Day one was anything but boring. Trades of players. Trades of picks. Off the board picks. Players sliding. Oh what a night.

Of the trades the one that got the least attention but might prove the most impacting was announced early. Troy Brouwer, a big aggressive winger went from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Washington Capitals. With the improvements on defense the Capitals showed last season, adding a Cup winning forward to the mix who will play physically and knows how to win. He’s comfortable on both wings, and having him opposite Ovechkin should simplify the problems for whoever is playing center for them.

The once unmovable contract of Brian Campbell has been moved. It may not really count because the general manager who signed the deal originally, is the man who acquired him. The Florida Panthers sent Rostislav Olesz, and moved up four million dollars in the salary cap space.

Probably the most shocking trade to take place was the swapping of two players that looked to be cornerstones of their teams. The NHL Entry Draft host Minnesota Wild sent former first round pick of the fabled 2003 draft Brent Burns, and a second round pick to San Jose. They in turn sent the recently resigned Devon Setogouchi stud prospect Charlie Coyle and a first round pick to the state of hockey. While both teams got something they need, I’m not sure you can call this anything but a win for the Minnesota Wild.

My two favorite picks, of the first round were for Landeskog and Larrson. The Avalance get a type of attitude that is simply lacking. There’s while not quite a belligerence, certainly the type of drive and swagger that is seen in Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla that the denizens of Denver just plain lack. For Larrson, he’s just the right fit at the right time for a team rebuilding on the fly. Ideally both players would play in the NHL next year. The Devils can bring Larrson along slowly in a limited role. I did think it was odd to hear Larrson damned with the faint praise of having better hockey sense and more physicality than Victor Hedman.

Mark Scheifele is probably the single happiest man in hockey right now;. Taken seventh by the reborn Jets, as their first pick in their return to the market he could be this years Jeff Skinner. Appallingly happy to be taken, personable and photogenic. the Jets new GM was gushing in his interview. This was clearly a hockey pick, unlike a certain franchise than drafts locals for language, but long term if Scheifele pans out it could be the best PR pick made by an NHL team in years. I also like that the team went a bit off the radar without making a huge reach to take him.

 

I’m hardly discounting the rest of the season, but with the draft combine here and now, I can’t go another day without posting something.

At forward for the Bruins only Recchi and Ryder are unsigned unrestricted free agents.  Brad Marchand is an RFA, and as this is his entry contract and he’s played just one full year the Bruins have all the leverage.

Top forward prospects, in no particular order include:

  • Max Suave who’s fast, has hands that will make any goal scoring aficionado drool, and a long injury history.  At 6’2 and 184 he’s a bit wiry. This is if not his last year to make the club certainly the year he needs to hit 30 goals or 65+ points in Providence and stay healthy.
  • Jordan Caron, in essence he only has to do two things at camp next year a: bring his A game, b: remain consistent. He made the team out of camp this year, got second line minute, and penalty kill time under our fairly conservative coach. Of all the top six potential forwards he’s the only one listed over 200lbs, by the Bruins.
  • Jamie Arniel, after a day at rookie camp and watching the second of the rookie games at the Boston Garden last fall, I predicted he’d be the first Providence Bruin called up and he proved me right. Remorseless work ethic, was the leading scorer in Providence last year topping the charts with 27 goals and 50 points. This is the final year of his entry contract. While most projections list him as bottom six forward in the NHL systems vary and Juliens could favor him if he brings full effort. 5’11 193.
  • Ryan Spooner, pure fun to watch. Amazing puck disher I heard comparisons to Marc Savard like passing at rookie camp and the rookie game. One ace he may have up his sleeve is faceoff performance, which goes well with a solid shot and great vision. He did spend the year in Juniors where he set a point per game pace for two different teams, and in the playoffs. Not exactly imposing, at 5 10 17o. Finished the year with the P-Bruins.
  • Jared Knight won three awards among them hardest working player on his team this year. He also lead his team in scoring. Having added enough mass to top 200lbs, his relentless drives for the goal scoring areas are likely to be harder to stop this year than last. If you haven’t seen the goal scoring highlight reel on Youtube, go look. Like Spooner he finished off his playing year in Providence collecting a pair of assists.

What the Bruins lack in general is the aggressive, physical power forward type that has been key to the success of the team in the bodies of Horton and Lucic this year.  Bergeron, Seguin, Krejci and Marchand are hugely talented but none of them tops two hundred lbs and adding a little more size to some of the teams speed could make them even better.

Defense is honestly the position I find the Bruins depth thinnest at. Kaberle and Hnidy are the expiring contracts, and I expect to see Kaberle resigned for at least a year or two unless he unexpectedly retires. Steve Kampfer is likely graduated to full time duty and then we get the true prospects.

  • Yury Alexandrov is a Russian prospect with a couple years experience in the KHL. He was second in scoring for defensemen on the lackluster Providence Bruins last season. Fairly small, but smooth skating. Spoke no English when arriving last year. Had a better +/- at -6 than the leading scorer for defensemen on the P-Bruins last year.  Hockey’s future lists him as a potential 5-6 man at the NHL level.
  • Ryan Button, freshly signed to his entry level deal he’s listed just above Alexandrov on Hockeysfuture.com, the is another smaller defensemen projected towards the middle or end of the depth chart. Well respected in various circles for work ethic. Played the final seven games of the Providence series.
  • Matt Bartkowski, was called up for six games, including the Montreal game in which Chara was ejected for the hit on Pacioretty where he saw over 13 minutes of ice time. In six games he was a -1, with no points. This probably doesn’t reflect on him. His latest callup was during a funk in Boston that saw losses to half the leagues bottom feeders. Was the last cut at training camp. Could be called a smaller Boycjuck.
  • David Worsofsky, college player very small, agile picked up 3 assists in 10 games with Providence last year. Unlikely to see the NHL this year. Almost purely an offensive defensemen. Pro-comparison would put him in a similar mold to Marc-Andre Bergeron.
  • Colby Cohen, picked up in exchange for Matt Hunwick he’s billed as an offensive defensemen with passable ability in his own zone, was one of the few players and the only defensemen to finish the season in Providence with a positive +/- at +5. Projects as another 4-6 guy. Played three games in an Avalanche uniform before being traded.

These are the best of the guys signed for next year. None of whom projects to the type of number two or number three defenseman who can run a powerplay and or lead the defense if Chara is injured, suspended or in the penalty box.

Goaltending, while Tim Thomas does impressive things in net on a regular basis, and Rask has had an admirable career so far, that is about all that can be said for the Bruins goaltending. Khudobin is a UFA and will likely get an NHL or KHL contract of some sort next year, Schaefer is not a viable choice, and Zane Gotheberg is going the college route so he’s unlikely to be seen for three or more years.

  • Michael Hutchinson played just 28 games in Providence this year, allowed five goals in four of those occasions one of which was a win, had one shut out. In Reading of the ECHL he had better numbers than in Providence. It’s hard to tell how much is the the problem of the first year pro, and how much was just an underwhelming Providence club.

That’s it, after Rask and Thomas there is one goalie signed for next season to fill two Providence slots, two Reading slots and cover for injuries at all three levels.

Draft Wishlist:

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

 

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.

 

Don’t think that when the Bruins lockers get cleared out I’ll be packing up the blog and breaking it out again around training camp. There’s a lot to cover between the hoisting of the Cup and watching the rosters shakedown. Here are some of the things you’ll find in this space over the summer.

  • The 2nd Annual UFA Challenge
  • Free agency blogging
  • Bruins Grades
  • Team tweaks I’d like to see
  • Draft coverage
  • Realignment/movement of teams should it happen.
  • Season Preview for all thirty teams
  • Prospect camp
  • Trades
  • other NHL/hockey news

So don”t tune out, you’ll have too much to catch up on when the puck drops on the new season.

I admit it, I got bored with the regular season. I’ve been watching, but its really hard to get amped up knowing how little most of the games are going to change the standings. The Boston-Toronto game, I was annoyed to see them lose, but honestly I get more upset about November to February games than late March. By this time of the year you already who your team is and how they stack up against just about everyone. The Bruins tend to play down to the level of their competition, a lot. So here’s a few things Bruins fans, and others can keep track of from now until the start of the most exciting post season in sports.

  1. The Crosby Watch, how many times will he get mentioned per game as even the announcers who normally focus on the games they are calling struggle for something to keep them awake.
  2. Can Patrice Bergeron score again this season?
  3. What team will have the most undisclosed injuries and ailments that only require one or two games of rest?
  4. How many coaches or general managers will be fired between today and the end of the first round of the playoffs?
  5. Do the New York Rangers manage their second regular season choke in a row, or do they make it to the promised land?
  6. With four games left and only one back to back set, how many starts will Tim Thomas get?
  7. Does Zach Parise go into his season having scored since his return?
  8. When does Brayden Schenn get the call to help round out the roster of the injury plagued Los Angeles Kings? Is it before or after the end of the Saskatoon Blades post season push?
  9. How many more stories will we see or hear about improbably candidates for various awards?
  10. Will any of the three Washington Capitals goalies nail down the number one slot?
  11. With a winning record this season against the Red Wings, will the Nashville Predators actually push to move up from their current penciled n date with Motor City’s finest?
  12. How many of the last four games for the Bruins will be played by each of the following: Michael Ryder, Chris Kelly, Tyler Seguin, Shane Hnidy, Adam McQuaid, Steve Kampfer, and Johnny Boychuck?
  13. How many stories will we see on the Bruins being short sighted by not trading the Toronto pick?
  14. Find an explanation for why the Boston Bruins have the second best odds of winning the Stanley Cup this year according to Sports Club Stats.
  15. Visit Youtube and DailyMotion to find some of the best hockey fights ever.
  16. Come up with a sensible rule change to eliminate or reduce the shootout that won’t see players going four or five overtimes during the regular season every fifth game.
  17. Try and figure out what to do with the Calgary roster to turn them into a viable playoff team next year?
  18. Do the same with Toronto, Atlanta, Dallas.
  19. Tweet about how good it is that Super Mario won’t have Matt Cooke on his team next year.
  20. Start writing the eulogy for your team or one you hate in hopes Puck Daddy will use it this year.

The Providence Bruins have been eliminated from post season play before they even get there for the second time in a row, the question of who’s going to join the big club for the second season. A look at Boston’s needs is probably the best way to eliminate players as despite their performance as a team, several players could make great accessories to an already strong team.

The Bruins powerplay is its most notable weakness, and with all respect to Trent Whitfield, I don’t think he’s the guy to juice an NHL powerplay in the post season. His shot just isn’t NHL level. The two players behind him are Jordan Caron, and Jamie Arniel. Each player had five powerplay goals in Providence this year. Arniel has already hit the twenty goal mark with several games to play and leads the team in goals, points and shots on goal while having a sordid -14. Caron who spent a score of games in Boston had an up and down season, but was also a big part of the penalty kill while in Boston. Either or both could be called up, possibly before the season ends if Thornton’s injury keeps him off the ice for a time.

Depth at defense has been a buzzword since the advent of the Chiarelli administration, I suspect that with Shane Hnidy signed any defenseman brought up will be lucking to get shifts in practice much less games without a multiple major injuries. Yury Alexandrov and Matt Bartkowski each have five goals thus far. While Bartkowski has been called up more than once already this year and this is Alexandrov’s first season in North America, but is a great skater with high end passing ability.

Other guys who could see time in the post season are Zach Hamill who will looked good in Boston (when not playing with Wheeler) and showed a bit more grit than many expected. Max Suave, who had an injury shortened season but who possesses a wicked shot has a solid chance of making it to the big dance.  Suave is also a slick skater who despite a spring ankle surgery managed to stay well into the regular camp this year, he’s among the few Providence Bruins with a positive +/- at +4, and had a four powerplay goals.

Long shots that would say interesting things, but essentially require serious injury to key Boston players include the recent acquired Boris Valabik, newly minted pro Ryan Button (@Buttsy78), and Colby Cohen who was picked up in exchange for Matt Hunwick in something that rhymes with “calorie sump”. Forwards are led by Jeremy Reich, the aforementioned Trent Whitfield, and the under the radar Kirk MacDonald who is currently third in scoring and fourth in goals.

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

 

If I told you in September…

  • that Milan Lucic and Matt Moulson would both have more goals on March 5th than Phil Kessel
  • that after a 15 month break Alexander Ovechkin would return to Twitter to post the picture of Phil Kessel sitting alone as the last player to be picked at the All-Star draft?
  • that only two players in the top 100 goal scorers, Radim Vrbata and David Booth , would have a lower shooting percentage than Alex Ovechkin
  • That of center Stamkos and winger Ovechkin, the latter would have more assists
  • Dany Heatley would be just one point ahead of Patrice Bergeron
  • the Washington Capitals would fall out of last years top spot for goal scoring all the way to the 2o’s, and go from 16th in goals against up to 7th
  • the NHL’s best penalty kill would belong to the Pittsburgh Penguins
  • the #7 offense would belong to a team, Tampa Bay, with only one short handed goal
  • the Colorado Avalanche who have allowed the most goals per game would have the second best Sv% in the shootout in the NHL
  • the Edmonton Oilers would own a better winning percentage when trailing after two periods than; the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins,  Montreal Canadiens, Carolina Hurricanes, and Calgary Flames all of which are in the top 8 in their conference as of today
  • that with Malkin out since 02/04 and Crosby out since 01/05 that the Penguins would not only still be in the playoffs, but still have home ice advantage for the first round
  • that for the first time since 2003-04 Joe Thornton would be less than a point per game player
  • of Los Angeles Kings defensemen; Rob Scuderi, Jack Johnson, Alec Martinex and Matt Greene that Scuderi would have the most game winning goals.
  • that despite having the third worst +/- in the NHL, the Florida Panthers would still be able to unload Denis Wideman on deadline day
  • former Bruins Phil Kessel and Denis Wideman would be a combined -45
  • Patrick Sharp would lead all players in goals against division opponents

would you have believed a single word?

 

The last several weeks have seen quite an improvement in the hundred million dollar man, and his team. They are the hottest team in hockey right now and he’s having a respectable season all of a sudden.  Kovalchuck enters the day with a line of 21-21-41 -20. The last the biggest area of improvement.

On the blueline we find Kevin Shattenkirk with a new zip code and tied for points with Cam Fowler. Just behind the two in points andahead of them in +/- is das wundermouth PK Subban. Not to be overlooked is the Washington Capitals John Carlson. The  breakdown:

  • Shattenkirk, is playing as much as 2:30 minutes less a night than the three guys immediately behind him in scoring, has also played five less games than Fowler who has the same number of points, and seven less than Subban.
  • Fowler, while his -22 is startling, it should be noted over 55% of his points have come on the powerplay. May or may not be living up to his reputation for softeness with just 16 penalty minutes. A lot of people would call that disciplined.
  • Subban, with more than 50 more shots on goal than the second active shooter among rookie defensemen it appears Subban swings his stick almost as often as his jaw. Unlike Fowler and Shattenkirk, Subban also sees significant penalty kill time with over 2 minutes a night on average.
  • Carlson is clearly the most complete player of all the rookie defensemen. He plays in all situations, has a team leading +/- and is second to only the Bruins defensive stalwart Adam McQuaid in +/- for rookie blueliners. Useless fact: While he’s got less points on the road, his +/- is better away from home.

Forwards are an increasingly more interesting story. Some guys have bounced in and out of the statistical leaders, some have fought their way in, and one or two have been at or near the top all season. Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks and Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes look to take the race for the top of the heap from coast to coast. Michael Grabner, Brad Marchand, and Taylor Hall have worked their way to the top of the pile, while Derek Stepen and Tyler Ennis have bounced in and out of the top tier.

  • Ennis has earned his minutes on a weak Sabres squad with lots of speed and a willingness to shoot the puck.
  • Stepan is very, very quietly third in scoring on his team. That might be a more impressive stat if his team, the New York Rangers wasn’t 22nd in goals for. Their 25th ranked powerplay isn’t helping his stats either.
  • Hall hit the middle of the season and hit his stride, while third in scoring he is also playing more minutes than any other rookie forward.
  • Grabner is the sleeper for post season recognition. His speed is absurd, and the All Star weekend was something of a coming out party for him. On a team with a collective -32 his +9 is eye opening. Of his 25 goals, 17 have come since 1/1. Is second to Marchand in rookie shorthanded goals.
  • Couture, lots of goals from lots of shots on goals, with lots of time on ice would be less impressive if he weren’t maintaining a high +/- on a team in the bottom half of the NHL for goal differential.
  • Marchand, leads all rookies in shorthanded goals and points, leads all rookies in +/-, leads all the scoring leaders in short handed time on ice, has more hits than any of the top scorers is the most complete player of all the rookie forwards.
  • Skinner. Mr Consistent, has been the scoring leader for most of the season, is producing more points per minute than other top rookies. Has an impressive take away to turnover ratio.

Once clear as day, the rookie goalie landscape has been turned over several times.  Injuries, trades, the retrn of other goalies and cold spells have made this an interesting position to watch, but assured us the Calder Trophy winner won’t be coming from the crease unless something extraordinary happens over the next twenty games.

  • James Riemer hasn’t been in the NHL long, but he’s making it damned hard to ignore him. In just 17 games played he’s 1 win short of  team leader J.S. Giguere’s win total, and has a 2.24 GAA and .931 Sv% on a team that’s not worth much.
  • Sergei Bobrovsky, is still hanging around the top of the pack despite being shuffled into the background in Flyer country.  With more wins than any other rookie a 2.46 GAA and a .918 Sv% you can’t complain about much of his game and not sound like a moron.
  • Corey Crawford is the show stopper though, he’s just a couple wins behind Bobrovsky, with a slightly better Sv% at .923 and a much better GAA at 2.11, he leads rookies in both and does it behind a much weaker defense than Bobrovsky. He might just manage to drag his team into the playoffs too.

In no particular order the five best rookies are:

Crawford, Skinner, Marchand, Carlson, and Subban.

The five most interesting stories to watch from now until the the trade deadline.

  • How far will the dismantlement of the Colorado Avalanche go? I was shocked to see Calder Trophy candidate Kevin Shattenkirk shipped out.  Stuffed into the wagon along with him was 23 year old power-forward Chris Stewart, and a conditional pick. Going the other was was Erik Johnson a defensemen with a great pedigree, who has lost his luster.  Paul Statsny is rumored to be available,
  • What will the NHL’s newest owner do with his team? He stated on NHLLive today he was more likely to make future moves than put band-aids on this season, but with players like Statsny, Brad Richards, and who knows who else coming or potentially coming on the market, will he say I want that one! Brad Richards, Ed Jovonovski, and others could contribute to the team for a while.
  • Who blinks first? The Western conference is so tight you can probably get almost anything from those who are determined to succeed now. We’ve see the Avalanche run up the white flag while the Kings have been really quiet. With Carolina having played two more games than the Sabres they have to be looking over their shoulders. If they decide to keep restocking via the draft Cole, Samsanov, Pitkanen, and Jokienen could fetch some decent picks or prospects.
  • What Will Lou Do? The New Jersey Devils general manager has perhaps the hardest calls to make this silly season. He’s got a team that’s playing world beating hockey and is following teams down dark alleys and going through their pockets for loose points, but the odds of getting to the playoffs are really stacked against them. Purely from the cap management point of view, shaking the team loose of Rolston’s contract or one of the other larger contracts on the books for next year could keep them from being an embarrassment to the NHL again next year as they were when they were icing understrength rosters thanks to injuries and cap issues.
  • Hands down the most interesting issue of the off season is what happens to the big name UFAs. As we saw with Bouwmesster recently they are the players that will have reverberations on and off the ice for years to come no matter what call is made. Brad Richards, Shea Weber, Ilya Bryzgalov, Simon Gagne, are all the type of player that when healthy can push an organization from bubble to playoff team and playoff team to contender or cup favorite. If not signed, all four of these guys will be free to sign anywhere they please July 1st. There are lost of people who think Richards would look great in a Sabre’s uniform so would Weber for that matter either of the two when added to Miller, Vanek and Myers gives you a hell of core. The Predators and Lightning are pretty firmly in the playoffs, but an offer too good to refuse is always possible.

Bonus story: How many more times will someone at Versus make the histerical statement that the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins have the hottest rivalry in the NHL?