Overall the 2019 Bruins dev camp was an exercise in confirmation bias.

The Don Sweeney and company trotted out several of this years picks, and most of the recent picks not playing in the NHL or AHL for the full year last season and compared them nose to nose and tail to tail. I can tell you the overall assessment they arrived at of the group of properties and invitees as a whole.

There’s a couple axis of examination they’ll have applied to the group the important ones are:

  1. The returning draftees performance and testing results versus prior years.
  2. This years draftees versus players drafted in a similar place in previous years.
  3. Returning invitees versus their own previous results.
  4. This years draftees versus their performance at the combine and the aggregate
  5. Coachability

I suspect the conclusion they came to is that there’s no one who participated in this years on ice events who is so  far behind the pack they don’t belong on the same ice surface. Most of the players they expected to progress did. Aside from the (mostly older) standouts I mentioned in my last post there are a couple players of note.

Josh Maniscalco (defenseman) is heading back to Arizona State for a second year, and he’s got reasonable wheels, and a nice set of hands.

Casey Dornbach (right wing) is a Harvard man, and as he’ll be 22 on July 7th, one of the older guys in camp. He drew the eye nearly every time he was on the ice. Agile, good speed and a solid shot.

Samuel Asselin is interesting in two regards, he’s shown the last two season in the Q to be a playoff performer, and his overage season saw him more than double his previous years points. He looked comfortably among the top third of forwards at camp and Providence fans will see him up close.

Justin Richards another invitee was intriguing. You just sort of blinked a few times and he had the puck, and was taking a shot or making a pass and then boom his cloaking device activated again. Just plain gone.

John Beecher looked like he had good fundamentals, but is likely to be at college two years, and maybe a year in the AHL after that.

As always you can find the podcast I co-host Two Man ForeCheck anytime you need a hockey fix. This week we’ll be looking at free agency, the 2013 draft class, and more. Or possibly none of that, most of it is made up as we go along.



This is one of the odder years at camp. There’s no clear star among the prospects. Most of the upper 20% of the roster are headed to college next year. I don’t see anyone with enough bouyancy that I can say “I can’t wait to see them at main camp in the fall.” It was also the most lightly attended by fans camp I’ve been to.

Of this year’s draft picks I got the most eyeball time on Quinn Olson, and Matias Mantykivi. Neither will be cracking the lineup anytime soon. Both are late birthdays with Olson turning eighteen on May 9th, and Mantykivi on June 21st. The latter played in Finland last year, and is listed at 143lbs, and five foot ten. If he were at his current size to block a shot in the NHL he might well miss time. Both are good skaters and receive passes well, make solid passes. Mantikivi needs to work on his shooting angles, Olson I didn’t see as much.

Of the 2018 draft picks I saw two standout. One positively, the other Dustyn McFaul. Early in the on ice session I saw him cutting corners on drills, and what appeared to be giving up. By the mid-point it was clear he was having some sort of conditioning or injury issue as he was clearly, visibly gassed. Fortunately for him, he’ll have at least a year or two in upstate New York to work out his issues while at Clarkson. Curtis Hall looked even better than last year. When I left camp at the end of 2018 I said he had an outside chance at squeaking into the 4th line. Today did nothing to detract from that and he showed better than the majority of the prospects in the drills shooting, passing, and above all timing both well.

If there is a threat among the forward crop to take a Boston job this fall, it is Oskar Steen. I’ve always liked his attitude, positioning, and skating. Over last year and this his shot and passing have elevated. You can tell just from watching him move that he’s put on more muscle, and learned to use it efficiently with and without contact with other players. He’s still far from the biggest guy on the ice but no one got an extra inch of room from him.

Marek Zachar is an undrafted invitee who had two seasons in the Q with the Sherbrook Phoenix and has since returned to Europe. His resume shouldn’t convince anyone he’s the next Martin St Louis, even if they are of like size, but there does appear to be something there. Matt Brown was likewise undrafted, and if the scoring leader for the Des Moines Buccaneers, and in the top 20 in the USHL for points, not to mention top 10 in goals wasn’t on people’s draft list, I’m curious to know why. The talk today was that he was sneaky good. If he can crack an NHL lineup in the future he might be the whiff of this years draft. Smooth, assertive, and clearly there for more than just to be seen.

Nick Wolff is fascinating to watch. Similar dimensions to Brandon Carlo, an attitude more like Connor Clifton, and very sound positioning. If he hasn’t already peaked in his development guys need to start getting nervous now. He could well be that rare four year college defenseman who makes the jump straight to the NHL without a year adjusting to the pro-life in the AHL. In addition to the defensive positioning that will buy him dinner, he showed off some hands with a nice pass and a couple stuffs that’ll spring for dessert.

Four teams remain. In the West the San Jose Sharks were the last team to advance after going to the wire against the Colorado Avalanche in a series that was tighter than a four man knife fight in a commuter flight bathroom. The east saw the first team advance with a first year coach behind the bench of the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Saint Louis Blues advanced on the back of their rookie goaltender and their across the board depth. Jordan Binnington won’t get a chance to struggle early in the Western Conference Finals like he did at times against the Dallas Stars. The Boston Bruins had a barn fight with the Columbus Blue Jackets who like the Avalanche are on the rise. In that round, the Boston Bruins smothered Cam Atkinson, and managed to score enough when Seth Jones was on the ice to possibly get in the head of Bobrovsky and exhaust the BlueJackets.

We’ll have to wait unil Thursday evening for the Western Conference Finals to open, but waiting is nothing new for these teams and their fanbases. Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks have never won a Stanley Cup. Jumbo has skated in the 1566 regular season and 173 playoff games. We might have seen the best of 1st overall pick in 1997 just this year. His playoff assault this year has been his most complete, and his most controlled and the whole team has rise with him. Martin Jones who was looking way up at mediocre in the regular season for individual statistics improved from a deplorable .896 sv% over the year, to a still subpar but at least reliable .908 through two rounds. Hertl, LaBanc, and more contributed to a greatly entertaining series.

Facing them on Thursday night will be a team with a more than five decade existence that has yet to win the only thing that matters. The Saint Louis Blues will return to the conference finals against the team that eliminated them the last time they were there. Jordan Binnington will get the easy headlines, and deserves them. But the roster is a stud stable. Alex Pietrangelo is one of the best blueliners in the league, and no one ever talks about him. Ryan O’Reilly is a Selke award finalist, but defense is far from the only component of his game. ROR can dish the puck, throw the body, and score as well. He’s a complete player. Taresenko is arguably the best know player on the roster, fantasy hockey players, and highlight reel afficianodos know this gifted goal scorer well.

Jordan Staal and Justin Williams are well known to long time NHL observers. Both have won the Stanley Cup before, and each would like to take it home one more time. The rest of the Bunch of Jerks, occasionally known as the Carolina Hurricanes, are not yet fully into the limelight. Dougie Hamilton was embattled in the first round after footage of him leaping out of the path of Alex Ovechkin propped up sports shows for a week, and has had stops in Calgary and Boston in his career. Sebastian Aho is a slick, superbly skilled forward who can dish, deke, or stash with equal adroitness. Justin Faulk though is the hidden gem of this roster. He’s the centerpiece of the team’s blueline and it is a defense that within another year or two will likely be on equal footing with defenses like Minnesota, Winnipeg, and Columbus.

For the Boston Bruins, they have most recently won the Stanley Cup, but only four players to take part in that series remain. Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand, the resurgent two time playoff scoring leader David Krejci, and of course Patrice Bergeron, again a Selke finalist, and again performing when most needed. The most interesting part of this team isn’t the top of the roster, it’s the bottom. Sean “Second Season” Kuraly has been a special terror to the Toronto Maple Leafs two years in a row. Matt Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo have both enjoyed very successful playoff runs in the quiet way defensive defensemen do.

Who is winning these series?

Out west the San Jose Sharks seem to have all the statistical advantages; the better powerplay, penalty kill, and goals for. But they are also more reliant on the powerplay for offense, and dead even in 5 on 5 goals for with the Saint Louis Blues who have had the better goaltending, and I think have a bit more speed at center.

The Carolina Hurricanes will enter round three better at 5 on 5, and with a slightly hotter goaltender, assuming McElhinney stays in the crease. The Boston Bruins have better special teams, are better at center and faceoffs, and have overall better goaltending. If the Bruins play physically, and on the line taking Aho, Hamilton, and some of the first time in the post season players out of their game it could be a short season.

Picks: Blues in the West, Boston in the East.

The team with the better goaltending overall generally wins in the post season and that’s who I picked as much as for the intangibles.

The Columbus BlueJackets are uncertainty, nestled in the arms inconsistency, fitfully supping on the milk of ambiguity. It’s likely going to cost John Torterella his job.

And it’s not his fault. We knew what this team was when the All-Star Break arrived. They were talented, which they remain. They were inconsistent, which they have doubled down on. What we didn’t know then, and will never know is what, beyond an enigma this team could be.

There are three viable ways to make changes at the deadline. The first is simply to add a player or two for depth so that no one on the roster has any doubt of management’s confidence level. The second is to boost a team by addressing a weakness. The last, is addition by subtraction. In any case your goal as a general manager, as a front office is to do one thing; Inspire the team to be better down the stretch, and ideally straight through to June.

Jarmo Kekalainen did none of these things. His deadline moves only added to the biggest problem the Columbus BlueJackets have. In all the moves made, the talent acquired, and the headlines made the Columbus BlueJackets still didn’t achieve the one thing every successful team in any sport has; an identity.

These BlueJackets are Jody Shelly’s puissant pugilists, they aren’t the no name collection of discards, low value prospects, and overpaid aging stars in the final days of Sergei Federov’s day. Ron Tuggnut is not going to be taking the crease the rest of this season nor at any point next. Which is the other thing Kekalainen failed at. Certainty.

With two premium pending UFAs one would hope that for the sake of eliminating distraction, a general manager who is tuned in would either extend or trade one of them. Nope, not here. Instead of delivering a new face or two Kekalainen went grocery shopping while hungry and left with one of everything. Adam McQuaid could be excused; He’s got a ring, he’s good in his own zone. Matt Duchene should be lauded, even with his limited playoff success; he’s dynamic. Keith Kincaid, nothing wrong with this pickup; you don’t win without goaltending. Ryan Dzingel savvy pickup; he plays all three forward positions, he’s paid his dues, and is still improving.

Individually any one of these moves is good. Any two of them is likely the right result. But together? They say something now general manager should ever admit to the their team. In unambiguous terms Jarmo Kekalainen said to his team, and to the world; I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know how to fix you.

This week’s podcast can be found here: Episode 110 of Two Man ForeCheck.

This week’s Twitter poll is right here: Who would you vote for in the Jack Adams race?

The other night on social media I quipped that the NHL Officials need a summer league. Like half a dozen other off the cuff mutterings, the more I think of it, the more sense it makes. This was in reaction to the utterly putrid nature of calls in the Winnipeg Jets versus Boston Bruins game. The general state of officiating in the NHL has been bad for two or three years. This year it’s been so bad it’s ceased to be funny or excusable in anyway.

The primary functions of the bootcamp would be:

  • Evaluating and grading all officials.
  • Correcting failures of positioning, and practice
  • Evaluating potential additions to the officiating roster.

The question is of course how to do this. For me, a combination of players who are AHL and NHL free agents, players from other professional leagues wanting to be scouted by NHL teams and players recovering from injuries would make up the bulk of the players. College and major junior free agents could be added as well. A case can even be made for having a division of NAHL, USHL and similar age players present who would have a slightly slower pace and allow the officials the most time to evaluate plays. For maximum similarity to the NHL and AHL season, when the next CBA is negotiated, some players might be required to appear after certain levels of discipline.

With two to three games being played a day, and a given official working all the games, one day, they could then be critiqued with extensive video coverage of what they did right and wrong by trainers the very next day, and given a full day of recovery before being tasked with putting changes into play. Sounds exhausting? That’s part of the point. Like the players, officials work a long season. Sometimes the density of games is high or the travel is wretched. Any linesman or referee who can go through four days in six of three games a day and be better at the end than the beginning should be able to thrive in the regular season.

When to do it? Starting it the second week of April is one approach, or the second week of July when players are officially out of contract. Make it a six or so week training session. You can double duty by field testing proposed rule changes in the latter stages once the officials are having more clean games that putrid. Will the NHL adopt a fix like this? Unlikely. Whatever they do, they need to bring more accountability to the position, and cease covering for officials who just plain screw up by the numbers.

The Ottawa Senators are for sale.

No, not the organization just the roster. And man do they need help. It isn’t just the NHL roster that is lacking in depth, talent, and winning drive. Their AHL affiliate the Bellville Senators are near the bottom of that league as well. Without a first or second round pick this year, and a third round pick next year, this team can not afford to move players and not get solid returns.

Given the questionable ability of the organization to draft and develop players, a case can be made for the team to trade exclusively for roster players and prospects who would be in the NHL if it weren’t for their current rights holder having salary cap issues. I don’t know that this is a good idea, but with the number of NHL players on teams well outside the playoffs who might be able to help the organization going forward it isn’t an idea that can be dismissed entirely.

While everyone else is analyzing if the organization should move on from Erik Karlsson, and what they can get for him, I’ll stick to some of the players who have value as depth players, or to fill in for a top six/top four player who is expected to be out for an extended period.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau is a sneaky good depth forward. Last year he produced 19 goals in the regular season and then eight more in the Senator’s playoff appearance. He produces at even strength, and on the penalty kill. Any team needing either a 3rd center or first pairing penalty kill forward will get a good value. Value: 2nd round pick plus, likely a 2nd and a lesser pick or prospect.

Mark Borowiecki overshadowed by both Karlsson and Phanuef on this roster. His raw physicality will lead some to overlook his skating ability, a good comparison is Boston’s Kevan Miller. Value: This one is tricky, he’s got a team friendly contract, two more years on it, but is never going to be even a middling points producer. A 3rd or 4th round pick would seam fair but I could see him going for more.

Mike Hoffman. I think the Ottawa Senator’s organization would be fools to trade him, but he is undoubtedly a quality goal scorer able to produce his own offense in a system with limited assistance. He’s under contract for next season as well. Value: 1st round pick plus additional return.

Johnny Oduya: May end up as a throw in with a bigger name, might go somewhere looking for a veteran who has been there and done that. He’s not going to come in a play top pairing minutes, but veteran defensemen are valued above the purely on ice contribution, particularly ones who have been as far into the playoffs as he has. Value: will likely fetch a 2nd or a lesser prospect.

Mark Stone is quietly having a good season for the Senators, and will like getting a significant raise on July 1. With 18 goals already on a team that’s subpar and coached defense first, he’s going to generate some interest. Value: This will depend entirely on if he is just traded as a rental or if there is a signing involved in the move. A pair of second round picks say 2018 and 2020 would be a nice return.

Derick Brassard on the plus side has already matched last year’s goal total, on the minus side he’s not young any more and a $2,500,000 signing bonus just for living until bonus day might slow down the clamor the talents of the soon to be 31 year old Quebec native. Value: Roster player (either expiring contract or need for need) and a pick.

David Krejci is out with another injury. This time it appears to be his back. Tuukka Rask is in the middle of his fourth down trending season in a row. Krejci is 31 and has as storied an injury history as he has a playoff pedigree. Rask has suffered abdominal and hip injuries and then this year a concussion. Additionally Rask has suffered “illnesses” in remarkable proximity to big games for the last several years.

So which of them is more important?

Ordinarily this isn’t a question. The goalie is about 40% of any teams success. A number one goalie is a huge part of the fortunes of team. The counter argument to the value of a goalie is that a top center is a makes a goalie better by helping keep the puck out of the defensive zone and limiting the shots on net by creating offense. A number one center can create a lot of offense, and a lot of sustained puck possession.

Here’s the problems. Yes, plural. Rask is no longer a legitimate number one goaltender. Krejci is not a number one center. While Krejci has gone from leading the NHL in playoff scoring two out of three seasons, Rask was once upon a time a Vezina winner.

Today, Tuukka Rask has turned in two league average at best seasons. David Krejci has been pretty consistent in his scoring over the years. The drop last year was both remarkable, and worrisome. But it brought Krejci from above average to about average for a #2 center in the NHL. There is no way to damn the decline of Rask with faint praise. While Krejci was elite six to ten weeks a spring a few years ago, at about the same time Rask was a Vezina quality goaltender in about the same span.

The drop off is more extreme in Rask’s case than anything seen in Boston in a very, very long time from any position. Rask is currently displaying numbers that wouldn’t have kept a goalie in the NHL fifteen years ago.  With an .899sv% Rask is 42nd in the NHL among all goalies with 7 or more games played. That’s in the bottom 20% of the NHL. Of the 74 goaltenders to start games in the NHL so far this year, Rask ranks 62nd. That QS% is .308. That’s a 7 million dollar a year giving you worse play than career AHL guys getting called up because the first two goalies are unavailable.

Replacing Krejci’s numbers isn’t as easy being 98th out of the 194 centers to play seven games might suggest. With the number of games he’s missed Krejci’s standings in points per game are much more relevant. Among those same 194 centers he is 31st in PPG, which puts him slightly ahead of Bergeron.

The production isn’t the only factor to consider. Whatever other issues he may have had, there’s never been an issue with David Krejci scapegoating team mates. No one has ever questioned Krejci’s willingness to play through injuries. Krejci has played with a remarkable, and not always talented assortment of wingers and been able to concoct points both on the powerplay, and at even strength. He’s even been strong penalty killer when called upon.

Right now, today, barring further serious injury to David Krejci, even as he sits on the shelf nursing his ailing back, he’s the more valuable of the two players.

This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.


  • that the Vegas Golden Knights would lead their division with games in hand after Thanksgiving…
  • the Detroit Red Wings would hold a playoff spot and the Montreal Canadien’s who won the division last year would not…
  • at the quarter pole the best record in the NHL would belong to a healthy Tampa Bay Lightning would lead the NHL in points, wins, home wins, and goal differential…
  • the Pittsburgh Penguins would have the fifth lowest goals per game in the NHL..
  • the New York Islander’s would have the 2nd highest goals for per game and be barely 8th in the overall NHL standings after all their off season forward turnover.
  • the Saint Louis Blues would have lost the third most man games to injury and still be the best team in the west after Thanksgiving
  • after going to the second round in the spring the Edmonton Oilers would be back to their seemingly traditional position in the bottom five in the NHL.


  • the goalie controversy in Boston wouldn’t be who was going to be backing up Tuukka Rask this year, but when he would be allowed to take the net again
  • we would have two players over 1.5 goals per game (Steven Stamkos & Nikita Kucherov) who are not named Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, or even McDavid.
  • none of the last five Norris Trophy awardees (Brent Burns, Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Duncan Keith, P.K. Subban) would be in the top 3 in scoring among defensemen.
  • that Mike Green who has only passed the 40 point mark once since the 2009-10  season would be among the top 10 defensemen in scoring.
  • the NHL’s highest scoring rookie would be Brock Boeser of Vancouver Canucks and he’d have a line of 11-10-21 through 19 games with three game winning goals
  • at the quarter point of the season 553 players would have scored at least one goal versus 774 total last year to do the same

Tuukka Rask is awful this year. There’s no denying it. He has zero shutouts. He’s got no really good stretches of hockey to show for himself. He’s allowed three or more goals in 9 of his 12 starts. That’s not a winning formula. There are a couple questions that have to be asked, in context.

Since Rask arrived in a Boston uniform he has routinely thrown young players and particularly defensemen under the bus. He’s called out Torey Krug, and Adam McQuaid, and others as well. These are only the cases we’ve noted. Given the 2/3rds of a goal disparity between his and Khudobin’s GAA, question number one has to be; Has he alienated enough other players in the lockerroom both by direct action and his reputation that they just don’t want to play in front of him? If the team were older and more mature, this wouldn’t be a question. But let’s look at the players in question, Pastrnak, DeBrusk, Heinen, Cehlárik, McAvoy, and Carlo are all 22 and under. Postma, O’Gara, Vatrano, Kuraly, Swarz, Vatrano, and Agastino have all seen very limited action in the NHL either with Boston or previous teams. That is a very high percentage of the locker room. That is a huge number of minutes a night. Hockey players talk to each other. Many of these guys have played in college against each other, or in Providence together and it’s not possible that any two have had or heard of similar negative experiences with Rask would not have talked about it. I’d bet good money that they talked about it in front of at least one other player who has yet to earn Tuukka Rask’s ire.

The other half of the question is how likely is Rask to recover from this utterly ignoble start? October is normally a mixed bag for him. That’s fine, he’s seen a lot of turnover in front of him in his career and communication is important. For his career he has a .914% in October, this year he was at .896%. For those who came out of time machine and looked at that save percentage no it isn’t 1986, hop back in your hot tub and accept the fact that the .896% that would have been reasonable to good in 1991 is shameful today. November is the month Rask has racked up the most wins in his career. In 68 games he’s a 41-20-7 with a .926%. Putting up those numbers over the course of whole season year in and year out would make someone a first ballot hall of famer. December is also a strong month. January and February, well, not so much. With all the historical data that says he start the year off well, and then dips noticeably what does the season hold for Rask and the Boston Bruins?

Also to be asked about Tuukka Rask is how much of his difficulty playing at a professional level this season is physical, and how much is mental? His win percentage and save percentage are both better after the All Star break each season, a time when the bulk of the games and long distance travel is done. Is he just unable to play eight of ten games in a three week period because he’s not durable? Is he failing to stay hydrated and rested when in the air? Does he over think plays when he’s got time off? If it’s mental did he perhaps come into the season knowing he had no challenger for the number one slot and under prepare? With the season Subban, McIntyre, and Khudobin had int he NHL that wouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

If you’ve ruled out his contract going from full no-movement to an 8 team can be traded list, you may want to rethink that. We all saw the chaos of the final years of Schneider and Luongo in Vancouver, Rask even got to watch the whole playoff run (and several weeks before) from the bench. He has to know as bad as he’s played, as steadily as his numbers have declined year after year that any general manager would be a fool not part with him and his enormous salary at the earliest opportunity. Of the 53 goaltenders to play at least 5 games this season, Rask’s save percentage is 43rd playing on the same team, with the same players and the same coach Khudobin is 2nd in the NHL. With all the young players who will need a new contract and raise over the next two off season on the Bruins roster, and it being unlikely the cap will rise more than 2-3 million in that time, Sweeney has to be looking for cap space anywhere he can find it. The biggest reservoir of room to sign players wheres number 40.