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.
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.
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.
I’m hardly discounting the rest of the season, but with the draft combine here and now, I can’t go another day without posting something.
At forward for the Bruins only Recchi and Ryder are unsigned unrestricted free agents. Brad Marchand is an RFA, and as this is his entry contract and he’s played just one full year the Bruins have all the leverage.
Top forward prospects, in no particular order include:
Max Suave who’s fast, has hands that will make any goal scoring aficionado drool, and a long injury history. At 6’2 and 184 he’s a bit wiry. This is if not his last year to make the club certainly the year he needs to hit 30 goals or 65+ points in Providence and stay healthy.
Jordan Caron, in essence he only has to do two things at camp next year a: bring his A game, b: remain consistent. He made the team out of camp this year, got second line minute, and penalty kill time under our fairly conservative coach. Of all the top six potential forwards he’s the only one listed over 200lbs, by the Bruins.
Jamie Arniel, after a day at rookie camp and watching the second of the rookie games at the Boston Garden last fall, I predicted he’d be the first Providence Bruin called up and he proved me right. Remorseless work ethic, was the leading scorer in Providence last year topping the charts with 27 goals and 50 points. This is the final year of his entry contract. While most projections list him as bottom six forward in the NHL systems vary and Juliens could favor him if he brings full effort. 5’11 193.
Ryan Spooner, pure fun to watch. Amazing puck disher I heard comparisons to Marc Savard like passing at rookie camp and the rookie game. One ace he may have up his sleeve is faceoff performance, which goes well with a solid shot and great vision. He did spend the year in Juniors where he set a point per game pace for two different teams, and in the playoffs. Not exactly imposing, at 5 10 17o. Finished the year with the P-Bruins.
Jared Knight won three awards among them hardest working player on his team this year. He also lead his team in scoring. Having added enough mass to top 200lbs, his relentless drives for the goal scoring areas are likely to be harder to stop this year than last. If you haven’t seen the goal scoring highlight reel on Youtube, go look. Like Spooner he finished off his playing year in Providence collecting a pair of assists.
What the Bruins lack in general is the aggressive, physical power forward type that has been key to the success of the team in the bodies of Horton and Lucic this year. Bergeron, Seguin, Krejci and Marchand are hugely talented but none of them tops two hundred lbs and adding a little more size to some of the teams speed could make them even better.
Defense is honestly the position I find the Bruins depth thinnest at. Kaberle and Hnidy are the expiring contracts, and I expect to see Kaberle resigned for at least a year or two unless he unexpectedly retires. Steve Kampfer is likely graduated to full time duty and then we get the true prospects.
Yury Alexandrov is a Russian prospect with a couple years experience in the KHL. He was second in scoring for defensemen on the lackluster Providence Bruins last season. Fairly small, but smooth skating. Spoke no English when arriving last year. Had a better +/- at -6 than the leading scorer for defensemen on the P-Bruins last year. Hockey’s future lists him as a potential 5-6 man at the NHL level.
Ryan Button, freshly signed to his entry level deal he’s listed just above Alexandrov on Hockeysfuture.com, the is another smaller defensemen projected towards the middle or end of the depth chart. Well respected in various circles for work ethic. Played the final seven games of the Providence series.
Matt Bartkowski, was called up for six games, including the Montreal game in which Chara was ejected for the hit on Pacioretty where he saw over 13 minutes of ice time. In six games he was a -1, with no points. This probably doesn’t reflect on him. His latest callup was during a funk in Boston that saw losses to half the leagues bottom feeders. Was the last cut at training camp. Could be called a smaller Boycjuck.
David Worsofsky, college player very small, agile picked up 3 assists in 10 games with Providence last year. Unlikely to see the NHL this year. Almost purely an offensive defensemen. Pro-comparison would put him in a similar mold to Marc-Andre Bergeron.
Colby Cohen, picked up in exchange for Matt Hunwick he’s billed as an offensive defensemen with passable ability in his own zone, was one of the few players and the only defensemen to finish the season in Providence with a positive +/- at +5. Projects as another 4-6 guy. Played three games in an Avalanche uniform before being traded.
These are the best of the guys signed for next year. None of whom projects to the type of number two or number three defenseman who can run a powerplay and or lead the defense if Chara is injured, suspended or in the penalty box.
Goaltending, while Tim Thomas does impressive things in net on a regular basis, and Rask has had an admirable career so far, that is about all that can be said for the Bruins goaltending. Khudobin is a UFA and will likely get an NHL or KHL contract of some sort next year, Schaefer is not a viable choice, and Zane Gotheberg is going the college route so he’s unlikely to be seen for three or more years.
Michael Hutchinson played just 28 games in Providence this year, allowed five goals in four of those occasions one of which was a win, had one shut out. In Reading of the ECHL he had better numbers than in Providence. It’s hard to tell how much is the the problem of the first year pro, and how much was just an underwhelming Providence club.
That’s it, after Rask and Thomas there is one goalie signed for next season to fill two Providence slots, two Reading slots and cover for injuries at all three levels.
Strong top three defenseman.
Goaltending depth, even if these pieces are dealt later.
As I mentioned over at Inside Hockey the core groups on these two teams are a little different, as is the team balance. A few more posts will break down other portions of the teams.
Top Line: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Alex Burrows (except when it’s Kesler) This is purely an offensive line. Burrows does what heavy defensive lifting this line does. Daniel Sedin is the shooter, Henrik is the setup man. Burrows is also what physical presence this line has. With 26 hits in his 18 post season games Burrows is 8th on the team in hits, the twins have combined for 11. Together the line is a -4, all three see heavy powerplay time with the brothers Sedin ranking one and two. Henrik Sedin won the Hart last year, Daniel is likely to have one for his very own this year.
Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler, Chris Higgins this is as much a second offensive line as a checking line. Kesler who most will remember from his play for USA during the past Olympics is second on the team in points, tied for second in goals, leads all Vancouver forwards in TOI and is instrumental to the lineup in all situations. Raymond also gets a lot of PK time. This trio is a combined +12. With 118 hits between them this is a very different look from the first line.
Jannik Hansen, Maxim Lapierre, Raffi Torres, with a combined five goals in the playoffs its easy to overlook this line. Torres is the teams best know walker of the fine line between legal play and suspension worthy violations. Lapierre leads the team in post season penalty minutes, has four 10 minute misconducts to his credit, 1 diving, and 1 unsportsmanlike among the standout to his credit he’s also second for forwards on the team in blocked shots, and has an over 50% rating in the faceoff circle. Hansen was healthy enough to play all 82 regular season games, and each post season game with respectable minutes, and few penalties.
4th line and others:
Tanner Glass, Cody Hodgson, Victor Oreskovich, make up the 4th line as currently configured and average under eight minutes a game each. Combined they have about fifty hits, are a -11 and have one point.
Manny Malhotra is a faceoff guru with strong defensive skills who hasn’t played since March. He suffered an eye injury, and has just recently been cleared to practice and or play again depending on which source you are listening to. Vancouvers head coach has been coy on if he would play or not, and Vancouver and national media have speculated that if he does he would be matched up against the Bruins top line.
Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Nathan Horton, with a heavy hitter with loose gloves on either wing a quick look at the regular season statistics page might convince you they were fourth line bangers. On the other hand, both Lucic and Horton have racked up thirty goal season in their careers, Lucic with his first this season, and Horton with his in 2005-6. David Krejci is the center, he is often very high or very low in production, but has either lead outright or tied for the Bruins points lead in the last two seasons. The three were together most of the season and own seven of the Bruins 12 game winning goals this post season. This line is a combined +24.
Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi, while non of the three on this line is particularly large, they don’t appear to know it. With none of the three topping two hundred pounds they own three of the teams top six hit slots for forwards with Bergeron second only to Vancouver native Milan Lucic in hits. Bergeron is the playmaking, faceoff dominating center who is good in all three zones, owns a short handed goal this post season, and has a knack for unassisted goals. Marchand is a speedy pest with good hands, vision and looks nothing like a rookie. Mark Recchi is the NHL’s elderstatesman and the future hall of famer has a finely tuned sense of where to be and which way to lean. Not as fast as he was ten years ago, he still manages to make his time on the ice count. This line is a combined +19
Tyler Sequin, Chris Kelly, Michael Ryder. The teen sensation has only played seven of the post season games, but has applied lessons picked up all season to be effective. He had a four point period against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and possesses both breakaway speed and hard, accurate shot. Could be slightly more effective defensively. Michael Ryder has had his best post season in a Bruins uniform, he’s been physical at need, defensively sound, and has used his quick hands to score five goals, two were game winners. Kelly, is the steady defensive rudder at center on this line, plays tons of time short handed and generally one of those players who flies under the radar unless you follow his play closely. This line is a combined +15
4th line and others:
Rich Peverley, Greg Campbell, Daniel Paille make up the fourth line we’ve seen the last several games. Peverley and Paille own above average speed, and neither Paille or Campbell shy away from a hit, if it can be made without giving up defensive position. All three are among the top five penalty killing forwards and frequently on the ice to protect a lead in the waning moments. Peverley had been on the third line before an injury to Bergeron allowed Seguin back into the lineup, and will likely see time on other lines as forwards are rested, injured or penalized. This line is a combined +1
Shawn Thornton, resident beat cop and generally rides with Paille and Campbell, while more known for his work with his gloves off did rack up ten goals and ten assists this season. He was made the odd man out when Seguins ascension and Bergeron’s returned. Quietly important team leader.
While the Canucks have the clear advantage on the powerplay, at even strength the advantage is muted or removed entirely. The Bruins come into this series with more goals scored (58 to 50), and quite a few more even strength goals, with the Bruins putting together 47 even strength goals and the Canucks just 30 the teams are even in four on four goals with one a side. Essentially the Canucks have higher scoring players, but the Bruins have more players scoring.
The Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks may only play once or twice a year in the regular season, but don’t think you won’t know some of the players suiting up for the other team.
Chris Higgins, former Canadiens winger turned vagabond has settled into a role with the Canucks that see’s him playing in all situations. Among other fond memories for Bruins fans will be his saying the Habs would win because “we’re faster” during the 2008-09 playoffs. The Bruins swept that series.
Maxim Lappiere, like his former Montreal running mate Higgins this isn’t his first stop since leaving Quebec. Anaheim was a short term stop before he was shoveled out the door at the deadline. Playing on three teams this season he stacked up an impressive six goals, 12 points 81 penalty minute -14 and an untallied triple digit number of dives.
Andrew Alberts. The former BC Eagle is one of the three or four hundred guys to have suited up for the the defense of the Vancouver Canucks. He got into the linueup forty two times in the regular season and three in the postseason.
Cory Schnieder, another former BC Eagle is has not played for the Bruins but is a Marblehead native who went to Phillips Andover accademy and has better numbers this year in both regular season and playoffs in GAA and Sv% than the starter that Chicago fans refer to as “Lolongo”. Maybe when Bobby Lou said Schnieder was just as good as he was it was an understatement?
Milan Lucic grew up in Vancouver British Columbia, and is treated like a rockstar when he returns in part because of The Shift and won the Memorial Cup MVP.
Future Hall of Famer Mark Recchi is from Kaloomps about three and half hours outside Vancouver according to the GPS, or maybe two hours forty five minutes for most of my fellow Massholes.