The most commonly projected rosters for the Boston Bruins had the team with as little as $410,000. That’s not even enough room to call someone up for an injury or illness situation that doesn’t require a player being put on the long term injured reserve.

The rumored cuts include. Ryan Spooner, Alex Khokhlachev, Justin Florek, and Jeremy Smith, aka the skill guys. Among those retained on the Boston roster are Jordan Caron, Bobby Robbins.

Why?

Cash Rules Everything Around Management, this year each player and what they make:

  • Jordan Caron $600,000
  • Bobby Robins $600,000

vs.

  • Ryan Spooner $760,000
  • Alex Khokhlachev $786,687

No, don’t bother to do the math, that’s $1.2m versus $1,546,687 and a savings of $346,687 and brings the team to roughly $756,687 under the cap.  We know there’s a skill difference. We know this may not be the opening night roster.  If we’re going to be honest Jeremy Smith is fighting with the currently injured Adam Morrison for the fourth best goalie in the Bruins system and he’s probably never going to play for the Boston Bruins in the regular system.

Is $756,687 a lot of cap space? No. Is the increase of less than $350,000 in space huge? Not really, it does allow for a few extra days of a call up though. Would Ryan Spooner, Alex Khokhlachev and Justin Florek being playing full time in the NHL in other franchises? Yep, at least 15 or so. The first two would likely have made it last year, and Florek would probably still have made it in full time via injuries at some point.

Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien at Bruins Training Camp 09/20/14

Aside from David Pastrnak crumbling under light contact from a not very physical defenseman, camp was largely an exhibition of which pairings and trios acquired chemistry the fastest, and which people in the stands could survive the chill.

Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien at Bruins Training Camp 09/20/14

Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien at Bruins Training Camp 09/20/14

One of the more intriguing and yet low key battles is between former Dartmouth College forward Matt Lindblad and Michigan native, London Knight alumni Jared Knight. The two were paired against each other on day one and engaged in spirited but professional battles through drills and rushes. Day two, more of the same. It’s pretty close. Knight is more skilled. Knight’s shot has a better, more concealed release, and is a bit truer to the net. Lindblad is two years older, and has had better health over the last two years. Whoever comes out ahead in camp, team, players and fans win.

From the rest of camp:

Trotman: Ate Villie Leino a couple times on a drills and looked both good by himself and when paired with Bartkowski.

Khokhlochev & Eriksson watch Breen and others drill below the faceoff dots.

Khokhlochev & Eriksson watch Casto #65 and others drill below the faceoff dots.

Caron: Better day today.

Krejci and Caron eye up goalies and defensemen.

Krejci and Caron eye up goalies and defensemen.

Khokholachev: Deceptively agile and speedy, good hands, went around the enormous Breen and his reach to get off a shot with zero warning.

Alexander Khokhlochev watching drills.

Alexander Khokhlochev watching drills.

Bartkowski; Arguably the best defenseman at skating backwards in camp. Good speed and balance while he does it allowing him to turn in either direction as needed.

Griffith: Looked like he’d been playing with Bergeron and Marchand for a year during drills.

Subban: The new pads were repeatedly referred to as “Turco like” by various fans watching.

Malcolm Subban in his 2014 pads

Malcolm Subban in his 2014 pads

 

Morrow: Made a really nice backhand pass to McQuaid while both were moving at pace.

Matt Lindblad #52 and Ethan Werek #78 leave eyeball prints all over the rink.

Matt Lindblad #52 and Ethan Werek #78 leave eyeball prints all over the rink.

Lucic: Much more engaged today, accidentally took out both defenders during a two on two drill allowing Kelly to go five hole on the goalie.

Seidenberg #44, Cross #56, Lucic #17

Seidenberg #44, Cross #56, Lucic #17

Simonelli: Interesting resume, four years at Wisconsin, and some time on the US National Development team. both yesterday and today he was frequently paired with Seidenberg for drills.

Hamilton is pretty frequently seen watching the other session, usually while trying to hide.

Hamilton is pretty frequently seen watching the other session, usually while trying to hide.

Ferlin; Out-muscled Paille to get to a puck despite Paille having the inside position and a lower center of gravity. Did more than one drill with Lucic and looked like he could easily be part of more than one NHL team we could name.

Fraser #25 and Soderberg #34 size up the competition

Fraser #25 and Soderberg #34 size up the competition

Robbins: Made a really neat kick of a puck from the heel of his skate to the curve of his blade, made one or two other plays with his feet.

Robin, Batman

Day 1 is here.

Lucic digging deep to stop outside the crease.

The best news is that just about all the guys were healthy. Adam McQuaid not only moved without restriction, he lacked the pain lines and strain fans had grown used to seeing on him. Chris Kelly looked to be not just back to preinjury form but possibly a half step faster. Dennis Seidenberg held nothing back and looked in one viewing to be back to preinjury for as well.

The pair skated together for at least one drill at Bruins training camp.

The pair skated together for at least one drill at Bruins training camp.

The good news is I think all the guys battling for a job in the NHL this year who were with the club last year, look like they came to win the job now. Brian Ferlin and Seth Griffith showed up and looked good, Jared Knight looks to have slimmed down and no longer looks like an NFL free safety, perhaps most surprisingly Simon Gagne looked not just healthy, but like he was still capable of holding down a top six position, at least with one viewing.

#54 is six foot five or so

0 #54 is six foot five or so

Perhaps the biggest positive surprise other than Gagne looking good was Matt Fraser. During one on one battle drills he was paired up against a reinvigorated Zdeno Chara and held his own both taking and receiving checks, while staying with the puck, or pressuring Chara when the Captain had the puck.

Bergeron and Julien plotting, planning and talking hockey,

Bergeron and Julien plotting, planning and talking hockey,

The bad news is who wasn’t on the ice; Greg Campbell. He was watching from rink side. Torey Krug and Riley Smith are somehow still unsigned. And at the bottom of the list was the unsurprising lackluster performance of two players; Jordan Caron and Ville Lieno. About the only positive to Leino being there was he did manage to get off a few shots from the seat of his pants or knees, which he ended on pretty regularly as everyone including Caron seemed to drop him with ease. Caron for his part looks to have lost a good deal of muscle, and was moving poorly, as in Recchi in his last three months before retirement poorly, short choppy steps and all.

#44 Showing all signs of good health.

#44 Showing all signs of good health.

One heartening bit for long term prospect watchers is that Tommy Cross looked the most quick and agile I can recall seeing him. While he’s got a whole mountain range to climb before getting a sniff at the NHL, he’s moving well enough not to be an instant liability when he hits the NHL stage.

#50 Knight and #52 Lindblad, two of the Providence Bruins competing for a Boston roster spot.

#50 Knight and #52 Lindblad, two of the Providence Bruins competing for a Boston roster spot.

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.

In life, in business, in relationships and in the NHL, neither success nor failure are instant. On occasion it appears that a team or business has succeeded or failed in the blink of an eye, what you are seeing is that iceberg tip those final twenty stories of a skyscraper that bring it above the rest. On July one, Peter Chiarelli and Cam Neely swept over the horizon and promptly fell flat on their faces. They made exactly one move on the day. They signed a no name plugger who will likely never see NHL action in a Bruins uniform.

But where does this spectacular failure stem from? Last season yes they went over the cap by about 4.7 million. Yes, with that money they could have kept Jarome Iginla, but they’d still have needed to come up with money for rookie sensations Torey Krug and Reilly Smith, and likely Matt Bartkowski and or Matt Fraser. But why did they get to this place? How? When they won the Stanley Cup they had more depth than last year at every position, they had as much youth, they were just as close to the cap (they went over that year too).

The answer lies in the composition of the roster. There is exactly one player on who played most or all of last season in Boston who was drafted and developed since Peter Chiarelli took over, and that’s Dougie Hamilton. One of 23. You can add in Ryan Spooner if you’re feeling generous since he was exceptional at the AHL level and held a place for a good stretch of games mid season as well. If you go back to the Cup year, Tyler Seguin was the lone player to be drafted and developed here and well, he didn’t last long.

Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, are all players that were drafted before he took the helm. Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Loui Erikssn, and all the rest were either brought in via trade or free agency. The player not named Seguin (Dallas Stars) and or Hamilton to be drafted since Chiarelli took over is Jordan Caron. He of course has produced less points than Shawn Thornton during his tenure.

What does this mean? It means the Boston Bruins have overpaid for free agents from Michael Ryder,  Steve Begin, and Joe Corvo and spent too much to get under achievers like Tomas Kaberle in trade. It means that instead of bring up young players like the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks, they brought in guys who no one will remember fondly like Peter Schaefer, Andrew Bodnarchuk, and Jay Pandolfo because the draft has been largely an excuse for other teams to laugh down their sleeves at consistently inept drafting.

The overpayment on free agents has translate into what can conservatively be figured at a 10% increase in the salary many of the Bruins developed players have received since. It means that instead of drafting players who fit the system, Peter Chiarelli and company have waited until two or even three years of RFA status of a player have been burned meaning not only will they over pay these players  who have little to no loyalty to the team, it means that even if they aren’t overpaid they will likely hobble the team with an unneeded no trade or no movement clause for a player who is a nice fit but is eminently replaceable.

This level of personnel mismanagement also means bafflingly bad trades that give up guys like Vladimir Sobotka and Kris Versteeg for guys no one remembers the names of. After half a decade and what most regard as a flukey Stanley Cup win the Bruins attempted a course correction with a change in scouting directors. The first run with the new leader shows he probably has as deft a touch in his current position, as his more famous brother had at coaching in the desert.

Cap mismanagement, inability to draft and negligible ability to recognize which players can be got without a no movement or no trade clause, and an over devotion to player like Caron and Hamill who consistently fail to live up to expectations that’s a hell of a dossier for his next position.

The first round of the playoffs may have been the best opening round as a whole in years. The Columbus Blue Jackets traded blows and goals with the Pittsburgh Penguins and had the Metropolitan division winners looking just a bit weak. The loss of David Backes due to a suspend-able hit by Brent Seabrook was clearly the tipping point of the series between the Saint Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. The San Jose Sharks went from unmitigated domination of the Los Angeles Kings to going into the night with a whimper.

The Philadelphia Flyers played a pretty even series with the New York Rangers that came down to a memorable game seven decided by one goal; the series was also the coming out party for Steve Mason who put up a stellar 1.97 GAA and .939 sv%. The Alex Goligoski and Shawn Horcoff led Dallas Stars put a two game scare into the Anaheim Ducks before succumbing to a focused and superior team. In the battle between snowy Montreal and snowbird heaven Tampa Bay, the Lightning went down in the opening rounds only sweep, minus Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop. In the opening round the Boston Bruins lost the opening game to their Original Six rivals, and then laid them in the dust in four straight wins.

Biggest surprises of the first round:

  • 169 players having more goals than Sidney Crosby, including Luke Schenn, Bryan Allen, Raffi Torres, Jordan Caron and Devante Smith-Pelly
  • How much Jonathan Quick struggled in the first few games, and that Sutter didn’t go to Jones full time.
  • Paul Stastny ending a playoff run with well deserved accolades like “heroic performance” being thrown his way, even around all the love for the shiny new rookie.
  • Paul Martin weighing in at over a point per game. Yes, that Paul Martin.
  • Alex Goligoski gaining zero attention while playing 28:30 a night, putting up 4 points and being a +7 in a six game losing series.
  • How well the very young Colorado Avalanche held together through some very tough games.

Top 3 series of the opening round:

  1. Columbus Blue Jackets vs Pittsburgh Penguins, the pure drama in this matchup was amazing to watch.
  2. Minnesota Wild vs Colorado Avalanche; There is so much young potential in this series it is staggering, Coyle, Neiderrietter, Brodin and Spurgeon we’ll see more of this year, MacKinnon, Landeskog, Hishon, and Duchene we’ll have ot wait until fall for more from.
  3. Chicago Blackhawks vs Saint Louis Blues, as far as the best hockey played game in and game out this series wins, but the drama level wasn’t quiet as high as the other two series.

We’re a week into the new NHL season. Teams have played between two and four games, and several possibly sustainable surprises have come out of the first seven days.

 

Anaheim Ducks: Secondary scoring may actually be a factor this year, the top two in points through three games were added since last year, Mathieu Perreault and Jakob Silferberg.

Boston Bruins: We know that this should be Jordan Caron’s last opportunity to carve out a roster spot in the top 9 of the team. What we don’t know is if he can.

Buffalo Sabres: We know that with four games played, and just one point in the bank, Ron Rolston and company are going to have to eventually get around to supporting their goaltenders who have done everything they could (Ryan Miller .963Sv% and Jhonas Enroth .912sv%).

Calgary Flames: While being tied for the points lead in your division is great, 18 year old rookie centers statistically don’t maintain a 1.2 ppg pace all season very often, and that’s what Sean Monahan is doing. Monahan is tied with Jiri Hudler for the teams points lead.

Carolina Hurricanes: What do we know about Jordan Staal, Alex Semin, and Ron Hainsey? Other than taking up 1/4th of the Canes cap space they are exactly 3 points behind Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner who lead the team in points.

Chicago Blackhawks: The champs enter the second week of the season with an odd vulnerability to Alex Steen and one of just two teams with a 1-1-1 record sitting in fourth place in their division.

Colorado Avalanche: 3-0-0? Great start for the Avalanche, but the team is averaging over 30 shots against per game, and Varlamov’s .963 sv% is more than just fighting out of his weight class.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Six goals through their first pair of games and twelve players have been involved in the scoring.

Dallas Stars: We know that with the possible exceptions of an over indulgent aunt of their no one picked Alex Chaisson and Brenden Dillon to lead the team in scoring through two games, certainly not management.

Detroit Red Wings: The Wings have points from ten different skaters through three games, and are winning 55.6% of their faceoffs.

Edmonton Oilers: The good news is that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made it into a game, and that David Perron has contributed three points. The bad news is a 1-2-0 record that has them in the Pacific basement.

Florida Panthers: We know distinguishing yourself by playing the worst defense on this team will take a monumental effort of will.

Los Angeles Kings:  We know that Jeff Carter’s 36% of the teams goals is not a good sign for an offense that should be better than this.

Minnesota Wild: At 0-1-2 they are one of just three teams not to have a win yet. On the plus side Zach Parise has three goals.

Montreal Canadiens: Anyone who picked Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk to lead the team in scoring, and be in or tied for a top ten spot in the NHL scoring race, raise your hand.

Nashville Predators: We know this team needs more from fifth year forward Colin Wilson and third year man Craig Smith if they are going to be playing in the third week of April.

New Jersey Devils: While this team is far more balanced than last years both financially and on the ice, they are 0-1-3 through four games.  We also know this team needs to get younger real soon, of the six players with two points or more only soon to be 28 year old Damien Brunner is under 30.

New York Islanders: We know after a decade in the dumpster, the vertigo that goes along with finding themselves in 2nd entering the 2nd week of the season will leave some fans a bit giddy. Michael Grabner and his two point game per pace are a bit noteworthy as well.

New York Rangers: There are three bright spots to this season so far: Brad Richards is scoring, Marc Staal is playing, and Derek Stepan is signed and on the ice. Everything else from Henrik Lundqvist’s .897 sv% to 6th place in the Metropolitan division are ungood.

Ottawa Senators: If the playoffs were to start today, the Pesky Sens would own one of the two wildcard spots in the east, despite only winning one of their three games. At some point they will have to improve in one or both ends.

Philadelphia Flyers: When the Flyers signed former Tampa Bay Lightning captain Lecavalier, they appear to have signed his old teams basement lease as well.  Through four games they have just 2 points and are being outscored two to one.

Phoenix Coyotes: Just about nothing is going right for the team right now, their defense and penalty kill are both well below last years pace.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury has a career sv% of .910, so we’re all sure he can maintain his current .963 through and beyond this year, aren’t we? He should probably buy a $1000 savings bond for a defenseman’s kid every game he allows less than three goals.

San Jose Sharks:  So, Tomas Hertl. Launched 1000 puns, and leads the NHL in goals and points. He might manage to hold a place in the NHL for a bit.

Saint Louis Blues: Not a sad note in town as the David Backes, Vlad Sobotka, Alex Pietrangelo, and company open the season 3-0-0.

Tampa Bay Lightning: While its only October, and the first week is just wrapping up, they currently hold the first eastern wild card spot. That fact becomes truly amazing when you realize that through three games Stamkos and St Louis only have one goal between them.

Toronto Maple Leafs: This team might have a perfect record through four games if they hadn’t dumped Grabovski who is tied for 3rd in the NHL in scoring.

Vancouver Canucks: What is with Bobby Lou? He looked back to Olympic form in the preseason, and  since then its been mostly fizzle. At least the Sedins are producing again, its pure coincidence that this is their contract year.

Washington Capitals: The defense and goaltending have evaporated on this team since spring. Ovechkin appears to be back to world beating form.

Winnipeg Jets: Tobias Entrom and Dustin Byfuglien have four assists each through three games, the team is 2-1-0 and on the sunny side of the goal differential for a change. Evander Kane is on a point per game pace, lots to cheer about.

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.

Its game six. For Chicago if they win they go home champions, for Boston if they win they go home hurt, hungry and still needing to win again.

Injury Front And Center

The Boston Bruins winning without Bergeron and Campbell is an unlikely proposition. A Toews-less Blackhawks team is something that should make any hockey fan a bit queasy to contemplate. If both guys sit out, are ineffective, or end up leaving due to whatever mystery ailment they are hiding worsening, its a paper win for the Bruins who are already down a key center. If Bergeron plays well and Toews is out or well below his normal standard this game likely goes back to Chicago. No Bergeron and an impact performance from Toews, the series almost certainly ends tonight. If Bergeron is out, expect Caron in, he’s faster than Pandolfo, might gain RFA trade value and kills penalties which might free Krejci or Marchand from doing so tonight.

First To Ten In The First Ten

This series has shown us the first team to get their game to the top of the meter and keep it there will win the game. The Blackhawks have trampled the Bruins in the opening ten and trotted to three victories. This late in the series, this late in the year I can’t see even these two teams having enough to get up off the mat and shake off the fearsome barrage the other is capable of bringing. The key then is not to get knocked down, not to get out worked. If the shot count is 12-2 or some similar spread with eleven minutes gone, you can safely pick the team with the shot lead to win.

Blueline Balance

We’ve seen bad pinches spoil games for teams for decades. We’ve seen teams strangle their own offense in its cradle by playing their defensemen two or even three steps behind the offensive zone blueline. Tonight Julien and Quennville need to find that balancing point and exploit their teams talent and their opponents weakness.

Love The Glove

Whichever coach goes into the locker room tonight satisfied with the glove work of their goalie is probably going to be the winner. In game five we saw another Rask glove bobble, this time with the puck landing feet in front of him after he failed to squeeze it closed. For Crawford, he can expect a rowdy TD Garden crowd to remind him of his last trip here. Either goalie is exploitable here, the one who compensates best laughs last.