Everyone knew coming into this game that the Toronto Maple Leafs were not merely hungry, but ravenous. The Bruins were coming in off a pasting of the Chicago BlackHawks. The two teams have traded back and forth over the years with the two most recent ones being blockbusters with Kessel going north in the first and Kaberle coming south in the second.
The Maple Leafs got a pair of lucky bounces that while the result of hard work, were never going to be drawn up on any coaches board. The Bruins battled well after the first fifteen minutes, with several players looking very good, some looking like it was morning skate, and one player looking like he wasn’t sure why he was on the ice. Marchand showing his heart, hustle and skill by blowing past the Maple Leafs defender and scoring a shorthanded goal. Michael Ryder who had been scratched several games and came back and played well, not just for a contract but like he wanted to win. Lucic was pugnacious getting in Komisareks face and eventually dropping the gloves with career bench warmer Jay Rosehill.
The problem player, and the problem that failed to be addressed at the trade deadline was Thomas Kaberle, and the powerplay. Zero for five on the powerplay with a guy billed as one of the best powerplay quarterbacks and puckmoving defensemen in the NHL. The truth is that Kaberle isn’t that good, and the Bruins powerplay is worse than it was when he arrived and worse than last season with Mr. Maybe-Sometimes and without Marc Savard for most of the year. Kaberle has exactly as many powerplay goals as he does shorthanded ones, which as you probably guessed is zero. As an “offensive dynamo” you’d expect him to have more game winning goals on the season than someone who gets pitched into the net more often than he scores like Mark Stuart, but nope they each have one.
Since his acquisition we’ve been shown little to justify the price that was paid to get him. He was the last of the three trade pieces to score a goal, and did it against Alex Auld who had been on the ice all of three minutes in relief. Early in the game  he failed to perform a simple clear and made a better setup for his protege Luke Schenn than he has for any of his current team mates.  Tonight, in overtime, on a powerplay, in the last minute of play, Kaberle turned to retrieve a puck that  had been cleared by the team some people aren’t sure he knows he’s been traded from, and went up the ice at a pace Gordie Howe could probably still surpass going backwards. That’s not a winning player, that’s not winning hockey, that’s not what the Bruins needed.
Instead of Chris Kelly who’s been largely invisible, and Kaberle who’s picture should adorn a dictionary entry for ineffectual. If the front office had had the manhood to go after Chris Stewart, then of the Avalanche, well, he has 20 points in 21 games since landing in Saint Louis, seven of those points are powerplay goals.Since they arrived, Kaberle has seven points, Peverley six, and Kelly 2. Presumably had the Bruins ponied up, Joe Colborne, a first round pick and a conditional second round pick as the did to get Kaberle ($4,300,000 per year), they could have grabbed Chris Stewart($2,500,000 per year) and possibly had the cap space to keep Mark Stuart instead of signing a guy who hadn’t played in 10 months, in Shane Hnidy. Chris Campoli (#1,400,000 per) would have been as worthy an addition as either Kaberle or Kelly.
So, who’s to blame for tonights loss? Not Ryder or Thomas, its neither Krejci nor Chara, Ference chipped in a goal, and McQuaid was impressive. If there is blame to be laid, and I don’t see how there couldn’t be, it goes Kaberle for being lazy, and unfit for high stakes hockey, Chiarelli for failing to recognize it, and Neely for allowing the trade to be made at all.

The Providence Bruins have been eliminated from post season play before they even get there for the second time in a row, the question of who’s going to join the big club for the second season. A look at Boston’s needs is probably the best way to eliminate players as despite their performance as a team, several players could make great accessories to an already strong team.

The Bruins powerplay is its most notable weakness, and with all respect to Trent Whitfield, I don’t think he’s the guy to juice an NHL powerplay in the post season. His shot just isn’t NHL level. The two players behind him are Jordan Caron, and Jamie Arniel. Each player had five powerplay goals in Providence this year. Arniel has already hit the twenty goal mark with several games to play and leads the team in goals, points and shots on goal while having a sordid -14. Caron who spent a score of games in Boston had an up and down season, but was also a big part of the penalty kill while in Boston. Either or both could be called up, possibly before the season ends if Thornton’s injury keeps him off the ice for a time.

Depth at defense has been a buzzword since the advent of the Chiarelli administration, I suspect that with Shane Hnidy signed any defenseman brought up will be lucking to get shifts in practice much less games without a multiple major injuries. Yury Alexandrov and Matt Bartkowski each have five goals thus far. While Bartkowski has been called up more than once already this year and this is Alexandrov’s first season in North America, but is a great skater with high end passing ability.

Other guys who could see time in the post season are Zach Hamill who will looked good in Boston (when not playing with Wheeler) and showed a bit more grit than many expected. Max Suave, who had an injury shortened season but who possesses a wicked shot has a solid chance of making it to the big dance.  Suave is also a slick skater who despite a spring ankle surgery managed to stay well into the regular camp this year, he’s among the few Providence Bruins with a positive +/- at +4, and had a four powerplay goals.

Long shots that would say interesting things, but essentially require serious injury to key Boston players include the recent acquired Boris Valabik, newly minted pro Ryan Button (@Buttsy78), and Colby Cohen who was picked up in exchange for Matt Hunwick in something that rhymes with “calorie sump”. Forwards are led by Jeremy Reich, the aforementioned Trent Whitfield, and the under the radar Kirk MacDonald who is currently third in scoring and fourth in goals.

Tonight the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens squared off, and no more fitting summation of the game can be made than to reach back into the annuls of time and borrow a bit of literary history for the game so recently entered into the books:

 

It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,

The vibrancy, effort and discipline of the two squads was just that different. Every Bruins fan watching knew that when the deeply slumping Johhny Bombchuck blew open the scoring with a strike on the Canadiens net that would have sent shivers down the spine of any of the Gaddafi supporter. Next up would be Greg Campbell’s first of the night, with Chara collecting the second assist in as many goals. Then Horton would ice the game with goal number 22. Despite their being forty minutes left to play, the Habs really only had about five minutes of sustained pressure spread out across the middle period, with none at all in the third. The final period was particularly woeful from a Canadiens standpoint because they got several powerplays, including a 5 on 3 in which the coughed up a shorthanded goal to supply Campbell with his second of the night.

Other highlights of the night:

  • Mark Recchi is now twelfth on the all time scoring list thanks to his 33rd assist of the season.
  • Watching the Habs players bounce off Chara was a thing of beauty, I’m sure the Bruins could sell a two hour video of that by the thousand.
  • Michael Ryder was possibly the only Bruin to have a bad night.
  • Patrice Bergeron needs to have his home, car and locker cleared of all snakes.
  • Tom Plekanec deserves a fine for his deliberate chop to the face of Nathan Horton
  • Tim Thomas had a masterful shutout.
  • Adam McQuaid solidified his hold on the #3 spot for Bruins defensemen in scoring.
  • Happy Birthday Jack Edwards! ( @NESNJackEdwards)

While I’m sure he didn’t quite express himself thusly, it makes a fitting way to mark the end of the night for both myself and Carey Price:  “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

 

 

 

I was amazed yesterday to discover that the NHL front office actually managed to suspend Matt Cooke and come perilously close to filling their athletic supporter. A taking him off the ice for 14-17 games is possibly the best thing to happen to the NHL since the lockout This also marks the first time the NHL disciplinary czar has appeared to use the oxygenated blood flowing to both decision making organs in the same day since the Simon suspension. That said, there needs to be clear use of terms to define player types, even if only among the media both old and new.

First the terms:

  • Pest, an agitator who behaves in a way designed to take an opponents mind off the game, and draw retaliatory penalties who does not frequently engage in behavior than can cause long term physical damage to others. Or do things that threaten the games integrity. Under this heading, most would list a player like Brad Marchand.
  • Punk, a player with poor discipline who is coachable, has the behaviours of a Pest, but is a bit more reckless and often engages in things like tantrums in the penalty box or in front of the press and fans. Occasionally crosses the line into actively harmful behavior or faking injuries but can be reigned in. Sean Avery would head most hockey observers list for this category.
  • Predator this is the type of player who actively, knowingly and repeatedly seeks to harm others. This person may or may not have the attributes of the two less offensive categories. Predatory players have little coachability in their harmful behavior, and will usually make planative mouth noises claiming to change after each punishment but repeat the same type offense on multiple occasions. The behavior does not meet any fit definition of hockey play and is often blatantly displayed. These individuals often don’t see a problem with what they are doing and may feel no need to hide it. Matt Cooke is the living embodiment of predatory player. Steve Ott probably sits somewhere between predator and punk.

The NHL and NHLPA together or separately need to come up with a way to remove the last group from the NHL as quickly as they are recognized. When possible they need to downgrade punks to pests, and not ever confuse the latter two for the former, or make noxious biased grandstanding about clean hockey players by labeling them even in the heat of the moment as predatory it helps no one, it makes you look silly and makes excusing true predation easier.

Perhaps the greatest American (or other) writer of all time Samuel Clemens once said “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” and surely he had it right. One need do no more than watch any NHL game with any combination of teams and you’ll see it played out over and over again. By the third and most foul type of prevarications rampage across the game summary each and every night. According to the way things are tallied right now, a penalty kill that last three seconds has equal weight as one that last five, likewise a penalty kill wiped out by the other team taking a penalty kill is statistically the same as going two, four or five minutes a man or two down.

While the powers that be have done nothing, and color commentators have lamented it, it has remained for years. Intermission analysts bemoan it with hand-wringing and woeful expressions. Yet none of these guys have come up with a useful way of measuring, and simply expressing one of the most telling numbers about a team.

Time being key to all things on the ice:

  1. Percentage of penalty kill time killed by expiration. This would be the percentage of time of the actual time shorthanded, if the time shorthanded is only 10 seconds, and a goal is surrendered two seconds into the penalty, the team has killed 20% of the penalty time.
  2. Percentage of penalties in which a goal is scored. This would be slightly different but related stat. To cover major penalties in which multiple goals are scored, one goal would be listed as 100% scoring 2 as 200% and so on.

Of the two the first is the more important for the casual fan, and quick analysis. There’s also no reason that with the wonders of modern computing, available for a mere decade or so, that you couldn’t drill down to various penalty kill types. One more penalty kill statistic I do believe is vital is:

  • Percentage of penalties ended by officiating. This would be all penalty kills ended either by a penalty be assessed to the other team or the end of the game.

Employing these metrics in place of the current model has the potential to assist players, coaches, media, fantasy sports enthusiasts and vanilla fans across the hockey world.

Max Pacioretty states he believes the NHL should have given Chara some sort of suspension for the routine hockey play that resulted in his own injury.

As my grandmother used to say For every finger you point, three point back at you.

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

 

In regards to the Issue of the week: You always know where you are and who’s where on the ice.

Me: B**** Please! How many times a season are we treated to the sight of two or three teammates plowing into each other on the ice? What about the players who trip over their own goalie without being pushed? Or the guys who get their stick hung up in the netting or the goal?  Nice fantasy, but I prefer mine in print form and clearly labeled as such.
Goonery on March 24th.  It has been posited that some schlep will be brought up to fight Chara for his technically correct, but ill timed hit.

Me:  It wouldn’t surprise me. Ryan White has played 12 games for the Habs this season and has yet to record a goal. He has 77 PIM’s in 33 AHL games and just 12 points, seriously you’d think that a team with LTIR cap space, and the 22nd ranked offense would call up someone who was of use with their gloves on.

Playoffs, who’s in.

Me: Two west predictions to make it, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes.

Two Coaches who should get Jack Adams notice in the east

Me: Bruce Boudreau for keeping his team at or near the top of the conference while (finally) implementing reasonable defensive structure and having several key players forget how to score. Dan Bylsma, with more man games lost than any one wants to think about and almost as much salary on IR as on the ice, he’s kept his team within striking distance of the division and conference lead.

What the experts say about the hit: Kevin Weekes, and Carey Price both say you know where you are on the ice at all times. Jeremy Roenick says he was often surprised to hit those stanchions or be hit into them. Mathew Barnaby says he fought Chara three times and that the guy isn’t dirty.

Me: Is it any surprise that both Price and Weekes are goalies who spend 99% of their in the same pretty small area within the crease and the rest within two strides of it feel you know where you are all the time? Not really, but goalie isn’t like any other position on the team. Roenick played more than 1500 NHL games and called five different NHL arenas in both conference home, I can’t see someone with more than 500 goals and 1200 points to their credit can’t be counted as highly creditable on the topic of on ice awareness.  As for Barnaby:

I don’t see how that disposes someone towards excess sympathy.

I’m always amazed, and disgusted when people who don’t otherwise have the time of day hockey, or at least direct interface with fans pop out of the woodwork to condone an action and make sweeping comparisons to other actions whose connection is tertiary at best. These are the media members who had they the intestinal fortitude for a long education would be the slimy form of lawyer who chases ambulances and can always find a way to collect a fee. Worst of all, their generalizations are so ill informed they have the simplicity which to those who haven’t taken the time to think about something for themselves.

If we were talking about another sport for example, this would be the type of commentator who would come out and call a basketball fight the most “shameful” thing that happened on a basketball court since Dennis Rodman did whatever.  In the only display of truth and sense in their statement would be saying they didn’t remember another incident like it since then, simply because they don’t pay attention to anything but the biggest stage. Let’s not forget, this is the biggest stage. The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens have been for almost a century, and probably will remain the biggest rivalry in the National Hockey League for another century. Had this been Shea Weber (who for certain segments of the hockey watching populace has the benefit of being Canadian) hitting Adam Burish in the same way, in the same place, with the same result, these people wouldn’t even show up at the dance.

 

Ugly game in many respects, see my previous post for all the non scoring counts. See my Twitter account @pucksage for various additional points

  1. Yes, yes it was. Three shots on goal, three of his shots blocked, 81% in the faceoff circle, and a registered hit.
  2. Trash talk spill over? Not really, it was a typical Montreal – Boston game with chippyness and aggression.
  3. Sadly, its the post deadline  edition, as I Tweeted earlier, the Krejci-Kaberle unit was notably too fancy and ineffectual
  4. Apparently none, flat game for the Bruins despite a few good shots, and neither Subban or Marchand were involved in sending anyone to the short bench for some alone time.
  5. Sadly, the greatest goal scoring story of the season Hal Gill failed to score again.