As I mentioned over at Inside Hockey the core groups on these two teams are a little different, as is the team balance. A few more posts will break down other portions of the teams.

Canucks:

Top Line: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Alex Burrows (except when it’s Kesler) This is purely an offensive line. Burrows does what heavy defensive lifting this line does. Daniel Sedin is the shooter, Henrik is the setup man.  Burrows is also what physical presence this line has. With 26 hits in his 18  post season games Burrows is 8th on the team in hits, the twins have combined for 11.  Together the line is a -4, all three see heavy powerplay time with the brothers Sedin ranking one and two. Henrik Sedin won the Hart last year, Daniel is likely to have one for his very own this year.

2nd Line:

Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler, Chris Higgins this is as much a second offensive line as a checking line. Kesler who most will remember from his play for USA during the past Olympics is second on the team in points, tied for second in goals, leads all Vancouver forwards in TOI and is instrumental to the lineup in all situations. Raymond also gets a lot of PK time. This trio is a combined +12. With 118 hits between them this is a very different look from the first line.

3rd line:

Jannik Hansen, Maxim Lapierre, Raffi Torres, with a combined five goals in the playoffs its easy to overlook this line. Torres is the teams best know walker of the fine line between legal play and suspension worthy violations. Lapierre leads the team in post season penalty minutes, has four 10 minute misconducts to his credit, 1 diving, and 1 unsportsmanlike among the standout to his credit he’s also second for forwards on the team in blocked shots, and has an over 50% rating in the faceoff circle. Hansen was healthy enough to play all 82 regular season games, and each post season game with respectable minutes, and few penalties.

4th line and others:

Tanner Glass, Cody Hodgson, Victor Oreskovich, make up the 4th line as currently configured and average under eight minutes a game each. Combined they have about fifty hits, are a -11 and have one point.

Manny Malhotra is a faceoff guru with strong defensive skills who hasn’t played since March. He suffered an eye injury, and has just recently been cleared to practice and or play again depending on which source you are listening to. Vancouvers head coach has been coy on if he would play or not, and Vancouver and national media have speculated that if he does he would be matched up against the Bruins top line.

 

Bruins:

Top line:

Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Nathan Horton, with a heavy hitter with loose gloves on either wing a quick look at the regular season statistics page might convince you they were fourth line bangers. On the other hand, both Lucic and Horton have racked up thirty goal season in their careers, Lucic with his first this season, and Horton with his in 2005-6. David Krejci is the center, he is often very high or very low in production, but has either lead outright or tied for the Bruins points lead in the last two seasons. The three were together most of the season and own seven of the Bruins 12 game winning goals this post season. This line is a combined +24.

2nd Line:

Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi, while non of the three on this line is particularly large, they don’t appear to know it. With none of the three topping two hundred pounds they own three of the teams top six hit slots for forwards with Bergeron second only to Vancouver native Milan Lucic in hits. Bergeron is the playmaking, faceoff dominating center who is good in all three zones, owns a short handed goal this post season, and has a knack for unassisted goals. Marchand is a speedy pest with good hands, vision and looks nothing like a rookie. Mark Recchi is the NHL’s elderstatesman and the future hall of famer has a finely tuned sense of where to be and which way to lean. Not as fast as he was ten years ago, he still manages to make his time on the ice count. This line is a combined +19

3rd line:

Tyler Sequin, Chris Kelly, Michael Ryder. The teen sensation has only played seven of the post season games, but has applied lessons picked up all season to be effective. He had a four point period against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and possesses both breakaway speed and hard, accurate shot. Could be slightly more effective defensively. Michael Ryder has had his best post season in a Bruins uniform, he’s been physical at need, defensively sound, and has used his quick hands to score five goals, two were game winners. Kelly, is the steady defensive rudder at center on this line, plays tons of time short handed and generally one of those players who flies under the radar unless you follow his play closely. This line is a combined +15

4th line and others:

Rich Peverley, Greg Campbell, Daniel Paille make up the fourth line we’ve seen the last several games. Peverley and Paille own above average speed, and neither Paille or Campbell shy away from a hit, if it can be made without giving up defensive position. All three are among the top five penalty killing forwards and frequently on the ice to protect a lead in the waning moments. Peverley had been on the third line before an injury to Bergeron allowed Seguin back into the lineup, and will likely see time on other lines as forwards are rested, injured or penalized. This line is a combined +1

Shawn Thornton, resident beat cop and generally rides with Paille and Campbell, while more known for his work with his gloves off did rack up ten goals and ten assists this season. He was made the odd man out when Seguins ascension and Bergeron’s returned. Quietly important team leader.

 

Final comparison:

While the Canucks have the clear advantage on the powerplay, at even strength the advantage is muted or removed entirely. The Bruins come into this series with more goals scored (58 to 50), and quite a few more even strength goals, with the Bruins putting together 47 even strength goals and the Canucks just 30 the teams are even in four on four goals with one a side. Essentially the Canucks have higher scoring players, but the Bruins have more players scoring.

Bergeron was in and on. Tim Thomas was much more focused and contained than he has been in the first two games of the series. The defense remembered their job title. With these three things the Bruins win was almost a given.

Bergeron was just a dominant force wherever he was on the ice. Faceoff circle he won sixty four percent. His passes which are possibly his weakest offensive asset looked like Savard or Thornton at their best, particularly the one through Brewer to Peverley who was rolling straight into the crease.  His penalty kill time was flawless. Let’s not forget he played over 19 minutes tonight and that’s as much as two minutes more than he averaged in the regular season and more than any other Bruins forward and behind only Seidenberg and Chara in total minutes.

In the first two games of the series I was genuinely worried about the play of Tim Thomas.  This is rare. I wanted him to be the Bruins starter since the first time he was called up and I saw him in net. He’s just so damned fun to watch. In the first two games of the series he was not focused on the puck, his tracking of the puck carrier and most likely pass was off. At almost any point in the regular season the Kaberle turnover in game two doesn’t go in. As we’ve learned over the past few seasons, when Thomas is well primed by several games of play close together he’s in the zone and works magic. Tonight he was on his game, in focus and had 31 saves.

As a whole, including Kaberle, the Bruins defense was impressive. despite the Lightning finishing with a shot advantage, the Bruins had more offensive zone time simply because they took the puck away so much in the neutral zone. More importantly in their defensive zone, they allowed Thomas to see the first shot, and then gave him room to either smoother the puck or pass it along to an open player. There were very few bobbles, little frustration and lots of patience.

Paille was in over Thornton, but played a nearly invisible six minutes. Seguin looked very crisp, but was well covered by the much improved defensive structure of Tampa Bay. Ryder had a quietly impressive game. At one point the UFA to be ran over Marc-Andre Bergeron in the offensive zone. Late in the game he was key to the Ference goal, and all night he had his feet moving, stick on the ice and head on a swivel. Lucic had a solid game despite only getting one shot on goal and two hits. He setup the opening goal drawing Hedman out of position and allowing Krejci enough time to retie his skates, sing the Canadian, American, and Czech national anthems before tucking the puck in for the game winner at the 1:09 mark of the game. Particularly amusing was the manic stylings of  Steve Downie late in the game, at the start of the third period he very nearly got a penalty when lined up opposite Brad Marchand who took advantage of all the free real estate and got into the erratic Bolt’s head.

 

Almost all the stories in this game were answered in the first period.  The Bruins jumped on the board 30 seconds in, and then thirty three seconds later the game winner was scored. Chara and Krejci lit the lamp to open things up and the Flyers never managed to look like a playoff team. Odd as it sounds Boucher and Bobrovsky were the two best players on the ice for Philadelphia all night.

Jeff Carter played a lukewarm 19 minutes, with four shots and an abysmal 17% faceoff showing. McQuaid and Pronger as most expected did not play and probably had just as much positive impact on the game as two thirds of the Flyers roster.  There was little effort up and down the lineup as evidenced by Mezaros and O’Donnell being the two most visible Flyers skaters all night. After Horton had his goal and assist O’Donnell was kind enough to provide Horton with the clincher for his Gordie Howe hat trick where Horton controlled space and got the take down.  Mezaros kept his team from shutout, but not much else can be said for the Flyers.

Nathan Horton and Daniell Paille both scored to in the second to send Brian Boucher back to the bench. Bobrovsky didn’t see much rubber but was kind enough to let the Bruins score on a 5 on 3 after his teammates took not one but two senseless, bushleague penalties with less than two minutes left in the game. The first was hauling Bergeron down from behind just half a step before he would have had a clear shot on the empty net, the second was a mugging of Marchand by Coburn in the corner that got entered in the books as a cross check.

Zero effort from the Flyers leads to owning zero wins after three games.

Last nights Dallas Stars at Boston Bruins games was one of the most exciting hockey games of the season. An unfortunate byproduct of the energy that infected fans, coaches, bloggers, newscasters and yes the players was a careless hit by Daniel Paille.  Paille, a former first round pick who has a career high in penalty minutes of 35, and even including those assessed last night is at a total of 26 on the year and 102 for his career hit Raymond Sawada knocking the rookie out of his first NHL game.

It was just about a year ago when Matt Cooke, veteran of multiple suspensions, who has had three seasons individual seasons where he eclipsed 100 penalty minutes, obliterated Marc Savard the hue and cry was limited to a small number of people. The usual handwringers foremost, Bruins fans just behind and fans of Marc Savard the player sprinkled in.  Later in the year when another player was spattered all over the ice, a similarly small murmur of national attention.  Yet, by the start of the new season a rule had been added.

This year, Sidney Crosby who for good or ill is the face of the NHL was concussed, on hits far less vicious than the one his teammated dished out, the outrage reached critical mass. Concussions because a topic of discussion across the hockey universe and the ebb and flow between those trying to eliminate all hitting (a small but vocal minority) and the realists who know how quickly a no touch league would die (and deserve too) was animated, illustrative and ultimately good for the sport.

Last night we saw Andrew Ference, who because of his activism is no longer a player representative to the NHLPA, speak out against his own teammate.  It should be noted that not one of the Pittsburgh Penguins said a single word against the hit by Cooke. Over just a year, we have seen at least a small shift in the NHL’s hivemind. Will this lead to less concussions as players continue to grow larger, faster, and stronger? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. But if the players and league can eliminate deliberate head hunting like the Cooke hit and others that came before it, we as fans, can at least walk away from each game knowing all reasonable efforts to protect the player and the game have been made. It doesn’t matter if you agree with the decision on the Paille hit or not an action that the league ruled would be worthy of discipline was taken, and a fair punishment handed down.

Of the many things I find absolutely fascinating about hockey is the making and breaking of lines. Players are tossed together by injures and demotions, cold streaks and red hot scoring streaks. Sometimes lines are broken up and shuffled to get better matchups against a given opponent, some times a player or player will simply abandon their skill set and start having amorous relations with a canine, other times some has been traded.

One of the most famous lines in recent Bruins history is the “700lb Line”, none of the three players is still with the team, but all are remembered. Joe Thornton centered Mike Knuble and Glen Murray. Thornton was the fresh faced youngster with the unbelievable hands and vision. Knuble was the crease front presence who was damn near impossible to move. Glen Murray had the mind numbing release. They were undoubtedly the three most talented forwards on the team at the time, and playing together it showed.

A few years back during the very, very dark days Brad Boyes, Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm gave the Garden faithful something to cheer for. They were clearly the first, and until recently only three man threat since the demise of the 700lb Line. All three exhibited above average speed, Bergeron slid from the right wing where he was drafted to the center position where Bruins fans have come to adore him. Sturm was absolutely predatory on the left wing dishing out hits, passes and goals. Boyes showed up for work and rocketed the puck on net from anywhere he could get a heartbeat free of interference.  This line was clearly 80% of the teams total talent in their season together, and what little there was to cheer about was usually the result of this lines work.

Still more recently we saw the emergence of two young players, and the resurgence of a third. Blake Wheeler was drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes at number six but chose to get his education instead. Some might say the educational pursuit was in part because of the financial state of the then struggling franchise. Peter Chiarelli did little but wave a contract at him, and signed him without having to give up a draft pick or prospect. David Krejci split the previous season between Boston and Providence, with some time on the IR thanks to Adam Mair. Michael Ryder had earned his way into the dog house in La belle province, and in the off season signed with his old teams arch rivals. Together the three would prove very, very effective. Seventy goals would come from the trio, as the third line.

Last season, very briefly we saw a combination of Vladimir Sobotka, Daniel Paille and Blake Wheeler formed one of the most effective lines of the injury riddled season. Towards the end of one period they played together they completely took over the game and cycled the puck at the netmouth getting off several shots, cycling and holding on to possession for over a minute. Had the period been about 2 seconds longer Sobotka would have potted a goal as he had one waived off for finding the twine as the horn sounded. Sobotka was at his finest in a Bruins uniform at center, hitting everything in site, winning faceoffs consistently, passing well and making very good use of his linemates. Paille looked like a genuine top six forward, and Wheeler looked like he’d regained his rookie prowess. I wish the line had been given another week or two, they might just have made a lot of noise.

Marc Savard has had plenty of linemates since arriving in the Hub. Everyone from PJ Axellson and Glen Murray to Phil Kessel, Marco Sturm, and more have cycled through his wing. Some have worked well, most notably the pairing of Lucic and Kessel. In seasons past, Ryder has been tried several times with Savard, much to the disappointment of everyone. Despite Savard being a point per game player most of his career, and Ryder being a multi-time 30 goal man, the two were clearly less than the sum of their parts regardless of who they were linked up with. This season newcomer Nathan Horton has been infused into the paring and the chemistry of the three is quite interesting. Horton and Ryder can both deliver solid hits and have a great release, Savard is still struggling back to his pre-concussion form, but the three are just fun to watch together. If they can keep getting good chances they can will do a lot of damage.

A recent line that was clearly less than the some of its parts was Tyler Seguin and Blake Wheeler flanking David Krejci. I’ve quipped that this “Charmin Line” was a touch too soft, and their play against Pittsburgh proved this as Jordan Staal and company ran this line over right and left.  Despite the greats speed of Wheeler and Seguin and the sweet feeds of Krejci, the trio was ill fitted from the word go and never managed to look like they were all reading from the same playbook.

It will be very, very interesting to see what lines emerge throughout the rest of the season. A move that will bring in a powerplay threat is almost a certainty, and that means someone will go and the lines will be shuffled once more. As interesting, if less immediate is the question of what the lines will be like next fall as we’re likely to say good bye to anywhere from two to four of the teams current forwards. One line that might be very interesting next year is the threesome of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Jordan Caron. I think they could be a three headed monster that a lot of teams would have a great deal of trouble with.

2nd quarter started for the Bruins with their 11/26 game against the Carolina Hurricanes and ran through game 41 1/10 against the Penguins. The team sits at first in the division, having served themselves nuked Penguins twice in the past month.

Patrice Bergeron A. Handsdown the Bruins best skater, and probably the best player across this span. Has 14 points in his last twelve games, has only been a minus in 3 of the 21 games. Ends the quarter atop the Bruins scoring stack with powerplay, shorthanded, and even strength goals. Has brought his Fo% to over 54% on the season, enough to not only make him the only guy on the team over 50% on the season, but among the faceoff leaders for the NHL.

David Krejci C. In five games since the calender turned has yet to record a single point. Has been a minus player in 5 games this quarter. Had a mostly solid December, with 13 points in 14 games, and a +8. He also had a spirited fight with Michael Cammalleri of the Montreal Canadiens, and was involved in the post buzzer scrum in Buffalo. If if weren’t for his engagement away from the puck his grade would be lower.

Marc Savard (Note this grade adjusted for post concussion return) C. Savard offensively is probably slightly ahead of where Bergeron was at the same point in his return. His other areas are still notably behind the curve, but then offense has always been Savards meat and potatoes, the rest of his arsenal are more recent acquisitions and will probably take the most time to get back to par. Last year for example, Savard played about 1:03 per game shorthanded, this year it’s about seven seconds a game.

Greg Campbell: B I could almost copy his first quarter report card and paste it here. Biggest difference is he has taken far fewer penalties. He has scored less, but part of that is less ice time. In October and early November there are plenty of games of 16+ minutes of TOI, in the 2nd Quarter he has only 3 games over 15 minutes at all.

Tyler Seguin (Rookie):  C+ has gotten better at using his linemates, and is also more aware of all the players on the ice in all three zones. Has spent time on multiple lines, good effort most lines, but needs to uses his speed better. He’s got high end speed even for the NHL, but is often skating at the same speed as opponents. When he explodes at an opponent he’s quite likely to come up with the puck.

Milan Lucic: B-, before looking at the stats I was prepared to write a rip job, and while all the things I noted are true a look at the numbers say there’s little to not difference between the guy who is currently second on the team in points, and the guy who was first in the team in points half a month ago. No, he hasn’t looked good since the start of the year, but he’s also been skating with the still recovering Savard, and the clearly nursing an upper body injury Nathan Horton. Needs to be more intimidating, needs to decide to pick the team up and carry them once or twice a month.

Shawn Thornton: B, he should probably have beaten Matt Cooke down again if given the opportunity,  is doing everything you can ask of your enforcer and more, has been very consistent in both taking other teams goons off the ice, and not taking stupid penalties of his own.

Daniel Paille C, has finally earned his way back into the lineup, sorta. Hasn’t shown himself to be as effective as last year, but not really a liability.

Nathan Horton: C, hasn’t scored a powerplay goal since November. But has dished the puck relatively well, and has at least kept passing well during his recent nagging injury. With luck he can jump back into the fray when he returns, He hasn’t quite made it to the level of scapegoat, but his star is not so well polished as it once was.

Mark Recchi: C+ despite a December that was a downturn over November, he’s on pace for more points (but two fewer goals) than last season.  Like Bergeron was only a minus player three times in 2nd Quarter, none more than a -1.  Is taking more penalties right now than earlier in the year.

Blake Wheeler: C+ Consistently strong effort, but his timing on shots is just slightly off. He’s on pace for a nearly identical points total to last year, with a better plus minus. If the Bruin’s were to lose another defenseman I would actually be in favor of trying him on the blueline for a while. He’s developed enough of an edge to be sixth in hits for Bruins forwards, and has the ability to pass and skate the puck out of the zone. Had one more goal in 2nd Quarter than first, has been reunited (to mixed success) with Ryder and Krejci once or twice this season.

Michael Ryder: B- Needs to both hit and shoot more. He’s currently third in goals, and sixth in points and assists.  Has two of the teams game winners in 2nd quarter, has been most productive on the powerplay, and has recently been cycled through Savard’s wing at even strength.

Brad Marchand: B+ After Bergeron has been the most consistent forward. Just for comparison, last season in 20 games he had 1 point, and was a -3, in 2nd quarter in 8 points and +7. Has been earned his way off a very effective fourth line. The Bruins could do worse than to have him keeping the pressure on other, higher salaried players. Could probably stand to be a touch more obnoxious and draw some more penalties.

The Lost Nordiques and the Boston Bruins have a history of trades, the most memorable of which was the trade that sent hall of famer Ray Bourque to win a Stanley Cup. This trade idea is slightly less laden with all star and all time names, but could result in one or both teams making their own cup run again. This would be a three player trade that provided both teams with something they desperately need.

To Boston:

Chris Stewart,

Why: Goal scoring touch, feisty attitude, big body. Putting Stewart with Savard or Bergeron and you’re instantly upgrading size,  scoring depth and physicality. With the

To Colorado:

Daniel Paille, Blake Wheeler

Why:  Colorado’s defense and especially penalty kill are woeful. The have the 27th ranked penalty kill in the league, and not surprisingly they sit at the same place for goals against. Both Wheeler and Paille possess speed in the top 5-10% of the NHL, and even if they are a slight downgrade in goalscoring, between the two of them they can probably improve the penalty kill 5% minimum.  As the highest scoring team in the NHL, a five or six goals for over the course of the regular season are not going to spell disaster.The Avalanche are likely to be flowing into the post season for the second straight year, and a key to sticking around to see round two will be improving their penalty kill.

Cap consideration:

Annualized, this would save the Bruins about $400,000 this season,  and cost the Avalanche the same amount according to Capgeek.com. Both Wheeler and Stewart are RFA’s at the end of their deals according to NHLNumbers.com, with Wheelers expiring this year, and Stewart next season. Paille would be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2011-2012 season. Even with the cap expected to rise next year, long term the Avalanche are looking at some a some serious number crunching. The recently acquired Tomas Fleishmann is due a new contract at the end of the year, and he’s clicked quite well with Matt Duchene. Duchene’s entry level deal will end at as next season expires, and I can’t imagine him signing cheap. At 34 Milan Hejduk is still trucking along and is currently a more than point per game player through 28 games this season. Sooner or later the Avalanche will have to replace the aging Adam Foote who eats up a lot of time on their penalty kill, and it’s doubtful they can get anyone worth having at a cap hit as low as his. For the Bruins the cap savings might mean the ability to recall Caron, or Arniel and maybe take an extra player or two on road trips without taking a prohibitive cap penalty that will carry over into next year.

With the guys who might not even move if hell freezes over taken care of, it’s time to tackle the players the Bruins might get some value from trading. While it’s unlikely all of them, or even most will be traded, and the thought of losing some of them is nearly as scary as Brittany Spears as a mother, they would do the club some good one way or another.

While the thought of losing David Krejci fills most Boston fans with the type of feeling you’d get just before you showed Mom & and Dad where the bad man touched you on a dolly, it’s both logical and leaning towards inevitable. He’ll still be an RFA when his current deal expires at the end of next season, he’s an NHL proven high end player who contributes in all three zones, his play making is his most remarked upon skill, but his contributions when he plays on the penalty kill can’t be overlooked and are nearly enough to make some teams drool alone. His $3.75 million cap hit is manageable, and he’s not the type of guy who’s going to get into trouble off the ice, and will play through any injuries he can. While the Bruins probably don’t want to trade him, he’s not (yet?) the playmaker Savard is, he’s not got the speed or shot (do I need to mention hype?) of Seguin, and he’s not got the size, physicality, puck protection or faceoff prowess of Bergeron. He’s also not got a contractual bar to movement.

Andrew Ference, when he first arrived in Boston in the Brad Stuart deal, I was surprised the scrappy little tree hugger was often the best defenseman on the ice. In the last season or two with various injuries, and certain dearly-departed defensive partners we’ve rarely seen his best play. This season, Ference has had two enormous advantages over the last couple seasons, one is the monster lining up on the opposite side of the blueline, the other is simple good health. While he only played 51 regular season games last year, he played the entire playoffs, preseason and the nineteen games so far this season. At a +11 he leads all Bruins in the category, and is undoubtedly enjoying the best play of his career.  His speed, tenacity, and grit make him desirable, his current deal at a cap friendly$2.25 million isn’t going to cause many teams to back away.

Had Marc Savard started the season healthy, it’s very likely Michael Ryder would have been assigned to Providence, or shipped out for a half stick of bubble gum and a roll of stick tape. Most of the Boston Bruins fans would have been willing to drive him to the airport. Today, he’s third in goals, fifth in scoring and has shown the most consistent effort he’s put forward in any stretch since the start of last season. He put in a strong effort no matter who he was lined up with, and had the loan goal in the Bruins recent loss to Tampa Bay.  His four million dollar deal expires at the end of the season, and teams lacking in scoring might be willing to give up a decent draft pick or prospect for the chance to tip them into the playoffs or from playoff team to contender.  He’s got a great shot, has a blazing release, and when he plays well along the boards can create a lot of turnovers.

Blake Wheeler, in this is third season out of college, the 2004 number 5 pick of the Phoenix Coyotes has been shuffled back and forth between wings, from line to line, and now from wing to center. He’s not scored all that much , but has shown some aptitude for playing center at the NHL level. If he stays and Krejci leaves he becomes the number three center by default, if he goes he has the potential to be playing like a number two center for most teams before years end.  With just a $2.2 mil cap hit, the Bruins would probably like to keep him, watch his development until the end of the season and then decide what to do with him. He went to arbitration this past off season, and landed a deal that’s fair. Even if he walks on July 1, 2011 the Bruins didn’t spend anything to get him and any deal where they bring back a pick or prospect is a win.

Dennis Siedenberg, while it’s unlikely that the shot blocking, hit-man who was acquired at the end of last season and signed over the summer will be traded, he’s a valuable player who has boosted his own stock with consistent, quality play and a solid learning curve over the last two or so seasons. His $3.25 cap number is manageable, and even desirable when compared to deals like Wayne Redden, Sheldon Souray and Brian Campbell.

Daniel Paille, who came to the Boston Bruins from the Buffalo Sabres last year has lost a lot of the cache he had when he was drafted. Back in 2002 when he was drafted by Very South Ontario’s team in the first round he was projected to be a top six forward. This season he’s been squeezed out of the lineup by younger players like Marshand and Caron. While he was an indispensable part of last years penalty kill, he’s played less than ten minutes on the penalty kill this year having been eclipsed by the arrival of the son of master of the NHL’s Wheel of Justice. There’s no question that the speedy winger can still play in the NHL, it’s just a matter of if it’s here in Boston, or elsewhere. As mentioned back in October, there are strong reasons to want Paille around, including his affordable cap hit.

Next up unlikely trade pieces and why they might be interesting one way or the other.

While it’s tough to pick three guys who had months that weren’t as good as we hoped, it is still possible.

Daniel Paille:

While he wasn’t alone in failing to compete in the early goings of game one, he’s certainly paid the most for it. Last year he plaid on all four lines and threatened to live up to his first round draft pick pedigree. Last season he led the teams penalty killing efforts to good effect and a solid chunk of ice time. This year he’s been replaced by a third round pick who came into the season with twenty NHL games played and not a single goal.  He clearly hasn’t impressed the coaching staff enough in practice to make Marchand’s stay on the roster temporary.

Patrice Bergeron:

With the preseason he had, including a five point game, and a contract extension one would hope he’d come charging out of the gates. Sadly this was not the case. It took five games for the recently resigned center to get his first point of the season, and after eight he’s got just four points. He’s also third of the four centers on the team in faceoffs. He’s actually under 50% in the faceoff dot for the first time in years. One has to wonder how many more points he’d have if he could win a few more faceoffs.

Tuukka Rask:

Like Paille, he’s been a victim of team play. Unlike Paille he’s gotten the chance to rectify his sloppy first game. Unfortunately for Rask and Bruins fans everywhere, the second game was not better than the first. Two of the goals he let in against the Rangers were rather fluky but the other was one he should have had. His play through two games this season is reminding fans rather pointedly of his post season meltdown against the Flyers. Is this a sophomore slump? Is it just the team playing poorly in front of him? Or was Rask just brought along too quickly? Only time will tell.