Andy Brickley of NESN joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the expected arrival of Carl Soderberg, the issues of the Bruins defense, and whether any of the B’s potential playoff opponents could exploit those weaknesses.
The Bruins reportedly agreed on a contract  with Soderberg on Tuesday at last, after acquiring his rights in a 2007 trade. Brickley said he’s never seen Soderberg play in person, but based on video and his stats (60 points in 54 games in the Swedish Elite League this year), Brickley expects him to contribute to the Bruins right away.
“As soon as he grasps the whole concept of playing North American-style hockey, his size and his skill set will be very good for the Bruins,” Brickley said. “They’ve been in search of adding that depth and balance, whether it’s to the top six forwards or to the bottom six forwards, and he seems to be right on that cusp.”
Soderberg played center in Sweden, but team president Cam Neely  said Tuesday that he’ll likely start out in Boston as a winger.
“I understand the philosophy, especially in a system that is so demanding on that defensive centerman working with two defensemen down low,” Brickley said. “He does do that over in Europe, but the system is less demanding and there’s a lot more room and there’s more containment. ‘¦ Because of the size of the ice, it’s more containment than physical one-on-one battles. Those will be the adjustments, and maybe he’ll be better off learning to use his size along the boards, breakouts, and concentrating a little bit more on what he does really well, which is being a little offensive and a little creative offensively.”
On the Bruins’ defensive mistakes: “It’s the turnovers. It’s not so much how they defend in their own zone — it’s when you turn the puck over, and good teams turn defense into offense, and now you’re in trouble. When you’re making those poor decisions and when the execution’s not there and you’re handing the other team the puck, even unforced turnovers, it’s so hard to defend because you’re thinking offense instead of puck possession. If they don’t get it straightened out, it’s going to be a serious problem going into the postseason. That is my No. 1 concern for this Bruins team.
“You have to minimize your turnovers and be that puck-possession type of teams, in high-percentage plays where you don’t have a play. That means lay that puck in an area where it’s not going to come right back at you. That is why their defense, and I don’t mean the group of six — I’m talking about their team defense — has put a lot of pressure on the goalies over the last 10 games or so. Until they clear that area up, you saw Carolina the other night — they were a two-man aggressive forecheck below the goal line and a green light for both defensemen to pinch down the boards, and the Bruins had a really hard time with it. They’ve got to get that area of their game cleaned up. Don’t worry so much about the offense. ‘¦ It’s really how you come out of your own zone and how you manage the puck. The offense will be just fine.”
On a team the Bruins could face in the first round that has a forecheck like Carolina’s: “I think Toronto tries to play that way against Boston. They can’t really generate as much pressure for some reason — maybe they just don’t have the team speed or the commitment that Carolina has to the forecheck. I don’t think they green-light their defensemen as often as Carolina does, but there are stretches of games against Boston where Toronto can come with that similar style of, try to get five men on you in your own defensive zone. It can be very problematic. Ottawa to some degree but not as much, and if you want to look really far ahead, Montreal is the hardest team when they play that way.”
On Patrice Bergeron’s status: “They don’t want to be public with how well he’s doing, because with these concussion injuries, that bad day can all of a sudden sneak up on you when you think you’ve turned the corner. They want to be a little reserved in their commentary, but my guess is they’re satisfied, maybe even excited about the rapid recovery that he may be experiencing.”
On solidifying the forward lines before the playoffs: “You tinker with it a little bit in the playoffs, but you want that familiarity, you want those players feeling good about who they play with. To a man, they’ll say it doesn’t matter, you just have to look at yourself and play the system, but it does matter. You want to have somebody you’re comfortable with, who you know you have some chemistry with, you don’t have to take that extra half-second to find out where that person is. It should just be feel at that point, and I think that has to be established over the last 10 games.”
On keeping pairs of wingers together with different centers: “You can have that pairing on the outside if it’s a really good cycle game in the offensive zone, that it doesn’t really need to be the same centerman. If he’s really good and has that hockey IQ, he will allow you to play to your strengths as the two wingers and he will just kind of complement you guys. Most of the time it’s a centerman and winger, but it’s not exclusive.”