Ah, the cloak of anonymity. It’s deployed somewhat often in my profession, usually to protect the identity of someone whose job, livelihood or life could be at risk if they’re identified with the information they give. Sometimes it’s overused, sometimes it’s abused (see also when Valerie Plame was outed), sometimes it’s used to protect a coach’s bacon as he calls out the Boston Bruins.
Speaking to Craig Custance of ESPN, some NHL coach had pointed words about the depth of the Stanley Cup champions.
“They have two fourth lines,” the coach told Custance. “God bless them, but they have two fourth lines with the injuries they have. There’s not a lot of offensive depth.”
Ex-squeeze me? A baking powder? The Bruins–no depth? The team with the most 20+ goal-scorers, six, in the entire NHL? And one of those 20+ers is on the third line, though the others are first- and second-liners? Ummm, okay.
Never mind that the actual fourth-liners are an energy line like no other. Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton each have more than ten points to their names: Campbell has 16, Paille 15 and Thornton 13. Thornton can fight, Campbell’s been known to drop the gloves and there was that one amazing time when Thornton scored on a penalty shot, proving his mantra of “Hey. We can play.”
That second line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin is magic too. All three of them are in the 20+ club and as of April 6, 2012 they dominate the plus/minus list for the entire league.
That line is so good that sometimes it’s actually better than the top line, although the top line did suffer when Nathan Horton went down in January and it took some time to reform. (It is still subject to personnel changes and inconsistencies.) And the third line has blossomed lately into a line that might be second-worthy on other teams. Brian Rolston is playing like a man reborn. Benoit Pouliot wants to do better than his best and make sure Jack Edwards eats the disparaging words he once said about him when he was with Montreal. Chris Kelly, who probably should’ve won the Seventh Player Award (I don’t resent Seguin for winning; I voted for Bergeron, but can see the case for Kelly too), is clutch.
It’s not like blueliners can’t score, either. Zdeno Chara‘s plus-minus matches his sweater and he has 52 points to his name. Pretty much every Boston defenseman has helped out in some way, except Mike Mottau, who just hasn’t played much. Even Joe Corvo sometimes actually does his job properly and helps his team, although I still want him gone in favor of Torey Krug.
This coach mentioned the playoff points contributed by Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder and Horton. Well, Recchi retired, Horton is still working back from a concussion and Ryder is tearing it up in Texas. (One might argue that he needed to go to Texas to help out the Dallas Stars and really, pardon the pun, shine there because he might get a little buried on this Bruins squad.) These are things the team literally is powerless to change. But the Bruins have adapted to their new reality, even though God knows there certainly were some bumps in the road.
He also thinks Rolston has been good so far but will wither in the postseason. Honestly? I think the fact that he CAN play in a postseason may energize him. I don’t know for sure, but he must feel good about where his team is right now.
Sure, we don’t have the privilege of debuting Seguin or unleashing Thornton like we did last playoff run. But that’s because Seguin has blossomed into quite an impressive player, Thornton plays a good role in the team and it’s high time someone else catapulted up to shock everyone. I’ve had people in the know say that it may be Pouliot’s turn to glow in the postseason. I’d have a lot of fun watching that. I also think Anton Khudobin could steal the show between the pipes. Tim Thomas played every single playoff game last year, but Khudobin put together an amazing first performance as a Bruin (I’ll write that up later, but suffice it to say: 44 saves out of 45 shots faced) and Tuukka Rask isn’t ready to return yet.
To be honest, I wish Custance had refused to keep this coach’s name off the record. I’d love to know who thinks so little of the champs, in blithe ignorance of, you know, the facts. I had a friend suspect Tampa Bay’s Guy Boucher (she joked that he still had a bee under his bonnet from the Eastern Conference finals). I initially thought Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault until it was pointed out to me that he probably would’ve put his name on the comments. I can understand this coach’s reticence, though. Lately coaches have been coming under fire and incurring costly fines for opening their mouths: see also New York’s John Tortorella and Philadelphia’s Peter Laviolette.
In the end, we may never know who this guy was. But what the Bruins should do–after they finish laughing–is continue to make them sit down and eat their words.