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Are They Contenders?

In a league where it’s seemingly the Tampa Bay Lightning and everyone else, maybe that’s not exactly an easy answer no matter what NHL team we want to talk about.  Tampa is close to 20 points better than the second best team in the entire league.  So maybe it’s only the Lightning that is contenders?

We all know better than that though.  Anything can happen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  That, of course, has been proven time and time again through the history of the NHL.

So do the Boston Bruins find themselves truly in the mix for the Cup?

My answer?  I don’t know.

Good one!

My initial reaction is…no.  Not right now anyway.  The simple reason?  Once you shut down their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, who else scores on this team?  Are we really going to rely on the WAK line (Chris Wagner, Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly)?  I think not.

Sure, Jake DeBrusk has been lighting it up lately.  And David Krejci has been pretty consistent this season.  But this rotating group of kids and/or 4th liners and/or bums parading through that third spot on the line leave a lot to be desired (more on these dudes later).  Then forget about the “3rd line”, which is really the “4th line”.  People continue to insist the Acciari line is still the 4th line, but they really have elevated to the 3rd line recently.  I guess we are basically splitting hairs here since neither of the lines will be full of consistent scorers…ever.

No one is talking much about the Pastrnak injury now either.  How long does that thumb injury keep him out?  Two weeks they are saying…at least.  Then the doctors reevaluate.  How long after then?  And how will that affect his play going forward from there?  Pasta was on pace for 40+ goals when he went down (literally…as he fell in a parking lot after a sponsorship dinner.  Hmmmmmmm…nothing curious there).  What can we expect when he returns?

Danton Heinen has played well on the top line since Pasta’s injury.  But as an allegedly wise man recently said (why do they call this man “Keo” anyway?), “he (Heinen) actually has been decent with 37 (Bergy) and 63 (Marchy), credit to him.  But then I think we could put 69 on your back, stand you in front of the goal and a few would bounce off you too.”

Fair point by Captain Obvious…other than putting any number on my back and letting me on the ice in any capacity.  But you get the point.  Plus…Heinen was borderline terrible on any other line he previously played on this season.  That doesn’t help.

In any event, a fully healthy forward set of lines that includes…

  1.  Marchand/Bergeron/Pastrnak
  2.  DeBrusk/Krejci/Heinen
  3.  Wagner/Acciari/Kuraly
  4.  David Backes?/Karson Kuhlman?/Peter Cehlarik?/Joakim Nordstrom?/Trent Frederic? (the options currently here)

…simply does not cut it, in my opinion.

But wait!  The trade deadline is Monday.  General Manager Donnie Sweeney will make some moves, no?!

Probably.  But are we excited about his track record with deadline deals?  Nope.  Not even a little bit.  We could go through the Jimmy Hayes’, the John Michael Liles’, the Zac Rinaldo’s, etc.  But I’ll spare you the gory details…which are likely embedded in your brain already anyway.

I mean, it looks like he has already brought back “Suitcase” Lee Stempniak…a failed acquisition from 2 seasons ago.  Stemp was in camp with the B’s on a tryout basis and then who the hell knows (or even cares?) where he has been since then?  Until he showed up for two Providence Bruins games last week.  Will this be Donnie Hockey’s big deadline move?

Well, I guess the answer is no, seeing that he pulled off a deal on Wednesday.  The B’s obtained Charlie Coyle from the Wild for Ryan Donato and a fifth round pick.  That Donnie, always needing to throw picks into deals!

I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t know a hell of a lot about Coyle.  But what I do know is that he sounds like a bottom six guy.  Not opposed to acquiring one of those types, since as you can see above, they need better bodies there.  But I also can’t say I am very inspired by the move.

I will also say that while Sweeney has stockpiled “prospects” over the past few years, how many of these guys can actually play?  Some of these dudes have gotten some decent run up in the NHL.  And, as of now, only DeBrusk and I suppose Heinen look like keepers.

Donato, Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Anders Bjork, Anton Blidh, etc.  The jury is probably still out on Frederic and Kuhlman.  Zach Senyshyn can’t even get a sniff up in Boston.  How bad was that first round pick?  We can go back to Frank Vatrano and Austin Czarnik if you like.  And some of the D-men, including what could be another wasted first round pick in Jakub Zboril.  I have no problem trading some, if not all of these guys for established, and good, players.  But Donato showed some scoring ability at least last year.  He may have been the last guy on this list to ship out of town.

I’m not sold on this one…yet anyway.  But I also feel like Sweeney will do more.  He’d better.

As for the defense and the goalies, we don’t think he has to do anything there.  Solid 7 D-men as we speak, 8 if you count Stevie Kampfer, but I don’t.  Kampfer is on quite a roll worth mentioning, however.  He hasn’t suited up in almost two months.  Not easy being the 8th defenseman when only 6 dress.  But I suppose it’s better to collect an NHL salary than an AHL salary.

In any event, even though Zdeno Chara looks like he is skating in quicksand more often than we all like, even though Torey Krug still looks lost on defense more often than we all like, even though Charlie McAvoy misses more games than we all like, I can’t say I am too worried about the D as a whole.

Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak are plenty capable in net, though that pains me to say about Tuuks cuz most know how I feel about him.  But this is a pretty good tandem for the regular season anyway.  The big question is, who is the #1 guy for the playoffs?  It’s not like they will rotate when the time comes.  Well, they could, but that kind of thing is pretty much unheard of in the postseason.  Both netminders have had their bad stretches.  But they have also had stretches where they have stood on their head.  It will be interesting to see how that plays out…even though I imagine it will be Tuuks at the end.  After all, he’s the one that makes a gazillion dollars…

Ssssssoooo…are the Bruins true contenders or not?  My real answer?  Kind of.  They can be.  But ask me again on Monday night…

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Random Nonsense…

…whatever comes to mind…

*Not much writing about the Boston Celtics thus far this season.  Tough to do when the Boston Red Sox had their World Series run.  Not to mention all of the New England Patriots drama, before and during the season.  Plus, you know, they are winning games per usual, despite the whole different feel of this season.

The Celts started off slow, to the tune of 10-10.  A number of reasons for that.  But I would say it was mainly because they had a full complement of players and they were all still feeling out their roles.  Gordon Hayward was back after missing the whole season.  Kyrie Irving missed the playoffs and now he was back.  Everyone else important returned.  Unless you count Greg Monroe, Shane Larkin or Abdel Nader as “important”.  That’s up to you.

So now the C’s are 18-11.  Are they hitting their stride?  Not entirely sure.

I’ve always thought this season that if everyone on the roster is healthy and playing, there are simply “too many mouths to feed”.  During this recent 8 game win streak, coach Brad Stevens hasn’t had all of the guys healthy.  Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Aron Baynes and Gordon Hayward have missed time with various maladies.

This has always made Brad’s job “easier”.  He has been able to juggle guys in and out when the rotation is smaller.  This has been one of his biggest strengths.  Also his ability to “coach up” players.

When all the established players are healthy?  Who knows?  My view is that it remains to be seen if now they are ready to roll.

Hayward and Brown have seemingly accepted coming off the bench…for now.  But it appears that guys like Terry Rozier and Brown have been chirping about playing time.  At least that’s what the rumors have been telling us.  Can’t believe every rumor.  But where there is smoke there is fire.  Those two (plus Jayson Tatum), in particular, led the charge in the playoffs last season with Kyrie and Gordo out.  So their egos were inflated in turn.

Many people do not like Marcus Smart…or his game really…or his offense to be more specific.  But since adding him and Marcus Morris to the starting lineup, things have worked out pretty well.  They are nice complements to the other starters.  Morris is a guy that I thought would be a problem…chirping about playing time and/or coming off the bench.  But he seems to have been a model citizen this year.

If all of these guys just suck it up and play together and accept their roles, the sky could be the limit.  I’m not sure I buy that they will all season though.  Long way to go.  Let’s see what happens.

*The Boston Bruins have also been neglected in this space.  We should probably give them some props for where they are in the standings despite all the injuries.

The team has used 12 defensemen in 32 games this year.  That’s…a lot.

Combine that with goalie Tuukka Rask’s poor start, that sounds like a recipe for disaster.  Actually, Tuuks has played better since he has been back from whatever his personal issues were.  Which is timely, since Jaroslav Halak has cooled off a bit from his hot start.  But combine all this with an offense that has just one line that works (when everyone is healthy) and a bunch of underachieving (not as talented as we thought?) kids…and how are they even in the playoff mix?

The fact of the matter is though that there needs to be more offense.  Hard to believe I am even saying this when coach Bruce Cassidy’s forwards threw up some pretty good numbers last season.

But players like Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork, JFK (I don’t feel like typing his full name) and even Jake DeBrusk just haven’t gotten it done this year.  Jake has 10 goals, but they seem like a quiet 10 goals.

These guys in particular really need to step it up.  The rest of the dudes (besides the one top line) are made up of 4th line types…Noel Acciari, Sean Kuraly, Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner and yes, David Backes.  We’ve seen entirely too much of Colby Cave.

David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron make up an explosive line.  But they are going to need some help at some point.  And by “help”, I don’t just mean “David Krejci playing to the level of his contract” help.

*Joe Kelly 3 for $25??  Yikes!  He made himself 10-15 million for a few weeks in October.  Good for him.  But I bet he was looking at something like 2/10 or 2/12 without that great run.

Kelly was wildly inconsistent during his time in Boston.  I’ve said it a gazillion times:  He’s the only guy I know that throws 100 mph and never missed bats…until the playoffs, that is.

Thanks for the ride last fall Machine Gun.  But I won’t miss you.  We can find someone exactly like you for a lot less money.  Wait, we already have Heath Hembree!!

*Craig Kimbrel wants 6 years and 100 mil.  Good luck man!

Kimbrel had a fine career in Boston, do not get me wrong.  He was unhittable in 2017 and good enough in 2016 and 2018.  But he was not good in the 2018 playoffs.  And that’s kinda important.

So feel free to move on bud.

But make no mistake, no matter what Dave Dombrowski or Alex Cora say, the Sox will not enter Spring Training with Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier as the closer candidates.  Those guys ain’t closing.  There will be more arms added, including at the very least a Brad Boxberger or Fernando Rodney-type guy that has had success in the big leagues closing games.  For better or worse.

Add in an all of a sudden hyped up prospect Travis Lakins and there will be other options.

But thanks for the memories Craig…and more importantly, Machine Gun…

Random Musings…

Time for that bullet point format again:

*Following up on the NBA draft…the Boston Celtics did exactly what I thought they would do.  Nothing.  But this may be a good thing.  Some dude named Robert Williams fell to them.  Is this good?  I don’t know.  But the pundits seem to like it.

He is 6’10” and is apparently a “rim runner”…there are new terms coming out every day, folks.  But he is also apparently a “rim protector”.  A term of which I am familiar with.  Never actually heard “rim runner” before.  But maybe I’m just stupid and it has been around forever.  Entirely possible.

In any event, he’s someone who can defend the basket but also score around the basket.  So they say.  After his freshman year at Texas A&M, he was supposedly a pretty good lottery pick but decided to stay his sophomore year.  Then, he was still supposedly a pretty good lottery pick but dropped to #27.

Maybe doing stuff like oversleeping introductory conference calls and the like had something to do with the plummet.  Hopefully, it’s as simple as that anyway.

In classic Jay Bilas-speak, Williams has great length and a tremendous wingspan.

Ok, enough of all that crap.  The way I see it, if Williams can play defense around the basket and REBOUND, then we would be all jacked and pumped about him.  If he kept Aron Baynes off the 2018-19 squad, we would be ecstatic.  But we will see.  Brad Stevens will probably have him working on his three-point game this offseason.

In any event, it looks like the C’s got someone out of the draft that could be at the very least a rotational player.  Hard to argue with that at the end of the first round.

*Aside:  There are 60 people drafted in each NBA draft.  How many of those “make it”?  15-20?  Half?  Not that many.  Add in some undrafted guys and you get a few more.

How did the draft used to be like 8 rounds?  With fewer teams in the league?  This has always confounded me.

*One dude who WASN’T drafted was LiAngelo Ball.  My heart breaks.  I wonder how LaVar really feels?  I mean, that was a solid Foot Locker “One and Done” commercial, wasn’t it?  Sigh…

*Speaking of undrafted dudes…we present you:  Brad Wanamaker!!  Seven years in Europe and now apparently heading to the Celtics.  No idea, so don’t even ask.

But so much for the C’s going into next season with all the band coming back together (plus Williams) I am still not ruling out a major move.  But wouldn’t shock me if there were many minor ones.  A lot may depend on if Marcus Smart is back in the fold.  I believe this will happen.  But of course, there is a chance some team blows things right out of the water with a huge offer to him.  We all know there are a lot of stupid teams out there…in every sport.

*As for the other draft we wrote on last, the Boston Bruins did exactly what I thought they would do as well…draft a bunch of guys that no one has ever heard of.  And we will maybe or maybe not see some of them in 2 to 5 years.  I think I’ll leave my comments at that.  Since I have nothing else to say.

*In more positive news, the John Tavares talk has not quieted down.  He is apparently meeting with the B’s at some point.  I still see this whole union far-fetched.  But the longer it goes on, perhaps not?

The cap has increased and supposedly they would have room as the roster currently stands to actually sign Tavares to a deal.  Of course, they still need pieces, so players would still have to go.  But this is a positive development as far as I can tell.  I thought with all the bloated contracts the Bruins are carrying that they would no way in hell have space for a big-time addition.  Not to mention the fact that I doubted Don Sweeney would go after a megastar, but that’s beside the point.

I still don’t have any idea how in the hell they will be able to move guys like David Krejci, David Backes and Torey Krug (if they wish) with their no-trade and no-movement clauses.  I’ll let them figure that out on their own time though.

What a development that would be however if Tavares somehow actually came to town.  Again, I don’t see it.  But that just may be because I don’t want to get my hopes up.

*Thank God the NFL is kind of “off” for a while now.  I don’t want to hear any more of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.  Gronk may be the greatest to ever play tight end in the history of the NFL.  Brady may be the best ever period.  But shut up about having fun.  5 championships under the Bill Belichick regime is not fun?  Tired of hearing about it.

It will be interesting to see how Brady does this upcoming year.  1.  He doesn’t have a threat to his job to help motivate him.  2.  He has skipped all voluntary work this offseason, which he does not typically do.  And therefore he has not established connections with the new receivers and backs like he had always pledged was very important.  3.  He is 41.  There simply is no evidence of quarterbacks succeeding much at or beyond this age.  Like it or not when we all talk about his age.  It has to be factored in.

Personally?  I think Brady will be fine.  Maybe it will take some work to build some rapport with some of the receivers.  But I’m convinced he’s doing the work he needs to do to be physically ready for the season.  Same with Gronk.  As much as Alex Guerrero appears to be a slimy dude, he got Gronk to stay healthy for an entire season last year.  THAT happens once every blue moon.  And Brady’s game was obviously MVP level last year.  Would he really fall that precipitously?  Doubtful…even at his age.

2019 though at 42?  I’m not making any guarantees.  That’s why I would have kept and franchised Jimmy Garoppolo last year, played him wherever possible this season and pretty much give him the keys to the operation next season.  But maybe that’s why I’m not in an NFL front office.  Actually, there are several reasons.  But we don’t need to go through those here.

*Speaking of “tired of hearing about it”, I’m not sure I want to relive Deflategate with this Julian Edelman appeal.  Jules is ready to battle to the end.  And probably eventually lose and serve the four games anyway.  Bud, you took something.  Everyone does.  You got caught.  Please take the penalty and save us all the nonsense.  Please…

Next:  Random musings, Red Sox style…

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