The Bruins off ice leadership is pretty consistent. They do the same things over and over, and for their part the Bruins fans just take it with little complaint. Chiarelli and Neely dangle a new, young, talented player in front of the fans, then punting that player or players away just as soon as enough tickets are sold or they fail to play like a fifth year veteran by the end of their sixth shift.

This year the dangled players are unusually varied. We have almost seen Seth Griffith, sorta seen Ryan Spooner, there was the hope of seeing Brian Ferlin and David Warsofsky, but hey fans have gotten more of Jordan Caron, something that was on the top of the off season wishlist of fans everywhere.  If you get the feeling you’ve seen this dog and pony show before, you have. It’s all been done before.

A few years back Boston Bruins were treated to a never ending rotation of two promising young defensemen. The tale of two Matt’s, who were largely treated like doormats. We’d see Matt Hunwick, and Matt Lashoff, and they’d be in and out of the lineup, rarely getting more than a handful of games in a row. Which isn’t exactly how you develop young defensemen. Hunwick eventually went on to lead the Colorado Avalanche in time on ice one season before moving on to the New York Rangers. Lashoff was so broken he washed out of the league with less than 40 NHL games after leaving the Boston Bruins and his career is sputtering in Europe. Fans of course got to watch both get flailed by leadership, hope was lost.

Then there was Phil Kessel and eventually Tyler Seguin, and it was hit me baby one more time. Kessel lasted a couple years while they had no one else. Seguin lasted until they had to pay him. This year it was the David Pastrnak show and if you’re imagining Peter Chiarelli and his brain trust doing a rousing rendition of Oops I Did It Again, you are not alone.

Peter-BS

So far this season, the question is where do broken hearts go, because Carl Soderberg should not be leading the team in scoring, and whatever the statistics page says Adam McQuaid is not the most offensively gifted defenseman in the Boston system. The team is unbalanced with little talent playing in their natural position on the right side, making the left side easier to isolate and shut down. Instead of moving out excess centers and left wings to bring in a viable NHL right wing, the team has decided to sign a guy who can’t stay healthy, hasn’t played a game in over year, and hasn’t been healthy in the post season in almost five years.

This isn’t the first time they’ve take someone washed up and put them in the lineup over a promising young player. This time it is Simon Gagne over Jared Knight, Seth Griffith and the rest of the prospect, in the past it was Shane Hnidy over Steve Kampfer. Only time will tell what happens to this roster, the young and old players being shuffled in and out of the lineup, and of course the management doing it. I would have to recommend against holding ones breath until something good happens.

For more read here.

As things stand right now, the Boston Bruins are a quarter million dollars over the cap having gone out and signed Jordan Caron to another NHL contract. If you allow for the Marc Savard contract being put on the long term injured reserve day one of the season that leaves about $3,700,000 to spend. Torey Krug and Reilly Smith are unsigned and there is no sign the players will be members of the Boston Bruins in October when the season opens.

Assuming no trades, major injuries or retirements before the season lets look at each line and pairing.

The Bergeron could see the steady tandem of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand check in for another season together with the right wing who scored the most goals for the Providence Bruins; Seth Griffith. Griffith put up 20 goals in 69 games as first year pro for Coach Cassidy last year.

The Krejci line, or given time on it arguably the Lucic line, would see the return of left wing Milan Lucic and center David Krejci, with yet another winger to work with. This year it would at least be a player familiar with the Boston system. Loui Eriksson is the only logical choice for this spot.

The third line becomes a writhing knot of enigmas, questions, and mysteries. If we assume Chris Kelly is healthy enough to start the season does he go back to center? For now, lets put him at left wing. Carl Soderberg looked his best last year as the season tipped over into the playoffs, at that point he was paying center but could get shuffled back to wing. For now we’ll write his name firmly in the center spot. That leaves the right wing open. With a look at maturity, size and a ability to play a third line checking position in the Claude Julien system, one of the best picks for the open position is Brian Ferlin.

The former Merlot line has lost something, but retains Daniel Paille at left wing, and Greg Campbell at center. Jordan Caron is the likely right wing. If Caron fills in more of the penalty killing duty, this would allow Campbell and Paille to take extra shift with other lines in the event of injuries, illness or under-performance. The Sangria Line is likely set.

At defense we’re looking at a first pairing that has Zdeno Chara and a rotating cast on the other end of the blueline. If it is Hamilton, that puts the best offensive defensemen on the same pairing, for now Seidenberg can be penciled in.

If we put a second pairing of Hamilton and Boychuck we’ve got a solid, if unfamiliar pair would can certainly be counted on for 19-22 minutes a night.

The third pairing will become a rotation of Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski. Thanks to the deep affection the injury bug holds for the Bruins defense, either here or in Providence the three have a working familiarity with each other, and as parings that will see 12-17 minutes most nights, it isn’t as important as upper pairings.

Now for the problems:

  • The most experienced right wing on the team, has never played that position consistently in Claude Julien’s rigorous system.
  • The other three right wings have all of their NHL experience concentrated in Jordan Caron. This is the same Jordan Caron who has been displaced in the lineup over the years by Zach Hamill, Brian Rolston, Carter Camper, Jamie Tardiff, Craig Cunningham, and never showed more value head to head than Shawn Thornton.
  • The defense as a whole is slow. Hamilton is hands down the swiftest, and then its a question of Miller versus Chara. Given how speedy teams like Montreal, Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Carolina are this strikes anyone with a lick of sense as disastrous.
  • With the offense taking a step back, and the defense taking at best, a step sideways it is unlikely the team is as strong overall as last year.

The observant will have noted I didn’t mention a 13th forward. Given that promoting Ferlin and Griffith brings the team to $2.1m short of the cap, and the fact that their will be injuries at some point, there needs to be some flexibility to bring up one or two players to fill those injuries. Despite the front offices’s seeming love of David Pastrnak, he also isn’t here on the roster for a number of reasons. One is simply that his cap hit is higher than any of the other wingers who are currently signed and at his size, its questionable if he’ll make it through camp onto the roster on merit.

There is a case to be made for putting Pastrnak on the roster this fall that has nothing to do with how he does at camp, but that isn’t the point of this article. Realistically, even allowing for higher speed than Griffith or Ferlin, Pastrnak has arguably not played at a level as high as the AHL, he certainly hasn’t played anything like the length of an NHL season. Having played 36 games last year, the jump to an 82 game season is likely to hit him harder than it does most college players who leave school larger and stronger.

If a thirteenth forward is carried, Ryan Spooner, is likely in the mix, or might entirely displace whoever might otherwise win the 3rd line wing. If Spooner plays there pushing Soderberg to one wing and Kelly to the other, seeing him get reps with wingers from the top two lines wouldn’t be a big surprise. You could also argue for a more physical presence in the lineup and slide Bobby Robbins into the space vacated by Shawn Thronton and possibly pushing Caron to the third line or more likely the pressbox.

The President’s Trophy winning Boston Bruins are going to be watching the final two rounds of the playoffs from Slovakia, Finland, Toronto, and Michigan and points all over the world. What they won’t be doing is playing any more. For a number of reasons, and with the play of several players being disappointing, they didn’t have enough to get the job done.

Zdeno Chara:

At no point in the playoffs was Zdeno Chara a dominant player. Against Detroit he was effective, and at times in the Montreal series he was visible. Not one minute of the Montreal series did he look like a Norris trophy worthy defenseman. We know he had some sort of hand/wrist injury that limited him measurably. He had three games against Montreal with one or zero shots. He totaled ten shots in seven games against Montreal, and twelve shots in five games against Detroit. He seemed to skate at about his normal level, without any moments where he hustled up ice to beat a rushing attacker (this could be good or bad, as the number of rushes when he was on the ice was fairly low) as we’ve occasionally seen. Was he awful? Only in-comparison to his best, he was honestly average, aggressively average in this post season.

David Krejci:

If ever there was a player who wore their current mental state like a one man-band kit, it is Krejci. When he’s dialed in, his passes are crisp, he makes clever lateral moves, and he moves the puck either as a pass or a shot at exactly the right time. When the signal gets fuzzy, he’s ruinous, he dangles more than Tomas Kaberle, his passes are as deft as a walrus on stairs, and he just doesn’t shoot. For the first five games we got bad Krejci, Lucic and Iginla would have charged up ice and gotten to the net, he’d be almost into the zone. The light of good Krejci did strobe briefly across the ice in game six, but it was merely a cameo. When the center isn’t there to control the middle of the ice, the plug is pulled on the whole system. In Julien’s system this is arguably the most important skating position.

Tuukka Rask:

Let’s start with the numbers:

  • Game 1 4 goals allowed SV% of .879
  • Game 2 3 goals allowed SV% of .893
  • Game 3 3 goals allowed SV% of .880
  • Game 4 0 goals allowed SV% of 1.000
  • Game 5 2 goals allowed SV% of .935
  • Game 6 4 goals allowed SV% of .857
  • Game 7 3 goals allowed SV% of .833

Two of the series wins are pretty easy to pick out. The third win? You can’t look at those numbers and say “this one”, you just can’t. By comparison, Marc-Andre Fleury put up better numbers in his seven game series than Rask. Was the defense in front of Rask perfect? No, but he was not only below average for him, in this series he was below average for the the NHL. He wasn’t alone, but as a goalie, the last mistake was his to make, and he did. frequently. Best of all, there’s only three more years left on his $7,000,000.00 a year contract that have the full no movement clause.

The Rest:

Its pretty easy to go through the roster and find players not named Torey Krug or Patrice Bergeron or Dougie Hamilton, or Carl Soderberg and say they were a or the problem. Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski were on again off again good to bad. While Miller was making his playoff debut, and has a grand total of 11 playoff games and 47 regular season contests Bartkowski is a bit more experienced with last years 15 playoff games and a total of 84 NHL regular season events. Meszaros was a non factor. Marchand while not potting any goals on several pretty open cages, still created turnovers, made several key passes, and played hard. Eriksson was not what we hoped, but he wasn’t awful, like most of the rest he was pretty average.

The Fatal Flaw:

What killed the Bruins in this series was two things; trepidation and inexperience. The biggest regrets any player should have this summer is the things they didn’t do and they way they didn’t play. Against the Wings and for most of the regular season they were physical, rough men who who stood ready to win at any costs. Against the Habs they played terrified to step into the penalty box. That little corner of the arena looking back  at the team that several players were so familiar with, some how became taboo. Players didn’t commit to the system and they allowed the Canadiens to dictate the way the game was played.  When you’re in a bad matchup, you can’t play your opponents style and win. No matter what style you play, half your roster can’t be playing  like its a father son game full of 11 year olds. Not if you expect to win.

The Canadiens:

Are clearly trying to get Carey Price into a rhythm early. In the last month of last season he edged away from the solid pace he’d set the first two thirds of the season. Douglas Murray, Jarred Tinordi, and Darren Dietz are all auditioning for defensive partners and call up priority. The forward group stretches the definition of NHL veteran just a tiny bit by including “puncher” Nick Tarnasky who last set foot in the NHL in the 2009-10 season and Ryan White has a similar PIMs to Points ratio. Max Pacioretty who led the team in scoring in the regular season and was badly battered in the playoffs is back on the ice. Most of the rest are late round picks, and undrafted players.

Goalies:

  • 31- Carey Price
    65- Robert Mayer

Defensemen:

  • 6- Douglas Murray
    24- Jarred Tinordi
    26- Josh Gorges
    55- Francis Bouillon
    76- P.K. Subban
    84- Darren Dietz

Forwards:

  • 32- Travis Moen
  • 37- Gabriel Dumont
  • 45- Michael Blunden
  • 48- Daniel Brière
  • 51- David Desharnais
  • 53- Ryan White
  • 60- Christian Thomas
  • 67- Max Pacioretty
  • 71- Louis Leblanc
  • 72- Nick Tarnasky
  • 75- Charles Hudon
  • 86- Stefan Fournier

Boston Bruins:

While most observers expect Johnson to be the backup to starter Tuukka Rask in Boston at least to start the season, the job won’t be handed to him if he isn’t at least adequate. Adam McQuaid will be in the novel position of the most veteran defenseman on the Bruins roster, in fact he’ll have more NHL experience than all of the other blueliners combined. Ben Youds is an undrafted, right shooting Minnesota born college alumni. The forward group is very interesting. New to the team are Jarome Iginla and Matt Fraser, Rob Flick and Carl Soderberg both joined the roster late last season. Craig Cunningham, Alex Fallstrom, Ryan Spooner, and Anthony Camara are all prospects that will be looking to make the team

Goalies:

  • Chad Johnson
  • Malcolm Subban

Defensemen:

  • Matt Bartkowski
  • Tommy Cross
  • Torey Krug
  • Adam McQuaid
  • Kevan Miller
  • Zach Trotman
  • Ben Youds

Forwards:

  • Anthony Camara
  • Craig Cunningham
  • Alex Fallstrom
  • Rob Flick
  • Matt Fraser
  • Jarome Iginla
  • Nick Johnson
  • David Krejci
  • Milan Lucic
  • Daniel Paille
  • Carl Soderberg
  • Ryan Spooner
  • Shawn Thornton

Anyone expecting much out of this game is delusional. At best you can expect a few mights, the Habs fighters are answered by Shawn Thornton, and Milan Lucic, Anthony Camara while not large has dropped the gloves a few times, and even Ryan Spooner warned New England Hockey Journal’s Kirk Luedeke not to leave him off the list:

Ryan Spooner chastises Kirk Luedeke for leaving him off the fighters list. from twitter

Ryan Spooner chastises Kirk Luedeke for leaving him off the fighters list.

When the season opens if all goes  according to the master plan of Peter Chiarelli and Cam Neely, the Boston Bruins will look less like they did last season, and more like they did when they ran the table and collected Lord Stanley’s Cup. In the past two seasons the Boston Bruins had a clear split between the top two lines and what they contributed, and the second six and what the contributed.

Despite Daniel Paille burring tha line, and playing up and down the lineup as injuries and inconsistency crippled top six effectiveness at time  you don’t need to look much further than average time on ice for the forwards to see who did what and match up their scoring contributions. Chris Bourque failed to lockup a roster spot despite an extended stay in the lineup, he just couldn’t make the leap to the NHL. In what many expected to be his final dance with the Boston Bruins, Jordan Caron showed heart, commitment and little of the finishing that the team so desperately needed throughout the season. Of Lane McDermid, Jay Pandolfo, and Kaspars Daugavins the best that can be said of them is that the tried. Both Ryan Spooner and Carl Soderberg get a pass as their appearances were so curtailed, they spent as much time going over the boards as on the ice.

This year, the goal is a different composition. Adding Soderberg late last year, bringing in Iginla and Eriksson this year, and pushing prospects like Ryan Spooner, Jared Knight, Alex Khoklochev, Matt Fraser, Seth Griffith, and Alex Fallstrom to come to camp ready to compete for a Calder trophy. It is likely two of these players will fill in the third line, and extra forward slots.

A potential opening night third line (left to right)  is Chris Kelly – Carl Soderberg – Alex Fallstrom/Jared Knight. Its equally possible one or more of these young men will be traded before the puck drops for real.

Depending on how Claude Julinen wants to build the top two lines, and given the versatility of both Loui Eriksson and Brad Marchand, the lines could look very different from last year. Both Jarome Iginla and Loui Erikssn have mentioned a desire to play with Patrice Bergeron.

It is entirely possible we could see lines like:

Eriksson – Bergeron – Iginla

Lucic – Krejci – Marchand

Those trios would provide lines similar to the formerly successful grouping of Lucic, Marc Savard and Phil Kessel with speed and a willing shooter on the right, an offensive minded center, and Milan Lucic’s raw physicality and willingness to go anywhere and take the puck. The Bergeron line above would give Iginla and Eriksson the ability to go full steam  offensively at will, and leave the most defensively responsible forward on the roster to aid the blueliners. Regardless of how the top six shakedown, the Boston Bruins have five guys who either have or have the potential to score 30 goals. The only one of the six who hasn’t come close to 30 or passed it is Krejci and counting defensemen and powerplay time, he has a legitimate shot at 60 to 65 assists this season.

Last year Boston Bruins slipped from near the top of the NHL in scoring, to middle of the pack. A little more depth, a little more finishing ability, a touch more hunger, and maybe more maturity might have taken them past the Chicago Blackhawks and on to their seventh Stanley Cup. Clearly fans were not the only ones to notice the drop, and equally clearly the Boston brain trust believe  they’ve addressed the issues.

We all knew the Chicago Blackhawks streak would end eventually, most of us did not expect it to come at the hands of the erratic Colorado Avalanche. While other teams have been interesting to watch all season, none have gotten the attention the press has paid to Chicago.

5: The Colorado Avalanche are just four points out of the playoffs with just over half their schedule left to play. The team just got their best defenseman Erik Johnson back fro an injury, and Ryan O’Reilly should be back in game shape. Between those two additions to the roster and the confidence of ending the Blackhawks streak, the squad might just have what it takes to pry about 33 points out of their final 25 games to make the post season.

4: The Ottawa Senators, most everyone thought Erik Karlsson’s keening intonation that Matt Cooke’s actions were intentional would be the death-knell for the teams playoff hopes. Here we are weeks later and the team is still in sixth place with a comfortable four pint lead on the 8th place Rangers, and five on the Winnipeg Jets. Cue Jason Spezza’s pemding return. You simply can’t overstate the impact of the return of the divisions most offensively talented center, the fact that Spezza has also developed some defensive ability in the last couple years just makes Paul Maclean’s job a little easier.

3: Washington Capitals. Did you know this team is 7-3-0 in their last ten? Did you know that while they’re currently in 12th place and five points behind 8th place, with only 22 games played, only the Boston Bruins have played less? Did you know Ovechkin’s 5 points in his last 3 games brings him up to just under a point per game? With Carolina having lost their #1 goaltender, the Caps, like the Jets have to have their eyes wide open and focused on the division title as step on.

2: St Louis Blues, this team was scary good last season. Their goaltending was incredible. This season they are aggressively average. Currently 8th in the west, their goal differential is exactly 0, and they are an unspectacular 5-4-1 in their last ten. This team could be buyers or sellers on April 3.

1: Nashville Predators. This team needs to find goal scoring. They have the defense, coaching, and goaltending to do damage. Only five teams have a lower cap hit than the Predators. David Polie needs to be ready to move heaven, earth, draft picks and prospects to get into the playoffs and secure some offensive talent before the deadline. If Polie doesn’t do something to bolster the team and they miss the playoffs after having lost Ryan Suter in the off season and nearly losing Shea Weber, there could be some sad songs in music city.

Bonus Question:

In discussing the perpetually rumored signing of a Swedish prospect a certain big name media type referred to the potential signing as the players return to the NHL.

Question: How can a player who has never played outside Sweden, not even playing juniors in North America “return” to the NHL?

Jeff Carter to Los Angeles:

Not a bad move. Who knows if the Kings had done this in June or July they might not be in a position where they start talking about trading their captain. Carter and Richards have a great deal of chemistry, some of it even on the ice and not the bar room variety. Carter is undeniably talented, will surely be able to find something he likes to do in his off time more easily in LA than Columbus. For the Blue Jackets, if Jack Johnson can get out of the spotlight and refocus on getting his game to a level where he justifies being picked right after Sidney Crosby and Bobby Ryan. With the swap the Blue Jackets also gain some cap space, time off the end of the contract and a 1st round pick. If Johnson does elevate his game the Columbus faithful would arguably have two top twenty quality defensemen with Johnson and Wisniewski patrolling the blueline.

Dustin Brown on the market?

This is just a Gauthier like level of insanity. Unless he’s specifically requested out of the city, moving a physical, 30 goal potential, leader is absurd. The only potential justification is a huge return both in terms of immediate assets and character. If they are getting back Jonathan Toews or that type player it could make sense but even assuming that level of return, you’re almost certainly adding 2-3 million in salary.

Subban the Slugger

P.K. Subban (@PKSubban1) got into his fourth altercation in practice of the season. I don’t know if this is an NHL record, but its still impressive. Among the “complaints” is that Subban practices at game level intensity. One wonders how much better the Canadiens would be if Subban weren’t the only guy trying that hard all the time? Given that this horrible accusation was leveled at Ray Bourque as well I suspect its unlikely any sane coach or GM will ask him to tone it down. That said he is playing in Habsland.

Soderberg for…wait I need a new punchline

Rumors of Carl Soderberg ending up in the Bruins system in more than just a paper form have swirled for years. I honestly doubt anyone in the Boston front office has held out any serious hope of hit happening in the past two or three years. If he does land in Boston or Providence next summer this could be one of the best things to happen to the organization in a while. If he goes to Providence to acclimate to the way the game is played this side of the Atlantic, it makes that team better instantly. Having a more mature, and hungry player leading could be just the defibrillator needed for more than one prospects development.  But what in the world will Bruins bloggers and fans find to joke about if he does come over and stay awhile?

Hart Trophy update

Dear New Jersey Devils fans,

If you aren’t screaming MVP every time Kovalchuk touches the puck you’re doing it wrong. 3 points behind the highest scoring left wing with six less games, leads all forwards in time on ice by a lot, tons of PK time on a very effective unit, short handed points, averaging over a point per game, on pace for yet another 30+ goal season.

Asterisk Over

The Vancouver Canucks ended the Red Wings record* home winning streak at 24. Maybe now the national media will remember to take a look at Detroit’s sub-.500 road record when talking about the playoffs. By comparison, the Montreal Canadiens who will likely be drafting in the lottery this year are even on the road this season.