BRANDON, FL -- The Bruins have plenty of problems to solve, and troubles to navigate, as they make their way through an 82-game regular season after missing the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
The defense is very much a work-in-progress, and other defensemen pairs need to become as dependable as top pair Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo.
The Bruins offense is ranked near the NHL’s bottom this season after being a top-5 goal-scoring team, and many of their key players are performing well under their normal capabilities with more than 10 percent of the season already played.
But there’s another problem on the B’s horizon that really hasn’t been there much in the past: the Bruins are taking penalties like they almost never have previously under Claude Julien. The Bruins have allowed 41 power plays in nine games this season with only the Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames being more generous with the penalties, and it’s really become an issue in recent games as Boston tries to keep things on track.
While there have been some iffy calls in there, the Bruins can’t do things like allow the first six power plays of the game to the Rangers in Boston’s loss at Madison Square Garden. The Bruins managed to win in Florida on Tuesday night, but they forced their penalty kill to go a perfect 7-for-7 while taking a lot of avoidable hooking and holding calls in their parade to the sin bin.
That’s the kind of thing that Julien is looking to curb with a little more effort, and a little more discipline. Right now the Bruins penalty kill has prevented all the minor penalties from becoming a major, major problem, but that kind of dance with disaster is always going to have an unhappy ending for Boston.
“I don’t think [the penalties] are due to being aggressive. I think it’s actually the opposite. There’s a lot of hooking and holding penalties,” said Julien. “That’s us being in better position where maybe we don’t have to hook, or getting our feet moving a little bit too.
“We need to clean that up. Some of them are unnecessary, so we need to do a little bit better job of picking and choosing our penalties. Every night you’re going to have some penalties that you question a little bit, but [vs. Florida] I’d say we deserved most of them. The hooking and holding where you’re stuck having to play behind? Those are on us. We’ve got to get better at that.”
One of the main penalty culprits right now, Tim Schaller, has also been one of the bright spots in the early going for a Bruins fourth line that’s exceeded expectations. The New Hampshire native has taken four penalties in the last three games, and was guilty as charges of both hooking and holding in the win over the Panthers.
He knows he needs to be better just as his coach challenged all of his players to be better following Wednesday afternoon practice at the Brandon Ice Complex in Tampa.
“I just need to work smarter. I’m definitely working hard. Sometimes maybe my emotions get to me. If a guy beats me then I’m not going to take that too lightly,” said Schaller. “But I need to work a little bit smarter, and I’ll be fine. As much as I want to stir things up out there, I need to keep it legal and really be smart about it. I’m positive in the sense that I’ll be fine and I’ll stay out of the box.”
There’s no doubting Schaller will improve and stop the streak of games with minor penalties after scrapping his way onto the NHL roster as a fourth line regular, but it also comes down to the rest of his B’s teammates showing a little bit better discipline after taking a whopping 49 minor penalties in nine games this season.