Friday, January 15, 2010

West Coast Trip - Win One Lose One

Two games out of three are out of the way on the Bruins west coast swing. All things considered, I'll take the results and I'm betting Claude Julien would agree.

On Wednesday the Bruins fell 4-3 to the surging Anaheim Mighty Ducks (I still call them that, fuck Disney). Then, in what has to be one of the worst scheduling breaks of the season for any team, the banged up Bruins had to hop up to San Jose last night for a tilt against the NHL's best team (they finished the night tied with Chicago for the points lead). Oh yea, for those east coasters out there, SJ isn't a 45 minute flight from LA, its a real plane ride.

The Bruins somehow managed to withstand a 42 shot barrage from the Sharks and thanks to Timmy and a flurry of good forechecking by, well...I don't know what the hell line they are anymore but - by the Whitfield-Paille-Thornton line, the Bruins snuck into a shootout where Chara bombed a slapshot 5 hole on Nabokov for the 2-1 win.

Chara logged something like 27 minutes of icetime last night and frankly, i don't know how he's going to be upright after the Olympics at this rate. I can't believe i'm saying this, but we need Mark Stuart like Haiti needs purified water right now. Fortunately, both appear to be on their way to their respective destinations.

If the Bruins pull a Kurt Russel and snake their way out of LA on Saturday, they'll have managed 4 out of 6 points against 3 very solid teams in 4 days, all with a blatantly depleted roster.

Paging Mr. Chiarelli - trade deadline is less than 6 weeks away. More thoughts on that later, especially since NESN seems to think the B's brass has interest in an aging PP specialist with no PP goals this year (no, i'm not talking about Sergei Gonchar, we did that once). James Murphy...why the blank would we want an overpaid Sheldon Souray (3-9-12 in 30 games and no PPG)?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bruins Flat - Handled by Rangers

As I watched the Ranger fans rise in excitement towards the end of the first period yesterday, it was instantly clear to me the Bruins were already on the ropes. Marco Sturm's missed penalty shot was the chance the young Bruins team had to grab momentum in this game - a chance that went right by the wayside. Despite only being down 1-0 at that point and outshooting the Rangers through the end of one period, the Bruins were a team on the ropes from the first faceoff yesterday and this will remain the case against most teams for the next few weeks.

Offense is key, and no doubt the absence of Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron is going to be front and center with every broadcast of a B's game over the next 2-4 weeks. The bigger problem this team faces though, is the lack of depth on the blueline. Last year, when Andrew Ference, Aaron Ward and Dennis Wideman missed extended periods of time, the Bruins were able to tap into a plethera of defensive reserves chomping at the bit down route 95 in Providence. Guys like Matt Hunwick stepped up and showed how deep the organization was in young, talented defenseman. This year? Not the case.

As I witnessed firsthand yesterday, there is no Matt Hunwick or Matt Lashoff waiting in the wings this season to step up. All three goals in the Bruins 3-1 loss to the boys from NYC were a result of defensive lapses that can be specifically pinpointed to a young, inexperienced defensive corps. I'm betting if I told you at the start of the season that the Bruins' momentum in mid-season would be most jeopardized by the loss of Mark Stuart and Andrew Ference, you'd have laughed it off. But let's take a look at the replacements for these guys...

Johnny Boychuk - 24 career games played and personally responsible for the second goal last night. He made a number of mental mistakes giving up the puck in his own end or at the opposing blueline. Worst of all was his overreaction to a bump from Brandon Dubinsky in the second that led to Dubinsky scoring the second NY goal.

Adam McQuaid - 5 career games played. McQuaid looked amazingly slow to the puck last night (worse than Mark Stuart, believe it or not) and is a -4 in these first 5 games.

Now granted, Boychuk is promising offensively and set a franchise record with 66 points from the blueline for the P Bruins last year, but he's basically a bigger, slower Dennis Wideman with a harder shot. Good for offense, not so good for a team that is built on keeping the puck out of the net.

Finally, when a pretty good team loses top players like Savard and Bergy, the other top players have to be playing at their peak, and guys like Chara simply were not yesterday. Z made a really poor decision pinching up on the first Ranger goal yesterday which left a 3 on 1 behind him down in the slot. This kind of breakdown kills a team that's already on the ropes.

The Bruins need to weather the storm out west for a week or so now. How much water they take on is going to depend on these young d-men.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

GNH: Bruins Impeach Senators

B's score early, often
Wheeler stops being a bitch
Sens still can't beat Tim

Monday, January 4, 2010

Winter Classic Photo's

I want to tell you all about the Winter Classic (what i remember of it) but for now, i only have time to show you some pictures.

I was in section 37, row 7, seat 17. Here's what it looked like just before the puck dropped. Now go ahead and imagine watching the game from there.

Here's me and the fiance after the first period (we weren't losing yet)

More to come later!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Atlanta Brings the JV Goalie, Loses 4-0

B's fire up scoring
Chase Pavelec once again
Tuuk leads the boys home

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

B's Salvage .500 Road Trip

Technically, the Bruins come home .500 on this latest road trip, having gone 1-1-1. The recent trip is easy to see-saw on. On one hand, you had a decent showing against the best team in the Western Conference on the road and lost on a night where the defense was hampered by injury playing back-back games. Then to rebound, they corrected their mistakes (better neutral zone play, capitalized on scoring chances) and beat a divisional foe that was ahead of them in the standings 2-0. Not bad.

The flip side is that you went 0-2-2 before the Ottawa win last night and continue to show a lack of offense against weaker foes (2 goals combined against TOR/OTT makes NO sense at all).

Bergeron and Krejci are practically carrying the team at this point and that's NOT a good sign when you look at their half decent numbers:

Bergeron 9-18-27 +5; Krejci 7-12-19 -1.

Those aren't blowing anyone's hair back...and they are first and third respectively in team scoring. So we need what we've needed since day one this year: More production from the top 6 forwards. The Bruins have scored just 90 goals this year (only the Hurricanes have fewer) and last night, Marco Sturm netted his 10th of the year to become the first Bruin with double digits in the goal column. So how are we six games over .500? We've allowed the 5th fewest goals, as well. Despite Thomas' struggles, we're a +3 in goal differential.

I'm not breaking any new ground here, i recognize, but it goes to the heart of the matter to note that this Boston team is capable of bigger things. Are they a cup contender as comprised right now? No. But can they compete for the division and remain a top 6 team through to the deadline in February? Absolutely, so long as the offense comes around.

Up next: 3 straight against the Southeast (Atlanta, tomorrow at 7pm is up first).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Guest Spot - First Quarter Awards

Guest writer Tony Cappuccino gives us a quarter-post awards and prediction column, below...

The Boston Bruins swept through the NHL Awards Banquet in Las Vegas last summer: Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara and Claude Julien all took home hardware (as well as a Jennings Trophy that the slightly-less deserving Manny Fernandez also had a share of). Just beyond the quarter post of the 2009-2010 NHL Season, Caveman takes a look at how that awards ceremony would unfold were it held this evening.

Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender): Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

While Marty Brodeur’s pursuit of every mark in the goaltending record book has taken center stage this season, Ryan Miller has quietly pieced together a masterful first quarter to the 2009-2010 campaign. He is currently first in save percentage (.935) and goals against average (1.90), second in shutouts (3) and third in wins (16). All of this while 10th among goalies in Time Played, and little defensive help. Miller has single-handedly led the Sabres to a Northeast Division lead for much of the first few months of the season, and is surely giving all USA Hockey fans some excited jitters in what is proving to be an exceptional run up to the Olympics in February. Ryan Miller is the clear winner of the quarter-pole Vezina.

Finalists: Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes (17-8-1, 1.99GAA, .925 Save percentage; Responsible for backstopping the rise of the Coyotes), Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils (Setting records on a weekly basis with no signs of slowing; 18 wins are first in the NHL. 2.11GAA, .922 save percentage, and pacing the Devils to first place in the NHL-best Atlantic Division).

Calder Trophy (Best Rookie): Jon Tavares, F, New York Islanders

The number one overall pick in Jon Tavares has more than lived up to his billing on Long Island, easily securing the Calder Trophy at this point in the season. Tavares l

eads all rookies in games played, goals, points, and his six power play goals—also first among rookies—have reinvigorated the Islander power play. More importantly, Tavares has injected life and competition into a bottom-dwelling franchise. One could argue that the Islanders are suffering from Penguins disease—pick high enough in the draft for years on end and you’re bound to win a few games eventually—but Tavares is proving to be a very special player who will be the identity of this hockey club for years to come.

Finalists: James vanRiemsdyk, F, Philadelphia Flyers (Stake rose early with Philadelphia’s success, and Philly’s struggles correspond with his droughts; Leads all rookies with 13 assists), Simeon Varlamov, G, Washington Capitals (Exceptional numbers: 12-1-2, 2.21GAA, .924 Save percentage, but can’t win the award while splitting time with Jose Theodore).

Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman): Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

The Norris Trophy is less of a numbers game than the other awards, and Duncan Keith will be glad for that. Despite not being much of an offensive power—a respectable 5-18—23—Keith is the rock on a defensive corps that

was tasked with solidifying shaky goaltending this season. The results have been nothing less than outstanding—command of first place in the Central Division, just 64 goals against in 28 games, and a 13-year contract extension for Keith. In a tight contest, Duncan Keith emerges as the quarter season Norris winner.

Finalists: Mike Green, Washington Capitals (Defensive lapses becoming fewer; Again excusable for outstanding offensive numbers—5-25—30 in 29 games; Team’s success largely driven by Gre

en’s ability to move the puck), Dan Boyle, San Jose (Outstanding defensive player dominates all facets of the game; Leads NHL in TOI (26+ minutes per game), third in points among defensemen (25), best defenseman on the NHL’s best team at this point in the season).

Jack Adams Trophy (Best Coach): Joe Sacco, Colorado Avalanche

First-year coach Joe Sacco has returned the Colorado Avalanche to prominence after a noticeable and embarrassing absence from the upper echelons of the Western Conference. Second only to San Jose at this point in the season, Sacco has made use of young players incredibly well, and has finally extracted performance from his goaltenders—a problem that has plagued the team since the lockout. A familiar set of names prowls the bench alongside Sacco—Sylvain Lefebrve, Adam Deadmarsh, Jocelyn Thibault, and Steve Konowalchuk—and all deserve equal credit in earning Sacco the quarter mark Jack Adams.

Finalists: Dave Tippett, Phoenix Coyotes (A close second to Sacco; Has led team from off-season

public embarrassment to a playoff seed in the loaded Western Conference; Makes excellent use of talented and young players), Jacques Lemaire, New Jersey Devils (Same face, different year; In the league’s toughest division and again losing star players through free agency, Lemaire oversees a monster of a franchise whose identity comes and goes with Marty Brodeur; First in the Eastern Conference, and a franchise record for consecutive wins on the road (10).)

Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP): Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

In my opinion, the MVP trophy too often goes to the league’s best player. Generally, the player makes those around him better, but rarely does the MVP go it alone. In other words, if you could possibly vote for two players on the same team for MVP, then neither is the MVP (see Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, et al). Therefore, for the reasons mentioned above for his Vezina-winning performance, Ryan Miller is the Hart winner at the quarter mark. Miller has little defensive help, and the Sabres are far from an offensive powerhouse (73 goals for is second lowest in the conference in futility on to Carolina). Miller’s contribution to the team’s 62 goals against (second best only to Brodeur’s defensive-minded Devils) is the only reason for the team’s success in the early going.

Finalists: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (Leading the resurgent Kings—just four points behind San Jose---by jumping out to an early season NHL-points lead; Since fallen to 7th with 14-21—35 numbers, 15 power play points, Ryan Smyth’s 23 points are second on the team.), Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers (The oft-injured Gaborik is the steal of the off-season for the Rangers; 21-17—38 in just 27 games; Second in team time-on-ice, first among forwards; team struggles at defensive end continue, but Gaborik is lone answer to offensive problems).

If the playoffs started today:

1) Washington def. 8) Montreal 1) San Jose def. 8) Dallas

2) New Jersey def. 7) Ottawa 2) Colorado def. 7 ) Nashville

3) Boston def. 6) Ottawa 3) Chicago def. 6) Phoenix

5) Atlanta def. 4) Buffalo 4) Calgary def. 5) Los Angeles

1) Washington def. 5) Atlanta 1) San Jose def. 4) Calgary

2) New Jersey def. 3) Boston 3) Chicago def. 2) Colorado

2) New Jersey def. 1) Washington 1) San Jose def. 3) Chicago

1) San Jose def. 2) New Jersey