Back Check with the Bruins Buff

Friday, April 16, 2010

What the B's Need to Improve - Stanley Cup Game 1

OK -- so that's not the start we were all hoping for from the Boston Bruins last night. A little more scoring, a little more physicality, and a little more parity from the refs would've gone a long way in the B's first meeting with the Buffalo Sabres in the post-season.

Luckily, it's only the first game in what will hopefully be a long series. It's far from over. But the B's need to improve a lot of little aspects of their game if they want to move onto Round 2 or further.

First problem: Passing. This has been an issue for most of the season, but Boston needs to at least try and remedy it now. Too many blind passes, too many passes behind the stick, and too many passes ahead of the stick. The B's just need to do basic tape-to-tape passes, especially when they're trying to break out of their own zone. Seems like they're fumbling too much with the puck, which leads to sloppy entries and breakouts into the offensive zone.

Second: Forwards need to play better. I'm looking at Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler in particular. I barely noticed Ryder at all, and I only noticed Wheeler when he was taking soft shots from the top of the right circle (hey, like Kessel used to!). Marco Sturm needs to try bringing the puck deeper into the offensive zone instead of slapping shots the minute he enters the offensive zone. Milan Lucic needs to keep the puck on his stick. David Krejci played OK but needs to do a better job fighting along the boards.

Third: Defense. Way too timid coming out of their own zone last night. You could definitely sense some hesitation at times, and this led to extended pressure by the Sabres. The Sabres didn't pull out all the stops with their forechecking either -- the B's defensemen were just relying too much on their partners to clear the zone rather than trying to do it themselves. Additionally, big defensemen can't be screening their goaltender while letting Sabres players rip shots from the slot. I'm looking at you, Johnny Boychuk.

On a positive note, the power play finally clicked last night. Lucic and Chara did a good job of getting the team into the game physically, though more hitting in general would've been beneficial. And Tuukka Rask played decent in his first career playoff appearance.

Regardless, Boston only ended up losing the game by a goal. Best possible scenario: the B's steal a game in Buffalo on Saturday afternoon and send this thing back to Boston tied. Can't think about much more than that at this point in the series.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

2/11 Quick Hit Rumors

With the Olympic trade freeze kicking into effect tomorrow, here's a look at some of the latest B's trade rumors floating around the 'net.

This one comes courtesy of

"Despite a report suggesting the Bruins are listening to offers for goalie Tim Thomas, the Boston Herald reports the team hasn't asked him to waive his no-trade clause."

Whew. Well, I'm glad that's settled. Ever since Tuukka Rask has started four games in a row, Timmy rumors have attacked half of the Internet and most of HFBoards.

But that's just what they are: rumors. C'mon folks, who is going to trade for a 35-year-old goaltender with a four-year, $20 million contract? And don't forget that the contract has a no-trade clause for the first three years.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not discounting what Thomas has brought and continues to bring to the B's. Hell, the guy won the Vezina Trophy last year and put up pretty good numbers this season as well. But I'm willing to bet most GMs aren't going to take on a contract like that for a player that isn't getting any younger and may have very well passed his prime already.

And if that's not enough evidence to convince you, check out this article by CSNNE reporter Joe Haggerty:

"Thomas moved his parents from the Flint, Mich., area to Boston prior to the 2009-10 season and bought a house in the North Shore with his wife and children, planting roots in the city where he made his bones as an NHL goaltender. He has no reason, or desire, to waive his no-trade and uproot his family."

And that's that. Move along, move along.

Take the next rumor with a grain of salt, as it's reported by Eklund from the infamous

"The Bruins and Sabres are in on [Ray] Whitney. The Sabres may be the best fit as both Whitney and the Sabres want to extend him a few years immediately."

Whitney to Boston rumors aren't anything new -- there have been rumblings of this since Thanksgiving or so.

Would it be a good fit? The 37-year-old wouldn't be a bad veteran pick-up if the B's are looking for a playoff rental. He has more goals than just about every guy currently playing for the B's.

It's his cost that concerns me. Seeing as he's one of only a few "goal-scoring" UFAs available this deadline, look for the 'Canes to be asking for a high pick and a prospect. Not worth the cost seeing as the B's probably won't go too far into the playoffs in the first place.

And since the B's look like they're stuck with Ryder's inflated contract, signing Whitney to a cap-friendly deal this summer isn't plausible. If he's looking for a extension as Eklund suggests, Buffalo may be a better fit. The Sabres need a veteran scoring presence to complement the rest of their offense.

The last rumor comes from NESN reporter James Murphy. Though it's a few days old, this rumor seems to be revisted every couple of months...

"With the Bruins dead-last in scoring and Chiarelli looking for some kind of offensive spark, has learned that Chiarelli may be revisiting the idea of trading for Blues winger and Melrose, Mass. native Keith Tkachuk."

Acquiring Tkachuk was a decent idea last year, but the deal fell through and the B's picked up Recchi. At the very least, Tkachuk could always replace Miroslav Satan in the line-up this season. Though he only has 12 goals this year, he's been playing on a struggling St. Louis Blues squad.

But once again, the question of cost comes into consideration. Would Tkachuk come cheaper than Whitney? Is the cost worth what he would bring to the team? And will adding aging wingers really help put the B's over-the-top in the playoffs?

My prediction: I don't see the B's adding or selling a player before the Olympic freeze. Around the deadline? Definitely possible. But with an important game against Tampa Bay tonight, Peter Chiarelli probably won't be looking to tweak the team until the end of February and beginning of March.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bruins in Prague Against the...Coyotes?

The Boston Bruins will open their 2010-2011 season overseas with two games against the Phoenix Coyotes in Prague, Czech Republic. The two teams will square off on Saturday, Oct. 9 and Sunday, Oct. 10 at the O2 Arena.

It's all an effort to bring the NHL's premiere talent to European fans. Four other teams -- the Hurricanes, Wild, Blue Jackets, and Sharks -- will start their seasons in European cities as well.

But out of everybody the Bruins could play, out of all the NHL teams European fans could want to see and will likely only see once in their lifetime... why choose the Phoenix Coyotes?

A team that filed for bankruptcy not even a year ago. A team that's desperately looking for a new owner to keep it in the Phoenix area. A team that has qualified for the playoffs only once in the last decade. A team that currently ranks at the bottom of the league for attendance and hasn't ever crawled out of the basement.


I'll give them credit this year -- they're ranked 4th in the Western Conference and have exceeded all expectations to this point. But aside from Ed Jovanovski and Captain Shane Doan, they aren't exactly the hot-bed of all hockey talent. Plus they rarely play the Bruins as it already is.

Don't want to knock on 'Yotes fans. But the NHL should've selected a much more recognized, popular and stable team to showcase overseas.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sell, Sell, Sell? Part I

Note: This entry covers one of three possible scenarios Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli could pursue come the trade deadline. This entry and the ones following it will explore options the B's have available. It's up to the reader, not this blogger, to decide what's the best path.

It hasn't been an easy New Year for the Boston Bruins. A hard-hitting injury bug, snake-bitten players, and a ten-game losing streak helped the B's secure a spot in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference. Going into tonight's game against the Buffalo Sabres, the B's are ranked ninth in the conference with 59 points.

It's a tight race in the east -- one that could potentially leave six teams battling for the final two playoff spots. Only four points separate seventh and twelfth. Boston happens to be right in the middle of the battle.

Could the B's still make the playoffs? Absolutely. Can't discount this team when its healthy and rolling on all cylinders.

But even if they do make the playoffs, what sign has been shown that they'll be able to compete? Lacking a sniper, without a solid puck-moving defenseman, and harvesting a number of bad contracts?

A "win now" attitude could hurt the B's in the long-run, especially if they get bounced out of the playoffs in the first round. And in a draft that's supposed to be one the deepest in a nearly a decade, Peter Chiarelli may be better off trying to pawn off Unrestricted Free Agents, picking up picks, dumping bad contracts, and retooling over the summer.

Yes, the B's could very well sell the farm and try again next year. But let's be realistic -- the NHL salary cap hovers over every team in the league. And it won't be easy putting Boston in a manageable and cap-friendly place.

For the 2009-2010 season, each team is allotted a cap of $56.8 million. By the team the season finishes, the B's will be closer to that ceiling than they ever have been before. In fact, if the B's don't shed some salary by the end of the season, it looks like they might be right at it.

Before they can worry about the cap in the off-season, the B's might have an opportunity to grab something of value from guys who might end up walking anyway. In this entry, we'll highlight Boston's UFAs and their possible values. We'll break down the "bad" contracts and cap implications of being a seller tomorrow.

Credit to for its extensive and accurate database of all cap totals. Note that the salaries below take potential bonuses into account.

Boston Bruins 2009-2010 UFAs

Mark Recchi - $1.7 million

The B's brought in Recchi at the trade deadline last year to provide the team with a veteran presence. He played surprisingly well for a 42-year-old, putting up 10 goals in the regular season and 6 points in the playoffs.

Thanks to the B's slew of injuries, Recchi has received more ice time in the '09-'10 season and plays a less traditional role for an aging vet. He posts an average ice time of nearly 17 minutes a game, the fourth highest among Bruins forward.

As a result, some of his weaknesses were exposed, his lack of a shot and slow speed in particular. Ultimately, Mark Recchi is what he is: a banger who will go to the dirty areas of the ice and score with tip-in's and garbage goals.

If the B's are looking to sell, they might want to deal Recchi before his contract expires. He's not the most talented guy on the ice anymore, but his veteran leadership and two cup rings may make him appealing to a young team looking for a proven winner.

At Worst: 3rd Round Pick in '10
At Best: 2nd Round Pick in '10

Steve Begin - $850,000

The B's had big expectations out of Begin coming into the season. The 4th-line energy forward brought an edge to the '08-'09 Montreal Canadiens and became known for his pesky presence on the ice. Boston hoped to see that same sort of game out of him this year.

Unfortunately, he's been anything but edgy. Though he impressed the B's faithful in his first ten games, Begin has slowly dipped until becoming a complete non-factor on the ice. The guy doesn't hit, he barely fights, and brings little energy to the line-up. He doesn't score and doesn't assist, either.

He's OK on the penalty kill. I'll give him that. But not good enough to warrant a regular spot on the roster.

Teams aren't typically looking for a 4th-line forward at this point of the season. And if they were, it's doubtful they would take a chance on Steve Begin with a cap hit of nearly a million bucks. Teams looking for forward depth will look elsewhere.

At Worst: He walks at the end of the season
At Best: ...He walks at the end of the season

Miroslav Satan - $700,000

Peter Chiarelli acquired forward Miroslav Satan in January as a band-aid fix to ease the B's scoring struggles. He hasn't been that band-aid fix.

In fact, he hasn't really been a fix at all. In 16 games with Boston, Satan has only scored two goals. He played a handful of those games on the top line with passing extraordinaire Marc Savard. Instead of burying the puck, he's slugging behind the defense trying to keep up with Savard in the first place.

Even if he's a member of Slovakia's Olympic Squad, Satan offers nothing to Boston or to any other team for that matter. In fact, the B's should put him on waivers while they can. You never know -- some desperate team may pick him up. Just like Boston did.

At Worst: He walks at the end of the season
At Best: Put him on waivers. He can rot in Providence or maybe someone will pick him up

Shawn Thornton -- $516,666

See the Steve Begin entry above? In the second and third paragraphs, replace "Begin" with "Thornton." Same problem.

Granted, Thornton can throw 'em down and keep up with some of the best fighters in the league. He doesn't embrace fisticuffs as much as he used to, but that may be the coach's decision and not his.

The B's are better off keeping Thornton until the end of the year. Enforcers don't fetch much on the trade market, and he's still got a few fights left in him before the season's over. Other tough guys may be worth a look during the summer. If not, bring back Thorts and dress him on nights where other teams have a fighter in the line-up.

At Worst: He walks at the end of the season
At Best: Deal him to a team that severely lacks toughness

Derek Morris - $3.3 million

A bright spot in an otherwise dismal defensive season for the B's, Derek Morris was brought in during the off-season to fulfill a role as the team's #2 defenseman. Though not the most mobile defenseman, Morris brings a big-bodied presence to the line-up as well as a slapshot to boot.

He's played well for the most part. But he may be able to play even better on a contender looking for a #3/#4 rental defenseman. There's no telling whether he'll be back or not next year and, given his play this year, he may be looking for more money and a longer contract. It wouldn't hurt to see what the B's could fetch for him.

At Worst: 3rd Round Pick in '10 and a Prospect
At Best: 2nd Round Pick in '10 and a Mid-Level Prospect

Andrew Ference - $1.4 million

Ah, yes. Andrew Ference. Emperor of the Island of Injured Bruins. The guy hasn't played a full season in his three-and-a-half year stint with the Bruins. In fact, he hasn't played more than 60 games in one season since '06-'07.

Still, the guy isn't an awful defenseman if used correctly. Note: if used correctly. As a #5/#6 defenseman, he'll hit and bring somewhat of a mobile taste to the team. But earlier in the season, he was getting top-four minutes and playing poorly.

Given his history of injuries and falling out as the Bruins' NHLPA representative, I don't see Ference returning to the B's in '10-'11. Deal him to a team looking for a bottom-pairing defenseman with some leadership qualities.

At Worst: 4th Round Pick in '10 or '11
At Best: 3rd Round Pick in '10 or '11

Coming tomorrow: RFAs and "bad" contracts. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Peter Chiarelli -- Deal or No Deal?

First off, let me apologize for neglecting this blog. There have been quite a few new developments in my life during the past year. From graduating college to being unemployed to becoming employed to becoming employed in a job I actually like.

Pulling my life together took quite a bit of work. I stopped writing about the one thing I loved the most. Hey, you have to take life as it comes at you. What can I say?

But from this point forward, I'll try my best to pump out a few new entries each week. I won't let this be just another empty web page on the Internet. And what better time to play catch up than over the Olympic Break?

So enough is enough. Let's talk Boston. Let's talk Bruins.

The B's find themselves in an interesting predicament as of Feb 8. They're ranked ninth in the Eastern Conference -- three points out of sixth place but two points out of thirteenth. Furthermore, Boston is tied with three other teams with 59 points. They could sneak into the playoffs. And they could also barely miss it.

What fueled such a fall from grace? Lack of scoring, for one. Lack of a puck-moving defenseman as well. And a ten-game losing streak well into the New Year certainly didn't help out their situation, either.

With the trade deadline less than a month away, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli needs to make a decision. A decision that very well may define his career in Boston more-so than any other to this point.

Does he sell the farm come deadline/summer, try to unload some bad contracts, and pick up some picks in a draft that looks to be one of the deepest in recent years?

Or does he take the "win now" approach, trade away some assets, and acquire a rental or two for a playoff push?

Over the coming days, I'll analyze both situations and speculate as to what moves Boston Pete could make. Not to mention glaze over a few rumours floating around the hockey sphere. And by the end of it all, you can decide what path suits the B's best.

Thanks for your renewed readership, and here's to a revived Backcheck with the Bruins Buff!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Swap: Nokelainen for Montador

The Boston Bruins have traded F Petteri Nokelainen to the Anaheim Ducks for D Steve Montador.

Not a bad depth move, if nothing else. Montador is an upgrade over Hindy, and he's put up decent numbers this year with the Ducks.

This probably means another defenseman is on the way out. Stay tuned.

Trade Deadline Coverage

Bruins Buffs --

TSN and Sportsnet are both streaming their trade deadline coverage over the Internet. Check out their respective web sites for a feed.

As far as rumor sites go... check out the trade forum at for some interesting propositions. The Fourth Period also has plenty of potential deals up, and they'll be updating throughout the day.

As for my trade predictions -- I think the B's will grab Derek Morris and Erik Cole before the day comes to an end. If not, it's probable they'll still snatch up at least another defenseman.

I also predict the B's will deal Manny Fernandez. No basis for this one, just call it a hunch.

Updates coming as the action unfolds.

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