The Bruins failings in their second straight loss to the Montreal Canadiens were legion, and institutional. Several players failed, and the coaches failed to compensate. The medical staff failed, and all of this was made easier by ill advised trades prior to the deadline, and a systemic failure to draft or acquire the needed personalities to make the team successful. Further there is an endemic failure to look past the strengths of players to their weaknesses which may be, and in the cases of some players clearly are the larger portion of their game.

Thomas Kaberle is in no way a big game player. His absence from the playoffs spanned a time that far longer than the average career length of an NHL player. In Boston he’s played two games, made at least twice that many key turnovers and has failed in every single facet of the game to elevate to a playoff level. If you make the case that he is playing at a lower level than he had during the regular season, you won’t get an argument from me. His hockey IQ is visible only slightly more than Carl Soderberg. His heart, well its in no danger from any marksman I’ve seen, ever.

David Krejci, when his current contract was signed I was ecstatic, the front office had kept a solid player and paid him a fair market value. I had hoped that the length of the contract, and the dollar amount without any no trade or no movement clauses was a sign that they knew what they had and would use Krejci accordingly. Not so. This is not Krejci’s fault, it isn’t even entirely managements fault, or Juliens fault. But it hasn’t been addressed. With the long term loss of Savard, a play could have been made to bring in a more dynamic offensive threat. Instead, Krejci who is not a number one center is forced into a role where he can’t help but fail. Look at his faceoff track record, its dismal. Look at how long he went around mid season without garnering goals. He finished the season tenth on the team in goals scored. That’s behind Chara, Ryder, and Marchand and tied with Campbell. He was second in total time on ice in the regular season for forwards and first in time on ice per game. On top of this, his skating is clearly the worst on his line, and allows top defenses to neutralize him instantly shut down a third of the ice. Purely from the perspective of winning faceoffs, the Bruins might be better off with Seguin between Lucic and Horton as the rookie finished with a better win percentage there.

Milan Lucic, has been effectively shut down by the Habs. He’s been smothered when possible, shadowed when moving, and never left alone. His game has also been studied in great detail. The major turnovers he’s committed have been forced because they are plays he makes frequently. As Doctor Recchi says he needs to do the things that make him uncomfortable, and most importantly he needs to earn back the space he enjoys in the regular season.

Between medical staff, management, coaches and Zdeno Chara if he was going to be shut down in the playoffs, the decision needed to be made sooner. When they showed him skating during warmups any idiot knew he wasn’t playing. He looked like he had three minutes of draining left before they started embalming him. If he was in the hospital at all given his conditioning and experience, it was unfair to the team to have him present all day and this in part lead to the chaos and mental breakdowns that caused them to cough up two goals in two minutes. It should have been called early in the day, or at the same time it was confirmed he was hospitalized. Having him be a surprise addition to the roster would be a much better mental starting place for a team that was stymied the night before, if he was able to play, would be an immeasurably better place than where they were when the game started.

Looking at the team thus far, the only defenseman who has been solid in both games. The Bergeron line has looked good, and while the Campbell line has been the second best line, they still should not be getting as many minutes as they do.

Despite some good lines, and good information by Puck Daddy and crew, the problem with Nathan Horton isn’t Nathan Horton, but simply that one player can’t take over the entire offensive zone himself when his two linemates have already been canceled out.

Ideally, tonight in Montreal we’ll see less of the fourth line, more of Bergeron both with his line and double shifting with other forwards (say Horton, Peverley, Campbell off and on), and steady defense for the first time all series. I would also like to see Seguin back in the lineup. That means either Ryder, Kelly or Paille coming out. Obviously the Bruins need to win this game, the odds are heavily against them winning the series at this point, but there’s no excuse for going out with a whimper.

I mentioned last post that I’d like to see Chara and Ference back together, I think it may be time to tweak the forward lines again as well. As constituted the Bruins forward lines have done little. The first three lines need to be readjusted to provide speed, puck protection and scoring threat.

One possible set is:

  • Lucic – Begeron – Peverley
  • Marchand – Krejci – Horton
  • Seguin – Kelly – Recchi

A win tonight for a team that has been better on the road than at home on the season would be huge. And maybe, just maybe they can take both games in the Belle Centre and even the series up before coming home.

After game one in which the Bruins dominated in shots on goal, and spent a lot of time in the Habs zone, but failed to win there are several pressing questions.

  1. Will Chara’s hospitalization cause him to play less minutes or less effectively than should be expected?
  2. Will there be changes to the forward lines?
  3. Do Kaberle and Seindberg have a better night? Can we expect their minutes to be cut down?
  4. Will Krejci and Kaberle, especially on the powerplay make judicious use of their dangling skills?
  5. Who steps up and makes this their game?
  6. Will Bergeron see more minutes than Kelly?
  7. Does Michael Ryder do enough to retain a roster spot for game three?
  8. Does Chara’s dustup late in the first game lead to chippiness from the Habs tonight?
  9. Can Thomas out duel Price tonight?
  10. Will Peverle, Marchand, and Boychuck convert on opportunities and take pressure off Lucic, Horton, and Chara?

Only one way to find out.

There is one adjustment I would like to see. I think Chara and Ference should be paired up again even strength, In the early part of the year they were dominant together. Adding Ferences speed and aggression to the ice with Chara’s size and reach should compensate better for any illness Chara might be experiencing and give the Canadiens a different nut to crack.

Did the Bruins score tonight? No, could they have possibly. Remember this is the mostly the same squad that squeezed the life out of Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Mike Green, Sidney Crosby, Evgany Malkin and all the rest. Those were two of the most powerful offenses then last year, but each lacked a viable defense and neither had a top shelf goalie.

The Bruins had two legitimate breakdowns in an otherwise dominant performance. The first period goal was a misread of the play by Kaberle that left Gionta alone in front. The second was the result of Lucic getting stick checked ten feet inside the blueline, and Seidenberg failing to get the block. These were not the result of long term apathy or failure to clear the puck from their own zone, they allowed just twenty shots on goal. It wasn’t the result of people tripping over their own goalie, or the goalie getting run over. Lucic is a steady presence in the playoffs and entered this off season a +12 in second season play, even having been badly hobbled last year. Kaberle hasn’t been in the playoffs since the lockout, and the Leafs system even then was a touch different from the current Boston modus operandi.

In other areas, the Bruins dominated the faceoff circle led by Bergeron, Krejci and Kelly. They hit well and often. They also blocked shots at a solid pace.

I’m not nearly as worried about the loss as i would be if they came out and did nothing for two and a half periods and tried to win in the last five minutes. This was a loss, and as a series opener it has some stature, but as we well know from watching Thomas do it to other teams for years, sometimes you just run into a goalie who’s game is unbeatable that night.

Take 1 drink if/when:

PK Subban and or Brad Marchand are locked up with someone and jawing after a whistle.

The word “rivalry” is used by any announcer or commentator.

A comparison is made between the teams speed.

Composure is used to describe any player, line or team.

Dryden, Moog, Roy, Halak or any other goalie not on either roster is mentioned.

Take 2 drinks if/when:

Mention is made of the Chara-Pacioretty incident

The words “Original Six” are used.

Any player scores a hat trick.

The word “clutch” is used twice in the same breath by anyone.

Someone snarks about the shootout if a game goes to overtime.

A pink hat around you asks a question confirming their status.

If another pink hat responds and gets the answer wrong.

Take 3 drinks if/when:

An announcer says a team came out flat.

Milan Lucic is suspended for a game for hitting someone.

Sidney Crosby is mentioned in anyway not relating to something he has done during a post season game this season.

Any amplifier such as: storied, historic, bitter or intense is used with the word “rivalry”.

 

Skip your next drink if:

You think you here any player in their second season or later respond to the media in anyway that doesn’t sound scripted or cliched.

You think you here anyone refer to the incident between Carey Price and Tim Thomas as a serious fight.

You find yourself agreeing with a pink hat.

You start to believe the series will be easy for either team.

 

In the east:

1: Washington vs 8: New York Rangers

What a contrast in styles. The Rangers are built from the royal cage out, the Capitals have wingers like no others. The Rangers won the season series but limped into the playoffs with just two points more than the ninth place Hurricanes. The Capitals put on a late surge fueled by their team captain Alex Ovechkin and his eight points in the last five games.

Pick: Capitals

Why: They finally learned to play defense this year and the Rangers may have an emotional let down after having played for their lives for six weeks.

2: Philadelphia vs 7: Buffalo

The Buffalo Sabres stampeded from a double digit place in the standings to beating the Rangers by three points in the standings. The Flyers on the other hand stumbled in the last quarter of the season from leading the league to putting their division lead in doubt.

Pick: Sabres

Why:  Better goaltending at 1 and 2, Brad Boyes coming out of his funk.

3: Boston vs. 6: Montreal

Sports rivalries don’t get any bigger than this. You can talk about Red Sox – Yankees or Celtics – Lakers or good coverage – ESPN,. it doesn’t matter this beats all of them. Boston won the last postseason dance in convincing fashion. Montreal won the season series for the last two years. Boston plastered the team in their last tilt in the regular season.

My pick: Boston.

Why: Deeper team, better in all every way but team speed.

4: Pittsburgh vs 5: Tampa Bay

Last year if these two had squared off it would have been two teams slugging their way to nuance free, undisciplined 8-7 finals. This year, the teams are a more entertaining match with a contrast in style that stems from the Penguins who will be without Malkin, and Crosby still up in the air, the Penguins are still the more balanced team.

Pick: Pittsburgh

Why: No team with defense as bad as Tampa Bay can go far.

 

The west

1: Vancouver vs 8: Chicago

The current Presidents Trophy winners and the defending (and heavily revamped) Stanley Cup champs will dance for the right to play some more. I suspect this series comes down to goaltending Loungo has had more rest than he did last season, and Crawford has had am impressive rookie season, which ever of the two is most able to control the flow of the game will lead their team on.

Pick:  Vancouver

Why: More depth, more balance despite the injuries.

2: San Jose vs. 7: Los Angeles

Well, its about time. Not only did all three California teams make the second season, two will square off in the first round. The Kings have the better goaltending, have had the heart of the lineup ripped out with the loss of Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams an iffy prospect, the Sharks have never shown an ability to do it well in April and May. In a division that has seen more lead changes and the Batman movie franchise, I’m not sure winning the division after an awful start is much of an accomplishment. I’m also not sure an up and down season like the one the Kings had is a great thing to prepare for the playoffs.

Pick: San Jose

Why: Better depth at center.

3: Detroit vs 6 Phoenix

This is not a good matchup for the Red Wings, the Coyotes had points in all four regular season meetings, Motowns heroes only had points in two.  Like the rest of their division Yotes went up and down the standings so many times the teams trainers probably handed out as many Dramamine as ice packs.

Pick: Pheonix

Why: Younger, hungrier, better defense, more to prove.

4: Anaheim vs 5: Nashville

While this is probably a ratings nightmare for the NHL home office, its a boon for the small market and sunbelt teams. Nashville ducks out of playing Detroit, Anaheim gets the backing of any casual Californian fans. While the two teams have markedly different styles that just makes for a much more entertaining round. This may end up being the best first round matchup in the Western Conference.

Pick: Nashville

Why: Much better defense.

It’s time to #DropThePuck on the post season! The Stanley Cup Playoffs are coming.

I admit it, I got bored with the regular season. I’ve been watching, but its really hard to get amped up knowing how little most of the games are going to change the standings. The Boston-Toronto game, I was annoyed to see them lose, but honestly I get more upset about November to February games than late March. By this time of the year you already who your team is and how they stack up against just about everyone. The Bruins tend to play down to the level of their competition, a lot. So here’s a few things Bruins fans, and others can keep track of from now until the start of the most exciting post season in sports.

  1. The Crosby Watch, how many times will he get mentioned per game as even the announcers who normally focus on the games they are calling struggle for something to keep them awake.
  2. Can Patrice Bergeron score again this season?
  3. What team will have the most undisclosed injuries and ailments that only require one or two games of rest?
  4. How many coaches or general managers will be fired between today and the end of the first round of the playoffs?
  5. Do the New York Rangers manage their second regular season choke in a row, or do they make it to the promised land?
  6. With four games left and only one back to back set, how many starts will Tim Thomas get?
  7. Does Zach Parise go into his season having scored since his return?
  8. When does Brayden Schenn get the call to help round out the roster of the injury plagued Los Angeles Kings? Is it before or after the end of the Saskatoon Blades post season push?
  9. How many more stories will we see or hear about improbably candidates for various awards?
  10. Will any of the three Washington Capitals goalies nail down the number one slot?
  11. With a winning record this season against the Red Wings, will the Nashville Predators actually push to move up from their current penciled n date with Motor City’s finest?
  12. How many of the last four games for the Bruins will be played by each of the following: Michael Ryder, Chris Kelly, Tyler Seguin, Shane Hnidy, Adam McQuaid, Steve Kampfer, and Johnny Boychuck?
  13. How many stories will we see on the Bruins being short sighted by not trading the Toronto pick?
  14. Find an explanation for why the Boston Bruins have the second best odds of winning the Stanley Cup this year according to Sports Club Stats.
  15. Visit Youtube and DailyMotion to find some of the best hockey fights ever.
  16. Come up with a sensible rule change to eliminate or reduce the shootout that won’t see players going four or five overtimes during the regular season every fifth game.
  17. Try and figure out what to do with the Calgary roster to turn them into a viable playoff team next year?
  18. Do the same with Toronto, Atlanta, Dallas.
  19. Tweet about how good it is that Super Mario won’t have Matt Cooke on his team next year.
  20. Start writing the eulogy for your team or one you hate in hopes Puck Daddy will use it this year.