The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and Greatness of Brad Marchand

There are very few players in the NHL that make an impact at a high level right out of the shoot. Guy’s like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane and Vladimir Taresenko have graced us with their talent since their rookie seasons. 6 of those 7 players are the league leaders in points scored. There’s no questioning the talent of these players who have came in and taken the league by storm.

 

Then there’s Brad Marchand.

 

Marchand didn’t have the paved road to success any of the guys above I mentioned. The Boston Bruins drafted him in the 3rd round 71st overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Little did the team know what was going to happen 5 years later.

 

In his first full year in Providence, the then 20 year old scored 59 points in 79 games. Marchand also had a great playoff run for the team that year scoring 15 points in 16 games. The Bruins then realized they could have something special with this player even though he may be undersized. The team gave Marchand the well-deserved callup to the big club for his spectacular play down in the American Hockey League.

 

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the rookie forward in Boston though. After scoring his 1st NHL point in his 1st NHL game, Marchand did not contribute a single point in his next 19 games. There were re assignments to the P-Bruins and callups during that year, but it was sure a rocky start for the young forward.

 

In 2011 things changed dramatically. Brad made the team out of camp due to a great pre season and made the teams 4th line. Marchand’s game was strictly just to be a pest and get under the opponents skin. Marchand scored his first NHL goal in Buffalo on a highlight reel play on the breakaway. From there it was all systems go. Marchand kept playing and producing into a better player as the year went on. The Bruins went on to promote him into a more prominent role, playing with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi.

 

That line went on to have great success and Marchand finished the regular season with 21 Goals, 20 Assists and 41 Points in his first full season with Boston. Not only was Marchand a factor come playoff time, he was at times one of the Bruins best players night in and out. Marchand’s pest role reached a whole new level in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Vancouver Canucks. Whether it was jabbing Daniel Sedin repeatedly in the face or chirping the entire Vancouver bench, the team needed every bit of that to gain the mental advantage on the Canucks.

 

Marchand finished 2nd in goals in the entire 2011 playoffs with 11 and scored 5 of them in the Stanley Cup Finals against Vancouver. The Bruins went onto win the Stanley Cup in 2011 and Brad Marchand was one of the biggest reasons why. If it was not for Tim Thomas winning the Conn Smythe trophy, in my opinion the award would’ve went to Brad Marchand who was by far the teams most consistent performers during that run.

 

Fast forward a few years later, Brad Marchand found himself back in the Stanley Cup Finals against the well-rounded Chicago Blackhawks. Up until the Stanley Cup Finals he scored 13 points. Not bad, but goal totals were low, only accumulating 4 in 16 games. Surely he was going to have another magical impact in the Stanley Cup Finals again right? Wrong. Marchand did not record a single point during the series with the Blackhawks and had a +/- rating of -3.

 

Bruins moved on to next year quick and not only claiming the number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but as the leagues best team and were awarded with the Presidents trophy. Marchand took another step forward in his growth as a player upping his point totals to 53 points and leading the league in short handed goals with 5. As soon as the playoffs came around, Marchand struggled once again. Despite not scoring a single point against the Detroit Red Wings in a 5 game series the team advanced and took on the hated Montreal Canadiens. Marchand looked to have broken out of his slump scoring 5 points in the 1st 3 games of the series but once again being shutout of scoring a single goal throughout the entire 2014 playoffs.

 

Marchand followed that season with one of the worst of his career by only scoring 42 points in 77 games. On top of that, the team missed the playoffs for the 1st time since 2006-2007. Fans started speculating that something was just not right with Marchand since the Canadiens series in 2014. The fans then went to turn his back on him as soon as trade rumors ramped up. However the Bruins decided to keep Marchand and trade away Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic.

 

Motivated by the trade rumors and the naysayers, in 2015-2016, Brad Marchand put together one of the best scoring runs in recent Bruins history. The scoring phenom won the fans back by finishing the season with 37 Goals 24 Assists and 61 Points. Most notably he has taken a step back from his role of a pest and rides the line when he needs to. Marcahnd has matured a lot as player and a lot of that has come with playing with his best friend Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron has made such an impact on Marchand’s career on the ice and a better person off the ice.

 

Marchand earned his big money contract getting 8 years and 49 million dollars prior to this season. In the midst of contract negotiations, he was invited to Team Canada to play for the World Cup of Hockey. Marchand flourished scoring 5 Goals, 3 Assists and 8 Points in just 6 games played. The little ball of hate was by far one of Canada’s best players on the ice for the entire tournament despite not winning the tournament MVP. Marchand has yet to disappoint and he’s on a role again for the Black and Gold. With 17 Goals and 26 Assists and 43 points, that’s good for 5th in the league, tied with fellow former teammate Tyler Seguin.

 

Marchands’s journey to NHL was a bumpy one that had many leaps and bounds but he overcame it. He’s now amongst one of the most dangerous forwards in hockey. Whether it’s tapping into that role of being a pest, his dual threat ability on the penalty kill or just straight up scoring highlight reel goals, we need to face facts. Brad Marchand is one of the best hockey players in the game today.

Period.

Photo credit: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Top 5 2nd Half Danger Teams

The NHL All Star break is upon us and we’ve seen a lot of surprises in the first half thus far.. Connor McDavid is a superstar at the age of 19 and his Oilers are in a playoff spot. The Florida Panthers and New York Islanders have been huge letdowns after a year where they’ve shown a lot of promise and growth. 5 out of the top 8 teams in the east are from the Metropolitan division. Without a doubt the best division in hockey and what a fun division it is to watch. Then of course the story of the NHL thus far has been the emergence of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

 

While these are the top story lines in the 1st half thus far, there have been a lot of middling teams that should be much better in the 2nd half of the year. Every year there is always a team down the stretch who goes on a massive hot streak and makes at least a deep run in the playoffs. Not only did the Pittsburgh Penguins make a long run, they won Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2016. With all that being said, here are my top 5 teams that are poised for great 2nd half’s.

 

#5: New York Islanders

 

I know what your thinking. A last place team with a coach that’s on it’s way out the door. An underperforming supporting cast that’s just not doing much offensively for superstar John Tavares. New York’s biggest offseason get Andrew Ladd has only produced 12 points in 38 games played thus far. There’s not much to write home about the team from Brooklyn. When the best part about this team is it’s 4th line, you know your team has glaring holes. Things cant much worse for this Islanders team right?

 

To which I say no it can’t. Let’s look at some positives. With Jaroslav Halak assigned to the AHL, Thomas Greiss has taken the reigns in net. Greiss is the best option in net for the Islanders going forward posting a 9-5-2 record with a GAA of 2.31 and Sv%: of .927. The Islanders simply look like a better team with him in net and they proved that with him last year in the playoffs.

 

Anders Lee shifted over to John Tavares wing and hasn’t disappointed since his move. Lee is only one goal shy of last year’s total of 15 and he still has more than a half a season to play. He could reach the 30-goal plateau if he stay’s the course for the rest of the season.

 

Along with John Tavares, the Islanders next best power play weapon is Nick Leddy. Leddy is tied for the team lead with 8 powerplay points and is by far their most dangerous offensive weapon on the blue line. He leads the team in ATOI with 22:59 but he’ll need to be better defensively for the Islanders to have any shot going forward.

 

A lot needs to happen for New York to have a great 2nd half. Whether that coaching change comes or not is a mystery but it might be the spark that the team needs. The roster has the pieces to make it happen, it just hasn’t panned out for them thus far. Not saying this team will make the playoffs but watch out for the Islanders down the stretch.

 

#4. Tampa Bay Lightning

 

This is a team that should be on every ones list. The Lightning are in deep, deep trouble right now while only accumulating 42 points in 42 games good for 6th in the Atlantic division. Tampa’s lost key stars Steven Stamkos, Ben Bishop and even Nikita Kucherov for a bits and pieces of the year. For those keeping score at home that’s the Lightning’s 3 best players. Not to mention the supporting cast has suffered injuries as well, players such as Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, JT Brown and Brayden Point. This team needs to get healthy and quick to say the least.

 

One of the sole reasons why Tampa is still afloat in the playoff picture has been Victor Hedman. Hedman is one of the leagues best defenseman and doesn’t get enough of praise simply cause he’s not in a hockey market. Hedman has 37 points in 42 games with 18 of those points coming on the powerplay. He is sure to break last years total of 47 points. Hedman plays in all situations and has been the Lightning’s rock all season long.

 

The Lightning will need better play from their young goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy if they want to get over the hump of the playoff picture. Although he is 10-9-2 on the year he’s dropped his last 4 decisions and given up at least 4 goals in all 4 games. With Ben Bishop not going to be back until mid to late January at the latest, it’s important for Vasilevskiy to seize the starting role as long as he can.

 

The entire defense of the Tampa Bay Lightning aside from Victor Hedman will have to kick it up a notch as well. There’s no excuse how bad the blue line has been for the Lightning. Guys like Jason Garrison and Andrej Sustr have been lack luster combining for a +/- rating of -20.

 

The Lightning can make the playoffs and could make a big run at it. The one thing that’s holding them back from both of those things is health. The longer these superstar players are out for, the more the chances shrink for the Lightning to get into the top 8. Tampa Bay also can’t afford to lose another big name player to injury for a significant amount of time. If they do, the Lightning could be lights out for the 2017 season.

 

#3. Toronto Maple Leafs

 

The Leafs have hung around on the bubble all year long. This could be their time to strike. Mike Babcock will be a Jack Adams finalist without a doubt if his team reaches the playoffs for the first time since 2013. With rookie forwards William Nylander, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner leading the way in scoring for Toronto, there’s a good chance that one of them could win some hardware as the Calder Memorial Trophy winner. Let’s dive into some other reasons that are due to the Leafs success.

 

Veteren Leafs players Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk have not only been great voices for leadership in the dressing room for Toronto but have contributed consistent scoring over the course of the first half. JVR is 2nd on the team in points with 32 and Kadri is 2nd on the team in goals with 16. With that kind of production from the veterans on this team, the young players will only feed off of it, follow their footsteps and will create a strong team bond.

 

The defense is led by more youth. Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev will be the main stays on the blue line for years to come. All 3 players bring something different to the table for the Leafs. Rielly brings a well-rounded defensive game with lots of leadership qualities and plays on all situations for Toronto. Gardiners bread and butter is his offense creating many opportunities especially on the power play. Gardiner has 8 points on the power play out of his 21 total. Zaitsev has a little bit of what Gardiner and Rielly have. Even though Zaitsev is a little undersized, he has a strong 2 way game on the blue line and he’s a great puck mover and that’s just what the Leafs need to generate offense.

 

The Leafs biggest offseason acquisition came out of the Anaheim Ducks organization goaltender Frederick Andersen. Andersen has shown signs of up and down play. There are night’s he lets in 6 and looks like one of the worst goalies on the planet. Then there are nights where he looks like Patrick Roy in his prime. Andersen’s record of 17-9-7 and GAA of 2.69 isn’t exactly sparkling but he’s done okay up to this point in his tenure with Toronto. Andersen will need to kick it in another gear for the 2nd half stretch run.

 

The Leafs have a lot of things going for them right now. They can’t however let themselves get into a big funk in the 2nd half. With a strong metropolitan division, it looks as of 5 metro teams will make it and only 3 teams from the Atlantic will join them. Leafs will probably need help from whoever’s playing the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins in the months of March and April.

 

#2. Anaheim Ducks

 

This team does it all the time. Every year this team goes on a strong run in the 2nd half and I have no other reason why they can’t do it again. Randy Carlyle’s Ducks are one of the leagues most exciting teams to watch that no one seems to talk about just because the teams based in Southern California. Anaheim leads the league in fighting majors by a wide margin, have the 5th best powerplay % at 22.3% and superstars like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry who aren’t having the best of seasons as of now.

 

Despite an All Star season from defenseman Cam Fowler, one thing that needs to improve for Anaheim is their defense. Hampus Lindholm is going to be one of Anaheim’s cornerstone defenseman for years to come and while he has been great defensively this year, they need more from him offensively. With just 1 goal and 4 assists in 30 games that’s not going to cut it. Fellow defenseman Sami Vatanen has been just the opposite. While totaling an impressive 16 points on the year, his defensive game needs improvement. Vatanen needs to limit the turnovers and make smarter decisions.

 

Lets move on to one of the bigger surprises on this team. Rickard Rakell has been absolutely been everything what the Ducks have wanted this year and then some. Rakell has scored 16 goals on the year, tied for the team with Ryan Kesler. His red-hot play needs to continue especially if Perry and Getzlaf are struggling.

 

One of the best lines all year long in the NHL has been the line of Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg. This line is so much fun to watch. You get to see Ryan Kesler’s rock solid two way game, the speedy and durable Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg’s finesse and unbelievable shot. With a formula like that, there’s no wonder why these players combined total of 83 points this year alone.

 

John Gibson has been the man in net for Anaheim for most of the season. He’s posted a record of 16-10-6 with a 2.38 GAA and a save percentage of .918. Not the best numbers from a goalie this year but not the worst. I expect these numbers will be better with better defensive play from the Ducks blue line in the 2nd half.

 

The Ducks have the right formula to win a Stanley Cup this season. Just a few tweaks at the trade deadline could get this team over the hump. With rookie forwards Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie leaving their mark in the bottom 6, adding faceoff specialist Antoine Vermette over the offseason, Anaheim’s supporting cast has never looked better. Does anybody know who was the coach for Anaheim in 2007 when they won the Stanley Cup? Oh yeah its Randy Carlyle and he’s back in Orange county to make another run at it.

 

#1. Minnesota Wild

 

This could be the year Minnesota fans! This could be the year Minnesota breaks free of the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues. Newly hired Bruce Boudreau is coaching his way into to the Jack Adams trophy conversation. Eric Staal looks like the old Eric Staal. Devan Dubnyk has been on all world level since the start of November. All is right in Wild land.

 

Except for a few things. One being Zack Parise’s inconsistent play. Lets not forget he’s been hurt for portions of the year already so he could be playing with injury. However with only 8 goals and 12 assists in 30 games, it’s not like he’s setting the world on fire. Parise needs to become more of factor and stay healthy down the stretch for the Wild. Parise is starting to catch fire now however with 11 points in 11 games.

 

Another thing that could concern me if I were a Wild fan would be the minutes logged by Ryan Suter on a nightly basis. I get it, the guys stamina and conditioning is out of control. When it comes time for a playoff run though your going to rely on him even more. It’s important that the Wild start the cutting of Suter’s minutes before playoff time because you don’t want his gas tank reading empty by Game 3 of the first round again.

 

Lets talk about some good stuff. The defense of the Minnesota Wild has been a blessing for them all season long to this point. Obviously Ryan Suter leads the way, but it has been the young guns that have made the Wild defense a force to be reckoned with. Lets start with Jared Spurgeon. Spurgeon’s undersized but he has slick puck movement, he’s very fast skater and not afraid to let one rip from the point. Another defenseman that has really caught the eye of most NHL fans is 22-year-old Matt Dumba. The former 7th overall pick in 2014 has seen his numbers go up each season and is on a steady track to blow past last seasons numbers. Dumba has explosive speed and can also provide some big open ice hits and who doesn’t love that?

 

Devan Dubnyk is leading the league in GAA of 1.80, Sv% of. .940 and shutouts with 5. Sounds like a Vezina trophy award winner to me. The All Star has been sensational in net for the Wild and is their team MVP. A big part to the success is he does not have to start every single game like he has the past 2 seasons for the Wild. Getting him rested for the big run will be a big part to the team’s success.

 

The Wild have it all in place to make this year their year. Perhaps Boudreau may need to coach this team to 1st place in the Central just for the sheer fact to avoid the Blackhawks at all costs. Out of the last 3 playoff series’ with the Blackhawks, they have not won a single series against Chicago. It looks as if these teams are going to be destined to meet again at some point in the playoffs. If the Wild can slay the dragon, there’s no telling how far they could go. This Minnesota team has the talent, smarts and leadership to go all the way. Now lets see if they can take advantage of this window of opportunity.

 

 

Photo cred: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images North America

 

 

 

 

Boston Bruins Mid Season Report Cards: Forwards

The forwards on the Boston Bruins are what you expected it to be before the season began. Just okay.

 

There were some pleasant surprises like the growth of David Pastrnak right before our eyes, the ability that Dominic Moore brings to the team and among others. However with the team ranked only 21st in the NHL in goals at the halfway point, is concerning. The Bruins are going to need more firepower from their offense in the 2nd half especially if the defense starts to fall apart at the end of the season just like last years team did.

 

Some players I’m going to be a little tougher on than others just purely based on what the player expectations were before the season. Here are my mid season report cards for the forwards of the Boston Bruins.

 

 

Left Wing Grades:

 

Brad Marchand: A-

Goals: 12        Assists: 22      Points: 34       +/-: +3

 

Marchand was by far the most consistent performer in the first half. He leads the team in points while still being one of the best agitators in the game today. Despite not having a multi point game since the home opener of the season till last night’s game against the Panthers, he always manages to find a way to make a difference in the game. Marchand will need a hell of a 2nd half to catch up to his goal total of last year but with ability of his linemates of Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, I could definitely see Brad reaching the 37 goal mark again.

 

Ryan Spooner: C

Goals: 7           Assists: 12      Points: 19       +/-: -1

 

This was one of the toughest grades to give just because how up and down Spooner has been. Spooner’s primary position is center but with the given depth Boston has at center they moved Spooner to left wing and has stuck there for most of the year. Spooner has always been the pass first type of player but given his new role playing with David Krejci and David Backes, he’s now forced more to shoot now than ever which hasn’t exactly worked. Spooner’s on pace for 14 goals, which barley beats last seasons total but he needs to start finding consistent chemistry with his new linemates.

 

Tim Schaller: B-

Goals: 5           Assists: 6        Points: 11       +/-: 6

 

Here’s one of those pleasant surprises I was talking about. Absolutely no one knew whom this guy was coming into camp. As soon as Schaller made the team, he took off in his new 4th line role with the club. Schaller is a hard working type of player and plays a physical game with 4th line responsibilities. Claude Julien loves those types of players. Injuries then plagued Matt Beleskey and David Backes that meant Schaller was then forced into the team’s top 6 but didn’t have much success. Perfect 4th line role player, just not suited for a bigger role than that.

 

Matt Beleskey: D+

Goals: 2           Assists: 3        Points: 5         +/-: -6

 

One of my favorites on the team is having a down year thus far for the black and gold. Beleskey like Schaller, plays a hard-nosed type of game, works hard and plays a great 3rd line role. What’s the problem? Well there are two; one being that Beleskey needs to find more consistency crashing the net looking for more dirty goals. The other problem is he’s getting paid 3 million dollars more than a guy like Schaller who effectively could play the same style of game. Beleskey went out with a knee injury in the beginning of December and still has yet to return.

 

Anton Blidh: C

Goals: 1           Assists: 1        Points: 2         +/-: Even

 

Sweden born Anton Blidh came up from the Providence Bruins looking to shake things up for the Bruins bottom 6 and he sure has done that. Anton is quietly one of the feistiest players on the ice for the Bruins night after night. Blidh constantly looks to agitate and frustrate the opposition. Surprised no one has caught him having 0 PIM. Wish we can see more of Blidh than the 6-9 minutes we’re given a night. I think he deserves more of a look.

 

Center Grades:

 

Patrice Bergeron: B

Goals: 8           Assists: 6        Points: 14       +/-: -2

 

Bergeron while going unnoticed is not having the best of seasons. His two-way role is still up there among the best in the game with other top centers like Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar and Ryan Kesler. In the offensive department however he hasn’t had the same impact as the players I just mentioned. This is arguably the best line he’s have ever been on his career (obviously aside from 2011’s line of Marchand and future hall of famer Mark Recchi) with budding superstar David Pastrnak and his best friend Brad Marchand. Many people believe he’s being hampered with an injury from the World Cup of Hockey tournament he played at in September, which could be entirely possible. The Bruins should and will get more from Bergeron as the season goes on.

 

David Krejci: B-

Goals: 9           Assists: 17      Points: 26       +/-: -7

 

Krejci had a tough start to the year going his first 11 games without a goal and only 4 assists in that span. Since then Krejci has been much better with 9 goals and 13 assists in 31 games. The playmaking center has been adjusting to new linemates what seems like all season long. As a matter of fact, 8 different players played on his line, which makes it tough for any player to find chemistry. Krejci’s bread and butter has always been his work on the power play and he’s doing well again this year with 8 power play points (2nd on the team) halfway through the campaign. David will need another hot end to the year to eclipse the 60-point plateau however.

 

Austin Czarnik: C+

Goals: 5           Assists: 7        Points: 12       +/-: -3

 

Originally Czarnik started the year at left wing and was rather ineffective at his role on the 3rd line. Since then the Bruins moved Austin to his natural position at center in hopes to spark the young 24 year old. Sure enough, he looks rejuvenated and happy to be at center. Czarnik is the spark plug the Bruins need in their bottom 6 on a nightly basis. Seems like every night for the past month he’s been getting great opportunities. He’s the little engine that could, and I expect him to be even better in the 2nd half.

 

Dominic Moore: B+

Goals: 8           Assists: 4        Points: 12       +/-: +5

 

How great of a late offseason acquisition has this guy been? Surely his production won’t stay this way in the 2nd half but man, Dominic Moore has been one of the best and most consistent centers on this team this year. Moore has embraced Claude Juliens 4th line role with ease and his penalty killing has been a big reason why the team ranks 2nd in penalty killing. He’s also 2nd on the team in faceoff percentage at 53.8%. If somehow, Dominic Moore keeps these offensive numbers up, he might even get a better grade from me at the end of the season.

 

Right Wing Grades:

 

David Pastrnak: A

Goals: 19        Assists: 9        Points: 28       +/-: +12

 

So this is the hype train everyone kept talking about. It took me awhile but I’m finally aboard this hype train and so should you. Right from the drop of the puck, Pastrnak has been among the leagues best players. Pastrnak is one of the single reasons why the Bruins are where they are today. Pastrnak is in the NHL’s top 5 in goals scored and dangerous weapon on the power play with a heavy slap shot. He gets my vote to be in the NHL All Star Game. However recently he’s in the longest goal drought of his career at 9 games. Though you shouldn’t worry given Pastrnak’s natural goal scoring ability and playing with superstars Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

 

David Backes: B

Goals: 10        Assists: 10      Points: 20       +/-: -1

 

The Bruins biggest signing of the offseason hasn’t disappointed in his first year with the team. Backes is one of the leagues toughest players and plays with an edge, which Bruins fans absolutely fall in love with. Backes is flourishing as of late with 11 points in 16 games as he’s starting to find chemistry with veteran center David Krejci. Backes is one of the most versatile players on the team given he can play both the wing and center positions which is good to have on any team. The power forward is showing the world why the Bruins made him priority #1 last season with his consistent rock solid game.

 

Riley Nash: D

Goals: 2           Assists: 5        Points: 7        +/-: -3

 

We go from good offseason acquisitions to poor ones. Nash was picked up to fill a 4th line role with the team and hasn’t been able to get anything going as it seems. Even though these are the numbers you kind of expect from a career 4th line player, you’d like to see a little more from Nash who played a few games with Bergeron and Marhand while Pastrnak was out. I’ll also never understand why he’s the player the Bruins choose if someone in the top 6 gets injured to fill that role. He plays the penalty kill pretty well and he’s a versatile player that can play both wing and center but that’s about it. It’ll take a big push for Nash to replicate his numbers last year when he played for the Carolina Hurricanes.

 

Noel Acciari: C-

Goals: 0           Assists: 2        Points: 2         +/-: Even

 

I hate to go all Pierre McGuire on you guys, but I need to explain Noel Acciari’s game. Acciari is a defensive forward that played college for the Providence Friars for 3 years and captured a national championship in his senior year. He also received an award as Hockey East’s best defensive forward. In his small sample size with the Bruins this year he has not done well producing offensive opportunities and nor will he. Noel’s job is purely based on preventing the other team to score, laying out huge hits and his work on the penalty kill. Acciari’s done a solid job in those facets of the game.

 

Jimmy Hayes: F

Goals: 2           Assists: 1        Points: 3        +/-: -3

 

Saving the best one for last! Where do I even begin? Lets start with how Jimmy Hayes didn’t record a point for 35 games – 16 last season and 19 this season. That’s hard to do especially with a player of Jimmy Hayes size who should be in front of the net at all times. At a point we even had this player on one of our power play unit. That’s how desperate you are when the team power play is ranked 25th in the NHL. For a guy that was traded for Reilly Smith you would’ve hoped for at least equal production from a player of that caliber. Nope! Instead we have this big oaf out there that’s consistently floating around waiting for his next opportunity. Just for instance in his last 5 games he has a grand total of 2 shots on goal with 2 PIM in almost 50 minutes of ice time. Why this guy keeps getting ice time is a mystery to me.

 

Incomplete Grades: Sean Kuraly, Danton Heinen and Frank Vatrano

 

 

 

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boston Bruins Mid Season Report Cards: Goaltending and Defense

The Boston Bruins defense and goaltending is a roller coaster again this year. There are some players who went above and beyond and point expectations thus far this year. Then there are some players who are failing again. The good news is there’s still another half a season to right the wrongs. The Bruins will need to play better in the 2nd half this year to make the playoffs again. For that to happen the defense needs to be more consistent and goalie Tuukka Rask will need to give the same rock solid play in the cage.

Right now though, the Bruins are just an average team and I’m here to go in depth and breakdown each player on the roster. Here are the mid season report cards for the blue line and netminders of the Boston Bruins.

Goalie Grades:

Tuukka Rask: A

W-L-OT: 19-9-3         GAA: 2.00       Sv%: 926       4 Shutouts

Let’s start off on a high note. Tuukka Rask has been the team MVP of this hockey club halfway thru the regular season. Without his play, the Bruins would probably have at least 6-8 more losses and the team would be in the bottom of the Eastern Conftrence standings. Instead, the B’s are still within striking distance for the 3rd place spot in the Atlantic Division. Rask’s 4 shutouts also rank 2nd in the NHL.

Anton Khudobin: F

W-L-OT: 1-5-1           GAA: 3.06       Sv%: .885       0 Shutouts

Everybody knows where I stand with this guy in the net. If not, go check out this article: BREAKING NEWS: Khudobin placed on waivers, It’s McIntyre Time

Incomplete Grades: Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban

 

 

Defense Grades:

Zdeno Chara: B

Goals: 2           Assists: 7        Points: 9         +/-: +5

Let’s get one-thing straight here folks. I don’t care how many people say Chara is so slow or he’s getting older, he’s still far and away the best pure defensemen on the Bruins. The captain got off to a hot start this season. In his first 18 games played he totaled 1 Goal, 5 Assists, 6 points and a +/- rating of +12. During that time-frame his play in his own end was outstanding and found ways to even chip in offensively. He then got injured and missed 6 games with what was called a “lower body injury”. When Chara came back he did not have the same step as he did to start the season. Over his last 16 games he’s only chalked up 1 Goal, 2 Assists, 3 Points and a +/- rating of -7. It has not looked pretty as of late for the big man and he needs to be better as the team goes into the home stretch.

Brandon Carlo: B

Goals: 2           Assists: 6        Points: 8         +/-: +2

Being paired with Zdeno Chara not only will help you become a better player but also boost your confidence knowing that the coaching staff believes in you. The young stud defensemen has been everything what the Bruins asked for and more in his first year. Carlo looked extremely comfortable playing with Chara and looked like a bonafide #1 defensive pairing. Then when Chara went down, Carlo was forced in a bad situation essentially playing against the other teams best players without his mentor. He did not look like the same player and at times was lost out on the ice. When Chara did come back the pairing was reunited but struggles continued. In his last 15 games he collected just 1 Assist with a +/- rating of -10. I would’ve lowered Carlo’s grade but given that he made the team out of camp and made a big impact, he gets a B.

Colin Miller: C+

Goals: 3           Assists: 3        Points: 6         +/-: -3

After a shaky start in October and November, Colin Miller has really stepped up his game in the month of December. Miller looked like a train wreck in the beginning of the season in his own end losing too many puck battles, turning the puck over and constantly trying to do too much. Once December hit, Miller simplified his game and played to his strengths. His outlet pass improved, he’s more efficient in one on one battles and has started to use his shot more often. Claude needs to trust this player and give him more ice time especially while his confidence is sky high.

Torey Krug: B-

Goals: 1           Assists: 21      Points: 22       +/-: -4

Krug by far is the Bruins most offensively skilled defensemen but just like Miller he struggled in October as well. Krug went through all of October without a single point which was concerning since the team signed him to a big money contract. Many people believe it was his shoulder injury that hampered his play. Krug finally started to pick his game up with 11 points in his last 14 games. The Bruins will need to rely on him more to be the catalyst of the blue line not just for this season but also for years to come especially with more youth on the way.

Adam McQuaid: C

Goals: 0           Assists: 1        Points: 1         +/-: +4

McQuaid never was the type of player to put offensive numbers on the board so lets just put that aside right now. His toughness and grit stood out among any Bruins player on the entire roster. If the team needs a kick in the ass or responds to a big hit, McQuaid has always been there. He’s always had the teams back no matter what. His defensive play has not at all been sharp this year. I can’t tell you how many times McQuaid and his pairing partner Torey Krug are always out there giving up an odd man rush. It’s maddening to say the least.

Kevan Miller: D-

Goals: 0           Assists: 1        Points: 1        +/-: -7

I need a quick rant before I start the player evaluation. Here’s a question. Why do the Bruins need to have two guys that bring the same skillset to the table at a position of need? Seriously, Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid are the exact same player and you only need one of them on your roster. I’m done. Lets get started here. Miller began the season the IR with a fractured left hand. It wasn’t til the end of November we got to see him play. To be honest with you, I see very minimal improvement from last year. His IQ in his own zone is piss-poor, he’ll turn the puck over numerous times and won’t give anything offensively. The one thing he does do well at is his ability to fight and intimidate the opposition. That’s about all I’ll give to him.

John Michael Liles: C

Goals: 0           Assists: 5        Points: 5         +/-: -2

The 36-year-old veteran had a rough go at it to start to the season and was finally starting to pick up momentum before he got sidelined with a concussion. Claude Julien used him in perfect situations to slow the game down with his steady defensive play. Liles plays a boring but yet simplified game. Nothing flashy but he just does his job in his own end and the Bruins can’t ask for more than that. Wish we got to see more of him in the 1st half to get more of an evaluation but he is set to return any day now for the black and gold.

Joe Morrow: C-

Goals: 0           Assists: 1        Points: 1         +/-: -3

Here’s what I find odd. Joe Morrow hasn’t been the worst Bruins defensemen this year, yet he gets shafted night in and night out. Morrow hasn’t played since December 12th and he’s only played in 13 games. The 24-year-old defensemen deserves more of a look than what he’s gotten. I get that there’s 8 different D-men rotating in and out of the lineup but for two players of the same skillset that get to play while a slick skater and puck mover like Morrow sits on level 9 is ridiculous.

Incomplete Grades: Matt Grzelcyk and Rob O’Gara

Photo Credit: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Preview: Oilers VS Bruins

Man it doesn’t feel like half the hockey regular season is over but sadly it is. The Bruins are officially at the halfway point in their 2016-2017 campaign as they’re set to take on Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers at TD Garden in game 41 of 82. Watch the 1st of 2 meetings between these two teams as the puck drops at 7 PM EST on NESN.

 

The Rundown:

 

These aren’t your fathers Oilers who won multiple Stanley cups in the 80’s but they’re on the right track for success. Edmonton currently ranks 3rd in the Pacific division with a record of 19-13-7 and 45 points. The Oilers are on their 2nd game of a 4 game trip to the east. The team is on a 2 game losing streak losing to two red-hot hockey clubs; the Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets.

 

Edmonton ranks in the top 10 in powerplay percentage coming in at #8 at 21.1%. Not shocking really given the amount of young talent that is on this team. Young German forward Leon Draisaitl, and superstar Connor McDavid have stood out for most of the year. McDavid is having an MVP season leading the NHL in points with Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin with 43. Draisaitl had a hell of a December with 7 goals, 9 assists and 16 points in 14 games.

 

Boston is coming off a 3-0 loss to a lowly New Jersey Devils team. Boston has accumulated only 7 points out of 18 against the following teams: Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs.

 

With the Devils in the rear view mirror, Boston will look to have a different fate against an Oilers team that’s been hot and cold. The Bruins will have to adjust to Edmonton’s speed if they want to have any chance of winning this game. It would be pretty safe to say that the B’s are in dire need of 2 points as they’ve played the most games in the league thus far.

 

The Bruins once again need more out of their powerplay unit as its ranked 27th in the NHL only at 14%. If there was one thing the Bruins did well on Monday night against New Jersey is the penalty kill. The kill went 6 for 6 and improved their league ranking to 2nd in the NHL only behind the Carolina Hurricanes.

 

Player Spotlight:

 

If it weren’t for this player, a guy named McDavid would be in my player spotlight. Instead my player spotlight is Milan Lucic and for good reason. Lucic had a great 8-year tenure filled with some of the best moment in recent history. He helped the Bruins win a Stanley Cup and was an integral part of that run. When Lucic got traded to LA last season and made his formal return against the Bruins, he was serenaded with cheers from the home crowd. He scored a goal late in the game and his team went onto to win 9-2. Lucic then came out for a victory lap after the game was over to much of the fans appreciation. Milan signed with the Oilers in the 2016 offseason for 7 years and 42 million dollars. Lucic is having a good season for the team out west with 10 goals, 16 assists and 26 points. He’s been on the line with McDavid for much of the year nut has not stuck around on his line as of late. He’s still one of the very few best power forwards in the game and is a game changer when he flips that switch.

 

Let’s take a closer look at Torey Krug. Krug only has 1 goal all season while contributing 20 assists and 21 points, which ranks most among Bruins defenseman by a wide margin. The young 25 year old had a rough start to the season not only scoring no points in his first 9 games, but constantly turning over the puck, letting odd man rushes take place and blowing coverage in his own zone. Krug has finally been catching fire lately with 7 points in his last 6 games. The Bruins are going to need him to keep it going cause right now cause he’s the only real threat offensively on their blue line.

 

Projected Lines:

 

Boston:

 

Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—David Pastrnak

Ryan Spooner—David Krejci—Frank Vatrano

Tim Schaller—Austin Czarnik—Jimmy Hayes

Anton Blidh/Noel Acciari —Dominic Moore—Riley Nash

 

Zdeno Chara—Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug—Adam McQuaid

Kevan Miller—Colin Miller

 

Tuukka Rask

Zane McIntyre

 

Edmonton:

 

Patrick Maroon—Connor McDavid—Leon Draisaitl

Milan Lucic—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Zack Kassian

Benoit Pouliot—Drake Caggiula—Jordan Eberle

Anton Lander—Mark Letestu—Jesse Puljujarvi

 

Oscar Klefbom— Adam Larsson

Andrej Sekera—Kris Russell

Eric Gryba/Jordan Oesterle—Matthew Benning

 

Cam Talbot

Jonas Gustavsson

 

Storylines:

 

Former Bruins draft pick in 2012 Matt Benning (son of former Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning) signed with the Edmonton Oilers over the offseason. The defenseman also played for the Northeastern Huskies, A lot of Boston ties for the young 22 year old rookie as his father Jim Benning is the GM for the Vancouver Canucks. Jim Benning was the assistant GM for the Bruins for 8 years before taking the Cnucks job.…. The Bruins have placed Anton Khudobin on waivers and the Bruins recalled Goaltender Zane McIntyre….. Claude Julien also gave an update on David Backes clearing him for practice and full contact but is unlikely for Thursday night’s game…. On Wednesday the hockey world found out the Milt Schmidt passed away at the age of 98. The Bruins will pay tribute to him before the game and have embedded Schmidt’s number on the ice for tonight’s game.

Gameday Prediction:

4-1 Edmonton

 

 

R.I.P Milt Schmidt. You will be forever missed.

 

 

BREAKING NEWS: Khudobin placed on waivers, It’s McIntyre Time

Some people think being the backup goalie on a hockey team is easy. Your dead wrong if you honestly think that.

 

The backup goaltending position is one of the hardest jobs on the team. You have to consistently prepare yourself on a nightly basis not knowing when your opportunity will come. Could be when the starter has a bad night or goes out with an injury or an illness. Having to come off the bench during the middle of the game is not easy especially at the NHL level. Hell, even when the starter starts 5, 6 or even 7 straight games, the backup netminder doesn’t see any game action for 2 -3 weeks and it’s natural to think that he isn’t going to look sharp.

 

The Boston Bruins have had a good run of backup goaltenders over the years such as Tuukka Rask, Anton Khudobin and Chad Johnson. When Tim Thomas left town; Tuukka Rask took over the reigns and has had success as a full time starter. After Johnson signed with the New York Islanders, the backup spot hasn’t been the same since. The porous play from goaltenders Niklas Svedberg in 2014-2015 and Jonas Gustavsson in last season’s campaign were atrocious to watch. In hopes of bringing stability back to Boston’s backup goaltending position, the Bruins brought back Khudobin on a 2-year contract.

 

In Anton’s first run with the team in the lockout shortened season in 2013, Khudobin went 9-4-1 in 14 games played with a Goals Against Average of 2.32 and a save percentage of .920. He then had another decent campaign the following year with his new team, the Carolina Hurricanes. In 2013-2014 he went 19-14-1 with a GAA of 2.30 and a save percentage of .926. Since that season Khudobin has fallen on tough times winning just 11 games and losing 26 in 2 seasons combined with Carolina and the Anaheim Ducks.

 

This year, Tuukka Rask has been in the Vezina trophy conversation all year long and deservedly so. His counterparts however haven’t had much luck this season. Khudobin and rookie goaltenders Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban won just 1 game in 10 attempts. You can call that not good.

 

General Manager Don Sweeney knew something had to be done.

 

Today the Bruins waived Anton Khudobin thus setting the stage for Zane McIntyre to get called up to the big club.

 

Throw Malcolm Subban out the window as he’s having a terrible year with the Providence Bruins. Subban has a record of 4-7-1, a GAA of 3.01 and .902 save percentage. Although he is raw, Zane McIntyre might be the best option at this point. McIntyre is undefeated collecting 10 wins and an impressive 1.41 GAA and .951 save percentage at the AHL level. In 3 games with Boston, Zane went 0-2 with a .859 save percentage and GAA of 4.04. Not the best numbers by any stretch, but did play reasonably well in his NHL debut at he Bell Centre in Montreal in a 3-2 loss.

 

Outside options look very slim, as only a few teams seem to be shopping backup goalies. The Bruins should not trade for NHL veterans Jaroslav Halak and Ondrej Pavelec as they come with a heavy contracts and this team can’t afford that on their cap.

 

Lets give Zane a chance. He definitely deserves it with the way he’s played for the P-Bruins. It can’t be any worse than what Khudobin brought to the table in goal.

Photo credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

5 New Years Resolutions for The Boston Bruins

The New Year is here! You know what that means! It’s a new year, with new beginnings and new years resolutions.

The Boston Bruins enter 2017 tied for 2nd place in the Atlantic Division with the Ottawa Senators. Not a bad spot to be in if you’re Boston. The 2016-2017 campaign is far from done but if you’re a Bruins fan you have to be happy even with the inconsistencies that come along with this team. Here are a few new years resolutions I have to solve their inconsistent play.

 

Fix Backup Goaltending

The backup goaltender position has never been worse for Boston. The Bruins have 1 win from a backup goalie this year and it’s January 2nd. Meaning Anton Khudobin, Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre combined for 1 win in 10 starts this year. That’s a lot of crucial points left on the board.

Goes to show how Tuukka Rask is the MVP of this team right now collecting 19 of the clubs’s 20 wins on the season.

 

Stay The Course With The Youth

That’s the only way they’re going to develop into better players. Guy’s like Brandon Carlo, Colin Miller and Austin Czarnik have made huge strides this season and it’s important to keep playing them regularly.

They’re going to have their bad nights but that’s all part of a development of a player. You can’t just stick them up on level 9 of TD Garden every night for 3 weeks and expect these kids to play well when its time for them to play. That’s just not how it works. Patience is a virtue.

 

Scratch Jimmy Hayes

Speaking of level 9, this guy SHOULD be up on level 9 with the way he performed from February up until now. Jimmy Hayes had a 35 game pointless streak dating back to last season.

He finally snapped that drought in November of this year with a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Jimmy Hayes has accumulated a grand total of 3 points in 33 games this season.

Although Hayes has found chemistry on the 4th line with Dominic Moore and Anton Blidh, his production is very limited to say the least. What purpose does he really serve? What’s his role cause I’d like to know.

 

Trade Ryan Spooner

This might be an unpopular opinion but the value has never been any higher for center Ryan Spooner. Spooner has 7 goals 11 assists and 18 points on the season but is red hot right now with 9 points in his last 10 games.

Quick trivia, what do all these players have in common? Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Backes, Ryan Spooner, Austin Czarnik, Dominic Moore and Noel Acciari. The answer is they’re all centers.

If there is one position that the Bruins are deep at it’s at center even with the injury to Backes. This team is infatuated with the center position. Coach Claude Julien also hasn’t shown much trust in Spooner especially cause of his lackluster play in his own defensive zone.

Spooner is on his final year of his contract and it’s important the Bruins get something for him. They still have budding star David Pastrnak to sign in the offseason and you know he’s probably going to command up to 6 million a year if he keeps up this rate. Don’t ask me what we could get for Spooner because it’s anybody’s guess, If I were the GM, I’d potentially ask for 2 draft picks for Spooner.

 

Trade for a Right Wing

A top 4 defenseman is what the Bruins really need, but it doesn’t seem all that realistic that the Bruins are willing to trade a ton of youth to get one. Looking at the hockey club’s depth at RW, there’s not much there at all. With Backes out indefinitely with a concussion, your right-wingers are David Pastrnak, Frank Vatrano, Riley Nash and Jimmy Hayes. Vatrano’s only playing there right now cause of the injury to Backes, his real position is left wing.

Looking at the market right now for potential right-wingers, Radim Vrbata of the Arizona Coyotes and Jarome Iginla of the Colorado Avalanche make the most sense. Both are on the last year of their respective deals as well. With both of those teams completely out of the playoff picture, I can totally see 1 or both players get dealt at the trade deadline.

 

 

Losing to Colorado, Toronto, and the NY Islanders is not ideal. Those could be critical points lost that we could be talking about in seasons end. However the Bruins should be satisfied with the standings right now. The New Year will not be kind to them in the months of February and March when the B’s go on their 2 western coast trips from hell. That means it’s important to get these points now while they can against lesser competition. If they don’t, the roller coaster that is the 2016-2017 Boston Bruins is sure to be a bumpy road ahead.

Photo credit: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images North America