With the news that top line right wing Nathan Horton has taken a step back in his recovery we’re faced with two important concerns. The first is for Nathans health. I love hockey, I like watching him play when he’s ready to roll out a strong game. But there’s no player I want to see on the ice more than I want them to be able to function in daily life. If he has reached the point where that is threatened it is time for him to hang up the skates. He’s won a cup. He’s made some good friends on the team and elsewhere and he’s gotten the opportunity to see the world. He can retire content in how much he achieved, no one can doubt that the Bruins were a better team with him in the lineup. When he had his A game he was a monster, when he had his B game he was still a force. But is it time? Should he shut down for the rest of the season now and hope to return for the playoffs? Should he just go home now and start working out in late July towards a return in the fall? That’s something he, his doctors, family and the team have to decide.
The other key question is who do they replace him with. Cap space isn’t an issue unless they plan on adding Iginla and Carter. Even then, they could add a full 13 million without putting his salary on the LTIR, and that’s without putting Savard their either. Short term or long term replacement is part of the equation. Chris Stewart who I mentioned in a previous post may or may not be available. If he is, he’s just about perfect. He possibly needs a change of scenery, he’s aggressive, big bodied, can score and his contract expires at the end of the year.
David Jones of the Avalanche is another player who might need a change of scenery. Or possibly just reasonably healthy top centers to play with. He’s got an inexpensive contract as well and could possibly be had for no more than a prospect or middle round pick.
The Phoenix Coyotes have Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney who would all look pretty damn spiffy in a Bruins uniform. But I don’t see them being moved at all. The Coyotes enter play tonight still in 8th place. They have played more games than most of the west, but 8th place is still a playoff spot and as long as they have that, I don’t see a trade happening. I can’t picture them wanting to give the appearance of tanking on purpose.
Internally, I think it might be time to try Jordan Caron in a top line role. Give hims 17 or 18 minutes of time a night and see what happens. When he plays confidently he plays effectively. He’s proven an effective penalty killer and it is past time we found out what he can do with the opportunity to earn a top six role over a couple weeks time.
If depth is the desire and Horton is not expected back picking up one or two of the above and or the much rumored Tuomo Ruutu, the New York Islanders pending UFA P.A. Parenteau who like Horton is a right handed shot. For pure nostalgia, I’d bet Kobasew or Boyes could be had, but I can’t see them providing offense at a high enough level to justify a lot spent to get them. Given the chronically woeful state of Edmonton’s defense, sending out a prospect or two from the blueline that brought back Gagner or Paajarvi-Svensson would be win-win for both teams.
Whatever is decided, the drop dead date is the deadline. Much as I have faith at least one or two of the guys in Providence will turn into NHL guys, it doesn’t look it’s this year.
Assuming the top UFA’s to be like Suter and Parise are not available at the dead line, here’s a look at the best teams in the NHL and what could be done to put them over the top.
New York Rangers:
The Rangers lead the east in total points,Lundqvist is a beast and the team is in sync. What the could use is a little nitrous in the offensive tank. Of all six division leaders only the Panthers have less goals. The highest scoring left wing on the team is rookie speedster Carl Hagelin, making Ray Whitney a solid pick to slide in as an offensive upgrade who’s played well in a system that requires a defensive accountability. Better he’s old enough John Tortorella won’t hate him on sight.
Detroit Red Wings:
As always a well balanced team, but a look at the minutes played by defensemen says there is a clear divide between the guys Babcock and company trust and everyone else. A veteran defenseman who can contribute to the system is the item to covet. Jaroslav Spacek would slide nicely into the 5-6 if he get’s some powerplay time at worst he’ll provide a different look than the crew that has them 16th in the NHL.
It’s hard to tweak the defending champs when they have the best goals differential in the NHL, and have strong special teams. That said they’ve suffered some serious brain cramps lately, and Nathan Horton’s outlook is rather murky. Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli have a near fetish for depth on defense, and Marek Zidliky could almost certainly be talked into waiving his NTC, and there have been hints about Chris Stewart of the St Louis Blues being available. As short term stand-in for Nathan Horton he’s intriguing.
Statistically this team is very similar to some of the Red Wings teams of the past, but I don’t see the same mental makeup. Those teams could deal with other teams playing a more gritty style and still win, I’m not sure this team can. Someone who combines enough skill to be on the ice fairly often, and enough composure to roll with the punches as they come up against imposing teams. Bryan Allen might be an option, he’s likely to throw the body, and can eat up some of the PK time in the playoffs.
While many aren’t quite ready to put the word “contender” on the board next to their name, they’ve led their division most of the season. Upgrading a 23rd ranked penalty kill going into the second season is never a bad idea. For that Hal Gill could be a their savior. Offensively there are a number of players who could help them climb a bit closer to the top offensive teams in the NHL.
San Jose Sharks:
The 26th ranked penalty kill isn’t something any team wants going into the playoffs. Mark Eaton is a UFA to be, and currently plays a good bit of time shorthanded on the Islanders 8th ranked PK, so is Steve Staios.
A defensive upgrade is a must. If they want more than a rental, or someone who’s not discussed here it probably mean sacrificing a roster player like Briere or Schenn. Having given up the most goals of the top four teams in each conference they’ll be lucky to escape the first round without some sort of fix. If the Wild become sellers or swappers, Clayton Stoner might be a good fit, likewise if the Stars sell Souray could be on the table.
Pekka Rinne has been huge for this team, and Weber and Suter have put in their normal performances that earn superlatives like at rate similar to Scott Gomez’s dollars per point. What the team needs is a skilled goal scorer. They aren’t desperate for goals at 12th in the league which is one behind the New York Rangers, but they are led in goals by Hornquist and Fisher who each have fifteen goals. They very quietly have the 2nd best power-play in the NHL but as we saw last year special teams don’t always decide championships. Cap space not being a serious issue, taking a flyer on Alex Semin might not be the worst idea ever, but for a player who can add some playoff experience, Jason Blake has some attractions, as does Ray Whitney.
The Boston Bruins are broken. They may not be as badly off as the Columbus Blue Jackets or The Montreal Canadiens but like those teams they need someone to reach under the hood and switch out a few parts. The Bruins problems come under three main categories. None of the categories is all that deep, but they are all enough to damage the Bruins system and momentum.
Below peak performance:
The two players this is most true of are notable here simply for what they are capable of put haven’t done this season. The first is Nathan Horton. Unfortunately as we’ve seen with other concussed players there is no magic pep talk you can give to make the recovery go faster. How long it takes to recover both physically and mentally varies widely based in part on how severe the injury was, how it was suffered and the mental and physical health of the player. Before Tom Sestito hit that put Horton out we had started to see him climbing back into the top of the form that made him and Lucic such a scary combination to deal with. As of now it is unknown when Horton will play again which unfortunately waters down the Kelly line as well.
Johnny Boychuk is the other player failing to thrive. In his rookie season he played fifty-one games. As a rookie he averaged a shade over seventeen and a half minutes a night and pulled down 15 points or .29 points per game. This season, while playing as much even strength as he did total that year, he’s totaled nine points in 49 games .18 PPG which puts him on pace for a total of 13 should he play every game the rest of the season. That represents a 30% swing in productivity. Worse, he’s making the same poor choices he did as a rookie. One of those is dumping the puck into the offensive zone on an offside instead of retreating to the neutral zone and retaining control of the puck, he can be counted on to give up control of the puck.
Reversion to normal:
Benoit Pouliot had a couple magical weeks that made you see why he was drafted so high. It was fun to watch. You could see why teams keep hoping they have the magical coaching to turn him into a legitimate top six forward and consistent threat. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that’s happened. Despite half of his eight goals being game winners, and a couple of them just plain pretty, and a better shooting percentage than last year, Pouliot is on pace for less points this year than last. Despite half a minutes more ice time, a better offensive team than last years and a strong two months span, he’s playing here about like he did everywhere else.
Joe Corvo is the other player who is depending on your point of view either returning to form now or still playing the way he always has. Defensively he absolutely is worse than Kaberle. He turns the puck over at least twice a game regular as a metronome regardless of what the real time stats say. He’s aggressive enough in the defensive zone in any category that doesn’t count attempting to force bad outlet passes. His body and stick don’t do much to move the puck out of danger areas, nor does he attack the opposition attempting to pry the puck loose or force them to go around him. His shot is impressive when he uncorks it, I just don’t see the total package justifying playing time.
With the Pouliot experiment, and the issues with Horton, Corvo and Boychuk other players have been forced into roles that are clear as mud. For Jordan Caron and Zach Hamill, the constant in and out of the lineup, or trips up and down the roster can’t have helped them adjust. During one two week span Hamill for example played fourth line center, first line left wing, second line right wing and bounced through all three positions on the third line. Caron who broke camp with the team was flipped in and out of the lineup for Pouliot a number of times when arguably he was the better player but the distinction was clearly a very fine one. To date, Caron has played as many games in the AHL as the NHL, and spent just nearly as many in the pressbox. One can’t help but wonder how much further along these two would be if they played consistently.
Less noticeably, but just as perplexing is Steve Kampfer’s for the most part non-play. He did injure himself early in the season but was skating with no limitations long ago. With the inconsistent play of Corvo and Boychuk (among others) it seems odd it would take a suspension to Ference for him to get into action again. While neither has been exactly impressive offensively, in half the ice time and spotty play Kampfers points per game is slightly higher than Boychuks. In a lineup with Shawn Thornton, Adam Mcquaid, Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic and several others it’d be hard to put either Kampfer or Corvo into list of most intimidating players, Kampfer is more likely to throw a good hit, and turns the puck over less. He may or may not be as offensively gifted but he’s clearly more active and more aggressive defensively, more importantly he shows his hunger to be on the ice every night when he laces the skates up.
None of the Bruins problems are insurmountable. Equally true none of them will fix themselves. You can’t expect to win consistently with two thirds of your defense playing erratically, and while trying to use a marginal third line player as a key component on the powerplay. That is not how this team is built, it is not how they win. No further proof is needed than a look at their record of the last ten games: 4-5-1. Three of those regulation losses have come to the basement dwelling Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes and the Ovechkin-less bubble team Capitals.
Tonight the Boston Bruins throwdown with the Ottawa Senators. Just days ago Tim Thomas, Tyler Seguin and Zdeno Chara faced Erik Karlsson, Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Ottawa Captain Daniel Alfredsson in the All Star game and skills competition. Tonight the goals count for more than bragging rights, the win will either provide separation or leave the division rivals in a points tie at the top of the Northeast division.
Tonight is the third of six games between the clubs this season. Thus far the magic number is “5′. The Bruins have scored five goals in each of the first two games. The Senators have scored a total of five goals in those two games. Boston Will be without Nathan Horton who continues to recover from his second concussion in a year, this suffered on an unpenalized hit against the Flyers. The Senators are missing Jesse Winchester and Peter Regin, both out indefinitely since December 21st.
Horton’s concussion, has fueled trade speculation with desired club acquisitions including the New York Islanders Kyle Okposo and the Phoenix Coyotes Ray Whitney. Zach Parise who can of course be had for a pair of 3rd year AHL nobody’s is also on the radar. Any of the three is as likely as the other at this point, but one name I think bears thinking about is one that was linked to the Bruins for three or four straight years. The biggest holdup on Carter escaping the host city for next years All Star extravaganza isn’t his desire to get out, unhappiness with the city or even his play. Players like Steve Montador, Joffery Lupul, Kris Versteeg and other frequent travelers not to mention every goalie who isn’t in the top five or six prove most organizations believe they can fix any problems with a player. Magical coaching is a belief held as commonly as not stepping on the logo on the locker room floors, even if no one is willing to admit it.
I think the tide has turned on the forever contracts. The ten years left on his contract will carry him past his 37th birthday. While he’s probably worth the slightly more than five million dollar cap hit he’s on the books for, it is hard to imagine dedicating that much cap space, regardless of actual salary to a 34 or 35 year old s fraught with tension for any general manager. A cap hit as high as Carter’s would make him the highest paid forward in a lot of cities, while unquestionably talented it remains to be seen if he has the ability to be the type of impact player generally associated with being the top paid player at a position.
Later this week, the Bruins will host the Carolina Hurricanes including much rumored blueline reinforcement Gleason has just signed a contract that should have Boychuk and Corvo’s agents laughing themselves silly. The Hurricanes sit 15th in the east and 27th overall, but have taken the previous meetings this season with the Bruins. Saturday the Pittsburgh Penguins skate in for a matinee. The potentially Crosbyfied Penguins will arrive in Boston with days rest off of a back to back home and home set against the Toronto Maple Leafs where Brian Burke (@LeafsBB20) will probably kvetch about Don Cherry some more.
Across the month of February the Bruins play 13 games in 28 days including three back to backs sets. Five of this months games are against teams not currently in playoff position. Six games are against teams currently in the top five in their conference including two games against the Senators, games against the Penguins and Rangers, and a tilt with the Predators.
One can always count on the run up to the trade deadline to ratchet the cranks spewing rumors into high gear. Some of the teams who will no doubt be sitting squarely atop the sprockets and wearing down the tonfas* of the mills as we get ever closer to deadline day. Who’s at the bottom of the stack hasn’t changed dramatically in the last couple of weeks, but the teams that should be humongous big sellers in the middle, will probably end up buyers.
The Columbus Blue Jackets brought in talent by free agency over the summer. They brought in talent via trade as well. What they didn’t bring in was anything vaguely like depth. When you are spending close to the cap and getting less than teams in your division you are outspending by an eight digit figure. While media pressure, and tradition and the hope of hype will say “draft Yakupov”, I have different advice: trade the pick and the middle or bottom of the roster for a stud defenseman and a good goalie. Shocking as it is to hear, goaltending is believed by some to be critical to winning. Also of note, of the last four Stanley Cup Champions three had a Norris winner on the roster. Just a thought.
The Edmonton Oilers: See all those things I said about defense? Yeah that. It applies to you too. Also, drafting guys with a history of frequent injuries might be something to consider skipping this year.
The Montreal Canadiens are to be sellers if you ask RDS scribe Mario Tremblay. Two of the players on his list of sellable bits just don’t make any sense from the perspective of work ethic and ability. Why someone would trade Lars Ellers who will undoubtedly wear the nickname “Danish Dynamo” when he’s an RFA this summer is beyond me. On the other hand the number of things that make zero sense in Habsland this season exceed the number that are perfectly sensible by an order of magnitude. Brian Gionta has certainly underperformed this year, but its a touch difficult to excel when you’ve got an average AHL team skating around with you. Possibly Gionta asked out? Who knows.
The Hurricanes kicked off the sell off with an early assault on competitiveness by jettisoning the admittedly underwhelming Ponikarovski to New Jersey for not a great deal. Speculation has Ruutu or Gleason (why not both?) being shipped north. Among the other potential destinations for No-Not-Jarkko-I’m-Tuomo Ruutu are the defending Stanley Cup champions. One wonders if Nathan Horton would get as much of a workout out of ragdolling whatever defeneman replaced Gleason in games between the two clubs.
The Buffalo Sabres who’s owner has already given them a pass on the season have bounced off the Hurricanes at the bottom of the east and are above them on the strength of having played two less games. Injuries have been a serious problem yes, but there’s some intangible missing on this team that begs for an overhaul nonetheless. Some would call it competitiveness. Having iced 30 skaters and 3 goalies across the course of the season they at least know what the their system holds. Robyn Regehr might be an attractive trade piece to move out the door even with singularly uninspiring offensive season thus far. Assuming someone thinks they can goose him hard enough to get him looking like a 40 goal scorer again, Brad Boyes is pending UFA and probably not on Lindy Ruff’s top three list of UFA’s to bring back.
If Koivu and Selanne were to ask for trades before the deadline, the return on the two of them would help the Ducks for years to come. Yes, trading the first and fifth leading scorers and second and first in plus-minus will probably make the post trade season look a lot like all of the year up to January when the Occasional-Big-Three remembered they were payed at a passable level to produce wings. That said, having a second line center or legitimate impact defenseman not named Visnovsky or Beauchemin for a couple seasons to come could make early trips to the draft podium a smidgin less likely.
The Flames should be selling, they will probably be buying but I don’t think they can buy enough: 1) A #1 Center, 2) Another solid winger to make any dent in the playoffs. They do still have to make it in, and do have more regulation wins than the three teams ahead of them but it will still be tough to make it in.
Tampa Bay needs a goalie, which I’m sure is the biggest bombshell dropped on the hockey world this year, but it still needs saying. Adding a defensive defenseman wouldn’t exactly kill the team either.
The Wild should try to be both buyers and sellers. Even more so than Buffalo injuries have rained on the parade of what looked to be the Cindarella team of the season. Swapping out a few of their spare defensemen for some scoring talent, particularly of the long term variety could make them a perennial contender. Having skated 10 defensemen among their 36 total players to take the ice this year it is a little hard to imagine them not having a handle on who is capable of what. Harding is also a UFA to be and teams wanting to evaluate him in their system and get a jump on negotiations with him might pay a premium to do so.
Figuring out what the Islanders should do is tough, (insert your joke here) they have a lot of pending UFA’s, and several promising prospects playing in juniors. Shipping a few of the elders out will bring some return, but what worth from a team that might not be in the lottery for the first time in years is anyones guess. For the future they have between 12 and 20 games covered in net by Dipietro’s cameos, and Poulin might just make it. Overall between the roster and the system they have 15 pending UFA’s including both Montoya and Nabokov in net.
This is part three previous installments can be found here and here.
Number four: Concussions Bergeron and Horton
In the waning moments of the Philadelphia sweep with the TD Garden crowd in full roar and doubt dwindling faster than the hopes and dreams of the city of brotherly love, one hit shocked a crowd. Claude Giroux was charging hard in the Bruins defensive end, and is often the case, the first man to the spot was Patrice Bergeron. The alternate captain who after Zdeno Chara is arguably the best defensive player on the team was left on the ice. Bergeron’s first concussion delivered by Randy Jones, and this was like deja vu. He eventually got up and walked off on his own, but no one expected to see him again until October at the very earliest if ever. The hit was not suspended, or even penalized but it would cost him the opening two, very ugly games for the Bruins against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Like the loss of Chara to illness in the first round, his values greatest illustration was his absence.
Two games and two minutes into the Stanley Cup Finals Nathan Horton became part of history. He was on the receiving end of a hit that would not only end his season, but inspire the harshest suspension in Stanley Cup finals history. Aaron Rome got four games insuring he would miss the rest of the series, The hit was late, high, and horrific enough to quiet the loudest building in the NHL. It ripped the newest big body out of the lineup and left a team shaken. He would not return to the ice. As the series swung back and forth and his recovery progressed he appeared at the Garden, and even traveled to Vancouver for game seven. When he got to the arena he did something that will live on in hockey lore for decades.
Between the two concussions, center stage and their huge impact on each series can’t be understated. Bergeron was lucky enough to only miss two games and not suffer noticeably on the ice. Horton has continued to battle some of the timing issues that come with any issue but the price they paid and the contributions they made on and off the ice made them each memorable.
Number Three: Tim Thomas
When you quietly lose your starting job after coming off a Vezina winning season, then come back to be not just the best goalie in the regular season, but break a record most hall of fame goaltender never come close to, it’s pretty hard to top that. Unless of course you’re Davison Michigan, University of Vermont, and alumni of a dozen professional hockey teams, the US Olympic team, and walking talking statistical, anomaly Tim Thomas. After locking up the Vezina trophy sometime before the All Star game a certain amount of coasting could be expected. But no.
After setting record breaking numbers in the regular season. Numbers that easily won him the Vezina, and garnered almost enough MVP talk Tim Thomas did what he’s tried to do every year of his career; take it to another level. He didn’t just maintain his numbers he improved on them. He won three game sevens. Swept the high powered Philadelphia Flyers, allowed just 8 goals to the Presidents Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks, set a record for saves in a Stanley Cup playoff and walked away with the Conn-Smyth and Stanley Cup. As an aperitif along the way he delivered a beating or two, some jaw dropping saves and some great interviews.
Tim Thomas shouted down his critics without ever raising his voice.
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
The fact that the Boston Bruins powerplay is mostly useless has been as well kept a secret as Pittsburgh hosting the 2012 NHL All-Star game. The Bruins powerplay has been dissected here, and elsewhere ad nauseum. Something I haven’t seen, and wonder why not is what a former keystone of the Bruins powerplay brought that the current centers and top forwards don’t.
While Tyler Seguin is undoubtedly a faster skater, and more willing shooter than Marc Savard there is one important things he’s not. Patrice Bergeron is getting the lions share of powerplay time for the Bruins this year which has brought it well above the level it performed at over the playoffs, but neither he nor Sequin possess the trait that might just help get the Bruins into the top ten (or higher) powerplays in the leauge. Guess what, even though he’s capable of some nifty passes David Krejci, like Bergeron and Seguin is a right handed center.
Marc Savard is a lefty. While it’d be nice to get him back in the mix on a lot of counts, it’s unlikely it will happen soon. Than means the Bruins need to look at options other than Bergeron, Krejci and Seguin to be able to get shots and passes from the same angles as Savard provided. Rich Peverley who is irregularly slotted into the center position is a right handed shot as well. Chris Kelly and Brad Marchand are both lefties. Marchand while frequently listed as a center hasn’t taken regular shifts in that position while in a Boston uniform Kelly is a lot of things, most of them of high value to his club, but offensively explosive is not on the list. Zach Hamill while a solid passer is again a right handed shot, everyone else in the system is either two or more years from the NHL or injured.
Elsewhere in the NHL, there are a couple possibilities. Dale Tallon has shown a great deal of shyness in turning over the roster of the Florida Panthers. Stephen Weiss is a left handed center about the same size as David Krejci, is one of the last Panthers who is a legacy of the previous management, and has put up pretty solid numbers despite lacking talent around him. His cap hit is more than manageable, but with his and the teams good start he might be reluctant to waive his no movement clause even to be reunited with Campbell and Horton even if it means moving to a slightly more hockey focused market.
The Colorado Avalanche have a great powerplay, have some difficulty five on five, and possess two remarkably similar left handed centers. Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny are within about an inch of each other in height a couple pounds in weight, and produce similar results all across the stat sheet. The two biggest differences are in salary and age. Despite better goaltending this year, they are again in the bottom third of the league for goals against and penalty killing. A deal between Boston and Colorado that brought back one of these centers, and sent over a penalty killer should benefit both teams.
A possibility that has a few more faults built into it is a trade with the Capitals. Washington is already a power house regular season team that has put a lot of work into adding players who get it in the playoffs as well. It is highly likely that head coach Bruce Boudreau and General Manager George McPhee could have the opportunity to explore new positions if the team can’t make it at least to the Stanley Cup finals, something the franchise has never done. For them, adding a player who has succeed not just against them, and won the Stanley Cup but led the NHL in post season points in David Krejci if he were exchanged for Brooks Laich. If that’s what McFee and Chiarelli decided on, the Bruins gain their left handed center, finally gain a top three center over 200 pounds, get a left handed player who plays in all situations (as Krejci has), and the Capitals gain a playoff performer, cap space and possibly gain the missing element needed to go deep in the playoffs.
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.