Bruin Escape Long Island with 2 Points and a Bitter Taste

Posted in Uncategorized on January 16, 2009 by theblackandgold

The Bruins headed down to Long Island to face the Islanders, who have an NHL worst 28 points. The Isles had won just three games in their last 20, and it seemed that the Bruins came out in the first wondering how many goals they were going to win by instead of how they were going to win.

Simply put the Bruins were outplayed in the first period, being outshot 17-7 and giving the Islanders two power play opportunities. Thomas was on his game Thursday night, and was equal to all 17 shots in the first.

Marc Savard put the Bruins on the board first just 3:30 into the second frame. The “pass first” Savard had been exhibiting signs of becoming trigger happy, firing many low angle shots, perhaps due to the absence of passing target Phil Kessel. His reputation as a passer gave him an opportunity to put the puck in the net. The left hander was camped out in the trapezoid behind the net (Gretzky’s office), waiting for a passing lane to develop. When Islanders blue liner Brandon Witt seemed to focus his efforts on covering Chuck Kobasew in the high slot, Savard took his opportunity to step out, pivot, and fire a hard low angle shot that found the high short side hole in goaltender Yanin Danis.

Tim Thomas made 40 saves on 41 shots

Tim Thomas made 40 saves on 41 shots

After Savard briefly intensified the game, it became incredibly sloppy. Despite the win, it was probably the Bruins’ worst effort of the year, possibly even topping the catastrophic blown lead against Toronto at the Garden.

The Bruins’ played down to their opponents, and with the exception of the 4th line, the Bruins forward corps did not do their job. The first line didn’t forecheck, the second line of David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, and Michael Ryder had a minus +/- ranking for the first time in…well, quite some time now, and the third line were complete non factors, with the possible exception of Byron Bitz.

The game was utterly dull until a fortunate bounce led to a Bruins goal, and half of the remaining 1,000 fans to head for the exit. After a neutral zone turnover, Vladimir Sobotka found himself on a one-on-one with Islanders defender Witt. Sobotka unleashed his deceptively hard slap shot, and Witt managed to deflect it slightly, sending it over the net. Given the trajectory of the puck, it should have ended up in the corner, but caromed awkwardly back in front of the net for Marty St.Pierre to cleverly tuck into the top shelf of the net for a 2-0 lead at 6:51 of the third.

In a last ditch effort to get back in the game, the Islanders pulled Danis from the net for an extra attacker. With 54 seconds remaining in the game, ex, and possibly future Bruin Bill Guerin got a lucky bounce. Guerin tried to thread a tight pass from behind the net to a forward in the slot. Krejci was in good defensive position, and thus the puck bounced off his skate, redirecting it into the corner of the net (no, even Krejci doesn’t get a point for scoring on his own goal). The Bruins weathered the remainder of the exceedingly mild storm put forth by the 6 skater Islander attack, and escaped with a non-satisfying victory.

Kudos: Tim Thomas, 40 saves on 41 shots, raising his save percentage to a league leading .937. Also Manny Fernandez, who was back in uniform tonight, and may well have been the Bruins second best player

Sin Bin: Every Bruin player not wearing goalie pads with the exception of Petteri Nokelainen and Vladimir Sobotka.

Thomas, Chara, and 4th line shine as Bruins beat the Habs

Posted in Uncategorized on January 14, 2009 by theblackandgold

Saku Koivu, Chris Higgins, Alex Tangauy, and Carey Price were all hurt for Montreal, and the Bruins were forced to sit Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, Marco Sturm, Patrice Bergeron, Manny Fernandez, Andrew Ference, and eventually Aaron Ward due to injury. Once the puck dropped between the Canadiens and Bruins last night at the Garden, it didn’t matter, it was still Bruins-Canadiens, and both teams came to play with intensity.

There was a buzz on the ice from the opening draw, passes were crisp, defenses were tight, and bodies flew in the opening frame, making for an entertaining period without too much offense. Chara set this physical tone early, when Tom Kostopolous went to finish a check on the Bruins’ captain, perhaps a second or two later than he should have. Chara saw the hit coming, set his edge, and tossed Kostopolous to the ice, giving him a condescending look before joining the rush up ice. The physical play continued in the first, when Mark Stuart dropped the gloves with Kyle Chipchura, after Chipchura took exception to a hit by Blake Wheeler. Stuart controlled the bout.

No scoring was seen until 3:24 of the second period, when the Canadiens Andrei Kostitsyn scored on a rebound set up by his brother Sergei. After a decent cycle on the power play by the Canadiens, and a solid penalty kill, Sergei Kostitsyn fired a low angle shot on Thomas, who should have pounced on the rebound, but was unable to corral the puck. Andrei made the Bruins pay by banging home the rebound. bruinshabsSome would call it a weak goal, Thomas should never have given up the second shot.

Chuck Kobasew does the little things, the things that don’t show up on the boxscore. His efforts on the power play lead to a crucial game-tying-goal just five minutes after the Canadiens had taken their 1-0 lead. After Chara touched a pass to Aaron Ward who teed off on a one-timer, Chara went to the net, hoping for either a rebound opportunity or a back-door pass. The shot hit Kobasew, who struggled with a Canadien defender, and nudged the puck to Chara, who made no mistakes, burying the puck in the net at 8:23 of the second.

The defining moment of the game came later in the second with the Canadiens on the power play. With Ward facing the boards, Andrei Kostitsyn came and hit the Bruins blueliner into the boards from behind, causing the official to raise his arm indicating a penalty was coming. Kostitsyn then skated towards the puck, which was in the slot, and Thomas decided to take matters into his own hands, coming out of his crease and putting Kostitsyn flat on his back. “I heard the hit and I saw Wardo down,” said Thomas. “The first thing that went through my mind was [Patrice] Bergeron and Andrew Alberts last year.” Thomas was given a two minute roughing penalty, and Andrei Kostitsyn received a five-minute major for boarding, resulting in a Canadiens 4 on 3, followed by an extended power play for the Bruins after a brief 4 on 4.

Shortly after the Bs went on the power play, Roman Hamrlik sent the Bruins on a 5 on 3 after he dumped Martin St.Pierre on a crosscheck. The Bruins capitalized on their opportunity.chara After David Krejci sent a pass to Dennis Wideman, Wideman tapped the puck to Chara, who was waiting, and ripped a slap shot off Andrei Markov and into the net for his second goal of the game.

The two teams then continued to play very physical games, dumping, and chasing, and hitting. The Bruins fourth line had one of their better games of the season, with Shawn Thornton and Petteri Nokelainen both playing strong defensively and physically.

Tim Thomas played outstanding in the third frame, making timely saves on dangerous shooters such as Alexei Kovalev.

David Krejci finished out the scoring with under two minute to go, finishing a nice pass from Ryder. Blake Wheeler also tallied an assist on the play.

Kudos: David Krejci, Shawn Thornton, Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara, and Petteri Nokelainen

The Bad News: Aaron Ward is hurt again, and will not make the road trip.

Kessel to be out for a month with Mono, Bruins could look for help

Posted in Uncategorized on January 13, 2009 by theblackandgold

It has been announced that Phil Kessel, the Bruins leading goal scorer, is ill with mononucleosis, and will be out for about a month. The Bruins are now decimated by injuries, with top 6 forwards Marco Sturm (knee, out for season), Patrice Bergeron (concussion, no time table), Milan Lucic (undisclosed injury), and Kessel, all on the shelf.

This could leave the Bruins looking for some help via trade. Although they have incredible depth in Providence, a hole in the top two lines needs to be filled.

Possible trade targets should include, Erik Cole of Edmonton, Martin St. Louis of Tampa, Bill Guerin of the New York Islanders, and Keith Tkachuk of St Louis.

Trade bait could include Marco Sturm, Petteri Nokelainen, Vladimir Sobotka, Martins Karsums, Matt Lashoff, and John Boychuk, as well as draft picks.

Martin St. Louis currently plays for the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning and would be the best player the Bruins could pick up via trade. The Lightning could part with St. Louis, who is a modest star, to move some salary, and pick up some prospects, as their team is in dismal shape.martin-st-louis Tampa is in desperate need of young defensemen, and the Bruins have plenty. St. Louis is signed through the 2011 season, and is owed $5 million this season, and $4 million the next two. Therefore the Bruins could move injured winger Marco Sturm who is owed $3.5 million over the next two seasons. This would provide the Lightning with a little more cap room, and still provide them with a winger capable of 30 goal seasons to ride along with all star pivot Vincent Lecavalier. The Bruins would most likely have to add a prospect such as Vladimir Sobotka, and former 1st round draft pick Matt Lashoff, or John Boychuk and possibly a mid level draft pick or Nokelainen. Boston gets a talented winger, and Tampa receives a slightly less talented and slightly less expensive winger, while adding prospects to aid their effort to rebuild.

Two slightly more plausible scenarios would have the Bruins making a move for veteran wingers Bill Guerin or Keith Tkachuk. Both are getting slightly long in the tooth, playing for struggling teams, and have history with  Boston. Both are Massachusetts natives; Guerin played for BC and Tkachuk for BU. Trades for either of these two forwards would likely not involve Marco Sturm, and instead be in the area of two prospects and a draft pick. Something in the area of Matt Lashoff/Matt Hunwick, Vladimir Sobotka/Petteri Nokelainen, and a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick would probably be enough to snag either winger.

Best bet is that the Bruins make a strong push to grab Tkachuk soon, while they are depleted by injuries.

The Biggest Professional Sports Blunder in the 21st century

Posted in Uncategorized on January 12, 2009 by theblackandgold

Ray Shero, what were you thinking?

The General Manager of the Penguins (aforementioned Ray Shero) has managed to roster Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin and yet were the season to end today, Pittsburgh would not be headed to the post-season. How is this possible?

Simply put Ray Shero will be looked upon as quite possibly the worst general manager in the history of hockey for his catastrophic goof up. Some people looked at the price paid for Marian Hossa (including yours truly) when the trade was made and said, “Thank God my team wasn’t involved in this trade.” In the end, Shero acquired Marian Hossa, and Pascal Dupuis for his Stanley Cup run, but gave up a ton in order to get the talented Hossa. The Pens shipped off Colby Armstrong (Sidney Crosby’s best friend at the time), Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito (Penguins most prized prospect), AND a 1st round draft pick.

How the Penguins could hire a man that doesn’t understand that depth wins championships, not a few high priced all stars, is astounding. When dealing with these high priced forwards, it is a well known fact that youthful, cheap, talent around them is crucial, and that is just what they sent to Atlanta.

Now, the Penguins are in shambles, with $32.25 million committed to just five players (Crosby, $9 mill/yr, Malkin, $9 mill/yr, Sergei Gonchar, $5.5 mill/yr, Fleury, $5.25 mill/yr, Jordan Staal, $3.5 mill/yr soon to be raised to $4.5 mill/yr) and only tenth place in the Eastern Conference to show for it.

Unfortunately, there is no real magic fix for this situation: they have big salaries, and most likely can’t keep all of those guys if they are losing. Shero desperately needs an infusion of prospects into his minor league rosters, and might use some of his NHL talent to get those prospects.

For now, it looks like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will go cupless, as long as they’re in Pittsburgh. Way to go Shero.

Thank you Mike Sullivan

Posted in Uncategorized on January 12, 2009 by theblackandgold

Marc Savard was signed by the Bruins prior to the 2006-07 season to a contract averaging $5 million annually. He was brought in to be the number one center while Patrice Bergeron honed his skills, and he has performed better than the Bruins anticipated. Savard has accumulated 234 points in 198 games as a Bruin, putting him at elite status among forwards in the NHL. Savard is not the top forward on the Bruins, he is not even the top center.

No disrespect to Savard, but David Krejci has emerged as the top pivot, forward, and quite possibly player on the Bruins, the team that has amassed the most points in the NHL.

Krejci was drafted in the 2nd round (63rd overall) by the Bruins, courtesy of Mike Sullivan’s genius scouting. The twenty-two year old center has played the majority of the year on the third line, but has recently received second line honors after Bergeron went down with a concussion. davidkrejciKrejci currently ranks second on the team in points, behind Savard, with 46 points in 42 games, and is on pace for 31 goals, 58 assists, and 89 points. Since mid-November, he ranks second in points in the NHL, trailing only Alexander Ovechkin, the leagues most prolific goal scorer.

Krejci is not the fastest player, he is not the biggest, nor does he have the hardest shot, but finding a smarter player in all of hockey would be a daunting task. Thus renders the comparison to one of the games all-time greats applicable: Wayne Gretzky. That’s right, the great one. Those who have seen Gretzky play can attest to the fact that although tremendously talented, he compiled 200-point seasons through his wit, and ability to think faster than defenders could move. Krejci possesses the same ability (although perhaps not quite to the same extent).

Gary Dineen, the legendary junior hockey coach, once said that you skate from the waist down, and play hockey from the waist up, meaning that having the head, and the hands to play the game are essential components of any players skill. No better example can be found of this than Krejci, who seems to always know where every player is on the ice, whether he is looking or not. Frequently, Krejci seems to slow down the game, holding the puck on the side boards, and waiting for passing lanes to open at his own leisure, without a flicker of panic in his stunningly calm demeanor. “It is a fast game, I don’t necessarily try to slow it down, I just try to make the best decision I can in the time I have,” said Krejci. He has done a good job–when a shooter is open, Krejci finds him, and the pass is normally put in an optimal shooting position.

Okay, the kid can pass, but that alone does not come close to warranting a comparison to a man who scored 92 goals in one season, a record that will never be broken. Krejci does not limit himself to helpers; he can also put the puck in the back of the net, posting the third highest shooting percentage (21.62%, 16 goals on 74 shots)among those who have scored 15 or more goals in the NHL, only trailing Loui Eriksson of Dallas (21 goals, 22.83%) and Alexander Frolov of Los Angeles (17 goals, 22.37%).

Offensive-minded forwards that pay little attention to the defensive aspect of the game have become almost a proverb in professional hockey (see Marc Savard prior to dawning the spoked B). Defying most trends, Krejci plays equally as well on the defensive end of the puck. Despite spreading only 178 pounds across his 6-foot frame, Krejci has compiled a plus 25 +/- ranking this season, which is good for 3rd in the league. He has only taken 10 minutes in penalties. He is a complete player and has found himself frequently receiving penalty-kill time.

This complete player has a bright future, and will most likely lead the Bruins in points with a line in the area of 35-65-100. The only problem with Krejci: he is owed a major pay raise by whatever franchise signs him after this season (he is a restricted free agent), lets hope he continues to wear the black and gold.

Bruins look like the Bruins, roll past Hurricanes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2009 by theblackandgold

The win over Ottawa wasn’t pretty, and despite getting two points out of the contest, the Bruins were, without question, disappointed with their play. Thus, with some pep in their step, they thoroughly dominated the Hurricanes, without Bergeron, Sturm, Lucic, Ference, Sobotka, St. Pierre (no word on Sobotka and St. Pierre) as well as goaltender Manny Fernandez, with a final score of 5-1.

Two forwards made their NHL debut for the Bruins, with Byron Bitz and Mark Karsums manning the win on the 4th and 3rd line, respectively. Both forwards played well and each earned an assist.

Byron Bitz, at six-foot-five, plays a big game

Byron Bitz, at six-foot-five, plays a big game

At 7:55 of the first period the Bruins asserted their dominance by taking a 1-0 lead, a lead that they would not relinquish. While on the powerplay, Dennis Wideman fired a hard break-out pass up the middle to Blake Wheeler, who after penetrating the Hurricane’s zone, dished the puck to David Krejci. Krejci made no mistake, and put it passed Cam Ward with a nice back-hand move.

Nearly ten minutes later, Ward’s (Hurricane netminder Cam Ward, not Aaron Ward)  troubles continued after Mark Stuart snapped a shot off the heel of Stephan Yelle and into the back of the net. Stuart’s production was not done, a funny bounce off Byron Bitz’s stick sent the puck to Stuart, who fired a quick and unexpected shot from a low angle past Ward, who was pulled after the Bruins took the 3-0 lead.

Michael Leighton, relieving Ward, got off to a rocky start. Krejci picked up another point when he slipped a pass to Michael Ryder who was skating towards the net at the bottom of the left face of circle. Ryder attempted to slip a backhand pass to a waiting Blake Wheeler, who was camped out on the far post, and celebrated in mild shock when the puck somehow snuck in between Leighton’s legs to put the Bruins up 4-0.

The Hurricanes continued incredibly flat play, and at 16:05 Ryder scored his second of the game. After a shot was blocked, Krejci found himself with the puck on his stick at the front of the  crease, in a prime scoring position. The right-handed pivot quickly opted to dish the puck on his back-hand, behind his back, to a waiting Ryder who was staring at an empty net. This prompted NESN play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards to ask if Krejci had eyes in the back of his head.

At 5-0, the game was all but over, and the Hurricane squad seemed to be merely thinking of the plane ride back.

Tim Thomas only allowed one goal, and had a solid game.

Overall, it was a great effort for the Bruins, in all three zones, and on both sides of the puck.

A December to Remember

Posted in Uncategorized on January 3, 2009 by theblackandgold

Sorry for the absence of the past 3 weeks or so, but in an effort to make up for the lack of posts, lets take a look back at one of the best months for the Bruins in recent memory…

Lets start with the good stuff.

1. The Bruins have quite a few guys on the NHL statistic leaderboards. Marc Savard is 4th in points with 48, just 4 behind Alexander Ovechkin for 2nd. David Krejci and Phil Kessel are also threatening to crack the top 5. Kessel is 4th in goals as well. The Bruins dominate the plus minus leader board, which is possibly the most important individual stat. Dennis Wideman, Savard, Wheeler, and Krejci hold down the top 4 spots, with Malkin being the only top 5 player to not wear the spoked B. Both Fernandez and Thomas hold spots in the top 5 for save percentage and Goals against Average.

2. Manny Fernandez.NHL

Fernandez has really emerged as the Bruins best goaltender, he hasn’t had a bad game since the first two weeks of the season. If Fernandez is playing to form  in the playoffs, the Bruins will not be beaten.

3. The youngsters. I hardly consider David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Phil Kessel the youngsters anymore. This month the Bruins required some Providence call ups because of injury. Vladimir Sobotka, Martin St.Pierre, Matt Hunwick, Matt Lashoff, and John Boychuk, all stepped in and recieved significant ice time.NHL/ Ference will have to do something special to knock Hunwick out of the lineup, and both Sobotka and St.Pierre have made very strong cases for themselves to be considered NHL-ready talents.

4. Number 1 in the Power Rankings. Despite the ESPN power rankings being run by a bunch of blithering idiots, they actually got something right putting the bruins ahead of the sharks, wings, and blackhawks. The worthwhile journalists over at TSN also had the Bruins holding down the top spot.

5. 62 points. The Boston Bruins are FIRST in the NHL in points. They are on pace for the highest point total in Bruins history.

6. Claude Julien. When a team is playing as the Bruins most coaches would go with an “if its not broke don’t fix it,” strategy, but coach Julien was smarter than that. When players or lines got complacent, Julien would make a move, most noticably demoting Lucic from the first line to the third line. So far Lucic has responded with a goal and a plethora of hits.

7. Aaron Ward. Although Matt Lashoff has a bright future, he needs more seasoning in the AHL.D052156001.JPG Thankfully, the Bruins only need to look to one young defender now that veteran Aaron Ward has returned to the lineup.

8. Blake Wheeler. The kid can score, and he can score pretty goals too. His work on protecting the puck with Cam Neely is really showing in his game, and his one timer is flat out deadly.

Now the bad, and there were very few things to hate about this month.

1. Patrice Bergeron goes down with another concussion. Clearly this is a major problem. It sounds as if Bergeron is doing well, and this will not be a repeat of the last concussion, but none the less, a worrisome problem for the Bruins.

2. Milan Lucic. Lucic definitely got away from his physical game, and thus was demoted to the third line to remind him of what makes him a good player.

3. Marc Savard. Despite putting up a ton of points he has shown signs of the old “offense only” Savard. Luckily, it did not cost the team, but Savard needs to make safer break out passes.

Overall, great month and great 2008 for the Bs