2014-15 Day One Preview

It’s finally the day we’ve been counting down to for the past 5 months. No, not Christmas. It’s October 8th, 2014. The first day of the 2014-15 NHL Regular Season. There are four games featured tonight, and there are some to be some intense and wild ones. The Toronto Maple Leafs host the Montreal Canadiens at 7:00PM EST, a long time rivalry in which the teams seem to begin each and every season against each other. The Philadelphia Flyers will fly to Boston for a 7:30PM EST matinee. The Boston Bruins are the defending President’s Trophy winners and will look to keep their form. The Calgary Flames will play host to the new-look Vancouver Canucks at 10:00PM EST. Remember last year’s game which had 158PIM within the first two seconds of the game? Yea. Also at 10:00PM EST, The defending Stanley Cup champions will raise the banner in front of who else but the San Jose Sharks, the team they erased a 3-0 deficit against last Spring.

Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs

(Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Long-time rivals since the league was created, it is well-known that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens hate each other. In fact, this past summer, Josh Gorges declined a trade to Toronto for the fact that he hates them too much. In last year’s season series, Montreal took three games out of five. No matter how good or bad each team is, it’s always a physical, intense and close game. This season, it looks like Montreal may have the upper hand in the standings. As for tonight, I expect the same result. Toronto lost much of its depth this offseason and now feature a much younger and quicker team, with Orr and McLaren gone, and Komarov back in. Montreal has possibly the best goaltender in the world in Carey Price, and also 2012-13 Norris Trophy winner, PK Subban. I see Van Riemsdyk and Josh Leivo scoring for Toronto. While Pacioretty, Gallagher, and Eller will tally for the Habs.

Prediction: Montreal Wins 3-2.

Philadelphia Flyers at Boston Bruins

Kevin Marshall

These are two teams who often pride themselves on their physical style. Don’t expect anything different tonight. Boston is no doubt the favourite for this game, backstopped by last year’s Vezina Trophy winner, Tuukka Rask. The Bruins won all three contests between the teams in 2013-14. Philadelphia is led by Claude Giroux, who will need to take the team on his back if they expect another playoff position this year. I expect this game to go as expected, mainly because Boston has one of the deepest teams in the league, while Philadelphia features a team with a very young bottom two lines. On defence, there are paying way too much for a rather average lineup. Steve Mason is their backstop, and he had an up year last year. Unfortuanetly for them, Boston is far better and will prevail in their first game of 2014-15. Voracek will score for the Flyers, while Lucic, Krug, and Reilly (twice) will put up goals for Boston.
Prediction: Boston wins 4-1

Vancouver Canucks at Calgary Flames

It’s no secret these west coast teams hate each other after just two seconds of a game last year. While Hartley lined up his three enforcers at the opening face-off, Torterella responded by putting Bieksa as his centre. There were 158 PIM in those two seconds and Torts was suspended 15 days for trying to go into the Flames dressing room. Both teams have new looks this season however, with Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller backstopping the Canucks and Flames, respectively. While Vancouver’s changes turned them into a possible playoff team, Calgary is still expected to be a bottom feeder in the tough Western Conference. Vancouver got rid of Kesler and added Bonino and Vrbata. Calgary got Diaz, Raymond, and Setoguchi, while they also drafted Sam Bennett 4th overall, and made the team. Calgary is too young and straight up bad to score of Miller, who will prove himself again. For Vancouver, Bonino, Edler, and Hansen will score.

Prediction: Vancouver wins 3-0

San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Probably the best game of the first day of the 2014-15 season sees defending Stanley Cup champs host the confused Sharks. No doubt, every players has round one fresh in their mind for tonight. In case you forgot somehow, San Jose took a commanding 3-0 series lead and were looking like Cup favourites until they imploded and lost the series 4-3, while LA went on to hoist the Cup. The Sharks come into this season with a very young bottom two lines, possibly featuring an all rookie line. While there have been rumours Joe Thornton may centre the fourth line. Even their starter is up in the air. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, its the exact same team, minus Willie Mitchell. There’s no doubt most will favourite L.A. to win this game, but I could see the determined San Jose Sharks pull off an upset. The Sharks seem to start every year well, it’ll be no different in 2014-15. Nieto, Pavelski, and Wingels will score for the Sharks, while for the Kings, it’ll be Lewis and Toffoli on pace for 82 goals after one game.

Prediction: San Jose wins 3-2.

It’s guaranteed to be a great night when hockey is on, but tonight is extra special. Gather around, grab some good friends and good food and enjoy the great game on ice. And remember, it’s only the first night of the next 172, of nights of hockey. Good luck to all!

 

Will David Pastrnak Make the Boston Bruins Roster?

The Boston Bruins have always been impressed with 18 year old Czech David Pastrnak. So much so that the team used its first round pick on the young phenom. Pastrnak has already wowed coaches and fans alike with his offensive prowess by reminding them of Tyler Seguin. However, Pastrnak is still only 18 years old and has not played any type of professional North American hockey, so, the question remains, what can we really expect from David Pastrnak?

Can David Pastrnak make the Bruins roster come opening night? He very well could. The Bruins didn’t exactly do much in the offseason to replace Jarome Iginla, or improve their offense, given the financial situation the Bruins found themselves in. In fact, the drafting of Pastrnak at number 25 was perhaps the biggest splash the Bruins made all postseason.

The Bruins have very minimal options to replace Jarome Iginla on the first line and Pastrnak provides the most flexibility. Pastrnak can play both center and wing along with being a right handed shot, something the Bruins lost in both Iginla and Shawn Thornton this offseason. As of now, the Bruins have either Justin Florek, Matt Fraser, or the inexplicably still in Boston Jordan Caron  for a final wing spot. So, as you can tell, the Bruins have very limited options to use. Fraser has shown that he has flashes of brilliance, but out of the four, Pastrnak is clearly the front-runner.

There is still an outside chance of Simon Gagne making the Bruins squad. Gagne hasn’t played in over a year, last with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2013. Gagne gave the Bruins nightmares in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs when his return was the turning point in the Flyers remarkable series comeback. But Gagne has not really been the same player since, bouncing around from Philly to Tampa Bay to Los Angeles and back to the City of Brotherly Love. The Bruins are giving him a chance at reviving his career and maybe steal a spot away from Pastrnak. Gagne would bring a lot of leadership and experience to a Bruins squad already filled with leaders. That reason could just tip the scales in favor of Gagne if it comes down to it.

On the flip side however, Pastrnak is still very young at 18. With someone as talented as Pastrnak, you risk the chance of playing him way too early and hurting his chance at developing properly. It wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Bruins to send Pastrnak to Providence to hone his craft, but the Bruins may have no choice but to use him, ready or not.

The NHL isn’t using a whole lot of 18 and 19 year olds over the past 20 years and it’s obvious why: most of them aren’t ready yet. James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail created this chart tracking the number of 18 and 19 year olds that played in the NHL.

That’s why players like William Nylander and David Pastrnak need some seasoning in the AHL, if possible. However, the Bruins might not have much of a choice but to play him.

Pastrnak is still a little on the scrawny side, standing in at 5’10”, 17o pounds. He needs to, and will, build muscle and strength, but, again, that is what the minor leagues are for. Pastrnak will get beat up out on the ice and lose nearly every battle along the boards, not exactly how one would want to start an NHL career out, and in Boston no less.

Pastrnak has also claimed that he isn’t much of a two-way forward, saying,

“I was a one-way forward before I went to Sweden. I was playing just forward … then I came to Sweden and my mentality changed, and my work ethic changed. … I got to Sweden and I started practicing defense. … I know it’s important to be a two-way forward if you want to make not just the NHL, but every big league.”

The Bruins and Claude Julien pride themselves in defense and being two-way players. Pastrnak’s game doesn’t mesh well with the Bruins scheme, well not yet at least. He will have plenty of time to develop into a two-way player, but I fear that the Bruins will use him too often and he won’t develop into the talent that he is capable of.

In the end, I believe that David Pastrnak will indeed make the Bruins roster come opening night, either on the first or third line, and will have OK numbers during his rookie campaign. Let’s just hope the Bruins didn’t use him too early.

Has Brad Marchand’s Window in Boston Passed?

In 2011, I made a really dumb call and drafted Brad Marchand in the second round of my fantasy draft. I actually thought that my friends were going to kick me out of the league for my stupidity.

Of course, I knew what I was doing (kind of). Looking back at previous seasons Marchand had had, he seemed to have the Johnny Maziel complex- the more pressure he was under, the better he performed. His playoff numbers were out of this world- in sixteen playoff games with the Providence Bruins during the 2008-2009 season, he racked up almost a point a game. The consistency between those numbers and his playoff stats from Moncton, Halifax, and Val-d’Or was hard to miss- he seemed to be able to perform at every level he played.

His 2010-2011 season looked much like it should have- he walked away from his first full season in the NHL with 41 points (21 G, 20 A) and 19 points in the playoffs over the 25-game road to the Stanley Cup. He still picked up 51 PIM during the regular season- and 40 during the playoffs- but this was nowhere near the numbers he had seen in junior hockey. He seemed to have found his stride, and was looking to become a second-line staple instigator.

Hockey’s favorite pest continued his upward trend during both the 2011-2012 season and the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season, surpassing the 50-point mark in his sophomore season and looking set to do the same in the year following the lockout.

Then, the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs hit, and Marchand began to struggle. He walked away from the team’s unsuccessful cup run with only four goals and nine assists- following this season, he would hit a playoff dry spell that saw twenty consecutive games with no goals scored.

Looking at his 2013-2014 season stats, it would seem that Brad Marchand hasn’t fallen off much at all. The Halifax native walked away from yet another season with 50-plus points, scoring 25 goals in the process. He also saw his first full season with no suspensions.

Broken down game-by-game, though, it seems that the second line winger wasn’t as consistent as his numbers look to be. He started off the season a dud, got white-hot towards December and January, then looked all over the place until the playoffs- where he really failed to come through. In the team’s twelve playoff games, he had zero goals and five assists.

Yep, you read that correctly. Zero goals. Five assists. Twelve games.

In previous seasons, Marchand could be counted on to hit a point per playoff game. He was at his best when a championship was on the line… but this spring, no one saw much of that. He even missed two complete gimme goals, having his skin saved only by Jarome Iginla’s game-winning shot. For anyone who doesn’t remember those, shame on you. For anyone who does, I’m sorry for bringing them back up.

Everyone has off seasons, and it’s possible that last year was just that for the “Nose-Faced Killah”. He still put up the second highest number of goals on a 75-goal second line, which most teams would say doesn’t count as an “off” year. On the Boston Bruins, though, falling from your projected thirty-goal mark is huge- especially when there were chunks of games where it seems the player was missing from the ice altogether.

Tremendous Attitude

It’s no secret that Brad Marchand is known across the league as one of the most polarizing instigators out there. For those who don’t remember, he’s the guy who gave Vancouver the “ring” finger after Boston overthrew the Canadian franchise in 2011. He’s also the player who openly said that the hated Thomas Plekanek in an interview this post-season.

He’s not the only controversial player in Boston- after all, Milan Lucic has been known to spear a guy a time or two- but Marchand’s inconsistency suggests that he doesn’t know when to back off. On a cup-contending team, you shouldn’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk.

His instigating also makes him a target for referees. I’ve watched countless games where, at the start of a scrum, the first guy they pull aside is usually number 63. He’s the first to pull a penalty, and the target of just about every guy on the other team.

Sometimes, this can be to his benefit. According to his scouting report, he’s been a “sneaky little spitfire who doesn’t know how to quit” since the start. He also made it a personal mission to show all the doubters that he would make it in the big league- standing at 5’9″, many thought he was too small to ever be considered successful.

Sometimes, he takes that mission a little too much to heart, though. He’s admitted to having a chip on his shoulder about his size, and his scouting report criticized him for it- one big downfall that was mentioned for him was his inability to ever forgo the fancy play for something simpler, even when simple would have been better. Case in point- he got so overzealous during the playoffs this year that he missed those two complete “gimme” goals.

Is This Too Much For Chiarelli?

The second line has only been together for a season, but they already seem like a family. Reilly Smith provides the youthful force on the right wing, Marchand the sneaky instigation on the left, and Patrice Bergeron the calming force down the middle. Together, the three of them put up 75 goals and 91 assists for a combined 172 points.

To put this in perspective, that’s only seventeen points behind the team’s first line. Having a second line that could easily be another team’s first line is valuable- not many GM’s would want to trade that away.

Yet, the Boston Bruins are known for holding their players to a higher standard. Just look at Joe Thornton, Phil Kessel, Joe Thornton, Phil Kessel, or- most recently- Tyler Seguin. The team insists their players to do what is expected of them- on or off the ice, with the puck or a journalist’s microphone. Brad Marchand may put up the kind of numbers that most teams drool over- but if he’s not going to perform on a consistent basis, and if the team is going to have to constantly apologize for things he says and does, he might not be worth it any longer.

At 26, Marchand has long since passed the point where GM’s should be speculating over whether he’s going to turn over a new leaf. Evander Kane may have the excuse of youth on his side, but Marchand can no longer continue to promise that he’ll step up and be more of a leader. He may be one of the team’s biggest locker room presences, but those two missed goals during the Detroit Red Wings series have to be hanging over quite a few heads in Boston’s front office. January saw the left wing put up eight goals and five assists in thirteen games… but October had seen him go as many games without any goals at all. He runs his mouth and messes around- but has he earned that right with his play performance?

The season is just around the corner, and I don’t see the team trading one of Bergeron’s linemates before he’s been given a chance for redemption. He’s certainly behaved better than his best pal Seguin ever did- he may be a goofball, but if he knows he might be on the chopping block, I don’t see him taking that lightly.

I do predict, though, that Chiarelli has his eye on Marchand’s every move this season. The trade deadline is a ways away, and if Boston’s littlest pest doesn’t get his act together, he could very well find himself looking at real estate in another zip code.

Setting Expectations for David Pastrnak

It’s not hard to imagine, you know.

The Boston Bruins badly need a right-handed shot. They also need a right winger. Off-winger Loui Eriksson is a question-mark. The other off-winger Reilly Smith still isn’t signed. Since all of the variables seem to line up, does right winger and right-handed shot David Pastrnak, the Bruins 2014 1st round draft pick, have an actual shot of making the team and contributing right away?

Yes. But also, no.

Pastrnak joins the Bruins at an interesting time, after an offseason barren of any type of major moves and a pretty grim looking cap situation that could free up some roster spots. In a sense, Pastrnak was the Bruins’ biggest offseason acquisition. But of course, there is plenty of concern here.

For one, Pastrnak just turned 18 years old in May. If he were to make the NHL, not only would he be the youngest player on the Bruins’ roster, he’d be the lightest. At 6’0″, 167 lbs, Pastrnak’s lack of size would be a definite disadvantage on a team known for playing a “heavy” game. Pastrnak would need to get bigger and become better on his feet before the NHL becomes a reality. In all actuality, a late-first rounder who just turned 18 and played overseas shouldn’t even really be in the conversation to make an NHL team right out of training camp.

But there’s something about him that’s different.

The first forward the Bruins have drafted in the first round since Tyler Seguin in 2010, Pastrnak has been doing all of the right things at the right times. He idolizes David Krejci, his favorite NHL player. He’s been getting advice from Zdeno Chara. And to top it off, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and head coach Claude Julien were impressed with his rookie camp. In fact, even the Bruins PR team are hyping his possible arrival with a poll asking fans if they think Pastrnak will be on the roster on opening night. (52% say no.)

Pastrnak shined in the Summer Developmental Camp scoring three goals and one assist in four games, including a two-goal/three-point game against Canada. He’s good and he’s going to be even better than he is right now. That’s exciting, if you’re a Bruins fan.

The problem is, though he has a legitimate chance to break into the NHL and make the Bruins roster as an 18-year old, he shouldn’t. The Bruins shouldn’t rush Pastrnak and they have the depth in the system not to.

There’s no doubting his offensive upside. He can play a quick game and set-up plays that will make his linemates better around him. But he’s still developing. Though Pastrnak signed a three-year, entry level deal this July, he wouldn’t be eligible to play with the Bruins’ AHL affiliate the Providence Bruins. Instead, he’d likely return to the Swedish Elite League and play out the season overseas. In a sense, it’s a better option for Pastrnak who, unlike many other rookies, wouldn’t have to return to Juniors but rather a league with some developed players for a season.

Rather than burning one year off of his ELC and having him be somewhat of a non-factor, the Bruins should take their time with an offensive-minded, highly-touted prospect like Pastrnak. It can only help his situation and hopefully temper the expectations of what could be an excellent player if the Bruins control his development properly.

 

The Boston Bruins Mashup

1. Boston was supposed to go to the Stanley Cup Final….what the heck happened?

Where to begin with this one? Well for starters the Bruins ran into a Canadiens team that’s haunted them in the past and still present matchup problems. They always have the speed advantage, and they took advantage of that in the second round against Zdeno Chara, who while still a top tier defenseman, is not getting any younger and that showed in Game 7. The B’s also had disappearing acts from David Krejci who is a clutch playoff performer in years past – as well as Milian Lucic, Brad Marchand and the Merlot Line, just to name a few. That, along with the fact they hit 14 or 15 posts in the series and Carey Price’s stellar performance was too much for the Black and Gold to overcome resulting in a disappointing exit.

2. Where did David Krejci go in the playoffs and can Loui Eriksson handle the first line?

Iginla, like Chara, isn’t getting any younger, but he can still produce. That said, the big question is can Loui Eriksson fit in on the first line with Krejci and Lucic? If he tallies between 25 and 30 goals this year then I think they’ll be fine. Unlike the Penguins (with Malkin and Crosby) and Blackhawks (Sharp, Kane, Toews and Hossa) of the world, the Bruins are a team that prides itself around depth. They rely on all four lines to get the job done, and that will not change even with the notable departures. So assuming Loui stays healthy, the Bruins should be just fine, but that doesn’t mean they won’t miss Iginla.

3. Who will ultimately replace Chad Johnson and can they handle the 25 game or so workload?

Niklas Svedberg has been waiting in the wings to backup Tuukka and he showed some pretty good stuff down in Providence. He led the Baby B’s to two Calder Cup Playoff appearances and also snatched the league’s rookie of the year award if I’m not mistaken. Svedberg did pretty well in his lone appearance last year against the Predators and, like Johnson did last year, should be able to get between 20 and 25 starts.

4. Torey Krug was offered how much by a KHL team? When does he ultimately get a new deal?

With the Boston Bruins currently in cap hell, still, they have to free up some space. Would it be surprising if the Bruins let Krug go to the KHL? I don’t think so. I do believe the B’s will clear some space because Krug, along with Reilly Smith, are still looking for a new deal, and even if Krug went to the KHL they’d still need to clear space. That might entail Peter Chiarelli to trade someone else from the blue-line like Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller. And with David Warsofsky – a similar type of player – also battling for a roster spot, Krug might have to look over his shoulders even if he does sign a new deal.

5. Injuries play a role on every team but what was the one injury that hurt most?

No question it was Dennis Seidenberg. For the past several years he’s been the perfect compliment to Chara. Sure the Bruins were still able to win the Presidents’ Trophy and all without him, but there’s no denying that things would have been a little different against the Habs if he were healthy.

6. What does Claude Julien have to do to keep Boston focused this year?

Not get rattled from Boston Bruins fans calling for his job for another season. Okay, in all seriousness, Claude just needs to keep doing what he’s doing. He’s not a guy that gets shaken up easily and he always gets his team to play their best hockey late in the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if the B’s had a few hiccups early in the year, but as long as he keeps them focused on the task in hand then they’ll be fine. He doesn’t need to do much adjusting in terms of X’s and O’s.

7. Which team are you most worried about within the division?

For obvious reasons, Montreal is always a threat to the Bruins, but the Tampa Bay Lightning are also a team that could easily challenge the Bruins in the Atlantic. With the additions they made this off-season, the Bolts have a pretty good mix of a youth movement and veterans. If Steven Stamkos and Ben Bishop can avoid injuries then the Bolts have a real shot to make some noise in the Atlantic and the East.

8. Are there any prospects to keep an eye on in training camp?

David Pastrnak is going to be on the radar just based on the B’s drafting him in the first round in June. Whether he makes the roster or not is anyone’s guess, but Peter Chiarelli and company have high hopes for him. Even though Matt Fraser saw some time during the playoffs last year, he’s another guy that will get a closer look and could fill Loui’s role on the third line.

9. What is your prognosis for the Boston Bruins in 2014-15?

Despite the losses and the tight cap space handcuffing them in the off-season, I still expect the Boston Bruins to be one of the top teams in the East. The conference hasn’t gotten better for the most part and should very well be up for grabs again. It would be surprising if the Bruins could slay the Kings, Blackhawks, or the other powerful teams out west, but another Stanley Cup Final appearance is still a reasonable outlook.

When Will Boston Bruins Address Free Agents Reilly Smith, Torey Krug? & More

The Boston Bruins made some small signings in the past couple days, bringing back Jordan Caron and Matt Bartkowski with one-year contracts. Both have shown flashes of potential, and will likely get the chance to prove whether or not they’re worth further consideration this year.

While that’s all well and great, the team still needs to address two restricted free agents who both individually contributed more than Caron and Bartkowski combined: Reilly Smith and Torey Krug. Both players need to be resigned, but the process of doing so is further complicated by the sliver of cap space Boston has remaining. Right now, the Bruins have a measly $390K left to spend.