NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about which defensemen the Bruins could add before Wednesday’s trade deadline, the possibility of adding a veteran forward and more. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
With rumors swirling that the Blue Jackets and Bruins could be trade partners, Brickley provided information on Columbus defensemen Jack Johnson and Niktia Nikitin.
“Jack Johnson more of an offensive guy,” Brickley said. “Likes to have the puck, likes to jump into the play, wants to be in on every power-play opportunity. Has some wrist to his game, he is highly skilled. But when the U.S. was putting its team together for the Olympics, he’s not inside the top eight, which tells you maybe his game has gone in the wrong direction.”
Added Brickley: “Nikitin may be more of the type of player the Bruins were looking at. Big body, allows the system to be your friend, do your job, be a hard, physical, punishing guy in your own zone, make the simple play. Maybe he’s more of a fit based on the fact that you don’t want to subtract much from your roster in order to go get what you think you need. And I think Nikitin is really probably higher on the want list even though Jack Johnson is the more of a talent player.”
Brickley said the Bruins should add depth to their defense, knowing that injuries have clouded the depth chart.
“If you look at their D, you know [Zdeno] Chara, [Dougie] Hamilton, [Matt] Bartkowski, [Johnny] Boychuck, [Torey] Krug, [Kevan] Miller, and now you don’t know what [Adam] McQuaid‘s situation is. You obviously don’t have [Dennis] Seidenberg.”
Added Brickley: “Does that give you enough? The Bruins went through nine defensemen last year, the Chicago Blackhawks really only played six, I think their seventh defensemen played one, so they stayed healthier, but the Bruins went through nine D. And the guy that played the least was Wade Redden, and I think he played somewhere around five games, so you need as many defensemen, healthy defensemen, experienced defensemen, versatile defensemen and the right attitude defensemen if you think you’re going to have a long playoff run. So I think that is a definite must for the Bruins.”
Another position Brickely said the Bruins should add to is forward. Brickley likes the Bruins’ current lines, but he acknowledges that flexibility off the bench could aid the Bruins for a run to the Stanley Cup.
“Right now as constituted and healthy, you’ve got to like the Bruins’ four lines,” Brickley said. “They’ve got that depth, the balance, the top six are really effective. The third line seems to have some chemistry, the fourth line’s been real good lately, they know what it takes to win in the postseason. But your first guys up off the bench if guys are going down are who? [Jordan] Caron and [Ryan] Spooner I would guess. And is that deep enough?”
Added Brickley: “You look at [Jaromir] Jagr last year, not a goal in the playoffs. [Tyler] Seguin, one goal in the playoffs, and those guys are inside your top nine. So if you’re able to go out and get a veteran forward, someone that’s versatile, somebody that you can move around. If Reilly Smith in his first experience in the postseason isn’t going his way, maybe you can move him around a little bit. Maybe get [Loui] Eriksson inside the top six. There are options and matchups that you’re looking for when you get into the postseason and if you have veteran guys that have been there and know what the playoffs is all about and it’s a low cost item I think that’s more in line with what the Bruins are going to do.”
Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins.
On if the win over the Panthers proves the Bruins are where they want to be: ”No, they’re not back to where they want to be. Washington will be a better test. Looking forward to tomorrow’s game. They lost to them 4-2. Their penalty killing wasn’t good in one of those first two games coming out of the break. And I think Thursday’s game tomorrow will be a better indication of where this team is at and what they’re willing to do to get back, to be back where they are. And the trade deadline will be in the rearview mirror.”
On what caused the high number of breakaway goals given up by the Bruins recently: ”It’s turnovers in bad areas, whether it’s by a forward or a defenseman up the ice. But in most cases it’s a forward thinking he has a play five feet outside the blue line, five feet inside. Then if you combine that with a looseness in terms of positioning in the neutral zone, then you’re going to give up breakaway opportunities, and that was the combination that seems to be the common thread. Sometimes it’s just, it’s just that neutral zone, lack of understanding what you’re trying to do as a five-man group even when you poke back and the Bruins were giving up long passes to the Rangers consistently in that first period. The minute they start to tighten up, do their job and angle, get good positions, stick positions, something we talk a lot about on the broadcast, something the coaching staff just hammers home day in and day out with their team because when they play that way they’re so tough to beat and tough to penetrate. But it was too loose and I guess that comes with 2 1/2 weeks off for the majority of the guys and the fact that your team has not been together and you have five guys coming back that are spent a little bit, even though some played better than others as a group, your team is a little disjointed. And it’s going to take four or five games, I was hoping it was going to take one or two, but the Bruins have showed us that they’re still in search of their game.”