December was all things considered another good month to be a Boston Bruins fan. The way the month ended with a very lucky win against the Coyotes and forty plus minutes of sleeping and most of a period of passable effort for the sedated in a loss to the Stars shouldn’t overshadow the month as a whole.
Brad Marchand: Continued his strong play on the year climbing into a tie for the team lead in goal scoring. Added his first short handed goal of the season, a powerplay assist, and two game winning goals while being a point per game player for the month. The month included being named NHL’s first star of the week when he had a five point game 3g 2a.
Benoit Pouliot: Turned in the best December of his career in goals. Continued to make Julien and Chiarelli look like they own the Midas touch, played a smart game throughout the month and moved from being a reactive part of the team going only where the system told him to being an active player and leveraging his teammates.
Andrew Ference: Boston’s favorite tree-hugging pitbull only doubled the number of points he had on the season in December. In addition to that he turned in more blocked shots than either October and November and did all of this while only taking two PIMS.
Jordan Caron: He who hesitates is lost. Jordan Caron is he.
Johnny Boychuk: The Prince Of Pinchestan continues to disappoint offensively acquiring just two points in the month, turning the puck over on numerous occasions. When he’s at the height of his prowess his play can be described as “high risk high reward”, at this point the reward portion is present in a portion statistically indifferent from zero.
Tyler Seguin: Numbers down across the board. Not just offensive numbers but things that show effort as well. No one sane expect the results of a month like November when he was over a point per game to continue, and a season long 28 shooting percentage is not sustainable. The physical, neutral zone and defensive zone play however fell into the toilet. As I’m sure someone pointed out to him, the sooner the puck leaves the defensive zone and gets to the offensive zone the better chance one has to score.
This is part two, part one which had 8-10 and an honorable mention is here.
Number seven: Mad For Marchand
One of the most mesmerizing stories for fans was the hellion from Halifax making the team. He wasn’t supposed to. Arniel, Hamill, Suave, Caron, Colborne were all counted to be well ahead of Marchand on the depth chart. Legend has it he told Julien before the season started he was going to score twenty goals. He started the season on the fourth line. Unless you’re the Lemieux-Jagr era Penguins, not many teams have 20 goal scorers on the fourth line. He managed to just barely squeeze Daniel Paille out of playing time early in the season. Over the course of the regular season he got under the skin of opponents, into the stat sheet often and into the hearts of millions of Bruins fans. In the playoffs he put himself in company with Lemieux and Roenick for rookie goal scoring in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Number six: Pacioretty Hit
No other hit was as analyzed, dramatized and polarizing in the last decade of NHL hockey as this one. From the word go Chara was vilified, the Montreal populace whipped into a fury by the most irresponsible media in north America. The police were involved, an investigation continued for months, and months not ending until November for an incident that occurred back in March. The NHL concluded there was no intent to injure, Chara was not suspended or fined, but so hostile was the environment that when the playoffs started and the Bruins were set to square off with the Canadiens they didn’t even stay in the province and went instead to Lake Placid New York for practice and rest in peace and safety.
Number 5: Marc Savard
One of the saddest stories in recent memory for the Bruins played out as the team climbed to the greatest heights. Marc Savard had come back earlier than he should have from his concussion to take part in the disaster that ended the previous season. He missed more than twenty games to start the new season, and then was hit by former teammate Matt Hunwick. The hit was clean, but it was a clarifying moment that Savard should not play again soon.
As time passed it became apparent “not soon” could transition to “not again”. As more time expired updates went from “no change” to “still experiencing symptoms”. Undoubtedly, the loss of Savard led to the Kaberle trade as Savards offensive wizardly was the corner stone of the Bruins powerplay. As he began to improve slightly he made appearances at games, sitting with Bergeron in the luxury box when Bergeron sat out two games during his own concussion. As spring turned to summer Savard took to twitter (@MSavvy91) and become one of the most entertaining players with welcome insight into the Bruins, and a knack for knowing who’s going to get hot.
What time for these two teams to meet. It will realistically tell us nothing about either team, but should be a greatly entertaining game anyway. The Bruins will be without Zdeno Chara, and likely Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille as well. That’s three big parts of the penalty kill, 25 minutes or so of top shelf defensive work, some speed, so physicality and a whole lot of veteran savvy.
In their place we’ll likely see Steve Kampfer on defense. The compactly built, smooth skating and offensively minded young defensemen has seen just five games of action this season. It’s likely he be eased into things, and will not end up with too much penalty kill time. Last year against the Kings Kampfer played over twenty three minutes in a game which the Bruins were shutout. A good estimate for his ice time is about 12-14 minutes.
Jordan Caron will likely return to the Merlot Line with Shawn Thornton. Caron who has been integrated into the penalty kill unit played a very solid 10 minutes in each of his last two games. With Campbell likely down checked it’s a toss up as whether he or emergency call up Zach Hamill will take the faceoffs. Hamill drafted as a center has played wing this season in Providence and in each of his recalls to Boston this season.
Overshadowing the mild chaos in Boston, the Kings are looking to find their way. Yesterday the Kings fired Terry Murray and appointed John Stevens interim head coach. Big ticket summer pickup Mike Richards is injured and not expected back too soon. Drew Doughty has been something significantly less than the perennial Norris Trophy candidate many expect him to be. Having an extended contract dispute that ran into camp, and then an early injury haven’t helped his season. The slick skated defensemen has more than struggled offensively, he currently sits 79th in scoring among NHL defensemen. The Kings sit 21st on the powerplay, and the goals for is actually worse at 30th. The lone building block keeping them out of lottery position is the play of Jonathan Quick. Their goaltender has been lights out, even if he doesn’t win the Vezina this year if the Kings make it to the playoffs the Hart should have his name etched in.
With Daniel Paille suffering a concussion on a fairly clean hit, its Jordan Caron’s time to shine. He’s had time to get comfortable with the system, he’s shown a bit of an edge, and he’s played with Campbell and Thornton. In the next four games the Bruins face the scrappy Columbus Blue Jackets, the LA Kings, division rival Ottawa Senators and the injury riddled Philadelphia Flyers.
There is plenty of room for Caron to not just make the call to put Pallie back in difficult, but move up the depth chart as well. The most recent example of a player going from the fourth line up is none other than Brad Marchand, but it isn’t uncommon. All it takes is a heaping handful of heart and keeping the feet moving. Four players drafted later in the 2009 class have already played more NHL games than Caron.
Not only can Caron step up and help start a new winning streak, he can potentially help the team long term as well. With a small cap hit and a good skill set if he can seize a top nine position over the next few weeks, the Bruins can move another player or players to get at least one second round draft pick Currently the Bruins don’t have one, having sent it to Toronto who passed it on to Colorado in exchange for Liles. With all the defensive depth in this years NHL draft, and potential top three defensemen expected to stretch well into the second round, a move that shuffles out another player either on the roster or in Providence for a pick in the middle of the second would be a huge boost.
I’m still not sure how it is that Caron lost out on the third line position to Pouliot. This is his chance to correct that, or given the way certain players higher up the depth chart have played potentially move further up. Either way, the time is now.
The Bruins got off to a god awful start in October, had ten wins in a row to start November and after 21 games they look a whole lot better.
Patrice Bergeron: The longest tenured skater for the team has done it all, all season. Even when the team was doing it’s zombie shuffle through October there was never a night he looked bad, disinterested or poorly conditioned. He’s done it in all areas and ways. Huge hits, five goals, a team lead in assists, second leading scorer on the team, dominant in faceoffs, and has been a key piece in reviving the powerplay even when he doesn’t figure into the powerplay goal. Leads the team in powerplay time, leads forwards in short handed time… Grade: A
Gregory Campbell: Second among forwards in shorthanded time, has like the rest of the team had a better November than October. Unfortunately the Merlot Line’s October was a key reason for the teams failure to thrive. Grade C-
Jordan Caron: While he’s been in and out of the line up, and had numerous linemates, it’s tough to get a grip on where he fit into the equation. He’s getting an incomplete, but if I had to grade his total effort I’d give him a C weighted on his rookie status and the chaos that was the first month. Grade: Incomplete
Zach Hamill: Looked ok in Camp, was the pace setter in Providence before being called up, contributed while he was here showing more speed, toughness, and ability than his detractors would ever of credited him with. got an assist and was plus 3 in just two games. Not enough time to fairly grade him. Grade: Incomplete
Nathan Horton: Has had the most uneven of seasons. A month of being wretched, a couple weeks of being about what we expect of him. In just his second season here has gotten Julien to coach via the media which is highly unusual for him. Frustrating to watch. Grade: D+
Chris Kelly: Has been one of the guys shuffled around a great deal this year skating with: Horton, Lucic, Hamill, Caron, Peverley, Marchand and Pouliot among others. Has performed above what anyone most expected of him. Tied for third in goals on the team, tied for second in plus minus huge penalty kill minutes, a shorthanded goal, a game winning goal, a good fight… Grade: A
David Krejci: Last years leading scorer in the playoffs has been a no show this season. He did enter the season with a nagging “core” injury that eventually caused him to miss a game. Has looked very slow, disinterested and is currently tenth on the team in scoring. Has points in just five of his games this season, and has only had one streak of consecutive games scoring (3). Grade: F
Milan Lucic: Like Horton has had an up and down season, but has kept the up higher and done what he needs for himself and the team to succeed of late. Has played with passion and interest for most of the last three or four weeks and despite his linemates he’s second on the team in goals, and tied for third in points overall. May want to threaten to beat his linemates in practice if they don’t play better. Grade: C+
Brad Marchand: One of the four forwards who hasn’t taken nights off this season. Even when he doesn’t score you hear his name, you notice him play no matter who else is on the ice. Successfully plays the body, the puck and his opponents minds took on and beat the larger PK Subban in a good fight. Tied for third on the team in scoring, has the most underrated passing skills on the team, second among forwards for time on ice, second on the team in takeaways. Grade: A
Daniel Paille: As part of the Merlot Line he and was less dependable than needed in October, but certainly not the whole of a problem that stretched up and down the lineup. Got a nasty facial injury a few weeks back missed a couple games and jumped back in the lineup without a hint of rust. On pace for his best goals performance as a Bruin in this his third season here. Grade C-
Rich Peverley: The Swiss army knife of the Bruins lineup has played up and down the lineup, on both wings and three lines. Is scoring at a pace that will bring him near his career highs. November has been much better than October for him. This month he’s been a minus player just once, in October he was four times including three straight. Should probably ask guys what athletic supporter they use instead of attempting to guess with the blade of his stick. Grade: B
Benoit Pouliot: I don’t honestly understand how or why he’s beaten out Hamill and Caron for the 12th forward position, but his effort is commendable. Uses his speed and willingness to drive the net to open up chances. Has taken a lot of just plain stupid penalties. Grade: D
Marc Savard: Teams most engaging Twitter use. Has a good handle on the teams mood and his ability to predict the performance of the team is uncanny. Grade A
Tyler Seguin: Leads the team in scoring and plus/minus. Has made enormous strides year over year in his defensive play as well. Needs to focus on better passing and not be so impatient. The itchiness to get rid of the puck tends to lead to sometimes costly turnovers. Could stand to throw the body or rub guys out along the boards more often. I end up saying it twice a game but if he could pass as well as he can shoot and skate the Bruins could win games by double digits. Grade A-
Shawn Thornton: The third member of the Merlot Line has done his best to stem the tide in games, and has been the leader we saw last season this month, but was one of the more notable flops in October. Grade C
It’s been a pretty solid week to be a Bruins fan. They’ve outscored their opponents three to one this month. They have four wins in a row, Two U’s Two K’s Two Points has come together twice this month. Zach Hamill made his season debut and NHL debut as a right winger and had nine and a half quality NHL minutes playing with Jordan Caron and Chris Kelly and looking the trio looked like a line that had played together for weeks.
How’d they win? Pretty easily. The Oilers game was probably the hardest of the four games to win. Not only were the Oilers the most resilient opponent and were able to throw completely different looks at the Bruins. The Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle line is very much a speed line, while you can’t call them floaters and retain any vestige of credibility, when Hall is the largest body on the line at 194 lbs you’re not facing the physical presence of Ryan, Perry, Getzlaf. Ryan Smyth and company are a much more physical line and more likely to park themselves in the crease and stay there to get the Mike Knuble style goals. When they were down two goal they didn’t stop pressing and managed to tie the score. Probably the most entertaining game for the casual fan to watch in this nice little four game run.
Thank You Kessel was both the prediction and the reality against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was a blow out for the Bruins, seven goals, most of them close together. Worse was the way the Leafs didn’t really try. Their skaters and goaltenders allowed seven goals on just twenty shots. That’s even very nearly as vulgar as the Flyers and Lightning refusing to move either with or towards the puck the other night.
Coming up next is a game against the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres will be coming in off a game against the Senators. The Sabres find themselves facing the first goaltender controversy since the end of the Hasek era. Jhonas Enroth has stepped into the spotlight and in five games allowed just seven goals. Ryan Miller in his last start allowed five goals. Enroth is sporting an eye popping .952 save percentage and across his 10 appearances Miller has a pedestrian .913 and has gone 5 and 5 while Enroth’s record is unblemished.
Next week finishes two games that could be labeled “trap games” against the New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets. The more immediate worry is the return of the injury bug. Andrew Ference is out for Saturday. Rich Peverely isn’t taking contact in practice. Paille is not even practicing. That’s a lot of minutes, particularly off the penalty kill which gets contributions from all three. Sliding into those roster slots have been Caron who has at least been with the team since camp, Zach Hamill who had a solid season debut, Steve Kampfer who hasn’t cracked the lineup in a while and Benoit Pouliot who essentially lost the battle to Caron for the 12th forward roster spot. That’s a lot of turnover, and how well it works, particularly against good teams remains to be seen.
The Bruins played their best hockey game of the year last night giving a full sixty minute effort. The first two Senators goals have to be called fluke goals. They count, but I doubt any coach in the history of sports has drawn up something like that. Still the signs were good. Shawn Thornton responded to the team going down early by dropping the gloves and beating the tar out of the nearest Senator. When the Bruins finally tied it only to give up the second odd goal to the Stephane Da Costa – Nick Foligno paring, no one panicked.
Despite the blatant lies told by the stat sheet the hit total for this game was closer to seventy than the thirty in the record books. Bergeron buried both Da Costa and Foligno on one shift, Lucic left players sprawling and up and down the rosters for both teams dished out punishment. Milan Lucic got another powerplay goal to get the Bruins on the board. Better still, all four lines were engaged. Greg Campbell dropped the gloves in the third period, Daniel Paille had a goal on a break away. Chris Kelly chipped in a goal, and Boychuk almost certainly celebrated his goal with an Amstel Light after the game.
Hands down the most impressive line of the night was that the Bergeron line. All three forwards showed elite conditioning by playing more than twenty minutes and looking good doing it. Seguin made a diving defensive play that saved a goal. Marchand had two or three opportunities that didn’t go in but still picked up an assist and stripped the puck from Senators on a regular basis. Bergeron was physical along the boards, made smooth flat passes and kept the powerplays moving smoothly. Together the three use the whole ice surface so well its going to be difficult for any opponent to counter them effectively without taking a lot of penalties.
Just a day after being publicly spanked by their coach the David Krejci and Nathan Horton fans love and opponents hate were back on the ice. With any luck the NHL security team will figure out how to keep their inefficient, sluggish and lackluster doppelgangers out of the building. One can only hope that the pair was mistaken on the time of year having been thrown off by finishing the season two months later than normal thus allowing their evil doubles a chance to fill their roster spots. Finally Jordan Caron’s hard work has paid off, he set up a great screen on a goal, and should have had an assist on another.
While it’d be nice to chalk this up in the win column, declare the hangover gone, and start planning the parade, it is still a bit early for that. Daniel Alfredsson was out of the Senators line up. He’s not an ornamental captain, he plays in all situations has already collected both shorthanded and powerplay goals, and is the type of cool professional that has kept him a dangerous offensive force regardless of what the rest of the roster looks like. Also, given their six game winning streak, they were not just due for a loss, a roster as young as the Senators probably looked at the record of the Bruins and overlooked them. It’s also just one game, the Bruins are still at the bottom of the conference, and still seven points out of the division lead they should on paper at least have a claim to.
David Krejci is utterly useless thus far this season. Utterly. He’s got one goal, zero assists and is a team worst -5. Yes, he had a “core” injury, but core and ‘brain’ aren’t the same thing.
Dennis Seidenberg it appears that the German defenseman used up all his hockey sense during the playoffs. He hasn’t been the worst defenseman on the ice, but that’s hardly high level achievement. His puck bobbles are not inspiring.
Joe Corvo earth to Joe holding on to your stick when attempting to block or strip a puck on a full layout at center ice might be useful at some point in your career, or even your retirement in which if you play like this you can be the fourth best defensemen in a Clarksdale Mississippi mens league game. With your ten games to his six and your two hundred and seven minutes to his forty six you have been somehow out hit by Jordan Caron. Could someone explain this?
Merlot Line, this line has been good for about two periods across ten games. That isn’t the line that was worth ten plus minutes a night in the playoffs.
Jordan Caron has updated his play from invisible to fairly solid. In Montreal against Montreal he made several nice passes broke up a couple solid plays and short of scoring made the most of his opportunity to play with Pouliot on the shelf. Three hits and four blocked shots is a good use of about ten minutes time. In his previous game he looked reasonably solid as well.
Tuukka Rask is playing solid, aggressive and engaged despite the shameful play in front of him.
Tim Thomas, strong numbers but he can’t do it all.
Julien is doing everything he can to jolly along this group of players in the right direction, I’d recommend dynamite or water boarding but I think the NHLPA would frown upon that.
The rest of the team qualifies as profoundly unknown. Stupid penalties, sporadic good play, catastrophically uneven play and random acts of laziness that make you wonder if the good play or the bad is the real team.