The Boston Bruins have made a history, and largely ramshackle franchise out of refusing to pay forwards. Patrice Bergeron has been one of the most valuable players in the league for most of the time since he was drafted. Brad Marchand has been one of the best wings in the NHL since he was instrumental in winning the Stanley Cup. Even David Krejci never really got a top tier salary, despite being the setup man who took over for Marc Savard and managed to work with multiple iffy wingers for years.

Phil Kessel is one of those guys where both price and term were an issue. He’s got a nearly identical points per game total in his career to Brad Marchand, and if the Boston Bruins had both of themthey likely beat Chicago and collect a second Stanley Cup. Instead they downgraded to Tyler Seguin. Yes Seguin had loads of issue, on and off the ice, inside and outside the arena, but he is still a top tier offensive weapon. They punted Rielly Smith in favor of Jimmy Hayes, and we know how that ended. When they decided to part ways with Carl Soderberg they traded him for a pick who has only scored one goal in two years in the SHL.

Milan Lucic was traded for essentially nothing. They flipped him for Martin Jones who they traded for little. They also got one of the six players drafted in the 2015 first round yet to play an NHL game. In addition they got Colin Miller who was a tire fire on the ice, and who they gave up to protect better players (literally everyone in the system), and who then was ‘lost’.

There are two major issues at play here and no one is addressing both. The first is that how you pay your drafted and developed players greatly impacts what free agents will even take serious phone calls from your franchise. The second is that they haven’t managed to acquire and retain  any quality talent in exchange for what they’ve let go. Seguin is not as good as Kessel, especially not in the regular season. None of the return for Seguin is still in the Boston Bruins system. The return for Milan Lucic is still in question. What they received for Soderberg and Smith was barely worth the time to notify the NHL of the trade.

Free agents? Who was the last top tier NHL UFA to land in Boston. Not guys who are future hall of fame members like Jagr or Jarome Iginla (after a failed trade), but legit stars. It might well be when Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara were signed a long, long time ago. Even they are iffy because Chara was considered leftovers from Redden and the rest of the disintegrating Ottawa Senators defense. Savard was as much of a one dimensional, unathletic, and iffy effort player as can be when he arrived. Both were made better by a very under rated coach.

College free agents? Don’t make me laugh. Blake Wheeler was the last of those worth something to land in the Hub. Causeway is not graced by Will Butcher or Alex Kerfoot, Jimmy Vesey does not wear the spoked-b.  They can’t win with veteran UFA’s looking for the next chapter in their career because of their parsimonious treatment of guys they do develop. They can’t win with college free agents because who wants to take a job with an organization they know is going to under pay?

Even if you consider it gross overpayment to get David Pastrnak a contract that is in the near neighborhood of Draisaitl, that’s the market rate. None of us pay what we want to for gas, we pay what the market demands. It’s time to repair the organizations reputation with the players as a whole. It’s well past time to get Pastrnak under contract before he does something sensible like trot off to the KHL where he’ll make as much money and have to play fewer games to do it. If they wanted to sign him at a lower rate they should have done so when he hit the thirty goal mark during the season, between the regular season and the playoffs. Now the market has been reset and they need to adjust their expectations accordingly.

If the worst should happen and the Boston Bruins do get forced to trade the best young star the team has had in years not named Brad Marchand, then we need first need to stop blaming agents, stop blaming players, and go back to the truth; The Jacob’s family is not interested in retaining top talent. For some people that means dusting off the hate they carried around up until Tim Thomas and company won the Cup. For others it means finding a new team to cheer.

If you’re looking to see how David Pastrnak stacks up against Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin, its pretty interesting to see. Kessel was on the deepest team at center in his first three years, and played opposite Milan Lucic in that time. Seguin rode some coattails to a Stanley Cup. Both of them had better defenses behind them than Pastrnak has seen. And of the three Pastrnak was the fastest to reach 70 points. Kessel has shown to be the best of the three in the post season (with more opportunities), Seguin appears to be the worst of the three. As far as three zone play Pastrnak outclasses the other two, even today, collectively or individually.

When it comes to trade value, not only are there more RFA years left for Pastrnak, he’s a more complete, more physical player who has shown coach-ability, not to mention both the physical ability, and the mental drive to get better. David Pastrnak may just be the most likable guy in the Boston Bruins locker room. That’s not something anyone has ever said about Kessel, or Seguin, or even Blake Wheeler who was also traded away young.

As it is beginning to look more and more like a suitable deal that will keep Pastrnak in the Black and Gold for the long term isn’t coming, you have to examine the potential return. Phil Kessel was traded for first round picks in consecutive drafts, and a second round pick. Tyler Sequin who has the key return for Kessel was part of an outgoing package that included Ryan Button (a late pick who has done nothing), and Rich Peverley a utility forward who played up and down the lineup. The return there was Loui Ericsson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser. Smith and Morrow were badly bungled, Fraser barely eclipsed Button.

I’m not sure even teflon coated owners like the Jacobs can get away with trading a popular, healthy, productive, two way, high scoring stud like Pastrnak without a hefty return without repercussions in ticket sales, merchandise, ratings, and public image. Three first, assuming someone would part with them might look good on paper, but you still have to draft and develop them, and that’s not something the Bruins have been noted for in the past decade. Two first and two seconds might be palatable, but how long will it take those prospects to fill a roster spot and contribute at a similar level?

For players with similar goal totals over the last two seasons you’ve got guys like Jonathan Toews, Adam Henrique, Nazim Kadri, Aleksander Barkov, Chris Krieder, Anders Lee, and Phil Kessel all putting up 49 goals in the last two seasons. Toews is a non starter for comparison, and a trade piece. Barkov is unlikely, Lee was just locked up for the Islanders. Henrique is a center, which the Bruins don’t need unless we’re talking something bigger than just Pastrnak leaving. Kessel will be thirty when the season starts and that’s nine years age difference with Pastrnak, even assuming Pittsburgh could fit Pastrnak into their cap situation, and they can’t.

The Columbus Blue Jackets own two comparables that equally interesting. The first is a pending UFA with just this season on his contract. The other is a RFA who will need a contract next year. The first would almost certainly mean more pieces going to Boston, and that’s the undersized dynamo Cam Atkinson. The second is the center/left wing Boone Jenner. Both are established NHL players who have put up similar numbers with lesser centers, if better defense. Both are older. Atkinson is seven years older, Jenner three. Jenner is riskier as he’s only had one season over 20 goals, and that was two years ago with 30, the other two full season have been 18 goals each. Atkinson’s consistency, and year over year improvement is worth noting as it has kept pace with, and likely pushed the team’s improvement over the last four years.

A player who is a good bet on availability, and will likely be less expensive than Pastrnak if he gets anything similar to Draisaitl is Evander Kane. I’ve discussed the value of Kane who was second to only Brad Marchand in even strength goals last year from his return to the end of the season. He’s older than either Pastrnak or Jenner, but younger, larger and more physical than Atkinson. There are downsides to an in division trade, but the Buffalo Sabres would almost certainly add more than just Kane to the return.

If a trade for prospects is on the table, the Florida Panthers need to make legitimate strides towards winning now. If they were to flip 10th overall pick in 2017 Owen Tippet and University of Denver standout Henrik Borgstrom to Boston, I can’t see much more being required for both sides to come out smiling.

Trading with someone out west makes sense in a lot of ways, and one of the teams that has transformed itself the most in the last year is the Arizona Coyotes. The have a wealth of young players, some interesting mid career players, and an arresting collection of prospects. The “you’re out of your mind” swinging for the fences is a straight up trade for Oliver Ekman-Larsson who would be a great successor to Zdeno Chara. A pairing of Pastrnak and Stepan gives you a line you can put up against anyone in the league if you’re behind the Coyotes bench.

But a more risky if completed, but also more likely is Pastrnak and one or more defensive prospects on the cusp of making Boston’s roster for Jakob Chychrun. Chychrun is injured right now, so picks coming back from Arizona would have to be conditional based on how many games he played in the 18-19 and maybe 19-20 seasons. But David Pastrnak and Matt Grzelcyk for Chychrun, Anthony Duclair, and a conditional pick in the 19-20 season might just work out great for everyone.

If Don Sweeney can exploit a team that has set itself up for massive cap problems, then the Edmonton Oilers are possibly the best trade partner of all. Slicing Ryan Strome and Darnell Nurse off the roster might be doable. Nurse is a fleet footed big man on the backend, Strome has yet to reach his potential and plays both right wing and center. Possibly the Bruins could unload Spooner in the same deal, Peter Chiarelli has demonstrated a fondness for players in his past organizations over and over again in his career.

If David Pastrnak is moved, many fans would say it’s time to impeach the president, this would after-all be the fourth big name youngster traded when his second or third contract was due. I think you could make an argument for moving the owners as well, and that’s even if the return is excellent.

You can find this week’s Two Man ForeCheck on the web, or on Facebook as well as iTunes, Google Play, and Tune IN.

On the surface splitting up Bruins alternate captain Patrice Bergeron and his longtime co-star on the Boston Bruins top line Brad Marchand is a little crazy. But it might just be time.

With the team going fully into rebuild mode right now, and the likely departure of Zdeno Chara before we see another Cup hoisted, the team needs to do a couple of really important things, really fast. First and foremost is they need to sheppard the careers of players who have already shown NHL level talent. Second they need to mentor and help ripen the players who have yet so shine at the NHL level. Third they have to keep the team reasonably balanced so that players always have a core member of the team on the ice and on the bench. That’s no easy task.

Another factor that might lead to 37 & 63 shifting lines is simply the need to ignite some of the players who may need to be traded. The front office completed the destruction of the Seguin and Hamilton trades, and should look to rebuild their treasure trove of future draft picks. David Backes still has something left to give, and is a good soldier, but I don’t know if this should be where he finishes out his career. Matt Beleskey is another player who might end up elsewhere before his contract expires. Ryan Spooner is the third of the forwards likely to see at least one more home locker room before his career is over. I don’t see the three igniting each other.

One possible combination of the top three lines is:

Vatrano – Bergeron – Bjork

Beleskey – Krejci – Pastrnak

Marchand – Spooner – Backes

I know, the first thing that comes to mind is why isn’t a line with Pastrnak or Marchand listed first? Simple: I order them by centers.

Some would argue that Marchand is being punished by playing with Spooner and Backes. I think in someways this is an opportunity for Marchand to unleash his full offensive potential. Backes is a guy who not very long ago was worthy of being a Selkie nominee at least, and he still retains his defensive prowess, if at a slightly lower pace. While Bergeron is hardly slow, Spooner is fast. And playing full time with a guy who should cross the 40 goal mark this season, he’ll have the perfect opportunity to show exactly what he’s worth for his next contract when he’s playing with not one but two All Star veterans.

The physicality of Belesekey and the pure speed and goal scoring ability of Pastrnak make this a slightly more fleet footed version of lines that featured Lucic with Seguin and Kessel in the past. Krejci hasn’t lost any of his passing ability, and he and Pastrnak have great chemistry.

Bergeron has proven he can help develop any player who actually is NHL  level talent. Vatrano didn’t have a great year last year, but at almost 3 shots per game in his young career, with an unusually low 8.6% shooting last year, it’s almost certain he gets back to the 11-12% range this year, particularly with a top center, and a gifted wing on the other side. Bjork showed all season long at Notre Dame, and for years in international play he’s capable of playing at a high, high level. This would be the opportunity to prove it.

Another possible combination, this assuming Spooner is moved before the season begins:

Pastrnak – Bergeron – Senyshyn

Marchand – Krejci – Bjork

Beleskey – Kurlay – Backes

This would give the team a certified checking line for the first time in a few years, but also a third line that should still pot close to sixty goals, and a checking line with Beleskey and Backes is going to leave other teams battered and bruised. Over the last two seasons the two have averaged about 3 (counted) his per game despite limited ice time, and availability. Backes is tied for 8th among NHL forwards in hits per game in that period, Beleskey is a few slots down tied for 12th.

These are just two permutations of the numerous viable, if not high likelihood possibilities for allowing two veterans to bolster two lines with their two hundred foot game, every shift work ethic, and pure craftiness on the ice. When you work in other players who might well make the team out of camp or get early call ups due to injury. Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson, is a player likely to make the team, Riley Nash was played up and down the roster last year, Noel Acciari is quite the useful young player who has been pushed into the lineup whenever there’s a need.

Danton Heinen and Peter Cehlarik who saw action last year, certainly know what it takes to make it to the big show.  Ryan Fitzgerald has to have a better idea how to be an NHL player than many young men. Jesse Gabriel has all the tools to be an impact player, last year in the WHL he was over a point per game player with 35 goals. And it can’t be overlooked that David Pastrnak is still unsigned, and that the contract dispute could drag into the season, allowing one or more youngsters a shot at ice time that might not ordinarily be available.

Checkout this weeks Two Man ForeCheck and give it a listen while writing your hate mail.

With the NHL Expansion draft looming, it’s time to take a look at who the Boston Bruins must and should protect. Anyone with an active no movement clause, must be protected. Anyone who has played under a certain number of games or is on exempt, so McAvoy, Kuraly, JFK are all safe from being dragged off to the city of sin.

For the Boston Bruins the must protect list includes David Krejci, David Backes, Zdeno Chara, and Patrice Bergeron. That’s a lot of salary, but it also includes a ton of minutes eaten every night. At least one goalie must be exposed, and three that count right now are Malcolm Subban, Anton Khudobin, and Tukka Rask. Of them Subban is due a contract sometime before games start to count, Rask has four more years with a cap hit of seven million, and Khudobin is entering the final year of his contract with $1,200,000.

I can’t see Rask not being protected, which means either Subban or Khudobin being taken is a real possibility. For youth, Subban might be the better pick for Vegas, but Khudobin has more experience and has played behind bad NHL defenses and still turned up solid numbers when healthy and focused.

At forward I can’t imagine anyone feeling the need to argue against protecting Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Further, any argument to the effect either is worth giving up for nothing is nonsensical. After that you need to weigh the risk and reward of protecting Beleskey, Spooner, Hayes, Nash, Schaller, Moore, and Stafford. It is hard to find a reward to protecting Hayes. Schaller and Nash are decent bottom six players, but either can be replaced by half a dozen guys in Providence or UFA’s. Moore will be 37 when camp opens this fall, and while he had a career year last year, that just means he’s even more likely to slump. Nice player, probably the best of the bottom six, but still I’m not sure I protect him.

This brings us to three players. Ryan Spooner a Bruins draft pick with extraordinary hands and feet but who has failed to thrive. Matt Beleskey who was hindered by injury and saddled with Hayes as a linemate much of last season, and career Bruins killer Drew Stafford who has had just one twenty goal year in his last five and is now 31. Of them I think I have to protect Beleskey. In limited action he still provided a great deal of physicality the team needed. Spooner is younger with a theoretically higher ceiling, but he has shown zero consistency year to year.

On defense Torey Krug is a must protect. You simply don’t give away a guy who finishes sixth in scoring among defensemen, ever. McPhee would snatch him in a heartbeat and the Bruins would be set back years. The blueliners to keep track of left after Krug and Chara are John Michael-Liles, Kevan Miller, Colin Miller, and Adam McQuaid. Liles is aging and couldn’t crack the top six last year against very, very inexperienced competition, there’s no reason to protect him. Colin Miller has shown even less of the reasons he was acquired than Ryan Spooner.

In many ways Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid are similar players. It isn’t until you look at the various stats you see the differences. McQuaid is simply better in his own zone, his on ice save percentage is better, his difference from team save percentage is better, and he plays more short handed time, and his even strength time is played against better opponents. Kevan Miller is noticeably better offensively (.20ppg vs .14ppg) but neither is anything to make note of, nor does it outweigh the other factors. Age, McQuaid is slightly more than a year older, and while both have health issues again it’s about even.

Unless Neely and Sweeney commit resume generating events in their protection list, I don’t expect the team will suffer anything from the expansion.

The Boston Bruins ended their season against the Ottawa Senators. Some, myself included believe they never should have made the playoffs. Given their lack of quality even taking a team that left them sitting on their Bettman with a fat lip at the end of every meeting in the regular season is an accomplishment. There are a couple reasons they lost, and no, the officiating in the playoffs isn’t it.

5:  Balance

The bottom three were an issue because it should really be a bottom six on a team like this. The MAN line of Moore, Nash, and Acciari was very good. Tim  Schaller was variable, Krejci was useless before he went down to injury, and Spooner was well, Ryan Spooner. The only real strength shown in the depth on the blueline, McAvoy looked as good as anyone could reasonably expect, probably better, Morrow looked like the guy who they hoped he’d be when they traded for him. Cross looked good, and I have to wonder where he’ll be playing next year.

4: Inconsistency

This team was held to less than five shots on goal more than once, including a period without a single shot on goal. They took stupid penalties, like the three delay of games over the board in less than half a period to start game six. Their goaltender had three games with a save percentage under .900.

3: Speed

The speediest players didn’t do much with their speed. The rest of the players weren’t fast enough to break through the slopfest of a neutral zone created by Guy Boucher and the Senators trap. Pastrnak was ineffective, Marchand was largely invisible, Vatrano didn’t make a splash. Colin Miller who was the fastest skater in the AHL a couple years ago was invisible even before someone tried to end is career.

2: Shooting

They barely did. They had the second fewest shots on goal per game of any team in the playoffs. They allowed the Senators the same number of shots per game as in the regular season where Ottawa beat them  each time, and finished ahead of them. You don’t consistently beat a good goalie with low shot totals, you don’t support your own goaltender with very few goals.

1: Communication

I have never seen a team with such bad communication and awareness on the ice. There were collisions between players who have been on the roster for years. There were more passes to no where than to other players. How in the world were there yet more two many men on the ice penalties? Even Bergeron and Marchand who have played together for hundreds and hundreds of games could be seen crashing into each other once below the circles, and Marchand being on the receiving end of a Bergeron blueline check. We know some of the injuries guys were playing through, maybe they were addled by pain killers, but this was not a team in sync.

This years playoffs have so many interesting matchups it is going to be hard to call a best series even if you see every minute of ever game.

The Chicago Blackhawks vs the Nashville Predators

This is the western conference’s David versus Goliath matchup. While the Blackhawks aren’t quite as formidable as they were when Kane, Toews, Seabrook, and Keith first hoisted the Cup, they are still one of the strongest, best balanced teams in the NHL. If the Predators do win this matchup it will be because the team refused to be intimidated, and everyone grabbed the rope and leaned. The Preds do have the players to be dangerous, Subban, Ellis, Arvidsson, and Forsberg are more than a handful themselves.

Biggest Strength

  • Blackhawks: Explosiveness
  • Predators: Special teams

Biggest Weakness

  • Blackhawks: Special teams
  • Predators: Discipline

Ottawa Senators vs Boston Bruins

This is a first. The Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins have never met in the playoffs. The Sens have been in the NHL 26 years, and they and the Bruins have never gone eye to eye. The Senators ran the tables on the Bruins in the regular season. Both teams will enter the second season with banged up bluelines. Both coaches are relatively new to their posts. Each team has some very gifted players. Marchand, Bergeron, and Chara will need to shoulder the load for the Bruins to have a hope. Karlsson, O’Reilly, and Anderson can just be themselves so long as the rest of the squad shows up. This could be the best series to watch from an “x’s” and “o’s” point of view. This matchup probably has the highest regular season PIM total.

Biggest Strengths:

  • Senators: The ability to triple the gravity in the neutral zone
  • Bruin: Team defense and penalty kill

Biggest Weakness

  • Senators: Special teams
  • Bruins: Wildly inconsistent goaltending

 

Washington Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Everything versus nothing. That is this series in three words. The Toronto Maple Leafs are at least two years ahead of projections. The Washington Capitals should have had at least one Cup in the last five years. Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Kasperi Kapanen are all years from being able to drink (legally) in the US. Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, and Nicklas Backstrom are all well into their second half of a decade or more chasing the last win of the season and not even coming close.

Biggest Strengths

  • Caps:  Total package
  • Leafs: Special teams

Biggest Weakness

  • Caps: Mental composure
  • Leafs: Defense

 

Predictions:

Boom or bust players are the players who’s performance have the ability to tilt the series.

Hawks vs Preds

For the Predators to win they need to stay out of the box they were penalized almost 50% more than the Blackhawks, for Chicago its pretty much a case of stay calm and be the Blackhawks. – Chicago in 6

Boom or Bust player of the series: Ryan Johansen

Caps vs Leafs

The Caps have more playoff experience, at least as good a coach, better performance at almost every measure. – Caps in 5

Boom or Bust player of the series: Alex Ovechkin

Ducks vs Flames

Goaltending wins championships, and the difference between Gibson’s season and either Johnson or Elliot is noticeable, but the Flames are not going to go down easy. – Ducks in 7

Boom or Bust player of the series. – Johnny Gaudreau

Penguins vs Jackets

Repeating is tough, if I were ever going to pick a team to do it, this might just be it. Jackets in 6

Boom or Bus player of the series. – Cam Atkinson

Oilers vs Sharks

This Oilers team is pretty compelling. How the defense of the Sharks is matched with McDavid and company will decide the series. – Oilers in 7

Boom or Bust player of the series. Milan Lucic

Wild vs Blues

This series is not as even as some people would have you believe. Wild in 5

Boom or Bust player of the series. Alex Peitrangelo

Habs vs Rangers

These teams have recent history, but one team is on the rise, and one of them has crested. Canadiens in 6

Boom or Bust player of the series. Derek Stepan

Sens vs Bs

This series will come down to how consistently the coaches can impose their will on their team and get them to execute the system. Sens in 6

 

Every year we look back at a team, bread down what their strengths and weaknesses were and how they can improve. The smallest component of any team is the player. Today each get’s graded.

Brad Marchand, A: Best goal scoring to date, led the team in scoring, still plays an unreal 200 foot game.

Patrice Bergeron B+: Leadership and defense were still there. Offensive production, and possibly engagement took a dip as well. Still the teams most important player, and likely to pick up his fourth Selke this summer.

David Krejci B: The good news is he managed to play in all 82 games, the bad news is he’s got a double digit drop in points with four years left on a contract that seems him taking up ten percent of the team’s salary cap space, and he will turn 31 in just a few more days. He seems to be healthy after early season woes, and that can’t do anything but help the team however long they last in the post-season.

David Pastrnak A: The jump in year over year production alone was exciting. The fact that he scored so much in a number of different ways is even more so. He did hit a flat spot around the beginning of March, but overall it’s hard to argue with what he did.

Ryan Spooner C-: Another double digit drop in production among the Bruins forward group. It’s arguable that he was held down by awful forwards in the second six, and I’ll listen to that, but he also didn’t step up when he got to play with better players.

David Backes C: While no one expected him to put up a 40 goal season in Boston, his offensive production was not good. He did lap the field in hits. His 226 made him 7th among NHL forwards who played 50 or more games.  He did end up playing for three coaches in less than 12 months which I think contributed to the dip, I suspect he’ll be better next year.

Dominic Moore A-: About perfect for a fourth liner. When playing with guys who understand the role, he’s impressive, especially at 36.

Frank Vatrano C: Not the year we hoped for from Vatrano, starting with an injury, and continuing with a season full of all the mistakes young players make but should make less frequently as time goes on.

Riley Nash B: Riley Nash is just about the prototypical depth forward in the NHL. He’s a very solid penalty killer putting in the third most minutes among forwards on the team, and on a top penalty killing unit.

Tim Schaller C: Very uneven season with interruptions due to health. While he tossed up his best offensive numbers, he’s not yet a known commodity, still a pretty solid season for someone who is essentially an undrafted rookie.

Drew Stafford Incomplete: 18 games, starting during the honeymoon phase of a new coach is hard to judge. Yes he had better production than his time in Winnipeg, but not spectacular. For a full season of this production he’d get a C to C+.

Matt Beleskey C-: I really like his effort, his offense was non-existent this season, he didn’t look good at all paired with Hayes and unfortunately played with him a lot this year. Despite playing only 49 games and limited minutes he was still second on the team in hits.

Jimmy Hayes F: His contributions this year were largest from the pressbox and possibly at Cuts for A Cause.

Noel Acciari Incomplete: Fun to watch play hockey, may well have a roster spot to lose when camp opens this fall. He produced as much offense in 29 games as Hayes did in 58.

Sean Kuraly Incomplete: Just a few games, nothing really wrong with them, but nothing really right about them.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson Incomplete: One game, a largely meaningless game in which most of the team was not doing well or feeling well. He played 8:25, had no shots, and was even.

Torey Krug A: Very near the top of the league in scoring, recovered well from his off season injury, eventually. He played more shifts than any other Bruins defesneman.

Adam McQuaid A: His best offensive season since 2011-12, and a career high in games played. Aside from his normal pairing with Krug at even strength and 2:23 of SHTOI a night, he’s also played a good number of minutes opposite Chara when Carlo was struggling.

Zdeno Chara A: There was a big dip in his powerplay time 1:33 last year to 0:33 this year that lead to a general reduction in his offensive numbers, despite having one more goal in five less games. His shorthanded time was tops among all NHL skaters, and at 3:46 was 1:10 more than the rest of the Bruins defensemen.

Kevan Miller C: He’s been unfortunate enough to play with genuinely awful players, but hasn’t shown the growth as a player one would hope for in the transition past the 200 game mark. He may or may not have peaked, but today he looks a lot like a career third pairing defensemen with decent speed and physicality.

Colin Miller F: He has a great demeanor, superior skating ability, top shelf shot and no signs of any understanding of how hockey at the NHL is played well.

John-Michael Liles F: I am entirely baffled how he still has an NHL contract. I saw nothing from him that couldn’t have been done at least as well by any defenseman in Providence. He is legitimately awful in his own zone, produced nothing offensively, and clearly made anyone he played with worse.

Brandon Carlo C: As a rookie he played with Chara against the best in the league on a regular basis. Overall he did pretty well, including playing a big part in the penalty kill. He had one major flatspot in his season, and he wasn’t alone in wretched play in that spot. Overall, I look forward to seeing how well he corrects the serial mistakes he made this year in future seasons.

Joe Morrow Incomplete: I would desperately love to know what he did or didn’t do that left him out of the lineup and has seen Liles and Miller play ahead of him.

Tuukka Rask D-: Rask is one of the most wildly inconsistent netminder to be considered a league star. He ended the year with 8 shutouts, he also ended the year with the year with a quality start number well under .500, and leading the NHL in starts with a sv% under .875 with 14. He undeniably has really good games, but this was his second year in a row leading the league in starts below .875 known as Really Bad Starts.

Anton Khudobin D: Not great numbers, but he played well down the stretch while Rask was ill, injured, and overworked. Unlike some goalies, he was willing to start games towards the end of the season where he was not feeling well and try to get the team a win.

Earlier today we learned a little bit more about the NHL’s Department of Player Safety and their modus operandi. They handed Brad Marchand a two game suspension for his blatant spearing incident. We have to ask a couple key questions, and then look at the sum of them.

Number one:

What does it mean for the Bruins?

Number two:

What does it mean for Brad Marchand

Number three:

How is this consistent for the NHL?

 

For the Boston Bruins it largely means that they got an enormous emotional boost in a game where they were flat, listless and maybe even disinterested before the incident. From the start of the penalty to the end of the game they played forty of the best minutes in a while. The five minute kill was spirited, deft, and smart. The team clearly wanted to win both for Marchand, and for themselves. When he comes back he’ll be rested and that’s always a good thing. There’s little to no chance of him being injured in the last two mostly meaningless games. The only thing they need to do is avoid the Capitals in the first round. Beyond that, there’s not much difference in their chances of success with or without home ice advantage, against the Toronto Maple Leafs, or the Ottawa Senators. What they’ll also get a look at one or two prospects, and returning injured players.

For Marchand it means the next time he’s punted from the lineup it is likely to be six to eight games. It also means he might get run a couple times in his next Tampa Bay Lightning. As above, it means he has two nights off to get rested, work on his stick handling and decompress. He may even have time to figure out a way to keep a leash on his temper. It also means he will have to wait until next year or later to join the forty goal club.

The NHL had two options with this situation. Go big, or do nothing. Marchand is a repeat offender. It was egregious. It was something Marchand didn’t even deny. The NHL chose to go small. They could have gone for two regular season and two playoff games. They could have done nothing and pronounced the game misconduct and five minute major sufficient, particularly since Dotchin was able to continue the game.

What’s worse is that the league once more enunciated to the furthest corners of the galaxy that there are two sets of rules in the NHL. One for most of the NHL. One set for Sidney Crosby. Of the two incidents Crosby’s is clearly worse to any objective observer. When Marchand committed his infraction he was engaged in a clear, close, and physical battle. He was crosschecked high on the back, and arguably on the base of the neck. Crosby was a full stick length away. He had to go out of his way to reach out with his arms and stick fully extended for his amateur attempt at sexual reassignment of Ryan O’Reilly.

Where is the censure here? No penalty was called. No league call. No fine. No suspension. It’s clear Sidney Crosby did a better job neutering the front office of the NHL than he did Ryan O’Reilly. The NHL Wheel Of Justice Spins on.

Don’t forget to check out this week’s Two Man ForeCheck

No team is perfect, even the cup winners. Some have more faults than highlights, and those teams end up drafting very high. That’s not quite the case with this year’s Boston Bruins. But they do have faults. Some of them are pretty obvious, some need a closer examination to uncover.

The Obvious Symptoms of their faults:

  • They have nothing like a viable backup.
  • They have issues scoring.
  • A powerplay that is wildly inconsistent
  • Incomplete top six
  • Poor offense from the backend
  • Lack of speed or physicality in some top 9 players

That’s the six problems. Some of this is covered up by some extraordinary strengths. The top six is graced by Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak who are speedy, and near the top of the NHL in scoring. That helps, but Patrice Bergeron is behind even the pace he set in the lockout shortened season, and is still thirteen points short of his 2008-09 season which was frankly dreadful by his standards.

David Krejci is scoring at a lower than expected, if still acceptable pace, but for just the second time in his nine full seasons on the Boston roster he’s got a negative goal differential. Part of this is his linemates, who have been varied and frequently very young. Part of it is that he’s never played the game at even average speed for the NHL, and he’s now on the down-slope to his 31st birthday. I’ve yet to see an NHL player who was faster at 31 than 21.

The defense is masked by Torey Krug who is 10th in scoring by defensemen. The next highest scoring defensemen are rookie Brandon Carlo who is currently at 89, and Zdeno Chara tied with the youngest player on the roster. The other guys are well over the event horizon. As a whole, they are quite good at limiting shot attempts, only two teams have allowed few shot attempts than the Bruins, and they are the Blues and Kings in the wretched western conference. They have also generated the most shot attempts meaning they are doing a reasonable job getting the puck out of their  own zone and keeping it in the offensive zone.

But their inability to score is undeniable. Only seven teams have scored less goals per game than the Bruins 2.52 per game.

  • The Buffalo Sabres
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Florida Panthers
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • New Jersey Devils
  • Arizona Coyotes
  • Colorado Avalanche

You can’t win games that way, you just can’t. And as Tuukka Rasks non-contact groin injury proves, he’s not physically capable of playing so much of an NHL schedule. Despite the low number of shots per game, they all add up, and so does the time in the crease. Neither youngster has seized the backup role, and Khudobin is not the guy who was in Boston a couple years back.

So what do we know about the Bruins?

  1. They have an efficient, orderly defense that has performed its primary duty well, even though only one player (Krug) has played in all games.
  2. They aren’t getting scoring from anywhere not named Marchand or Pastrnak in enough weight to push them from “hurting themselves by making the playoffs” to “let’s show the youngsters the second round”.
  3. The coach must be being listened to or the defense would be worse and with the current offense it would have them well outside the playoffs.
  4. Backup goaltending is spotty at least this year with McIntyre still learning the progame, Subban rediscovering his balance in net after his throat injury, and Khudobin likely playing through an injury.
  5. They can probably spare a defenseman or two to help secure a good forward because scoring wise after Krug the difference between next and worst is minimal, and as a whole they play well, even through injuries and illnesses.

What are the biggest issues:

1: They need an offensive contributor in the top 6 who is a legitimate top line winger.

2: They need to find a way to compensate for the lack of speed of Krejci and Backes (or move on from one or both).

3: They need to get the powerplay settled so that it continues (as it has the last 5-10 games) to look like a top unit, and keep everyone’s head on straight.

3a: They need to get a backup who is going to get the team to play for him (and themselves) and who will in turn put in a respectable performance.

4: They need to remove guys from the roster/system who can either net a return to solve #1 or 3a (Budaj might be available soon).