Hockey

In our Hedley Lamarr segment today, we proposed that come the summer, whenever the season ends for the Bs (after beating the Leafs in the 1st round of course) it’ll be up to the organization to tell Zdeno Chara it’s time to go. Hell, if the Hawks can do it to Brent Seabrook, right? Because the numbers aren’t kind to Chara so far this season. And we’ll come back around to this.

The argument went that Chara was exposed in the playoffs last year, as tends to happen to 41-year-olds who are playing NHL hockey for seven and eight months. The Corsi and xG%s were the lowest of his career in the postseason last year, and the past two postseasons has seen him be on the ice for more attempts, chances, and expected goals against than ever before. He’s played every game this year, so it’s hard to see how the Bruins are going to keep him fresh for another run through April and May.

That seemingly has carried over into this year, where again, Chara’s metrics are the worst of his career. And he appears to be dragging down Charlie McAvoy as well, who is supposed to be the Bs main puck-mover. McAvoy hasn’t scored this year, and his possession-numbers are also the worst of his career. And both of their metrics are off while spending most of their time behind Pastrnak, Marchand, and Bergeron. That’s not good.

But dig a little deeper, and you get to where the hockey-analytic movement has a gap. McAvoy and Chara are starting the least amount of shifts in the offensive zone than they ever have. Chara is starting just 34.5% of his shifts in the offensive zone, and nowhere else in his career has that ever been below 42%. And usually in his time in Boston, he’s been around 50% there. If you go by starts, which includes more than just faceoffs, it’s just 33%. That’s never been below 41% in his career. He and McAvoy are something of defensive stoppers now.

So how do you judge sinking possession numbers when they’re starting their shifts in different areas now? That they have to go the full length of the rink to generate attempts and chances instead of just halfway or less? That their opponents are starting much closer to the Bruins net than they did before with Chara on the ice? There’s isn’t a slide for that yet. There’s isn’t a ballpark adjustment. There’s isn’t a wRC+.

And at the end of the day, Chara is on the ice for 1.9 GA/60 at even strength, which is the lowest mark since 2013-2014. They still decide who wins by who scores more, or who scores less. The Bruins get amazing goaltending from either Rask or Halak, so that’s part of it. Chara is on the ice for more attempts against than he has been in years, but his xGA is the lowest it’s been in four seasons. So even with those dungeon starts, he and McAvoy have limited chances better than they have before. Maybe it’s not time to call time on Chara yet.

You can see where if the Bruins win the Cup, Chara can ride off into the sunset, as the only Bs captain to raise the Cup twice since Orr. He’s already the only one to do it once since Orr anyway. The Bs aren’t really that capped out, with $19M in space now and only Krug, Grzelcyk, and Debrusk as probably-should-keeps, and Krug is debatable at that level. Halak is FA as well, but you can find a #2 netminder lots of places.

Chara and the Bs will know the answer by how he plays in the playoffs. If a team scars him like the Blues did last June, then we’ll know it’s time to go. And if no one does and he wants to play some more, maybe it’s not that clear of a refusal.

Everything Else

We’ll never know if John McIsaac and Kelly Sutherland had thoughts of Vegas-San Jose Game 7 traipse through their head when trying to assess a penalty to Charlie McAvoy last night. It would not be a surprise if it did, and what happened to those officials. Officials want to rise to the top of their profession just like anyone else, and seeing their colleagues hung out to dry and then sent home for the summer certainly could easily have been a factor.

Make no mistake, Charlie McAvoy should have been given a major penalty, booted, and suspended for multiple games. He left his feet, came from the blindside, and hit directly to Josh Anderson’s head. I don’t know what other qualifications you need.

But the because the NHL is so terrified of pissing off its knuckle-dragging fans and media (probably more the latter), because for some reason it’s mortified at the thought of a Don Cherry or Brian Burke rant on Canadian television about how the game is lost, this is what we get. A minor penalty, which won’t do much to deter hits to the head that the league claims it wants to do away with to preserve the safety of its players.

And because officials have seen what happened to other refs who have deemed to punish to heavily, they are gun-shy. NHL officials always have been, and while I try and give them as much credit as I can because the refs in other sports can be so awful, they often lean too far the other way. “Let the players decide,” is a fine mantra, but lean into too far and you’ve ended up ignoring what the players have decided. When one player forces another into a penalty/foul, they have decided that one team gets a power play. When you ignore that, all normal hockey goes out the window and you bring your star players down to the level of those who can’t emerge from the muck. You may bitch about NBA refs being too obtrusive, but the NBA playoffs are still a stage for the best they have to do what they do and they dominate the headlines (some of that is the difference in the sports). When you’re asking Nathan MacKinnon or the like to survive being tackled and now possibly beheaded at every turn, you ground down what makes them rise above the rest, and hence their team.

That’s also the not the exact discussion here. When the league threw its refs from San Jose-Vegas under the bus, it pretty much pulled the rug out from under all the refs. The idea, in theory, is that the officials are the representatives of the league and are administering the game. All the NHL has done is create a separation, make it seem like they work for the teams now, and leave the refs on their own. Which would undermine their authority.

And that gets even more undermined when they’re terrified to make the right call, for fear of being singled out by the league again. No team deserves an apology for a ref’s call. The ref didn’t make the Knights give up four power play goals in five minutes. The refs didn’t make them not score in overtime against a depleted and exhausted team. The refs aren’t why the Knights lost.

Bad calls happen to every team, and it’s part of the accepted system as currently fashioned. The refs weren’t looking out to screw the Knights, the only situation that should have earned an apology. If the league thought those refs made the wrong call, there is a grading system in private already in place and they should have just been quietly not assigned the next round. All referees accept this when they take the job.

“Not deciding the game” is also a red herring for officials. After all, not making a call can swing an outcome just as much as an over-aggressive call. Last night’s miss on McAvoy probably didn’t cost the Jackets the game, but you can see where a similar one would. And now if the league were to suspend McAvoy, which it should, it will be publicly hanging out their refs to dry again. It will have no choice.

The league could help refs of course by clearly outlining that any hit to the head is a major, game misconduct,  and a suspension whether you meant it or not. Do you want these hits out of the game? Miss on the high side then. It can’t get more clear-cut than McAvoy’s hit last night, but there will be others. You’re not going to change the behavior and make players adjust how they play until there are serious consequences, no questions asked. It will be an uncomfortable six months, or full season, with some questionable decisions and old men yelling at clouds before they soil themselves.

And then it would change. Players wouldn’t take hits they weren’t sure of. Muttonheads who can do nothing else would be out of the league, and that would be a good thing. Players adjust. Look at what happened with interference calls and slashes and hooks. They’re still around, but players know the deal and play the game differently. It’s pretty simple.

The league needs to back its officials, even when they’re wrong. It’s part of the game right now, and they need the support. Did Marc-Andre Fleury apologize to the fans for turning into Wile E. Coyote for a period? No. His mistake(s) were no less than the refs. It’s just a matter of degree. The refs won’t call this how it should be if they don’t think their bosses have their back. The refs are out there in the field of play and take the brunt. They’re the ones enforcing the decisions made above them. They’re the ones influencing games, rightly or wrongly. How can they do that when they feel they have no backup?

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

It is apparently still the time of the Ent. Zdeno Chara might not be what he once was, how could anyone be, but at the age of 41 he is still an effective force on the back-end for the Bruins. If only other d-men around could have aged so gracefully.

Cleary, Chara does not dominate the game like he once did. From the heights of the beginning of the decade, Chara’s metrics now hover around the team-rates, including bottoming out last year at a -3.9 CF% relative. He’s back to right at the team-rate this year. His xGF% never swung too far below from what the Bruins were doing as a whole, as though he may have given up more attempts as the years have worn on it’s still pretty hard to get to the high-danger and middle on a d-man with the wingspan of Mothra.

The Bruins have helped the cause. Chara has been taken off the power play for the last three seasons, and is averaging just five seconds per game on it now. Which basically means he’s out there when the penalty is ending. This year, they’ve tried to cut the amount he’s out there on the kill as well, averaging less than three minutes of kill-time per game for the first time in four seasons. Clearly, the Bruins know that 41-year-old legs can handle only so much.

Chara’s offensive production has fallen off in recent years, and he’s been paired with more offensively inclined d-men like Charlie McAvoy of late. It was only two seasons ago that Chara put up 37 points, but he has only seven in 37 games so far this year. Chara’s charge has been to simply be a free-safety for McAvoy most of the time, which his body is more attuned to.

It also helps that Chara has kept himself in great shape, so even though the tasks and job-description change, he’s able to perform them. While the Bruins may wish to get that booming slapshot up the ice more often or his underrated vision, they realize what they have. Perhaps at that age, you do what you’re told no matter what. At least some people do.

But Chara has always carried more water than that. He’s the longest-serving captain in the NHL, wearing the “C” for the Bruins for 12 years, basically since he walked in the door from Ottawa in 2006. Which makes what comes next so awkward, or could.

Chara is on a one-year deal for $5M, and has made it clear he has no plans to stop playing. At this point he’s made enough money that he doesn’t need to break the bank, but the Bruins also aren’t going to want to insult him with an offer. The Bruins have about $20 million in space for next season, though McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are going to see pretty big raises. The Bruins also desperately need a winger or two to maximize the last prime years of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, as the latter has been forced to play with muppets and scarecrows basically all season. The Bs are expected to be major players for Artemi Panarin in the summer, and if they miss out there you can be sure they’ll be after Matt Duchene or Mark Stone or the like. With Bergeron 33 and Marchand 30 and Krejci 32, you can see the urgency.

So Chara will probably have to wait until after July 1st to see what the Bruins have left for him, but he’s not going anywhere else. And eventually, probably next year, will have to move down the lineup to a second or third pairing. But he’s done well with being asked less, and there’s no reason to think that will stop.

 

 

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. 

SCHEDULE: Game 1 Thursday, Game 2 Saturday, Game 3 April 16th, Game 4 April 19th

We all know the format for the NHL playoffs is pretty stupid. In fact the NHL playoffs, if you really think about it, are kind of stupid. We just played an 82-game regular season to figure out who the best teams are, and now we’re going to subject them to the vagaries of luck and injury in a two-month battle royal that doesn’t really give us the best team, just the hottest one. But let’s leave that and say the divisional system as constructed is a problem. So when fans and media say it’s not fair that two of the seven best teams in the league have to face each other in the first round, they’re not exactly wrong.

But because it’s Toronto and Boston, I don’t give a flying fuck. Fuck ’em.

Let’s break it down.

Goalies: There can’t be a worse person to be than the Leafs goalie in the playoffs. No one is watched by more and more closely. And really, Freddie Andersen has always been just good enough to break your heart. He was excellent two years ago in the first round against Nashville, but only played five games. His three other campaigns in the playoffs have not been impressive, though some were effected by Bruce Boudreau’s treating his goalies like they were foosball players. Really, Andersen had the same season this year that he did last year, and he was fine against the Caps. But fine wasn’t enough then, and fine probably isn’t going to be enough against the Bruins. He is capable of more, we’ve just rarely seen it.

If we wrote this a couple months ago, we’d say the Bruins have a big advantage here. But Tuuke Nuke ’em has only been ok since the end of February and was horrific in three April starts. However his playoff pedigree is far ahead of Andersen’s, and he wasn’t the problem against the Senators last year. So it’s whether we go with his current form, which is basically “meh,” or what he’s done in the playoffs before which is much more. Still, I would expect Tuukka to be slightly better than Freddie at worst.

Defense: It’s kind of a measure of the firepower of the Toronto forwards that they amassed as many points as they did with this blue line. It’s still not very good, even if they figured out that Travis Dermott was a neat toy to have every night. It’s not that Jake Gardiner or The Mike Rielly Assassination or Rod Hainsey are bad… it’s just that you’d struggle to think of them as top pairing guys. They’ve been fascinated with Nikita Zaitsev for a couple seasons and yet no one’s quite explained what it is he does. Roman Polak is a circus bear. Even with the Bruins banged up whoever they throw out against Bergeron and Marchand and Pastrnak you’d have to give the B’s the advantage. And if you don’t keep a top line from scoring in a series, you’re kind of fucked.

The Bs will be without Brandon Carlo, as his ankle went Gumby, but they did get the moon-faced mouth-breather Charlie McAvoy back which is more important. He’s reinvigorated Zdeno Chara to a new contract, and he’s one of the bigger reasons that the Bruins were so good this year. Torey Krug as a bum-slayer is what you’d want, and Kevan Miller is better than I think even though his first name is stupid. Adam McQuaid has a big, dumb face and a big, dumb game but thanks to McAvoy the Bs have a top pairing where the Leafs don’t.

Forwards: Whatever arguments you might have with their defense, the only team that can even claim to have the Leafs’ top nine right now is Winnipeg. When JVR and Tyler Bozak are on your third line, you are the envy of pretty much the whole league. Which means the Leafs can get at Krug in his own end and McQuaid anywhere through Kadri and Marleau and Marner and even Plekanec on the 4th line. The depth is scary and the Leafs’ best hope. It’s also a ton of speed the Bs are going to ask Chara to deal with, and he don’t got none no more.

The Bruins will start this series without both Nashes, Riley and Rick. Though missing Rick in the playoffs really isn’t a big deal. Without them though, this starts to look a little one line-ish. It’s a hell of a line, with Pastrnak-Bergeron-Marchand, but they’ll need more. Krejci and Backes on the second isn’t the worst you could do, but comparing it to the Leafs and you see the problem. Donato and Heinen are kids farther down the lineup that could be weapons, especially against the iffy Leafs defense. But the Bs will need some people to return before too long. And Babcock is going to play Komarov 25 minutes anyway. The other thing to note is that since 2011, Brad Marchand has been a playoff dog, and if that continues this definitely tips to the Leafs.

Prediction: I want to pick the Leafs, I really do. Their forward depth is going to be hard to deal with. But I don’t trust their blue line or Andersen to keep the Bs top line off the scoresheet, and the important players on the Bs have all done this before. Unless Marchand pulls his Copperfield act in the spring again, the Bs seem too much. It’s going to take a while, though. Bruins in 7. 

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 29-31-8   Bruins 42-15-8

PUCK DROPS: Noon on Saturday, 11:30am on Sunday

TV: NBCSN Chicago Saturday, NBC Sunday

WHAT IS IT, YAH’ PERIOD?: Days Of Y’Orr

As you can see, given the home-and-home nature of this and the fact that they’re both in the afternoon when we will most certainly be sleeping it off (I’m seeing Screaming Females tonight for fuck’s sake), we’re going to combine both previews. Also, the potential for this one to get very ugly for the Hawks also doesn’t inspire us to spill more words than necessary, because everyone needs to prepare for the gore that might ensue here.

It’s been a while since the Hawks have seen a member of the league’s glitterati. The Lightning and Leafs visited at the end of January. That’s the last time they saw the Predators, too. Remember that? When the Hawks deservedly beat the Preds in Nashville and had hope? You probably don’t. I assure you it happened. It’s just been washed away in a tide of sadness and incompetence. So this will be a new-ish feature.

And the Bruins are certainly among the league’s best. They have the third most points in the league with 92, though that still has them only within six points of the Lightning in their division. It also is going to reward them by playing perhaps the fifth or sixth best team in the league in the first round in the Leafs. Great playoff system we have here, where we’ve known the Leafs and Bruins were going to see each other to start things off since before we deep fried our turkeys. Love this league.

This version of the Bruins comes in a bit beat up. Patrice Bergeron is out for a couple weeks. Charlie McAvoy might be out until the playoffs. David Backes is suspended (I’m Jack’s sense of shock). And Bergeron and McAvoy have been the main engines among the skaters as to why there’s been a revival in The North End. Bergeron is having his best offensive season in 10 years, thanks to Riley Nash and Sean Kuraly being able to take a portion of his checking assignments off his hands. Combined with having David Pastrnak and his faithful gargoyle in Marchand on the other side, and they’ve been simply feeding it to teams.

McAvoy has relieved Zdeno Chara of his #1 d-man duties, and has given the Bruins a puck-moving d-man that can dominate games that they really haven’t had since #77 packed it off to Denver. His metrics are some of the best in the league, and Chara can now just concentrate on his own zone which he still blocks most off with his gargantuan reach. It’s allowed Torey Krug to bum-slay on the second pairing, which is what he was built for. It’s a pretty fine-tuned machine when fully on display.

And somehow, being without these two haven’t slowed them down. They’ve won five in a row, with four of those coming without those two. It certainly help when Tuuke Nuke’Em in net is back to his best, with a .920 overall. Rask had been middling the past couple seasons, which has led to the Bruins being middling overall. Not anymore.

Riley Nash has taken Bergeron’s center spot and done pretty well. David Krejci has Rick Nash as a winger and give Krejci real finishers and he’ll do damage. Rookie Jake DeBrusk is on the other side and he’s got a fair amount of dash to him. Remember, Krejci is the only player to lead playoff scoring in two years and never win a Conn Smythe. When Backes returns they have a nifty checking line with him and rookie Danton Heinen.

If there’s a silver lining for the Hawks, it’s that the Bruins won’t have the urgency as some other teams they’ve seen of late. They’re entrenched in second, the Leafs aren’t going to catch them unless they completely come apart and the Lightning are probably out of reach as well. So…there’s that?

For the Hawks, there really aren’t any changes to make now that Carl Dahlstrom has been sent down for being too steady. The lineup you saw on Thursday is what you’re going to get for these two.

Bruce Cassidy is more aggressive than Claude Julien was, which is why you’ve seen the Bruins scoring go up. They get up and go and the blue line is encouraged to join in on the fun. There’s little dump-and-chase here. Even without Bergeron and McAvoy they’re still going to press and pressure. It’s a big test for the Hawks’ defense, and we know how those have gone this season. At least with afternoon games you get a lot of time to erase it from your mind.

 

 

Game #69 and #70 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

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@DOYMarshall is part of a true collection of rabble at DaysOfYorr.com. But no, he’s not the one who got to make out with Blake Lively. 

Let’s start with Patrice Bergeron. Before he got hurt, he was around a point-per-game, which he hadn’t been since 2007. What’s been the difference? Just the addition of Pastrnak? A loosening of his assignments? Something else?

Not to take anything away from the man himself, but a huge factor in Patrice Bergeron’s offensive resurgence of late has been a fundamental shift in the way this team plays hockey. When you have the world’s best defensive forward, of course you expect him to lock down your side of the ice at all times, particularly when the guys behind him couldn’t stop a heroin addict from stealing all the sugar packets from a Revere Dunkin’ Donuts. Bergeron’s deployment this year, however, is almost unrecognizable. Thanks in no small part to the dependability of the 3rd line of Riley Nash, Danton Heinen, and David Backes, Bergeron, a player with a career offensive zone start percentage of 47.6%, has started nearly 60% of his shifts this season in enemy territory. The decision to ease the defensive burden and recognize that a trio of Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak should turn the inside of most defensemen’s underwear brown has paid off handsomely. Somehow, on the cusp of turning 33, not only is Bergeron shooting more, he’s also posting a career-best shooting percentage of 13.6. Most first-line forwards start to see their production drop off a cliff around age 28, but a revamped role has more than delayed that death spiral for the Bruins’ future captain.
Is Charlie McAvoy really so good that he’s been able to exhume the corpse of Zdeno Chara?
The list of defensemen that have failed to lighten Zdeno Chara’s load since his Norris Trophy season nearly a decade ago reads longer than a Tolkien novel. Each year as a Matt Hunwick or Joe Morrow or Ohmygodwhyisadammcquaidstillonthisteam faltered the preseason promise of cutting down Big Z’s minutes would fall by the wayside. With the notable exception of one massive fuck-up on the part of management, the problem has been with talent. That problem is gone with the addition of Charlie McAvoy. In his first season, he’s already in the upper echelon of puck possession (currently 5th in Corsi% among defensemen >1000 minutes played). He’s also tops in the league for goals for percentage at 5v5. He’s still early in his development and doesn’t see the kind of penalty kill time you want from a #1 defenseman but he has the potential to be for the Bruins what Duncan Keith has been for you guys.
There are other kids on this team like Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen. What should we watch for with them?
As a Bruins’ fan, it’s been amazing this year seeing a coach that understands that young players learn from *gasp* playing hockey instead of watching the likes of Gregory Campbell from the press box. Jake Debrusk and Danton Heinen have given the Bruins some depth scoring that they haven’t seen in a few years. They, along with Pastrnak, McAvoy and guys like Anders Bjork and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson make up a young, homegrown core similar to the wave we saw ten years ago. As well-positioned as the Bruins are for a run right now, they have finally started planning for the future under Don Sweeney. That kind of foresight was sorely lacking under the Chiarelli-Julien regime.
We’ve had this debate for years in the lab. Is Brad Marchand really that good or is he a product of playing every single shift of his career (until recently) with Bergeron?
Brad Marchand is currently the best player on this team. Full stop. It’s undeniable that playing beside Patrice Bergeron molded him in his early career, but he has emerged out of that shadow over the last 3 seasons. He will lead the Bruins in scoring for the second straight season while continuing to be arguably the second best defensive forward in the league. Yes, he is garbage and we accept this. However, for the first time since the lockout-shortened season, he’s actually drawing more penalties than he’s committing. He’s riding an unbelievably hot streak right now, and with a strong end of season push he could be looking at a 40/50/90 season in just 69 nice games. Bottom line, Brad is elite as fuck.
Did you like the Rick Nash pick up?
Ok, so Rick Nash comes with a ton of baggage with “I don’t give a fuck” embroidered on it. Having said that, I like the trade for a number of reasons. First, he gives David Krejci the best pure scorer he’s had on his wing since Nathan Horton, giving the Bruins a legitimate 2nd line for the first time in years. It’s a signal from management that they believe in this team’s ability to make a deep run right now. Most importantly, Sweeney didn’t mortgage the future for a rental. Had he moved any of the aforementioned young players like Debrusk, who was rumored as a bargaining chip, I’d be a lot more sour on the move.
Is this team Cup-worthy?
Of course the caveat to the optimism surrounding Nash is that this team is still playing for a silver medal in the East. I think the deadline moves made the Bruins a better team, but I don’t know if they pushed them to the front of the race. Barring a major injury to Tampa’s murderers’ row, the Bolts should dance straight to the Cup Finals. On the other hand, there is a special feeling surrounding this Bruins team. Maybe it’s just the fact that they’re actually fun to watch again, but the Garden is buzzing. The tragedy of the current playoff format is that if Boston and Tampa meet up, it won’t be in the Eastern Conference Finals. Should the Bruins survive a matchup with Yzerman’s death squad, though, I would bet my children on the Bruins lifting the Cup.

 

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Lineups & How Teams Were Built