Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Bruins 32-10-12   Hawks 25-21-7

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN

THEY’RE ALL AEROSMITH’S DRUMMER NOW: Stanley Cup Of Chowder

After stealing a point last night by only playing for the third period, the Hawks will have the degree of difficulty seriously upped on them tonight to get three of four points, or even two. The Boston Bruins stroll in, also having played last night, and having won their last four to the tune of 15-4 aggregate. So yeah, this isn’t the Wild.

We wrote this about the Bruins when the Hawks were there in December:

And with this cushion in the Atlantic, the Bs don’t really have to fear a flattening out or market correction. 14 points even at this stage is a gargantuan lead, and unless both Halak’s and Rask’s head fall off and roll into the Charles, they’re not losing that. So they can look forward to at least the first two rounds with home ice. Their season is almost accomplished and we’re weeks away from Christmas.

Yeah, about that.

Thanks to the Lightning finally gaining consciousness and a serious case of, “What the fuck is going on here?”, the Bruins are only up five points on them and have played a game more. So that lead-pipe-cinch of a division crown isn’t so lead-pipe-cinch anymore. So what happened?

Well part of it is an ungodly number of losses after 60 minutes. The Bruins have 12 overall, with only Detroit and Ottawa the only other ones even in double-digits. Flip half of those the other way, which easily could have happened because it’s a lottery, and not only are the Bruins running away with the Atlantic but the entire NHL as well. The Bruins have lost seven games in OT or a shootout in just the past two months. And even still, the Bruins have gone 12-7-6 since the last meeting with the Hawks, which is more than acceptable. It’s not their fault the Lightning have gone 29-1 or whatever.

Overall, the story hasn’t changed that much for the Bs. They’re a decent-to-good metric team. They don’t create as many chances or attempts as the other teams in the top ten, but they bury more of them because they have Pastrnak, Marchand, Bergeron, and Krejci. And they’ve become very tight defensively this season, as they’re the best team in terms of xGA/60 and fifth best in attempts-against. Throw in remarkable special teams (top three in both) and great goaltending, and you see where they raft of OT/SO losses belie what this team actually is. The +44 goal difference, best in the league, is a much better indicator of what this team is.

It’s easy to dismiss the Bruins as just one line, and they do have arguably the best line in hockey still. But that is somewhat unjust to David Krejci, though he basically only gets offensive-zone starts now. Charlie Coyle has been of use as well, but this team is a touch short on the wings behind Marchand and Pastrnak, and probably DeBrusk. McAvoy and Chara are pretty much mine-sweepers now, and they’ve been very good at it, with Grzelcyk and Krug doing most of the pushing and creative work against lesser competition. Carlo rounds out a pretty solid if unspectacular blue line.

Tuke Nuk’em and Jaro Halak might be the best duo in the crease in the league, with bother over .920 and Rask in the Vezina discussion. Before the deadline, they’ll be looking for wingers, but this is a serious contender once again.

Which makes the Hawks’ task that much harder Given their position, they can’t just write off too many games as luxury items. Especially after not getting both points last night. Whom Colliton wants to match up with Bergeron and Co. will be the main watch tonight. It’s not something he’s shown a talent for, and really the only candidate is Kubalik-Toews-Caggiula. Maybe reuniting Kampf and Carpenter somewhere would be another, but don’t count on it. As good as the Bruins are, stopping their top line from putting up three or four goals is still the main task. And staying out of the box.

The Hawks sprung a surprise on the Bruins at The Garden, but once the Bruins actually started paying attention the world collapsed around the Hawks’ ears. Toews saved them in OT. Maybe on the road and the second of a back-to-back will keep the Bruins fro totally focusing. That’s the main hope. The Hawks season will hinge on the following road trip. But it would be nice to have points here in the bag before it.

 

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 10-12-5   Bruins 20-3-5

PUCK DROP: 6pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

FRUSTRATED WOMEN: Stanley Cup Of Chowder

So you’ve just been fustigated by the West’s leader at home. What’s the best follow-up to that? Why, one of the East’s best on the road of course! Where they haven’t actually lost a game all year! Where they’ve collected 28 of 32 points! Sounds fun, no? Who’s excited?

Whether the Hawks like it or not, that’s the task they face. And they’ve brought their moms along with them to…Boston and Newark? What the fuck did their moms ever do to them? Don’t they go to Arizona and Vegas next week? That seems an oversight. Or were they afraid they wouldn’t be able to pry too many moms away from the craps table to go watch their sons trail in the Knights’ wake? We’ll discuss this another time. THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED.

Anyway, the Hawks wash up on Causeway St. to find everything pretty much humming for the Bruins, even with Patrice Bergeron missing the past few games. They have the league’s fourth and fifth-leading scorer in Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and the Hawks didn’t seem to be able to do much about the third-leading scorer in Nathan MacKinnon last weekend. The Bs have two goalies in the Vezina discussion, as both Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask have save-percentages north of .930. So if you’ve got one line that no one can stop, and a goalie every night no team can get past, what the fuck else do you need? The answer is not much, because the Bruins don’t have much beyond that and yet they’re 14 points up on what was thought to be the league’s toughest division. Some guys have all the luck.

Is there some air in the Bruins start so far? Maybe a little. They’re pretty middle of the pack in most metrics, and they certainly don’t create a host of chances and shots for themselves. They just have two guys burying them at ridiculous rates. They’re top-10 when it comes to allowing expected goals or scoring chances, which looks a lot better when Halak and Rask have combined for a .936 at evens. As you might expect, giving the Perfection Line a look with an extra man has led to pretty much instant death for any opponent, as the power play is clicking at 30.9%. That’s enough to get it done most nights right there.

And with this cushion in the Atlantic, the Bs don’t really have to fear a flattening out or market correction. 14 points even at this stage is a gargantuan lead, and unless both Halak’s and Rask’s head fall off and roll into the Charles, they’re not losing that. So they can look forward to at least the first two rounds with home ice. Their season is almost accomplished and we’re weeks away from Christmas.

In the big picture, you have to feel like the Bs need to find secondary scoring somewhere. Only Krejci below the top line has more than 20 points, and some of that is boosted by getting to play with Pastrnak in Bergeron’s absence. Then again, this was enough to push to the absolute limit last year, and it may just be no one ever figures out how to stop that line until Marchand decides to do it himself (which he always does). I wouldn’t trust any team that has Danton Heinen or Jake DeBrusk on the second line either, but they have 45 points and all I have is shit in my pants. So there.

The underlying cause to the Bruins is that they have three d-men who can really move the play in Charlie McAvoy (the mouth-breathing loser TM Fifth Feather), Torey Krug, and Matt Grzelcyk. The latter’s absence is last year’s Final was massive, and it deprived the Black and Gold from having a puck-mover on the ice at all times. Krug still has no idea what he’s doing defensively, but as he gets to play with Brandon Carlo most of the messes get cleaned up. The Bruins can play at pace.

Which is a problem for the Hawks, who can’t. Duncan Keith will miss both of these games, which means the Hawks are going to try and combat this unholy beast with five slow d-men and the moderate mobility of Connor Murphy. My eyes are bleeding too. Anyway, Dylan Strome sounds like he might make the bell, but Andrew Shaw and Drake Caggiula won’t.

I can’t sugarcoat this one for you. It has every chance of being ugly. The Hawks can try and leak out and maybe cherrypick their way to some odd-mans, but that will only leave them more exposed in their own zone. The Bruins aren’t a great possession team, but they have more than enough forwards who can hold the puck long enough and carry it low-to-high or the other way which always sends the Hawks into hysterics defensively. And even if you get out against the Bruins, you have one of two goalies who have been a wall to get past.

Stranger things have happened? That’s going to replace “One Goal” as the motto soon.

Hockey

Brad Marchand – As always. And really, these days we’ve thrown our hands up at his antics, because he can’t help himself. He’s going to score enough for everyone to find a way to justify it, so whatever. But it’s his el foldo against the Blues last spring that we’ll never forgive him for. He says he’ll never get over losing Game 7 at home. We won’t either, asshole. Maybe if you’d reported for duty you wouldn’t have this heartbreak to worry about. Or would you rather just go for a change when things get hard?

The Bias Against Tuukka Rask – Tuke Nuke’em is the leading candidate for the Vezina right now. And yet you’ll find plenty in the Boston media who want Jaro Halak made the starter. It’s been this way for years. If you think Crawford doesn’t get his due here, you should see this nonsense. But hey, it’s Boston, he’s not from Quincy, so is anyone else surprised?

David Backes – The one plus of last spring was Backes having to watch his former team celebrate while he was in the pressbox or trying to be a goon or something. There aren’t many contracts as bad as Seabrook’s around. There’s a kind of symbolism that this is one of them. Maybe more went on in that corner in St. Louis in 2014 than we thought.

Everything Else

vs.

SCHEDULE

Game 1 in Boston – Tonight, 7pm

Game 2 in Boston – Sunday, 2pm

Game 3 in Raleigh – Tuesday, 7pm

Game 4 in Raleigh – Thursday, 7pm

If you were privy to the private conversations we have here at the lab…well, you’d never read this blog again but I digress. What I meant to get to was over the past two or three seasons, there’s been a general feeling of mystification about the Boston Bruins. They look like one line and David Krejci, and a pretty good goalie and nothing else. And yet their metric numbers are always among the best, they always seem to rack up 100 points, so a first conference final appearance since that wonderful spring of 2013 seems like it’s overdue in some ways. They’ll be favored by everyone simply due to pedigree, but this is stiffest test they’ve seen yet.

Goalies: This would be easier if we could pin down who exactly is playing for Carolina. Petr Mrazek has returned to practice, so it stands to reason he’ll take his normal post…between the posts (that could be better). Curtis McElhinney did close out the Islanders from the third period of Game 2 on, but that was the Isles and their Trotz-inspired offense-allergy. The Bs come with far more firepower, and McElhinney also suffers from a serious case of being Curtis McElhinney. Mrazek has been killing it since February, and if he’s healthy there’s no reason to think he won’t at least be representative.

Sadly for Carolina, representative is probably not going to cut it, as Tuuke Nuke’Em has been excellent all playoffs long. He’s got a .938 over 13 games, and let just 11 goals in against the Jackets over six games. This is probably the best he’s played since that ’13 run to 17 seconds (he was .940 that spring), and in this kind of form he can win a series by himself. And it’s not like the Canes are loaded with deadly snipers here. This is Boston’s biggest edge no matter who dons the gear for the Canes.

Defense: And here’s Carolina’s biggest edge. The Isles trap was dealt with much more effectively by the Canes than the Penguins because they have a puck-mover on the ice all the time. In addition, Jaccob Slavin is setting himself up for Norris candidacies in the future and if the Canes make it to the Final he’d have a serious case for the Conn Smythe. While Dougie Hamilton took a fair share of grief for his dealings with Ovechkin, he’s been tearing opponents apart where it mattes, i.e. getting the puck up the ice. Brett Pesce and Justin Faulk aren’t far behind, and though they’ll mostly only play five with Calvin de Haan joining in as TVR is on the shelf for good, they’ve had basically a full week off and they’ll get an extra day between Games 1 and 2. If the series goes long that five-man rotation could bite them, but we’ll run that kitten over when we get to it.

This is where I just don’t get the Bruins. Zdeno Chara looked AWFUL against the Jackets, and there were some rushes outside of him that made me think of Vladimir Guerrero (Sr.) at the end of his career trying to go first-to-third on a single and really scared every bone in his body would just come spilling out through his heels. The entire corps is below water when it comes to possession and expected goals, and given that McAvoy looks like a busted pool toy in his own zone (when he’s not suspended) and they’re facing a dominant possession team here, it could be a real issue. I expect the Boston defense to try and be really physical with the small Carolina forwards, but they’re going to have to catch them first. And that didn’t really work out for the Capitals either.

Forwards: Normally, you’d say this is a star power vs. depth kind of thing. The Canes don’t have any front-line scorers, but they have a raft of really good forwards who keep the puck. The Teravainen-Staal-Neiderreiter (tear) line has been utterly destroying all in its path, and then you still have Sebastien Aho’s line to deal with. The Canes have gotten contributions from down the lineup as well, and they’ll probably need to keep doing that to get out of this. The Canes are kind of like the Itchy and Scratchy version of Fantasia, when Scratchy chopped up Itchy into vapor but then the vapor just became thousands of tiny Itchys and destroyed him from the inside.

The Bruins will stake a claim to being more than one line, and they’ve gotten help from Charlie Coyle, Marcus Johansson, and Jake DeBrusk at times. But when they win, it’s because Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak-Krejci score. When they don’t, they likely lose. The Canes don’t have anything that can match those four, but they don’t depend on anyone like that either. While Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are good, they aren’t what Slavin is right now along with Hamilton. Sure, Marchand is going to try and annoy the piss out of Dougie, but I don’t know that there’s getting to Dougie, especially if he’s pushing the play. This is probably where your series is decided. If Slavin and Hamilton, or Pesce and Faulk in Boston, can keep Boston’s top line at least somewhat controlled, then Carolina’s raft of foot soldiers probably take this. If the Bs glitterati go off, the Canes probably can’t match.

Prediction: Probably more with my heart than my head here, but the way Slavin is playing makes me think the Canes can be the first team this spring to keep Boston’s top line under wraps. Rask is a big challenge, but then so was Lehner before the Canes got to him. Same goes for Holtby. Something about this Canes team. Also, fuck Boston. Canes in 6. 

Everything Else

vs.

SCHEDULE

Game 1 in Boston – Tonight, 6pm

Game 2 in Boston – Saturday, 7pm

Game 3 in Columbus – Tuesday, 6pm

Game 4  in Columbus – Thursday, 6:30

This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. And the Jackets aren’t even in this division! We’re not supposed to be here today! Hockey is weird and stupid but that’s kind of why we’re here. For the first time in their history, the Jackets will play games in May. Maybe just one, but it’ll happen. Can they keep the miracle run going? Let’s find out.

Goalies: Are four games enough to declare a former playoff-barfer suddenly a dynamo? That’s the question you’ll have to ask about Sergei Bobrovsky. He was very good against Tampa, after a so-so regular season, though thanks to the Jackets forecheck he didn’t have to do that much. Which probably should have been the plan all along. He never faced 35 shots in a game, and really in only Games 1 and 4 did he face what you would call anything close to an abundance of good chances. Those were the games he gave up three goals, so really this might depend more on what the Jackets make Bob do than what he does. The Bruins shouldn’t be that hard to hold to a reasonable amount of shots and chances, except for that one line. But that one line is an expert at moving the puck around quickly, which is where Bob’s athleticism kicks in. But he’ll have to toe that line of athleticism and losing his positioning. Basically, we don’t know shit here.

Amongst the Toronto wailing is that Tuukka Rask was marvelous against the Leafs, with a .928 over seven games. Rask’s playoff performance have become basically metronomic at this point, almost always in the mid-.920s if not better. He’s got a career .928 in the postseason. He may not steal a series, but he’s as sure a bet as there is left to not lose it, and the Jackets are going to have to work a hell of a lot harder here than they did against the very jumpy Vasilevskiy.

Defense: This comes down to how tinker-y and match-y up-y John Tortorella wants to get. The first round acted as a coming out party for Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, racking up nine points combined in four games. However, possession-wise, that pairing got kicked around a bit and not by the Lightning’s top line either. The natural inclination is to think that they’ll take on Bergeron’s line. Judging by what happened last round, that’s probably not the case. Strangely, it was David Savard and Scott Harrington who did the heavy lifting, and at least held their own. But if you trust those two against arguably the best line in hockey that is also playoff-proven, you go right ahead. I’ll be over here. Maybe it’s whether or not Jones and Werenski can do enough on the power play and against lesser and whether that cancels out Bergeron and Marchard against Savard and Harrington. I don’t know what a Dean Kukan is and I don’t care.

For Boston, they already know the plan here. The Jackets are going to do the same thing they did against Tampa, which is push their trap up the ice, try to get their forwards on the Bs defensemen as quickly as possible and bring da ruckus. The Lightning’s defense is pretty slow beyond Hedman, especially when Sergachev was having a nightmare. You’d think this would be a problem for Zdeno Chara and the tennis balls on the bottom of his skates, and maybe it will be. It just rarely seems to be. In theory this is why you have Moonface McAvoy and Torey Krug, as they can skate themselves out of trouble. But they also blow chunks in their own zone. Then again, they just survived a more skilled and better forward crop in the last round. Basically, we don’t know shit here.

Forwards: The Jackets forwards certainly were buzzing against Tampa, with that forecheck getting them the puck back below the circles and only requiring a pass or two for chances and goals. That’s clearly the plan here, and in transition and with things scramble-y that’s when Atkinson and Panarin and Anderson are lethal. You can’t catch back up to them and how quickly they can start moving the puck around. If the Bruins can keep things stable, the Jackets lack a little shot-creation, especially if Panarin isn’t in the mood to do it. There are grunts here who can scrum in a goal or two, but you can’t beat the Bruins if your top isn’t your top (not a sex joke).

The Bruins are one line and David Krejci. And yet that’s enough for 100+ point seasons and at least a round win. The Bs got contributions from Charlie Coyle and Joakim Nordstrom and the like, but those aren’t the things you can count on. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but it’s (Gorilla Monsoon voice) highly unlikely that Marchand and Bergeron and Pastrnak aren’t going to produce. And it’s hard to see a way that the Jackets stop them from doing that, even if they try and cut it off at the source by harassing the Boston D before they can get the puck up to them.

Prediction: This isn’t going to be easy for the Bruins, and the argument that the Jackets just dispatched a better team before we had time to fart into the couch is always lingering there. And as we’ve stressed a ton, it’s not like the Lightning didn’t have playoff pedigree. Their recent pedigree is actually better than the Bs. But I don’t trust Bob yet, and Rask is pretty much a rock. And that feels like it’ll be the biggest difference here. It’s just going to take a while.

Bruins in 6.

Everything Else

vs.

SCHEDULE

Game 1 in Boston Thursday, 6pm

Game 2 in Boston Saturday, 7pm

Game 3 in Toronto Monday, 6pm

Game 4 in Toronto Wednesday, 6pm

After all the whining, moaning, and kvetching, they are still going to play this series and not reschedule the Leafs against a team their media contingent deems is a better matchup for them. At some point, either the Leafs are good enough or they aren’t, and whether they spit it in the first or second round really shouldn’t matter. But any slight is a massive injustice to those clad in blue. In reality, this is a team they should be getting past, no matter the history. But thanks to their mental fragility and bed-wetting, they may have turned the Bruins into such a monster in their own heads there’s no way by.

Goalies: The other thing Leafs Nation seems unwilling to admit to itself is that no matter who the opponent, Freddie Andersen is as likely as anyone to clown it up but good. He fell apart in Game 7 last year versus these same Bruins, just as he’d done three years prior against the Hawks, just as he’d done the year before that when John Gibson took his job. He is basically the biggest question mark for the Leafs, and that’s on a team with no top-pairing d-men. He also went to pieces in the spring with a terrible March, though the Leafs are hoping his small recovery in April bodes well. It doesn’t. That said, the Leafs’ style put Andersen under mass amounts of pressure all season and he was just shy of Vezina-level. If it’s ever going to happen for him…

On the other end, you pretty much know what you’re getting from Tuukka Rask. He was a touch north of league average this year, which is basically where he’s lived the past few years. His playoff record is pretty glittering, somewhat marred by the Bruins being overmatched by the Lightning last year. There’s very little chance that Rask is going to upend his own team, and a better chance he is a major factor to the good in this series. And even if he does misstep, the Bruins have a pretty stout safety net in Jaro Halak, who’s been marvelous all season and has his own playoff history to work with. The only concern is if Bruce Cassidey wants to get cute early and heaps too much pressure on both goalies and tenses up the team, but that’s not all that likely.

Defense: As has been the problem for years, you might have heard about it, the Leafs blue line doesn’t come anywhere near matching the quality of the forwards. Jake Muzzin has been an all right addition, but hasn’t really locked anything down. Nor was he ever going to. This is an outfit still giving meaningful minutes to Ron Hainsey, who can regale you with tales of cars without windshields. Jake Gardiner is back, which apparently counts for something. I don’t know what. Morgan Rielly is good pointed one way but not the other. The Leafs are best off just going for broke, trying to get up the ice as much and as fast as possible and trying to take their d-men out of the equation as much as they can.

The thing is, it shouldn’t be that big of a disadvantage against the Bruins. Because I don’t think there’s a lot here. Zdeno Chara has been able to strip down his game and be effective at his advanced age, but that only makes him a second-pairing player. Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy are offensive weapons but specialize in the Lemeul Stinson trail-technique whenever asked to defend anyone. Brandon Carlo is….fine? Maybe? Do we even know? I’m sure I don’t care. Somehow they make it work, because they give up the least amount of attempts, shots, and chances in the East. It can’t be all Bergeron…can it?

Forwards: This is where it feels like the Leafs have a huge advantage. But it felt that way last year and look how that went. The Leafs have been showtime at times this year, and that’s with William Nylander getting seriously wounded by the SH% Dragon (BABIP Dragon’s sister). Remember, their second center has 47 goals this year. And neither Tavares or Matthews were the leading scorer on the team. Nazem Kadri is a hell of a weapon, both scoring-wise and annoying-wise, to have on your third line. Only Tampa can boast more, and at least forward-wise, it’s closer to a push than you might think.

We’ve been convinced for years that the Bruins are nothing more than Bergeron’s line plus David Krejci. But much like the defense we can’t comprehend, it keeps working. They were somehow shocked to discover that Charlie Coyle sucks. Jake DeBrusk gives Krejci at least half of a player to do things with, but beyond that there is nothing here. But because of Bergeron’s dominance there doesn’t have to be. The Leafs aren’t going to have any answer for Patrice and Marchand and Pastrnak. Matthews and JT can’t do the defensive work and there’s no pairing up to the task.

Prediction: On paper, there’s no excuse for the Leafs losing this. But there’s more at work here. Much like last year, the Leafs just don’t have an answer for Bergeron, and the questions about their defense are slightly louder than the ones about Boston’s. The questions about their goalie are much louder than the ones about Boston’s. Still, with that firepower the Leafs should be able to simply outscore the Bruins. Even if Rask plays well the Leafs could, and probably should, get three goals or more per game. And the Bruins would be hard-pressed to match that. In a vacuum. But this isn’t a vacuum. And it feels like the Leafs have been looking for an excuse to shoot themselves in the face again. This one’s got a familiar ring to it…

Bruins in seven.

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 23-24-9   Bruins 31-17-8

PUCK DROP: 6pm

TV: NBCSN non-locally, NBCSN Chicago locally

PLAYIN’ HOUSE WITH SHINE: Stanley Cup Of Chowder

If some of this recent winning-streak for the Hawks is based on getting to play some lower-tier competition, that will change a bit tonight on Causeway St. Then again, the state they’ll find the Bruins in doesn’t exactly make them a premier force either. It doesn’t have to make sense, because it’s hockey and it’s the NHL. And I guess I’m contractually obligated to point out the Canucks lost last night, this is the Hawks game in hand on them, and they could climb higher. If that matters. Which it might. But probably doesn’t. But maybe.

Anyway, the Bruins. They’ve won four of five, while inspiring exactly no confidence in their fans while doing so. They needed overtime to get past the Kings and reeling Avalanche. They needed a shootout to get past the confuse-a-cat Rangers. They scored one goal against the Caps. So it’s not a clear demonstration of raw power, exactly. The Bs are third in the Atlantic, in a real tussle with the Leafs and Canadiens. And it’s one of these weird happenstances that only takes place in the NHL, where it might actually be beneficial to finish fourth in the division. Second or third means going through either the Leafs or Habs and then the Lightning. Swapping over to the Metro could see a team have to get past a somewhat illusory-Islanders team and then any of a flawed Pens, Caps, or Jackets. The easier path is clearly marked.

The Bruins are also beat up. It was announced this morning that David Pastrnak is out for three weeks with a thumb injury, and this was a team that was one-line-plus-one-center anyway. Now David Krejci has no one to play with again, and the unholy alliance of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand will look to their right and wonder how Danton Heinen got there. Clearly, the Bruins are screaming out for a move, and should be in on any discussion for Panarin, Duchene, Stone, and whoever else. That is if they think they can make anything of this season. Given the age of Bergeron, Marchand, and Zdeno Chara, they don’t really have seasons they can just give away.

All that said, this is the Bruins team you remember. When Bergeron is out there, they’re one of the best teams around. When he’s on the bench, they are most decidedly not. When he’s playing, the Bruins carry nearly 60% of the chances and attempts, and are below water when he’s on the Gatorade. Krejci is having a wonderful season, and he’s doing it with interns and contest0-winners on his wings for the most part. David Backes is broken and dead. None of the kids that showed flashes last year have backed that up. Jake DeBrusk has three goals in 2019. Heinen has been a nothing. The Bruins are short, and would look to be short if they run into the Leafs in the first round, and would heavily struggle with the Canadiens’ speed at least.

The defense is at least healthy, which is most certainly wasn’t earlier in the season. Chara, McAvoy, and Krug are all back. Chara is still getting done by cutting down his game more and more and letting McAvoy do the work beyond the Bs blue line. Krug is still a choose-your-own-adventure at evens but a power play weapon, making him Michigan Gustafsson, really. But that’s ok, because the goalies have been really good. Both Tuuke Nuke ‘Em and Jaro Halak are over .920 on the season, and Rask hasn’t lost in regulation in nearly two months. So even when Bergeron isn’t keeping everything on one end, the Bruins get bailed out most of the time.

To the Hawks. Dylan Sikura will replace Kunitz in the lineup to keep him saved for his 1,000th game at home on Thursday, because that’s a huge occasion for this organization. Apparently. The defensive rotation will continue. What the Hawks need to do is figure out how they want to handle Bergeron. Bruce Cassidy will toss him out against anyone not named Toews every chance, and the Hawks are either going to have to try and survive or change quickly. Bergeron and Marchand against Anisimov and Hayden is not going to be funny for anyone in red, so that’s one the Hawks will probably try and get away from and have Toews or Kruger take on the big assignment.

Eight is better than seven, even if it’s empty.

 

Game #57 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

We went to our normal Days of Y’Orr crew. No one told us they were all dead. Some relative forwarded us to someone named Jon Fucile. So here you go. We don’t know either.

Not that you could do this, but the Bruins are in a tussle with the Canadiens and Leafs for the 2nd and 3rd spots in the Atlantic. Technically, wouldn’t it be better to finish 4th and deal with whatever dreck wins the Metro instead of Toronto or yet another series with Montreal?
I’m torn on that, though I’d lean towards preferring a match-up with the Metro. The Bruins have handled the Maple Leafs pretty well over the past couple years, but the Leafs have more than one line which could be a problem in the playoffs. Tavares actually playing some meaningful playoff games could cause him to Hulk out and go nuts and as much as I love Zdeno Chara, he already looks tired. Pretty soon Bergeron is going to have to play D and pull a Weekend at Bernie’s with Chara. Doesn’t bode well for the playoffs.
Because the NHL playoff schedule sucks and there’s a chance Toronto and Tampa could meet in the first round, it’d be nice to watch those two teams beat the shit out of each other and hope the Bruins could make a series of out the scraps if they happened to make it to the second round (which is doubtful anyway).
The Metro is such a crap show but the Bruins just got their first win against the Capitals after losing 14 straight to them so not sure I’d want to see the Caps in the first round.
Though I’m confident the Bruins could give the Penguins or Blue Jackets a run. Yeah the Pens have Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Kessel but they have less D than an early 90’s John Wayne Bobbitt and over in Columbus Bobrovsky forgot you’re supposed to play well in a contract year. So yeah I’d say play for 4th and hope for the “best” from the Metro.
I mean… go for #1! Yeah! Rah rah and all that.
The Bs have been racking up points, but they’ve gone to OT with the Flyers, Rangers, Kings, and Avalanche of late, none of whom are above the remedial class. Any worries there?
Oh yeah. The Bruins score less than me and I’m married. When the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line isn’t out there, this team couldn’t score on an empty net. Well, maybe that’s a tad harsh. But they’d definitely have trouble scoring on a blind folded Martin Jones, and he can’t stop anything this year. And now with Pastrnak being out at least two weeks with a busted thumb, scoring is likely to dry up like Oilers playoff chances after opening night. This was a problem last year too and management failed to address it. We never learn from our mistakes.
Well, except for firing Chiarelli. But it was too late. IT WAS TOO LATE.
They have to get David Krejci any winger, right?
They have to but I’m afraid they won’t. Even if I drink a gallon of Bruins Kool-Aid I still know this team has zero shot at a long playoff run without adding more to the second line.
Boston management is too addicted to their failing prospects, though. Sweeney should’ve made a move or two last year when some of the top B’s prospects had some value before they tanked hard this year. They’ve tried spreading out the scoring by putting Pastrnak on Krejci’s wing, but then you break up what is arguably the best line in hockey.
The rumor mill is popping with Panarin to Boston rumors, and I think he and Krejci would look GREAT together but I’m not sure even that that the Bruins have enough depth scoring to be a threat to a healthy Tampa Bay team. Also rumors that the Bruins are front runners to add Wayne Simmonds, which is a trade I would LOVE if I had a time machine and could get the Wayne Simmonds from 3-4 years ago. Vintage Wayne Simmonds is what Bruins fans pretend Milan Lucic was.
The Bruins last year seemed to have introduced an impressive collection of younger players. But DeBrusk hasn’t scored in forever, McAvoy is made out of graham crackers, Heinen has 16 points, and one or two others have flattened out. What’s the truth here?
I hate to admit it but I think we all got suckered in last year with way too many young kids playing over their heads. It caused management to mostly stay firm this offseason as well and feed the fanbase some crap about having what they need already in the system. The signs were there, but we ignored them like an unwanted step child.
This year they came crashing back to earth like the Challenger. I still believe McAvoy has the talent but he can’t stay healthy long enough to get any kind of rhythm going. This is why I’m pro HGH. At least specifically for McAvoy. He’s the one out of this group I’d cut some slack.
DeBrusk is a classic Bruins case study. Both management and fans LOVE their power forwards and give them way too long of a leash. There were even a few rumored deals on the table last year where the Bruins could’ve included either Carlo or DeBrusk and got Landeskog in return but luckily for Colorado we’re the drunkest city in the US because management was like NO WAY WE WOULD’VE EVEN TRADE DEBRUSK FOR MCDAVID. Now he’s struggling and you’d have trouble trading him for an autographed copy of Gigli signed by Ben Affleck.
 
Boston also overvalues 4th liners every since Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell led the Merlot Line to a couple of great seasons a decade ago. Heinen, a guy with 4th line talent at best, gets propped up because of past, clearly unsustainable success.
Boston blew this whole thing more than my mom, and she’s a prostitute.

 

Game #57 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Bruins 21-14-4   Hawks 15-20-6

PUCK DROP: Noon Central

TV: NBC

Beantown, Because Boston Is a Concrete Fart: Stanley Cup of Chowder

What better way to nurse a hangover than to watch this Blackhawks team play this Boston team at the unnecessarily hallowed and despicably overrated grounds of Notre Dame? In a successful attempt to prove that hell exists and that it’s taken residence wherever hockey goes, we’ll get to experience arguably the worst fanbase in America cheer on arguably the biggest douchebag in hockey at arguably the biggest sham of a university against inarguably one of the worst teams in hockey. Happy fucking New Year.

Starting with the Bruins, it seems like Tuukka Rask has finally put whatever family demons he was dealing with behind him. Since his leave of absence that spanned a few days in November, Rask has been riding the waves between middling and good. His even-strength save percentage on the year is .925, and his shorthanded percentage is a strong .896. Hilariously, it’s been his performance on the power play that’s done the most harm, as he’s somehow managed to post a .759 on the man advantage, which is really something. He’s coming off a strong performance at Buffalo, pitching a .929 in an overtime win on the 29th.

Per usual, the Bruins rely heavily on Patrice Bergeron (12 G, 19 A), David Pastrnak (23 G, 25 A), and perpetual passenger Brad Marchand (12 G, 29 A) for just about everything. This line has accounted for nearly 41% of all of Boston’s offense this year, and that’s with Bergeron missing a month between November and December with an upper body injury. This line will score, dominate possession (57+ CF%), and then rub your face in it if you let them on the advantage. Of Pastrnak’s 23 goals, 10 have come on the PP, which is second behind Patrik Laine.

Then of course there’s Brad Marchand, who will likely get an honorary degree from Notre Dame for being the most insufferable asshole to visit the stadium since the Class of 2018 graduated. He’s doing his usual routine of scoring just over a point per game while racking up penalty minutes being the most annoying nuisance this side of a dog with the squirts on a white carpet. There is a small chance that he won’t play due to an upper body injury, but given what a horse’s ass he is, bank on him being out there and causing some kind of injury, whether physical or mental, to all involved.

DeBrusk and Krejci anchor the second line, and it looks like Ryan Donato will ride next to them today. DeBrusk is on a 30-goal pace, and when Krejci has scorers on his wing he’s dangerous, so if the Hawks go hot and heavy against the first line (as they should), you can expect some damage from here.

After that, it’s retreads and generated names. Noted Dog Murderer David Backes won’t suit up because he’s a crooked penis in the midst of a three-game suspension for, what else, an illegal hit to the head. Former Blackhawk Joakim Nordstrom plays in the bottom six here, which is probably summation enough. There’s some excitement about former second rounder Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, but it’s not clear why. Colby Cave or Chris Wagner doing anything for you? No?

The big news on the blue line for the Bruins is the loss of moon-faced Ice Time spokesman Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy has missed extended time once already this year for a concussion and was placed on IR last week with a lower body injury. When McAvoy’s been healthy, he’s been effective offensively, scoring 11 points in 17 games.

Elsewhere, Zdeno Chara continues to do a terrible job of convincing anyone that he isn’t actually Rasputin. At 41, he’s still taking more than 21 minutes a night. He’s also recently returned from an MCL injury, but prior to it, he was playing well on the positive side of the possession ledger. He and Brandon Carlo, who earlier this month snapped a 115-game scoreless streak, serve primarily as the Bruins shutdown pairing. Torey Krug will be a terror in the offensive zone and absolutely nothing else. He’ll pair with John Moore who, probably for the first time in his life, won’t be the whitest person in the room.

As for the men of Four Feathers, hoo boy. Jeremy Colliton announced that he’s starting Cam Ward, according to Eric Lear. There have been several low points this year, but this already ranks in the top five, after Crow hitting his head and Bowman signing Brandon Manning as a solution to a problem the Hawks didn’t have. And he’s doing it because “He’s an important part of our group…Guys respect him and he’s played well for us.” Fuck off with that fish shit. The only thing that might be true about that is “guys respect him.” He’s not important and he has not played well for the Hawks by any metric. Holy shit, Jeremy, your trip to Notre Dame is the time you decide to make the Cool Youth Pastor moniker inapplicable? Someone hit this motherfucker with a surprise left. Either Colliton is really this stupid or this is coming from higher up (think Bowman or McDonough). I’m not sure which would be more infuriating.

There is no reason to start anyone other than Collin Delia no matter what your criteria are. Delia has played better, looked better, and is far, far more Irish than Ward. Christ, he’s posted a .957 against the MacKinnon line twice and Dallas’s “fucking horseshit” line! What else does he have to do to earn this, besides suck for 14 years, apparently? There’s really no argument against him, except if you want the Hawks to purposely tank in an effort for Hughes. But even if that did happen, there’s still a more-than-likely chance they’ll lose the lottery anyway, so, I guess fuck off with that mess.

Jesus Christ, they’re really gonna start Ward. This is like asking your parents for a puppy at Christmas and having them throw pieces of dog shit from a dog that isn’t yours at you on Christmas morning while yelling “NOT UNTIL YOU CLEAN UP AFTER IT.”

Other than this gigantic giardiniera fart, Sikura and Perlini have flipped, putting them on the third and fourth lines, respectively. Even though DeBrincat has done everything and more to earn a Top-6 spot, somehow Wide Dick on the wing with Strome and Kane is sort of working, so that’ll stand pat. The other thing that shouldn’t be working but is, is Keith–Gustafsson, which, whatever. Hockey is stupid sometimes.

The Hawks have had a nice run lately, and ironically, it’s come thanks to a strong power play and goaltending. If Dahlstrom–Murphy can shut down the Bergeron line, the Hawks continue to perform with the man advantage, and Ward somehow gets pulled within the first 10 seconds, you can see them pulling a stunner.

That is, of course, if you can get past all the pomp and circumstance of playing at Notre Dame. You’ll no doubt learn more than you ever wanted to know about its sterilized history, about how Bowman is an alumnus, and about how Jesus Christ is staging his Second Coming at South Bend. It’ll all be made even more insufferable with Pierre, Roenick, and Milbury all having a role in this one, where they will no doubt turn this game into their own personal St. Patrick’s Day of mindless self-indulgence about Notre Dame’s long traditions of grooming boys to be men while pretending they and the university writ large don’t have all the character and fortitude of an unflushed toilet. Oh, and Weezer is playing at some point during an intermission. I sure can’t wait to hear their new hit single about ride-sharing or whatever other banal aspect of rich, white dork culture Rivers Cuomo is peddling as art these days.

Hell is real, and it is located at South Bend.

Fuck Notre Dame. Fuck Boston. Fuck Weezer. Fuck Cam Ward.

Let’s go Hawks.

 

Game #42 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

We have a working theory around the lab, we’ve kicked it around for years. While some will tell you that Brad Marchand in the best left wing in the game, we tend to think he’s pretty much a product of getting to play with the best two-way center in the game in Patrice Bergeron his entire career. Before this season, Marchand had spent all of four minutes away from Bergeron in his entire career. It would be impossible to separate the two, let’s say. Thanks to Bergeron’s early-season injury, we got a glimpse (and Don Cheadle didn’t even arrive!) of what Marchand is like without #37. It wasn’t pretty.

David Pastrnak needn’t worry about such labels. He’s the real deal.

Pastrnak’s 92 goals the past three seasons rank him fifth in the league in that time. It’s more than McDavid, or Tavares, or Crosby. His 198 points rank 13th, ahead of names like Draisaitl, Panarin, and Gaudreau. He doesn’t seem to get nearly the pub that others in the highest-echelon of scorers get, but that’s what he is.

And what’s more is that he hasn’t always needed Bergeron to produce. Whereas Marchand’s metrics crater without his center, Pastrnak’s hold steady. While together they produce a nearly 60% CF%–and over three years that’s just stupid–Pastrnak’s away from Bergeron’s hold at 50%. This season that difference is smaller at 57% to 53%. Over his career, the scoring-chance percentage difference for Pastrnak with and without Bergeron is 60%-50%. It’s the same this year, though Bergeron has the same spilts without #88. The high-danger chances are the closest marks, both at 55%-53% split over Pasta’s career and this year. For comparison’s sake, Marchand’s numbers dip into the 40% ranger without Bergeron.

Pastrnak isn’t the deadliest shooter you’ll find, as his 14% or thereabouts shooting-percentage doesn’t have him anywhere near the top marksmen. He’s 11th in total shots, so he gets there through volume, averaging over three shots per game. And when you’re skating with Bergeron most of the time, you’ll be in the right end enough. Pastrnak should probably be shooting even more, but defers to his linemates.

That does leave this Bruins team in something of a conundrum. They clearly lack scoring beyond the top line, and that’s if David Backes is in the lineup as he can’t do much anymore. It’s clear that Marchand needs Bergeron, but would slotting Pastrnak with David Krejci on the second line give opponents more to think about? The Bruins can one-line-ending-the-world their way through the regular season, and that’ll probably see them easily gain the third playoff spot in the Atlantic, though they’re still tangled up with Montreal and Boston for that and the wild card spots.

But when the spring rolls around, can you beat Tampa or Toronto with just one line? The Leafs might not have a defense, but they can throw Matthews or Tavares and Bergeron and at least hope to break even, and then watch their greater depth run the Bruins over. That’s basically what happened against the Lightning last year. Would Pastrnak-Krejci at least be a different question to ask teams? The Bruins might have to think about it.

Considering the numbers he puts up, Pastrnak’s $6.6M hit is a borderline steal. Which is good, because the Bs are clearly going to need to bring in another winger or two in the summer if they want another run with Bergeron and Chara still around. At only 22, it’s a little frightening to think where Pastrnak could go from here. If the Bruins have to move on from this era to the next one soon, it’s clear whom they are going to do that around.

 

Game #42 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built