WILMINGTON, Mass. The Bruins had the sixth-best defense in the NHL this season and move into the Stanley Cup playoffs viewing it as one of their team strengths.
But the old hockey axiom goes that any defense is only as strong as their weakest link, and it looks like the Bruins will be exposing their weak link when the playoffs begin.
An injury to Adam McQuaid has created an opening among their six starting defensemen, and it appears that Joe Corvo will be getting the call as a bottom-pairing defenseman with Greg Zanon to start the postseason.
It appears Corvo will essentially be playing the Tomas Kaberle role from last years playoffs where the Bruins will limit the puck-mover to short shifts and power play ice time.
But theres only so much hiding one can do with a defenseman playing upwards of 12 minutes per game. Its also pretty clear in Claude Juliens comments about the defensemen corps, in general, that his faith in Corvo as a responsible defensive player isnt at all-time high. Julien ticked off the name of every other defenseman when listing their acumen inside their own zone, but left Corvo conspicuously absent.
Weve been through it before. We almost have to be careful that if Chara and Seidenberg are so good that we make sure the other ones are as well. We have a lot of confidence in our guys, said Julien. Johnny Boychuk is a guy thats got a lot of experiences playing against top lines, and Andrew Ference has had a great year for us.
Whether its Adam McQuaid, Greg Zanon or Mike Mottau everybody has proved that theyre capable of playing shutdown hockey, you know?
What about Corvo, who earned the nickname Uh-oh Corvo during his rocky D-zone days playing with the Ottawa Senators?
With Joe were smart enough to put him in areas where hes going to succeed, said Julien. He is a good player when we put him in those situations, so its us knowing our team and who to put out there against whom. Our guys have done a great job. We have trust in our whole D-corps and its up to us to find the right times to put them out there.
Its been a rough year for Corvo with the Bruins. His four goals scored havent been good enough to offset his defensive inadequacies.
His numbers arent awful with 25 points and a plus-10 for the season, but its less than his career norms. With his heavy shot and skating ability Corvo should have double-digit goals and upwards of 35 points in his sleep, but that never happened in Boston.
Corvo loses one-on-one fights for the puck in the battle areas inside the defensive zone, he gets caught up ice on bad decisions leaving his defensive partners hanging and he frequently leaves the front of the net.
That kind of play in the D-zone leads to a lack of trust from a defensive sticker for detail like Julien. Corvo has tried to improve, but he finished the season with three points and a minus-1 rating in his final 14 games. He also found himself as a healthy scratch as the Bruins found their stride in late March. And those two things didnt seem to be mutually exclusive.
Corvo's presence on the ice gives the Washington Capitals something to exploit. The Caps know just how shaky he can be after he was acquired by Washington in a trade during the 2009-10 season and finished with six points and a minus-4 in 18 games.
It's a few years later, but Corvo's issues struggles seem to have resurfaced. Its fair to say the more Corvo is forced to play in any of these games, the less chance Boston has to be successful.