That the Boston Bruins powerplay is not scoring is news to no one. Some of the issues with it are apparent, some are only implied.  The issues vary from personnel as addressed in part yesterday to the mix of players on the ice. When the powerplay is at its worst, the powerplay poisons the Bruins. Worse, this same two minutes that is toxic to the Bruins gives their opponents a boost that is recognizable from miles away, even in the drunken stupor no few fans feel the urge to watch the Boston powerplay in.

For my money, David Krejci and Tomas Kaberle do not belong on the same powerplay unit, ever. On the powerplay the only difference between the two is that Kaberle is a left handed shot, and Krejci is a right handed shot. That’s it. Both are danglers and dazzlers, and both become highly predictable after watching them two or three games.  I’ve watched the two of them spend thirty seconds sapping the strength from the team, and wasting zone time dancing around in the same three step box.  A quarter of the power play wasted is inexcusable.  The dangling is very useful if it allows someone to get into position for a shot, or pulls the defenders out of position. When combined these two spend too much time waiting, and defenders know neither of them is a likely shooter and don’t take the bait.

Ideally the two of them will be kept on different powerplay units. That or they need to shoot more, and make it apparent they are doing so.  Bergeron is like Krejci a righty, and of the three the best defender. A unit constructed around Bergeron and Kaberle at the points,  Ryder along one wall, Lucic or Chara as the net front presence, and Marchand as the other forward.  I think, you could get good production out of: Bergeron, Kaberle, Marchand, Ryder, Lucic. With Bergeron you’ve got your best faceoff man who can then fade back to the point.  In Marchand you’ve got one of the two or three fastest players on the team who might start in the second defensemans position and get into position on the wall quickly. Kaberle’s passing doesn’t need much explanation. Lucic and Ryder give you a huge body and a quick set of hands that combine for this year and last years top goal scorers.

The other unit is put together not quite by default, but uses still provides a different look, and at least two forwards who have played together at even strength extensively. Krejci along the wall. Horton would be along the crease, low slot and behind the net. Seguin on the opposite wall from Krejci, and high slot. Chara is a natural on one point. While the rebound problems of a 106 mph shot bouncing off a shin or stanchion are pretty apparent, using it once or twice quickly can’t be discounted, and you just can’t overlook the possible attrition of someone who blocks a slapper that hard in the wrong spot. Someone who gets out of the way slow enough to create a screen on their goalie is a benefit too.  The last spot on the unit is  possibly the toughest to fill. With the current defensive six pack you’ve got a couple viable options. First up is adding Seidenberg, he and Chara work well together for smothering opponents. The second is go with a fast, right handed shot which given who else is used in this and the other unit mostly leaves Peverley, or go with yet  another booming shot in Boychuck. Another option on defense that would maximize speed is Ference who has seen some powerplay time. My unit would be: Chara, Krejci, Peverley, Seguin Horton.

True, with these two units you’re obliterating all four forward lines, but you can come out with McQuaid and Ference for a solid defensive pair, and put together reasonable forward unit if you start the powerplay with Bergeron unit by bringing him back out, his conditioning is probably the best of any forward on the team.

This was sent to me very shortly before game 1, due to the internet being fun, it didn’t make it up before then.

Hey all,

 

Welcome to my little corner of the world.  I’ve finally been given an opportunity to get my viewpoint out about the status and activities of our favorite team.  So on to the obligatory…

 

Thanks to my great friend “The ‘Sage” for giving me the opportunity to write about a team I am passionate about.  The Sage is already well established and I only hope that I can add to that reputation.

 

So let’s start at the beginning…

 

Before the beginning of the season we were left with a sour taste in our collective mouths over an unexpected exit from the playoffs.  Following cries of “Hell one, snowball zero” thanks to New Jack, we were expecting more.  Then came talks of trading Thomas as we discovered what we thought was the second coming in Tuukka.  But the Bruins did the right thing in hanging onto the Vezina winner as he would go on to demonstrate this season.  There were other things such as Savvy’s concussion and Seidenberg’s wrist.  Then there was the rookie…We marveled at his first goal and everyone had hopes of a high goal scorer.

 

Thomas showed us what he could do with two healthy hips and freedom of movement.  Another Vezina could be on the horizon.  My man Luc started showing us that he wants to be the next…I’m not gonna say it, but I still hold out hope.

 

We came to the trade deadline and Chia pet wanted something that, The Sage told me, all the cool kids have and he got his PMD.  Some guy named Kaberle.  We overpaid, no doubt, but fans rallied behind this move, even though Kaberle has spent the second half of the season trying to prove us wrong.  Two other players were brought in, and at least one is paying off as Peverley has been playing his heart out.  Kelly has been pretty good on the PK, and I probably wouldn’t send him back.

 

So here we are in the Finals.  Beating our hated rivals, the Divers, in seven games, and exorcising the demon from last season by sweeping the Flyers.  What a great feeling that was!  The Lightning showed us that they are for real with their talent and gave the Bruins all they could handle.  Thomas stood on his head, and leaned on Reebok for a little assistance to get us here.

 

This series will be tough, 6 games minimum is my take.  Our top defensive pair is better than what Vancouver can offer but their defense has the ability to score.  The Boys in Black have something more important though, scoring depth.  The third and fourth lines for the B’s have 5 more goals and 12 more points than their counterparts for the guys in green.  Thomas will have to be the Vezina winner again, but the men in front of him will have to play their best and STAY OUT OF THE PENALTY BOX!

 

One last thought as they literally get ready to sing the national anthems on my television…at the end of the season, one way or the other…do the B’s do the unthinkable and trade a Vezina winner?  No joke, I have heard it mentioned that his trade stock will never be higher and we have the future sitting on the bench.  I say that with all the money coming off the books at the end of the season, and a cap increase, we need to keep this stellar goaltender for another shot next season.  Tuukka will still be there, and we never even talked about the two rookies except for the quick mention at the top!

 

So lets drop the puck and get this thing started already…

Signed:

Left Wing Lock

 

 

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.

Canucks:

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.

2nd Line:

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.

3rd 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.

 

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.

2nd Line:

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

3rd line:

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.

 

Final comparison:

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.

Without a doubt the highlight of game three for an large portion of hockey fans on social media was the Guy Boucher angry face. Within minutes, I saw at least a dozen photo shop efforts, and who knows how many quips. For Bruins fans it was the win. The Lightning had to content themselves with either the knowledge that Roloson’s performance against Krejci on the opening goal wasn’t in fact a seizure, or what was undoubtedly the finest (and possibly only) hit by Marc-Andre Bergeron. @Cowhead simply made up more lies about staying up late to answer every tweet.

For game four, we can no doubt wonder at the utility of having a game when we know the Rapture will be around the same time the players get back to their hotels and homes.  On the ice, the questions abound. The first two games were fairly wide open and were unable to feature defensive breakdowns as it looked like the entirety of the bluelines of both teams converted to forward for the game. Game three was a seeming reversal of this trend. But, as I’ve said of Phil Kessel’s forecheck, once a month is an aberration not a commitment.  So which teams will we see?

  • How many rapture jokes will be made during the game?
  • Will the defense of either team play like they did in game three, or in the opening games?
  • How many goals will be errantly assigned to Tyler Seguin?
  • Will either Patrice Bergeron who played more than 19 minutes or David Krejci who had the wind knocked out of him show any ill effects this game?
  • If Rich Peverley is spoon fed another goal mouth pass with a prone goaltender can he actually bury it?
  • Will we get to see Kevin Paul Dupont (@GlobeKPD) take some pretty hilarious swipes at other members of the media post game?
  • Will Brad Marchand finally get Steve Downie to do something only Steve Downie would do?
  • Will the big guns finally lock, load and light the lamp? Lucic, Lecavalier, St Louis are all at lower than expected goal totals even with high end goalies in each net.

 

Bergeron was in and on. Tim Thomas was much more focused and contained than he has been in the first two games of the series. The defense remembered their job title. With these three things the Bruins win was almost a given.

Bergeron was just a dominant force wherever he was on the ice. Faceoff circle he won sixty four percent. His passes which are possibly his weakest offensive asset looked like Savard or Thornton at their best, particularly the one through Brewer to Peverley who was rolling straight into the crease.  His penalty kill time was flawless. Let’s not forget he played over 19 minutes tonight and that’s as much as two minutes more than he averaged in the regular season and more than any other Bruins forward and behind only Seidenberg and Chara in total minutes.

In the first two games of the series I was genuinely worried about the play of Tim Thomas.  This is rare. I wanted him to be the Bruins starter since the first time he was called up and I saw him in net. He’s just so damned fun to watch. In the first two games of the series he was not focused on the puck, his tracking of the puck carrier and most likely pass was off. At almost any point in the regular season the Kaberle turnover in game two doesn’t go in. As we’ve learned over the past few seasons, when Thomas is well primed by several games of play close together he’s in the zone and works magic. Tonight he was on his game, in focus and had 31 saves.

As a whole, including Kaberle, the Bruins defense was impressive. despite the Lightning finishing with a shot advantage, the Bruins had more offensive zone time simply because they took the puck away so much in the neutral zone. More importantly in their defensive zone, they allowed Thomas to see the first shot, and then gave him room to either smoother the puck or pass it along to an open player. There were very few bobbles, little frustration and lots of patience.

Paille was in over Thornton, but played a nearly invisible six minutes. Seguin looked very crisp, but was well covered by the much improved defensive structure of Tampa Bay. Ryder had a quietly impressive game. At one point the UFA to be ran over Marc-Andre Bergeron in the offensive zone. Late in the game he was key to the Ference goal, and all night he had his feet moving, stick on the ice and head on a swivel. Lucic had a solid game despite only getting one shot on goal and two hits. He setup the opening goal drawing Hedman out of position and allowing Krejci enough time to retie his skates, sing the Canadian, American, and Czech national anthems before tucking the puck in for the game winner at the 1:09 mark of the game. Particularly amusing was the manic stylings of  Steve Downie late in the game, at the start of the third period he very nearly got a penalty when lined up opposite Brad Marchand who took advantage of all the free real estate and got into the erratic Bolt’s head.

 

The Bruins failings in their second straight loss to the Montreal Canadiens were legion, and institutional. Several players failed, and the coaches failed to compensate. The medical staff failed, and all of this was made easier by ill advised trades prior to the deadline, and a systemic failure to draft or acquire the needed personalities to make the team successful. Further there is an endemic failure to look past the strengths of players to their weaknesses which may be, and in the cases of some players clearly are the larger portion of their game.

Thomas Kaberle is in no way a big game player. His absence from the playoffs spanned a time that far longer than the average career length of an NHL player. In Boston he’s played two games, made at least twice that many key turnovers and has failed in every single facet of the game to elevate to a playoff level. If you make the case that he is playing at a lower level than he had during the regular season, you won’t get an argument from me. His hockey IQ is visible only slightly more than Carl Soderberg. His heart, well its in no danger from any marksman I’ve seen, ever.

David Krejci, when his current contract was signed I was ecstatic, the front office had kept a solid player and paid him a fair market value. I had hoped that the length of the contract, and the dollar amount without any no trade or no movement clauses was a sign that they knew what they had and would use Krejci accordingly. Not so. This is not Krejci’s fault, it isn’t even entirely managements fault, or Juliens fault. But it hasn’t been addressed. With the long term loss of Savard, a play could have been made to bring in a more dynamic offensive threat. Instead, Krejci who is not a number one center is forced into a role where he can’t help but fail. Look at his faceoff track record, its dismal. Look at how long he went around mid season without garnering goals. He finished the season tenth on the team in goals scored. That’s behind Chara, Ryder, and Marchand and tied with Campbell. He was second in total time on ice in the regular season for forwards and first in time on ice per game. On top of this, his skating is clearly the worst on his line, and allows top defenses to neutralize him instantly shut down a third of the ice. Purely from the perspective of winning faceoffs, the Bruins might be better off with Seguin between Lucic and Horton as the rookie finished with a better win percentage there.

Milan Lucic, has been effectively shut down by the Habs. He’s been smothered when possible, shadowed when moving, and never left alone. His game has also been studied in great detail. The major turnovers he’s committed have been forced because they are plays he makes frequently. As Doctor Recchi says he needs to do the things that make him uncomfortable, and most importantly he needs to earn back the space he enjoys in the regular season.

Between medical staff, management, coaches and Zdeno Chara if he was going to be shut down in the playoffs, the decision needed to be made sooner. When they showed him skating during warmups any idiot knew he wasn’t playing. He looked like he had three minutes of draining left before they started embalming him. If he was in the hospital at all given his conditioning and experience, it was unfair to the team to have him present all day and this in part lead to the chaos and mental breakdowns that caused them to cough up two goals in two minutes. It should have been called early in the day, or at the same time it was confirmed he was hospitalized. Having him be a surprise addition to the roster would be a much better mental starting place for a team that was stymied the night before, if he was able to play, would be an immeasurably better place than where they were when the game started.

Looking at the team thus far, the only defenseman who has been solid in both games. The Bergeron line has looked good, and while the Campbell line has been the second best line, they still should not be getting as many minutes as they do.

Despite some good lines, and good information by Puck Daddy and crew, the problem with Nathan Horton isn’t Nathan Horton, but simply that one player can’t take over the entire offensive zone himself when his two linemates have already been canceled out.

Ideally, tonight in Montreal we’ll see less of the fourth line, more of Bergeron both with his line and double shifting with other forwards (say Horton, Peverley, Campbell off and on), and steady defense for the first time all series. I would also like to see Seguin back in the lineup. That means either Ryder, Kelly or Paille coming out. Obviously the Bruins need to win this game, the odds are heavily against them winning the series at this point, but there’s no excuse for going out with a whimper.

I mentioned last post that I’d like to see Chara and Ference back together, I think it may be time to tweak the forward lines again as well. As constituted the Bruins forward lines have done little. The first three lines need to be readjusted to provide speed, puck protection and scoring threat.

One possible set is:

  • Lucic – Begeron – Peverley
  • Marchand – Krejci – Horton
  • Seguin – Kelly – Recchi

A win tonight for a team that has been better on the road than at home on the season would be huge. And maybe, just maybe they can take both games in the Belle Centre and even the series up before coming home.

Today the Boston Bruins traded about six weeks of an expiring contract for two first round picks (one past, one future), and an additional conditional pick.  One of those first round picks was used to pick Joe Colborne, billed as “Jumbo Joe”, he has a similar although not as polished skill set as Joe Thornton. The other first rounder could be anyone, the only thing we know about them today is that whoever that pick is, they will be strengthening a division rival. Admittedly, as far as the Maple Leafs have to climb, it could take a while before they can threaten to take the division title.

In a separate trade, Blake Wheeler, the under performing former first round pick but undeniably talented forward picked up as a free agent, and first round draft pick Mark Stuart were sent to hockey exile in Atlanta where they will play in front of AHL sized crowds. In return Atlanta dumps a failed defenseman in Boris Valabik who’s sole claim to fame is having fought to and lost to countryman Zdeno Chara, and their forward with the second worst +/1 on the team, Rich Peverly.

So in exchange for four first round level picks today, the toughness and leadership of Stuart,  the Bruins get back a puck moving defenseman who’s goal scoring has dropped steadily for years in Thomas Kaberle with no guarantee he will be here past July 1st, an undrafted forward that doesn’t appear to know anything about the defensive zone, who is yet another center, and a guy who couldn’t stay on the Atlanta blueline when they were among the worst defensive teams in the entire NHL. They also got to strengthen a division rival, and remove two top penalty killers.

This is a colossal role of the dice, in the unlikely-in-the-extreme event I’m wrong, and Chiarelli and Neely are right I’ll be overjoyed at the Stanley Cup parade. As it stands now, that’s unlikely and I suspect more than a handful of general managers around the league are laughing out-loud over these trades.