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How did the defense and goalies do compared to my predictions?

April 12, 2011

Under Claude Julien’s system it is always assumed that the defense and goalies will be the key to a teams success and this year wasn’t any different. The Bruins, spearheaded by an insane season by Tim Thomas, were the key to another Northeast Division title. The Bruins let up just 189 goals, second fewest in the league and one fewer goal than in 2008-2009 when they won the Jennings Trophy.

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D Zdeno Chara– The Captain enters his last year of his contract on somewhat of a down swing, which is to be expected coming off of a Norris Trophy campaign the year before. Chara’s numbers were there at the end of the year and he continued to be a force on the back end. If anything, his numbers should go up with a better offense in front of him and a very good player on his pairing this season in Dennis Seidenberg. Projected Stats: 12-30-52.

The stalwart of the Bruins defense came up with another great season for the Bruins, tying his career high in +/- at +33. Chara also chipped in on the offensive side, finishing sixth on the team in points. Chara’s point totals are a little lower than they were in is Norris season but his +/- is higher. He should garner some Norris consideration this year. Actual Stats: 14-30-44.

D Dennis Seidenberg– It’s hard to impress a fan base as a defenseman in only 17 games but that’s what Seidenberg did as a trade acquisition. He’s a shot-blocking machine and he’s physical in the corners and he’s a good offensive defenseman. His nice low shot has proven to be very tippable and difficult for the goalie to see. He’s physical but stays out of the penalty box and, let’s face it, he’s a huge upgrade over Dennis Wideman. Seidenberg and Chara should be a force this year as they complement each other nicely. Projected Stats: 5-30-35.

Seidenberg’s first full season as a Bruin was both good and bad. Seidenberg was very reliable for much of the season and a hard worker on the back end but also fell into a funk late in the season when paired with Tomas Kaberle. The Bruins tried to find a partner for him but none paid off quite as much as it should have. Actual Stats: 7-25-32.

D Johnny Boychuk– Coming in as the seventh defenseman last season, Boychuk wasn’t expected to do much besides be a plug-in for injured teammates but by the playoffs he became the Bruins second-best defenseman by a wide gap. Although he played alongside Chara in the playoffs he will be on the second pairing with Matt Hunwick this season, although it’s not a demotion. Boychuk will eat up minutes, make big hits and use his heavy shot to create offense. I don’t see a sophomore slump here, he’s too well-rounded. Projected Stats: 10-20-30.

Remember how I said that I didn’t see a sophomore slump coming? Guess what happened. Boychuk struggled to find his offensive touch this season, seemingly losing his shot accuracy and failing to be as physical as he could have been. Boychuk should be a viable option on the power-play but hasn’t developed as much as initially hoped. Actual Stats: 3-13-16.

D Matt Hunwick– Hunwick had a disappointing Sophomore effort last season as he saw his point totals reduced from 27 to 14 while also going from a +15 to a -16. Hunwick can’t possibly get worse than last season. I think having Johnny Boychuk as a pairing will benefit him greatly and bring back some of his offensive gusto. He should evolve into a decent puck-mover and he’ll stay out of the box. Projected Stats: 6-14-20.

Hunny had a terrible 22 games (1-2-3) in a Bruins uniform and eventually got traded. Part of the reason he got traded was because of Adam McQuaid. McQuaid has been one of the most surprising Bruins this season and certainly the most surprising defender. He finished in the top 5 in +/- as a rookie. His physical edge and responsible nature make him a great defender within the Bruins system. Actual Stats: 3-12-15.

D Andrew Ference– The Michael Ryder of the defense will look to play in at least 60 games for the first time in a Bruins uniform this year. He’s been limited to 98 games in the last two seasons and hasn’t been productive when on the ice. He only managed eight points in 51 games last season and was a -7. I don’t expect him to be much more this season although his pairing will be better with Mark Stuart next to him. Projected Stats: 1-10-11.

Ference bounced back from a terrible year to have quite a nice little year, playing in 70 games and posting a career high +/-, actually exceeding his worth in salary. Ference stood up for his teammates a lot this season and cut down on turnovers turning me from a hater to a believer. At least for this year. Actual Stats: 3-12-15.

D Mark Stuart– Stuart was banged up last year but when he was in the games he was a purely defensive defenseman who was a 5 or 6 on this team. He plays with grit and controlled intensity and is a guy that teams need to be tough stout on the back end. He won’t show up in the offensive zone but he’s always been a fish out of water there. In his own end, he is reliable and consistent. Projected Stats: 3-6-9.

Mark Stuart’s injuries were his downfall in Boston ironically as he was seen as an ironman in his first few years. The Bruins traded him away to make way for Tomas Kaberle. Kaberle has been a disappointment in Boston. His passing was overrated and his impact on the power-play has been minimal. He was obtained for the playoffs so he shouldn’t be totally judged until then. Kaberle’s Stats: 4-43-47. (1-8-9 BOS)

Tuukka Rask– ‘Cool Hand Tuukk’ entered the year as an apprentice to Tim Thomas but quickly stole the starting job from the Vezina winner through athleticism, reflexes, and a great foundation in the Butterfly. Rask will start this season as the Bruins No. 1 for two reasons. He was a playoff hero last spring, keeping the Bruins in the postseason and stealing games. Secondly, because Tim Thomas is hurt. Rask’s numbers in 45 games last year are astounding. His GAA was 1.97 and his Save % was .931. If he doesn’t get Steve Mason syndrome he will be as good or better with a better team in front of him. His numbers may not be as great this year but I think he will be a better goaltender after the playoffs gave him confidence. Projected Stats: 26 wins-2.25 GAA- .924 save %.

Rask lost his starting position early in the year and couldn’t get it back thanks to a legendary year by Tim Thomas. Rask struggled through a large chunk of the season, probably because he could never get into a groove, but rebounded nicely down the stretch. Actual Stats: 11-14-2, .918, 2.67 GAA, 2 SO.

G Tim Thomas– Thomas entered last season as a Vezina winner but found himself struggling and eventually as a backup to Rask. Thomas’ numbers in his Vezina winning season were the result of the perfect storm for the Bruins where nothing could go wrong. He really wasn’t as bad as his 17-18-8 record indicates. His 2.56 GAA and .915 save % were down from each of the past two seasons but they weren’t terrible by any means. Timmy took the demotion in stride and with class but has said in the off-season how much it motivated him to work harder. If nothing else Thomas is a great insurance policy for the Bruins. It is still Tuukka’s job until Thomas can win it back but Thomas will make a fair share of starts and lessen the load which will benefit both goaltenders. I expect him to bounce back, not to Vezina levels, but bounce back for his standards. Projected Stats: 18 wins- 2.45 GAA- .915 save %.

Tim Thomas famously said he felt better going into this season than he did before his Vezina season and that he’d perform better. Little took that sentiment to heart but that’s exactly what Thomas did. His numbers were unparalleled early in the season before coming down to mortal levels. Thomas finished the year with an all-time record in save percentage and was the sole reason the Bruins are seeded as high as they are. He should get legitimate Hart consideration. Actual Stats: 35-11-9, 2.00 GAA, .938, 9 SO.

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