Dodged a bullet…
…or did they? Talking about the Boston Bruins avoiding the Washington Capitals in Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs which begin tonight. You know the same Capital team that had the best record in the NHL…by 7 points. Seems like a good idea on the surface.
But now they are up against the Ottawa Senators. A Senator team that had a mere 3 more points than an honestly mediocre Bruin team. And 20 fewer points than the Capitals.
Should be fine, no?
Problem is, Ottawa took all 4 games against the B’s this year. Two by 2 goals and Two by 1…so not necessarily blowouts. But the B’s were swept nonetheless.
Of course, they were swept this season by Washington too, so maybe that doesn’t matter.
In any event, after missing the playoffs the last two years, it is great to see them back in this year. The team went 18-9 under Bruce Cassidy and showed a little more life after he took over. They needed every one of those wins/points, as Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders both each finished with only one less point than the B’s and were on the outside looking in.
Say what you want about the situation. Claude Julien is a very good coach. But Cassidy got them on a roll. The coaching change spurred the playoff run. There simply isn’t any disputing that. But I’ve ranted about this enough in the past.
Back to the Senators.
Of course the B’s have a better chance against Ottawa than they do against Washington. But do they really have a chance against anyone this year?
Despite the late season success, the Bruins remain a flawed team. No secret there.
And now…the injuries. Torey Krug plays every game this year, then in Game 81 goes down. Last I saw, he was expected to miss the entire series. Rookie Brandon Carlo plays all 82 games himself…and goes down himself in that one. Last I saw, he is definitely missing Game 1 and who knows how much more. Noel Acciari? Yeah, you may say he is kind of a bit player. And he probably is. But he has been playing well lately and seeing more minutes. He will be out for Game 1. Jimmy Hayes, he is…well, who really cares about that stiff…
As for Krug and Carlo, there goes 2 of your 6 regular defensemen. When your defense is already suspect, that’s a tough pill to swallow. Say what you want about Krug’s actual defense…and I do…but he is a key part of the power play and obviously provides some offense from the blue line. Carlo is a kid and has his ups and downs. But he had a pretty good year for a 20-year-old in my estimation.
That leaves a 40-year-old Zdeno Chara, still relatively effective for the most part, but also playing waaaaaay too many minutes. Also Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid…two somewhat useful guys, but you don’t need both of them. And they aren’t exactly stud D-men either. Rounding things out among the regulars are John-Michael Liles and Colin Miller. I don’t know if Cassidy has lost confidence with Colin over the last stretch leading to his healthy scratches. Or if it’s rest. Or it’s to get Liles some action before the playoffs. Or for the veteran presence. But it concerns me. I’d take Colin over Liles any day of the week. And Carlo didn’t need rest, so why would Colin? No matter, they will both be in the lineup it appears. Not necessarily a good thing.
That leaves one spot open. Joe Morrow? Nah. I’ve been looking on milk cartons for his face. Makes that Tyler Seguin trade look even better, eh? The ONE guy you wanted to pan out (since Loui Eriksson is what he is and is now gone anyway, Reilly Smith the same and then they turned him into Jimmy F’n Hayes and Matt Fraser appears to have been out of the league for 2 years), apparently will also be gone over the summer. Awesome.
The wild card on the back-end? Last year’s first round pick, Charlie McAvoy. Since they burned a year on his entry-level contract by signing him right before the playoffs, he will be in uniform tonight. What to expect? No clue. Kid is 19 years old, fresh out of college and has played 4 games in Providence (2 assists). Has a world of talent everyone tells me, but is he ready? No idea. Carlo started the year at 19 years old. But he played all of last year in Providence. And played a full year in Boston this year. Defense is hard, man. Tall task. But I guess I’d rather throw him in there than Tommy Cross though. We will see what happens.
The offense? Well, no Acciari and Hayes, but Marchand will be back from suspension. As long as he keeps his stick out of other players’ nuts, he should be a factor. Should. You know the rest of the names…David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, David Krejci, Ryan Spooner et al. It’d be nice if Frank Vatrano showed up for this series however. He hasn’t scored in quite some time it seems. And if he’s not scoring…
The wild card on offense? JFK! Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. By the way, that will likely be the ONLY time I spell that name out in its entirety. What to expect? Again, no clue. 21-year-old kid, fresh out of college. His first year of his entry-level deal was burned too, so hopefully he can add something. Played 8:25 in his one game at the pro level this year. But…he can’t hurt if they play him on the third line with Spooner.
I haven’t seen any updates…but I’m guessing the lines look something like this: Marchand-Bergeron-Backes; Stafford-Krejci-Pastrnak; Vatrano-Spooner-Karlsson; Beleskey-Moore-Nash. Not horrible. But it’d be nice if a couple of the above woke up. I have no idea what the F happened to Beleskey. He doesn’t have to score a ton of goals. But if he returned to the 2015-16 Beleskey, that wouldn’t be too much to ask, would it?
For the Bruins, the series will come down to how the defense gels and plays in front of Tuukka Rask. We all know that Tuuks plays better with a better D corps in front of him (what goaltender doesn’t?). We also know he isn’t the type of goalie who “steals” a lot of games, like his predecessor Tim Thomas used to. Rask has his moments. But he is not a 7 million dollar a year goalie. You’ve heard me say that enough. As my cohort, The Thinking Frog, likes to say: “Tuukaa is as soft as puppy poo.” That about sums it up. But he has played better after Cassidy called him out a bit. As long as he doesn’t get the sniffles and has to bail on a game (never rule that out), I expect him to be at least decent in the series. But if the D is porous with all the player uncertainty, then there is not much he can do about that.
Ottawa may be brutal to watch, with their defensive style and all. But they can be beat. Unfortunately, not this time. The B’s will not get swept. I say 4-2 Ottawa. And then keep implementing the supposedly talented kids over the summer…
Posted on April 12, 2017, in Uncategorized and tagged Boston Bruins, Brad Marchand, Brandon Carlo, Bruce Cassidy, Charlie McAvoy, Claude Julien, David Backes, David Krejci, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, JFK, NHL, Ottawa Senators, Patrice Bergeron, Postseason, Stanley Cup playoffs, Torey Krug, Tuukka Rask, Washington Capitals, Zdeno Chara. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.