- Big Bad Blog - http://bigbadblog.weei.com -

Andy Brickley on M&M: ‘Bruins appear to be very vulnerable right now’

NESN commentator Andy Brickley joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the Bruins’ turnover issues, how their defensive pairings might look in the playoffs and how Milan Lucic [1] has responded to being benched on Saturday.

Brickley said he saw a number of recurring issues in the Bruins’ 5-2 loss to the Flyers on Tuesday.

“[I was] surprised by the lack of complete-game effort by Boston,” Brickley. “It’s almost an indifference to their game. Not enough meaningful contact, the turnovers were just way too many. And not just by one player or a handful of players — it’s everybody. When they get good penalty-killing, their power play can’t score. When they get a power-play goal, their penalty kill seems to fall by the wayside.

“When they need a save in a close game, they haven’t gotten it lately. And if you’re looking for that Bruin team that we got so used to liking because they had that cockiness and swagger to them and they had tremendous confidence as a team, it’s just not there, plain and simple. This is a team that no matter where they finish, whether it’s second or fourth in the conference, [potential playoff opponents] will have no reservations because the Bruins appear to be very vulnerable right now.”

Turnovers have plagued the Bruins all over the ice as they’ve continued to struggle recently, and Brickley said he thinks that’s their No. 1 issue at the moment.

“The ones that jump out at you are the ones where the defensemen turn the puck over in their own zone, and a scoring chance or a goal happens,” Brickley said. “But turnovers at the offensive blue line, turnovers deep in the offensive zone, bad passes through center ice — usually when you make mistakes like that, it’s your decision-making.

“Is that a result of mental or physical fatigue? If you told me that in the middle of the third week of March, when they were playing 17 games in that month, I’d say, OK, I get that. But not now. This is where fatigue cannot be part of the equation. You have to compartmentalize, totally focus on the job at hand. And what the Bruins really need is for their leaders to lead and their star players to do more. [Zdeno] Chara can be a better player. [Patrice] Bergeron has been awesome all year long, but I’m going to ask him to do even more. I want [Andrew] Ference to stand up, [Dennis] Seidenberg, those are the guys that really play tons of minutes. Those are the guys that have to lead the way.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page [2]. For more Bruins coverage, go to weei.com/bruins [3].

On defensive pairings heading into the playoffs: “You think of what it was like to have Chara and Seidenberg together after a couple of games in that first round against Montreal, and how great they were as a shutdown pair. Well, if you’re going to have three righties in the lineup on the back end, if you have [DougieHamilton in the lineup along with [AdamMcQuaid, along with [Johnny] Boychuk, none of those three guys can really play the off side, so that limits what you can do by putting Chara and Seidenberg together, so now you’ve got to go left-right, left-right, unless you think you can put Wade Redden in there and take out one of the righties.”

On splitting up Chara and Seidenberg against a team with more than one strong line: “I think they do, especially when you’re playing on the road. Last change goes to the home team, you don’t want to go into constantly [making] quick changes just to get matchups. It takes players out of the rhythm of the game. If you split up Chara and Seidenberg, you put them with the pairs you’re comfortable with, and you don’t worry about the opponent trying to get a top line away from one or the other.”

On Lucic’s response to being benched: “He has said all the right things. He’s met with the appropriate people in the organization and addressed what his game is or is not, and what he needs to do to get back to being a productive player. And that doesn’t necessarily mean points. It means being that intimidating, really hard on the forecheck, physical kind of guy. If he plays like that and gets to the front of the net, he will be an effective player. He is doing some of that, probably even a little bit more of it, but you can see his game still has a long way to go. That’s going to be a terrific challenge for him to be ready for the postseason.”

On potential first-round matchups: “I think [Rangers goalie Henrik] Lundqvist is the scariest of those five teams that you might match up with in the postseason. He could be a difference-maker, although they’ve gotten to him this year early in the year ‘€¦ maybe he wasn’t ready to play. But he’s the guy of all the goalies, of teams 5-8 or 9 right now, that bothers you a little bit when you talk about matchups.”

On Carl Soderberg so far: “I’d like to see his skating get a little bit better, but he’s 27 years old and he’s played a lot of hockey. I don’t know how much more upside there is. He’s adjusting to the size of the rink. We had a little fun with him last night when he backed into the boards in the neutral zone, saying the rink wasn’t wide enough for him. He’s getting used to the physical play, he’s getting used to the system, but I still think it’s a little undetermined what he’s going to be like in the postseason, because the minute he steps on the ice in a playoff game, it’s going to be a different pace. It happens to everybody.”