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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Players;

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

Teams

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

The NHL offseason is a time to rest, recuperate, restock and reevaluate for teams, players and fans. In the Pacific division we have teams that are doing one of the four, two of the four or seemingly none of the four.

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks don’t seem to have decided what direction they are going off season. They added Heatley as the teams official aging star with Selanne and Koivu unlikely to return. They let Hiller walk, swapped youngster Nick Bonino, Luca “Valgia” Sbisa, and two draft picks for the perennially injured soon to be 30 year old Ryan Kesler. And in the backend they added Clayton Stoner, and reupped with Mark Fistric, on the whole they are likely very slightly better in skaters (when everyone is healthy) but weaker in goal. Grade: Better

San Jose Sharks: California’s only team not to win a Stanley Cup is as baffling as ever. They’ve made some off ice changes, because as we all know shaking up your broadcast team is the first step towards winning a championship, they also bought out Havlat who never made it on the ice. Based no doubt on the enormous success he helped bring the Buffalo Sabres the San Jose Sharks also brought in John Scott. The veteran of 236 NHL games has 2 goals and 4 assists, with one of those goals being his only point last season to two with disciplinary action that kept him off the ice for his six or so minutes a night.  Grade: Worse

Calgary Flames: The Flames added Jonas Hiller this off season giving them at least two veterans who are recognizable to non-Flames fans. Johnny Gaudreau will theoretically play for the the Flames this year, and if he does he will replace some of the offense lost with the departure of Cammalleri and Stempniak. Grade: Worse

Los Angeles Kings: Not much change for the Kings, most of it in the realm of job security for Muzzin, Greene and Schultz. There’s reason to think that even with the Cup win Jonathan Quick will be better this year, and if not there is Martin Jones, no longer an unknown. Perhaps the biggest loss is the departure of Matt Frattin, and even that is not especially significant. Grade: Better

Edmonton Oilers: At some point the Oilers have to get better don’t they? This past season was clearly not the year, and next season is still very, very iffy. Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth with play their first full seasons in Edmonton this year. Keith Aulie, Mark Fayne and especially Nikita Nikitin will bolster the blue line. Up front they’ve added the reliable if not flashy Teddy Purcell, and the ever interesting Benoit Pouliot. Gone is Sam Gagner who was shoved into a third line slot, and given third line quality linemates. Grade: Better (on paper)

Arizona Coyotes: I’m hardly alone among NHL observers who have been left standing around wondering where the earth shattering ka-boom is after the ownership question was settled. Most people expected moves that would launch the team to contender status in fairly short order. They haven’t come. This year the forward group is bolstered by the talented yet maligned Sam Gagner, the towering Devan Dubnyk will share crease time with Mike Smith, but beyond that there just ain’t much to write about. Derek Morris is likely at the end of his NHL career, Jeff Halpern is gone as well, Paul Bissionette is still unsigned. The team will be younger and more athletic on the whole, what that will translate to in terms of wins and losses for a team that was three points and or five ROW’s from a playoff spot. Grade: Better

Vancouver Canucks: Possibly the most active team in the NHL this off season they dealt away their only top six two way player in Ryan Kesler, signed former Ryan Miller, but potentially created a three headed monster in net. They bought out defenseman Keith Ballard and forward David Booth. New arrivals include Derek Dorsett, Nick Bonino. Luca Sbisa, and Radim Vrbata. Overall the team is different, with an upgrade from what was present at the end of the year in goal, and arguably better at forward, defense is still an interesting project as is team chemistry. Grade: Better

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The trade deadline is often even more fascinating to watch than any of the games for two week around it. Some teams have entered their playoff mode. Some are jettisoning players they know don’t want to come back, no longer fit or can get a good return. Other teams continue being chaos on skates and in the offices. Here’s some of the players flying under the radar that might grab the attention of GM’s from here out.

Mike Knuble of the Washington Capitals. With seven of the twelve games between now and the deadline against playoff teams including the Bruins, Rangers, and Sharks the Capitals might not climb back into a playoff position before the 27th. Knuble has yet to win a Cup in his career and at 39 you can’t help but wonder how many years he has left. His production has tailed off, but well who on the Capitals is that not true of? The chance to go a contender and provide both a veteran presence and the big body at the crease could be all it takes to give him a three month rejuvenation and push a team over the top.

Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche was tied to trade rumors earlier in the year. With just two years left on his contract teams that are shying away from the lifetime commitment to Jeff Carter might be less put off be the even higher short term salary.  It’s clear the Avs have needs, what the biggest need their is remains an open question, but Stastny with a fresh start could be a big boost to other teams. With the (sometimes) emergence of Duchene and more recently of O’Reilly and Landeskog the man who was supposed to be the face of the franchise might be suffering an identity crisis, in the midst of a clearly troubled franchise.

Alec Martinez of the Los Angeles Kings can provide depth to a team looking to thicken it’s blueline. The Kings need offense like the world needs less Tebowing, and solid defensemen are always a good chip to put into play.

Lars Eller of the Montreal Canadiens. Personally I think Gautheir would be guilty of something  akin to criminal negligence to trade the young Dane. Despite a team that went from bubble team to basement dweller he’s improved his two way play over his rookie season, and eclipsed last years 77 game point total through 47 this year. Montreal media had him as potential trade bait earlier in the year. As a second or third line forward for teams in need of some offensive depth like the Wild or Kings if he can be had, he’s a good average sized body who plays hard…

Josh Harding of the Minnesota Wild more than one NHL team needs goaltending either for now, or next year. The pending UFA might find himself squeezed out of the crease by Backstrom and Hackett next season and if that is the plan going forward the Wild might try and turn him over now for some offense.  In January he played 7 games to Backstrom’s 3. Could he be the solution in someplace like Tampa Bay or Columbus?

 Teddy Purcell of the Tampa Bay Lightning had an impressive playoff run last year for Yzerman’s team, a team offensively gifted with little else to it’s name. Mediocre defense or absent goaltending could be addressed for the twenty six year old. With another year left on his contract he’d be more than a rental, and the Lightning do have some solid depth in the AHL and juniors among forwards.

Jeff Schultz of the Washington Capitals has been marginalized on a team with an overcrowded blueline. His reasonable cap hit with two years left on his contract can make him a longer term acquisition and while most of what the Capitals needs is mental, stocking up on draft picks  or longterm prospects wouldn’t be a bad move for the Capitals.

There are multiple reports that as of yet unsigned Restricted Free Agent Steven Stamkos is set to be offered a cap maximum  decade or more deal. This would make him the highest paid player in the NHL. It would also leave him a UFA at age 31 to 33. Meaning he’d still be young enough to court another major deal, assuming he was still healthy, and still perceived as a top player. The Lightning are expected to match this deal, assuming they don’t have him signed to one of their own before then.

The question is why? Yes Stamkos is a top twenty forward, but he’s hardly the best in the game. I don’t see him as even likely to become the best in the game. If you look at this years playoff run, in three series against the heavily depleted Penguins, a sweep of the Capitals and the eventual Stanley Cup winning Bruins he was + player only once. He was a minus player six times. By comparison, Teddy Purcel who outscored him was a + player seven times and a minus player just four times. Simon Gagne’s split was five plus, and four minus games in three less games. Out west, Patric Marleau who played the same number of games, and ended with the same number of points was split 4+ and 5- games, while playing injured. Joe Thornton, put a similar 4/6 split while also playing injured he gathered four more points and was one point short of point per game production.

By any standard except Cup wins, Joe Thornton is one of the ten best forwards the NHL has produced in the last twenty years. To me, if you can’t produce at the same or better level, you don’t deserve a huge deal. This doesn’t count the futility that is having him take faceoffs. Nor does it count the notably unpretty takeaway to give away performance that’s noticeably worse than known defensive lightweights Henrik and Daniel Sedin (aka Thing -9 and Thing -11). Unlike say Corey Perry, Eric Staal, Pavel Datsyuk, Marian Hossa or even Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand he can’t be relied upon to play or produce points short handed.

Even as a pure public relations move designed to put rear-ends in seats and cash in the concession stands registers a league max or even very high end deal isn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever heard.

We all saw game six. We know which break downs occurred, and we’ve all seen enough Bruins hockey to know that isn’t the top level of performance they can deliver. Hell, putting it halfway up the ladder for the teams effort and execution as a whole would be a gross injustice to the games in which they were merely bad a times. So let’s take a look at those reasons for home.

10: Thomas Kaberle looked comfortable and confident on the ice. This is perhaps the first time this series he as done so. In nearly twenty minutes of play not only was he not the worst player on the Bruins, he was an actively competent.

9: The powerplay worked. The boost in confidence for the players will likely carry over to other areas of the game.

8: In Boston, on home ice Julien will have the last change. This means the ability to put Seguin out there when Lecavalier, St Louis and Stamkos aren’t.

7: Mark Recchi by anyones standards had a bad game, and being the old warhorse that he is even if pride doesn’t intervene, habit probably will. You simply can’t play in the NHL as long as he has, climb as many record charts and not be in the habit of excelling.

6: The Bruins as a whole failed to exploit the three weakest defensemen on the Tampa Bay roster for goals. Only one of the Bruins goals was scored with Hedman, Lundin, or Bergeron on the ice. In games four and five, one of those three was on the ice when the Bruins scored four of their six goals.

5: In this post season Tim Thomas is 4-1 in games after he allowed four or more goals.

4: In this post season the Boston Bruins have not lost at home, after losing on the road.

3: Johnny Boychuck who was on the ice for all five goals against in game six had what is unquestionably the worst game of his career, and can’t conceivably turn in a worse performance. In two game sevens with Boston, Boychuck has a 1-1-2 +2 line with a powerplay assist.

2: Patrice Bergeron who had his first minus game of the series has not had two minus games in a row in 15 post season appearances.

1: Teddy Purcell, Martin St Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, and Steven Stamkos who all scored in game six, have not scored two games in a row in this series.

 

This was clearly a tale of two games. One of twenty minutes. One of forty minutes. It’s not surprising that the team that played better over the larger amount of team was smiling when they left the ice.  The Bruins played twenty masterful minutes to open the game with Patrice Bergeron rolling and raping the Lightning for two unassisted goals. One a short handed goal in which he picked off a Stamkos pass and skates two thirds of the length of the ice and leaving Roloson floundering.  The first was a Kaberle-level brainfart by Clark and Hedman that yielded the game opener.

After Roloson took himself to purgatory at the end of the Lightning bench the Bruins never seemed to exhibit the swagger and drive. Later in the game Recchi was shown with a big grin on his face, even though the Bruins had not shown up. At this point in a game he’s usually all business and about business. Kaberle after a disorienting ascension to  the dizzying heights of competence was back to his now familiar subterranean skill set, a pathetic shot block, then a screen on Thomas that was picture perfect from Guy Boucher’s perspective led to the go ahead goal. Thomas and Chara combined for a horrid turnover in that can be blamed at least in part on the forwards leaving the ice who started coasting to the bench from about the tops of the defensive circle. This left Thomas and Chara to deal with five opposing players all deep in the zone. Thomas could have frozen the puck, Chara could have taken it to the boards but this level of failure requires a committee and they were just two members of it.

Gagne got a goal that counted, but again the story of the off season for the Tampa Bay Lightning wasn’t the big guns. Purcell had a pair of goals just sixty three seconds apart. Bergenhiem continued his assault on the stat sheet. St Louis got a meaningless empty netter. Aside from St Louis goal, the big three for Tampa Bay was kept quiet or exposed. Lecavalier managed an assist. Stamkos had the Bergeron turnover on the powerplay, no points and just one shot on goal in over 18 minutes of play.

God awful effort after about eighteen minutes in the first period for the Bruins. Krejci was a -3, never got a shot on goal and might as well have forfeited his faceoffs winning just three of twelve. Sadly, Krejci’s effort was probably equal to Kelly and Campbell’s put together. They combined to go 4 of 15 in faceoffs, neither recorded a hit or a blocked shot and both were nearly invisible when not screwing up.

While the impact was minimal it should be pointed out that the call on Marchand for interference was just as good as the team effort after the first, and the non call on Smith for tripping was even worse.

There’s no excuse for a game like this. No team has gotten to the Conference finals without coming back from behind a few times. No team with four guys who have passed forty or more goals on their resume is out of a game when only down three. Complacency kills.