Barry Pederson of NESN joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to talk about the Bruins’ strengths so far, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin‘s styles of play, and the newly proposed NHL realignment plan.
“I think it makes total sense,” Pederson said of the realignment plan, which would reconfigure the league into four divisions. “As Bruins fans, you’ve got to be ecstatic. You’ve got Detroit coming into this, what’s going to be called the Central Division, you’ve got four Original Six teams, some rivals, Buffalo still in there, and [Andy Brickley] will be happy because you still have Tampa Bay and Florida and he can go down and play some golf now and then. As Bruins fans, it’s a pretty good setup.”
Pederson said he thinks Marchand’s attitude, even more so than his speed or his hands, is his greatest strength, although his speed combined with Seguin’s creates space for their line to work.
“I don’t think he gets enough respect around the league for his offense because of the way he plays,” Pederson said of Marchand. “Marchand is sneaky offensively. Last night, he gets that puck on his backhand, he knows that [Evgeni] Nabokov‘s going to come diving out at him — he just waits and waits and then is able to get the goal. He’s got a great release. His speed really backs the defense off, and he and Seguin, when they’re going, they’re hard to play against.”
Despite speculation that Tim Thomas will never end up playing for the Islanders after being traded there, Pederson said he thinks Thomas is too competitive to walk away from hockey completely if he’s still capable of playing.
“I have no insight, for sure, to what’s going through his mind, but … to me there was a guy that never quit on anything,” Pederson said. “He went after shots that most guys would just say, ‘Oh, it’s an empty net, I’m not going to dive over there.’ So I just have a really hard time thinking he’s going to walk away from the game the way it’s going. I just have to think he’s coming back at some point.”
On the benefits of the Bruins scoring first: “The thing we’ve been talking about is how relaxed these guys look and how confident they look with a 2-1 lead on the road or a 3-1 lead on the road. They have so much confidence. But what that allows them to do is play their game, and the other team to try to play catchup. That means the Bruins can counterattack, exploit the other team’s weaknesses and take advantage of the other team’s breakdowns. The other team has to open up a little bit, and when they do, that allows the Bruins to counterattack.”
On the PK becoming more aggressive: “These last three games were a really good example of that. You’re going into the third period on the road in each of these last few games, and you’ve got a one- or a two-goal lead, but you’re starting the third period shorthanded. So what do the Bruins do? They go out and they kill it off, and they not only gain momentum and confidence … we’ve talked about it before, that one of the things they wanted to do this year on the penalty kill was get much more aggressive, and boy, you can see that. Not only in their zone, but when they have the puck and they’ve got a chance to go, they can isolate somebody and take advantage of it. They’re going. That puts the opposing power play back on its heels a little bit.”
On Tuukka Rask: “I think he’s about the level where I expected. I expect a lot from him, like he does from himself. To me, he’s one of the top goaltenders in the National Hockey League. Whether he can get to that elite level, that’s going to be the next year or two here along his progression. He’s certainly shown signs of being able to control a game. When he’s playing his game he’s like all goaltenders, under control, you’re playing with confidence, you’re out attacking the shooters. When he gets in trouble, like the one goal last night from [Casey] Cizikas, he got himself down where his belly hits the ice and he’s playing small. There’s things he wants to continue to work on, but boy, has he done a great job of keeping his team in the games so far early on.”
On who should win the Seventh Player Award: “I think it has to be Dougie Hamilton so far. Close shot here with [Nathan] Horton with what he’s had to overcome and done but the difficult part for this team … they’re so balanced. One night it’s one individual, the next it’s another line. They play so well defensively so they don’t beat themselves, they’re in every game. The other thing that was very interesting on this road trip was when you read the recaps of the games and you see the other team’s comments, they’re just raving about this team and how tough it is to play against them. They’re in your face, they don’t give you anything, they play physical, they’re intense. And they just like the way the organization is being run, which is a credit to management.”
On improvements the Bruins can make: “Their problem before this trip was the offense wasn’t clicking as well as it is now. They were playing on the periphery. They weren’t going into those dirty areas. One of their weaknesses that’s been a little bit exploited is they just don’t draw enough penalties right now, they’re not getting enough power-play opportunities. That means they’re not making the other team do more, they’re not making them hook and hold and grab and hold them down. They have done a great job with their puck possession, which means the other team is chasing around a little bit more, but I think as they continue to take their game to the next level you’re going to see the things in that dirty area improve.”
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