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Trouble “Bruin”?

Haha…I crack myself up with these stupid titles every time…

Anyway, the Boston Bruins open their pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup this evening.  So what are their chances?

You got me?

Why?

One word:  TUUUUUUUUUUUKKSSSS!!!

You got it.  You know I hate the guy.  But you also know what?  It’s a fact.

Once again, Tuukka Rask crapped his pants down the stretch.  Ok, we will blame the defense some as well.  Too much Steven Kampfer and Connor Clifton are well…too much Steven Kampfer and Connor Clifton.

But Tuuks’ performance was weak nonetheless.  Seemed par for the course compared to late season performances in past years.

And this year he played barely half the schedule.

So what can we expect from Rask in the playoffs?  I know what I expect.  But that may be kind of harsh.

Looking back at his playoff record, he is actually better than I remember.  Well, his actual record isn’t that impressive (35-30).  But his goals against average of 2.25 and save percentage of .924 are solid.

Listen.  My main problem with Rask is that he STEALS relatively few games for the home team.  A 7 million dollar a year goalie needs to steal games and be great.  Not just to make the saves he is supposed to and just be there.  And he doesn’t always make the saves he is supposed to.  How many softies has he given up over the years?  How many times have you heard head coach Bruce Cassidy say postgame “we needed a save there” or “we could have used a save there”?

A lot.

Tim Thomas is a legend in this town because of all the games he stole…and winning the Stanley Cup of course too.  But he stood on his head so many times every year, especially during that Cup run.  You just can’t say that about Rask.

Prove me wrong Tuuks.  For once.  Please.  Though ESPN picked Rask as the worst starting goalie in the playoffs.  So if you can prove them wrong as well Tuuks, it would be much appreciated by many.

So where do I stand on the first round playoff matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs, all things considered?  Welp, I am a homer, so that’s not going to hurt the local squad.

The Bruins were 3-1 against the Leafs this year.  But the regular season means diddly squat now.  Ask the Tampa Bay Lightning.  They had the best regular season record…by far.  Then lost Game 1 last night.  Yeah, I know, it’s a long series and anything can happen.  And they will probably end up winning it.  But let’s remember that the Presidents’ Trophy winner doesn’t always fare well in the hunt for the Cup.  We will deal with that more in the second round if both the Bruins and Lightning advance to square off there.

We also don’t love how some “experts” are picking the Bs to win it all.  I know, they shared the second best record in the league this season.  But still…doesn’t feel right for whatever reason.

The defense worries me for one.  It looks like Kevan Miller is out (again).  And not that John Moore is anything special, he does play a little defense.  But he apparently is still out.  And that means a spot for Clifton or Kampfer…though from all indications it will be Clifton.  We’ve already covered him.

Throw in Torey Krug, who simply cannot play any defense.  Sorry.  And, with all due respect, a 41-year-old Zdeno Chara looking like he is skating in quicksand half the time.  And what have you got?

Huge question mark, that’s what.

As we have said in similar situations in the past, we are not going to tell you we watched a ton of Maple Leaf hockey this season.  But they have plenty of offensive skill, I can tell you that much.

The Bruin offense?  Not too worried about them.  Mostly healthy up front, other than Sean Kuraly.  But since he’s a bottom six guy we won’t fret too much about his absence.

I do love the noise I’m hearing about David Backes possibly being the odd man out tonight.  Give Backes credit for the way he has handled his role, or really, lack of role, this year.  But now is not the time to appease aging veterans.  If it was, Lee Stempniak would be in the lineup.

Good idea to keep the Patrice Bergeron/Brad Marchand/David Pastrnak line together.  And as a 4th group, Noel Acciari/Joakim Nordstrom/Chris Wagner is good enough.

But I love that they are giving Karson Kuhlman that shot on the David Krejci/Jake DeBrusk line.  Or they appear to be anyway.  5 points in 11 games is certainly not Hall of Fame material.  And we saw what happened last year when Ryan Donato came in late season, flashed, then completely disappeared in the playoffs.

But I want to see what the kid can bring.  If it doesn’t work, move on to someone else.

I am also intrigued by the Marcus Johannson/Charlie Coyle/Danton Heinen line.  Not sure how much they have exactly played together.  But I know Johannson and Coyle played together a bit when Marcus came back from his injury.  Seemed to be ok.  Let’s keep looking at that combo too.

I feel like the offense will be ok.  In fact, it may well be a series that features a handful of 6-5 games.

Why?

The way I feel about Rask HAS to be the same way Leaf fans feel about their netminder, Frederik Andersen.  I guess he’s ok, but ok isn’t what anyone wants in the playoffs.

Andersen’s goals against average was 2.77 this season.  Seems a little high in today’s NHL.  Not to mention that his career performance in the playoffs isn’t anything to write home about.  Including a ghastly 3.76 GAA in last years’ playoffs.

Ssssssoooo… that gives me a little comfort.

Prediction?  I don’t know, Boston in seven?  Sounds about right.  Though it could be Toronto in five for all we know.

That’s the beauty of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Exciting for one, but sometimes completely unpredictable for another.

And as we all know a hot goalie can take a team pretty far.  Maybe that can be Tuuks for once?  Though I’m not sure that is something we should be counting on…

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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…

Puck Talk…

…yup, it’s been pretty much a month since the Boston Bruins were sent packing from the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Who in turn blew a 3-2 game lead and got shut out in Game 7 at home to the Washington Capitals.  Who in turn may very well win the Stanley Cup tonight…or at some point over the next several days.

I suppose none of that matters, other than the B’s being ousted after a pretty good run.  They only made the second round of the playoffs.  But after a season in which they had the second most points in the Eastern Conference, fourth overall across the entire league.

Who saw that one coming?  No one.  If they did they are blowing smoke up your arse.

So of course, the Blowhard has been meaning to write for a while about what was really a successful season under the circumstances.  So why not now, as the NHL season is about to wrap up?  I guess that’s one reason anyway…

We could write about how the season was an unexpected success.  Or how coach Bruce Cassidy changed the teams’ gears and focused more on offense.  Or how so many young guys made contributions out of nowhere.  Or how the team was just more fun to watch in general.

But I suppose enough has been written already about all that stuff.  So we will congratulate them on a good season and look to the future.  One that still will need some more maneuvering to become a true Cup contender…in my eyes anyway.  Many people thought they had a legitimate shot this year.  I am not sure I agreed with that, but what do I know?

So anyway…one of the biggest issues facing this team going forward is all the young talent they appear to have.  That’s what everyone tells me anyway.  I haven’t seen a ton of these kids play, so I have no idea if they can actually survive in the NHL, no less make a huge difference.  But “people in the know” insist the pipeline is deep.  So what do they do now?

They can start by unloading Tuukka Rask!!  Ok, I despise the guy, as we all probably know.  But I suppose that’s not really where they need to start.  I can at least reluctantly acknowledge that.

I think we can all agree that we can say goodbye to all of the Bruins unrestricted free agents.  The team has already said that they are not bringing Brian Gionta back, but did they really need to tell us that?  In any event, the five most notable are:  Reilly Nash, Rick Nash, Tim Schaller, Nick Holden and Anton Khudobin.  Tommy Wingels and Austin Czarnik may whet some others’ appetite, not mine, however.

Reilly had a career year (despite the dud of a finish…but we will blame getting nailed in the face with a puck and the concussion and all) and Anton also played very well, so those guys are probably poised to cash in a little bit…or more than they should get as a 3rd/4th liner and a backup goalie.  Rick didn’t light the world on fire after being traded here (do Donnie Sweeney’s trades all suck or what?  I suppose it just seems that way on the deadline acquisitions anyway…but I digress) and probably wants some more dough as well.  If he takes something like 1 year for 3 mil or 2 years for 5 mil, I’d bring him back.  Fat chance of that happening though.  Schaller and David Pastrnak were the only B’s to play all 82 games…who saw that with Schaller when he was supposed to be like the 13th forward to start the year?  He may actually get some better dough too…but is ultimately replaceable, as is Wingels.  Not sure why Holden didn’t play more in the playoffs…but when you can’t beat out Adam McQuaid, that should tell us everything (another deadline deal by Donnie Hockey…sigh).  Czarnik never got a real chance despite putting up some serious points in Providence.  But he weighs like 90 lbs, so…

Now that we’ve beaten those borderline bums to death, where does that leave the team?  Welp, it leaves the first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Pastrnak intact (if Marchy can stop doing stupid things and getting suspended by the league, that is).  But it leaves David Krejci with Jake DeBrusk on one side and…who on the other?  David Backes?  Danton Heinen?  Ryan Donato?  No, no and no.  So here’s where we start…a top scoring right winger to play with Krejci.  Me?  I’d consider moving Krejci.  Though he’s at 7.25 mil with a no-movement clause.  So forget that.  I’d also consider dropping Pastrnak down to play with Jake and David.  And fill Pasta’s first line slot with someone like Anders Bjork.  WHAT?!  Well, let’s all remember that this is how the team came out of the gate in 2017.  With those two lines.  Bjork couldn’t stay healthy though.  I’m not opposed to trying it again.

Let’s also put it this way:  How are you going to get a big-time right wing scorer when you will have Marchand, Bergy, Krejci, Pasta, Backes, Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara and Tuuks all over 5 mil next year?  Not to mention that Charlie McAvoy is going to get paid after next season…maybe Brandon Carlo too.  Let’s try not to talk about the 4 mil worth of baggage from the leftover contracts of Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes and Dennis Seidenberg.  But we kind of have to add that in as well.  Plus, it’s not like you can trade any of the first 8 dudes to free up some cap room.  Most have some sort of no movement/no trade clauses (thanks Peter Chiarelli!).  The one that doesn’t (Pasta) is the one you would least likely trade of the eight.  (Yes, Bergeron is a local icon.  But at this stage of their respective careers, you keep Pasta over Patrice.  Sorry.).

So that’s that.

The third line could be something like Backes/Heinen/Donato…in some combination.  And the 4th line can be anyone.  Sean Kuraly (if he returns after hitting restricted free agency).  Noel Acciari will be here.  And then anyone else…Peter Cehlarik…Wingels…Schaller…some other cheap vet.  While kids like Trent Frederic, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (JFK!) and Zach Senyshyn still marinate on the farm.

Defense?  Z, Charlie, Torey, Quaider, Carlo and Kevan Miller return and we will see if Matty Grzelcyk returns with him being a restricted free agent.  Let’s put it this way though:  Don’t expect much change here.

Net?  Tuuks and…some veteran who is down on their luck a bit and comes here trying to rebuild their game on a 25-30 game schedule.  Think Khudobin both times he arrived here.  Or Chad Johnson.  Someone similar.  Zane McIntyre?  Restricted free agent.  I suppose he could be in the mix.  But all of a sudden he is 26 years old in August.  When did that happen?  So much for being a prospect.  Maybe they should have hung on to Malcolm Subban…

My point?  The Bruins SHOULD do more maneuvering to bolster the squads’ chances next season.  But, what CAN they really do?  After reviewing all of the above, I am thinking just about the same team comes back and they keep going with the youth movement.  Maybe add a few low-cost veterans to supplement the youth a bit.  But their hands may be tied more than we think they are.

Now, there is plenty of talent to compete again next year.  For the Cup?  Perhaps.  Depends on how the kids keep developing…or not developing, as the case may be.  Expectations will be much, much, much higher.  How do they deal with that?  Would not shock me if the team pretty much stands pat roster-wise, as noted above, while at the same time ends up taking a step back from their finish this past year.

How do we all feel about that??  Well, in a year the expansion Vegas Golden Knights are currently a mere three wins shy of a Stanley Cup, who the hell knows what anyone will do next season, regardless of what talent they have on their roster?

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