It would appear that Peter Chiarelli seems to enjoy yanking the rug out from the feet of his Northeast Division rivals. Over the past few years the Boston Bruins have signed from or traded from a lot of so players. Michael Ryder just departed for the Dallas Stars, he was a Canadien. Marc Savard I’m sure has a deep, sharp memory of another former Habs and Bruins forward Steve Begin, who not long before becoming a Bruins fourth liner broke the star centers back.
Daniel Paille was the first trade between the Bruins and Sabres not very long ago and that has worked out well. One shouldn’t forget how well the Tomas Kaberle trade worked out. For a mere first round pick, second round pick and former first round pick the Bruins got worst powerplay in NHL playoff history, a four and a half million dollar contract, and a fifth defenseman. The Senators discard Chris Kelly has been a very solid contributor.
But today, Benoit Pouliot was added to the Bruins roster. For those who don’t recall exactly who he is Jack Edwards provides a great refresher.
While I’m willing to give nearly anyone the benefit of the doubt, it should be noted that of all the players I mentioned as potential good matches that no where on the list was a guy who has a career goals high of 17, seems not to be able to stick with a club, and isn’t especially gifted in any aspect of the game. Working the powerplay isn’t his specialty, penalty kill is not his specialty. Hitting and physical play, also not very notable. Shot blocking and penalty killing can also be crossed off the list. As can goal scoring, play making and any other statistically valid piece.
Even before the series started, we’ve seen the temperament of the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins on display. I’m not sure the contrast could have been more stark had it been planned this way. On ice the two teams have played hard with one team getting a suspension for a blatantly dirty hit, collected embellishment penalties and oh yes bitten the other. The other team has responded with hard checks, some taunting and focus on the game.
Off the ice the gulf has been even wider. When Claude Julien faced the media after two of his players, both leaders, both well known to everyone did something he didn’t care for he stated what it was and said it had been dealt with. When the Bruins lost a game, Julien was candid about what needed to be fixed. His opposite number and one time defensive partner, answered nearly all of last nights questions with a persnickety “it doesn’t matter”, he said it enough times I’m sure some viewers flipping over from Monday Night Raw thought they were being treated to a parody of the song by The Rock and Wyclef.
When Alex Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron, an offense for which other players have been suspended, Vigneault couldn’t seem to see anything wrong. Despite the league dropping the ball, the only comment Juline and company made was “we support the leagues decision”. When Aaron Rome planted Nathan Horton on the blueline, more of the same. Julien and the Bruins saying they needed to move forward, Henrik Sedin, Aaron Rome, and Vigneault saying they didn’t see anything wrong, that it was unfair someone else wasn’t suspended in a different series for a hit they stated was similar. This of course immediately after the Burrows non-suspension.
The pissy and well rehearsed Sedin ‘rebuttal’ of Mike Milbury has been well covered. Luongo’s adventures in tire pumping too have gotten all the electrons anyone could need. Is it any wonder that this series has raised the status of the Montreal Canadiens and their fans in the eyes of many Bruins fans?
Zdeno Chara long reputed to be the most physically fit man in the entire National Hockey League hardly looks it. For the first time since his arrival in Boston he looks spent. I’ve met him on the streets after games, seen him interviewed between periods and after games where he logged Bourque like minutes and never seen him look so exhausted.
During the Montreal series Chara was held out of a game with an undisclosed illness. A short time later during an interview on the local sports radio Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli stated it was a case where he was less than 50% and then revised his estimate down further stating the Bruins Captain was less than twenty five percent. Having seen him look stiff, awkward and a bare shade lighter than Celtic green, this was hardly surprising. But even in the games following his return he didn’t look like he has in the first two games of the Vancouver series.
The operative question is, what’s wrong? Given the funk Lucic and Recchi have both been in you have to wonder if it’s contagious. Even when Chara hasn’t looked gassed, he’s been uncharacteristically lacking in physical play. Worse, he’s been on the losing end of hits more times than you can count on your fingers in the last two games, a total that often doesn’t happen in two months of the regular season. In the last two games he’s recorded just two hits. Off the top of my head I can think of at least three times he’s been knocked from his feet.While Ryan Kesler has been on hand to do the knocking at least once, its still unusual.
The most popular bi of speculation running around social media seems to be mono. With several younger members of the team, and Thomas, Recchi and Savard all having children, there’s even a reasonable chance its an accurate guess. If they were playing in Colorado one might speculate its the altitude getting to him, even at his height, but Vancouver is like Boston just about sea level. While e coli or other intestinal issues seem unlikely, the extreme paleness visible on Chara late in game two especially makes it a reasonable guess. Various forms of anemia are also a possibility, but I do wonder if we’ll ever actually know. One things for sure, whatever is wrong is effecting not just his physical stamina, but his mental sharpness. The overtime goal does not happen if he’s tired but focused, and certainly doesn’t happen if he’s healthy and focused.
Yesterday’s post on which players people liked best, different measures of best, and why was one I’d been meaning to do for long time. This is another one near to that cold place in the center of my chest most people keep a heart. The NHL, of all professional sports has the worst marketing. It’s not even close. I don’t like baseball, basketball lost any appeal it had when Charles Barkley retired, and football is a clear second favorite in pro sports. All of them, do the job of appealing to their audience better.
Forget who’s sponsoring what, forget the quality of broadcasters. Those two things are only slightly controllable. What can be controlled is how and which players are promoted. The never-a-negative-comment by the league about top players, even when they deserve it. Is silly. Sports, like any competitive business, certainly any entertainment has audience divides. If I’m watching football on Sunday and it’s not my local team playing I will be far more engaged in a game if I have someone to love and hate. Watching Ocho Cinco embarrass the Colts defense would be fantastic because Peyton Manning is a git, and Chad Johnson is one of the most engaging figures in sports today. Yes, there is certainly a case for loving or hating both players. But the NHL doesn’t get that. You’ll never turn on the NHL Network and see a half hour piece on dirty plays by Sidney Crosby. He’s been the anointed one since before he laced up the skates for the first time. Great, spiffy, but even Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky failed to gain universal appeal, and the media of their day would talk about it.
What set this off? A lot of things, of which Crosby is honestly the least. He’s immensely talented and whatever people feel about him he’s going to have appeal to many just based on that fact. What gets me is the NHL ignoring the players who have long NHL careers but aren’t in the top ten percent of some offensive stat.
A smart team will hire Glen Metropolit as a scout or development staffer when he retires. 17 pro teams in 7 leagues no quit in the man. #NHL
Is a tweet I sent the other day, everyone else was talking about the combine, or if Burrows has had his rabies shot. It was a throwaway tweet while looking up former Bruins players. I expected maybe a replay from one of the local fans who saw him play in Boston, or possibly one of other markets he’s played in. The conversation it spurred was with an Edmonton Oilers fan. This is pretty amazing considering that for all the teams Metropolit has played for only one of them was a western conference team, and that was just for twenty games.
The Glen Metropolit’s, the Mike Greer’s, the P.J. Axelssons and their counterparts across the league play an important part in the game. They may never set a scoring record, but they are players people identify with. Often players like this will have long stretches in one city where they are greatly appreciated by the fans and yet, have you tried walking into the proshop for your local team and buying a jersey for anyone but the ‘top’ players? I’ve been into Bruins proshop and the list of jerseys available reads like the top payroll, plus Tyler Seguin. Yes, all these players are worth admiring, does it mean the NHL is making the most of its chances, no.
Given all the NHL teams that are starving for revenue, including the Manitoba-team-to-be-renamed-later, adding the extra 5-7% in jersey sales that aught to be easy money for adding more of the guys to the jersey wall should be a no brainier. Even the most hardcore of fans might buy two jerseys for one star. The ones with a little more money will have multiple jerseys. If the local proshop has six or seven different players, one is usually the goalie, generally the most overlooked position outside of Montreal, and three others are the top scorers, what happens to revenue when those players get injured long term and their popularity dips? What happens when they retire, get traded or their contract expires and they sign elsewhere? Joel Ward’s jersey probably isn’t going to top Shea Weber’s in sales in any given year they both play for the same team, but how much interest did Ward generate during the playoffs.
Yes, you can wait six or eight weeks to special order a jersey. But does anyone with the power to change that realize how insane that is? We don’t live in a society in which what is often an impulse purchase can wait a month and a half to two months, plus delays.
I’m hardly discounting the rest of the season, but with the draft combine here and now, I can’t go another day without posting something.
At forward for the Bruins only Recchi and Ryder are unsigned unrestricted free agents. Brad Marchand is an RFA, and as this is his entry contract and he’s played just one full year the Bruins have all the leverage.
Top forward prospects, in no particular order include:
Max Suave who’s fast, has hands that will make any goal scoring aficionado drool, and a long injury history. At 6’2 and 184 he’s a bit wiry. This is if not his last year to make the club certainly the year he needs to hit 30 goals or 65+ points in Providence and stay healthy.
Jordan Caron, in essence he only has to do two things at camp next year a: bring his A game, b: remain consistent. He made the team out of camp this year, got second line minute, and penalty kill time under our fairly conservative coach. Of all the top six potential forwards he’s the only one listed over 200lbs, by the Bruins.
Jamie Arniel, after a day at rookie camp and watching the second of the rookie games at the Boston Garden last fall, I predicted he’d be the first Providence Bruin called up and he proved me right. Remorseless work ethic, was the leading scorer in Providence last year topping the charts with 27 goals and 50 points. This is the final year of his entry contract. While most projections list him as bottom six forward in the NHL systems vary and Juliens could favor him if he brings full effort. 5’11 193.
Ryan Spooner, pure fun to watch. Amazing puck disher I heard comparisons to Marc Savard like passing at rookie camp and the rookie game. One ace he may have up his sleeve is faceoff performance, which goes well with a solid shot and great vision. He did spend the year in Juniors where he set a point per game pace for two different teams, and in the playoffs. Not exactly imposing, at 5 10 17o. Finished the year with the P-Bruins.
Jared Knight won three awards among them hardest working player on his team this year. He also lead his team in scoring. Having added enough mass to top 200lbs, his relentless drives for the goal scoring areas are likely to be harder to stop this year than last. If you haven’t seen the goal scoring highlight reel on Youtube, go look. Like Spooner he finished off his playing year in Providence collecting a pair of assists.
What the Bruins lack in general is the aggressive, physical power forward type that has been key to the success of the team in the bodies of Horton and Lucic this year. Bergeron, Seguin, Krejci and Marchand are hugely talented but none of them tops two hundred lbs and adding a little more size to some of the teams speed could make them even better.
Defense is honestly the position I find the Bruins depth thinnest at. Kaberle and Hnidy are the expiring contracts, and I expect to see Kaberle resigned for at least a year or two unless he unexpectedly retires. Steve Kampfer is likely graduated to full time duty and then we get the true prospects.
Yury Alexandrov is a Russian prospect with a couple years experience in the KHL. He was second in scoring for defensemen on the lackluster Providence Bruins last season. Fairly small, but smooth skating. Spoke no English when arriving last year. Had a better +/- at -6 than the leading scorer for defensemen on the P-Bruins last year. Hockey’s future lists him as a potential 5-6 man at the NHL level.
Ryan Button, freshly signed to his entry level deal he’s listed just above Alexandrov on Hockeysfuture.com, the is another smaller defensemen projected towards the middle or end of the depth chart. Well respected in various circles for work ethic. Played the final seven games of the Providence series.
Matt Bartkowski, was called up for six games, including the Montreal game in which Chara was ejected for the hit on Pacioretty where he saw over 13 minutes of ice time. In six games he was a -1, with no points. This probably doesn’t reflect on him. His latest callup was during a funk in Boston that saw losses to half the leagues bottom feeders. Was the last cut at training camp. Could be called a smaller Boycjuck.
David Worsofsky, college player very small, agile picked up 3 assists in 10 games with Providence last year. Unlikely to see the NHL this year. Almost purely an offensive defensemen. Pro-comparison would put him in a similar mold to Marc-Andre Bergeron.
Colby Cohen, picked up in exchange for Matt Hunwick he’s billed as an offensive defensemen with passable ability in his own zone, was one of the few players and the only defensemen to finish the season in Providence with a positive +/- at +5. Projects as another 4-6 guy. Played three games in an Avalanche uniform before being traded.
These are the best of the guys signed for next year. None of whom projects to the type of number two or number three defenseman who can run a powerplay and or lead the defense if Chara is injured, suspended or in the penalty box.
Goaltending, while Tim Thomas does impressive things in net on a regular basis, and Rask has had an admirable career so far, that is about all that can be said for the Bruins goaltending. Khudobin is a UFA and will likely get an NHL or KHL contract of some sort next year, Schaefer is not a viable choice, and Zane Gotheberg is going the college route so he’s unlikely to be seen for three or more years.
Michael Hutchinson played just 28 games in Providence this year, allowed five goals in four of those occasions one of which was a win, had one shut out. In Reading of the ECHL he had better numbers than in Providence. It’s hard to tell how much is the the problem of the first year pro, and how much was just an underwhelming Providence club.
That’s it, after Rask and Thomas there is one goalie signed for next season to fill two Providence slots, two Reading slots and cover for injuries at all three levels.
Strong top three defenseman.
Goaltending depth, even if these pieces are dealt later.
Don’t think that when the Bruins lockers get cleared out I’ll be packing up the blog and breaking it out again around training camp. There’s a lot to cover between the hoisting of the Cup and watching the rosters shakedown. Here are some of the things you’ll find in this space over the summer.
The 2nd Annual UFA Challenge
Free agency blogging
Team tweaks I’d like to see
Realignment/movement of teams should it happen.
Season Preview for all thirty teams
other NHL/hockey news
So don”t tune out, you’ll have too much to catch up on when the puck drops on the new season.
The effort tonight was undeniably better than in game one. More than two guys showed up, the faceoff circle was a good place to be, and the team showed a ton of drive and desire.
Despite not scoring Lucic had a pretty good game, 2 hits, five shots on goal and solid positional play. Thomas Kaberle was nearly invisible, which probably means he’s played his best game in a month, and picked up two assists, he did also have two giveaways. Chara was uncharacteristically exposed on a the Stamkos goal when he was stripped by Hall at center ice, and Stamkos made Boychuck look bush league in beating both the defender and Thomas. Overall, you couldn’t want anything more offensively of the team, they chased Dwayne Roloson and were twice successful on the powerplay. Defensively the game is in the most generous terms I can muster a great learning opportunity.
While Tyler Seguin unquestionably had an enormous game that was exciting to watch, critical to the teams success and the the type of play we were all hoping for even before he was drafted, there are factors that play into it that should cause you to curb your enthusiasm. First and most obvious is that Seguin is the best rested player on either team save for Tukka Rask. He hasn’t played a game in several weeks. That means bruises, sprains and strains are at a minimum and energy is at its peak. Next up is the quality of opposition. While Roloson is a top shelf goalie, he doesn’t play in a vacuum. The defensive unit in front of him is subpar. Even with Roloson having a couple shutouts after being traded south, the Tampa Bay Lightning were 21st in the league for goals allowed. By comparison the Flyers were eleventh, and the Canadiens were 8th. They are also not nearly as physical as the Flyers or Canadiens. While the hits stat is flawed, on the regular season the Flyers finished 10th, and even the Habs who lost most of their physicality to injuries finished above the Lightning. I think the idea he could have been doing the same thing in the first two rounds, is generously speaking suspect.
All that said, if Patrice Bergeron is ready to go next game, I wouldn’t sit Seguin, he doesn’t deserve it. I’d put either Paille who played less time than any other forward this game, or Peverley who is a -3 with just one shot on goal this series on the shelf. With the number of minutes Krejci played tonight I wouldn’t be surprised to see his minutes below average in the next game if Bergeron is back.
Thursday night in Tampa Bay, watch or waste three hours, your call.
Today is the day. By the time the last and most enduring hockey fan has wound down and gone to bed, we’ll know who managed cowboy up and get’erdone, and who more greatly resembles the Joe Thornton of Playoffs Past. The three different series will be played in two nations but the lingua franca of the street is success at any cost.
In the Bell Centre, we’ll see the Boston Bruins face down their rivals and personal demons when they take on the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs jumped out to a two game lead in this series and looked like they would dominate it the way they did the regular season series. Then came game three right in the Bell Centre where tonights game will be played. The Bruins took a 2-0 lead in the first, and maintained their lead the rest of the night for a 4-2 win. The next game was a much closer affair that featured both amazingly good, and amazingly bad goaltending in each cage. Michael Ryder opened and closed the scoring with the type of goals that will always make highlight reels.
Then the teams returned to the Garden. Boston has had a well covered weak performance at home all season. Despite the momentum of two wins up north, no one was certain what would happen. It took almost three quarter of regulation for someone to find the back of the net as both Thomas and Price shined in net and performed at the level their fans hoped they would. Halpern would tie the score ten minutes later. What followed capped off the best game of hockey I’ve seen since the first match between the USA and Canada at the Vancouver Olympics. Regulation was not enough. A single overtime, was not enough. The game took over Twitter, Facebook and other social media. In double overtime in front of millions of fans, Nathan Horton proved he had the chops to get it done in the playoffs.
Vancouver is the Presidents Trophy winner, The Chicago Blackhawks, despite being the defending champions squeaked into the playoffs when the Minnesota Wild failed to qualify on the last day. The Canucks started the playoffs out with a blast, shutting out the Blackhawks in game one, and winning games two and three without the need for overtime. No one has seen that team since. In game four Chicago would fill the score sheet with seven goals and six different goal scorers. Game five was as five nothing pasting that saw Hossa and Keith draw blood twice and Kane light the lamp. Game six was at least a better showing, the game went to overtime, but they coughed up a lead after the first period.
The two versus seven matchup in the east couldn’t have greater contrasts if you’d designed them in from the ground up. While both teams have their superstar leaders, Miller and Pronger, that’s about all they have in common. The Sabres are as blue collar as teams get in the current NHL.The well traveled Mike Greier is just as heavily relied upon as rising defenseman Tyler Myers. The Flyers were among the elite in scoring with six players who had twenty or more goals. The Sabres were more towards the middle of the pack with just four. Pronger is known as an abrasive, sometimes dirty and physically imposing figure. Miller has always been more contained, cool and focused.
The series has swung back and forth between the two teams with Philadelphia picking up games two and three between to 1-0 shutouts, games five and six were both split in overtime and tonight we find out which team has the stones to advance.
While the Boston-Montreal series is only at game six, in this case momentum wears a spoked-B. The Bruins will need leading scorer Patrice Bergeron to continue his dominance, and the Canadiens will need Mike Cammalleri to assert himself and be accountable defensively in order to succeed. The Buffalo-Philadelphia series will be won by whichever team puts in a complete game effort tonight. The question in the Vancouver-Chicago matchup is if the Wonder Twins and Ryan Kesler can snap out of their funks and rise to the occasion or if they will continue to be out scored by the likes of David Bolland and Corey Crawford. Whichever way each game goes, there is zero chance of it being boring.
I wss listening to the local sports radio show today. One of the hosts said that a large part of the reason P.K. Subban is booed so much here in Boston is because of his skin color. The other hosts didn’t agree.