Two of the most interesting and impressive forwards of the day were Sean Kuraly and Austin Czarnik. Both are likely fighting for roster spots. The two were notable for largely the same reason; being willing and able to grab pucks around the crease and either put them in the net, or start them out of the zone. Czarnik in particular put a couple shots in the twine the goalies didn’t even have time to react to.

Rob O’Gara was paired with Kevan Miller during drills, and displayed a consistent ability to take pucks from forwards. Including some jobber named Patrice Bergeron.

Matt Grzlecyk was paired with Adam McQuaid during their session. In that time he showed off something I don’t remember noting in the past; a slick and crafty ability to disrupt shots in and a round the crease and get them moving in the right direction. On a couple of rushes he disrupted he showed off soccer feet effortlessly moving the puck from skate to skate to stick. If you’re looking for a defenseman who is solid in his two way game, and stood out today, look no further.

Paul Postma played beside Torey Krug. Postma is coming off a career high in points and games. He looked respectable. He skates well, passed well, and never looked out of place. Despite his 84 points in 74 games in his final season in the WHL, he’s yet to display much offense in either the NHL or AHL.

Some of the forward groupings (not always by position):

  • Bergeron with Marchand & Bjork
  • Beleskey – Ryan Spooner – Ted Purcell
  • Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson -David Backes – Frank Vatrano
  • Sean Kuraly – Zach Senyshyn – Tim Schaller
  • Pastrnak – Krejci – Jake Debrusk
  • Nash – Acciari – Cederic Pare
  • Kenny Agostino – Austin Czarnik – Ryan Fitzgerald

David Backes was in the first session and lead stretches at the post practice stretch. During the first half of the session before ice maintenance he quite frankly did not look good. As practice wore on he stopped tripping, and looked better.

Matt Beleskey looks mechanically more sound than he did at any point after his first injury last year.

Ryan Fitzgerald looked committed to being there, focused and driven, something I couldn’t saw the last time I saw him in a camp.

The four goalies on the ice were Rask, Zane McIntyre, Malcolm Subban, and Anton Khudobin. You could split them into the pairs by the first and last two and argue quality all day. For my money McIntyre was the best goalie today, and Khudobin did not make the top three. Or even cast a shadow on them.

While it’s an outside chance of him making the team, don’t be surprised if Jesse Gabrielle makes the first or second cut.

From what I saw, and talking to other people at camp, I’d say Frank Vatrano is most in danger of losing a roster spot among the forward to play in Boston last year.

Of the three first round picks from 2015, I was unimpressed by Jakob Zboril in just about every way. Jake DeBrusk never looked out of place, and managed to both steal the puck from, and evade Connor Clifton.

More on Two Man ForeCheck which will be recorded in the evening 9/18.

The Boston Bruins need to do something with their RFAs and the need to do it quickly. They failed to move a disgruntled and ill fitting Ryan Spooner either at the expansion draft, or the entry draft. They were however lucky enough that someone mistook Colin Miller for a viable option on defense.

In order:

  1. David Pastrnak
  2. Zane McIntyre
  3. Noel Accari
  4. Malcolm Subban
  5. Colton Hargrove

And after that it’s entirely irrelevant who or what order they sign in. Even there, Pasternak far outweighs all the rest. Even saying that, I think both goaltenders are still viable. Noel Accari is in any reasonable evaluator’s mind a solid bottom six forward. Colton Hargrove can do everything Tim Schaller did, and play both wings. He’s also likely to be a bit healthier

With just a couple days left until free agency starts they have 36 of 50 total contracts, and as many as five roster spots available for forwards, plus a seventh defenseman. Morrow might languish in the pressbox for another year after a very strong showing in the playoffs. He too is unsigned.

The Bruins need to clear some dead weight from the roster. Push Hayes and Spooner overboard. Get the younger, hungrier players who will drive harder to be better players every shift into the lineup. Maybe you have to sacrifice Kevan Miller in a trade for O’Gara and Grzelcyk to make a run at the NHL without looking over their shoulders. What they can’t continue to do is let good players stagnate while sewing guys who cut corners and have slapdash effort to the roster.

Just days ago I wrote a piece on Torey Krug and how he should absolutely not be exposed at the expansion draft. Today we learn he is day to day heading into the playoffs. He is not expected to play in the season finale. Of the teams defensemen, no one does anywhere near as much to generate offense for the team. His penalty kill time this year is even contributing to better play in his own zone.

While the compact Michigan State alumni is hardly likely to turn to the dark side, his absence does indeed cast Vader’s shadow on a team where scoring among defensemen is pretty rare. At this point in the season Krug is tied for 5th in scoring among defensemen with 51 points, next is Zdeno Chara who with 29 points owns the 53rd rank. None of the other blueliners even make the top 100.

A next man up approach might slide Colin Miller into slot and bump him up a pairing. He’s a great skater, he’s a solid passer, a willing shooter, and already used to the NHL. Unfortunately those attributes haven’t combined to make him a good NHL player. He has less points than the other Miller who no one confuses with an offensive dynamo and who has played less games. For all his defensive prowess, Adam McQuaid has never gotten his point production into get close enough to his jersey number to be intimidating, so he’s probably not the answer. John Michael Liles has burned 52 games in a Bruins uniform, and racked up exactly the number of goals that the front office should spend in seconds deciding if they should offer him a net contract and giving him a line of 0-11-11 6PIM -6.

Joe Morrow has apparently been written off entirely by the organization. Which is sad, but not anything fans or writers will be able to do anything about. That brings us to guys currently in the AHL, and maybe players leaving college or aging out of juniors. Given the depth of defensemen in the system, I really can’t see an outsider being brought in. Sherman is unlikely to leave Harvard early, and isn’t an offensive guy. O’Gara did start the year with some time in the spoked B, but was eventually sent down for more minutes. Alex Grant is leading all Providence Bruins in scoring, but at 28 years old, the odds he’s even strongly considered are pretty slim.

Next up is Tommy Cross. At 27, he’s probably been consigned to the ranks of permanent AHL players. He did get a recall last year. He’s 2nd on the team in scoring for defensemen, with much of it at even strength. With 12 goals on the season and his well known mental acuity, even with less speed the Colin Miller, I can see him being at least as good offensively, and easily better defensively. Having played in the NHL already, I can see him handling playoff hockey better than most.

The player most similar to Krug in offensive abilities and projection is almost certainly Matt Grzelcyk who has 11 powerplay assists, perhals the area most likely to suffer without Krug. He’s speedy, he can handle the puck well in motion or holding a position, and can pass better than most. He’s nearing the end of this first professional season and aside from his offensive prowess can inject both speed and reasonable hockey sense into the backend.

While McAvoy is undeniably talented,  even if you’ve been there before. Making the jump when you won’t have the practice time to get comfortable with how other players communicate and play, or adjust to the pace of the game, sounds like a recipe for disaster at the toughest position to play.

Torey Krug get’s a lot of criticism. Much of it is undeserved, and a lot of it is built around the most mutable, and occasionally meaningless statistics, the plus minus. Today at Blogpolooza, I was asked “Would you expose Krug in the expansion draft?”Before I take a look at that, let’s look at some of what he’s doing well by anyone’s standard.

Through seventy four games played Torey Krug has 48 points, that entitles him to a share of the logjam from fifth to ninth place. Who is he tied with? Dustin Byfugelin, Dougie Hamilton, Justin Schultz, and Kevin Shattenkirk. For those who have forgotten, Shattenkirk is probably going to be the free agent who gets paid the most this off season. Schultz was part of the cup winning Penguins last season, the other two guys are NHL All Stars. Yes, this is a new career high for Krug, and he still has games left to play.

To break the points down further, the next closest defenseman in terms of scoring is Zdeno Chara who has 24.  With just three more assists, he’ll match his career total for points. He has more assists than all the other defensemen put together. With 23 powerplay points he’s one short of matching the total points for Chara, but is still getting most of his own points off the powerplay.

Take a look at the save percentage relative to team to get a good idea on what the team is like when a player is on the ice. You’ll find Adam McQuaid is a hearty +1.0, you’ll likewise see Kevan Miller at -1.7, Colin Miller at -1.0, and Torey Krug at -0.4. Not great, clearly not the worst on the team. When you remember that not only does his twenty three powerplay points laps the rest of the defensemen combined, not just leads the team, but is fifth for NHL defensemen it’s hard not to like his game. There’s only one real surprise in the names above him; Erik Karlsson, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Kevin Shattenkirk. That’s a Norris winner, a Finn with about eight inches of height and reach on him, and as mentioned above, a UFA that’ll likely get well over six million per year this summer.

 

Stick tap to Puckalytitics & Hockey-Reference

The announcement has been made and it has done no more than tell us what we already knew; The Bruins brass have further messed up the blueline. Don Sweeney, Cam Neely, and Charlie Jacobs failed to address a serious concern at the time Kevan Miller was resigned, and for months on both sides of that curious moment.

While no one can fault the heart, work ethic, commitment to the team, or pure bloody minded perseverance of Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller. You just can’t do that. We’ve seen both of them time, and time again come back from injuries earned putting themselves on the line for team and logo. You can’t question them for that, you just can’t do that.

What you can question is the need to keep both of them. They are just about the same guy. They are both physical, fit, imposing when they need to be, defensive first and second and a great example of “toughing it out” for the locker room. But on twenty NHL teams either of them is a bottom pairing guy, and any team that has both of them playing semi-regularly isn’t a playoff team. You can’t have two guys who will never top 8 goals and 30 points. You just can’t do that.

Today they took one of the most dynamic scorers in the AHL last year and threw him away. Seth Griffith is a smooth skater, a slick passer, and a bonafide goal scorer. They put him on waivers. You just can’t do that. You just can’t excuse that. They have been weak at right wing since the departure of Phil Kessel, they had one who two preseasons ago showed great chemistry with dynamic duo Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. They not only flushed talent, they flushed chemistry. You just can’t do that. Seriously, Reilly Smith has likely been the best fit at right wing for the team since Kessel left.

Over the summer, they look oodles of talent on defense get away. When goaltending and defense are what kept you out of the NHL playoffs; you just can’t do that. Tukka Rask isn’t going to get enough better to carry this team into the third week of April. David Backes is more a Boston Bruin before his first game in the jersey than hundreds of jamokes and jobbers who have wandered down Causeway and been forgotten by everyone except the people they got fired. I don’t think anyone can even complain about the contract except for that fact that they could have used that money and cap space to acquire an upgrade or two in their greatest weakness.

I respect the hell out of the player Don Sweeney was. He was hard working, he used his body and brain to the best of his ability to play a long time for a guy with a limited offensive toolkit, and a lack of championship pedigree. He was a great guy to watch play. But I’m not sure he is the right man in the right job now.

In the last few weeks the Boston Bruins have been ravaged by in recent weeks. Kevan Miller went down. Then Zdeno Chara went down. David Krejci has been in and out of the lineup, Torey Krug went down, Brad Marchand was dinged, and now David Warsofsky is out of action. Zdeno Chara is the biggest factor, and on the surface we know their record is solid since his 4:13 of ice time in the game where he was lost.

October 23rd is the game where Chara went down the tunnel and didn’t come back. It was early in the game, and the rest of the game was chaotic. Matt Bartkowski played 21 minutes and was a minus one. The defensive pairs were shuffled, blended and then shaken for good measure. Even allowing for the Chara injury, the game wasn’t a good one for the men in black and gold. Patrice Bergeron was a -2, Krejci registered just one shot on net and the team never recovered from Chara going down. They dropped the game to a team that’s giving up as many goals as they score.

October 25th they take on a team who just don’t have what it takes to keep the Bruins out of their head. They managed a convincing win against a team that failed to make the playoffs last season, and are at best a bubble team this year.

Next up is the Minnesota Wild on October 28th. Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and company. The Bruins got down early giving up the opener to former New York Islander Nino Niedderreiter. By the end of the second the Bruins were up 3-1 in what was likely Krejci’s most healthy game of the season. In the third period the team failed to show up. No one took control, no one dominated their space, and the boys from the state of hockey popped three by Tuukka Rask to walk out with two points.

The night before Halloween the Boston Bruins played division ‘rivals’ the Buffalo Sabres. The Buffalo Sabres who are averaging one goal per game. One. Goal. Per. Game. The Boston Bruins gave up two goals to this team, yes, twice the average the team has achieved all season. Then they took overtime to beat the team most likely to be drafting first overall. Yes they gave a pity point to a team that’s so bad no one even pretends the team has a shot at the playoffs.

Next up were the Ottawa Senators. A team who’s best player is Kyle Turris but who lack a legitimate superstar. Again, a team that isn’t considered a threat to division or conference and who no one except maybe Eugene Melnyk thinks they have a shot at Lord Stanley’s silver. The Bruins win against a goalie who put up a .867sv%  on the night. A mediocre team, and they beat the backup.

Next was a visit against a team they should expect the Providence Bruins to beat in a seven game series; The Florida Panthers. Aside Roberto Luongo and Brian Campbell there’s no one worth knowing on the team. Gudbranson, Huberdeau, and maybe Barkov will be name players in two or three years, but right now, nope, nada, talent not found. This team is currently averaging 1.67 goals per game, yes that’s 29th in the NHL with only Buffalo scoring less. The Bruins again gave up a pity point. Yes, they went to overtime with a team that can’t manage even two goals per night for the second time in three games.

Finally in this run without Chara, and others they faced the Edmonton Oilers. There was no Taylor Hall in the lineup. That’s arguably their best player. Andrew Ference was out. That’s their captain, their best defensive defensemen, and two two of them are both physical, good skaters, and guys who don’t take shifts off. What’s left of the team lacks firmness and the team is impressively bad at getting the puck out of their own end. They are 27th in the league for goals allowed with 3.50 goals against per game. Ben Scrivens turned in a .871sv% in the loss.

Against the two teams most likely to be in the playoffs the Bruins lost. They went to overtime against two teams likely to be in the lottery. In short we know they can beat, just barely, wretched teams. We know they aren’t any good against anyone who is any good.

As for the suggestion that Chara might be traded now (possibly for Jordan Eberle who is becoming the new Vincent Lecavalier), with what we’ve seen there is zero reason to think that if the Boston Bruins made it to the playoffs they would make it out of the first round. It’s arguable they wouldn’t even make it to a fifth game if they replaced him with Eberle or any player on the Dallas Stars.

 This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.

 

Players;

  • Among all defensemen with more than five games played there are still six with a perfect on ice save percentage; Ian Cole, Kevan Miller, and Erik Gudbranson, and three teammates Jonas Brodin, Ryan Suter, and Jared Spurgeon.
  • That Jay Harrison of the Carolina Hurricanes would lead the entire NHL in PIMS with 27, higher than the top three PIMs pilers from last season put together, all from a guy who’s never topped 72 PIMS, in just 6 games this year.
  • That six games into the season Carl Alzner would be finishing up in the offensive zone at a rate 24.4% less than his starts there, while still maintaining a positive plus minus.
  • That Daniel Carcillo, would lead all forwards in penalties drawn per sixty minutes and only have two himself.
  • Two plus weeks into the season there would be two defensemen playing over 28 minutes a night, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.
  • That Chris Stewart would have the most shots on net without a goal standing at 26 shots and eight games with no goals.
  • At nearly the end of the first month of the season Evgani Malkin, Sami Vatanen, Trevor Daley, Claude Giroux, Johnny Boychuk, David Backes, Linden Vey, Brad Boyes, Scott Hartnell, Mark Giordano, Tyler Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Keith Yandle, Kevin Shattenkirk, John Carlson, Teddy Purcell, Jaromir Jagr, Alex Edler, Oliver Ekman-Larson (among others) would all have something important in common, they have all only scored a goal(s) on the powerplay.

Teams

  • Seven games into the season the Detroit Red Wings would be the final team not to have allowed a powerplay goal.
  • The Chicago BlackHawks would lead the NHL in shorthanded goals with two in just six games played.
  • the last two teams not to have scored a powerplay goal would be the Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabres.
  • the Carolina Hurricanes would be winless, a minus 29, and still have scored more goals per game than the Winnipeg Jets, Florida Panthers, and Buffalo Sabres.
  • The Boston Bruins would be 13th in the NHL in goals against.
  • Three teams, the Arizona Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, and Carolina Hurricanes would all be winless when scoring first.
  • The Columbus Blue Jackets would have the best differential between powerplay and penalty kill time after finishing 17th in the NHL last season.

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.

Dennis Seidenberg has been an invaluable bastion of calm, professional competence on the Boston Bruins blueline is done for the year. With any defenseman other than Seidenberg or Chara you’d shrug, examine the depth charts and medical reports and go forward. In this case however, especially with only one other veteran defender, Johnny Boychuk, that might not be an option for a team that in the words of its own leadership should compete for a Stanley Cup every year.

Option 1

Do nothing. Not precisely nothing, just don’t bring in any external talent. With Hamilton mending, and Joe Morrow doing well in the AHL you have high end draft picks waiting in the wings to fill minutes. Both are high end skaters, both have shown their pick wasn’t a waste. On the ice now are Boychuck, McQuaid, Krug, Bartkowski and Miller. The first four of them have seen playoff action under Julien and earned at least that much trust. Boychuck and McQuaid were part of the Stanley Cup win and know the game at the NHL level.

Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski are a little less familiar to fans. Krug is a small, undrafted highly mobile defenseman signed out of college as a free agent who burst onto the scene in the playoffs last year and is now the only defenseman to play in every game for the Bruins. Bartkowski’s journey is equally blue collar if of a slightly different path. Often overlooked is that the Pittsburgh native was a part of the trade that brought Seidenberg to Boston. After a false start or two Bartkowski stake a claim to to a roster spot and has been a solid contributor to the team. An interesting trivia note is that Bartkowski was supposed to be part of the aborted trade that would have brought Jarome Iginla to Boston last year.

Kevan Miller and to a lesser extent David Warsofsky and Zach Trotman are the internal candidates to help fill the roster spot while Hamilton is still recovering. While Hamilton is recovering, it is unlikely any moves will be made unless there is a major setback for the towering second year defender.  Elsewhere on the list are Tommy Cross and Chris Casto who have yet to even earn a recall.

Option 2:

The modest trade. The minutes you most want to fill are the defensive shutdown minutes which are a vast gulf that is just about impossible to fill based purely on talent or similar attributes because of the need for chemistry, and some might say synergy among those defending than pure objective skill. A trade for anyone under four million a year who could play some or all of the 2:36 a night of shorthanded time on ice Seidenberg has left unclaimed.

  • Mark Stuart, as a retread he would be familiar with all of the teams core players from Bergeron, Lucic and Krejci to Chara, Boychuk and Rask. He even played as part of an effective pairing with Boychuk. He’s tough as nails, the Jet’s aren’t going anywhere and would love a talent infusion. A couple middling draft picks for the pending (and inexpensive) UFA would do the trick.
  • Matt Greene, like Stuart is a pending UFA. With the pipeline from the Manchester Monarchs wide open the 30 year old blueliner has found his ice time reduced overall, but is still contributing a good 3:18 a night of shorthanded time on ice. At under 3 million a year, he wouldn’t break the bank and is unlikely to strip the farm bare.
  • Victor Bartley is a name that’s probably a bit under the radar anywhere outside Nashville Tennsessee and Ottawa, but Bruins brass is familiar with the 25 year old who had a ten game tour of duty with the Providence Bruins in the 2008-09 season. His on ice sv% is one of the higher ones on the Predators, and he plays solid shorthanded minutes for perhaps the most conservative minded coach in the NHL.
  • Jared Spurgeon, with 200 NHL games to his name the 25 year old is the 2nd highest paid defender for the Wild, and plays in all situations. I can’t imagine him being traded for picks alone, but for as a team that should be looking to tweak their offense, Spurgeon might find himself in a new zip code if Chuck Fletcher can find the right pieces to turn his collection of forwards into a contending team.

Next up, option 3.