Finishing a No. 1 priority
Who knew, but the Flyers have become the litmus test for worry. Winners of but two of their previous 11 games, the embattled Broad Streeters came to Causeway Street last night, couldn’t muster a goal for more than 42 minutes, then hotfooted it out of the West End with a 3-1 victory over the Bruins.
What, the Bruins worry? Well, yeah . . . and they should.
It’s not so much the loss, just as it wasn’t so much the loss Saturday night on Long Island, where the Bruins scored twice, even led briefly, before losing a few seconds into OT, 3-2, to the Islanders. The concern is that the Bruins don’t score enough, often don’t create enough chances, and don’t make enough of the few good opportunities they generate.
Exhibit A last night came with 16:25 gone in the first period of a scoreless tie. The crafty Marc Savard, who finished with a minus-3 eyesore next to his No. 91 on the summary, dished a sweet pass to his right for a streaking Byron Bitz. The big winger had a wide-open right side of the net for the easy pot. Instead, nothing. Great opportunity, zero result.
“The thing is,’’ said coach Claude Julien, narrowing his focus on that play as part of his postgame review, “we need to find ways to get results. Opportunity is one thing, but you need to get results . . . you’ve got to bury them.’’
Julien also made note of a David Krejci chance, the talented pivot parked out front with the puck and Flyers goalie Brian Boucher there for the plucking.
“He held on, held on . . . until the point he had to turn around,’’ said a frustrated Julien. “Somehow you have to bury those . . . and right now our guys need to work on that part of our game.’’
The issue, above all, is the lackluster likes of two high-priced wingers, Marco Sturm and Michael Ryder. If they were playing anywhere near their pay grade (average: $3.75 million), both would be riding regularly on Savard’s wings. Instead, Savard has been saddled with a couple of second-year big bodies, Blake Wheeler and Bitz, both of whom are still NHL apprentices.
Wheeler and Bitz have their assets. But playing with Savard, they look like the two downsized rear wheels on the back end of a tricycle. Savard is the big wheel and he can try to go faster, but a tricycle is a tricycle is a tricycle. Savard should be Boston’s Lance Armstrong, not their minus-3, no points Arte Johnson. Very interesting, but . . .
“That line was not very good for us tonight,’’ mused Julien. “Savvy has to take some of that responsibility, but it is not a one-man line.’’
Ryder (2-3 -5 in 11 games) and Sturm (3-2 -5 in 9 games) are the closest the Bruins have to elite wingers.
If they’re not getting points, they should be constant threats to get points, be it off speed (the Sturm specialty) or with a sizzling shot (a Ryder trademark). But Sturm again was barely noticeable. Ditto for Ryder. They each landed three shots, but they were just two more Boston forwards who combined for nearly 34 minutes worth of nothing.
“We are going to have to do something,’’ said Julien, when asked if he’ll continue to tinker with his top line. “[Savard] is a guy that should lead our team in points, and somehow you have to get him some guys that can put the puck in the net - and we have a lot of guys that are not consistent in that area.’’
Not a single Boston forward this season has reached double digits in goals.
In the third period, Julien tried different combinations around Savard. One had Savard with Bitz on his left and Ryder on his right. Another had Savard flanked by Vladimir Sobotka and Ryder. It was the late-game version of a place we’ve all been when the furnace doesn’t work: keep flipping the switch on the red panel, hoping it catches a spark and the heat comes on before the pipes freeze or the family dog dials the ASPCA.
“Our guys have to better themselves,’’ said Julien, “and not be content with just driving the net and getting the tip. You have to get them in.’’
Time to get ’em in, or get some of these guys gone.