B's need a new system for playoffs

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B's need a new system for playoffs

By Michael Felger
CSNNE.com Columnist

When it comes to the Bruins playoff chances, what does it mean that Tim Thomas just set the NHL record for save percentage in a season? What does it mean that he led the league in goals-against average? What does it mean that well all give him the checkmark over Montreals Carey Price this week?

Unfortunately for Bruins fans, the answer by now is well-known.

Nothing.

You see, the Bruins have had the best regular-season goaltending in the league for three years running. Thomas daily double in 2010-11 (league-best GAA of 2.00 and save percentage of .938) sounds impressive until you consider that Tuukka Rask did the exact same thing last year (1.97 GAA, .931 save pct.) and Thomas did the exact same thing the year before that (2.10 GAA, .933 save pct.).

To repeat, Bruins goaltenders have had the leagues best goals-against average and save percentage for three consecutive years. No ones been better.

And they still havent gotten out of the second round.

Don't you get it by now? Between Claude Julien's measured, stay-at-home system and Zdeno Chara's presence on the blue line, it's almost impossible for a Bruins goalie NOT to have great numbers. The Bs have proven beyond a doubt that they can keep the puck out of the net over 82 regular-season games.

But when the bullets fly for real?

Not so much.

To be fair, this is hardly a Bruins issue. As my buddy DJ Bean has pointed out, Vezina Trophies just dont translate into championships. In fact, since 1988, only two Vezina winners have gone on to win the Cup (Grant Fuhr and Martin Brodeur).

This is another case of conventional wisdom run amok. People who dont know the game say that playoff hockey is all about the goalies but its just not the case. If it were, then the Flyers, who were on their third goalie by the middle of the second round last year, wouldnt have made it to the Finals and the Bruins would be able hang more than division championship banners every year.

The playoffs are different. They just are. Systems break down. The best players elevate. The teams with the best combination of skill and guts (and the goaltending good enough to compliment those two things) advance. Great systems and great goalies can only take you so far. Yes, the trap-heavy Devils won three Cups in front of Brodeur, but those teams were the exception.

And that's where we remain stuck with the Bruins. They should have beaten Carolina in the second round two years ago. They should have advanced past Philadelphia last year. They had the system and the goaltending to do it.

But they didn't know how to win. They didn't have the nerve. And when it mattered most, they didnt have the skill.

Thomas deserves all the credit in the world for setting the save percentage record. Bruins fans should feel good about him between the pipes as we head into another blood feud with Montreal. And let's raise a banner for Julien for another great goals-against mark.

But until the B's prove they have enough players who can put the puck in the net when it counts, their great goaltending numbers will remain nice to look at and nothing more.

Sort of like those old division banners.

E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

It’s no secret Bruins fans are getting fed up with a hockey team in decline, one that’s missed the playoffs each of the last two years. Now there are numbers to prove it.

Channel Media and Market Research, Inc. came out with its annual New England Sports survey,  tabulating responses from over 14,600 polled, and, according to the numbers, the Bruins are dropping in popularity, fan support and faith in the current management group.

The B’s are holding somewhat steady with 16 percent of voters listing them as their “favorite sports team” behind the Patriots (46 percent) and Red Sox (29 percent) while ahead of the Celtics and Revolution. Claude Julien also ranked ahead of John Farrell among the big four teams in the “coaches/manages most admired” category.

But after sitting at a relative high of ranking at 27 percent for “ownership performance” in 2014 -- they year after their trip to the Cup Finals against the Blackhawks -- the Bruins now rank dead last in that category at 2 percent, behind the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and even the Revolution. Ouch, babe.

Also sitting at a lowly 2 percent is Bruins president Cam Neely in the “leadership performance” category. In "management performance," Neely has dropped from a solid 49 percent in 2014 to just 16 percent in this summer’s survey.

So B’s fans are clearly upset with a team that traded away Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and has featured a decimated defense corps for each of the last two seasons. But do the B’s fans think that things are getting any better with prospects coming down the pipeline?

Not really.

In the “which team has done the best job making its product better.” category, the Patriots (35 percent) and Red Sox (31 percent) were resting at the top, with the Celtics (27 percent) a respectable third. The Bruins limped in at just 4 percent with a fan base that very clearly sees that, on paper, this upcoming season’s club doesn’t appear to be much better than last year's.

On top of that, only 13 percent of those surveyed believe the Bruins have gotten better over the last year, and 52 percent believe they’ve just gotten worse. A lowly 3 percent of those surveyed think the Bruins have the best chance of the five teams to bring a world championship back to Boston; the Patriots (79 percent), Red Sox (11 percent) and Celtics (5 percent) all ranked higher.

Finally, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Hayes were at the top of the list of the Boston athletes “who did not meet expectations” last season. None of that is a surprise, given the state of Boston’s defense along with Hayes’ subpar season.

The good news for the Bruins: They still have a passionate fan base. But they need to start reversing course immediately before they do lasting damage to the B’s brand.

Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

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Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading with the Olympics coming to a close . . .
 
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kirk Luedeke sorts through the aftermath for the Bruins after losing out on Jimmy Vesey

-- Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland gave an interview where he said the Red Wings aren’t Stanley Cup contenders this season. 

-- Related to Holland’s comments, some of the media in Detroit aren’t taking the dose of reality all that well

-- It’s a big season for New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri, who will be starring for Team USA on the World Cup team. 

 -- PHT writer Cam Tucker says the Buffalo Sabres still have a strong group of forwards even without Jimmy Vesey.

-- Jamie Benn is giving everything to his Dallas Stars team, and that means that the World Cup of Hockey is taking a backseat
 
-- The Colorado Avalanche are nearing the end of their head coaching search as they look for their replacement for Patrick Roy.
 
-- For something completely different: NBC is making the argument that millenials watched the Olympics, but just not on the traditional formats