You all obviously know to find me here. I suspect you’ve all run across my twitter account @PuckSage . Yep, there’s a Facebook me too. But starting Monday you’ll be able to find my weekly playoff preview on InsideHockey.com.

How I convinced them to lower their standards and toss aside their creditability will have to remain a deep dark secret but I do thank them for the opportunity to reach a larger audience.  I will also be keeping this blog active.

These two teams come as billed. They have the best and second best goal differential, the third best road record against the best home record. Two top teams for goals against, and two top scoring teams. The only real edge on paper aside from the home record was special teams. But as we all know, hockey is played on the ice and not on paper and that’s where the Bruins had a special player as their ace in the skates. Milan Lucic. The man who may one day be both myth and legend.

The first period was mostly subtle fencing as two teams who know they were up against opponents who could eviscerate them with the flick of a wrist felt each other out. Marchand’s ill advised holding the stick penalty was killed off by a the Bruins who took being on the home ice of the NHL’s top powerplay team as a challenge. Late in the period after Kaberle coughed up the puck, and a Vancouver player bulldozed Tim Thomas, the Bruins would give up a goal to a team that had proven nearly invincible when scoring first.

In the second another Marchand penalty, another penalty killed. Kaberle bobbled the puck a few times and was  less of a defensive and physical presence than Michael Ryder (who looked damn good even though he didn’t make the score sheet) and the Bruins bench was shortened to five defensemen as Andrew Ference did not return to the game. Marchand and Burrows moved their jaws at an impressive rate of speed in each others directions that may even have eclipsed their skating speed.  Kaberle applied some reputation bondo by getting a pass through to the net front where Vancouver Giant alumnus Milan Lucic tapped a pass to the former Oshawa General Nathan Horton who tapped home his own rebound to tie the game.

The middle of the third saw Greg Campbell get an impressively bad holding call. For all the evidence I saw I think he may have been penalized for holding his own hockey stick. Disgusted, but undeterred the Bruins again shut down a the NHL’s most potent powerplay, and kept charging forward. On a break up the ice that was notable for Chara being tied up below the Bruins goal line with a member of the Canucks, David Krejci skated through and around the heart of the Vancouver roster while Lucic was being interfered with. Sliding wide he wrapped around the net, he shared the puck with a wide open Seidenberg who passed it to the local boy. Milan Lucic wasted no time and effort doing what he’d been dreaming of since long before he was drafted by the Boston Bruins and got a roar out of the home town crowd even while wearing the wrong uniform.

With just a few minutes left the game got tighter, passes were picked off and space was more available on the bench than the ice. When it came down to the final moments of the game, my first tweet of the showdown proved to be prophetic:

Lucic Chara & Bergeron vs Sedin Sedin & Kesler. Depth Grit & Balance vs Telepathy Polish & Speed.

Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara were on the ice to defend Tim Thomas while Luongo retreated to the bench. Together with newcomer Chris Kelly, they dug the puck out and just after center ice Lucic passed the puck to Bergeron who feathered in the empty netter. On the night with all goals coming at even strength the Bruins trio was +4, their opposite number -5.

Next up for the Bruins the Edmonton Oilers in what some might call a trap game. With an effort like tonight’s the Bruins can just call it two points.

The last several weeks have seen quite an improvement in the hundred million dollar man, and his team. They are the hottest team in hockey right now and he’s having a respectable season all of a sudden.  Kovalchuck enters the day with a line of 21-21-41 -20. The last the biggest area of improvement.

On the blueline we find Kevin Shattenkirk with a new zip code and tied for points with Cam Fowler. Just behind the two in points andahead of them in +/- is das wundermouth PK Subban. Not to be overlooked is the Washington Capitals John Carlson. The  breakdown:

  • Shattenkirk, is playing as much as 2:30 minutes less a night than the three guys immediately behind him in scoring, has also played five less games than Fowler who has the same number of points, and seven less than Subban.
  • Fowler, while his -22 is startling, it should be noted over 55% of his points have come on the powerplay. May or may not be living up to his reputation for softeness with just 16 penalty minutes. A lot of people would call that disciplined.
  • Subban, with more than 50 more shots on goal than the second active shooter among rookie defensemen it appears Subban swings his stick almost as often as his jaw. Unlike Fowler and Shattenkirk, Subban also sees significant penalty kill time with over 2 minutes a night on average.
  • Carlson is clearly the most complete player of all the rookie defensemen. He plays in all situations, has a team leading +/- and is second to only the Bruins defensive stalwart Adam McQuaid in +/- for rookie blueliners. Useless fact: While he’s got less points on the road, his +/- is better away from home.

Forwards are an increasingly more interesting story. Some guys have bounced in and out of the statistical leaders, some have fought their way in, and one or two have been at or near the top all season. Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks and Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes look to take the race for the top of the heap from coast to coast. Michael Grabner, Brad Marchand, and Taylor Hall have worked their way to the top of the pile, while Derek Stepen and Tyler Ennis have bounced in and out of the top tier.

  • Ennis has earned his minutes on a weak Sabres squad with lots of speed and a willingness to shoot the puck.
  • Stepan is very, very quietly third in scoring on his team. That might be a more impressive stat if his team, the New York Rangers wasn’t 22nd in goals for. Their 25th ranked powerplay isn’t helping his stats either.
  • Hall hit the middle of the season and hit his stride, while third in scoring he is also playing more minutes than any other rookie forward.
  • Grabner is the sleeper for post season recognition. His speed is absurd, and the All Star weekend was something of a coming out party for him. On a team with a collective -32 his +9 is eye opening. Of his 25 goals, 17 have come since 1/1. Is second to Marchand in rookie shorthanded goals.
  • Couture, lots of goals from lots of shots on goals, with lots of time on ice would be less impressive if he weren’t maintaining a high +/- on a team in the bottom half of the NHL for goal differential.
  • Marchand, leads all rookies in shorthanded goals and points, leads all rookies in +/-, leads all the scoring leaders in short handed time on ice, has more hits than any of the top scorers is the most complete player of all the rookie forwards.
  • Skinner. Mr Consistent, has been the scoring leader for most of the season, is producing more points per minute than other top rookies. Has an impressive take away to turnover ratio.

Once clear as day, the rookie goalie landscape has been turned over several times.  Injuries, trades, the retrn of other goalies and cold spells have made this an interesting position to watch, but assured us the Calder Trophy winner won’t be coming from the crease unless something extraordinary happens over the next twenty games.

  • James Riemer hasn’t been in the NHL long, but he’s making it damned hard to ignore him. In just 17 games played he’s 1 win short of  team leader J.S. Giguere’s win total, and has a 2.24 GAA and .931 Sv% on a team that’s not worth much.
  • Sergei Bobrovsky, is still hanging around the top of the pack despite being shuffled into the background in Flyer country.  With more wins than any other rookie a 2.46 GAA and a .918 Sv% you can’t complain about much of his game and not sound like a moron.
  • Corey Crawford is the show stopper though, he’s just a couple wins behind Bobrovsky, with a slightly better Sv% at .923 and a much better GAA at 2.11, he leads rookies in both and does it behind a much weaker defense than Bobrovsky. He might just manage to drag his team into the playoffs too.

In no particular order the five best rookies are:

Crawford, Skinner, Marchand, Carlson, and Subban.

The five most interesting stories to watch from now until the the trade deadline.

  • How far will the dismantlement of the Colorado Avalanche go? I was shocked to see Calder Trophy candidate Kevin Shattenkirk shipped out.  Stuffed into the wagon along with him was 23 year old power-forward Chris Stewart, and a conditional pick. Going the other was was Erik Johnson a defensemen with a great pedigree, who has lost his luster.  Paul Statsny is rumored to be available,
  • What will the NHL’s newest owner do with his team? He stated on NHLLive today he was more likely to make future moves than put band-aids on this season, but with players like Statsny, Brad Richards, and who knows who else coming or potentially coming on the market, will he say I want that one! Brad Richards, Ed Jovonovski, and others could contribute to the team for a while.
  • Who blinks first? The Western conference is so tight you can probably get almost anything from those who are determined to succeed now. We’ve see the Avalanche run up the white flag while the Kings have been really quiet. With Carolina having played two more games than the Sabres they have to be looking over their shoulders. If they decide to keep restocking via the draft Cole, Samsanov, Pitkanen, and Jokienen could fetch some decent picks or prospects.
  • What Will Lou Do? The New Jersey Devils general manager has perhaps the hardest calls to make this silly season. He’s got a team that’s playing world beating hockey and is following teams down dark alleys and going through their pockets for loose points, but the odds of getting to the playoffs are really stacked against them. Purely from the cap management point of view, shaking the team loose of Rolston’s contract or one of the other larger contracts on the books for next year could keep them from being an embarrassment to the NHL again next year as they were when they were icing understrength rosters thanks to injuries and cap issues.
  • Hands down the most interesting issue of the off season is what happens to the big name UFAs. As we saw with Bouwmesster recently they are the players that will have reverberations on and off the ice for years to come no matter what call is made. Brad Richards, Shea Weber, Ilya Bryzgalov, Simon Gagne, are all the type of player that when healthy can push an organization from bubble to playoff team and playoff team to contender or cup favorite. If not signed, all four of these guys will be free to sign anywhere they please July 1st. There are lost of people who think Richards would look great in a Sabre’s uniform so would Weber for that matter either of the two when added to Miller, Vanek and Myers gives you a hell of core. The Predators and Lightning are pretty firmly in the playoffs, but an offer too good to refuse is always possible.

Bonus story: How many more times will someone at Versus make the histerical statement that the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins have the hottest rivalry in the NHL?

Off the Faceoff is a semi-regular feature filled with a varying number of one line thoughts, mostly on hockey.

Faceoff 1: It’s hockey day in America and the NHL has kindly made it impossible to watch all the games, or even most of the games since three of them start at about the same time.

Response: Great, next time just schedule them all at 6:30 AM ‘PT, the ratings will be about the same. And why aren’t there any sunbelt teams scheduled? I realize a lot of the south thinks of the Mason Dixon as the natural border but there’s no sense in helping the delusion.

Faceoff 2: The Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens square off today in the Heritage Classic. Who are you rooting for?

Response:  As a hockey fan, a Bruins fan, and someone who wants to see more of Jarome Iginla on TV, I want the Flames to roast the Habs. Maybe if they do NBC, Versus, and the NHL will show more of their games on tv in the east and I won’t have to sit through the same four western teams all the time.

Faceoff 3:  There has been lots of comment on Twitter about the possible relocation of the Thrashers to western Canada.

Response:  !) Not happening soon. (Sorry Winnipeg.) 2) Detroit and Columbus would make decent choices to relocate to the East to rebalance the conferences, but the natural choice with the minimum amount of redrawing of the division lines is neither, it’s Nashville.  Weber against Stamkos or against Ovechkin would make great tv and spark some rivalries in that division.

Today the Boston Bruins traded about six weeks of an expiring contract for two first round picks (one past, one future), and an additional conditional pick.  One of those first round picks was used to pick Joe Colborne, billed as “Jumbo Joe”, he has a similar although not as polished skill set as Joe Thornton. The other first rounder could be anyone, the only thing we know about them today is that whoever that pick is, they will be strengthening a division rival. Admittedly, as far as the Maple Leafs have to climb, it could take a while before they can threaten to take the division title.

In a separate trade, Blake Wheeler, the under performing former first round pick but undeniably talented forward picked up as a free agent, and first round draft pick Mark Stuart were sent to hockey exile in Atlanta where they will play in front of AHL sized crowds. In return Atlanta dumps a failed defenseman in Boris Valabik who’s sole claim to fame is having fought to and lost to countryman Zdeno Chara, and their forward with the second worst +/1 on the team, Rich Peverly.

So in exchange for four first round level picks today, the toughness and leadership of Stuart,  the Bruins get back a puck moving defenseman who’s goal scoring has dropped steadily for years in Thomas Kaberle with no guarantee he will be here past July 1st, an undrafted forward that doesn’t appear to know anything about the defensive zone, who is yet another center, and a guy who couldn’t stay on the Atlanta blueline when they were among the worst defensive teams in the entire NHL. They also got to strengthen a division rival, and remove two top penalty killers.

This is a colossal role of the dice, in the unlikely-in-the-extreme event I’m wrong, and Chiarelli and Neely are right I’ll be overjoyed at the Stanley Cup parade. As it stands now, that’s unlikely and I suspect more than a handful of general managers around the league are laughing out-loud over these trades.

Yes ladies and gentleman, the NHL trade deadline is less than two weeks away. NHLNumbers,  CapGeek, Kuklas Korner, and Spectors are all buying extra bandwidth, other sports outlets are using these days to set their advertising prices on hockey pages for the year, and many players have probably carefully drown their phones to avoid texts, tweets and calls about rumors circling them.  But lost in the shuffle is how much of what is said, hinted at and is speculation at best and pure self serving lies at worst.

The Lecavalier to Montreal rumors swirled in the bowl for years, and refused their rightful deserts of a good flush despite all the statements by Lecavalier and the various suits at the Tampa Bay Lightning. Less persistent, but of equally odoriferous were the Malkin to the Kings rumors. More recently Ilya Kovalchuk was linked to the Kings, the Islanders, his former team the Atlanta Thrashers, half the KHL and Santa Clause over the summer, as we all know the New Jersey Devils were his destination.

For at least the last three years Thomas Kaberle has been “linked” to the Boston Bruins. Aside from being the “puck moving defenseman” that every team wants. Admittedly he’s been linked to other team, but not nearly as frequently. The radio silence some parties involved have asked for has been as easy to find as back to back sell outs for the Blue Jackets. At one point it was Phil Kessel for Kaberle, at draft picks, prospects and roster picks have rotated through the other half of the equation (and sources tell me that The Bruins refusal to include  a hockey puck autographed by Bourque and Orr for Burkes mantle was the drop dead point on one trade deal) and all of these deals have been close very close, or done deal.

I love speculation on potential trades as much as the next fan. I just prefer to get all my fantasy bound in a book and clearly labeled as such.  The rumor mongering surrounding the Kaberle deal and the Boston Bruins is coming from the same sources it always does. I’m not saying they are 100% wrong, or even that it’s malicious, but don’t forget they are all paid to generate traffic on their websites and viewers on their shows. I’ll listen on other deals, but for now I’d rather find out what it’s like to live in a city of werewolves in my own personal flesh, or maybe encounter an invisible dragon in a patch of dark woods than read one more headline about how the Kaberle deal is done until it is done and announced on the Maple Leafs website and wherever he lands.

PuckSage: As someone who has played in the AHL, NHL, and two European leagues what are the major differences between playing in Europe and the AHL or NHL respectively?

Gordie Dwyer: There are differences between Europe, the AHL and the Show, but the major one is how you are treated. You never have to ride the bus in the NHL! Obviously the NHL has the best players in the world,but there are a lot of guys in the minors or Europe that could contribute everyday at the NHL level.

PS: When you were a member of the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens  you got two see the inside of some of the NHL’s greatest rivalries. How much different was game day preparation for those games than playing a team with a less passionate history?

GD: Being part of some great rivalries in the game like the Leafs/Habs, NYR/NYI were great experiences. The Cities and buildings were always electric. Preparation never really differed but obviously the emotion level was always high. To play the game at a high level I always played with a lot of passion and emotion, so being involved with some of those rivalries made it easy for me to get up for those games.

PS: When you broke into the NHL, or went to a new team, were there players you were in awe of?

GD: When I broke into the NHL I wasn’t necessarily in awe of anyone with the TB Lightning but was in awe of the experience of playing in the NHL. I was fortunate enough to play with some great players with the Lightning like Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards but we were all young and most of us at the beginning of our careers.

PS: You got to play with a lot of the games superstars like Pavel Bure, Eric Lindros, Brian Leetch, and Vincent Lecavalier, of all the big names who was the most fun to be around?

GD: When I got moved to the Rangers, well that was a different story… Messier, Bure, Lindros, Leetch… The Rangers had an All-Star lineup. They were great players but most of all, they made it very comfortable for their teammates to fit in. Mark Messier was a player in particular that I was in awe of. He was one of the best players in NHL history and probably one of the most humble. He was an old school guy who played hard, enjoyed the game and invested time and energy in his teammates. That is probably what made him the special player he was. I always got a kick out of how he actually enjoyed my air guitar performances before warmups.

GD: Montreal was another organization that has many popular stars of the past and present. The fans are passionate about their team and it’s players. The best part of being in Montreal were definitely the fans but even more so the former greats of the past like Jean Beliveau. Mr. Beliveau is as close as possible to royalty in Canada.

PS: Which were your favorite cities to visit while playing professionally? Your least?

The obvious cities like Montreal, Toronto and New York were all favourites but one stop on the tour that I really loved was Nashville. A few afternoon pops at Tootsies on Broadway were always a nice break from my daily trips to the penalty box.

PS: During your career you got to see how a number of different coaches operated. Are their particular pieces of your own coaching style you can trace back to specific coaches?

DG: I was fortunate to have played for some great coaches throughout my career. Alain Vigneault was a coach that really left a mark on me as a junior. He treated us like pros at a young age in Junior hockey, he gave us lots of responsibility, keep players accountable and understood what it took to be a pro. He was a top coach in Junior and has had a great career at the NHL level as well.

DG: As a coach, I treat my players with respect. I am passionate about the game and I want to convey that to my players. I have high expectations for my players and hope to teach them that hard work and accountability to their themselves, teammates and organizations will make them better players and people.

PS: Are their guys you played with you use as specific examples of how to do things for your team?

GD: Peter Worrell is a player that I use as an example all the time. Peter went to training camp with the Hull Olympiques in 1994 in hopes of getting a free new pair of skates. To most everyone’s surprise he made the team, played physical, improved his skating and within a few years he was an everyday NHLer.

PS: As a player you were known for a certain physical presence, is it coincidence that your team currently has more penalty minutes than any other team in the MHL, or did you specifically seek out players who were more aggressive than most?

GD: As a Coach, I look for players that have passion for the game. Talent is great but it always has to paired with hard work, passion and a high compete level if you want to be successful.

Dwyer Vs Walker

PS: Last year you took a rebuilding team to the MHL playoffs and won the first round, how did last years success as a first year coach affect your preparation for this year?

GD: I enjoyed the experience of coaching last season. It was my first full season behind the bench. I realized that I have a passion for coaching. I was fortunate enough to be able to pick the brain of a few coaches in the area with significant experience. Gerard Turk Gallant is a coach that I have great respect for.

GD: This season I feel like I learned from the ups and downs of last season, Every season is a learning experience for coaches as you deal with different individuals and situations, but most importantly you come to the rink everyday looking to get better and pick up the next 2 points.

Gordie Dwyer is a great interview and I think him for his time and great responses. He played professionally from 1998 until 2008. His NHL time was split between: the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, and Montreal Canadiens. Dywer was twice traded between NHL teams, and enjoyed more NHL games than the two men he was traded for combined. Dwyer is a QMJHL alumni who has gone from being on the bench to behind it. He currently coaches the Summerside Western Capitals of the MHL. I wouldn’t bet against this New Brunswick native being behind an NHL bench in a few short years. The Hockey News named him one of their Top 40 Under 4o. And of course like power agent Scott Norton he was smart enough to do an interview with me. For more from Gordie Dwyer, you can follow him on Twitter @GDwyer32. If you start following him tell him “PuckSage sent me.”

For Chris Kelly, the move from Ottawa to Boston will be about more than just a playoff run with guys he’s logged a lot of minutes against. It will be about going from an arena that has grown achingly quiet of late to one where the only question about the volume of the crowd is how many times the officials will have to blow the whistle before he hears it. The Boston Garden is enjoying a long string of sell out crowds thanks to the interest generated by three years and counting of playoff appearances under Chiarelli.

Shrewd drafting and even shrewder trades have been the building blocks of the teams success. While free agency has yielded franchise corner stone Zdeno Chara and the injured Marc Savard, no one who’s currently part of the true ta;ent core of the Bruins roster was signed in the off season except those two. Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler are important complimentary pieces when playing at their best but not core players. Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Mark Stuart, David Krejci are all players who were drafted and developed by the Bruins. Some were here when the teams present general manager arrived, some were plucked out of the draft by him. Either way all were retained by him when others might have used a “new broom” approach and removed them. Mark Recchi, was acquired in trade, as was Steve Kampfer, and both have played their parts well.

Chris Kelly as yet another of Chiarelli’s ties to the Senators should know exactly what Peter, and Claude Juliem will expect of him. He comes in with a 12-11-23 -12 line, none of which is spectacular. When you compare his -12 to the teams -47 it shows he’s hardly the Senators worst defensive player. He’s got a faceoff win percentage just a shade over fifty, which puts him well ahead of Campbell, much less David Krejci. With 2:46 of his TOI per game being shorthanded and that being second on the Senators if he plays a similar slice of time in Boston it will free up Bergeron or Krejci for more offensive minutes on the powerplay or at even strength. One other item of note is that he’s been to the Stanley Cup Finals.

On 98.5 The SportsHub Peter Chiarrelli said that ideally, he’d like to add without subtracting. For this trade at least he has done just that. Just a few hours ago he said there was a list of nine defensemen they were interested in getting, I’m guess Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, and Duncan Keith are not judged available or realistic, but some of the names kicked about are interesting. Several of them would even fit under the cap without the Bruins having to send anyone back or as Bob McKenzie pointed out was an option send Seguin back to his OHL team.

If I had to guess who (if anyone) would be moved before the trade deadline from the Bruins, here’s my list in no particular order:

  • Blake Wheeler
  • Johnny Boychuck
  • Mark Stuart
  • Greg Campbell
  • Daniel Paille
  • One of several prospects