or lose interest. He watched, studied, and put in the extra time in practice to get noticed and get better.
He was at the Bruins voluntary practices as well, eager to kill again. We believe there is about a zero percent chance Boychuk suffers from the fabled Sophomore Slump. However we do believe he will take a page from the freshman and gain a Sophomore 15…. 15 extra neutral zone kills.
We won’t predict points here as that is…. pointless? But here’s what we’re predicting for Boychuk’s stat line this season:
27 Kills. 14 maims. 104 Broken Egos. We love you, Johnny.
Can’t wait to see him in action again.
Patrice Purrgeron says: Hide the kids, this is going to get bloody.
Last Year: Like Captain Chara, Stuart was one of many Bruins who were absolutely molested by the injury bug. He broke his sternum. Broke a finger. Had a vicious finger infection.
Not good for a developing player looking to take on a bigger role and make a bigger impact. But thems the breaks in hockey and we expect Stuart to rebound.
Role: He looked very rusty when he returned in the playoffs and understandably so. Infections are nasty business. The Bruins certainly missed his nastiness in the corners and in front of his own net. We love Stuart’s mean streak. If you’re screwing around in front of Rask/Thomas Stuart will certainly let you know he disapproves with a gentle yet stern love tap to the kidneys.
Stuart also happens to be one strong Mo Fo. He loves a good hit and is great at it, but sometimes leaves his post to make that big hit. Happens to everyone. Big whoop, want to fight about it? Hopefully Stuart has a good training camp and goes back to being awesome.
Going into last season Stuart was trying to ease into more of an offensive role but injuries derailed. Will we see more of that from him this season? We hope so. But that’s not his role. We’d be thrilled if he just continues to be nasty and ruin people in front of the net. Stuart is one of the Bruins many young players who should only get better.
Patrice Purrgeron says: Momma said knock you out. Stuart obliges.
Last Year: Oh Matty. Lil Matty. You haven’t been quite the same since your spleen met someone new and took off. Maybe you feel like something is missing, besides your spleen, because something was definitely missing from your game last season.
When most of the team was racking up points like Bruce Boudreau racks up clogged arteries in the 2008-09 season Hunwick had a bit of a breakout year, notching 6 goals and 27 points and finishing the regular season with a plus-15 in 53 games. Last year when most of the team struggled Hunwick did as well, mightily at times. In 76 games he scored just 14 points and finished a minus-16 on a Bruins team that finished second best in the league in goals allowed.
Role: Hunwick is expected to use his speed and offensive instincts to provide some offensive support from the blueline. Last year his defensive game made fans wish Coach Julien would just bump him up to wing. He was often out muscled and out worked and might have received more wrath from fans if Dennis Wideman wasn’t around. He’ll once again be expected to use his speed to contribute some points while getting more responsible defensively.
So which is the real Matt Hunwick? 2008-09? Or 2009-10? We expect to find out this year. He certainly has potential and great offensive upside. He has great speed and often knows when to take risks but the defensive aspect to his game definitely needs improvement. Perhaps the heartbreak of losing his spleen has finally passed and he’ll make more strides this season. We hope so. There’s a few Baby B’s pushing for regular roster spots so Hunwick probably can’t afford to have a poor camp.
Patrice Purrgeron says: He plays defense?! Uh oh….. poor Rask/Thomas….
We have no love for Ference here. None. We’ve said the same number of good things about Ference as the Washington Capitals have Stanley Cups.
Last Year: We assume Ference will once again be injured. A lot of people like to follow the logic that he’s due for a healthy season after having so much “bad luck” but we don’t by that. We expect Ference to rack up a healthy martini bill in the press box while bragging about the gas mileage his Toyota Prius gets. Get a real car, jerk.
Ference is an injury prone 31-year old who hasn’t played a full season since pulling on a Bruins uniform. Outside of injuries, we haven’t seen much out of him that has impressed us.
The defenseman that coach Claude Julien once described as the best on the team has shown Boston fans little to get excited about over the past few season. Putting aside his love for all things Captain Planet and his insane contract, to us Ference just doesn’t show us anything that makes us think he should be playing outside the bottom pair. He doesn’t offer much offensively which is fine. Not every D-man should be an offensive stud. But he also does not impress us defensively.
He’s just kind of… there. Sometimes he shows flashes of great play and for a split second you understand why the Bruins traded for him. But then most of the time he has you punching yourself in the face when you realize your favorite team did trade for him, his contract sucks and he’s probably going to go down within the first week of the regular season with a bruised uterus. He needs to step up and make Claude Julien not look like an idiot with all that best defenseman talk or make way for one of the up and coming Providence guys.
Patrice Purrgeron says: Stay healthy or go back to Whale Wars asshole.