Bruins need to get tough in absence of key players


The Bruins continue to fight through injuries and adversity early in the season, and it’s been especially difficult with Kevan Miller and Zdeno Chara missing as their big muscle and protection for the skill players. Instead, some of the B’s skill guys have been taking extra hits in recent games and the Bruins have been getting pushed around a bit.

Despite all of that they are still in a wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and they are still headed in the right direction. But things can always be better and we have a feeling Bruins fans will make that abundantly clear in the Hagg Bag mailbag. Without further ado, here it is and as always these are real questions to my Twitter account, real messages to the NBCS Facebook fan page and real emails to my email account.  

They had the toughness with McQuaid. They should have learned from the past 2 years that you can’t have enough defensemen. It always works out - particularly with Carlo, Miller and McAvoy's injury history.

--Chris Nicolazzo (@CNicolazzo)

JH: When you are right, you are right. I certainly think that dealing away Adam McQuaid has left them light in the toughness and intimidation department. He was always a player who was going to step up and defend his teammates, and he was always a player who would pay whatever price was required to make plays in the defensive zone. It’s part of the reason why he was seemingly always injured with the Bruins. But the B’s brass probably should have done the math and realized that both Miller and Chara were going to miss plenty of time with injuries as they have in the last couple of seasons, and that they needed another bruiser on the back end.

Because right now, the Bruins are getting pushed around pretty much every night, and they have to hope that it doesn’t end up resulting in an injury to a guy like Brad Marchand or David Pastrnak. All this being said, McQuaid is also injured and has only played in eight games this season. So it’s not like he’d be helping the Bruins right now either. But there’s no doubt that the Bruins need a player like McQuaid who’s capable of playing a full role and scares the bejesus out of opponents when he starts throwing the fists.

Hi Haggs,

Name is Mac and I'd like to get your take on my idea. I told my kid and he thinks it would work. The B’s have their RW answer in-house. Pull a Belichick and get the most of your assets. Krug does not need to be a defenseman.

He's too small and doesn't play the body enough, too many guys get by him. Mad offensive skills, he could transition out of the zone as a wing better than he does now. He has that killer shot and bulls-eye passing down low on the power play. Review some of the goals against this year, he's spinning around like a figure skater as the puck hits the twine. That's it, what do you think?


JH: I have heard this argument plenty over the years when it comes to Torey Krug that he needs to be moved to the wing. I just don’t see it. He’d get overpowered along the boards and in front of the net, and he wouldn’t be able to use that big point shot as much if he was playing much closer to the net. I could see it more with a big defenseman like Dustin Byfuglien when he bounced back and forth between power forward and moose defenseman. But I think people just need to appreciate that they have one of the best offensive D-men in the entire league in Krug when it comes to production and explosiveness, and accept some of the defensive foibles that go along with it. What the Bruins need is a big, mean and offensively dangerous power forward at right wing instead of another undersized skill player like Krug.  

Hi Joe, upon reading your column regarding the lack of grit and toughness the Bruins are lacking right now, a player came to mind based off of the players you named. Would Boone Jenner of Columbus be an option? I know he's not known for any scoring prowess but he's a big body who will shoot and isn't afraid to get physical. Your thoughts?

--Ethan Rondeau (Facebook message on the NBCS Facebook fan page)

JH: Thanks Ethan. I think the Bruins have grit, and they certainly have heart and compete. You aren’t able to survive so many injuries as the B’s have unless you possess those things. The issue is the toughness thing, and the sheer intimidation factor that they don’t have when opponents are concerned. Teams are coming into Boston right now and punching the Bruins straight in the mouth both early and often. It really needs to change because A) it’s no good for the Bruins or their vulnerable star players and B) it’s really not the identity that Bruins fans want for their team either.

Could Boone Jenner help matters? Well, he’s 6-foot-2, 215 pounds and he’s scored 30 goals in the league before, so there are certainly some initial qualifiers that would make him a player that could fit Boston’s needs. I don’t think he’s the perfect solution to what the Bruins need, but then again I’m not sure there is a perfect solution type of player. The best thing the Bruins could do is make a big, strong and mean power forward more of a priority during NHL draft weekend than it’s been over the last few years.

But Jenner could be good for the Bruins. He’s just not as good as Wayne Simmonds would be as a short-term solution to the problem. Did you see Simmonds throw down with mammoth Pittsburgh D-man Jamie Oleksiak the other night? That’s the kind of brute toughness that you either have or you don’t.

So what’s Senyshyn up to? Is he still almost scoring goals? What’s it been now, 4 years of development?

--Dan Bruin Mainville (@Buzzard2002)

JH:  Zach Senyshyn has five goals and is a minus-9 in 22 games for the Providence Bruins this season. While that’s better than nothing, it also does nothing to dissuade people that are wondering if the 2015 first-round pick is going to end up being a bust. Combine that with Jakub Zboril down in Providence while Jeremy Lauzon and Connor Clifton are taking NHL shifts in Boston due to injuries, and it sure looks like two of those three consecutive '15 first-round picks aren’t going to live up their advanced billing. It’s a good thing Jake DeBrusk panned out, and that they got very good players in the second round like Brandon Carlo and JFK as well.

You need to have the young guys evolve over seasons in the AHL, as body size, strength & speed will all grow in time. Word of the day PATIENCE #donsweeney #gobruinsgo

--Jbails (@jbailey1720)

JH: This is true to a degree, but you also don’t need true NHL talents marinating in the AHL for more than a couple of seasons at maximum. A guy like DeBrusk needed the one season to get his bearings at the American League level and then he was ready to go in Boston the following season. There’s nothing wrong with players like Ryan Donato and Anders Bjork going to Providence to get their games back on track if they struggle at the NHL level as well. So what I’m saying, jbails, is that I agree with you.


Listened to the game tonight. Very special with Nifty getting No. 16 retired.  A classy guy. Nice win, but this team is really lacking in tough guys. The Isles beat on them. What to do? Just wait for the cavalry? They're at least a month away. Or a year?

Greg PDX

JH: The Bruins are going to have to take their lumps with Kevan Miller and Zdeno Chara gone. But one would have to hope that some of the physical players in the Boston lineup would step up and protect their skill guys so players like Brad Marchand and Torey Krug don’t have to keep doing all the fighting. Because that’s not going to end well for the Bruins. If Marchand leads the B’s in fighting majors at the end of the regular season like he does now, then something has gone really, really wrong for the B’s along the way.

As I mentioned above, hopefully the Bruins can trade for a power forward-type that can score some goals and throw his weight around. But as Bruce Cassidy said after Monday’s practice ahead of their two-game road trip through Florida, “those kinds of players don’t exactly grow on trees.” So to some degree the Bruins are stuck with what they have right now and need to find a way to maximize the toughness that they do have.

That isn’t going to be easy, but it will get easier once Miller and Chara have rejoined the Bruins fold. 

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