Here it is 13 months after my last post and with the Bruins trophy case a little heavier that I resume my posts. Look for a new post within the next couple weeks as I look to get back into the flow of things.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Wow has it been a looooongggg time. Of course I started writing two posts and never finished them, but as I'm just starting to write this one I can promise that you will actually see it. I was in the process of writing a nice long end of summer/season preview but as the season has already started I'm just going to dive right in with the first couple weeks of the season. Besides the Bruins great start to the season, there is plenty of other things to talk about around the league as well...but of course the Bruins come first...
Eight games and five weeks into the campaign the Bruins are off to a nice 6-2-0 start while playing only 8 games, the fewest in the NHL so far thanks to their trip across the Atlantic. Most of the questions that were hanging around the Boston club have been answered in the early season, although the season is still young. Newcomer Nathan Horton (5-4=9) shares the team lead in points with the Matrix (2-7=9), and rookie forwards Tyler Seguin and Jordan Caron are tied for 3rd with 3 goals each. The top line of Horton, David Krejci and Milan Lucic looks pretty scary so far this season with a combined 26 points (3.25 per game). They may not be the best top line statistically but they aren't leaned on as heavily to produce because of the depth and because of that their time on ice isn't that high. Going down the line we see winger Michael Ryder (2-3=5), who although may not be a top scorer has been playing fairly well considering he almost got sent to Providence to pull his head out of his ass...I would love to see the production pick up for him moving forward. When I met Blake Wheeler at a players meet and greet he seemed to tower over Matt Hunwick and Greg Campbell so reinforcing the idea that he really needed to pick up his physical game to be productive was again brought front and center as something to check off for season expectations. Although with only 2 helpers through his 8 games played he may not be where he wants you can tell that he has made a point to pick up his physical game...finishing checks and attempting to get to the front of the net. No goals so far, but patience is the key here, and I'm sure Claude Julien is telling him to keep doing what he's doing. Another winger in an early season scoring drought is the ageless Mark Recchi, although with 5 assists there's no complaints here I'm just glad that he's still out there doing what he loves and helping the youngsters on the team grow and develop.
Losing Johnny Boychuk and his huge shot for a month or so certainly isn't a good thing however the D are looking pretty good protecting leads and doing enough to support the offense, and you can only imagine that captain Zdeno Chara and co. will pick up the offensive numbers so far...it's not worth worrying about right now. The main thing when you look at the goals allowed statistic (11 goals in 8 games) is the play of 2008-2009 Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas behind the pipes. The subject of many trade talks over the summer so that the Bruins could free up some money has now stolen back the number one tender spot in Beantown...at least for now. Projected number one Tuukka Rask has been riding the pine with only two of the eight starts...both losses. You can read that and think all you want but I'm not worrying in the least however you know Tim Thomas will continue to start as long as he's hot. Both of his losses can't be blamed on Rask as the team has played MUCH better in front of T squared instead of the young Finn. His last loss to the Rangers came at the hands of deflections and own goals so once again...not too worried and it's quite a nice problem to have, people should be excited about the options in net instead of waiting for Thomas to decline and Rask to take over the reins.
The rest of the Northeast division doesn't look too scary right now so by the time the 82 game schedule comes to a close I would HOPE that the Bruins would be one of the top three teams in the east...although still plenty of season left to be played. The Buffalo Sabres have joined the New Jersey Devils as the biggest busts of the Eastern Conference so far. Ryan Miller is dealing with a nagging lower body injury and the rest of the team just looks...blah. They won't stay at this dismal pace throughout the season but remember a good start always helps pace a team through the season. Another slightly underachieving team comes out of Ottawa where the Senators stand a game below .500. Daniel Alfredsson is doing his best to keep his club above water, and there is still a question about the goaltending, however they aren't in a terrible position so far. This division isn't the best in the league however it was projected to be one of the more competitive with all five teams expected to win a fair amount of games...except hopefully that team up in Toronto. I have nothing against that club but as a Boston sports fan they jump into the one year doghouse along with the Raiders (Phil Kessel and Richard Seymour trades respectively). The rest of the East has some early season surprises as well as the Tampa Bay Lightning sit atop the Conference standings although I can't say I'm too surprised with the dynamic offense that they have down in the Tampa heat. They have slightly more stability in goal from last year with newly acquired Dan Ellis making his case to stay the number 1 (Mike Smith is 4-0 but his numbers are terrible), hopefully the team can start playing better in front of Ellis however. Rangers are staying strong through their injuries (Chris Drury & Marian Gaborik), Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, and Artem Anisimov have all chipped in to compensate for the loss of their high profile stars and the strong play of Henrik Lundqvist always helps. Going down the list we see teams like the Penguins who have some huge questions of their own and the Capitals who have still not peaked, I know it's quite scary, also that team down in Philly, the Habs and the Thrashers are all trying to prove themselves and stay above that 8th seed mark.
Although the East is slowly improving it's a well known fact that the Western Conference is by far the superior conference...although the results of three out of the last four all star games beg to differ. New acquisition Jaroslav Halak is making Canadiens fans question why Carey Price is still in town leading the Blues to a fast start in the extremely tough Central division, and in my opinion are the hottest team in the NHL right now. The defending Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, sit atop that Central division although with 14 games played only have 15 points to show (in comparison the Bruins have played 8 games and have 12 points). At times the team has looked sluggish and at times they have looked unbeatable, but it is no surprise as good chunk of the roster that allowed them to hoist the coveted 34 and half pound cup last year is missing. Marty Turco has come into town and played pretty well as an aging goaltender, but the pieces of the puzzle that were there last year may not be present to lock in another stanley cup run. The story of a lot of other Western conference teams lies in the goaltending, whether it be underachieving or overachieving performances in net. Roberto Luongo, Miikka Kiprusoff, and projected number one Antti Niemi have all not lived up to season expectations so far, and they will have to find their groove soon in order to keep their teams on top in the West.
A few weeks into the season and things are already very interesting...Tim Thomas is leading almost all the major goaltending categories and Patrick Sharp is leading the league in goals although things will pan out differently over the season you can still say it has been quite an interesting start to the year...hopefully things continue to stay just as interesting moving forward...until next time.
Monday, July 5, 2010
After painfully waiting for the Bruins to see which of the two top prospects would drop to them, the Bruins closed out the draft doing a great job of meeting the needs of the team and creating some stability for the team in the upcoming years. It's hard to look past the exciting acquisition of Tyler Seguin after Taylor Hall was selected first overall by the Edmonton Oilers, but the Bruins took advantage of some unfortunate incidents to steal their next two picks and continued to impress through their last five picks. General Manager Peter Chiarelli and Director of Amateur Scouting Wayne Smith were more than pleased with the restocking after going after more then just talented players but players with character who would help create the right attitude in a locker room more than just on the ice. And with all this excitement in Beantown development camp is set to begin Tuesday July 6, with seven of the eight players selected in attendance (Maxim Chudinov is in Russia) along with new acquisition and local player David Warsofsky (native of Marshfield, Massachusetts), who was acquired in a trade for Vladimir Sobotka. After finishing in the top ten in shots per game during last years campaign (seventh with an average of 31.7) they finished as the cellar dwellers of the goals per game category finishing with a miserable 2.4 average. When you look at this stat and after watching this team play throughout last season it was obvious that offense was much needed. For me the players are there on this team to create offense, whether it be from the offensive lines or from the blue line, but there were those one or two players missing that would bring them out of the offensive slump that was showcased last year and I think those needs were met through the draft and with the acquisition of Nathan Horton, and with at least one or two more trades to go in my mind the Bruins are having a very solid off-season. And now without further delay I give you my 2010 draft review.
After holding two picks in both the first and second round, come draft day they only held one of those first round picks as the Bruins traded away their own pick at number 15 along with Dennis Wideman and the B's third round pick next year in 2011 in exchange for Panthers scoring winger Nathan Horton and high energy center Gregory Campbell. The other first round pick was of course from the Phil Kessel trade that looks genius right about now (don't forget we get the Leafs 2011 first round pick as well) although at the time there were many doubters...I of course knew that we were going to get Seguin two years ago...well maybe not. After waiting for weeks and having to listening to many pre-draft rankings that initially had Seguin first overall, Taylor Hall was moved to that first overall ranking...but would the Oilers follow the rankings by selecting the winger or would they instead choose the center Seguin in order to meet their needs?
The Oilers did in fact choose Taylor Hall of theWindsor Spitfires with the first overall pick as many people had assumed would be the situation. Although many Bruins fans and quite possibly the Bruins organization itself would have liked to see Hall fall to them you can't look past the talent of Seguin and whether or not the Bruins decide to make some roster moves in order to accommodate Seguin and his natural position of center, we should all be quite thrilled. After having a decent 2008-2009 regular season campaign with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL (67 points), he paved the way for his stellar 2009-2010 season with a 16 point performance through 11 games in the 2008-2009 playoffs. With this showing he propelled himself into last year with an outstanding 48 goal, 106 point performance and earned himself a share of the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy sharing it with Taylor Hall. The Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy goes toward the player with the highest scoring total in the OHL. Seguin also earned himself the Red Tilson Trophy which goes toward the league MVP.
Although much has been talked about his scoring abilities, Seguin has shown the ability to make the perfect pass and find wide open teammates, as well as creating time and space for himself (David Krejci comes to mind). Keep in mind that Seguin didn't play on as good a team as the other top prospects so his ability to make the players around him better is also impressive. His vision and playmaking abilities as well as his natural talent as a center may leave the B's with a tough choice to make with centers Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci already rostered and all being much more then average centers.
There isn't much to say negatively about Seguin, but if you had to choose an area to work on it would most likely be the defensive side of the puck as his offensive talent is quite evident. Although Seguin prides himself on being a good two way player I'm sure Claude Julien will strive to improve his defense as Julien is known to be a defense first coach who covets good two way players. With plenty of international competition under his belt as well Seguin should be able to transition to the spotlight of the NHL fairly quickly, and although he seems to be keeping quiet about his role on the big club next year I'm sure he will be donning the Bruins sweater come October 9th in Prague.
With the 32nd overall pick in the second round (also from the Toronto Maple Leafs) the Bruins selected London Knights Jared Knight....knight knight knight...knight...anyway. After posting 30 points in his rookie season with the Knights, Jared's teammate Leigh Salters, who had battled diabetes for the last 14 years of his life, noticed that Knight was exhibiting similar symptoms that Salters had suffered through his diagnosis. After being diagnosed and after beginning his use of insulin Knight excelled at the end of the year posting a total of 36 goals and 21 helpers to finish the season with 57 points, then greatly improved his draft stock by exploding for 17 points (10 goals) in the 2010 playoffs all in 12 games. The first player to ever be drafted from Battle Creek, Michigan, he was initially projected to be drafted in the middle of the seventh round going into last years season, but after having the year that he had last year some think he could have been a late first round pick. With his recent diagnosis of diabetes on a lot of teams minds the Bruins flew him into Boston and after putting him through fitness testing found that he was one of the most fit players going through the draft as well as one of the hardest working so it was no surprise to Knight that the Bruins gobbled him up with the first chance that they could get. If Knight can put on a few more pounds I could very well see him breaking into the Bruins roster on a top line as more then just a goal scorer, but as a shot blocker, a checker and a player who can crash the net to pick up the garbage. If he doesn't make the big club this year he will return to the Knights with the potential for a 50 goal season and the chance to raise some more eyebrows.
With the 45th overall pick in the second round the Bruins selected Peterborough Petes center Ryan Spooner, a player with high expectations and ranked quite high going into last years season, and although he suffered a broken collarbone near the end of the last year he still managed to have a very solid season with 54 points in 47 games improving his point per game total from the previous year (58 points in 62 games). Spooner is a high energy player with fantastic vision who flies around the ice always looking for the open space and has a great touch seeming to set up his teammates effortlessly, and who can still put the puck in the back of the net. Spooner transitions well from the defensive zone to the offensive zone, and although he may not be the best defensive player he works all three zones very well. He can explode through the neutral zone easily beating flat footed defenseman, sending them to the bench for a scolding from their coach and a nice little rest on the bench. The discipline of Spooner is evident by the way he plays and he was the recipient of the 2009-2010 William Hanley Trophy which goes to the OHL player who shows the most sportsmanlike attributes. He is a fantastic one on one player who exhibits his hockey knowledge and presence in the offensive zone against much bigger players. Although he may not make the Bruins roster in the next couple years because of the log jam of centers in the system (what a fantastic problem to have), Spooner should make his way up through the system quite easily when he's ready, lets keep in mind this kid is only 18 years old and still has plenty of time to make himself NHL ready.
With the 97th overall pick Craig Cunningham was selected by the Boston Bruins in the fourth round. The left winger of the Vancouver Giants of the WHL had quite the connection with the Bruins as he was scouted by not just the scouting team of the Bruins but also had a good report put in for him by Bruins left wing Milan Lucic who played for the Giants from 2004-2007 and played with Cunningham during the 2006-2007 season. Although during that year Craig only chipped in with 5 helpers through 48 games, he has developed and slowly progressed into quite the offensive weapon for the Giants as he finished the 2009-2010 year sixth in league scoring with 37 goals and 60 assists good for 97 points in 72 games. Add that to the 24 points (12 and 12) in 16 games through the playoffs and he landed himself a spot for finalist for the Western Conference WHL player of the year award, losing to Jordan Eberle of the Regina Pats. Cunningham has a quick release and above all else knows how to finish around the net. He has a scouting report similar to Lucic where they both are skill players with grit, however Cunningham will not be as keen to drop the gloves as Lucic is. Although he was only ranked 108th amongst North American skaters I think this was a great pick by the Bruins as they continue to add offense to their organization.
With the 135th overall pick in the draft the Bruins went with left winger Justin Florek of the Northern Michigan University Wildcats of the CCHA. After dominating the Under 17 US National team during the 2006 season, he had quite the drop off in production the following year on the U 18 as he only had an eight goal, eight assist campaign. Through the 2007-2008 season he was ranked the 113th North American skater, as his stock had declined from the previous year. After deciding on Northern Michigan University Florek started off his freshman year on a somewhat slow start which is not all that rare for a player switching to a different level of hockey especially playing on a very good NMU team which finished off last years season ranked 9th in the nation. Florek heated up at the end of his freshman year enough to earn the Don Waddell award for the teams top freshman, finishing the year with 9 goals and 8 helpers through 40 games and was second on the team with a plus 19 rating, propelling him into his sophomore year in which he finished as the teams third leading scorer with 35 points through 41 games (one of only four players to play all 41 games) and tied for the team lead with 6 power play goals. I don't see why Florek won't be able to continue his success in the college ranks for his junior year as long as he stays healthy. Justin is considered to be a power forward and a strong skater who is hard to push off the puck and uses his long frame (6-4) to his advantage, he is dangerous around the net and although he may still have to grow into his body some more he has strangely good hands for a larger forward possessing a quick release and impressive wrist shot. Definitely a player I'll be watching closely through his junior year, unfortunately I won't be able to see him live as NMU doesn't play Umass-Amherst or Minnesota for my friend Jake to scout him for me.
Zane Gothberg (love the name) was chosen 165th overall in the sixth round for some future insurance in the goal crease for the Bruins. One of the youngest players in the 2010 NHL draft, Gothberg just finished up his senior at his hometown Thief River Falls High School in Minnesota. Zane finished the season with an 18-8-1 record to complement a 1.81 goals against average and .925 save percentage. Although Gothberg has committed himself to the University of North Dakota, Buffalo Sabres prospect Brad Eidsness has the starting job secured so Zane will man the crease as the goalie for the Fargo Force of the USHL until the Fighting Sioux are ready for him. Although Minnesota is not know for producing NHL caliber goaltenders, Gothberg was well known throughout the state as an elite goalie who, with much time to develop, could make an impact on North Dakota and possibly at a higher level. Last year he earned the Frank Brimsek (Bruins goaltender from 1938-1949) Award which goes to the states top senior goaltender. Zane has good size which allows him to use his positioning and body, he is also athletic enough to make reaction saves and tough saves.
Although Peter Chiarelli and the Bruins are known not to take chances on Russian players they obviously saw something they liked in Maxim Chudinov when they picked him with the 195th pick in the seventh round, the first defenseman that they had taken after choosing five forwards and one goaltender. While playing in the KHL for the Cherepovets Severstal, Chudinov posted 6-7=13 points through 47 games with 3o penalty minutes. Maxim has plenty of international competition many times playing with players older then him. He is a very physical defender although sometimes may cross the line of discipline, he has a lot of heart but his small frame may not translate well into the more aggressive style of play in the NHL as he stands 5-11 and weighs 187 pounds. He tends to get caught being overly agressive in his own end making for opponents offensive opportunities although he is able to jump up into the offensive rush. On the offensive side he is actually a fairly good shooter although he is not confident in himself to shoot as much as he should instead choosing to find a teammate. Again there is always the question about Russian players playing in the KHL coming over to play in the NHL but Chudinov says that he wants to be a Boston Bruin so we'll see.
Last, but not least, Zach Trotman goes to the B's with the 210th pick. Currently going into his sophomore year at Lake Superior State, Trotman is the only Laker that I'll be rooting for anytime soon. Played for the Wichita Falls Wildcats of the NAHL in 2008-2009 Zach finished with 2-4=6 points in 47 games, Trotman is not an offensive defenseman so that stat is not as meaningful as it looks. In his freshman year at Lake Superior State, Zach posted 8 points in 36 games with 18 penalty minutes. He is a large body standing 6-4 and 202 pounds, he is a puck moving defenseman who is reliable and smart with the puck in his own zone. He is strong on his skates and possess a toughness that NHL teams seek in defenseman, and while he is a big man he still has some decent skating speed. Another college player that I will be following closely next year as he enters his sophomore season of CCHA hockey.
Overall I think the Bruins did a fantastic job with their eight picks using them very efficiently, and although some may believe that the Bruins concentrated too much on offense in their youth, you have to remember they have four picks in the first two rounds of the 2011 draft so they have a year to worry about that. I can't help but be excited with the drafting of Tyler Seguin as he could very well be a top line center in this league, and I can only hope that some of these other players drafted in 2010 could be lining up next to him in the near future. If you have any suggestions about what I should write about next time please don't hesitate to share them with me, hopefully a new post will be up by the end of next week anyway. Until next time...
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Hey everybody welcome to the blog of a dangerously overenthusiastic Bruins fan straight from the state of Massachusetts! I pride myself in saying that the Boston Bruins are my true love (sorry Kaila), and I can only hope that I pass that enthusiasm and love into the hearts of many more. My name is Peter Stevens and I'm currently going into my junior year of college schooling at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and am working on a mechanical engineering major. I am living in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts this summer working as always and am looking forward to the winter when the ponds and lakes freeze over so that I can lace up my skates and get back on the ice. Through the years I've always been known as an avid sports fan, and I have chosen to focus all my attention on the beautiful city of Boston. Rarely enough I am one of the few people out of my friends that actually support the Bruins, the ones that do choose to don the Bruins spoked B logo have been those who I have hooked and reeled into not only the sport of hockey but also to those beautiful black and gold sweaters. Although I do have to say having friends that support teams from all over the nation, whether it be Boston, Minnesota, Washington, Anaheim, New Jersey, or Philadelphia, makes the NHL season quite interesting and has improved my intelligence of the game ten fold. If it wasn't for them I wouldn't love the game of hockey as much as I do now so thank you guys.
Ever since I was a wee little handsome lad, and as far back as I can remember, I have always loved the Bruins and there will never be any other team for me. For me it was not an automatic decision to always choose the Boston sports route, but there was just something about that city and all the teams that encompassed it that made me choose each and every professional sports team that played in Massachusetts. Ever since my brother brought me to my first Bruins game when I was eight or nine against the Montreal Canadiens I fell in love with not only the Bruins but also with the sport and all things that could possibly relate to hockey, so I must also thank him as he is as big of a Bruins fan as I am. I'll always remember the smell of the garden as I walked to my seats and to me that scent of a hockey rink is one of the best smells in the world.
I'll never forget my first favorite player was Sergei Samsonov, and I still chuckle to this day as I see him speed around the ice for the Carolina Hurricanes. I'll also never forget that first team I fell in love with, containing the likes of Byron Dafoe in net, P.J. Axelsson, Jason Allison, Brian Rolston, and Hall Gill. However, another thing that I won't ever forget was my first Bruins disappointment, as they traded away power forward Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks for forwards Wayne Primeau, Marco Sturm and defenseman Brad Stuart freeing up about 2.5 million dollars of cap space. Stuart and Primeau turned out to be busts while Marco Sturm has found himself a place in Boston after leading the team in goals during the 2009-2010 campaign, and finishing sixth on the team in points on an embarrassingly weak Bruins offense. What preceded and followed that year was a few years of solid hockey in which a playoff spot was usually earned but an early round exit was almost expected. Unfortunately, the Bruins ownership has earned the reputation of being cheap. Yet ever since the signings of Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara on the same day going into the 2006-2007 season, and the recent youth movement in the organization, I have felt a slow progression of a team forming through the years that could and should make that run to the Stanley Cup that has seemed so hard to get...but yet so close.
And now here we are about to enter the
2010-2011 season in a few hopefully short months. After a draft that I'm sure all hockey fans heard about, the Bruins landed prospect Tyler Seguin who burst into the hockey scene last year after captaining the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL and earning league MVP honors. Not only has this pick excited many Bruins fans, but the Bruins draft seemed to reinforce the fact that offense was a much needed priority as the first five picks went to offensive players before goalie Zane Gothberg, a Minnesota high school standout, was taken in the sixth round, 165th overall, before the Bruins wrapped up the draft with their final two picks going to defenseman. Add that to the recent signings of Nathan Horton and Greg Campbell, along with the re-signings of Mark Recchi, Dennis Seidenberg, Shawn Thornton, Johnny Boychuk and Daniel Paille and I have a good feeling about the upcoming season...can't seem to find any wood around me to knock on...damn. Well my next post will be up shortly analyzing the draft and the players selected along with my thoughts on the upcoming season.