Feb 24, 2001
With only about 20 more games left, I am wondering if the Boston Bruins have what it takes to make the playoffs. Without the services of Byron Dafoe down the stretch, I do not think the Bruins have the playoff quality goaltending they will need to overtake the teams ahead of them. Even if the Bruins do make it, Dafoe needed several weeks to really begin to get back to his near Vezina form and it might be too late for the Bruins once he does return. As I watch this team, I look at a hockey team that has so much talent. The Bruins have done a great job building a young team that could really be a force in a few years if they decide to keep them together. But why aren't they jelling now?
The Bruins have solid coaching in Mike Keenan. They had a great coach in Pat Burns but he wasn't able to get them on a winning roll and neither has Keenan. Let's look at the goaltending first. Without Dafoe, there's no depth at the position. Peter Skudra should have been a solid backup but has yet to show he can win any games on his own like Dafoe consistently does. There's young potential in John Grahame and Andrew Raycroft but they have not proven themselves at the NHL level when given the chance. The Bruins defense is pretty solid since acquiring Peter Popovic and now Eric Weinrich. Jonathan Girard has shown he is an offensive defenseman who will be good for many years to come. Kyle McLaren is solid on D but needs to step up his offense to become All-Star material. Don Sweeney is solid and a good influence on his younger teammates. Hal Gill is the Achilles' heel that has yet to realize how big his body is. If it were not for his imposing size, he probably should be in playing Providence. This is the guy the Bruins might be able to get a good player in return for. Offensively, the Bruins had three All-Stars in Jason Allison, Bill Guerin and Sergei Samsonov. Joe Thornton has been the Bruins most consistent player who is showing why he was the No. 1 pick a few years ago. They have also gotten solid performances by Brian Rolston and Andrei Kovalenko. P.J. Axelsson and Mikko Eloranta have shown flashes of real good hockey and been contributors offensively and on the penalty kill. The Bruins have been able to put together three solid lines all year. I ask again...what's wrong?
To me the problem lies with an injured Dafoe and youth. With solid goaltending to back up this cast of young players, the Bruins are playoff material. They will only go as far as Lord Byron carries them. That may not be the case in a couple of years when these young studs begin to hit their prime but is the fact of the present day Bruins. The Bruins have shown an ability all year to only be able to play at the level of their competition. They get up for the good teams and sleepwalk through games they should win. That in my opinion is a factor of youth. The power play has been an enigma but is starting to show signs of life. They have two players in Axelsson & Gill who they could trade for a quality goaltender or veteran enforcer. A veteran enforcer might give this young group the courage and space they need to excel. Andrei Nazarov is a willing fighter but not intimidating. Ken Belanger is damaged goods and is often injured. Providence has some very good talent having won the Calder Cup two years ago, so they are solid down below.
I think Bruins fans should be patient with this team and hope Mike O'Connell can keep them together. Before the trade deadline, they should go out and get an enforcer and possibly a goalie. Trevor Kidd or Sean Burke might be available and affordable, possibly a quick fix for the rest of the season. In my humble opinion, I do not think they have what it takes to make the playoffs this year without Dafoe. Let's just enjoy what they do the rest of the season and hope Skudra or Grahame can get hot. I think Boston is going to have a lot to cheer about in years to come when this current crop of Bruins grows up. I think they have the best crop of young talent in the NHL and win or lose, they have definitely been a very entertaining team to watch this year.
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