NESN’s Andy Brickley spoke with Mut & Merloni Wednesday about why the Bruins have struggled to maintain leads, what general manager Peter Chiarelli might do before the trade deadline, and how the lineup could be shuffled after some recent injuries.
On Tuesday, the Bruins gave up three third-period goals and lost 3-1 to the Jets. Brickley said the way the B’s have played with leads, especially late in games, has been problematic.
“With one-goal leads, even sometimes two-goal leads — for some reason, their inability to make plays when it’s coming out of their own zone, at center ice, when they do have possession, putting pucks into areas in the offensive zone, it requires discipline,” Brickley said. “You don’t want to have to play that way, because you have the lead and you think you can extend the lead by making plays, when the real play is to put pucks in areas to force the other team to have to go and then have to come 200 feet.
“Games are going that way this year because of the 48-game schedule. Things are different this year. Those are not excuses for this Bruins team, because they’re better than they’re showing. They should have close-out ability and they haven’t shown it consistently enough. That said, they’re still in pretty darn good shape.”
There’s been talk of the Bruins pursuing a stay-at-home defenseman to help support Dougie Hamilton before the April 3 trade deadline. However, Brickley said they may make a play for an offense-oriented defenseman instead, despite the potential cost of such a trade.
“As much as we like Dougie Hamilton and what he’s brought to this team, you still see his minutes reduced late in the game, when they’re playing good competition, playoff teams, and goals are hard to come by,” Brickley said. “He’s not the player that you can look at and say, April, May and June, he’s going to be real good for us. That would be a total guess. So maybe you do have to add a puck-moving defenseman, and that’s probably where the premium is at, but there are a lot of puck-moving defensemen ‘¦ that would be available.”
To get that offense-minded defenseman, the Bruins might have to give up a top prospect or high draft pick, and making a deadline deal for an elite player is rarely simple.
“If you’re talking one of those high-end guys, you’ve got to deal with no-trade clauses,” Brickley said. “You’ve got to deal with, what is his salary cap hit, can we fit him into the compliance buyout next year if it’s too much money but we want him for the rest of this year. There’s a lot of names getting chatted about, and obviously, that’ll only get even hotter between now and 15 days from now.”
On whether Hamilton’s minutes are limited due to concerns about injury or a lack of trust in him: “It’s all of the above. It’s more, can he make plays that we need him to make late in the game, can he make the right decision, how’s his gap control, is he eliminating players? He’s been very, very good, but when you’re trying to put games away, and obviously they’re having difficulty with everyone doing the right things, he’s as guilty or more so on the back end than most. You can’t just keep rolling [Zdeno] Chara and [Dennis] Seidenberg out there.”
On Claude Julien  saying the Bruins didn’t get “timely saves” from Tuukka Rask  Tuesday: “I was a little surprised by that, too. That’s some frustration from a coach that knows third periods have been an issue. I think he’s very satisfied with his goaltending to be honest. I think it was frustrating because of the fact that they didn’t extend the lead, and now it’s everybody’s fault, from coaching to goaltending to special teams to players up and down the lineup.”
On Ryan Spooner and the first line’s issues: “I thought Ryan Spooner looked a lot more like an NHL  player than he did in his first attempt. He played less than six minutes in that game against Montreal — I’m not sure what kind of opportunity that is to really evaluate his ability to play at this level. But he was going to get the opportunity. I think he appreciated that, that they were going to stick him right in [David] Krejci‘s slot and give him a chance to play with two real good players when they were on top of their game. He certainly didn’t look out of place, looked pretty comfortable. We had a quick little highlight package of him after the first period and into the second where he was doing his job defensively and involved offensively. He has a chance to be a very good NHL  player somewhere down the line.
“But it reminds you that with mounting injuries, with [Chris] Kelly going down, now with Krejci going down, now [Adam] McQuaid goes down, your strength in the middle is affected. Your team toughness is affected. When you try to shorten your bench late in games and you want to maybe rotate four or five defensemen, that’s affected as well. But what does it mean for Milan Lucic  and Nathan Horton ? It just puts more pressure on them to perform, to be better than they’ve been on a consistent basis.”
On Spooner going from Providence to the first line: “This kid is an offensive guy. He’s leading Providence in scoring. He should play with offensive people in offensive situations, not just stuck on a third or fourth line and worrying about chipping pucks in and chipping them out. Give him some power-play time. I like that, when you call up a guy and try to play to his strengths and put him in a position to succeed, and I think that was the thought process in putting Spooner where they put him.”
On breaking up Patrice Bergeron’s line: “Sure. I think that’s even been bandied about with the absence of David Krejci . Do we keep Lucic and Horton together? Do we slide [Rich] Peverley right in between the two of them? ‘¦ Do you even give [Tyler] Seguin some time to play in the middle, break up the Bergeron line, which is probably the least desirable because they’re so good together?Let’s keep that one line together, maybe they’ll be a difference-maker on some nights and we can win hockey games.
“Sometimes you just try to keep twosomes together. It doesn’t have to be the three guys, outside of the Bergeron line. They’ve got to find a way to get more offense, and they put that game away last night if their power play could produce a goal when it’s 1-0, or certainly take a point out of it. They could at least get to overtime, I’m sure, if they had a two-goal lead in the third period. Even by tweaking those forward lines a little bit, get people’s attention, maybe you reduce somebody’s ice time, give somebody’s ice time to somebody else. As currently constituted, this roster, with the injuries that they have –you can see the need, there is a need, and you may have known that there was going to be a need all along to add to this roster, but now it’s being amplified.”