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?

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.

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.


In the last dozen years the hockey world has seen the advent of dozens of statistics used to measure everything in half a dozen ways. We have a dozen different forms of Corsi, there’s PDO, and goals against per 60, and points for by strength, by period, and per game. We have a proliferation of ways to count how much each player interacts with other players on the ice and make pointed observations as to how two or so players together enhance or detract from each other.

I love information more than most people. If I could drink it, I’d put down a couple gallons a day and still be looking for more. But some statistics are just plain worthless. Some are of very limited use. Corsi for example is a reasonable way to judge teams in the regular season, but recent history has shown it to be a counter indicator in the playoffs. Should it be discarded? Should it be evaluated further? No, it shouldn’t be eliminated, but weighing it as heavily as it has been the last few years is clearly not a winning strategy. PDO, is one of those statistics that is somewhere between vaporware and a clock with a short circuit and hasn’t stopped, but isn’t keeping time properly.

But neither of those is reason for today’s writing session. (It’s not even that my schedule has been eaten in the past week and I didn’t get to the other three posts I wanted to write.) Today is about two other purportedly linked stats: Giveaways and takeaways. Even more than hits, far more than blocked shots, and laughably more inconsistent than plus/minus this pair of stats is both inconsistently kept within a given arena, and across the league.

If you squint just right, you can see a loose connection between giveaways and ice time. Even players who normally have a firm leash on the puck like Patrice Bergeron and Shea Weber will pile up giveaways as a result of having the puck a lot.  But takeaways? What are they using to count those? I’ve watched players like Weber, Vlasic, and Seidenberg snuff a rush, take the puck and pass it off for a counter attack twice in a shift and end the night without a single takeaway. This is a long term, endemic problem the NHL has in the way statistics are kept.

If we’re to believe the official NHL statistics then Jeff Skinner, Mitch Marner, and Filip Forsberg all had as many takeaways or more as the four time Selke winner Patrice Bergeron last year.

And that’s a statistic that just doesn’t pass the sniff test.

The two paramount features of any coach who lasts in the NHL has two readily identifiable features. It doesn’t matter if they are a players coach or a disciplinarian. They can give horrid, boring press conferences or be great communicators. They can be first year coaches who paid their dues in the OHL, or be a retread who is in their third or fourth head coaching stint.

The two points every successful coach has short term or long, eastern conference or western are first an appreciation for the talent assembled on their roster and knowing where to deploy those men. The second is an identifiable system for the players to adhere to. Getting ‘the most’ out of given players isn’t even needed to have multi year runs with a single team.

Look at coaches who have won the Stanley Cup recently. The Pittsburgh Penguins under Mike Sullivan play a very specific form of defense you don’t see anyone else employ successfully. The Los Angeles Kings consistently took the ice with a system that made use of a rugged style, great defense, and you could have changed the uniforms and you still would have known who they were. The Chicago Blackhawks in good games or bad you know who it is, not by the names on the back or the logo or the front but by the style. Claude Julien has deployed a consistent, successful system of play as well.

In forty or so games under Bruce Cassidy, a head coach who was gone from the NHL for over a decade after a very short first stint in the NHL, what have we seen? Erratic play, disinterested or possibly just dismayed players, and nothing like consistency. We’ve seen marginal third line wingers like Riley Nash be deployed as top six centers. We’ve seen turnovers galore,  and a smorgasbord of confusion. Are we seeing anything extra out of any player on the roster? I don’t think so.

We’ve established the two fundamentals of good coaches who stick around, and coaches who win. So what do we call a coach who can’t do either of those things? Short lived. We call them short lived.

I’ve run a league about since when this blog started, and this year is no different. We have our four core players, a couple others who have been around a bit, and a couple new players.

The league has three each at right, left, center, two goalies and five defensemen and a bench. Just about all offensive categories are counted, as well as hits, most goalie stats and faceoffs. Its not an easy league to play in and every year we have people who never even make it past the draft.

One of the things I believe most strongly in is that Yahoo does overvalue certain players. Some of them are ten or twelve spots high, and that’s more than a round in an eight team league. Some of them are twenty to thirty spots over ranked and if you get distracted, end up having to autodraft, or simply have a technical failure they can ruin your team and destroy your chances of having a good year if anyone in your league knows what they are doing. For the most part I pay very close attention to the don’t draft list, and grab players who fill a stat column after the fourth or fifth round.

This year my list is pretty short, with one reluctant pick in Corey Perry, and two or three head scratchers in Alex Steen, Tyler Toffoli, and Henrik Zetterburg who are all between slightly to high, and far, far to high and ranked towards the space our draft will end.

Also on the list are the Monreal Canadiens Alex Galchenyuk who I love the potential of, but haven’t loved the results of, Mikeal Backlund, Derrick Brassard, and Boston Bruin Frank Vatrano who might not make the roster at all

Who is on your “Don’t draft list”?