NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his first weekly appearance of the season Thursday on Middays with MFB, following Wednesday night’s Bruins opener. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
McGuire said there is reason to believe the Bruins, who opened with a 2-1 victory over the Flyers, will be able to overcome the losses of Jarome Iginla and Johnny Boychuk and put together a season similar to 2013-14, when they had the best record in the NHL before falling in the second round of the playoffs to the Canadiens.
“They have a healthy Chris Kelly, I think that makes a big difference,” McGuire said. “Carl Soderberg is a ton better, you saw that last night. I think Loui Eriksson will be a ton better this year. Dougie Hamilton, even though he had a couple of turnovers, you could see when he really amped his game up he was very good. Having Dennis Seidenberg back makes them better. Tuukka Rask is a year more mature.
“I think they’re a lot better in a lot of areas. I think they’re the best team in the Eastern Conference. I’m not changing on that; I won’t change even when we’re on Game 40, barring injuries, obviously. I think this team is extremely good.
“I like the energy of a young player like Craig Cunningham. I love the energy of Bobby Robins. They obviously got last night done without David Krejci and Gregory Campbell. This is a really good team. They’re really a good team, and they’re going to be a ton of fun to watch.”
McGuire said he saw lots of promising things from the opener.
“I thought Tuukka when he had to be was really good,” he said. “I thought Kevan Miller played a solid, physical game. I like the way Torey Krug started to jump into the rush. And I like the way that the Bruins defensemen really held the offensive blue line. And probably more importantly than anything else they’re much more aggressive offensively. I know it didn’t translate because I thought Steve Mason from Philadelphia played a great job so the scoreboard’s not indicative of that. But by and large they’re a much more aggressive offensive team, and I think that’s really important for them.”
Looking at the Eastern Conference, McGuire said the Bruins’ biggest challenge might come from the Lightning.
“I think Tampa Bay’s a very good team, and I know a lot of people are talking about them, but I would look out for the Tampa Bay Lightning. I would be a little bit nervous about them,” McGuire said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how everything translates in Pittsburgh, because it is a little bit of a different roster, it’s a different coaching philosophy going from Danny Bylsma to Mike Johnston. So we’ll see how that plays out. … I don’t know if there’s a team outside of Tampa and maybe Pittsburgh that’s going to be able to play and have enough depth to play against Boston. Boston’s just that good. Montreal’s really good, I just don’t know if they’re big enough to play against Boston when Boston’s healthy. Boston’s a really, really good team.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins.
On the trade of Boychuk: “I’m going to support Peter [Chiarelli] on this, because general managers have to have forward-thinking vision, and one of the things is you want to lock up your key players long term, and he’s been able to do that quietly, without a lot of fanfare. Secondly, because you’re in the cap era, it’s hard to keep everybody. You’d love to keep everybody, but it’s hard to do that. So, what he’s looking at is down the road, what he’s going to have to do with Reilly Smith, what he’s going to have to do with Torey Krug, what he’s going to have to with Carl Soderberg, who he thinks are really important players for his team. So I totally understand the predicament that’s facing him, and it’s not an easy thing to deal with.
“Getting two second-round picks and potentially a third for Johnny is huge. In a perfect world, everybody wants Johnny Boychuk. Not one of those players wanted Johnny Boychuk to leave. But that’s just the reality of where you are because of the cap. It’s really difficult. It’s more difficult than people know, it really is.”
On Zdeno Chara and if the team can manage his minutes so that he’s healthy in the postseason: “At some point they’re going to have that discussion with Zdeno. He’s in phenomenal condition. I spent a lot of time with him the previous two days to today. And I have to tell you, it was phenomenal to be around him. He’s as fit as he’s every been, he’s as gung-ho about the game as he’s ever been. He’s in Year 17 as an NHL player, which is unbelievable, and Year 18 as a professional [lockout season in Sweden]. I look at it, and he’s going to have to have that conversation at some point with Claude Julien. I think they will. It’s going to affect him later in the season if he’s logging the big minutes like he did last night. But I think he’s going to be just fine. I really do.”
On if the league will ever eliminate fighting in hockey: “I don’t think so. I don’t think they’ll ever do away with it. I think the penalty will become much more draconian for fighting, where potentially you’re kicked out of a game, like it is in college. … Because we don’t have out of bounds and everybody’s locked into the playing surface, it’s hard to get away from that. Everybody’s moving at 30-35 miles an hour, they’re playing on sharp-edged objects and they have sticks in their hands. Stuff’s going to happen. It’s just the reality of the game.”