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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Finally some hockey

After waiting around for what seems like weeks, we finally get to see the Bruins play in the second round of the playoffs. Here are the projected lineups for both teams:



Andrew Ference is probable to play. Claude Julien stated in practice today that Ference will only skate if he is 100% healthy. He has practiced regularly since the Canadiens series ended, so expect him in. Byron Bitz and Shane Hnidy are the expected scratches. Here's how the Bruins lined up on the powerplay during practices throughout the week layoff:


Here are the lines Carolina used during the first round of the playoffs against New Jersey:



The powerplay units the Canes used at practice today are listed below. Matt Cullen may see time at a point position. Jokinen also rotated in on the second unit.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Boston Bruins (1) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (6) 2nd Round Preview

The Eastern Conference's best team will take on the 6th seeded Carolina Hurricanes in the second round of the playoffs.  The Hurricanes have a deep team than can role four lines, and an average defense that has some offensive minded players.  The Bruins boast the East's best offense and defense.  Carolina will try and continue their streak of upsets after beating the New Jersey Devils in a dramatic seven game series.  

Boston....................53-19-10, 116 points
Carolina................45-39-7, 97 points
Boston Home.......29-6-6
Carolina Home....26-14-1
Boston Away........19-6-6
Boston vs Conf....44-13-7
Carolina vs Conf.37-22-5
Bos vs Car...........4-0-0
Car vs Bos...........0-4-0

Boston Goals For.............274
Carolina Goals For..........239
Boston Goals Against......196
Carolina Goals Against...226
Boston Goal Diff.............+70
Carolina Goal Diff..........+13
Boston GPG.....................3.92
Carolina GPG..................2.88
Boston GAPG..................2.32
Carolina GAPG...............2.70
Bos Goals vs. Car............18
Car Goals vs. Bos............6

Special Teams:
Boston PP %.........23.6%
Carolina PP%.......18.7%
Boston PK%..........82.4%
Carolina PK%.......80.4%

Leading Scorers:
Boston Forwards:
Marc Savard.......25......63......88
David Krejci.......22......51.......73
Mark Recchi.......23......38.......61
Phil Kessel..........36......24......60
Michael Ryder...27.......26......53
Blake Wheeler...21.......24......45
Chuck Kobasew.21.......21......42
Milan Lucic........17.......24......41
Patrice Berg.........8......31.......39

Boston Defensemen:
Zdeno Chara...........17.....33.....50
Dennis Wideman..13.....37.....50

Carolina Forwards:
Ray Whitney...........24.......53.....77
Eric Staal.................40.......35.....75
Tuomo Ruutu..........26.......28....54
Rod Brind'Amour...16.......31.....51
Sergei Samsonov.....16......32....48
Matt Cullen..............22......21.....43
Erik Cole..................18.......24.....42

Carolina Defensemen:
Joe Corvo.............14........24.....38
Anton Babchuk...16.........19......35
Joni Pitkanen.......7..........26....33
Dennis Seid.........5..........25.....30

Tim Thomas........36-11-7.......2.10........933%

Cam Ward...........39-23-5.....2.44........916%

Boston had seven 20 goal scorers this season, and two more with 17.  The Bruins have one of the most deep offensive teams in the league, and ranked first in goals in the Eastern Conference.  The Bruins top guns may be young, but they passed their first test in the first round.  When 20 goal scorer Blake Wheeler is on your 4th line, you know the team is deep.  The Bruins are not just a finess sniping team, but a very physical team with guys like Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton.  Carolina also is a very deep team, 3 solid scoring lines.  Ray Whitney has been a Bruin killer of the past few seasons, and top gun Eric Staal is always a threat.  The 'Canes are not a very physical team, which could hurt them.  Boston just has too much depth, and with Carolina coming off a 7 game series, fatigue could be an issue.
Edge: Boston

The Bruins have the best defensive team in the NHL with Norris finalist Zdeno Chara.  Dennis Wideman is one of the best puck movers in the game and the Bruins have a very solid transition game.  Although they give up a lot of shots, they are from the outside and not very risky.  The Hurricanes have an underrated defense, but it is very offensive minded.  The Dmen jump up on the play a lot and 4 of their top 6 had 30+ points.  Joe Corvo is a very good transition player and Anton Babchuk has a cannon for a shot.  The Bruins play a much better team defense, and you can't not give the nod to the best defense in the league.
Edge: Boston

Tim Thomas led the league in GAA and SV%.  Although he has not played much in the playoffs, he played very good against Montreal, so the inexperience factor has to be thrown out the window a little.  Cam Ward has a Cup under his belt, but he has played a lot of games so fatigue could be an issue.  Ward has impressive numbers, but if Thomas plays the way he has, the advantage has to be for Thomas.
Edge: Boston

Boston in 6

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Second Round Determined

The Carolina Hurricanes advanced to the second round of the playoffs by beating the New Jersey Devils 4-3 tonight. Since the New York Rangers lost to Washington the Bruins will play the sixth seeded Hurricanes. The Bruins won the regular season matchup 4-0-0 led by David Krejci (3 goals 4 assists +7) and Blake Wheeler (3 goals 2 assists +5). Reports are that game one is Friday night at 7:00, with game two Sunday.

The Bruins were second in the league with 274 goals for while the Hurricanes ranked fifteen in the league with 239 goals. The Bruins clearly have a deeper lineup with the ability to roll four lines for the majority of any game. Three of the Bruins four lines have the ability to score. For the Hurricanes they have two solid lines that can score, led by superstar Eric Staal.

Advantage: Boston

The Hurricane have an underrated group of defenseman led by veteran Joe Corvo. Four of their defenseman collected more than 30 points during the regular season. The Bruins will need Zdeno Chara to shut down the Whitney-Staal-Ruutu trio. Overall fairly even here, although since the Bruins have Chara they get the edge.

Advantage: Boston

Cam Ward carried the Hurricanes a few years back when they won the cup. During the regular season he posted a record of 39-23-5 with a 2.44 GAA and a .916 save percentage. Ward has the experience and has done it in the past, but the Bruins have the Vezina winner.

Advantage: Even

Special Teams
Bruins powerplay - 4th, Bruins penalty kill - 12th
Hurricanes powerplay - 17th, Hurricanes penalty kill - 19th

Advantage: Bruins

Will the Bruins long lay off hurt them in the second round? It is possible, but the Bruins have more depth and balance than the Hurricanes. If Chara shuts down the Staal line, the Bruins take this series easily.

Prediction: Bruins in 6

(4) Pittsburgh over (2) Washington in six games.

(2) Detroit over (8) Anaheim in five games.
(4) Chicago over Vancouver in six games.

Round One Prediction Record 7-1

Monday, April 27, 2009

Thomas a finalist for Vezina

The NHL has announced that Tim Thomas, Steve Mason, and Niklas Backstrom are the three finalists for the Vezina trophy. The award is voted on by the 30 GMs across the league. Although all are worthy and have put up great numbers, Thomas should be the favorite to win this award. Mason, a rookie goaltender, helped lead the Columbus Blue Jackets to the playoffs for the first time in their franchise history.

Here are their stats:
Tim Thomas - 36-11-7, .933 Save Percentage, 2.10 GAA
Steve Mason - 33-20-7, .916 Save Percentage, 2.29 GAA
Niklas Backstrom - 37-24-8, .923 Save Percentage, 2.33 GAA

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Second Round Opponent

With both the Washington-New York and Carolina-New Jersey series extending to seven games, it leaves the Bruins three possible second round opponents. Pittsburgh, Carolina, and New York are the teams that the Bruins could see depending upon what happens Tuesday night (both game sevens Tuesday 7 PM).

The Bruins play Pittsburgh if:

New Jersey and Washington win

The Bruins play Carolina if:

Washington and Carolina win

The Bruins play New York if:

New York wins (winner of NJ-Carolina would have no affect)

The Rangers have played two terrible games and have let Washington back into the series. The Bruins match up best against New York, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them lose to Washington leaving the Bruins either Carolina or Pittsburgh. The Penguins would be the tougher of the two opponents especially with the way Marc-Andre Fluery played in round one.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lucic suspension unfair

I'm going to try and not be a homer, but I think majority of people who are fans of the game (minus Habs fans) do not think that suspension was justified.  

First, Carcillo's suspension I don't agree with other than his reputation and the Flyers team, so the NHL was making a point, fine.

Cammalleri should have been suspended since he did the same exact thing based on Carcillo's suspension, but he was not.

Now Game 1 in Montreal, I don't think Lapierre should have been suspended for attacking Kessel, nothing major happened and it was just some stupid rough stuff at the end of the game.

Kostopolous should have been suspended for clearly going after Hunwick's head.  Although he did not connect, the intent was there.

I also do not think Komisarek should have been suspended UNLESS it was clear if he was eye gouging, which I honestly could not tell.

On the Lucic play, Schneider was spearing and jabbing him, he was engaged with Lucic and then Lapierre skated over and Lucic punched him in the head, which happens.  Nothing major and the stick didn't hit Lapierre or else he would have been injured.  Also to note, this play was much less damaging than when Lucic pulled down Komisarek from behind, which he did not get suspended for.  This is a joke suspension, IMO.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hunwick Hospitalized

Matt Hunwick was rushed to the hospital today by ambulance in what is believed to be a spleen injury. No official word from the Bruins yet on the status of his injury. With Hunwick out, Shane Hnidy will be inserted into the lineup. In addition to Hunwick's absence, Andrew Ference will also miss game 2 . The Bruins now have 4 right handed shooting defensemen and only 2 lefthanded shooting defensemen. It will be interesting to see how Julien matches them up, especially with arguably the best two puck moving defenseman on the team out with injuries. Possible pairings:


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Final Tuneup

Today is the last practice before the playoffs begin. Here is how they lined up today


Blake Wheeler skated on the fourth line during practice. Could this be an indicator that Wheeler gets the Phil Kessel treatment from last playoffs? I certainly hope not.

The powerplays:

Andrew Ference still has yet to skate since suffering an undisclosed injury. He is doubtful for tomorrow's game. "He continues to be day-to-day guys," said B's head coach Claude Julien, Tuesday. "That’s his situation and as long as you don’t see him on the ice, that means he’s not ready to come back.

"I think when you see him on the ice for the first time it’ll be a good sign."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bruins-Habs Preview

Boston Bruins

53-19-10, 116 pts (2nd)
29-6-6 HOME (2nd)
24-13-4 AWAY (2nd)
274 GF (2nd)
196 GA (1st)
3.29 GPG (2nd)
2.32 GAG (1st)
23.6% PP (4th) 
82.4% PK (11th)
1.42 5v5 GF/A (1st)
30.3 SPG (11th)
30.8 SAPG (21st)
313 PP OPP (27th)
74 PPG (7th)
7 SHGA (7th)
54 PPGA (3rd)
306 TS (27th)
8 SHG (6th)

Montreal Canadiens
41-30-11, 93 points
24-10-7 HOME (12th)
17-20-4 AWAY (19th)
249 GF (12th)
247 GA (21st)
2.95 GPG (12th)
2.93 GAPG (19th)
19.2 % PP (13th)
82.4% PK (11th)
0.96 5v5 GF/A (17th)
30.0 SPG (13th)
31.7 SAPG (24th)
374 PP OPP (2nd)
72 PPG (7th)
11 SHGA (9th)
65 PPGA (10th)
370 TS (6th)
10 SHG (4th)

Boston was 5-0-1 vs. Montreal, while Montreal was 1-3-2 vs. Boston.

For the second straight time, the first and eighth seeds meet, the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, but this year with a twist. On the Habs 100th year anniversary, the Bruins and Canadiens switched roles. After Montreal dominated Boston going 8-0-0 in the regular season, the 8th seeded Boston Bruins took the Habs to a game 7, in which they lost 5-0. But that game gave them the strength to compete the best season an Eastern Conference team has seen since the Conference's were realigned. The Boston Bruins are the number one seed, while the Habs are the 8th. Will history repeat itself like it 2002, or will the Bruins finally make it past the 1st round for the first time since 1999?

The Bruins had the best offense in the East, and 2nd in the NHL 
behind the Detroit Red Wings. The Bruins have seven 20 goal scorers (Kessel, Savard, Ryder, Krejci, Recchi, Wheeler and Kobasew), and 13 players with 20+ points. The Bruins have some of the strongest depth at center in the league with Marc Savard, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron up the middle. The Bruins can constantly roll out four lines and tire down opponents, which is why they had the best 3rd period goal differential in the league this season. When the Bruins offense has been on, they have been nearly unstoppable. The Bruins also boast the best 5 v 5 goal ratio in the league, and if the Bruins can stay out of the penalty box, they should be able to score more than Montreal.

Montreal has had an up and down season with their offense, averaging around 3 goals per game. They have only two 20 goal scorers, but 15 players with 20 or more points, showing their depth. Montreal does not have a clear superstar on offense, aside from Alex Kovalev, who can be one of the best in the world when he wants to be. Montreal's offense flows through the power play. If Montreal's power play fails, so does their offense. Montreal also feeds off the home crowd, so when they score, they tend to score in bunches. 

Edge: Boston

Boston allowed the fewest goals in the NHL this season thanks to Tim Thomas 
and Manny Fernandez and their stellar defense. The Bruins have two Norris Candidates in Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman, and also have some depth incase of injury with Steve Montador and Shane Hnidy. The Bruins are very good at clogging up the neutral zone and layering their defense. Although they tend be outshot, many of those shots are from outside and to the sides. The Bruins defense is also very good at moving the puck up and the transition game. The Bruins sometimes struggle with an aggressive forecheck.

Montreal's defense has been average this season, with injuries really hurting them. Andrei Markov may miss part of not all of the first round, which is a huge blow for the Norris candidate. Mike Komisarek, Roman Hamrlik and banged up Matheiu Schneider will anchor the Habs blueline. Unfortunately for the Habs, guys like O'Byrne, and Gorges, Bouillon, Dandenault, and Brisebois may not be enough to stop the Bruins offense. If Markov can return, that'll be a huge boost for the Canadiens.

Edge: Boston

The Boston Bruins have one of the best goalies in the NHL and a Vezina finalist in Tim Thomas. Thomas led the league in SV. % and GAA, while backup Manny Fernandez is one of the best backups in the league if Thomas were to go down. Although Thomas has only one series of playoff
 experience, he played very well against the Habs, and if he can stay on his game, he is nearly impossible to beat. 

The Habs have young goalie phenom Carey Price. Price has had an up and down season, and has been a very emotional player on the ice which has hurt him at times. He was replaced by Jaroslav Halak in last seasons playoffs, which is not a good sign. If Price is on, he can be one of the top 10 goalies in the league, but if he is off, he can be just plain awful. Halak is a decent backup, but if Price goes down, Habs fans can't be too confident in Halak. 

Edge: Boston

Prediction: Boston in 5

Anything can happen, as seen in last years playoffs series, but this Boston team is so much better than Montreal this season than Montreal was to Boston last year. This Habs teams has been very dysfunctional at times this season and unless all of their parts come together and they get 6 PP's per game, I don't see how they can win the series. The Bruins have much better goaltending, offense, and defense than the Habs. Stat wise, the Bruins are an elite team while the Habs are middle of the pact. Barring a complete choke, the Bruins should come out on top.

Bergeron, Axelsson practice; Ference still out

Patrice Bergeron was back on the ice for the first time since taking a shot off the foot last Thursday against Montreal. He will be ready to go game one. P.J. Axelsson skated on the first line today in practice and is also ready to go. Andrew Ference did not practice because of an undisclosed injury. Ference is not expected to be ready for the series opener.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Playoff Predictions

(1) Bruins over (8) Canadiens in six games
(2) Capitals over (7) Rangers in five games
(6) Hurricanes over (3) Devils in seven games
(4) Penguins over (5) Flyers in six games

(1) Sharks over (8) Ducks in five games
(2) Redwings over (7) Blue Jackets in six games
(3) Canucks over (6) Blues in six games
(4) Blackhawks (5) Flames in seven games

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Fenway to host Winter Classic

The Herald is reporting that Fenway Park will be the next home for the Winter Classic. It will be interesting to see who the opponent will be but the Canadiens and Rangers are the top choices. To read the entire article, check it out here,

Monday, April 06, 2009

Wideman, Ference, Axelsson out against Ottawa; Manny in net

Dennis Wideman, Andrew Ference, and P.J. Axelsson are all out against Ottawa tomorrow. Wideman took a shot to the midsection against the Rangers but finished the game. Axelsson's injury is unknown. The injuries to Wideman and Axelsson are probably not too serious and may be a way to get them some rest before the playoffs. Andrew Ference on the other hand, suffered an injury on Saturday and did not return. His injury is believed to be more serious and Julien said Ference may be "week-to-week".

"Probably the worst of the bunch will be Andrew Ference. He's getting evaluated further today, so we can know the severity of the injury. A lot of the guys that aren't playing it's really just maintenance. There's nothing serious there." Julien said after practice today.

Aaron Ward, Phil Kessel, and Shawn Thornton all skated in practice and will make the trip to Ottawa. Manny Fernandez will start in goal tomorrow.

Expected lineup:




Saturday, April 04, 2009

Play GM for a day

RFA- David Krejci, Phil Kessel, Byron Bitz
UFA- Stephane Yelle, PJ Axelsson

David Krejci
This season: 22 goals and 50 assists for 72 points.
Comparable player Patrice Bergeron: average output in 2 seasons prior to signing contract 27 goals 45 assists for 72 points.
Sign David Krejci to a 5 year $23.75 million contract (exactly the same as Bergeron's)

Phil Kessel
Expected stats: 71 games with 33 goals and 24 assists for 58 points. Kessel's average output in 2 seasns prior to this - 76 games with 15 goals and 18 assists for 33 points.
Comparable player Corey Perry: Season prior to signing contract 29 goals 25 assists for 54 points in only 70 games. Average output in 2 seasons prior to that 69 games with 15 goals 20 assists for 35 points.
Breakdown: Kessel and Perry have almost identical numbers across the board, even games played. Although they are different types of players, judging on production only I would sign him to an almost identical contract. 5 years $25 million.

Byron Bitz
Sign Bitz to a 2 year 1.50 million dollar deal. Cap hit on 750 K per season.
Give Axelsson and Yelle thank you cards and allow both to walk after the season. There is simply no room for aging veterans unless they except veteran minimum deals, meaning Yelle would have a greater shot at returning then Axelsson. So go with either Yelle or Sobtoka here for the fourth line. Cap hit for both players 750K.

Marc Savard - 5.0
Phil Kessel - 5.0
David Krejci - 4.75
Patrice Bergeron - 4.75
Michael Ryder - 4.0
Marco Sturm - 3.5
Blake Wheeler - 2.825
Chuck Kobasew - 2.2
Milan Lucic - 0.850
Byron Bitz - 0.750
Yelle/Sobotoka - 0.750
Shawn Thornton - 0.517

Forwards under contract - 12

RFA- Matt Hunwick
UFA- Shane Hnidy, Steve Mondator

Resign Matt Hunwick to a similar deal Mark Stuart signed. 2 years $2.6 million for a cap hit of $1.3 million.
Resign Shane Hnidy for the same deal he has now, 757K.
Trade Aaron Ward's and his $2.5 million cap hit.

Zdeno Chara - 7.5
Dennis Wideman - 3.875
Andrew Ference - 1.4
Mark Stuart - 1.3
Matt Hunwick - 1.3
Shane Hnidy - 0.757

UFA - Manny Fernandez

Keep Tuuka Rask in Providence for one more season. His cap hit is too large to have on the roster. After next season Rask is a RFA and his cap hit would probably be cut in half.
Sign a veteran backup along the lines of Alex Auld, Ty Conklin, Dan Cloutier etc. to a 1 year $1.033 million deal.

Tuuka Rask - 1.033
Tim Thomas - 5.0

Have Neely go to the Glen Murray hearing. $1.383 million comes off the books for next season. There's a 75% chance that the arbitrator will rule in favor of Murray anway.

Total Cap Hit - $55 million
Expected Cap Ceiling - $55 million

Not much space to play with but incase of injuries there is always the "emergency call up" which allows teams to go exceed the cap during the emergency period. Rookie incentive deals are also being looked at. If the NHL decides rookie salaries, not including incentives, will only count against the cap, then the Bruins save another 2 million on Wheeler's contract and it will allow Tuuka to play in the NHL next season.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Salary Cap Breakdown

Forwards- 8 under contract
RFA- David Krejci, Phil Kessel, Byron Bitz
UFA- Stephane Yelle, PJ Axelsson

Marc Savard - 5.0
Patrice Bergeron - 4.75
Michael Ryder - 4.0
Marco Sturm - 3.5
Blake Wheeler - 2.825
Chuck Kobasew - 2.2
Milan Lucic - 0.850
Shawn Thornton - 0.517

Defensemen- 5 under contract
RFA- Matt Hunwick
UFA- Shane Hnidy, Steve Mondator

Zdeno Chara - 7.5
Dennis Wideman - 3.875
Aaron Ward - 2.5
Andrew Ference - 1.4
Mark Stuart - 1.3

Goaltenders- 2 under contract
UFA- Manny Fernandez

Tuuka Rask - 3.2
Tim Thomas - 5.0

Buyout - Glen Murray - 1.383

Total - $49.8 million
Expected cap ceiling- $55 million
Cap Space to sign Krejci, Kessel, Hunwick, fourth line LW and C - $5.2 million.

Not a lot of cap space whatsoever. Does Rask now become available since his cap hit is so high, especially for a backup goaltender? Are the Bruins expecting another team to sign Kessel or Krejci to an offer? Interesting questions to think about at this point. Ward may be a goner, either by buyout or trade. The Bruins will probably also need to dump a forward (Kobasew, Sturm, Bergeron, even Wheeler?)

ESPN - "Thomas signed to extension"

Matthew Barnaby and John Buccigross reported on Sportcenter that Tim Thomas has signed a contract extension. The deal is expected to be announced this weekend. No further details were given.

UPDATE: Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe has confirmed Thomas and the Bruins have reached an agreement for an extension. Dupont claims the deal is similar to Martin Brodeur, arguably the best goaltender in the league. Brodeur makes $5.2 million this season.

If Dupont's report is correct then this contract my hurt the Bruins in the long run. $5 million for a goaltender who is turning 35 next week may be a bit of an over payment. Tuuka Rask is expected to be the backup next season, however his cap hit is $3.2 million due to rookie incentives. The Bruins will only have 7-8 million in cap space to sign David Krejci, Phil Kessel, and Matt Hunwick, all of whom are restricted free agents. They would also need to fill voids left by Stephane Yelle and P.J. Axelsson. If the Bruins wish to resign their key players then Chiarelli will have to move a larger salary to fit everyone under the decreasing cap. Aaron Ward ($2.5 million), Marco Sturm($3.5 million + LTC), and Patrice Bergeron($4.75 million) may be possible contracts Chiarelli looks to move. However, injury issues usually arise with those players. The best possibility may lie in Chuck Kobasew ($2.2 million), who would fetch the most in return, especially with back to back 20 goal seasons.
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