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

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.

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.

Everything Else

I suppose on a day when yet another professional sports team gets in bed with BarfStool it’s only right they get their dicks kicked in at home, which is essentially what the Bruins did despite the game going to overtime. This series is certainly make everyone taste their own bile, with the Bruins off the ice and the Blues on it, but here we are and now the Blues have won a Final game for the first time and nothing feels right and pretty much everything sucks. They should just cancel this thing tomorrow and the overwhelming majority of people would be happy.

I guess I have to clean it up.

-The Bruins aren’t going to win many games, if any, when their top line is getting turned over by the other team’s top line. Which is exactly what happened last night, as Schenn-Swartz-Tarasenko turned that trick. Not helping the cause at all, and the one thing we pointed out the Bruins had to do from Game 1 to 2, was sending out Zdeno Chara behind Bergeron to deal with that threat, because he isn’t up for it. Check out Tarasenko’s goal for further proof if you need, where he looked like your elderly neighbor trying to get a weed out of the yard. It’s trickier after Grzelcyk got hurt and the Bs were down to five D and still only gave Clifton 16 minutes, but you know you’ve got a matchup wrong when the other team is going to go running for it when they get the home ice on Saturday. And you can bet your ass St. Louis will. If Chara ever starts a shift anywhere but the offensive zone, fire Bruce Cassidy into the nearest landfill, which in St. Louis is always right down the block.

-Torey Krug is the only blue-liner to come out with any credit and in the black possession-wise for Boston, and that’s mostly because he’s already driven the Blues into frothing madness and they spend his entire shift trying to hunt him down like it was a fox hunt. This will only get worse in front of the braying rabble and their truck nuts, and the Bruins will score off a rush through that space at least once.

-To pin it all on Chara and the Bs ineptness isn’t fair. I thought the Blues would have to step back and basically trap, and they did so at times. They also were able to turn up the volume on their forecheck, which you can do once or twice but not convinced for a whole series. If anything, the rust everyone was worried about looked like it was more present in Game 2 as adrenaline got the Bruins through Game 1. They definitely looked too relaxed at points and it was no match for the fury of the other group.

-David Krejci showing up at some point would be nice.

-Schwartz threw up a 78% Corsi and an 81% xGF% going out there against Chara, if you’d like to know the scope of the problem here.

-Tuukka Rask made some of his own messes last night, as his rebound control was less than stellar. It prolongated too many Blues possessions and the overtime winner, though on a delayed call, was an example of something that could have been smothered earlier.

-Curious to see what Anointed Genius Berube does Saturday, as Pietrangelo was used exclusively in the offensive zone last night. If they’re going to choose to send Parayko and Edmundson at Bergeron every shift in St. Louis, I think that will go well for those of us who want this to be over quickly.

-Oskar Sundqvist’s hit was bad, I don’t know if it’s suspension bad but then again if you’re trying to eliminate this thing from hockey it has to be. There was never a point where he didn’t see Grzelcyk’s numbers, it was also late and useless, and the NHL is going to have to start erring on the side of harsh instead of lenient if it ever truly wants change. Which it probably doesn’t.

-Sammy Blais doesn’t do anything but run around like an idiot and get knocked on his ass. What a perfect representation of everything it is to be a Blue. He’s Tom Wilson without any of the whimsy.

Let’s just hope that was a one game belch.

Everything Else

As it’s the Final, we’ll give you actual recaps instead of the smartass quips we’ve specialized in the past couple months. They’ll just take a while because we have to stop throwing up first. 

If you’re watching this series while holding your nose and just hoping that it will end quickly, then last night is what you wanted. Yes, the Bruins were a bit rusty…for about 10 minutes. After that, everything we’ve thought about the Blues-their defense isn’t that good, Binnington has been fine but hardly spectacular, and the Bruins depth and star power is better–came to fruition. One game doesn’t a narrative make, but there is a lot more the Blues have to solve while the Bruins have just been doing what they have been and will only need to continue to do so. This was a complete ass-kicking for at least two-thirds of the game.

Let’s do some bullets.

The Two Obs

-You should never take anything Barry Melrose says seriously, and the biggest clue that ESPN doesn’t care about hockey is that he remains in their employ even though I don’t think he’s watched a game since 2001 (including his coaching stint), but he wasn’t the only one who was championing this series as something of a “return.” That’s only based on what the Blues only kind of are and the reputation the Bruins have even though they haven’t been that for years. But there was this idea both teams are big and bad and the idea of a lot of fast and nippy wingers with skill aren’t the way forward and that this was TRUE HOCKEY. Horseshit.

The Blues simply couldn’t handle the Bruins forecheck, because their defense is so goddamn slow. Their only d-man who can move is Vinnie Bag Of Donuts Dunn, and he’s hurt. There were turnovers galore early, which then had the Blues defense backing up at their line when the Bruins were carrying in trying to cheat to win the races down low later. Which only gave the speed the Bruins have at forward more space to the outside to carry the puck in and create, which led to the Blues never having the puck and having tire treads to remove from their chests this morning.

But the real differences in these teams, and one we’ll get to later today that the Hawks should be paying particular attention to, is the mobility of the Bruins defense. Chara was awful, the rest were very much not. McAvoy, Krug, Grzelcyk (especially), and Clifton are all at least mobile enough to open up a passing lane for themselves to evade the Blues forecheck, which has been pretty furious at times this spring. Or they just outright get away from them, and even when the Bruins are attacking the St. Lous line three-on-three or four-on-three, the Blues defense is backing up. You want to know why the Bruins dominate possession all season even beyond the Bergeron line? There you go.

-I saw a good portion of Blues Twitter saying, “We’ll be all right when we stop taking penalties.’ Because that’s a thing that’s happened the past 30 years.

Jordan Binnington made over 30 saves, only the third time he’s had to do so this playoff run. But if the Bruins are going to toss 35 shots at him a night, this is what the Blues are going to get. 34 out of 37 saves is good. It’s not great, and that’s mostly what Binnington has done. It’ll have to be better than what the Bruins will get on the other side.

-The only unit for the Blues that wasn’t covered in their own piss by the end of the night was their top line of Schwartz-Schenn-Tarasenko, which got their two goals as well. The adjustment I would expect the Bruins to make is to get Chara out of that matchup, though it’s a risk to try it with Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug, given the latter’s defensive balloon-handedness. But Chara simply isn’t up to it and that much was clear, and you don’t want to be jumbling your pairs at this point.

For the Blues, playing this way of trying to trade forechecks is going to get them this. Their defense will get snowed in, the Bruins will get away from theirs, and they’ll spend the night chasing. It would seem their only option for Game 2 is to go Trotz and trap this up and make McAvoy and Krug weave through it. That would allow their slow d-men to back up at their line while still being protected and not leaving acres to the outside. Then they might have a chance of retrieving pucks and moving it along without getting clobbered. The more the Blues try to speed this up the more they’re going to get exposed.

Let’s hope for that, so we don’t have to be here long.

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. 

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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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

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