The fact that the Boston Bruins powerplay is mostly useless has been as well kept a secret as Pittsburgh hosting the 2012 NHL All-Star game. The Bruins powerplay has been dissected here, and elsewhere ad nauseum. Something I haven’t seen, and wonder why not is what a former keystone of the Bruins powerplay brought that the current centers and top forwards don’t.

While Tyler Seguin is undoubtedly a faster skater, and more willing shooter than Marc Savard there is one important things he’s not. Patrice Bergeron is getting the lions share of powerplay time for the Bruins this year which has brought it well above the level it performed at over the playoffs, but neither he nor Sequin possess the trait that might just help get the Bruins into the top ten (or higher) powerplays in the leauge. Guess what, even though he’s capable of some nifty passes David Krejci, like Bergeron and Seguin is a right handed center.

Marc Savard is a lefty. While it’d be nice to get him back in the mix on a lot of counts, it’s unlikely it will happen soon. Than means the Bruins need to look at options other than Bergeron, Krejci and Seguin to be able to get shots and passes from the same angles as Savard provided. Rich Peverley who is irregularly slotted into the center position is a right handed shot as well. Chris Kelly and Brad Marchand are both lefties. Marchand while frequently listed as a center hasn’t taken regular shifts in that position while in a Boston uniform Kelly is a lot of things, most of them of high value to his club, but offensively explosive is not on the list. Zach Hamill while a solid passer is again a right handed shot, everyone else in the system is either two or more years from the NHL or injured.

Elsewhere in the NHL, there are a couple possibilities. Dale Tallon has shown a great deal of shyness in turning over the roster of the Florida Panthers. Stephen Weiss is a left handed center about the same size as David Krejci, is one of the last Panthers who is a legacy of the previous management, and has put up pretty solid numbers despite lacking talent around him.  His cap hit is more than manageable, but with his and the teams good start he might be reluctant to waive his no movement clause even to be reunited with Campbell and Horton even if it means moving to a slightly more hockey focused market.

The Colorado Avalanche have a great powerplay,  have some difficulty five on five, and possess two remarkably similar left handed centers. Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny are within about an inch of each other in height a couple pounds in weight, and produce similar results all across the stat sheet. The two biggest differences are in salary and age. Despite better goaltending this year, they are again in the bottom third of the league for goals against and penalty killing. A deal between Boston and Colorado that brought back one of these centers, and sent over a penalty killer should benefit both teams.

A possibility that has a few more faults built into it is a trade with the Capitals.  Washington is already a power house regular season team that has put a lot of work into adding players who get it in the playoffs as well. It is highly likely that head coach Bruce Boudreau and General Manager George McPhee could have the opportunity to explore new positions if the team can’t make it at least to the Stanley Cup finals, something the franchise has never done. For them, adding a player who has succeed not just against them, and won the Stanley Cup but led the NHL in post season points in David Krejci if he were exchanged for Brooks Laich. If that’s what McFee and Chiarelli decided on, the Bruins gain their left handed center, finally gain a top three center over 200 pounds, get a left handed player who plays in all situations (as Krejci has), and the Capitals gain a playoff performer, cap space and possibly gain the missing element needed to go deep in the playoffs.

The Bruins played their best hockey game of the year last night giving a full sixty minute effort. The first two Senators goals have to be called fluke goals. They count, but I doubt any coach in the history of sports has drawn up something like that. Still the signs were good. Shawn Thornton responded to the team going down early by dropping the gloves and beating the tar out of the nearest Senator. When the Bruins finally tied it only to give up the second odd goal to the Stephane Da Costa – Nick Foligno paring, no one panicked.

Despite the blatant lies told by the stat sheet the hit total for this game was closer to seventy than the thirty in the record books. Bergeron buried both Da Costa and Foligno on one shift, Lucic left players sprawling and up and down the rosters for both teams dished out punishment. Milan Lucic got another powerplay goal to get the Bruins on the board. Better still, all four lines were engaged. Greg Campbell dropped the gloves in the third period, Daniel Paille had a goal on a break away. Chris Kelly chipped in a goal, and Boychuk almost certainly celebrated his goal with an Amstel Light after the game.

Hands down the most impressive line of the night was that the Bergeron line. All three forwards showed elite conditioning by playing more than twenty minutes and looking good doing it. Seguin made a diving defensive play that saved a goal. Marchand had two or three opportunities that didn’t go in but still picked up an assist and stripped the puck from Senators on a regular basis. Bergeron was physical along the boards, made smooth flat passes and kept the powerplays moving smoothly. Together the three use the whole ice surface so well its going to be difficult for any opponent to counter them effectively without taking a lot of penalties.

Just a day after being publicly spanked by their coach the David Krejci and Nathan Horton fans love and opponents hate were back on the ice. With any luck the NHL security team will figure out how to keep their inefficient, sluggish and lackluster doppelgangers out of the building.  One can only hope that the pair was mistaken on the time of year having been thrown off by  finishing the season two months later than normal thus allowing their evil doubles a chance to fill their roster spots. Finally Jordan Caron’s hard work has paid off, he set up a great screen on a goal, and should have had an assist on another.

While it’d be nice to chalk this up in the win column, declare the hangover gone, and start planning the parade, it is still a bit early for that. Daniel Alfredsson was out of the Senators line up. He’s not an ornamental captain, he plays in all situations has already collected both shorthanded and powerplay goals, and is the type of cool professional that has kept him a dangerous offensive force regardless of what the rest of the roster looks like. Also, given their six game winning streak, they were not just due for a loss, a roster as young as the Senators probably looked at the record of the Bruins and overlooked them. It’s also just one game, the Bruins are still at the bottom of the conference, and still seven points out of the division lead they should on paper at least have a claim to.

It is time for another division rivalry to pop the clutch drop and be off faster than an Kim Kardashian marriage.  Just like Sean Avery returning to the New York Rangers, you can’t keep a division mate out of the building for long. It’s time to give Peggy at USA Prime Credit a call, move that port-a-potty to right in front of the flat screen and get your division guzzle on.

 

Take One Drink:

Whenever the word rival(s) is used.

One team compliments the other during an interview.

Head shots are mentioned.

Chris Kelly having been a member of the Senators is mentioned.

“D to D pass” is used

The work expectations and performance are used in the same sentence.

Take Two Drinks:

If Chris Neil scores.

If the Bruins score on the power play.

The all time record between the teams is mentioned.

If at any point Jared Cowen is compared to Zdeno Chara.

The word “rebuild” is applied to the Senators.

You aren’t sure if the Bruins were caught in a line change or Julien has just changed the lines again.

Take Three Drinks:

If there is a fight where the combined salary is more than four million dollars.

Jason Spezza being over a point per game is mentioned.

Erik Karlsson is mentioned as leading the league in scoring for defensemen.

Tim Thomas’s stats against the Senators are mentioned.

Anyone uses the phrase “Stanley Cup Hangover”

Take Four Drinks:

Each time the standings are shown or mentioned:  For Bruins fans this is to ease the pain, for Senators fans this is to steady the excitement.

If Zdeno Chara is mentioned as having been a Senator or a key part of their fall from grace when he left.

If any player not on either team is mentioned and it wasn’t because of an injury they caused to one of the Senators or Bruins, such as: Kessel, Neal, Crosby, Ovechkin, Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, or Avery.

The game is ruined by the post overtime skills competition.

More than three rookies are mentioned in one sentence.

Any player scores a hat trick.

Skip a drink if:

Someone mentions Battle of the Blades and you think for even a second it might be worth seeing.

You feel the urge to explain icing to a friend who knows nothing about hockey for the third or greater time.

You think you’re seeing the best officiating of the year.

How broken can they be, they just won the Stanley Cup? Very. They are two wins below the next worst team in their division, and one bare point off the league basement. They aren’t scoring goals, they aren’t hitting. They aren’t blocking shots, and surprise surprise they aren’t winning. The last possible route has two lanes for fixing it although the first one often leads to the second.

Fire everyone below ownership. Get rid of everyone from Neely down to the third assistant stick boy. Many would say that if they didn’t prepare a team ready to compete after winning everything they clearly can’t be trusted with long-term stewardship of one of the NHL’s oldest teams. Coaches gone. Trainers gone. General manager and assistants gone. Jeremy Jacobs has stressed in recent years how much he and his son love the team. Is it time for them to show it by giving it a shot in the arm?

Getting rid of Julien is probably pretty easy. Coaches take the fall all the time. The Bruins powerplay is awful and has been for years. He’s blamed for driving the NHL October 2011 first star out of town for being overly demanding and stifling of young players. He’s characterized as overly defensive and inflexible. He can go and take the little dogs with him.

Chiarelli is even easier. With a history of bad trades and worse free agent signings he’s literally cost the team millions of wasted salary dollars. No one needs to be reminded he strengthened a division rival by sending them the current AHL points leader Joe Colborne, an additional first round and second pick in a disastrous trade for Kaberle who was clearly the wrong choice to fix the powerplay. Then there are trades like the Bochenski for Versteeg “deal”, the acquisition of Patrick Eaves for Aaron Ward, only to buy out eaves before the ink was dry.

Thirty goal scorer Michael Ryder came to Boston and his goal scoring touch was on life support the whole time. Manny Fernandez was an aging old goalie with knee and back problems brought in to “solidify” the goaltending position. In two seasons Fernandez played in all of 32 games. The 2008-09 season saw him ride Tim Thomas’s coattails to a share of the Jennings award despite being 25th in Sv% and 20th in GAA. Some other names that will make Bruins fans cringe that we have only Peter to thank for: Schaefer, Begin, Allen, Montador, Lashoff and more.

Worse in the eyes of many who would advocate just blowing everything up he’s failed to build a farm system that can regularly feed players to the parent club. The AHL affiliate is bad enough that it’s playoff record going into last seasons final weeks was worse than the parent clubs and has had a revolving door for coaches. Then there is the fact he’s failed repeatedly to find fixes for the powerplay.

Traveling the second option is possibly harder but almost certainly closer to necessary. When a coach not known for throwing players under the bus publicly does so in an unprompted manner, they may have just punched their ticket out of town. Given that questions of commitment have followed one of them since being drafted, and injuries have followed the other a change of scenery might just do the trick. This seasons powerplay bandaid Joe Corvo is third in PPTOI, but has not out performed Andrew Ference who is playing less than one third the minutes on the man advantage.  Former AHL defenseman of the year Johnny Boychuk has clearly stagnated with his points per game tailing off over his three seasons in Boston. The numbers don’t lie. When you look at the backup goaltender, not only does Tuukka Rask get uninspired play in front of him, his performance in the playoffs is noticeably worse than his regular season numbers across his career.

Something has to give. When you go from first to worst without significant changes in on ice personnel, the problem needs to be addressed. Nuking the team or off ice leaders, trades to fill needs, or simply a shakeup it is past time to live up to fan expectations of a creditable title defense. The season after a championship win shouldn’t be a sedate victory lap it should be a tour de force that shows why the team is the top food chain.

According to NHLNumbers.com the NHL is made up of players with eighteen different nations of origin. Slovenia, Norway, and Lithuania sitting at the bottom of the representation chart, and Canada resting at the top with more than half of the National Hockey League’s players. Of the sixty three goalies to enter a game this season eleven of those men are Americans. In the post lockout era, four of the six times the award has been handed out have gone to Americans. Tim Thomas has twice won the award and made Flint Michigan, the University of Vermont and Boston Bruins fans proud. Ryan Miller of East Lansing Michigan, Michigan State and the Buffalo Sabres is the other American to lift the Vezina.

But they are hardly alone among the elite level goalies hailing from the US of A. Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings has hovered in the Vezina picture over the last few years as well. Hobbled by being on a west coast team that until very recently was only so-so he’s still managed to pile up some highly creditable numbers. Last season, he put up numbers comparable to the last non-American to win the Vezina (Martin Brodeur, 2008) and did it in a system less favorable to goaltenders. This year he’s setting a ridiculous early pace with three consecutive shutouts in his first seven games. At twenty five the pride of Milford Connecticut is likely to keep improving for several more years, and is probably the favorite to win the Vezina at this point in the season.

Tim Thomas the reigning Vezina trophy winner is at 37 years old today, but only like most goalies his age has not logged the huge minutes at the NHL level that might be expected. He’s logged just 7000 more minutes than Quick who is 12 year younger, and 5000 less than Miller who is six years younger. Given the ages we’ve seen goalies such as Hasek and Brodeur play to while playing enormous amounts of games, its entirely possible that the man who last year set a regular season save percentage record, and followed it up by bettering that number and setting a record for number of saves in the Stanley Cup playoffs could be around for several more years.  He’s won the Vezina twice now a third is entirely possible.

Ryan Miller is considered by many to be the best goalie in the world, and even the people who believe he’s overrated don’t list him outside the NHL’s top five. He’s won the award in the past, has a much better team in front of him now and right of the gate he’s putting up numbers that are better than the season he won the Vezina. With a new owner who has thrown the purse wide open enabling better players around him, and potentially a better level of backup that will let him play 55-60 games a year instead of the 65-74 he has played in years past the sky is the limit.

Arguably the best backup goaltender in the NHL is another American. Tucked away behind Roberto Luongo’s lifetime contract in Vancouver is Marlbehead Massachusetts native son Cory Schneider. Although, given recent events and the comparative numbers of the two goaltenders this season, it is arguable which of the two is the number one goaltender. Schneider who is listed behind Luongo on the depth chart has started four games to the “number one goaltenders” seven, come in to relieve the other guy once, and not given up a single special teams goal in five appearances. He also boasts far better numbers, with a Sv% .058 better and a goals against average 1.57 lower. The ousting of Luongo has been called for numerous times in British Columbia, with numbers like that it’s not hard to see why that is.

Nor is the pipeline exactly bare.  Jack Campbell of Michigan and John Gibson of Pennsylvania were both high draft picks in recent drafts. Jeff Zatkoff is another American goaltender in the Kings system currently working the crease in the AHL. Also filling the crease in the AHL is Nashville Predators prospect Jeremy Smith (yet another) Michigan native who is among the league leaders in Sv%.

As players like Thomas, and Miller continue to win Vezinas or guys like Schneider and Quick emerge from the shadows of in widely spread parts of the continent you can expect to see more and more great athletes taking to the highest pressure position in team sports. As the west coast is exposed to Quick and Schneider, the east coast to Miller and Thomas, and the heartland gets to know Campbell and Smith in the near future don’t be surprised if the next generations NHL creases are predominantly patrolled by men with the stars and stripes on their shoulder.