Friday, May 1, 2009

Bruins: Deeper than a Zen monk.

One thing that every Cup-winning team has in common: depth. As we go deeper into the playoffs, it becomes more and more important to be able to match up all 4 lines and insert new players into the lineup to cover for injury.

Boston has been blessed with an embarrassment of riches this season, dealing away two solid prospects (Lashoff and Nokelainen) at the trade deadline and still retaining more NHL-quality players than can fit on a roster. Here are the guys who could have a big impact despite watching the occasional game as a scratch:

Shane Hnidy

Why he's on the bench: Lack of skill, mostly. Hnidy has a hard time moving the puck under pressure, especially when he's forced to make a quick and accurate pass. He also offers relatively little upside when he has the time and space to make a play.

How he could play a role: The "Sherriff" is a decent defensive player, but his most valuable contribution is grit. He goes into the tough areas with reckless abandon and is always the first to jump into a scrum. In a tough Montreal series he added much-needed snarl.

Steve Montador

Why he's on the bench: Since his deadline trade from Anaheim, Montador hasn't really found a place in the Boston lineup. He's not quite skilled enough to justify a regular shift on defense, and his time as a forward was unproductive.

How he could play a role: Utility players are more valuable in the playoffs, when substitutions are more urgent. Montador's ability to play at nearly any position could make him an attractive "band aid" when injuries start to pile up.

Byron Bitz

Why he's on the bench: Because he's redundant as long as Shawn Thornton is in the lineup. Both are cut from the same mold -- large, bruising enforcers with enough skill to justify a regular shift. Bitz is a little larger, but Thornton's skill set and leadership make him a safer play.

How he could play a role: Bitz and Thornton showed they were capable of playing effectively together, combining for a key goal against Montreal. If a Bruins forward goes down with injury, Bitz is likely Julien's first choice off the bench. He'll be expected to hit, hit, and hit some more to generate offense off the forecheck.

Vladimir Sobotka

Why he's on the bench: The Boston system has proven a bit too deep for the NHL-ready forward. Sobotka would most likely be an "energy" player in most organizations, but veteran forwards like Kobasew and Yelle have kept him in Providence for most of the season.

How he could play a role: Sobotka gives the Bruins a little extra yap when he's on the ice. If Kobasew were to go down, he might be a better replacement than Bitz or Montador. He's hardly a blue chip prospect, but can hold his own in the big leagues.

Tuukka Rask

Why he's on the bench: Manny's making too much money to be the towel boy.

How he could play a role: To be honest, if Tim Thomas gets injured it doesn't really matter what role Rask plays. We could hope for him to have an experience similar to Varlamov in Washington, but realistically it would be asking too much for him to carry a late playoff run.

Other depth options for Boston:

Johnny Boychuk - Stud defensive prospect, not yet ready for prime time.
Jeremy Reich - Depth winger lost in the system after blowing his chance in Boston.
Martin St. Pierre - Undersized but skillful, he won't sniff a callup unless something truly horrible happens.
Peter Schaefer - Remember this guy!? His massive cap hit will keep him safely in Providence, where he can do less harm.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: