Tag Archives: Boston Bruins

Where Does Your Team Stand?

The All-Star game was yesterday.  I hope you all did something else while that was on.  What a complete waste of time that game is.  The NHL hypes how great the 3 on 3 worked last season…it didn’t.  The John Scott story made it great.  It really goes to show you how incompetent the league is when they have all those top 100 players in town and they don’t have the foresight to do a draft and game with all of them.  It was important to do a game involving Justin Bieber, but not do alumni game featuring the top 100 players of all time?  You could have even added guys like McDavid and Matthews to the game, maybe had a line of Gretzky, Crosby and McDavid, but hey I’m sure the great minds in the NHL offices could figure out why that wouldn’t make money…

 

Anyway, the league is pretty poorly run, this is not news.  But while we hate the league, we still love the game and we have our favourite teams.  So with that being said, let’s take a look at where those teams are at going into their final 36-30 games.

 

Standings based off teams points percentage, which is the way everyone should be viewing the standings.

 

Anaheim

27-15-9 (.618)

3rd in the Pacific

They’ve been under the radar this season.  In the mix with the Sharks and Oilers fighting for 1st in the Pacific, but they really haven’t made much noise.  Not a bad thing at all.  But they really aren’t giving anyone much to talk about to this point.

 

Arizona

16-26-6 (.396)

7th in the Pacific

I’m starting to worry about the mix in the desert.  Dave Tippett can coach veteran players who are willing to play a 200 foot game.  The last two seasons though the Coyotes have gone really young, and they have been a tire fire.  Sure, they started good last season, but it was a pretty massive fluke.  They’re awful.  They have a ton of talent on the ice, yet they’re being coached to play 2-1 hockey.  That just doesn’t work.  The one great thing that’s happened for them this season is Mike Smith has been excellent.  This is great for the Coyotes in the sense that they now may have a chance to get that salary off their books should he agree to waive his NTC.  Calgary?  Dallas?  NY Islanders?  St. Louis?  Winnipeg?  They’ll have options.

 

Boston

25-21-6 (.538)

4th in the Atlantic

Nothing new here that you haven’t heard me say a lot since they fired Peter Chiarelli.  It’s a big mess in the front office there, it’s trickling down to the ice, it’s pretty clear that Claude Julien now isn’t getting along with people in the front office, they blame Chiarelli for everything that has gone wrong, they’re on their way to becoming a joke.

 

Buffalo

20-19-9 (.510)

6th in the Atlantic

The Eichel injury really set them back this season, but they still shouldn’t have been as bad as they were to start the season.  I have not been quiet about being a Tim Murray detractor, and I think the media is about to catch up.  In the past it’s been “man I love Tim Murray, I got a story about him doing something funny…”  Great, and how is he as a GM?  Gave up what turned into Colin White for Robin Lehner.  Made a terrible deal for Evander Kane.  I can’t honestly think of the move he’s made where I’ve gone “that really helped the Sabres out”.  Best thing for this team in my opinion would be to finish near the bottom of the East and let Terry Pegula clean house.  However seeing Pegula operate the NFL’s Bills, who knows if he can stir this ship in the right direction.

 

Calgary

25-24-3 (.510)

6th in the Pacific

I’m shocked at what’s gone down of late in Calgary.  I knew this team had a lot of question marks going into the season, but they’ve proven that when they simply get good goaltending, doesn’t have to be great, they’re a good hockey club.  But they have simply lost all their confidence.  They were fine until nine days ago, and that seemed to open the flood gates.  Chad Johnson got the start and was awful, and it was the Oilers, at home, which set them nine points back of the Oil, and they now have just a one point lead on both the Kings and Canucks who both have three games in hand.  The one red flag that I’m noticing which nobody else seems to be talking about is that Johnny Gaudreau has started to take a BEATING this season.  He took at least one big hit in every game against the Oilers this season, obviously the Komarov hit last week was brutal, and I’ve seen him take a lot of others.  This slump might be more physical than mental.  On top of all that as I wrote about last week, there are concerns over Brad Treliving perhaps being on his way out, which would likely trigger another coaching change, and literally in a matter of a week things have gone from looking great moving forward to being a mess.  The train hasn’t gone off the tracks just yet, but the concern is that it’s about to.  Hopefully the win in Ottawa get things pointed in the right direction for them again.

 

Carolina

21-20-7 (.510)

7th in the Metropolitan

They were VERY quietly moving up the standings after a bad start.  But then they ran into a buzz saw the last five games which saw them go pointless against Columbus (x2), Pittsburgh, Washington, and L.A.  I had them making the playoffs this season but it looks like that’ll be wrong.  They’re really well coached, and have a lot of young talent.  The biggest challenge they face is being in the toughest division in hockey.  No coincidence that four of those last five loses came against the top three teams in the Met.  But if they want to take this rebuild to the next level, they’re going to need guys like Elias Lindholm and Teuvo Teravainen to raise the level of their games offensively.

 

Chicago

30-16-5 (.637)

2nd in the Central

Meh.  It wouldn’t be “meh” for anyone else, but it is for the Hawks.  This team is on cruise control.  They’re going to the playoffs, I would guess they’ll end up playing the Preds in the 1st round, and just like two years ago I would expect a hell of a series once again.  But really, they don’t give you much to talk about during the regular season because they’re that damn good.

 

Colorado

13-31-2 (.304)

7th in the Central

Well, I’ve written about them already, so there really isn’t much more to be said.  It’s a shit show, as Edmonton Oilers fans are sympathetic to.  It’s going to be a fire sale from the sounds of it, though I would guess that much of the heavy lifting won’t happen until the offseason.  But this team needs more than just a fire sale.  Joe Sakic needs to step down, bring in a new GM, new coach (not a fair shake at all for Jared Bednar but you have to clean house), and you have make sure the blueline is overhauled.  This team is what the Oilers would be had they not won McDavid, don’t forget that Oilers fans.

 

Columbus

32-12-4 (.708)

2nd in the Metropolitan

They became the talk of the league on their 16 game streak.  But I really think this team is going to come crashing back to earth, if they aren’t already in the process of doing that.  Watch for them to have a rough end to the season.  Not saying they’ll miss the playoffs, but their schedule gets brutal in the last seven weeks of the season where they’ll play three games in four days once a week.  Seven sets of three games in four days, that’s tough.  They also have to start to get injuries at some point, Bobrovsky has started to cool off, guys like Atkinson, Gagner, Wennberg, and Foligno won’t all shoot above 15% for the rest of the season either.  They’ve just simply had everything go their way.  About damn time for the fans of this franchise, they’ve won two playoff games in 15 seasons!  I think they’re a playoff team, but truthfully I think by the time the playoffs roll around they’ll be a bit of an afterthought.

 

Dallas

20-20-10 (.500)

5th in the Central

It’s funny, nobody is really surprised at their drop off this season.  I know I picked them to get the 2nd wild card spot, and I GUESS they’re in the race for it.  But I don’t think they’re getting it.  Goaltending is too shaky, and I feel they went too young with their blueline this season.  It wasn’t great last year, but they were much more experienced.  Heading into last season everyone was raving about the offseason they had in 2015, yet I wasn’t a fan.  And then they had a great season finishing 1st in the Central, yet I still wasn’t a fan.  It was and still is a talented yet poorly constructed team.  Seguin and Spezza are two great offensive centres, but they’re perimeter guys who aren’t good away from the puck.  I think in time Seguin can become that player because of his speed but he isn’t there yet.  Also, Jamie Benn is the only physical/gritty forward they have in their top six.  Combine those things with a very young blueline and bad goaltending and you see why they are where they are.

 

Detroit

20-20-9 (.500)

7th in the Atlantic

Pretty sure that my call of them missing the playoffs is going to happen and if they want to get back to being a contender soon then they should start missing the playoffs.  This organization is weak on the blueline moving forward, weak down the middle moving forward, and they need to reboot.  I’ve said before, I don’t think it would take them very long because they have drafted well and do have some good assets, but as I’ve heard and seen some of their fan base and media contingency suggest, what difference does it make whether you miss the playoffs or get bounced in an extra five games?

 

Edmonton

28-15-8 (.627)

2nd in the Pacific

Tied for the most points in the Pacific at the All-Star break.  I knew this was possible and wrote about it in my season preview, but we’ve thought the Oilers were about to turn a corner a lot in the last seven years or so and they always fell flat on their face.  Going into the break we’ve seen their most impressive hockey of the season, and I really believe this team has yet another gear.  They’re big, tough, fast, and McDavid carrying the team has taken a lot of pressure off a lot of guys and allowed them to develop.  Now we are seeing RNH and Eberle playing really good 200 foot games and their offence is now coming around, and that’s in large part thanks to McDavid carrying the team through their struggles.  Next season they’ll add a much improved Jesse Puljujarvi to the mix.  They can still stand to improve a lot at the deadline however.  I believe the needs would be a 3rd line centre, a RH shooting offensive defenceman, a top 9 RW, and possibly a backup goaltender (we’ll see how Laurent Brossoit fares).  I highly doubt they would pay big for rentals, but some cheaper ones along the lines of Radim Vrbata, Michael Stone and Thomas Greiss I could perhaps see happening.  Playoffs this season, and I hope you’re ready for Cup expectations next season Oilers fans.

 

Florida

21-19-10 (.520)

5th in the Atlantic

Injuries have been the big problem with this club.  No Barkov, no Huberdeau, no chance.  They’ve actually done ok considering who is in their lineup most nights.  The problem for this team will be moving forward and the concern about going too heavy on analytics.  I don’t know how that’ll go, it’s never been done.  I’m a person who believes if you lean too heavy in any direction in life you’re likely setting yourself up to not so much fail, but avoid success (like that?!)

 

Los Angeles

24-21-4 (.531)

4th in the Pacific (2nd wild card)

They’re just quietly moving along.  They’ll get Jonathan Quick back in a month, and the big one which nobody is talking about is Anze Kopitar has yet to bust out.  He will, make no mistake.  He’s not finishing the season with 10 goals, probably around 20.  And probably above the 60 point mark.  While I really wish I had my pick back of them shocking the world and winning it all again this season, a lot can change in a few months and I did suggest at the time that they would start slow and finish strong.  However, being an Oilers fan I really don’t like the possibility of playing the Kings in the 1st round…

 

Minnesota

32-11-5 (.719)

1st in the Central

Welp…I’ll brag again.  I picked them to win the Central before the year in my season preview, I threw $20 bucks on it which will turn into $200 in April, and this is just a typical Bruce Boudreau team.  He is the best regular season coach in NHL history.  Yep, I’m saying that.  He can’t win for shit in the playoffs, but if you need a culture change like the Oilers needed or the Avs need now, you hire Bruce Boudreau.  Regular season, the man just wins.  Playoffs, especially in game 7’s, different story.  But for now Minnesota Wild fans shouldn’t care about that.  This has been a rejuvenating season for the Wild both in the standings and in the organization with a lot of prospects developing very nicely.

 

Montreal

29-14-7 (.650)

1st in the Atlantic

I’m not too high on the Habs even though I do think they can go relatively deep in the playoffs.  Carey Price elevates the team simply by being in goal.  He’s played bad by his standards over the last month, but as we seen last season his presence is just massive.  Now, a Matt Duchene deal goes down, that would change my tune on things, and I do think they have the pieces to get that deal done.  But until that happens this team is just too thin up the middle.  What if they play Boston in the playoffs?  Likely won’t, but if they did the Bruins can run Bergeron, Krecji and Backes against them and anyone of those guys could be a brutal matchup for a kid like Galchenyuk over a seven game series.

 

Nashville

24-17-8 (.571)

3rd in the Central

They’re coming on strong now.  They’ve taken a while to get their act together, but now they’re healthy, Jusse Saros is starting to see more games in goal (I believe he’ll be their starter come playoff time), and they’re going to be a problem for the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs if that’s who they get.  At the moment they look like a team who could win the West, and I’m not as down on the West as most are, I think this Preds team is THAT good.  This blueline hasn’t been healthy for a while now.  Obviously Subban is great, I can’t believe how good Ryan Ellis has become, and Roman Josi is their top guy.  Three guys capable of logging number one minutes, and Ekholm is a number two or three guy.  If Ryan Johansen plays to the level I believe he’s capable of, this team is going to be difficult for anyone to handle.

 

New Jersey

20-21-9 (.490)

8th in the Metropolitan

I never shut up about it, but I have to say it again here: they got crushed in the Hall/Larsson swap.  They won the value, but their blueline was already shaky with Larsson.  Without him, they’ve been terrible.  I GUESS you could make the argument that they’re in a playoff race, but I don’t see them being much of a factor down the stretch.  This is a very bare organization and as a big Taylor Hall fan I fear he’s going to be stuck with mediocrity or less for the next three and a half seasons.

 

NY Islanders

21-17-9 (.543)

6th in the Metropolitan

The coaching change has helped recently, and they seem to be making a push.  But I have my doubts they can sustain it, and I’m not sure it’ll make a big difference long term.  Much like the Devils, their prospect pool doesn’t look that good, they still have trouble drawing UFA’s despite a new arena, it’s not a good situation in Brooklyn at the moment.  And if you’re John Tavares, do you really believe you can win a Cup there?  Good for the Islanders and their fans if he does, but from the outside looking in I believe they’re never going to be much better than what they’ve been the last three seasons because they haven’t done too good developing their kids.  If Tavares isn’t willing to sign an extension come July 1st, I believe the Islanders have to move on, as difficult as that would be to stomach.

 

NY Rangers

31-17-1 (.643)

4th in the Metropolitan (1st wild card)

I’m not really buying them as anything of a threat in the East.  I guess they always are based on Henrik Lundqvist, but this team has got 21 goals out of Michael Grabner.  You really think that’s going to hold up?  Nick Holden has given them 24 points.  It’s just like Columbus in that they aren’t winning fluky, but they’re getting too good of seasons from too many guys.  That’s not to piss on what they’ve done either.  They’ve had a great season to this point and I wonder when people are going to notice that Alain Vigneault is an elite head coach in this league?  There are maybe three or four of them and he’s one of them.  But while it’s been a great season for the Rags, I just don’t see them getting out of the Metro.  It’s the Pens and Caps world, they’re just living in it.

 

Ottawa

26-15-6 (.617)

2nd in the Atlantic

You talk about under the radar.  The Sens season without Craig Anderson and riding Mike Condon has been amazing, and is getting absolutely zero recognition in this country thanks to the Leafs and Oilers having break out seasons.  But top to bottom this team is just real solid and while I have my worries about Guy Boucher as head coach long term, he’s now turned around two different organizations.  If they’ve been this good with Condon between the pipes, I would guess that they’ll be even better with Anderson back in goal soon.  I’m getting really amped about the possibility of the battle of Ontario returning this April after an 11 year absence.

 

Philadelphia

25-19-6 (.560)

5th in the Metropolitan (2nd wild card)

That 10 game streak, which had them see seven backup goaltenders and only one true number 1 goaltender, helped them fool people.  This isn’t a good team.  They’re well built moving forward, one of my favourites moving forward.  But right now they just aren’t that good.  Shaky goaltender, the blueline is going to be good but right now it’s a bit of a shit show.  Dave Hakstol has done a very good job in his year and a half there of getting a lot out of such a flawed team.  Playoffs are obviously possible, just like all the teams in the East, but I wouldn’t bet on them and if they do get in I can’t see them going anywhere barring trading for a top end goaltender or something along those lines.

 

Pittsburgh

30-13-5 (.677)

3rd in the Metropolitan

They’ve just cruised all season haven’t they?  A little under the radar, which is helpful.  I think of them the same way as I thought of the 09 Red Wings.  They were the defending Cup champs, and basically flew under the radar all season despite maintaining their spot near the top of the standings.  I would say right at the moment I’d have them as my Cup favourites.

 

San Jose

31-17-2 (.640)

1st in the Pacific

They’ve really surprised me this season.  I really expected a drop off, and it could still come, but they’ve been great since a rocky start.  I believe they’ll cruise to top spot in the Pacific.  The Oilers are playing great, but they’re due for a drop off, I still trust the Sharks a lot more.  Martin Jones has somewhat quietly become one of the top goaltenders in the league.  I always assumed he was another guy who was a product of the Kings system and would be horribly exposed in San Jose.  WRONG!  Very, very, VERY WRONG!  Definitely one of the favourites out of the West this season, look like the best bet in the Pacific come playoff time.  I wonder if now isn’t the time for Doug Wilson to make a big move which could possibly get this team over the hump?

 

St. Louis

24-20-5 (.541)

4th in the Central (1st wild card)

This team is slowly fading, and by the end of the season they might be on the outside looking in at the playoffs.  Jake Allen is the big issue, as he is proving to be a guy who can’t hack it as a number 1 goaltender.  Now, maybe they go get a guy like Mike Smith as I suggested a week ago?  Doug Armstrong had him in Dallas.  But I wonder/worry for them that they’re going to stick with Allen no matter what this season.  To me, it was evident in the series against the Wild in 2015 that Allen wasn’t the answer long term, yet here we are with the Blues giving him another shot.  If they can shed Allen’s deal though, it would open up the possibility of Smith, Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury, some real solid options.  Other than between the pipes, nothing much to talk about.  Solid team top to bottom, just not in goal.

 

Tampa Bay

22-22-6 (.500)

8th in the Atlantic

I’m shocked at how big of a drop in play they’ve had since Stamkos went down.  Playoffs are still possible, but it sure is looking bleak at the moment.  Erik Erlendsson who covers the Lightning has hinted at the possibility of a coaching change in the last few weeks.  I believe Yzerman is using the Nikita Nesterov trade to Montreal as a bit of a test run for the team.  Maybe they respond with better play, maybe they quit, but at least Yzerman will get his answer which is more important this season than others seeing how Ben Bishop is gone after the season no matter what.  If they aren’t going to see the playoffs, Yzerman better get something for him.  It’s crazy though, this team even without Stamkos is far too talented to miss the playoffs.

 

Toronto

23-15-9 (.585)

3rd in the Atlantic

You might hate them, but for me personally I’m getting really amped at the idea of the Leafs getting in the playoffs, and I’m saying they will.  I’ll never back off the point that I want all seven Canadian teams to make the playoffs.  Doesn’t mean I’ll pull for all of them once they’re in, but the playoffs are much better when Canadian fans are packing the buildings.  I said it last year pre draft that I felt Matthews and Marner would be the Leafs version of Toews and Kane and so far that looks to be pretty spot on.  I don’t believe Mike Babcock gets enough credit with the job he’s done with these kids.  He’s the best coach in the league and it might not be close.  Think about this: it looks pretty good for the Leafs to meet the Sens in the 1st round of the playoffs.  Even better than that, it’s possible we get Habs v Leafs in the Atlantic division final.  That wouldn’t suck!  This team could stand to upgrade the blueline before the trade deadline.  The current group have really overachieved to this point in the season, but adding a couple of guys like a Michael Stone and/or Fedor Tyutin could be massive additions.

 

Vancouver

23-21-6 (.520)

5th in the Pacific

I can’t believe this team is legitimately in the hunt for a playoff spot.  Willie Desjardins to this point has to be a Jack Adams candidate.  Man, the goaltending looked weak, the blueline looked far too young, the Sedins looked to be fading and they hardly had anything else up front.  Yet here we are, granted in a Western Conference which is really down this season, but they’re in a playoff spot!  I can’t see them going anywhere should they get there, but as I laid out in the fall, this team won’t do a full on rebuild because their fan base has proven to be fickle in the past.  It’s a recipe for mediocrity, but it’s what they’re stuck with.

 

Washington

33-10-6 (.735)

1st in the Metropolitan

They’re back in top spot, and while that’s never a bad thing there is clearly something flawed with this club.  I’ve maintained that I believe a big upgrade at centre is needed, and with Matt Duchene available I would be looking to bring him in if I were GM Brian MacLellan.  This would allow them to move Kuznetsov to the wing and if the playoffs showed us anything last year it was that Evgeny Kuznetsov couldn’t handle either one of Crosby or Malkin.  Duchene is a 1st line centre.  Doesn’t mean you have to play him with Ovechkin, but they need a guy like him to finally take the next step in Washington.  You don’t want to build specifically just to beat one team, but I think the Caps have to do something big like this to give themselves a fighting chance against the defending champs.  Anyway, they probably won’t and I’m saying all of this for nothing.

 

Winnipeg

23-25-4 (.481)

6th in the Central

I’m not sure why so many in the Canadian media figured the Jets were going to the playoffs.  It’s as if we see a team making good moves and assume that good moves mean that a team is good.  The Devils won the value end of the Hall/Larsson trade, so they’ll make the playoffs.  They still aren’t good up front, they’re now really bad on the blueline, but they’re making the playoffs?  The Flames got Brian Elliott for cheaper than we thought he would be, had Matt Tkachuk fall to them in the draft, so they’re making the playoffs.  They’re still really thin up front and it’s been proven that Ken Hitchcock’s system makes the goaltender not the other way around, but they’re making the playoffs?  That was the Jets.  And it wasn’t even a move Cheveldayoff made, it was just simply winning the chance to pick Patrik Laine.  “PLAYOFFS!”  Why?  Their goaltending was a massive question mark and has proven to be weak, they’re extremely young, and they’re in a very tough division.  This team is going to be damn good in a few seasons, and I think they’ve played good thus far!  They just need to stay the course.

 

Midseason Prognostications:

*wild card winners

Pacific

1. San Jose

2. Edmonton

3. Anaheim

*4. Los Angeles

5. Calgary

6. Vancouver

7. Arizona

 

Central

1. Minnesota

2. Nashville

3. Chicago

*4. St. Louis

5. Dallas

6. Winnipeg

7. Colorado

 

Western Conference Playoffs

San Jose vs Los Angeles

Edmonton vs Anaheim

Minnesota vs St. Louis

Nashville vs Chicago

 

San Jose vs Anaheim

Nashville vs St. Louis

 

San Jose vs Nashville

 

Atlantic

1. Montreal

2. Ottawa

3. Toronto

*4. Tampa Bay

5. Buffalo

6. Boston

7. Florida

8. Detroit

 

Metropolitan

1. Washington

2. Pittsburgh

3. NY Rangers

*4. Columbus

5. NY Islanders

6. Philadelphia

7. Carolina

8. New Jersey

 

Eastern Conference Playoffs

Montreal vs Columbus (I have heard mixed reports on how this sets up if four teams from each division get in, but the last wild card team isn’t in the same division as the top seed, which is how I believe this will play out this season, amazingly it has yet to happen)

Ottawa vs Toronto

Washington vs Tampa Bay

Pittsburgh vs NY Rangers

 

Montreal vs Toronto

Pittsburgh vs Tampa Bay

 

Pittsburgh vs Montreal

 

Stanley Cup Final

Pittsburgh vs Nashville

 

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Tough out

 

Finally a stake was driven through the heart of that vampire (vampire’s are still “in” right?!)  The Bruins run finally came to an end last night, and I really believe after seeing some of them interviewed after the game they were in total shock.  Tukka Rask sounded like it was a regular season loss to the Sabres, not being closed out in the Stanley Cup final.  It won’t be an easy loss for the B’s to get over, but they’ll be back because they’re just simply a miserable matchup.

This isn’t the most talented team in the league.  They’re up there, but they don’t matchup with Chicago’s talent or Pittsburgh talent or even the Caps talent.  But what really hit me during this run is that they have pieces that you can’t match.  There isn’t a poor man’s Zdeno Chara out there.  With Chris Pronger done, there simply isn’t another d-man out there that is close to what Chara is.

Milan Lucic.  There is no poor man’s Milan Lucic in the NHL.  Every year since about 2009 teams in the draft aren’t looking for another Malkin or Stamkos, they’re looking for another Lucic.  Zach Kassian was picked 12th overall in hopes that he could be another Lucic.  Last year Tom Wilson went 16th overall in hopes that he could be another Milan Lucic.  He has a skill set that is just unmatched.  A heavyweight who is a 1st line player.  How do you matchup with that?

Brad Marchand is another guy like this.  Sure there are other pests out there.  I won’t go as far to say that you can’t find a poor man’s Brad Marchand, but pests that can play aren’t easy to find.  And Marchand isn’t the type of pest that hits and runs like a Matt Cooke or Alex Burrows.  Marchand will take a swing at a big guy and get in anyone’s face.  Yes he’s cheap, and dirty, and has his coming to him someday.  But the kid has heart.  Its a case of he will do ANYTHING to win.  There isn’t another pest in the league who comes close to his skill or his drive.

And beyond all those guys they’re great in the positions you need to be great.  Between the pipes, even though I rolled my eyes at how much some of the media was drooling over Tukka Rask during these playoffs when it was more a case of the Bruins team defense not allowing any decent scoring chances, he is still one of the best in the leauge.

Patrice Bergeron is one of the best 2 way centers in the game, David Krejci is a damn good 2 way center too and between them they really don’t have a number 1 guy.  Simply 2 great centers who can matchup against any other center in the league.  And beyond those 2 they have some good role guys down the middle in Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell.  But what I really like is that they dress about 6 guys a night that can play the middle.  Seguin is a natural center, and Rich Peverly can step in like he did once Campbell went down.  I always preach being great down the middle and this team definitely is that.

Then the blueline beyond Chara is deep, physical, and moves the puck well.  They were healthy scratching Wade Redden and Dougie Hamilton most of the playoffs.  I know Redden isn’t what he used to be but he is still capable of being a 5/6 guy on a team like the Bruins, and Dougie Hamilton was right up there with Jonas Brodin and Justin Schultz as a top rookie d-man this season.  That’s insane depth and in the playoffs you really need depth like that on the blueline.

So they’ll be back.  This teams system is still pretty full, and really other than Chara their core is still pretty young.  They do a great job developing guys, and they’ll live off the 06 draft for a long time (Rask, Seguin, Hamilton, Lucic and Marchand were essentially added that day….sorry Leaf fans).  This team is setup for a long time and is tough as hell to knock off when they’re on their game.  I say I don’t think the Hawks have won their last Cup with their core….well I don’t think the Bruins core will be statisfied with 2 finals appearances and only 1 Cup either.

 

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The Stanley Cup final

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Well I guess my dream of going 14 for 15 with my playoff predictions is gone, and I didn’t just barely miss.  No, that was the Ultimate Warrior and I was the Honky Tonk Man.  I was the champ and I was feeling pretty damn cocky heading into my match with whoever was in the back and willing to fight me.  Then the Warrior came out.  Jimmy Hart couldn’t save me, nobody could save me.  And before I knew it, I had not only lost my belt, I had been humiliated.  Pens in 7….WRONG!!!  Kings in 6….WRONG!!!  Hawks and Bruins for the Cup it is, and it only took them a total of 9 games to get through the conference finals.

It’s one heck of a sexy matchup.  2 originial 6 teams (first time since 79 when the Habs took down the Rangers in 5).  2 of the top 4 TV markets in the US which will make the NHL offices in New York VERY happy.  It has a marketable star too in Patrick Kane who is coming off a hatty and series winning OT goal (don’t confuse star with marketable star, Jonathan Toews is miles ahead of Kane but he isn’t as marketable).  If your team wasn’t going to get in the final, then you couldn’t have asked for a better matchup.  If you’re a Wings fan, or Habs fan, or Leafs fan then you have a team to pull for….the team that you don’t hate!

So lets get on with it, who will win.  Well since there is only the 1 series to talk about I guess I have to drag this out don’t I?  Lets talk about the tendy’s first.  Rask is better than Crawford.  Ok, now that we covered the tendy’s….maybe I’ll give it more respect than that.  Look, everyone is sky high on Rask right now.  He’s great, don’t get me wrong.  But the Pens generated NOTHING in that series.  Just about every shot was right at the B’s logo.  And usually nobody was near the net for the rebound.  Now, while I think the Bruins did a FANTASTIC job playing New Jersey Devils circa 2003 type hockey (if that’s not a backhanded compliment, I don’t know what is), the Pens still never made Rask make many great saves.  Don’t get wrapped up in shots on goal, it can be decieving.

Meanwhile, Crawford doesn’t face many shots but it seems to me that when he gets them, they’re high quality chances.  The Bruins have good offensive fire power, but Crawford is capable of shutting the door on them.  So while there is still no doubt that Rask is the better goaltender (better technically, better athletically), the Hawks will put up a much better offensive fight than the Pens did so if the Bruins are to win this series Rask is going to have to be even better than he has been so far.

Then we have the 2 bluelines.  The Bruins have the top dog in Chara, but give me the Hawks blueline as a 6 man unit over the Bruins.  They move the puck much better and they’re more mobile.  Brent Seabrook has been great in these playoffs, Duncan Keith is Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson is underrated, and Johnny Oduya is DISGUSTING….but he still moves the puck pretty good.  It’s the type of blueline that every NHL GM wishes to have these days.

Up front the Bruins have a bit of a size advantage but anywhere near as bad as its made out to be.  Lucic is huge, but so is Bryan Bickell.  Nathan Horton is a beast, but Marian Hossa is 6’1 210.  And these are top 6 guys.  As for the skill, its not like the Bruins lack skill but give me the Hawks skill up front over Boston’s, especially as a unit.  The chemistry Chicago has up front is ridiculous.  The misconception is that the Hawks are a finesse team.  The Hawks can play any style, so if the Bruins want to take this series into the ally I’m sure the Hawks won’t have any problem with that.

But if we are talking about up front then of course I’m going to hit on how they matchup down the middle which as you may know is vital in my mind.  This is where the Bruins have the Hawks beat.  Not by a lot, Jonathan Toews is still the 2nd best player in the league in my mind, but the Bruins still beat them.  Patrice Bergeron is as close to a Jonathan Toews clone as you’ll find in the league.  Then, while I LOVE Dave Bolland, David Krejci is just simply on another level.  Chris Kelly and Michal Handzus are pretty much a wash, and while Andrew Shaw is the best 4th line center in this series it’s pretty much like being the tallest midget.

I could break down the coaching battle, but in the end to me it’s a wash.  Julien and Quennville are both great.  So that’s how I feel about the matchups, I can honestly say either of these 2 could win the series.  The Bruins might be better in more area’s, but not by enough to make them a favorite in my mind (I believe they are favored by Vegas in the series).  So here it is…..

Hawks in 7

I’m going to get really stupid here and make a game by game prediction that in no way will be right.  In game 1 the Hawks will shock everyone and put 5 past Rask in a 5-1 blowout.  Game 2 the Bruins will bounce back with a gritty 3-2 OT win and for the first time since 2004 the Stanley Cup final will be 1-1.  Game 3 the Bruins on home ice will come out strong and walk away with a 3-1 win.  Game 4 I got the Hawks coming back with a big 4-3 OT win to tie the series.  They split home wins in 5 and 6, and then the Hawks on home ice skate away with a 3-2 win and their 2nd Stanley Cup in 4 years….I would be shocked if ANY of that happened.

 

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Round 3: They went to Jared’s

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Because they all have rings…GET IT?!?!?!?  That’s gold.  If you’re not laughing then YOU’RE the problem.  Ok round 3 of the playoffs and I’m pissed.  Why would I be pissed you ask?  Well that’s a good question Johnny.  The reason I’m pissed is because I’m a pathetic Carburner team away from being perfect on these predictions this playoff season.  11 for 12….I just HAD to trust the Carburners didn’t I?  When you’re hot in Vegas, you don’t walk away from the table.  When a team is incredible at awful you don’t bet them.  But the Sharks were awesome at awful too so what’s a “brother to do?” as the kids would say.  Anyway, I’m starring down the barrel of 14 for 15 and hitting just about everything spot on so not going to change a thing.

 

Eastern Conference final

#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #4 Boston Bruins

Dream matchup number 1 features the 2009 champion Pens against the 2011 champion B’s (remember that one Carburner fans?!)  The biggest storyline coming into this series is Jarome Iginla and how he was almost a Bruin.  Who cares anymore?  To me that’s an issue between the Bruins and Flames not the Bruins and Pens.  For me the biggest storyline in this series is the Bruins size vs the Pens skill.  I don’t like it, but I don’t usually pick against the team that has the size advantage in the playoffs.  It’s a war of attrition and if you’re using your size advantage right then you should wear down your opponent over a 7 game series.  And the Bruins are red hot right now as they are still riding the momentum of their game 7 comeback win over the Leafs.  HOWEVER….there are always exceptions to the rule in life and this I believe is one of them.  The Pens skill is overwhelming.  They have the advantage down the middle against the the Bruins, something most teams can’t do.  And while Chara is far and away the best d-man in this series, there is only 1 of him (although there is a lot of that 1!)  Do you match him against Crosby’s line or Malkin’s?  Then you have Sutter’s line which can produce as well.  The Bruins have the advantage defensively and between the pipes, but it’s not at the level that it needs to be to eliminate the Pens.  I believe the Bruins can win this series, but I don’t think they will get it done.

Pens in 7

 

Western Conference final

#1 Chicago Blackhawks vs #5 LA Kings

The President’s trophy winner vs the defending champs.  It’s a sexy matchup anytime it happens in the playoffs, and the deeper in the playoffs it happens the better.  The last time it happened was the 2011 opening round, Hawks and Carburners.  That series didn’t exactly suck if you recall.  And much like the Eastern final, this is size vs finnesse.  In boxing, styles make great fights.  I expect that to happen in both these conference final matchups.  I haven’t viewed the Hawks as some have as this incredible power house.  They have a great team, I’m a huge fan of the team, but I haven’t seen them as some unbeatable juggernaut like others have.  Then again it’s not like the Kings are rolling in these playoffs like last year.  Last year they made it look ridiculously easy, this year it’s been one hell of a grind.  6 grueling games against the Blues, followed by 7 grueling games against the Sharks.  Had the Hawks dusted the Wings in 5 or even 6 I would love them in this series.  Because while they aren’t as big or as physical as the Kings, they can play that game.  But 2 things for me give the Kings a huge advantage in this series.  The Hawks are good down the middle, but they can’t matchup with the Kings at center.  Kopitar, Richards, Stoll (if healthy), Lewis, and if they feel like doing so Jeff Carter.  So that’s a big edge to the Kings.  But the biggest one is in goal.  Crawford has been quietly great in these playoffs.  He doesn’t get much work, but when he does it seems like they’re high quality chances.  And for the most part he has shut the door.  But I’m not taking him against Jonathan Quick.  Quick is in that zone again and is going to make it damn tough on the Hawks. Obviously the Hawks can win this series, but they’ll really need Crawford to raise game to an even higher level.  I had the Kings and Pens at the begining of the playoffs and I see no reason to change that now.

Kings in 6

 

Doesn’t matter what the combo will be, we will get an amazing Stanley Cup final.  Big markets, big stars, experienced teams, it’s going to be great hockey from here on out, Gary is in the NHL offices right now laughing like Dr. Evil.  I won’t lie, I’m pulling for it to be the Hawks and Pens, I believe that would give us exciting, high skilled, end to end action for at least 6 and likely 7 games.  But again, had Kings and Pens from the start, not going to change it now.

 

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The Tim Thomas saga

At this point I have no clue what to say.  The bizarre case of Tim Thomas continued on Sunday as he announced that he will in fact take the year off from hockey.  Some observers believe that all this is just a smoke screen on Tim’s part because his NTC expires on July 1st and this will help dictate where he wants to go.  Some however believe what he’s saying and nobody seems to know the truth.

It’s just like that 80’s/early 90’s sitcom that is “to be continued…” the vaunted cliffhanger that leaves next week’s episode a must watch.  I recall when Will told Uncle Phil that he was staying in Philadelphia and across the screen it said “Fresh Prince of Philadelphia???”  I was rattled to say the least.  I found myself not doing my homework, failing to clean up my room, and worse yet I spent hours playing video games.  Well much like that episode of Fresh Prince where we had to wait the summer to find out, we will at least have to wait a few weeks before we know what’s actually up with Thomas.

But I will say this: he seems to be a very deep guy.  The White House incident was big proof of that.  Last year in the playoffs he had an attitude that was perfect for the situation, kind of like he didn’t care if they won or lost.  Perhaps he doesn’t.  There are plenty of athletes that aren’t overly passionate about the sport they play.  They may play hard and work hard, but some don’t eat/sleep/breathe their sport like many assume they do.

People had the same kind of reaction when Ricky Williams retired out of nowhere right before the 2004 NFL season.  People were all over Ricky for a myriad of reasons.  Then we came to find out (eventually) that he was an extremely deep and extremely complex individual.

So I wouldn’t jump to conclusions about Thomas.  But even if this is about trying to force the Bruins hand because he knows they will deal him…so what?  So he doesn’t want to be dealt to the 30th place Columbus Blue Jackets or the 29th place Edmonton Oilers, or the San Jose Sharks who are declining and have a brutal travel schedule.  Could you really blame a guy for wanting to have some control over his future?  Wouldn’t you want that? 

As I said in a previous blog I would guess he ends up in Tampa Bay.  He is tight with ex college teammate Marty St.Louis, they are pretty desperate for a number 1 goaltender, and the ownership group will be able to stomach the 5 mil for only 1 season (as opposed to Luongo getting 5+ mil for 10 seasons).  I can’t see Toronto being possible because I doubt Chiarelli would deal him in division, but if I had a 2nd and 3rd in spots he could end up I would guess Detroit (which being from Flint I’m sure he would like) and Chicago.

It’s a pretty bizarre story going on right now.  No matter what, weather Thomas is being sincere or just trying to gain some leverage, I wouldn’t judge the man until we know all the facts.