Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bruins: 7 Assorted Spokes

(Photo Credit: VickeVictoria/Flickr)

7 various topics are discussed in a few short paragraphs below:

  • Line Changes and Trades
  • Tim Thomas and Facebook-gate
  • Shawn Thornton Quotes
  • Refs, Goalie Interference, and Clockgate
  • Bruins Are 1-3 in February
  • Bruins Charitable Work
  • Predators on Saturday Afternoon

Line Changes, Trades?
Horton's very costly absence (concussion) continues to expose the weaknesses of the Bruins so-called balanced scoring. Rich Peverley filled in one the first line for Horton originally - a move that was successful in the finals last year - but had little effect this time around. Zach Hamill's uselessness became too much to bare, and he was assigned to Providence (after successfully clearing waivers - gee, what a surprise). Jordan Caron took Hamill's place on the 3rd line with Pouliot and Kelly, and although initially seemed successful, ultimately is as ineffective as the rest of the Bruins scorers right now. Krejci, struggling offensively more and more, was then demoted to the 3rd line, while Chris Kelly replaced him on the first line. Last night, lines were shaken up even more, but obviously, had no success.

The trade deadline continues to loom overhead. Chiarelli undoubtedly is working on deals that may or may not materialize. My twitter timeline recently reported that the Bruins were one of many teams to inquire about the Oilers forward Ryan Smyth, for example. What would the Bruins have to give up to improve, however? They clearly lack depth as it is. A defenseman is top priority, but another forward is also essential.

Before any trades, though, I think that the Bruins should consider further line experiments. Right now the 1st and 3rd lines are the only ones being messed with, but I think it may be time to consider breaking up the Merlot Line, and even the 2nd line of Bergeron, Seguin, and Marchand. The 3rd line is like a "left over line", where players not already assigned to the concrete make-up of the other lines are thrown together. Pouliot needs to score, but he likely won't greatly benefit from Caron on the other wing and a struggling Krejci at the center. I also think Peverley and Kelly work well together and are worth keeping together on a line, but not at the expense of keeping Caron and Pouliot on the 3rd line together. Caron should be moved to the 4th line, and perhaps Paille on the 3rd line (but not a 3rd line with just Peverley and Kelly because God knows all 3 of those guys aren't very good finishers despite their speed). Krejci might benefit from being the center to the very successful duo of Seguin and Marchand, while Bergeron's hard work and the energy generated from that can spark any line.

Sadly, Horton's "mild" concussion is clearly not mild at all - as no concussions are ever really mild. Although he's had light workouts, it's been weeks and he has not yet practiced with the team, even without contact. It could be a while, which is fine because his health comes first, but the absences of Ryder & Recchi from last year were only filled by 1 player - Pouliot. It's time to bring in another asset. As impressive as the Bruins balanced goal scoring has been, charts below illustrate that the Bruins peak of prolific goal scoring is continually on the decline, and has reached it's most grave danger recently.

Defensively, strong players like Chara and Seidenberg have been uncharacteristically sloppy, and guys like Boychuk make more frequent and costly mistakes than usual, while Joe Corvo continues to become more and more disastrous.

Even the Bruins most solid position, goaltending, seems to have hit a wall in a way, which is only further exaggerated by poor defense and lack of offense.

"I'm Out, Peace!"
Thomas comments on Facebook and the subsequent reactions - especially by Thomas, especially today - are certainly being blown out of proportion, but Thomas himself is to blame. He should not use a public forum like Facebook as a medium of expressing his beliefs on the two most controversial subjects in the world - politics and religion, because he will inevitably face lots of controversy and questions about such comments. As a person in the public eye, he should realize that what he says will be severely scrutinized. Even in relation to comments about hockey get blown out of proportion; if he didn't want to deal with the shit storm that has brewed, he should not have posted anything. Since he did, he should stand up and deal with it. If he had, perhaps the huge story it has become would never have brewed into an enormous controversy. Right now, it sadly serves two negative purposes: a futile attempt to divert attention from team struggles, or a way to fuel further difficulties and struggles on and off the ice. I'd blame the media, but sadly, that is the job of the social media to report on stupid stories like this. To be fair, however, when Tim Thomas states that he will NOT answer questions on the subject for the remainder of the interview, and then is immediately asked another question about it, storming out is understandable and better than, say, screaming and calling someone a gutless piece of crap. Yet it's a huge story right now. So, I blame Zach Hamill. Or the Leafs.

In a statement that is much more like the good ol' Tim Thomas, he noted that:
"I guess we were due for a game like that," Thomas said. "In the big picture, it doesn't matter if we lost 2-0 or 2-1 or 5-0 or whatever. We just have to pick ourselves up off the ground." (CBSSports)
That certainly puts things in perspective. Although, lately it seems like they have already had a few games like that.

Shawn Thornton Agrees: Kaleta Is the Worst
Shawn Thornton is a genius in many ways. He is one of the best personalities off the ice in the league. In an interview this morning with Toucher & Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub, Thornton, as usual, didn't sugarcoat anything in his assessment of last night's game (all quotes, as well as full audio of interview, here):
"We laid an egg last night. A couple calls didn’t go our way, and it just snowballed from there...It was a pretty embarrassing loss."
"It does happen, it’s been going on a little too much lately...To get out of it, everyone has to show up to begin with…We have to have everyone going and everyone has to put in the effort. I don’t think its rocket science; there is system stuff that coaches can go through, but I don’t think it’s that."
On Kaleta: "I’m not the hugest fan of that guy to begin with...I’m not a big fan of whooping it up to the crowd either....There are a lot of things he does that don’t go by the code I play by...He hits late and is fairly dirty I think. I guess he’s effective for what they want him to do; he’s very agitating. But I think he’s hurt some people doing things that aren’t that safe, and I’m not a big fan of that."
Refs No Longer Know What Goaltender Interference Is
Who knows how the game might have went if the Bruins goal in the 1st period that would have tied the game at 1 hadn't been irrationally waved off. The so-called "goaltender interference" by Peverley on Ryan Miller was so fantastically ludicrous that there aren't enough curse words in all the languages in the world for me to scream to express how inappropriate that call was. Opponents of fighting in the NHL point out that the claim that enforcers are necessary to keep players in check is not a good argument for fighting but instead, it is a good argument for the incompetence of NHL referees and officials in enforcing rules and properly keeping players in check. I think this is a pretty solid point - the referees of the NHL are incredibly inconsistent and ineffective. The number of referees employed by the NHL doubled after the rule change added a 2nd ref to each NHL game rather than 1 ref with 2 linsemen as it previously worked. This demand in jobs for referees has made an already poorly-performing group of officials become increasingly reckless without any real consequences. This also highlights the poor training and communication between the NHL offices and the referees themselves. Mike Milbury, in his analysis of the play in question, noted that:
"Word on the street was that Brendan Shanahan, a couple weeks ago, told officials to watch out for the contact with the goalies." (Video & quote from PuckDaddy)
Clearly, NHL refs have a poor understanding of how to balance the compounding instructions on how to call penalties and referee games. If what Milbury said is true, I can't help but shake my head at Shanahan. To tell the refs to emphasis making calls on one type of infraction that they should be looking out for anyway causes them to make errors like the one in question. It's almost as if Shanahan wants to make up for the lack of suspension on Lucic earlier this season. Either way, refs are either confused or stupid, or both. While I still applaud Shanahan's efforts to protect players and give out harsher suspensions, he is still inconsistent and unable to properly manage all that's on his plate right now.

Not only did Bruins members, fans, and NBC broadcasters shake our collective heads in shock and anger at the call, but even Buffalo fans (and, in my opinion, the Sabres themselves knew it too; Miller's quotes after the game suggested he knew there was no interference, but was happy to get some kind of make-up call against the Bruins) thought that it was an awful call and it should have counted. While Bruins fans are enraged it was called off, and Buffalo fans are glad it was called off, we can come together in agreement that it should not have been called off. 

The Bruins should be able to bounce back from things like that. But their psychological weariness that characterizes their failures lately clearly succumbed to the mounting disappointments that last night's game yielded. In the end, they have themselves to blame for playing poorly. Still, we can't help but have complete lack of faith in the way the NHL and it's officials operate at this point in time.

I know a similar incident happened with the Rangers recently, who scored a goal in the final seconds of a game to tie it up only to have it waved off on a weak, if not non-existent call. Perhaps most telling of the NHL's lack of professionalism and competency is seen in clockgate 2012 in Los Angeles, where a tied game between the Kings and Blue Jackets was seconds away from overtime when the LA clock froze at 1.8 for a solid second for no good reason, and the Kings scored with 0.4 seconds left - 0.4 seconds that would have long been after the buzzard had the clock not mysteriously froze at 1.8. I'm not a fan of either team, and I feel quite outraged over the incident. Imagine if it was the team you root for. It's inexcusable, yet the NHL makes excuses anyway.

Is February Over Yet?
In February, the Bruins are 1-3. They have scored a total of 5 goals, and been shutout twice. They let in a season-high 6 goals against Buffalo last night. Take a look at how the Bruins have scored, or been scored against, month-by-month this year, and Bruins record by month:

Teddy Bears
The Bruins organization is always very active in the community in a variety of ways. Season-long and year-round events such as I.C.E. School, Patrice's Pals, and 8-Spoked Salute, to name just a few, contribute to the community generously. In the past week, several Bruins events contributed to Bruins work in the community.
  • Today, Lucic launched the month-long Bruins Pajama Drive. At every home game this month, the Bruins encourage fans to donate new, unworn pajamas. This was originally started by PJ Axelsson (who I forever miss), is in it's 5th year, and works with Crayons to Colors and AT&T. (All information & more from here).
  • Elsewhere in Watertown today, Chris Kelly and Andrew Ference visisted Perkins School for the Blind, donned eye masks and played a unique version of hockey. Read more about this event, which is part of the NHL's program called Hockey is for Everyone, at the Bruins website here.
  • Earlier this week, Joe Corvo and Johnny Boychuk ventured to Allston's Jackson Mann Community Center, leading a clinic as part of working with the Special Olympics. Check out the photos here. Meanwhile on the same day, Krejci went to Dedham. As part of a program called "Jump Rope for Heart", Krejci addressed children at Riverdale Elementary School to help educate them about heart disease. On the same day, Pouliot and Rask were at Tufts Medical Center, helping the American Heart Association in raising awareness. (All information was found and can be read about more here!)
  • Also early this month, more Bruins were found in the Boston area promoting yet another good cause. The Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care raises money through the "Neely Sk8 Challenge" event, an annual event aided this year by Seguin and Marchand. Learn much more about how to help, see video, and read more here!
  • The Bruins will also host Casino Night this Sunday, a great opportunity for fans to meet players as well as help raise funds for the very admirable Boston Bruins Foundation. Find out more here!
Predatory Matinees
The Nashville Predators will play the Bruins at the Garden at 1pm this Saturday. I personally dislike matinee games, and I think the Bruins would agree with me. They have a losing record in matinee games this season, and scheduling big games (like against Vancouver and the Rangers in January) in the afternoon is unfair and a little unreasonable. What's worse is that the Bruins have more matinee games in the coming months - almost 1 every single weekend until the end of the season!

Moving on from complaining about miniscule things like matinee scheduling, the Bruins need to take the Predators (who just came off a loss to Ottawa tonight) very seriously. Lookout for my Bruins-Preds preview that will be posted tomorrow, but here are some highlights I will be covering:

  • Expect Thomas to get the start, given Tuukka's poor performances the last few games and Thomas' 2-0 record against the Predators in the past.
  • Expect goaltending to be the game-breaker: Pekka Rinne was a Vezina finalist last year (obviously Thomas was the winner), but he continues to improve, giving the Predators the solid goaltending needed to remain competitive in the overwhelmingly dominant Central Division (they are currently 3rd in a division that will likely have 4 of it's 5 teams make the playoffs - the others being Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis). Rinne may very likely take the Vezina home this year.
  • Nashville is also reinforced by two impressive defensemen in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter
Tomorrow's preview will include more stats and analysis of the two teams and how they match up, as well as some fun facts about the two teams. Look out for it at A Cup A Bruin.

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