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Back To Earth?

Been over two months since I wrote about the Boston Bruins.  Since…before the season started.  Solid work, I know.

Does this now mean that I am “ready for hockey”?  If you remember, I wasn’t ready for the start of the hockey season in early October.  It seemed like the previous season had just ended.

Welp, we are almost halfway through the NHL season, so I’d better be!

Wait, halfway through already??

Yup.  36 games in.  82 game season.  Honestly, doesn’t seem real.

So I guess it’s time to say SOMETHING about the local hockey team.

So what do we say?

If you also recall, I was not excited about the Bruins’ prospects this season.  Not because they aren’t a talented squad.  But because it was a long year last year, one that ended in disappointment.  Then, General Manager Donnie Sweeney brought basically the same team back this year.  In my opinion, this is not a recipe for success.  We’ve seen it many times before.  In more than one sport.  I’ve always felt a team in that position needs a little turnover the following season.  Keeps hunger in the room.  My opinion anyway.

Then the B’s started 20-3-5 (or 20-8 for people that have no interest in tracking overtime and shootout losses).

Maybe that’s why I hadn’t written anything?  Because I looked like an idiot?

Nah.  Though if you wish to think that, please feel free to do so.

Of course, seeing that I am choosing to write now in the recent 1-4-3 (1-7!) stretch over the last 8 games would lend some credence to that theory as well.  Wouldn’t blame you either way.

But the bottom line is that football has just taken precedence.  It’s fall.  Autumn, if you will.  It’s football season!!  To wit, we haven’t written about the Boston Celtics in a couple months either.

Whatever.

Sssssssooooo…what do we think of the Boston Bruins as we sit here right now?  Funny thing is, I feel EXACTLY the same as before Game Number One of this regular season.

What?!

Yup…the SAME.

You know I am never going to change my tune on goaltender Tuukka Rask.  There has never been a lot of love from me headed in his direction.  Again, he should be ok splitting with Jaroslav Halak all year.  But it doesn’t mean I have to like him.

My main concern is basically the same concern we have had for quite some time around here.  This is still a “one-line” team.  Patrice Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.  That’s it.  Sorry.

Can you honestly tell me otherwise?  I mean, just cuz you hand Charlie Coyle 31.5 mil over the next 6 years doesn’t mean he is all of a sudden a first line forward.

Yeah, that contract was a little much.  Listen, Coyle is a nice player.  And maybe he can play wing on the second line.  Maybe.  But that may have been money better spent elsewhere.

OR…you couldn’t have signed him for like 4-5 years at 4 mil per?  Someone was going to give him more?

In any event, what is the second line technically right now?  David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and…Danton Heinen?  DeBrusk and Heinen seem to be the best of the young guys that were drafted in recent years.  But honestly, that is not saying much.  I keep waiting for Jake to kind of explode.  But it hasn’t happened.  Heinen appears to be a third liner at absolute best to me.  I guess Donnie Hockey and the brass like his defense.  Which is all well and good.  But if you are playing on an offensive line, it would be nice to see some points come along with the D.  Maybe that’s just me though…

Anders Bjork has shown some promise.  Perhaps Karson Kuhlman develops.  Or Jack Studnicka.  But these guys aren’t top six guys anytime soon.  Not this year anyway.

The rest of the roster is littered with Sean Kuraly, Brett Ritchie and Chris Wagner types.  Speaking of Wagner, he’s a nice 4th liner.  But was it necessary to lock him up for three more years?  I’m just not a fan of handing long-term contracts to bottom of the roster guys.  They are a dime a dozen.  Makes me think of former GM Peter Chiarelli handing those out with no movement clauses like it was Halloween candy.

But I digress…

The point is, where is the scoring coming from after the first line?  Same question as before the season.  Not to mention that when scoring on the top line dries up, how is that going to look?

I’ll tell you.  1-4-3…or 1-7, to be precise.

Pastrnak has cooled off (and he wasn’t scoring like 75 goals this season anyway just so you know).  Marchand hasn’t scored in over 10 games.  And Bergeron has missed some games this year.

And not much is being done along the rest of the lineup to pick up the slack.  Nor do I expect any of those players to.

Speaking of scoring, the overtime and shootout record of the Bruins is jarring.  2-3 in OT and ZERO AND FIVE in the shootout.

That is pathetic.  And although I don’t have the lineups that coach Bruce Cassidy throws out there each time they enter a shootout.  I can’t imagine he has many choices on who to pick.  Other than Pastrnak I would say.  Marchand’s career shootout numbers are not good.  Who else can you depend on there to snipe one home?  Not even Bergy, I have to say.

Midseason moves?  Maybe.  We are still several weeks away from the trade deadline.

But who are you going to go get?  And with extremely limited cap space, how good is that player (those players?) actually going to be?

I don’t see much coming for reinforcements.  Not from outside the organization anyway.  That leaves the likes of Kuhlman and Studnicka.  Hopefully not the likes of minor league veteran Paul Carey.

I did not see the Bruins starting out as hot as they did.  But the end result will be the same, unfortunately.  A playoff spot for sure.  Then I’m predicting a fairly quick exit.

Prove me wrong.  There is plenty of time to do that.

Hockey Is Starting Already?!

I’m not ready.  Period.

Feels like last season just ended.

And we know how disappointing that end was for Boston Bruins fans.  I suppose we do not need to cover that again.

Speaking of disappointing, the Bruins transaction activity this offseason.  Sure, they re-signed Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo…and I suppose Danton Heinen if you will.  But the team did not sign any new acquisitions…none of any note anyway.

We also know they didn’t lose much in Noel Acciari and Marcus Johansson.  Sure, Marcus would have looked nice on the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.  But we also knew the B’s were not going to pay him.  Well, because they had to pay Carlo and Chaz.  And they had to keep Tuukka Rask on the roster.  And of course, they NEEDED to retain David Backes…sigh…

But, once again, that is a big part of the problem.  Bringing essentially the same team back after a long championship run is not a recipe for success.  Ask the 2011-12 Bruins themselves.  Or the 2019 Boston Red Sox.

But Team President Cam Neely and General Manager Don Sweeney obviously feel differently.  So there is not much anyone can do about it.

So where do we go from here?  What kind of preview of the 2019-2020 Boston Bruin season can we give, if the same team is basically the same from last year?

Not much.

Similar to the 2011-12 team, I expect a much shorter run from the team this year.  First round playoff loss seems about right.

Why do I say that?  Well, let’s dig a little deeper.

The first line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak remains intact.  You know, the same first line that disappeared in the Stanley Cup Final?  Ok, maybe that is a little unfair.  But while Pasta should continue to grow, how much more upside is there for the other two?  Marchy broke 100 points last year, can he do it again?  Bergy is now 34 years old.

Listen, these guys won’t be the problem.  They will most assuredly enjoy productive regular seasons, barring injury.

But once again, is all the scoring going to be on that line?  Well, you’ve got David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk anchoring the second line.  Krejci enjoyed a bit of a scoring renaissance last season.  But at 33 years old, already banged up even before the season starts and once again, without a decent right winger, what does his season look like?  Hopefully Jake keeps trending up.  But…who is the other winger?

All indications were that Karson Kuhlman would at least start out in that role.  BUT…he was shipped to the minors yesterday.  Some sort of procedural move?  Perhaps.  You find hockey teams doing things like this all the time.  Maybe he suits up tonight in the end.  But as I write this, he is not on the team.

So who is the winger in this case?  Backes?  Brett Ritchie?  Par Lindholm?  Based on the roster as I write, those are the options.

Take your pick.  There are only 12 forwards listed on the current roster.  So they will all play.  Unless there are roster shenanigans, as I said.

Heinen and Charlie Coyle make up the rest of the third line.  Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner the fourth.

I will say that none of those last 3 lines excite me.  Will Coyle play wing on Krejci’s line?  Doubtful.  But I wouldn’t be opposed to it.

So I just wonder who is going to score.  Especially if the old guys get older and the injuries become more prevalent.

Reinforcements in the minors?  I don’t know.  Sweeney had stockpiled the minors with “prospects” for years.  But have (or will) any of them pan out?  So far, just DeBrusk…and I suppose we have to count Heinen.  But there have been many, many more that haven’t (or will not make it).

Peter Cehlarik was once a popular name.  But he just cleared waivers.  That should tell you all you need to know about his prospects.  Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson signed with a Swedish team even before their Cup run was over last season.  Anders Bjork always comes with some hype.  But he was shipped out again.  Kuhlman?  Maybe.  Jack Studnicka?  Pavel Shen?  Samuel Asselin?  Yeah, we will see.

I know one thing:  I am not counting on any of the kids to come up and light things on fire.

So we shall see where the goals come from.

The defense should be solid with all the returnees.  Chaz, Carlo, Torey Krug, Big Z, Matty Grzelcyk…John Moore and Kevan Miller when they are healthy…Connor Clifton…wait, he just got demoted too.  Oh yeah, Stevie Kampfer is back!  And Jeremy Lauzon and Urho Vakakakakakaeienen may soon be ready to contribute too.  I’m not worried about the defense, no matter how old Big Z is.

But you know who I AM worried about?  TUUKS!!!  I am sure you are shocked.  He did play well for most of the postseason.  Speaking of shocking.  Until the end of course.  Which wasn’t shocking.

Ok, enough of that.

Tuuks will be fine…for the regular season.  Splitting time again with Jaroslav Halak will once again “keep him fresh”.  Yup, paying a goalie like a #1 when he can’t play as many games as a true #1 can.

So where does that leave us?  Or the team rather?

Unless some of the youngsters provide some scoring touch.  Or if there is a mid-season acquisition or two that does, I think we are looking at a playoff run, but an early exit.  Tampa Bay is most assuredly looking to redeem themselves after their playoff disaster of a season ago.  Other teams have made improvements.  And the Bruins stood still.

Not good enough.

More Leftovers…

More random jibber-jabber, in no particular order:

*CELTICS?!!  Who saw that smokeshow over the Bucks in Game 1?  How about…NO ONE?

I think we should all take the first round pounding of the Indiana Pacers with a huge grain of salt.  The Pacers really weren’t any kind of playoff team.

But that game against the Bucks Sunday?  Where the heck did that come from?

The Celtic players have told us all year to “not worry about us, we will be fine come playoff time”, blah, blah, blah.  But did any of us actually believe that nonsense?

Nope.

But let’s pull back the reins a bit.  It was a nice game.  But there is plenty of series left.

The Celtics shot 54% and the Bucks 35%.  The “Greek Freak” shot 7 for 21 himself.  The C’s are perfectly capable of firing up their share of bricks.  And the Bucks at home are bound to be better.  This alone should give everyone pause.

So even though Paul Pierce actually said: “this series is over”.  Let’s not let the rest of us get carried away…yet anyway.

*The Boston Bruins actually got by the Toronto Maple Leafs in their first-round series.  We weren’t that confident about that when we last wrote about the team.

Now they are facing a battle with a hot Columbus Blue Jacket team.  You know, the one that dumped the President’s Trophy winners the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round?

The series is currently tied 1-1, as of course, we all know.  But that double OT loss was a bad one for the Bruins.  Are they tired?  Maybe.  Are they banged up?  Maybe.

But some really stupid decisions in that game.  Patrice Bergeron’s essentially game-ending penalty.  Charlie Coyle’s dumb pass.  Jake DeBrusk going in alone on the goalie and dropping a pass back to a covered Bruin.  The list goes on.

The power play has disappeared.  So really has David Pastrnak.  Pasta, Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Torey Krug, among others, need to play like they are capable of (Krug at least offensively).  I’m not sure what to do about Zdeno Chara.  At times it has been ugly with him.  But you can’t exactly bench him…not that I’m suggesting that is the solution.  Completely anyway.

So if the mental mistakes of Game Two continue, it will be a short series.

But the more important thing is having some of the teams’ best players actually start showing up.

*Patriots draft.  Good or bad?

Who the hell knows?!

Can’t ever tell with these things until a few years down the road…at least.

But a snap judgment?

Who the hell knows?!

In all seriousness, it appears that the Pats did ok.  Based on what the “experts” say.  Ok, let’s not really pay attention to the experts.  Cuz they don’t know everything either.

As for the players, I didn’t exactly love them taking a wide receiver in the first round.  But I wasn’t opposed to it either.  I know nothing about this N’Keal Harry kid.  And anyone around here that says they do is lying.  But WR is a huge need for the Patriots.  So if this was one of the best at the position, I’m sure as hell ok with them adding him to the group.

I’m not sure why they needed another cornerback to add to the roster…at least one taken at #45 in the draft.  The CB room is stacked already.  But then I thought about it a little.  And if this Joejuan Williams kid can actually play, then it can’t ever hurt to have another solid guy in that group.  Besides, some of the other cornerbacks in the room may be a fit at safety as well.  As we saw with Jonathan Jones in the Super Bowl.  And that safety group is getting up there in age.  So it appears they did ok here.

I am not going to go through the rest of the picks individually.  You know, since I am not Mel Kiper or Todd McShay.  But we HAVE to talk about the quarterback.  4th rounder?  I guess.  On one hand, this kid Jarrett Stidham was supposed to be a first rounder if he came out last year.  So “they” say anyway.  Then he sucked badly enough last season to drop to the fourth round this year.

What does that tell us?  I have no idea.

Stidham has to be a better prospect than last years’ seventh-rounder, Danny Etling.  He probably isn’t even much worse than the current backup, Brian Hoyer.

Either way, adding another guy to the QB room and basically taking another shot at a kid that COULD be the replacement for Tom Brady down the road is not a bad thing.  And if Stidham really had first-round talent at one point and you get him in the 4th round this year…well, it’s worth it.

The rest?  I never mind the Pats loading up on the line, on either end of the ball.  They took 4 mid-round swings there.  A punter in the fifth?  Meh.  But that’s about where Bill Belichick likes to take his special teamers.  There’s nothing we can ever do about that.

A running back in the third?  Actually, not opposed to it.  They kept 4 last year and then Jeremy Hill got hurt.  If this Damien Harris kid can play, he can get right in the mix there immediately.  I’ve said it a million times, the team will continue to run the ball more.  The more capable bodies they have there, the better.  Especially when Rex Burkhead (and Sony Michel?) can’t stay healthy.  And we really do not want James White running the ball a whole lot.

Lastly, the Patriots are taking some heat for not drafting a tight end.  Let’s face it, they are not going to find another Rob Gronkowski.  Period.

As we have said before, not sure Jared Cook would have been the answer either.  So let’s roll with what they have:  Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Ryan Izzo, Matt LaCosse, Stephen Anderson, Jacob Hollis…oops, Hollister just got traded to the Seahawks for a bag of footballs.  Maybe they add some more kids and a vet or two like Benjamin Watson.  What’s the difference?  As long as they can block, if the team runs more, they won’t throw a ton to the TE anyway.

And again, for emphasis, they weren’t finding the next Gronk in this draft.  I don’t care what they say about T.J. Hockenson.  There’s been plenty of those types of guys drafted high in past years.  Guess what?  They weren’t Gronk either.  So not taking a tight end doesn’t bother me in the least bit.

One last nugget:  Gotta love the SEVEN trades pulled off by Bill.  Overkill?  Perhaps.  But, “it is what it is”.

*The Red Sox still stink.  That will likely change at some point.  But this start is a joke.

We covered that a great deal last time, so we won’t delve deep this time.  But we have a few things here:

*Does everyone know that Marcus Walden leads the Sox in wins with 3.  Really?  LIke the 15th guy on the staff has the most wins on the team 20% of the way through the season?  Wow.

*Something that may only interest me:  Brandon Workman has pitched 12 2/3 innings and has only given up 2 hits.  Awesome, right?  I’d hold off on that actually.  I think we have to factor in the 12 walks he has allowed too.  12 walks in 12 2/3 innings?  Seems hard to do.

*Michael Chavis is up from the minors and actually hitting the ball a bit.  And walking some too.  Small sample size, but worth noting.  You know, since a lot of the rest of the team isn’t.

As long as Chavis is hitting, he should be in the lineup.  Even when all those injured second basemen come back.

I’m sure he won’t be in the lineup though.  But he may also not be hitting when the injured come back.  So it may not matter.  But you can’t tell me he can’t offer more than those injured 2B, Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt.  Certainly offensively anyway.

The team will most assuredly send their top hitting prospect back down to Pawtucket for more “seasoning”.  And maybe he needs it.  Or will need it.

But don’t do it if he is producing.  Unless he gets nailed on the juice again…

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