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Bruins defy critics after trade deadline

By: Andrew McGill

Negativity.

“Deal Loui Eriksson while he has some value!”

“Use Frank Vatrano as a top six forward for the rest of the season!”

“You have plenty of guys in Providence, use them, and get rid of unrestricted free agents!”

That is all Bruins fans heard and were saying during the week of the NHL trade deadline. Trading Eriksson to get anything the could in return seemed like and obvious move and almost everyone had them as sellers during the trade deadline.

Two weeks ago there was a tough decision to make. The Bruins were teetering on the verge of a wild card spot and their defensive game was one of the weakest in the league. If it were up to any Bruins fan, they would have traded Eriksson for a top four defenseman, but that just was not available at the deadline so they never traded him.

John-Michael Liles is not the top four defenseman the Bruins might have wanted, but he's been a tremendous addition for their unit.

John-Michael Liles is not the top four defenseman the Bruins might have wanted, but he’s been a tremendous addition for their unit.

And instead of getting a top blue-liner, the settled for John-Michael Liles in a deal with the Carolina Hurricanes.

But boy has he helped out.

He’s definitely helped give the Bruins depth and since his introduction into the lineup, the Bruins have allowed less than two goals per game. The Bruins only had to give up a weak prospect (Anthony Camara) and a third- and fourth-round pick. In the short term, that move helps the Bruins solidify their top four defenseman.

Liles entered the Bruins lineup right after the deadline on March 1 against the Calgary Flames. Since then, Kevan Miller, the Bruins inexperienced makeshift top-4 defenseman, went down with a shoulder injury. A shoulder he had surgery on last year. But even before he went down he was having his role diminished and looked lost in his own zone, at times looking foolish when the opposing team was scoring.

Liles has brought a much-welcomed veteran presence on the blue line, which would otherwise be missing. While he is not the top pairing defenseman that Boston absolutely needed, he’s been a top four defenseman that gives them more of a solid footing than they’ve had so far this season.

But the team did not stop with a defensive additions. Lee Stempniak has been a welcomed addition since the deadline and has made a deep impact on the team’s offense so far.

Since the trade with New Jersey Devils for Stempniak, he has stepped up and produced six goals in just five games, including an overtime winner against the Panthers.

The biggest knock on the Bruins before the deadline was that they couldn’t beat playoff team. In fact, they went a full two months without beating a team slotted to make the playoffs. However, the Bruins schedule makes their recent string of success particularly interesting as many predicted this would be their hardest stretch of the season. While it certainly had been, the team has answered accordingly.

Since the deadline, the Bruins have played the Chicago Blackhawks (1st in the Western Conference), the Washington Capitals (1st in the Eastern Conference), Florida Panthers (second in the Atlantic), and Tampa Bay Lightning (first in the Atlantic). In those four games, the Bruins collected eight our of a possible eight points. Now they are tied for first place in the Atlantic division.

The argument can still be made that the defense is not up to par with other playoff teams, but we’ll see what they can do when they face six-straight teams that are likely headed for the playoffs after their Thursday clash with the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.

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Andrew McGill

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