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Andy Brickley on D&C: ‘I really don’t see a whole lot of challenge from anyone else in the conference’

12.28.11 at 12:10 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley talked with Dennis & Callahan guest hosts Tom Caron and Chris Mannix on Wednesday morning to discuss the Bruins’ busy second-half schedule, which teams provide the biggest challenge to the B’s in the Eastern Conference, and NHL First Star of the Week Brad Marchand.

Last week, Marchand scored a goal in the 3-2 victory over the Canadiens and capped off the week with a hat trick and two assists in the Bruins’ 8-0 dismantling of the Panthers.

“I think we should be a little surprised to the degree that he’s playing as well as he’s playing,” Brickley said. “I think any good team and any good young player that fits into a real good hockey club that’s deep and balanced like Boston, you expect those young players to get better from their rookie seasons and you’ve certainly seen that from both [Tyler] Seguin and Marchand. To think that he would be this good this early — this productive and this reliable — is a little bit of a surprise. But keep in mind both of those young players bring a nice element of speed along with their skill set to the Bruins.”

Brickley has been just as impressed by the play of Patrice Bergeron, who is on pace to have his most productive season and has lifted Marchand and Seguin.

“They play with a guy in the middle like Bergeron and that’s a huge benefit to them,” Brickley said. “It allows them to play to their strengths, have a little bit more freedom offensively because Bergeron will distribute the puck, he’ll take care of all three zones, and he’ll win his puck battles, and he’s so reliable and dependable yet he’s got an offensive flair himself. So to have that kind of centerman in the middle — that kind of experience, that kind of talent — is a huge benefit for those two guys.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

On who can challenge the Bruins in the East: “I think Philadelphia is always a competitive team. I still question what they have in goal. I mean, they made a major investment in [Ilya] Bryzgalov, and some nights he looks like he’s worth that investment and other nights he doesn’t. But without [Chris] Pronger I think that changes their team dynamic a little bit. I expect them to go out and make a major play for a big type defenseman. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started talking to Nashville again with their situation on Ryan Sutter or [Shea] Weber, but that’s a team I worry about.

“Pittsburgh always scares me, [but] is [Sidney] Crosby ever going to play again? And if he does, what does that mean to that team? But I love their coach, Danny Bylsma, he gets a lot out of that team and they can still hurt you. I don’t know what’s coming out of the Southeast, to be honest with you. Florida’s a pretty good team, I think they’re improving but they don’t scare. I’m not sure what Tampa’s about this year, Washington, they don’t seem to have things together. So, I’m not worried about the Southeast Division.

“And within the Bruins’ own division I think the one team that I thought was going to be real good and I think a lot of people thought were going to be real good was Buffalo, and I don’t know. It’s hard to wrap your brain around the East, because other than those two teams in the Atlantic, I really don’t see a whole lot of challenge from anyone else in the conference.”

On the Tim Thomas/Tuukka Rask platoon and how long it can last: “My educated guess is that the Bruins would like to see almost a reversal of games played as we move into the final years of Thomas’ contract and he moves closer to age 40 while Rask starts to play a little bit more often than Timmy does and passes the mantle onto the other goalie as Thomas gets deeper into the twilight of his career. And it’s hard for me to say that when Thomas is playing better this year than he did last year when he was the Vezina Trophy winner, but I think that’s the expectation and it’s a normal expectation to say, as our No. 1 goaltender ages, the young guy will then assume the No. 1 position and it will be a seamless transition and they’ll kind of just reverse roles.

“But as much as you want to talk about that and envision that, it’s hard to see it, because Timmy’s playing spectacular. But Tuukka is a guy who totally understands where he is in his career, and yeah, he’d love to play 60 games a year, but that’s not the case here in Boston. But he’s happy where he is, he understands his role, and he wants to be on a Stanley Cup team. And that’s what Tuukka is all about.

“Patience it’s a difficult thing when you’re a competitive athlete, but he wants to be a Stanley Cup champion and this is his best option to be a Stanley Cup champion. Now, do the Bruins have enough depth in the organization in goal to think if Tuukka really wanted out, really wanted to be a No. 1 somewhere else, and there’s actually teams that are crying out for goaltending across the league, that’s the question only Tuukka can answer. But as far as the depth of the organization, they don’t have it. They can’t move Tuukka because they really don’t have a guy who can step in and be behind Thomas. And if Tim ever went down in that situation, now you’re in real trouble.”

On where the Bruins need to improve: “I’d like to see them get leads a little more frequently earlier in the hockey game, better first periods. I’d like to see them manage the puck better when they play teams that are fast and quick on the forecheck, even if they have the lead late in the game. I see them turn the puck over too frequently under duress. I think they can shore up that area. And I know the numbers suggest how dominant the Bruins are second and third period as far as goals scored and goals against, but the eyeball test will tell you they really have to rely on their goalie some nights because they turn the puck over in those areas too often for me.”

Read More: Andy Brickley, Boston Bruins, Brad Marchand, Tim Thomas
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