With the NHL Expansion draft looming, it’s time to take a look at who the Boston Bruins must and should protect. Anyone with an active no movement clause, must be protected. Anyone who has played under a certain number of games or is on exempt, so McAvoy, Kuraly, JFK are all safe from being dragged off to the city of sin.

For the Boston Bruins the must protect list includes David Krejci, David Backes, Zdeno Chara, and Patrice Bergeron. That’s a lot of salary, but it also includes a ton of minutes eaten every night. At least one goalie must be exposed, and three that count right now are Malcolm Subban, Anton Khudobin, and Tukka Rask. Of them Subban is due a contract sometime before games start to count, Rask has four more years with a cap hit of seven million, and Khudobin is entering the final year of his contract with $1,200,000.

I can’t see Rask not being protected, which means either Subban or Khudobin being taken is a real possibility. For youth, Subban might be the better pick for Vegas, but Khudobin has more experience and has played behind bad NHL defenses and still turned up solid numbers when healthy and focused.

At forward I can’t imagine anyone feeling the need to argue against protecting Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Further, any argument to the effect either is worth giving up for nothing is nonsensical. After that you need to weigh the risk and reward of protecting Beleskey, Spooner, Hayes, Nash, Schaller, Moore, and Stafford. It is hard to find a reward to protecting Hayes. Schaller and Nash are decent bottom six players, but either can be replaced by half a dozen guys in Providence or UFA’s. Moore will be 37 when camp opens this fall, and while he had a career year last year, that just means he’s even more likely to slump. Nice player, probably the best of the bottom six, but still I’m not sure I protect him.

This brings us to three players. Ryan Spooner a Bruins draft pick with extraordinary hands and feet but who has failed to thrive. Matt Beleskey who was hindered by injury and saddled with Hayes as a linemate much of last season, and career Bruins killer Drew Stafford who has had just one twenty goal year in his last five and is now 31. Of them I think I have to protect Beleskey. In limited action he still provided a great deal of physicality the team needed. Spooner is younger with a theoretically higher ceiling, but he has shown zero consistency year to year.

On defense Torey Krug is a must protect. You simply don’t give away a guy who finishes sixth in scoring among defensemen, ever. McPhee would snatch him in a heartbeat and the Bruins would be set back years. The blueliners to keep track of left after Krug and Chara are John Michael-Liles, Kevan Miller, Colin Miller, and Adam McQuaid. Liles is aging and couldn’t crack the top six last year against very, very inexperienced competition, there’s no reason to protect him. Colin Miller has shown even less of the reasons he was acquired than Ryan Spooner.

In many ways Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid are similar players. It isn’t until you look at the various stats you see the differences. McQuaid is simply better in his own zone, his on ice save percentage is better, his difference from team save percentage is better, and he plays more short handed time, and his even strength time is played against better opponents. Kevan Miller is noticeably better offensively (.20ppg vs .14ppg) but neither is anything to make note of, nor does it outweigh the other factors. Age, McQuaid is slightly more than a year older, and while both have health issues again it’s about even.

Unless Neely and Sweeney commit resume generating events in their protection list, I don’t expect the team will suffer anything from the expansion.


In three games the Pittsburgh Penguins have allowed six goals and scored three. It’s not surprising that they are a game in the hole to the Senators in the Eastern Conference Finals. Some have blamed the boring  style of play Ottawa head coach Guy Boucher instituted when he took the helm. That’s immaterial, unless Sullivan can force a change in the games, Boucher has no incentive to alter how his team plays.

Others have blames the battered blue line for the Penguins failure to be up three nothing and sixty minutes from a second Stanley Cup Final appearance in the Sullivan tenure. This is a much better culprit. The defensemen on the ice have failed to get the puck out and through the neutral zone with regularity. Given the injuries to Letang and the other top blueliners it isn’t as shocking as it might otherwise be. But it is still a problem. 

It is a huge problem, perhaps an insurmountable one. The question of “Where do I find, skilled, smooth skating smart passing defensemen to help win a Cup?” is not a question that can be answered in May. You either have guys who can carry the load or you don’t. 

What might be a better question is: Why aren’t we using more of our forward depth? Why can’t the Penguin’s dress five, or even four defense and load up the other side of the roster. If they play with four forwards and a defenseman on a regular basis, they are likely to generate more mismatches, more turnovers, and more scoring opportunities. Yes it will make the lone defender more vulnerable, but is that really any different than what we’ve seen through three games?

Is calling up Kevin Porter, or Jean-Sebastion Dea and giving them some extra time going to make matters worse? Is Josh Archibald so bad his 10 games this season where a critical failure for the organization? Be honest, the Pittsburgh Penguins have never been a team built on defense and many of the blueliners they’ve thrown over the boards in the last two decades have been indistinguishable from forwards anywhere other than the media guide. This is just the next step.


This week we take a look at OHL award winners Michael McNiven and Darren Raddysh, discuss the pending return to the NHL of Ralph Kreuger, Travis Green and his real litmus test as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, We talk about the Penguins, their injuries and their series with the Senators. Jump on in to the best 64 minutes of your week. 


The Pittsburgh Penguins picked up a 1-0 win over the Ottawa Senators. This should be a grave cause of concern for the boys from the steel city. As a whole, Craig Anderson is statistically having his worst playoff run in terms of save percentage. Yet he is still in the Eastern Conference Finals. Lifetime the Park Ridge Illinois native has a .929 playoff sv% and that’s a pretty staggering number considering some of the teams he’s played behind.

This season his total is .920, and there’s been an enormous spike in the last three games where he’s seen an average of 33 shots per game, and had final numbers of .949, .964, and .966. Against the Rangers he had no consecutive games with a save percentage over .900, and he still dragged the Senators past their New York series. The Rangers put a lot more shots on net than the Penguins have managed. The only game of that series in which he faced less than 33 per game was the one he was pulled.

With Craig Anderson heating up, and Bobby Ryan looking like the guy who justified the “still there at two” appellation Brian Burke bestowed on him in his draft year, that’s alarming all by itself. Mike Hoffman has also been a pretty consistent points producer, and him going more than two games without getting on the score sheet is a rarity. Jean Gabriel Pageau has also proven to be an unsolveable riddle for defenses in the second season potting goals against the two previous goaltenders, both Vezina winners, and Fleury doesn’t seem to have an answer either.

Even leaving aside Ryan the three time 30 goal scorer, and both Pageau and Hoffman, the second scariest reason after a hot Anderson the Penguins should be worried comes in two bodies. Dion Phaneuf who seems to finally have learned not to take himself out of position for his earth shattering hits, and Erik Karlsson who has yet to produce a point in this series. Karlsson entered the Eastern Conference Finals one of a handful of skaters and the only defenseman with more than a point per game production. I don’t think it’s likely he’s going to stay off the board much longer.


The Conn Smyth is the NHL’s highest award for an individual player. More times than not the man who hoists the award given to the post season MVP has helped his team win the only team award in the post season. This year each team has a player that is leading the team in what they do, and maybe just a little more.

The Nashville Predators

It’s almost insulting to put anything but the name of the an on this team who is through two rounds the most valuable player. Pekka Rinne is so far ahead of every other goalie to play this year in save percentage it isn’t even worth making comparisons. His goals against average having played two strong playoff opponents is equally eye popping. Seriously, .951 and 1.37 sound like numbers from an exhibition game against a German league team. Add in only 8 skaters on his team having more points than the three assists he’s garnered, and yeah Rinne may just win the Conn Smyth if they make it to the Stanley Cup Finals and lose.

Anaheim Ducks

It’s become something of a truism that when the chips are down and you need a guy to do something special if you close your eyes and pick a guy drafted in 2003 it’s pretty likely to happen. For the Ducks, Ryan Getzlaf is that man. His 1.36 points per game average this post season is probably secondary to the terror he has been to opposing players he’s being credited with three hits a game, picking up blocked shots on a regular basis, he’s played more time than any forward or defenseman on the Anaheim roster, and he’s playing in all situations. The 54.6 faceoff % is worth putting him on the ice for all by itself.

The Pittsburgh Penguins

Most people have their Conn Smyth ballot penciled in when the Penguins make it this far. They either put Crosby or Malkin in without questioning who else is still playing. This year you just can’t do that. Malkin does indeed lead the playoffs in total scoring, but his points per game dipped in the second round, and he was held off the score board in the first and seventh games against Washington. The guy you just can’t ignore is Jake Guentzel, he leads the second season in goals, is over a point per game, and put up eight points against the Capitals

The Ottawa Senators

Like the Predators, the Senators have a no brainer pick on their roster. If this player doesn’t play at his best, they have no shot going forward. He’s currently playing through fractures in his heel. In consideration of that injury he’s taking a leisurely 28:56 of TOI a night, despite having missed the entire third period of one game in the second round. He’s the only defensemen with more than a point per game. He delicate condition has him blocking a mere two shots per game, bettered only by Ceci on the capital city squad.

The Dark Horses

Ryan Ellis is producing .90 points per game in the playoffs. That’s the second highest of any defensemen, and higher than nearly every forward. Why is he still an afterthought?

Cam Fowler missed four playoffs games, but has made up for it playing more and longer shifts than any other defenseman on the team. We all know h’s not a physical player, but he’s slick and positions himself well.

Justin Schulz is doing what no one really expected any one to do: Filling Kris Letang’s void. He leads the blueline in scoring with .67ppg and eating up powerplay time at a ravenous 3:35 per night. He’s turned in 5 powerplay points and a game winning goal in the post season.

Bobby Ryan has scored two game winners to hold him even with Karlsson, one of them in overtime against Boston. Hes also scored the first goal of a game. He’s played smart hockey since the playoff’s started and don’t be surprised if we see yet another level from him.


Terry Pegula finally got around to selecting a general manager for the Buffalo Sabres. The rumor mill was a little better than average this time with early word that Jason Botterill was the man who was getting the job. Botterhill comes out of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization where he was a fixture for about a decade. His stated goal is to build a contender every year at both the NHL and AHL levels.

Man is that delusional. In order to build a contending NHL team in the salary cap era you have to be constantly flushing talent out of your farm system. Yes there are exceptions, and Pittsburgh is one of them, but they aren’t common. Further more the biggest factors the Penguins have in their favor simply don’t apply to the Buffalo Sabres organization.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have cache they have the two of the top ten players in the NHL in Geno Malkin and Sidney Crosby. They have two cup wins in the last decade. They have an owner who won multiple cups, multiple MVPs, and who is one of those rare generational talents who actually understand’s the business side of the game as well. The other sneaky thing they do that is the kryptonite of other teams is bring players from their successful AHL franchise to their successful NHL franchise while they’re still young

While there are a lot of players who would like to play in one city for their whole career, the truth is that all of them simply want to play in the NHL the bulk of their career. If they can put a couple seasons with Malkin and Crosby on their resume, they know they will get better offers when it is time to go elsewhere. Those players also know that the next man up mantra isn’t just lip service. Unlike with the Red Wings or Boston Bruins the next roster spot will open up before players drafted into the system at 18 turn 25 or 30.

That window to get into the NHL and play for a bigger salary is longer and closer. This enables them to sign free agent out of the USHL, college, and the CHL. While Pittsburgh is hardly America’s premier metropolis, its total metroplitan area population is larger than that of Buffalo and Rochester combined. All those additional opportunities for entertainment are important when you have two or thee months off every year, and when you just want to take your billet parents or your family to a couple nice places.

Buffalo doesn’t have that winning tradition. While Eichel, Kane, Lehner, and O’Reilly are all well above average players, most hockey observers would rate the star appeal of Malkin and Crosby higher, and some would say that either Penguin outweighs the four Sabres.

Am I saying there’s no one in the world who will want to play hockey in Rochester and Buffalo? No. Just that the pool of talent is so much smaller that building not one but two contenders is likely beyond the ability of anyone, much less a newly minted general manager who like his ownership group has done two things when in the big chair. One of them is ‘jack’ and the other starts with ‘s’.


Kevin Shattenkirk started the year as the season’s must have pending UFA defenseman. He ended the season as a complimentary if unremarkable blueliner. One of the best coaches in the NHL didn’t trust him enough to play a full twenty minutes in any of the seven games against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In fact Shattenkirk did not see the high side of twenty minutes after the second game of the playoffs.

Shattenkirk’s minute totals in the series tell us a lot about him: Game 7 18:18 Game 6 15:39 Game 5 19:44 Game 4 15:24 Game 3 16:58 Game 2: 17:35 Game 1 19:01. No one who knows hockey needs to be told that he played mostly third, and sometimes second pairing minutes in that series.

For player comparisons, the other two defensemen with more than six games played to finish with six points were Adam Larsson who is not known for his offense, and Joel Edmunson who is not known. Edmunson got his six points in two less games and was a plus-12 to Shattenkirk’s minus-4.

Among all defensemen in the playoffs Shattenkird logged barely more than fifteen minutes of even strength time on ice that put him in the bottom half of all defensemen. With just two points at even strength in the playoffs he ranks in the 30s among blueliners keeping company with Matt Benning, Marc Methot, and Dan Girardi.

The one area in which Shattenkirk was above average was in powerplay points, where he was tied for second. Five points in thirteen games is nothing to sneer at, but it isn’t enough to compensate for the .896 even strength on ice save percentage, well below Holtby’s .911 sv% and putting him 259th of all players in that number.

Most NHL observers would have put Shattenkirk’s next contract around the seven to even eight million dollar per year range similar to the best players in the league. If you look at the numbers you can’t justify anything more than five and that might be a stretch.

Take a moment and listen to this weeks Two Man ForeCheck and weigh in on a new Twitter poll.


This week we break down the Capitals performance and see how much of the problem is Ovechkin, we look at the clearly debilitating, life threatening injuries to Karlsson and Crosby, we talk about the sons of Hall of Fame players including Domi, Brind’Amour, and others, The Blues Vlad Sobotka’s impact on the series, and why The Nashville Predators are so, so good.

 


George McPhee as general manager of the Washington Capitals had a well earned reputation for loving Russian players. It’s no surprise there are reports he’s slid his finger into every vatrushka in Russia to see which he likes best. For years it seemed there more Russians than North Americas in the Capitals lockerroom. Don’t be surprised if there are two, three or even five Russian players on the ice when the Vegas Golden Knights go for broke on the very first night they play for real.

But he’s not going to build a cap complaint, or more importantly a competitive NHL team out of KHL dissidents. He needs to take a look at talented players in the NHL right now, who for one reason or another aren’t a fit in the city they are playing now. For all the rumors and swirling talk about players like Eichel wanting out of Buffalo or Kucherov calling out his team in Tampa, no one seriously thinks either of those players is being moved.

But there are a pair of forwards, both on the opposite end of the continent from the Golden Knights that might just be perfect for a team that needs youth, skill, hope, and names the fans and media are familiar with. The elder of the two is a geriatric twenty-five year old who has speed and agility that easily place him in the top five percent in both categories league wide, passing ability that puts him on an even more exclusive, and no end of frustration on the Boston Bruins. The younger of those players reminds many observers of a larger Sergie Samsanov. He’s thickly built without any excess, he’s agile, he’s got a dynamic scoring touch, and speaks with a nearly palpable accent, despite where he was born.

It’s impossible to wander onto any Canadiens or Bruins focused forum and avoid links, rumors, and stories about the imminent trade of Ryan Spooner and Alex Galchenyuk. These two have for varying reasons managed to disappoint in the markets that drafted them. I think the case against Spooner is probably a better one, but even there when he played with guys who could skate with him, and were active shooters and didn’t possess the same pass first (and second, and third, and possibly fourth) mentality he does he did really well. A lot was made over the downturn in Galchenyuk’s production this year. After a 30 goal season I think many expected him to eclipse the forty goal mark in short order. He didn’t, and while his goal scoring was down, his actual points per game production was up.

Then came the playoffs. His first taste of post season action where Galchenyuk had to be considered in the top two or three as offensive threats, and he got smothered by Ottawa, he still produced at half a point per game, but that wasn’t enough to mollify Montreal observers. Spooner who has playing between guys who are more grinders than finesse players and who haven’t a hope of keeping up with him in speed was supplanted by Sean Kuraly in the playoffs and has likely played his last game in a Boston Bruins uniform.

McPhee could do so very much worse than to acquire this pair of forwards. The two have name recognition, playoff experience, are old enough to have passed through Vegas as adults a couple times, and both are almost certainly in need of a fresh start. I can’t imagine GM GM building a team that wasn’t speed and skill based, and these two fit the bill. I doubt the Bruins would expect to get more than a second round pick for Spooner who is an RFA with arbitration rights this summer. A Galchenyuk acquisition might take a little more, but is even a first and a third too much to pay for a 23 year old who leads the 2012 draft class in points and has a 30 goal season on his resume?

Duke Reid and Vadim Shipachyov need team mates, Vegas needs skill, recognition, and youth. Galchenyuk and Spooner likely need to play for their second NHL team. Together they could make beautiful hockey.