With Boston’s 4-1 loss to Carolina last night, the four conference finalists from last season (Boston, San Jose, Tampa Bay and Vancouver) are a combined 6-13-3 in this young season. All four are in the bottom third in the leagues in standings, although it is still early and there is plenty of time to turn it around.
Let’s take a look at what ails each team.
The Boston Bruins have only allowed 2.17 goals per game (10th) but can’t score. They are dead last in goals per game (1.67). They’ve only scored more than two goals in a game once, a 4-1 win over Tampa on October 8th. Obviously, with the team’s offense struggling, one would assume that their powerplay would suffer. That would be correct, as the Bruins are near the bottom at 8.3%. Rich Peverley is the team’s leading goal scorer (3) and only he and Marchand have multiple goals. This is a far cry from last season when they finished fifth in the league in goals for.
Vancouver has scored more than Boston (2.33) but it’s not enough to get the job done, not with the lineup they have. But their biggest problem is that they can’t stop anyone. They’re tied for fifth worst in goals allowed per game (3.17). Their penalty killing is near the bottom of the league at 79.3%, and they’ve been shorthanded 29 times so far, which is near the league high. Looking deeper into the numbers show that starting goalie Roberto Luongo has continued his struggles from June. After four games, he has a 3.70 GAA and a .856 save percentage. Backup Cory Schneider (2.03, .953) has been considerably better, but he won’t wrestle the starting job from Luongo any time soon.
Tampa Bay looks like a mess. Like Vancouver, they can’t keep the puck out of their own net. They’ve allowed 26 goals (second worst in the league). Also like the Canucks, their penalty killing is in the bottom third at 80.3%. Dwayne Roloson has looked like he just turned 42 (oh wait, he did last week!). He’s allowed five or more goals in three starts. But it’s not all Roloson’s fault. The defense isn’t sharp. Steady Eric Brewer is a -4. The team is scoring (3 goals per game) but when the opposition is scoring at will, a team won’t win many games.
San Jose is still finding their identity after an offseason that shook up the core of the team. San Jose is suffering from the same fate that Vancouver and Tampa are with their penalty killing (73.3%, 28th). Fortunately, they are the third least shorthanded team. Despite their 1-3 record, the Sharks might be the closest to their normal play out of these four teams. After dismantling Phoenix, the Sharks have lost three straight games, two of which were by one goal. The other was essentially a 1 goal game, as St. Louis added an empty netter in a 4-2 win.
Good special teams can win a team hockey games but bad ones will cost a team wins. Bad goaltending or a lack of scoring will do the same. These four teams should be able to turn it around, it’s still early and all four are good teams.