The Boston Bruins have accomplished what every hockey player in history has dreamed of. They did it in unprecedented fashion by winning three game sevens, beating the President’s Trophy Winners in the finals and going blow for blow with their arch rivals in the opening round. All of those are great team accomplishments, they speak to the togetherness of the unit.  There are however some players who just don’t get the recognition they deserve, partly because they play so unselfishly, or because they aren’t being used to their fullest.

Over the course of his career in Boston, no player has been more consistently selfless on the ice than Patrice Bergeron. It often get’s ignored, in fact I doubt the main stream media has any clue about it, but he’s got more points in less games than media darling Ryan Kesler. This is despite the season after his first concussion that was statistically ruinous for him in any meaningful offensive category.  With the sole exception of the year he spent rolling up and down the ice with Marco Sturm and Brad Boyes he’s also been far removed from playing with high end or even above average scoring talent.

In the last few years we’ve seen him yoked to expiring offensive talents, those for whom offense is a nice after thought and those who are playing with or just returning from significant injury.  PJ Axelsson for all his huge contributions away from the puck was never going to be confused for an offensive dynamo any more than he was a supreme pugilist. Mark Recchi had several awe inspiring offensive seasons, but those were long past by the time he was make his critical contributions to the Bruins Stanley Cup run. While Brad Marchand had a solid season this year, last year he spent twenty games on Bergeron’s wing and got exactly 1 point. Fellow French Canadian Jordan Caron scored three goals in his 23 games with Boston last season. None of Caron’s goals were scored after his eighth game of the season and he was eventually reassigned to Providence.

We got glimpses of the offensively oriented version of Patrice Bergeron that has been kept cloistered by injury and line-mates last season. When Krejci was sidelined by injury, Bergeron was called upon to slide between Lucic and Horton and together the three became the most imposing line the Boston Bruins have iced since the 700lb Line.  More than that he was the NHL’s First Star for January, tossing seventeen points on the board in fourteen games with a not too shabby +13 to go with it.

On a team that’s been starved for an offensive dynamo since the days of Oats and Neely, it seems odd they’ve misplayed one so thoroughly.  You’d be hard pressed to find a comparable player that is more talked about than Ryan Kesler, and Bruins fans with varying levels of longing recall Phil Kessels offensive aptitude, and yet neither of them is as effective on a pure points per game basis. Ryan Kesler is plugging along with an average of 0.595 pts per game for his career, Phil Kessel is at 0.655 despite playing the last two seasons on a bottom feeder, and throughout all Bergeron is 0.739 points per game.

Imagine the difference maker Bergeron could be if welded to offensive players of higher output for just a moment or two.  A few other facts about one of the NHL’s most underrated players; In this years playoffs, no Bruins forward was a + player in more games, no forward had more multipoint games,  no Bruins player had more assists.

Offensively speaking, we’ve yet to see the best of Bergeron for an entire season. You have to wonder what that could be if given a lighter penalty killing load and more time on the powerplay and at five on five. The Bruins have a larder well stocked with superb players short handed, Paille, Campbell, Kelly, Peverley and Marchand spring to mind at forward, and Krejci has spent time on the PK as well. If Caron or Arniel make the team they too could be integrated into the shorthanded duties.

Based on his own play, and the talent around him on the team there is no reason to believe he can’t crack 30 goals (or more) again and or  put together a fifty assist season. The seventeen points in fourteen game rampage Bergeron went on in January if projected out to a whole season works out to 99.57 points. Just trimming back his short handed minutes to allow for fresher legs 5 on 5 might spark a serious increase in scoring. With the end of the Tim Thomas epoch just over the event horizon, added offense will be at a premium and there’s no tool more valuable than the right one in hand.

 

It’s not a secret that I find the Benoit Pouliot deal a tiny bit incomprehensible. You might say I find it just as curious as calling the anarchists who show up to sporting events with Molotov cocktails, gasoline and ski masks and then proceed to instigate a riot no matter the outcome “sports fans”. As a rule, most sports fans who’s team lose are too dejected to do anything more harmful than toss back a couple more adult beverages and eat something with enough salt to treat their driveway for two snowy weeks.

Of the moves made, and not for people who were in the system, and played an important role, here are the rankings:

Made:

  • Pouliot, thumbs down. He’s not a very high bar to pass. Looking back at the 2005 draft it was about as thin as they get. No forward above the 4th round with as many games has less goals. He’s not very disciplined. He’s not a good goal scorer. He’s made 22 playoff appearances without a goal while going -5. He’s now on this third team since being drafted six years ago and has yet to play his 200th NHL game despite being a high draft pick who turned pro in 2006-7.
  • Khodoubin, thumbs up. Best move of the day, with Rasks knee a question mark to start the season, the question of what will be down with two goaltenders who are #1s, and the uncertainty of the long pro season, great move. Better still, we’ll have a good idea how much of the Providence Bruins performance is due to the goaltending, and how much is the play in front of them. I’m honestly surprised no NHL team grabbed him as at least a backup. He managed to go from the Houston Areo’s an AHL Calder Cup Finalist, to the Providence Bruins who didn’t make the playoffs and improve both his GAA and Sv%.
  • Whitfield. thumbs up. Work ethic, work ethic, work ethic he was captain of the Providence Bruins last year and likely will be the next two years.  Not especially gifted physically, but knows where to be and how to read plays.I suspect he’ll probably have a job as a coach as soon as he hangs up his skates.

Not made:

  • Ryder, thumbs up. Sorta, he played better in the late season and playoffs than in his previous 18 months in uniform. Part of the post season success was linking up with Seguin and Kelly, particularly Seguin. That said for much of stay in Boston he wasn’t even a passenger he was luggage. If he’d signed a 1 year pact for what he signed on for in Dallas, I wouldn’t have complained, I think the one year deals are good for motivation of “enigmatic” players like Ryder and Semin.
  • Marchand, thumbs down. This is a provisional thumbs down, but the teams who have been left out, or teams like the LA Kings who have a bleeding need at left wing might be tempted to throw out an offer sheet. With the exception of Selanne, no UFA forward on the market scored more goals than Marchand did last year. Morrison had 2 more points last season, everyone else left was noticeably less of a contributor. Also, with Recchi retired, retooling an entire line for no better reason than dickering over a contract with a player who proved he was willing to put in the work to improve year over year and contributed in all areas is a bit silly.
  • Kaberle, thumbs up. Despite the nonsense spewing from the folks on TSN/NHLnet on July 1, Kaberle was mostly a non factor. For comparison, Ference had 0:50 of PPTOI per game in the playoffs and Kaberle had 3:46, Ference had two assists, Kaberle five. No NHL team has ever depended on Ference for propping up their offense, and yet in the second season Ference had four goals, which is exactly four more than Kaberle produced. Any contract more than 1 year is a bad idea. Anything approaching the contract he had is unwarranted. I don’t see how one of the free agents or prospects could fail to match his performance with the Bruins for a lot cheaper.

No move can ever be evaluated 100% fairly until the contract is up or some amazing achievement has been made, but history says a lot about each of these players.

One of the fonder and more recent memories Bruins fans will have is of game two against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Patrice Bergeron is looking on from a suite, the first game of the series had been dropped, and neither the first or second lines looked engaged. The outlook was bleak. And then there was the second period.

An anxious Causeway crowd was treated to a visit by both the ghost of hockey future and hockey past. Tyler Seguin’s future was put center stage under the big light and he jumped into the spotlight and provided neat looks, quick feet, and a stellar shot. No one was more responsible for that win than Seguin. Number two on the list was the type of player the Bruins have lacked for many years, a gifted set of hands, a nose for the puck and the ability to set a screen. Michael Ryder was that man. This was the two time 30 goal scorer Montreal once coveted with the ability to anticipate where the puck was going to be and put quality shots on net from any angle, in traffic or in the clear.

For one period two unlikely players dominated a game played at the highest level. The chemistry showed in this game by these two was breathtaking, and the results tipped the balance in the eastern conference finals. If these two can show that kind of frisson in the future there is no reason not to resign Ryder for another season, and perhaps move Kelly during the season for a draft pick from a team that is likely to finish below the Bruins in the standings. With Recchi’s retirement, if Ryder were resigned that would just leave the spare forwards roster spot to fill. Depending on what Julien and Chiiarelli want for that position the front runners are almost certainly Caron, Arniel and Knight. If Ryder is let go that makes things even more interesting.

What a season. What a series. What a dream.

Mark Recchi has said he’s done, and he got to go out on top of the mountain, in his home province. With an assist, a +3 and 4 faceoff wins off the wing and a couple good hits. He’s going to the Hall of Fame for all the right reasons, and his last team is one that helps break a drought that goes back decades.

Roberto Luongo had zero chance on the first Bergeron goal, which was the eventual game winner. The Marchand goal was possibly a bad goal with it bouncing off his body before going in. The third goal was the killer though, he allowed a shorthanded goal with the goal scorer already on his stomach. Had he been a little tougher to move that goal might not go in.

Tim Thomas.

Patrice Bergeron.

Brad Marchand.

Boston Bruins 2010-2011 Stanley Cup Champions

16: One team has a coach who knows what the adjustments that need to be made after a loss are, the other one says “it doesn’t matter”.

15: Patrice Bergeron who has scored at least once goal in each round has yet to score against the Canucks.

14: The hockey gods are not kind to the arrogant, note that the Canucks tried to sell their parade broadcast rights before game six.

13: Between injuries and suspensions the Canucks are missing Mason Raymond, Dan Hamuis and Aaron Rome.

12: Game 7 will be the 100th playoff game of Zdeno Chara.

11: This is the twentieth anniversary of Mark Recchi’s first Cup winning year.

10: The most popular player on the ice will be Vancouver native Milan Lucic.

9: Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis has never won a championship at any level.

8: Only seven of twenty five President’s Trophy winning teams have won the Stanley Cup.

7: Of the President’s Trophy winning teams to win the Stanley Cup, none have collected the Stanley Cup in their first President’s Trophy win.

6: There really is a conspiracy against the Canucks, the comments by “keepthesonics” over at Puck Daddy prove it all.

5: The goalie with the better regular season stats has won the last three Cups.

4: The Canucks have not scored back to back powerplay goals in this series.

3: Only four teams have won the Cup while being outscored, none with a deficit as large as the Canucks currently is.

2: Claude Julien has won coach of the year in the NHL and the AHL.

1:  It is the anniversary 6/17/2007 of the “reassigning” of Dave Lewis away from head coaching duties.

 

Before the games started their were dozens of  questions. When an infraction that is the NHL’s sworn responsibility to eliminate silenced the crowd, all the other questions went away and two new ones arose in their place. The first is how much damage was done to Nathan Horton by Aaron Rome’s headshot. The second was how do the Bruins respond. The hit for those who haven’t seen it is graphic, don’t play it if it will disturb you.

When Rome was ejected, and the Bruins failed to finish on six shots during the ensuing five minute major, one of those questions was answered in the minds of some viewers. The first period ended. The second period was the answer. In that period the Bruins took physical and emotional control. Ference blasted a shot from the point to open the even strength scoring. Mark Recchi followed up with a powerplay goal for the second one in two games. When the Bruins went on the penalty kill, they may have been out numbered but clearly the Canucks were outmanned as Brad Marchand went from his own blueline to poke the puck away, across the ice to recapture it and then crossed over in front of Luongo scoring from almost directly below the faceoff dot back across his own body. David Krejci would add another even strength goal.

The third period would see the second shorthanded goal of the night, this time Boychuck to Paille with a blooper past Bobby Lou at the tail end of the type of rush coaches dream of their penalty killers making. The Bruins would receive a small shock when Hansen scored to breathe life into the Canucks. Various forms of shenanigans would follow with Burrows, Lucic, Kesler, Seidenberg, Chara, Torres, D Sedin would all earn penalties before the game was over. But before the final horn the Bruins would add another Recchi goal, one by Kelly and a powerplay goal from Ryder for the second of the game.

One hundred fifty five penalty minutes in the game, many of them matching. The vaunted Vancouver powerplay not only went zero for eight, while giving up two shorthanded goals. While the twelve shots might seem a solid showing, the Canucks had two powerplays where they failed to record even a shot. The ruins had just four powerplays on the night but converted on fifty percent of them.

On the birthday if number 8 “Bam Bam Cam”, the guys on the ice would give club president Cam Neely the best gift they could.  Nathan Horton is said to be alert at the hospital, but will be kept overnight for observation. Good luck Nathan, get healthy, and don’t lose your smile.

Game 2 had both things to like, and things to dislike. The Bruins managed to convert on their powerplay with no less than Mark Recchi contributing a goal for the first time since April 27th against the Flyers. The game tying goal was also his first point of any kind since May 6th. If he’s managed to refill the tank and get things going again, it can’t hurt the teams efforts. Also to like, was seeing Milan Lucic pot the Bruins opening goal.  Solid play were he went to the net instead of near it tossing a wrist shot past Luongo.

At the head of the list of things not to like is the failure to contain Alex Burrows. The powerplay goal was bad enough, and Boychuck and Ference looked confused and distracted.  Worse was the overtime goal that sealed the game. On the surface of the play Chara was brutally incompetent in his handling of Burrows breakaway. Others have interpreted it as Thomas coming out too aggressively, but that was clearly a recognition of a slower defenseman being behind a speedy forward and cutting down the angle. Had Chara used the invitation that was engraved on a gold brick with platinum inlay to drill Burrows, or at least stayed in contact with him around the back of the net lifting the stick or hell just taken a holding or interference penalty, that goal doesn’t happen.

Not to be overlooked were Kelly and Krejci’s inability to win faceoffs. Two of the more worrying things of note on the night weren’t readily apparent just watching the game. The first is that despite a minute and a half of powerplay time, Tyler Seguin did not garner a single shot, for that matter Patrice Bergeron also failed to get a shot in on Luongo. Also Mark Recchi somehow recorded the most hits on the team for the night. Neither of those things can continue if the Bruins are to have a shot at winning.

 

This drinking game is not for the meek, I wouldn’t advise reading any further if you small bladder or high sensitivity to caffeine or alcohol.

Take one drink when:

The amount of time it’s been since the Bruins won a Cup is mentioned.

Any mention of the Canunks never having won a Cup.

The fact that the two head coaches played together is mentioned.

Any reference is made to the number of Canadian or American players on one of the teams.

There is a tv timeout with two or more Geico ads.

A member of the media asks a completely idiotic question before, during or after the game.

Take two drinks when:

Bobby Orr is mentioned.

An announcer, or player mentions how long it has been since a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup.

Milan Lucic is shown in video playing in Juniors.

The Cam Neely-Barry Pederson trade is brought up.

Any video of the USA vs Canada Olympic games is shown.

The announcers verbally perform a biblical sin on Ryan Kesler.

The Tim Thomas save on Steve Downie is mentioned or shown.

Roberto Luongo is shown letting in a goal to Chicago.

Take three drinks when:

Zdeno Chara’s height, weight, or physical fitness are mentioned.

The Sedin’s cycling the puck is mentioned.

The special teams are brought up when they are playing five on five.

The general managers, owners or other non coaching staff are shown.

Someone feels the need to mention that Vancouver, British Columbia is in western Canada.

Take four drinks when:

The pink hat who started watching hockey in the second round correctly interprets a referees  hand signal of a call.

Any player having been traded at or near the deadline is mentioned.

Matchups from previous series are brought up.

There is scrum not involving Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic, Aaron Rome, Brad Marchand or Alex Burrows.

Take five drinks if someone mentions Bieksa’s toughness and mentions the fight with Patrick Marleau.

 

Skip your next drink:

If Milan Lucic scores in Vancouver and the announcers fail to mention he’s from Vancouver.

The announcers mention any play by Mark Recchi and fail to note he has his name on the Cup with two different teams already.

You hear a Canadian announcer fail to pronounce the Bruins Captains name Chair-ah.

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.

Draft Wishlist:

  1. Strong top three defenseman.
  2. Goaltending depth, even if these pieces are dealt later.
  3. Power forward.