Andy Brickley on D&C: Bruins ‘the best team in the NHL’
|12.21.11 at 12:14 pm ET|
NESN analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning with guest hosts Dale Arnold and Bob Ryan for his weekly discussion the Bruins.
The Bruins are the Eastern Conference leaders after winning 19 of their last 22 game. While they only hold a one point edge on the Flyers, the Bruins man handled the Flyers in a 6-0 win last Saturday, taking complete control over the East. The Bruins are in the middle of a five-day break right before the holiday season, giving Brickley and guest D&C hosts Bob Ryan and Dale, plenty to talk about before the Bruins get back in action against the Panthers on Friday. Brickley told the hosts that he thought the Bruins are currently playing better than any other Eastern Conference team.
“They certainly are right now, I don’t think there’s any question about it,” Brickley said. “You can point to all the statistics and numbers you want, but just give it the eyeball test and watch this team play. I guess the simplest way to look at it is as a collection of six defensemen, four lines, two goaltenders, the matchups that the Bruins get because of that depth and balance makes them the better team on most nights. And when you have that believability because you’re Stanley Cup champions — which was really the only element missing, I thought, from a pretty confident team over the last couple of years despite some serious playoff dramatic defeats — that once they became champions, that learning to win was embedded in them. And that’s how they play now. And if you combine those elements, yeah, they are the best team in the NHL, as we speak.”
Brickley chalked up the Bruins’ early season struggles as purely an emotional battle that veterans hadn’t dealt with before.
“They couldn’t get the emotional needle to where it needed to be,” Brickley said. “I think people were well aware of that within the organization, players included, that that was going to be the toughest task. I think you saw the younger players not have a problem with it as much as the older players, the established players, the guys that maybe had not won a Stanley Cup and now were finally champions. To understand where they needed to be emotionally game in and game out and to have to do it just a couple of months after doing it to the middle of June and try to do it in October was more difficult than anybody realized, myself included.
“I didn’t expect them to start 3-7. I thought at worst-case scenario maybe a .500 team through the first four or five weeks of the season, which would have been fine with me. But I got a little concerned at 3-7. When I heard players like Tim Thomas and Milan Lucic say, ‘You know, we’re not that far off,’ you look at the game tape and you break it down and you say maybe they’re right, what’s missing? And it was that emotion, that physical engagement that comes with the emotion of being involved in a game was the only thing that was lacking. And they found it.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
On what’s missing from Tyler Seguin’s game lately: “First, I think you have to take a look at what other teams are doing, taking note of what Tyler Seguin was doing early in the season, and they make adjustments. They game plan for a guy with that kind of speed and skill set. Now, he needs to make an adjustment. And the adjustment means he needs to compete a little bit harder and find out the things to do on the ice. You watch a guy like Steven Stamkos and listen to what he said when he went from being a pretty good rookie to a dominant player in a pretty rapid ascension. He needed to learn how to do other things on the ice, how to get open better, how to find other teams’ weaknesses. So, it’s all about adjustments. It just comes down to compete factor or battle or whatever you want to call it, put any title on it.
“That’s where Tyler has to make his biggest adjustment. If teams give him time and space, he’s going to hurt you. Even in that Philly game, the Bruins weren’t thrilled with the way he was playing, yet he ends up with a goal and an assist. He has that kind of impact as far as the scoreboard’s concerned. I think if he makes the necessary adjustments on how to compete, how to win more battles — I thought we saw more of it in the Montreal game, which tells you that he’s getting the message. How consistently is he going to get it? And the only way that you can continue to hammer it home is to make him earn his ice time.”
On where Tuukka Rask will be in 2-3 years: “We had a difficult time saying that there’s no way [Thomas] could have a similar season or even a better season than he did a year ago, and look at him. Arguably he’s better this year than he was last year. That being said, where is Tim Thomas going to be in two years will have a definite impact on where Tuukka Rask is. ‘¦ I think he’s got the perfect temperament for [his current status]. He wants the No. 1 job, he wants to make life difficult for the Bruins on deciding on who to play.”
On who is the most underappreciated Bruin: “We like to trumpet Patrice Bergeron‘s game. We feel that he’s the best three-zone forward that they have. He does so many little things that don’t necessarily end up on a scoreboard. ‘¦ I know you guys were talking earlier about how well the Bruins can score goals and have scored goals, yet they don’t have anybody in the top 30. So, that tells you they get the job done as a team. And just about every player does things that go unnoticed, but I think the poster child for that would be a guy like Bergeron.”
On if the Bruins need to do anything before the trade deadline: “Yes, you do. You have to expect injuries. You have to. It happens across the board and especially at playoff time. And even though we rave about the depth and balance of this Bruins team, outside of their top six right now, their seventh defenseman is Steven Kampfer. And Steven’s going to be a good player, he’s going to be a real good player, but he needs to play, whether it’s in Providence or he needs to get some more games in at the NHL level. ‘¦ Beyond Steven Kampfer on the depth chart, not good enough right now. The guys that are next on the list to step in and play, they just don’t have the quality of what they need on the blue line, so I think that’s an area that they have to be concerned with because you have to, as much as you don’t want to, you have to expect guys to go down.”
On if the Bruins do a good job staying out of trouble: “If you break games down and you see the number of hits and the confrontations that they get involved in, their ability to walk that line and stay out of the areas where you’re going to get hurt by the league, I think it’s tremendous. That’s all about decision-making, it’s all about understanding what the league is trying to do to change the culture and what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. ‘¦ I think the Bruins are real good at it. I think it’s one of their strengths that really isn’t talked about a whole lot, is just how good they are at playing within the rules and still being that heavy, physical, intimidating team.”
On the Bruins’ rout of the Flyers on Saturday: “I was talking with [Keith Jones], who does the same job as I do with the Flyers television, and he was expressing to me, he said, ‘The Flyers have no chance today.’ And I was saying, ‘What are you talking about? Just because [Chris] Pronger and [Claude] Giroux are out — you guys have just won X amount of games in a row, you still know how to win.’ He’s like, ‘No, no, the Bruins will come in here and intimidate this team, they really will. They’ll just exercise their will and then Philly will just try to get a little dirty in order to save face.’ He nailed it. I couldn’t believe I was hearing that from a team that is supposed to be tops in the East and certainly that was a tops in the Eastern Conference game. He follows this team on a regular basis so you have to put trust in what he’s saying. I certainly didn’t expect it, but that’s exactly what we got.”
On Sidney Crosby’s future: “I’ve missed the ball on this, I thought he would be back well before the almost calendar year that he missed. And then when he came back, first game against the Islanders, I expected big things from him because he loves the stage. And he delivered. And I thought he was well out of the woods. I’m a little disappointed he called out David Krejci for an elbow as part of his recurring symptoms or why he’s back on the shelf. It was more the hit by [teammate Chris] Kunitz at center ice than anything Krejci did.
“That being said, I can’t get my hands around the uniqueness of all these concussions and the lingering symptoms. When you see a hit like [Matt] Cooke on [Marc] Savard, OK, I can see that. That is a nasty, predatorial-type hit with major contact. But I look at the hits that Crosby has suffered, and for him to be out this long, I just don’t have the proper sensitivity to what that player’s dealing with because my expectation from experience is he should be back playing.”