Back Check 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.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Poll Results, New Poll Up

Bruins Buffs --

Apologies for my three-day hiatus from the blogging world. Had some issues on the personal agenda that I needed to take care of.

The much anticipated NHL Trade Deadline is right around the corner. Make sure to set your Internet browser to Backcheck with the Bruins Buff all day Wednesday for updates and insight on the latest Bruins deals.

Also -- The results from last week's poll are in...

Who Is Likely to Be Dealt at the Trade Deadline?

1.) Matt Lashoff -- 53%
2.) Vladimir Sobotka -- 33%
3.) Petteri Nokelainen -- 13%
4.) Manny Fernandez -- 0%

Interesting that nobody thinks Fernandez will be dealt, especially with the rumors floating around about the B's in talks with Colorado. Also, I doubt Nokie will be traded since he's been placed on the B's IR.

Just added a new poll to the site today. Make sure to voice your opinion! And also make sure to tune into this afternoon's game against the Washington Capitals. Should be a great test for the B's.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Where Are They Now? 2006-2007 Bruins Part I

Boston Bruins fans cringe at the mere thought of the 2006-2007 season. Gutless play. Soft players. Horrid goaltending. Band-aid fixtures. All topped off with wretched coaching.

In the midst of the Bruins' recent slump, it’s time to remind readers that they’re much better off than they were three years ago. A 12-7-4 "slump" in the New Year still beats the 35-41-6 record the squad posted back then.

Then it hit me -- What ever happened to some of the players on that team? The AHLers? The borderline NHLers? The ones that should've retired long, long ago?

Curiosity got the better of me, Bruins Buffs. After a bit of research, here's what I came up with. The following are five players you may or may not remember.

Part II to come soon as well. Enjoy.

1.) Andrew Alberts, Defense

Boston drafted Andrew Alberts in the sixth round, 179th overall, of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. After honing his skills with four years of college hockey, the Boston College prospect made his debut with the big club in 2005.

Alberts went on to play 184 games with Boston, posting one goal and 18 assists with the club. During the Dave Lewis era, the defenseman racked up an abysmal 124 penalty minutes thanks to an undisciplined system.

Alberts wouldn't last long after Lewis' departure. A lower-body injury limited his playing time in his last season with the Bruins, seeing only 35 games with the club. He also played in two playoff games, raking up two assists.

Boston chose to end Alberts' tenure with the squad and shipped him off to Philadelphia in Oct. 2008. The Bruins received forward Ned Lukacevic and a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2009.

Alberts remains with the Flyers today, enjoying a decent season with the organization. He's played in every game for Philly since the trade, potting one goal and 10 assists.

2.) Wade Brookbank, Defense/Forward

A borderline floater, Wade Brookbank made his NHL debut with the Nashville Predators in 2003-2004. In nine games with the club, the Saskatchewan native didn't tally one point.

The Preds dealt Brookbank to the Vancouver Canucks later that season for "future considerations." What exactly those considerations ended up being is a mystery. But while in 'Couver, Brookbank potted two goals in 20 games.

After an extended stint in the AHL with the Binghamton Senators and Manitoba Moose, Brookbank returned to the big league after the lockout. He played 32 more games with the Vancouver Canucks, once again posting tame numbers.

Peter Chiarelli and crew picked up Brookbank as a free agent in July 2006 in attempt to fill one of the many gaps the squad held. He played four games with the Providence Bruins before making a cameo appearance with Boston.

In just seven games with the big club, Brookbank surprisingly potted one goal. But it wasn't enough to keep him on the team -- the brass quickly grew tired of his predictable play. He never quite seemed to know what to do with the puck and suffered from horrid transitional play.

In Dec. 2006, the B's dumped the unimpressive Brookbank to the Pittsburgh Penguins for "future considerations." And we all know what that means. The Penguins plunged Brookbank down to the minors, where he played with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

After seeing some time with the Carolina Hurricanes and their AHL affiliate the following season, Brookbank found himself in Tampa Bay in 2008. He currently plays with the club's minor-league affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals.

In seven games with the Admirals, Brookbank has put up predictable statistics -- zero goals, one assist, and 14 penalty minutes. Long live the Legend of Brookbank.

3.) Stanislav Chistov, Forward

Considered one of the biggest draft busts in recent NHL history, Stanislav Chistov began his hockey career with Omsk Avangard of the Russian Super League. In three seasons with the club, Chistov scored five goals and eight assists before craving a greater level of competition.

It didn't take long for the Russian Winger to taste NHL action. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim drafted him in the first round, 5th overall, of the 2001 entry draft. Anaheim praised Chistov's speed and hockey sense, feeling he could fill a gap long missing on the club's front line.

Military obligations technically held Chistov to his country. But for the love of the sport, he defected from Russia and joined the Ducks in 2002-2003.

Chistov's rookie season was nothing short of impressive, scoring 12 goals and 18 assists in 79 games with Anaheim. He even stepped up his game to the next level in the post-season, potting four goals during the Ducks' 24 playoff games.

Despite his rookie success, Chistov struggled to maintain consistency in the big league. After playing 52 uninspiring games with the Ducks in 2003-2004, he was assigned to the club's minor-league affiliate in Cincinnati.

He stayed in the minors through the lockout until finally deciding to bolt back to Russia. The Magnitogorsk Metallurg, then part of the Russian Super League, picked up Chistov for 47 games in 2005-2006. Playing wing with Evgeni Malkin, Chistov tallied 11 goals and 22 assists with the club.

It didn't take long for him to return to North America. In the summer of 2006, the Ducks signed Chistov to a two-way contract.

He didn't stay in Anaheim, though. The Boston Bruins traded a third-round pick in the 2008 entry draft in exchange for the speedy winger. A replacement for the disowned Sergei Samsonov, if you will.

Aside from a handful of goals, including a beaut against the hated Habs, Chistov didn't play up to snuff in Boston. His unwillingness to fight for the puck and dig along the boards rendered him useless in many offensive situations. He quickly gained a reputation as a soft player, easily being knocked off the puck.

The B's and Chistov parted ways after the 2006-2007 season. The winger returned to Russia once again, playing with Salavat Yulaev Ufa in the Kontinental Hockey League. In his 15 games with the club, Chistov put up five goals and six assists.

That's not to say he entirely cut off ties with the Bruins. In 2008, Chistov expressed interest in coming back to the states to play for Boston once again. Peter Chiarelli said he'd love to have Chistov playing with the Providence B's, but showed no real interest in him playing with the big club.

The Russian winger became a free agent last summer. No team was willing to pick him up. So what did he do?

That's right -- he hopped back to the KHL. Chistov currently plays with the Magnitogorsk Metallurg club, where he holds 11 goals and 19 assists in 54 games.

As of now, he holds no plans to return to the NHL.

4.) Nathan Dempsey, Defense

Nathan Dempsey spent most of his professional career with the Toronto Maple Leafs and its AHL affiliate in St. John's. He was drafted by Toronto in the 12th round, 245th overall, of the 1992 entry draft.

From 1992-2002, Dempsey only saw 48 games in the NHL, tallying two goals and two assists with Toronto. The Alberta native did finish with an even plus/minus rating, though.

After his stint with the Maple Leafs, Dempsey signed with the Chicago Blackhawks as a free agent in 2002. He played two seasons with the 'Hawks before being dealt with the Los Angeles Kings in 2004 for a fourth-round draft pick and future considerations.

Dempsey managed to establish himself as a borderline NHLer, scoring more than a dozen goals with the ‘Hawks and Kings. He returned to Los Angeles after the 2004-2005 lockout, playing 53 more games with the club.

But his NHL career would end in Boston. Dempsey signed with the Bruins as a free agent in 2006. Though he spent the majority of the year with Providence, the defenseman squeezed in 17 games with the big club. He scored one assist with Boston and tallied 17 penalty minutes.

Dempsey wouldn't return to the NHL after 2006-2007. He shipped off Switzerland in the off-season, earning a spot with SC Bern in the National League A.

The defenseman tallied three goals and 10 assists with SC Bern last season. Unfortunately, the historic club failed to qualify for the playoffs.

No word on where Dempsey is today. He isn't listed on SC Bern's current roster and can't be found in the NLA's player database. Don't know if he retired or chose not to play this season.

5.) Jeff Hoggan, Forward

An undrafted forward, Jeff Hoggan began his professional hockey career in 2002. Minnesota signed the college grinder as a free agent that summer but immediately sent him to its AHL affiliate in Houston.

Hoggan tallied six goals and five assists in his first professional season, slowly gaining a reputation as a big bodied forward not hesitant to work the boards. He continued playing for the Aeros, added one goal and two assists to their Calder Cup championship run in 2003-2004.

The forward parted ways with the Aeros in 2004, opting to play a season with the minor-league Worcester Sharks. After putting up an impressive 16 goals in 47 games, Hoggan finally earned a shot in the NHL.

The St. Louis Blues signed Hoggan as a free agent in the summer of 2005, hoping to add grit and solid forechecking to the lineup. But the grinder couldn't raise his game to the next level. In 52 games, Hoggan posted a terrible plus/minus rating of -16 and only scored two goals on the year.

Regardless of his poor NHL debut, the Boston Bruins dove deep into the UFA pool and snatched up Hoggan in 2006. He played 46 games with the big club -- 46 games many B's try to forget.

"Hoggan the Masked Enforcer," as B's fans nicknamed him, failed to contribute anything of sustentative value to the squad. Slow, clumsy, reckless, and a horrible fighter, Hoggan didn't give the team any sort of spark. He failed to fill the "energy role" the brass asked of him.

The B's sent Hoggan down to the minors, where he played a full season in 2007-2008. Despite his poor NHL performance, the grinder thrived with Providence. In 71 games, Hoggan potted 29 goals and 31 assists.

From that point on, Hoggan proved he was nothing more than AHL talent. He played one game with the big club that year, tallying zero points or penalty minutes. Chiarelli and friends never bothered to call him up again.

The Bruins and Hoggan parted ways at the conclusion of last season. The Phoenix Coyotes signed him as a free agent to a one-year, two-way deal in 2008. Though he's played in four games with the 'Yotes this season, he's spent most of his time playing for their AHL affiliate in San Antonio.

In 53 games with the San Antonio Rampage, Hoggan has once again put up stellar minor-league numbers -- 21 goals and 11 assists. Chances are he'll remain an AHL floater in the coming years.

-- More "Where Are They Now?" players coming up later in the week. Stay tuned.

B's Drop Two in Florida

The Sunshine State wasn't kind to Boston over the weekend. The Bruins dropped two consecutive games during their roadtrip, bringing their Feburary record to a disappointing 2-2-4.

The Black and Gold started the trip against the Florida Panthers, a team fighting for its playoff life and not afraid to do some dirty work.

Florida goaltender Thomas Vokoun stood strong against the B's, shutting out the squad with more than 40 saves. Tim Thomas and his team couldn't withstand the Panthers grit and speed, losing 2-0 in regulation.

Boston went 0-6 on the power play, an area of its game that continues to suffer from the lack of a left-handed shot. It even enjoyed the luxury of two separate four-minute man advantages but still couldn't seal the deal.

Things didn't improve as the Bruins worked their way upstate to Tampa Bay. Manny Fernandez made an abysmal 14 saves as the B's fell to the Lightning 4-3 last night.

As Coach Claude Julien said in his post-game interview, the B's didn't lack effort. They fired more than 40 shots against rookie goaltender Karri Ramo, who put on a spectacular show for the Bolts.

Winger Phil Kessel finally broke out of his 12-game scoreless slump, potting a beaut in the first minutes of the game. Kessel currently has 25 goals on the season. Defensemen Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference tallied Boston's other two goals.

But careless penalties and sluggish defense put the W further and further out of reach. A few softies from Fernandez didn't help the cause, either. All things considered, Boston shouldn't be losing to an injury-ridden team in the bottom of the standings.

The Bruins don't have long to change their gameplan against the two Florida squads. They face the Panthers tomorrow at home and the Lightning again at the end of March.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Trade Deadline: Beware Rumor Sites

Bruins Buffs --

With the trade deadline coming up, just wanted to take some time to warn you about visiting hockey rumor sites.

Sites like the HockeyBuzz and The Fourth Period are great to kill some time with. All sorts of rumors over there, some even borderline ridiculous. They've been spewing handfuls of Bruins rumors lately as well.

But remember to take the rumors you hear with a grain of salt. The anonymous hockey blogger Eklund, though knowledgeable of the game, has been wrong more times than I can count. And the man never lists his sources, making many of his proposals questionable at best.

Stick to reliable sources, such as the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, and TSN. Just this morning, Kevin Paul Dupont reported in the Globe that Tomas Kaberle is on the Bruins' go-to list come deadline day. Though I may not agree with everything Dupont has to say, he's a hall-of-fame journalist with credentials.

And, a plug for one of my favorite forums -- Hockey's Future. It's a great place to discuss the trade deadline and rumors. Plenty of insiders there. Check it out sometime.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Albany River Rats Bus Rolls Over

Don't have much Bruins news to report this morning. But there's something else worth addressing in the hockey world --

The Albany River Rats' bus flipped over on the Massachusetts Turnpike early this morning. 32 players, staff, and coaches from the AHL squad were taken to the Berkshire Medical Center as a precaution.

No word yet on what exactly caused the accident, but poor weather conditions may have played a role. The club was making its way back from Lowell after playing the Devils last night.

NECN reports that there were three serious injuries in the accident. Thankfully, none of them appeared life threatening.

The River Rats play the Providence Bruins a handful of times every couple of years. They also play the Syracuse Crunch, my local AHL affiliate.

Thoughts and prayers to the players and their families. Let's hope everything turns out OK.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Trade Deadline: Chiarelli's List?

During an interview with the New England Hockey Journal last week, hall-of-fame hockey writer Kevin Paul Dupont said Peter Chiarelli is targeting eight players at the trade deadline.

Chiarelli wouldn't elaborate on who the players were. Rumors swilling around the Hub of Hockey say he's looking to add a veteran forward and a puck-moving defenseman.

Chiarelli hasn't confirmed this himself. He won't say exactly what the B's are looking for in a player aside from "size," an obsession that has benefited the team so far.

And Boston could definitely use some more of that, taking into consideration some of the teams it may encounter in the playoffs.

They'll likely have to battle the Washington Capitals on the road to the cup, a team with a handful of big boys willing to throw blistering hits. That's part of the reason the B's trail the season series with the Caps.

If the Black and Gold make it to the Cup Finals, the San Jose Sharks might be waiting for them. The Sharks took the body and bruised the Bruins in their first and only regular season meeting earlier this month.

Based on rumors and Chiarelli's statement, here's The Bruins Buff's guess at the eight trade deadline targets:

1.) Keith Tkachuk -- St. Louis Blues
2.) Erik Cole -- Edmonton Oilers
3.) Jordan Leopold -- Colorado Avalanche
4.) Tomas Kaberle - Toronto Maple Leafs
5.) Nik Antropov -- Toronto Maple Leafs
6.) Chris Pronger -- Anaheim Ducks
7.) Derek Morris - Phoenix Coyotes
8.) J.M. Liles -- Colorado Avalanche

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Erik Cole Coming to Boston? And More.

G'morning, Bruins Buffs. Plenty of information coming in from around the rink this morning.

The Boston Globe reports that winger Michael Ryder is back on the ice and skating around with a full face mask. He expects to be back in action and ready to score sometime in the next two weeks.

Also on the injury front -- Chuck Kobasew is expected to suit up for tonight's game against the Carolina Hurricanes. The gritty winger managed to find his scoring touch before sustaining a leg injury at the beginning of the month. He'll grind next to Patrice Bergeron and PJ Axelsson.

Boston's mantra so far this week? Tweaks, tweaks, and more tweaks.

With the B's on a four-game skid, Coach Claude Julien decided to shake up his lines. The B's anemic offense hasn't been getting the job done, scoring only four goals in the last three games.

Phil Kessel has been bumped down to the second line, playing wing with David Krejci and Vladimir Sobotka. The speedy scorer hasn't tallied a goal since returning from a bout with mononucleosis a few weeks ago.

Interesting to see Sobotka on the second line. The guy couldn't crack the lineup out of camp, and now he's enjoying top minutes on the top team in the east. To be fair, he played a decent game against the New Jersey Devils last weekend.

As a result of Kessel's demotion, rookie Blake Wheeler has been bumped to the first line. Time to see if the big-bodied forward can pot a few with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic.

But perhaps the most enticing bit of information this morning comes from The Boston Herald.

The paper reports that Erik Cole expects to ship out to Boston in the coming weeks. The Oilers forward is supposedly telling friends that he expects to wear the black and gold soon.

The price for Cole? Nothing but speculation so far, but most sources report that the B's are dangling forward Vladimir Sobotka and defenseman Matt Lashoff as trade bait.

If I'm Chiarelli, I'd offer either Sobotka or Lashoff to the Oilers for Cole. Throw in a mid- to low-round draft pick to even out the deal if the Oil wants more.

But I wouldn't trade both unless someone else was shipping off with Cole. The two youngsters are promising prospects with the ability to step in and contribute at the NHL level.

Acquiring Erik Cole boosts Boston's power play immediately, giving it a much-needed left-handed shot. That's been missing since Marco Sturm went down and out earlier in the year.

Unfortunately, Cole hasn't been a dominant force for Edmonton this season. The winger only carries 12 goals and and 10 assists in 56 games.

Not stunning figures from a guy boasting three 20+ goal seasons before landing in Alberta. And, as many NHL fans recall, Cole won a cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005-2006.

Still, Cole's figures this year aren't an accurate representation of his abilities. Nobody on Edmonton's roster has particularly stood out this season, considering its the most bipolar team in the league.

Other news on the trade front -- sources indicated that defenseman Jordan Leopold could be headed to the B's soon.

The Denver Post reports that the Colorado Avalanche are likely to trade him at the deadline. The Herald goes on to say that Boston could be Leopold's destination.

Acquiring Leopold gives the B's a boost on the blue line, especially in the realm of transitional play. He also has a bomb of a shot, making him a possible addition to Boston's struggling power play.

Expect more trade news in the coming weeks. Keep reading Backcheck with the Bruins Buff for the latest!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Trade Deadline: So It Begins...

The trade deadline may only be three weeks away, but one team in the east has already launched itself into the frenzy.

The Montreal Canadiens have acquired defenseman Mathieu Schneider from the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for draft picks.

Details are limited up to this point. But rumor has it that the Habs gave up second- and third-round draft picks for Schneider.

The move boosts the Canadiens questionable defensive line by adding a veteran presence. However, Schneider has certainly seen better days and is nearing the end of his career.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Latest Loss Begins New Woes

Boston dropped its fourth consecutive game last night during a hard-fought battle with the Nashville Predators.

The B's managed to pot two goals, including a nifty garbage goal by Zdeno Chara with about a minute left in the game. But they ultimately fell short in the fourth round of the shootout.

The boys put forth some great effort last night, but they still need to tweak their finish.

For example, Phil Kessel had plenty of opportunities to bury one toward the end of the game but couldn't because of poor timing. One of the opportunities included a clean breakaway into the attacking zone that he unfortunately choked on.

David Krejci and Blake Wheeler looked the best they had all week, combing for a goal in the second period. Both showcased some moves, but they still need to simplify their game a bit.

Patrice Bergeron looked like his old self, notching an assist on Chara's late goal. He's improved his play along the boards in the past few games, something the B's desperately need.

Goaltending could've been better last night. Though Manny Fernandez displayed a few spectacular saves, he was beat too easily in the shootout. Nashville went top-shelf with a couple of backhanders to shut Manny down.

The loss marks the first time the B's have lost four games in a row all season. They have a chance to break the skid Tuesday against the slumping Carolina Hurricanes.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Loss to Devils = New Streak

The Boston Bruins fell to the New Jersey Devils 1-0 last night in regulation.

The loss marks only the second time this season that Boston has suffered a three-game losing streak. It hasn't since the end of October.

Tough to say what went wrong against New Jersey. The effort was certainly there, but the B's couldn't finish in the end. The Devils potted one soft goal, and that made all the difference.

The power play remains one of the B's biggest problems. They desperately need a left-handed shot on the first unit, seeing as Marco Sturm remains out for the season. The sooner they acquire someone to fulfill that role, the better.

I'll tell you one thing -- I wouldn't want Boston to meet up with the Devils in the post-season.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Kobasew, Nokie Out

The Boston Globe reports that Chuck Kobasew and Petteri Nokelainen will not play in tonight's game against the New Jersey Devils.

Both players are listed as day-to-day after sustaining injuries in Monday's game against San Jose. Nokie took a stick to the face, and Kobasew is nursing a leg injury.

Tough break for the B's, as Kobasew and Nokelainen both provide depth to the club. Kobasew just started to put some points on the board again, scoring two assists in his last three games.

Nokelainen boasts two assists in his last two games, putting up a +2 rating in both. He saw a different role in Monday's game, playing on the wing of David Krejci and Blake Wheeler.

Coach Julien said it's still possible that either player could suit up in tomorrow's Valentine's Day match-up against the Nashville Predators.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Karsums, Sobotka Get the Call

The Boston Bruins dipped into their minor-league pool this morning and called up Vladimir Sobotka and Martin Karsums from Providence.

The call is no doubt linked to the disappearances of Petteri Nokelainen and Chuck Kobasew in Monday's game. No word yet on how long either player will be out for.

Calling up some Baby B's serves as a decent stop-gap while Peter Chiarelli and friends continue to assess what trades could help the team out. I wouldn't look at Sobotka or Karsums as longterm fixes, but it should be enough to hold us over for maybe a week or so.

I also have a feeling this will be Sobotka's last chance to prove himself to the club this season. He's been called up a handful of times already and hasn't shown the brass anything substantial. Now is his chance.

The call-ups also bring new lines into question. Seeing as this team hasn't seen an offensive spark in weeks, I'd consider shuffling the lines to:


Or something like that. Those lines give every slumping player a shot at rejuvenating a bit and finding their offensive game.

But alas, the Boston Globe reports that Julien executed different lines in this morning's practice. Sobotka fanatics will no doubt be pleased:


The B's also switched up the power play in today's practice. Instead of manning the point, Bergeron has shifted to down low. Great move -- Bergy hasn't been effective from the point for most of the season.

In other B's news, Michael Ryder will be back earlier than expected. The winger will only need 2-3 weeks to recover from his orbital fracture suffered last week. Think of his return as just another trade deadline acquisition for Boston.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bruins Foes Gone Bowlin'

After Boston's 5-2 loss to San Jose last night, I figured the Bruins Nation could use a smile its face...

It's no secret that the Montreal Canadiens haven't been able to buy a goal or a win lately. Though they rank fifth in the Eastern Conference, the Habs are 2-8-0 in their last ten games.

To make matters worse, they're only five points ahead of ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes. If the Habs continue to drop games, they could see themselves out of a playoff spot as early as the trade deadline.

The Habs haven't just been losing games, either -- they've been getting blown out of the water in some instances. Their latest lost came against Calgary Flames by a score of 6-2. And last week, they lost to the lowly Maple Leafs 5-2.

How does a coach fix subpar goaltending, laughable offense, and invisible defense? Guy Carbonneau has the answer.

To hell with practice! If a team of "all stars" can't find its groove, take the players bowling.

Instead of skating hard, instead of practicing drill after drill, instead of having individual management-to-player conferences, Montreal players grasped some balls and struck pins yesterday.

Sources say the pins were the first things the Habs hit all season. Alex Kovalev's wrist started to lock up after a few rounds, but he returned later.

The fiasco reminds me of the time Coach Dave Lewis let the boys play basketball during practice after a horrible loss the previous night. I think it's safe to say that every Bruins Buff is glad those days are over.

Unless Claude Julien rewards the boys with a bowling-night-out for their third-period effort yesterday...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Trade Deadline/Free Agency -- Goaltending

Last week, I asked readers to vote on solutions for next year's goaltending dilemma. The question: Who Should Be Boston's Starting Goaltender Next Season?

Both of Boston's netminders will reach unrestricted free agent status by the season's end. Only one of them, if not neither, will sign with the B's in the off-season.

Big pay raises, limited cap space, and rookie potential could all factor in the B's Brass decision. Peter Chiarelli and company need to carefully evaluate the situation for both the long- and short-term success of the team.

The results of the poll...

1.) Tim Thomas -- 70%

Timmy Thomas enters his fourth straight season with the Bruins, currently posting a 24-5-5 record in 34 starts this year. He leads the league in save percentage at .932 and ranks second for goals against average with 2.10.

"The Flint Flopper," as nicknamed by the lovely Pittsburgh Penguins announcers, has been to the All-Star game twice during his tenure with the B's. He's only six wins away from posing 100 victories with the B's, a feat not seen since the days of Andy Moog.

Thomas' unconventional style makes some fans uneasy -- he plays a game based on recklessness and athleticism rather than sticking to pure positioning. Think Dominik Hasek to the max, diving his body in front of the puck and flopping more than humanly possible to make sure it doesn't cross the goal line.

When Tim is hot, he'll win stretches upon stretches of games for the club. He's currently 3-0-0 in his last three starts, and hasn't lost a game in regulation since last month.

But when Thomas becomes fatigued, he'll let in bursts of goals and give up on the game. He tended to do this more during his early days with the B's, when a proper defensive system wasn't placed in front of him. Thank you, Coach Dave Lewis.

As far as cap hit goes, Thomas currently eats up $1.1 million of salary. That will no doubt skyrocket as he negotiates a new contract this summer. A top goaltender in the league, at least statistically, could fetch a hefty pay raise in free agency.

Should the B's keep him? If they can sign him for a hometown discount, absolutely. Thomas has become a face of this franchise just as much as any other player on the ice. His Cinderella Story has has become a legend throughout the league.

Despite being blown out a handful of times, Thomas is often the B's best player on the ice. He's saved games more times than any Bruins fan can count, even when the team in front of him isn't skating.

But with Phil Kessel and David Krejci also looking to resign with the club this summer, the B's can't afford to throw a contract at Thomas worth more than $4 million a year. And with young 'tender Tuukka Rask quickly on the rise, Boston wouldn't look to sign Thomas longterm.

Other goaltenders with stats much lower than Thomas' are raking in upwards of $5 million a year. J.S. Giguere and Evgeni Nabokov both make $5.5 million. Cristobal Huet makes $5.6 million, Nikolai Khabibulin makes close to $7 million. The list goes on.

A team desperate for goaltending in the off-season could throw that kind of lucrative, longterm contract Thomas' way. The B's simply wouldn't be able to match or raise such an offer. Cinderella Man would roll in the dough he deserves and fly out of Logan Airport come July 1.

Regardless, don't expect the B's Brass to deal Thomas at the trade deadline. He's carried this team for large portions of the season, and he'll likely carry them even more in the playoffs.

2.) Manny Fernandez -- 20%

Manny enters his second year with the B's, currently posting a 14-3-2 record in 19 starts this season. As of today, he's gone 1-0-1 in his last couple of starts, including a 4-3 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers over the weekend.

Like Thomas, Fernandez boasts some of the top numbers in the league. The Ontario native ranks fifth in save percentage at .925 and ranks third in goals against average with 2.16.

His honors don't end there. In 2006-2007, Manny was awarded with the William M. Jennings trophy for lowest goals against in the league. Not bad for a #1B 'tender.

But the injury bug hasn't been kind to this netminder. Last year, Fernandez only played four games with the club before suffering a season-ending knee injury early on. The same nagging injury ended his previous season with the Minnesota Wild.

"New season, new injury" must be a clause written into Manny's contract. He missed most of January and the beginning of this month battling an undisclosed back injury. And he's only played four games in the new year.

Though he's played less games and posted less victories, Fernandez showcases a more positionally sound game than Thomas. He plays a beautiful butterfly style complimented with superb lateral movement and agile reflexes. Unfortunately, it takes him awhile to shake the rust off and perfect the style after an injury bout.

Manny's cap hit isn't friendly, especially for the amount of games he's played in the past two seasons. He earns a little more than $4 million a year and will be a UFA in the summer.

The possibility of Peter Chiarelli and friends moving Fernandez at the deadline has been discussed, but it doesn't seem written in the stars.

Fernandez has only played 24 games in the past two seasons. Some of the better backups in the league have seen more time than that in one year. For a team to take a chance on an injury-prone goaltender going into the playoffs seems like a gamble most GMs wouldn't be willing to make.

But let's say a team shows interest in Fernandez. A team desperate for a somewhat proven 'tender that has some cap space. Realistically, what value does Manny have?

Not much. Montreal traded goaltender Cristobal Huet to the Capitals at the deadline last year for a second-round draft pick. The Sabres traded Marty Biron to the Flyers at the deadline two years ago for a second-round draft pick.

Is trading Fernandez to Team X worth a second-round pick?

All things considered, the B's would be lucky to get that sort of return for an injury-prone netminder. If they packaged Manny with a prospect, they might be able to fetch a #3 defenseman or top-nine forward. But it's not a given.

Boston would be better off hanging on to Manny, giving it a #1A/#1B platoon to dominate the playoffs with. And if Thomas grows tired toward the end of the season, Manny can step in and man the wheel for awhile.

That still leaves Fernandez walking into free agency at the end of the season. Unless the B's Brass decides to sign him to a contract.

Fernandez would likely come cheaper than Thomas and cheaper than the $4 million he's been raking in. As already stated, few teams will overpay for a 34-year-old injury-prone netminder. He won't be seeing lucrative offers come July.

The Bruins could work that to their advantage. Try offering Fernandez a $2-3 million contract and platoon him with rookie Tuukka Rask next season. A cheap stop-gap until Rask shows he's ready to dominate between the pipes.

But if Manny goes down with an injury and Tuukka flounders, that'd spell trouble for the Black and Gold.

3.) Tuukka Rask -- 10%

Arguably the B's best prospect, Tuukka Rask has only seen one game with the big club this season.

The Finnish Flash posted 35 saves and a shutout in a 1-0 victory against the New York Rangers last month. He was called up to fill in for Manny Fernandez during his latest bout with back spasms.

Other than that, Rask has played with the Providence Bruins in the AHL this season. He's gone 21-15-0 with the Baby B's, tallying a respectable .918 save percentage.

Last season, Rask tasted four games of NHL action. He posted a 2-1-1 record before the B's signed Alex Auld to back up Timmy Thomas. The Flash played in the AHL for the rest of the season.

The common thread? Rask lacks NHL experience as both a backup and a starter.

Despite this, Rask has been deemed one of the best goaltending prospects in the world. He's one of the fastest 'tenders the game has seen in a long time, boasting speedy post-to-post movement and reflexes that Duran Duran couldn't begin to describe.

Though his rebound control needs work, Rask's fluid butterfly style makes for picture-perfect saves in any defensive system. As he once said to his teammates before a game, "Score two goals and I can win the game for us."

A few Bruins Buffs want to hand him the ropes and let him go to town next season. Unlike Thomas and Fernandez, Rask isn't a free agent this summer. Letting the platoon walk frees up more cap space to resign Krejci and Kessel, seeing as Tuukka's cap hit wouldn't be nearly as much.

Likeliest scenario: One of Thomas/Fernandez is signed to a contract with Tuukka playing backup for the first half of the season. B's gradually give Tuukka more starts as the season goes on and ease him into a starter role by 2010-2011.

4.) Other -- 0%

Nobody voted for the B's to bring in a different starting goaltender. Chances are they will not.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ryder Surgery, Out

Buffs --

Back from Buffalo now. I return with horrible, horrible news on the B's offensive front.

Michael Ryder underwent surgery today for an orbital fracture he suffered against Ottawa last week. Ryder was clipped by a high stick.

Expect Ryder to miss anywhere between three weeks or a month. Maybe longer. All things considered, he should be back by the end of the season and in time for the B's playoff run.

Needless to say, the B's Brass have some crucial decisions to make. Do they call up a player from the Baby B's to fill some gaps? Or do they acquire another top-six forward via trade?

Tomorrow's game against San Jose should help Peter Chiarelli and crew asses the situation better.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Gone Fishin'

Bruins Buffs --

I'm headed out to Buffalo for the weekend. Won't be back until Monday -- I'll do my best to work in an update shortly after.

In the meantime, enjoy tomorrow's game against Philly. Just a reminder that it's an afternoon game. Catch it at 1 o'clock.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank all of my readers. This blog has come a long way since its formation last week. Keep on reading, keep on commenting, and keep on watching the Black and Gold!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Game #52 Preview -- Bruins @ Senators

Game #52 Preview
(1) Boston Bruins: 38-8-6
(13) Ottawa Senators: 17-25-7

Thursday, February 5, 2009
Homa Arena: Scotiabank Place
Season Series: Boston Leads 2-0
TV Broadcasts: NESN (HD), RDS (HD), TSN (HD)

Boston Injuries

(D) Matt Hunwick -- Day-to-Day
(W) Milan Lucic -- Day-to-Day
(LW) Marco Sturm -- Out For Season

Ottawa Injuries

(RW) Shean Donovan -- Indefinite
(C) Cody Bass - Indefinite

Who's Hot For the Bruins?

(D) Dennis Wideman -- Points in seven straight games, league-leading +32 rating
(C) David Krejci -- 14 points in last 12 games, +3 rating in last performance
(C) Marc Savard -- 15 points in last 15 games, Four goals in last five performances

Who's Hot For the Sens?

(G) Alex Auld -- 1.89 goals against average and .923 save percentage in last two starts
(D) Filip Kuba, (L) Dean McAmmond -- Only two active Ottawa players with a plus rating

The Buff's Three Keys to the Game

1.) Pounce on Ottawa's Goaltending

Ottawa's netminding hasn't been up to snuff this season. In a move that screams desperation, the organization has resorted to juggling starts among three different goalies.

Alex Auld, Martin Gerber, and Brian Elliot all rank in the lower half of the league in goals against and save percentage. None of them have a GAA lower than 2.5. None of them have a save percentage surpassing .920.

None of the 'tenders played well enough to anoint themselves the starter of the club. None of them have posted at least 10 wins this season.

Regardless of who starts tonight, the B's slumping scorers have a perfect opportunity to break out of their funk. Scrap all of the fancy, highlight-reel moves and dekes. Light up the opposition by going back to a basic mantra -- shoot hard and shoot often.

2.) Fix, Fix, Fix the Power Play

I know, I know -- I'm starting to sound like a broken record. But Boston's power play woes can't be ignored, especially at this stage of the season.

The Black and Gold haven't scored a goal with the man advantage in four games. They've had 18 opportunities to make magic happen, failing miserably on each one.

Thanks to its recent struggles, Boston's power play has dropped to fifth in the league. It was second in the league only a couple of weeks ago.

What's wrong with it? How can it be fixed?

The B's continue to falter when making plays out of their own zone on the man advantage. They cough up the puck at the blueline too often, allowing the opposition to easily scale the puck down the rink. A more aggressive forecheck and crisper passing in the attacking zone can fix this imperfection.

Boston also needs to work on its dump-and-chase game on the man advantage. Dumping the puck to the corners and skating hard to retrieve it has been a viable power play strategy since the beginning of the sport. But it doesn't work unless players take the body, dig along the boards, and win one-on-one battles.

The Bruins will have to work hard on the man advantage against the Sens tonight -- Ottawa's home penalty kill is ranked fourth in the league at 86 percent.

3.) Score the Early Go-Ahead Goal

If the B's want to end up on top tonight, they have to deflate Ottawa's confidence early. They can easily do that by taking a quick lead and potting the first goal of the game.

The Senators have won a league-worst two games this season when trailing after the first period. And they've only come back once to win a game in the third.

Boston stands on the opposite side of the spectrum. The Bruins boasts 23-4-3 record when leading after the first, and they've never lost a game in regulation when leading after the second.

Fact of the Game

For the past three years, Boston has watched Tim Thomas transform from a mild-mannered 'tender to a designated "Sens killer."

It only took Timmy one month with the club to show his true colors. In Jan. 2006, Thomas posted his first career shutout in a 5-0 victory over the Senators.

He then went on to shutout Ottawa two more times, boasting a 9-5-2 career record against the club. Overall, he holds a .939 save percentage against the Sens with a goals against average of 2.05.

Thomas will start against Ottawa tonight.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bruins Trade Deadline -- UFA/RFA

Bruins Buffs --

Here's a quick list of Boston free agents/restricted free agents at the season's ends.

Notable Unrestricted Free Agents

PJ Axelsson
Manny Fernandez
Shane Hnidy
Tim Thomas
Stephane Yelle

Notable Restricted Free Agents

Byron Bitz
Matt Hunwick
Martin Karsums
Phil Kessel
David Krejci
Matt Lashoff
Martin St. Pierre

Take a look at Boston's unrestricted free agents. Aside from the goalies, they're lower-level players approaching the end of their careers. Chances are the club won't resign most of them.

Stephane Yelle gives the team a solid veteran presence and a lunch-pail effort each night. But with the amount of depth the organization has at center, he's expendable.

PJ Axelsson collects more than $2 million to play on the third line and kill penalties. Fans clamor that prospect Vladimir Sobotka is ready to assume that role while adding more grit to the position.

Sheriff Shane Hnidy has done excellent work this season as the team's spare defenseman. But Matt Hunwick continues to progress and could jump into a regular spot with the team next year.

Boston will instead turn its focus to its restricted free agents. And the B's Brass certainly has a conundrum on their hands.

Kessel and Krejci, two of the B's rising young stars, are both enjoying career years. But Boston will have to offer the two RFAs big contracts to keep them on the books next season.

Both are making a little more than $800,000 in salary this year. With the pace that they're playing at now, the Special K's could demand up to $4-5 million contracts in the off-season.

If they do, Boston will have to dump salary to keep them on board. Though the B's Brass could try to shed some salary by the deadline, they'd be wiser to not disrupt team chemistry.

However, dealing a free agent goaltender doesn't seem entirely out of the question.

Boston's goaltending platoon will no doubt be separated in the off-season due to expiring contracts. Thanks to some of the top statistics in the league, Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez could receive lucrative offers from other teams this summer.

GM Peter Chiarelli will have his hands full this month -- should he dangle one of his netminders at the deadline to add more firepower or defense?

If not, he'll still have to address the issue after the post-season. Should the Bruins keep the All-Star Thomas or go with the consistent Fernandez?

Should they abandoned both 'tenders and go with Tuukka Rask between the pipes next season? Or perhaps they'll call in an entirely new goalie?

Check out this week's poll and voice your opinion. Expect an entry about the situation next week.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Game #52 Preview -- Bruins @ Flyers

Game #52 Preview
(1) Boston Bruins: 37-8-6
(6) Philadelphia Flyers: 26-14-9

Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Home Arena: Wachovia Center
Season Series: 0-0
TV Broadcasts: NESN (HD), CSN-PH (HD)

Boston Injuries

(D) Matt Hunwick -- Day-To-Day
(C/W) Petteri Nokelainen -- Day-To-Day
(LW) Marco Sturm -- Out For Season

Note: (G) Manny Fernandez is likely to back up Thomas tomorrow

Philadelphia Injuries

(C) Danny Briere -- 2-4 weeks
(LW) Josh Gratton -- Indefinite
(C) Jon Kalinski -- Indefinite
(RW) Josh Beaulieu -- Indefinite
(D) Derian Hatcher -- Indefinite
(D) Mike Rathje -- Indefinite

Who's Hot for Boston?

(C) Marc Savard -- Goals in four straight games, points in eight straight
(D) Dennis Wideman -- Six points in last six games, leads league with +30 rating on the season
(G) Tim Thomas -- 6-1-2 with .936 save percentage in last nine starts

Who's Hot for Philadelphia?

(C) Jeff Carter -- Nine points in last eight games, 32 goals on the season
(RW) Mike Knuble -- Five points in last five games
(G) Antero Niittymaki -- 3-1-1 with 2.13 goals against average in last five starts

The Buff's Three Keys to the Game

1.) Sticks Down, No Hooking, Minimum Interference

The B's can't afford to rack up reckless penalties against the Flyers. Philly boasts the second best power play in the league, scoring 24.2 percent of the time with 46 goals on the man advantage.

But its mammoth power play performs even better in front of the home crowd. The Broadstreet Bullies are effective 35.1 percent of the time with the man advantage on home ice.

No question about it -- the B's have to stay out of the box if they want to come out on top. And that's easier said than done, considering Boston has put up 45 penalty minutes in its last four games.

Boston went shorthanded six times against Montreal on Sunday, giving the Habs two 5-on-3 opportunities. Thanks to efficient penalty killing, it allowed only one power play goal.

Still, those kinds of dangerous opportunities could put the B's out of tomorrow's game.

On the flip side, the Bruins need to...

2.) Launch an Effective Power Play

Boston is an abysmal 0-12 on the power play in its last three games. But tomorrow might be the perfect opportunity to crawl out of that slump.

Philly takes the most penalties in the league, racking up about 19 penalty minutes a game. The Flyers have been shorthanded 23 times in their last three games, allowing four power play goals in that span.

But despite their recent performance, the Flyers still hold one of the best home penalty kills in the league at 86.2 percent. They've only allowed 12 power play goals against on home ice.

Coach Julien addressed the B's recent struggle on the man advantage at practice this morning. According to the Boston Globe, the squad endured intense power play drills. Both power play units remain unchanged.

3.) Maintain a Physical Presence

Though Philly houses some big boys, the Bruins can't let themselves be intimidated. Throwing the body and finishing checks is a key way to get the Flyers off their game.

Check it out -- Philly only has 389 hits at home. That's one of the lowest numbers in the league.

Boston, on the other hand, has the fifth most away hits in the league. Its accumulated 546 hits on the road. By all means Boston should be able to beat the Flyers physically.

Why is it important? Playing a physical game can force the opposition to turn over the puck. Philadelphia is no exception -- it's coughed up the puck 330 times at home. That ranks in the top half of the league.

Long story short: The B's need to battle along the boards and bruise up the Flyers. Playing physical will lead to turnovers, giving the B's a better chance at maintaining puck possession.

Lucic, Hnidy, Bitz... it's time for you guys to earn your paychecks.

Fact of the Game

Once upon a time, the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers were playoff rivals. But one wouldn't know it now -- they haven't met in the playoffs in more than 30 years.

The teams last battled each other in the 1978 Stanley Cup semifinals. The Bruins won the series 4-1, defeating Philly in the post-season for the second year in a row.

The Black and Gold made quick work of the Flyers. It swept the first two games of the series, including a nail-biting 3-2 overtime finish in game one.

But the Broadstreet Bullies refused to go down without a fight. Philly posted a 3-1 victory in the third game of the series, maintaining a bit of dignity by not getting swept. Boston went on to win the next two challenges.

Unfortunately, the B's didn't lift the cup that year. They fell to the hated Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals after a hard-fought 4-2 series.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bruins Trade Deadline -- A Veteran Forward?

Christmas doesn’t come in December for hockey fans. It always comes at the end of February or the beginning of March.

“Happy Christmas?” No, no, no. “Happy Trade Deadline” in the hockey world.

The NHL trade deadline is only about a month away. Teams swap players. Teams swap prospects. Teams swap picks. All until times runs out at 3 pm EST, and then the shuffle ends until June.

The Boston Bruins, top contenders in the Eastern Conference, look to make a deep playoff run this season. But not without reaching into the trade pool and pulling out some help.

Boston’s greatest need? A veteran forward. Though the Black and Gold may look good enough to go the distance on paper, the post-season inexperience on the squad can’t be ignored.

Take a glance at the roster for proof.

Forwards with 0-2 Years of Playoff Experience:

Blake Wheeler
Byron Bitz
Marc Savard
Phil Kessel
David Krejci
Petteri Nokelainen
Vladimir Sobotka
Milan Lucic
Patrice Bergeron
Chuck Kobasew

That’s more than half of the team’s forwards, and the list includes a few faces of the franchise.

The playoffs are whole new game. They’re about endurance, stamina, and conditioning. No room for butterflies. No time rookie nerves.

Bringing in a veteran forward helps set an example for the kids and provides a calming presence in such a hectic stage of the season. Plus it never helps to have someone who can pot a few goals and rough up the opposition.

Marco Sturm’s season-ending injury gives the B’s an extra $3.5 million to play with. A deadline loan shouldn’t cost much more than that for the remainder of the season, especially if it’s an older player nearing the end of his career.

The B’s have options. Last week, I narrowed the list down to three veteran forwards that could best help the squad. I set up a poll and asked readers to vote. The results…

#1 – Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis Blues

Pros –

If Boston wants a puckload of experience going into the playoff, Tkachuk seems like an obvious choice. The 36-year-old vet has played in 85 playoff games, registering a respectable 28 goals and 28 assists in those appearances.

Big Walt, as nicknamed by his father, also gives the Bruins another big body up front. Though he’s only 6’2”, Tkachuk weighs in at a whopping 220 lbs, bringing some extra muscle to the Bruins. Imagine him playing on a gritty line with Bergeron and Kobasew.

Cons –

Tkachuk hasn’t seen a consistent amount of playoff action lately. In the past four years, he’s qualified for the playoffs only once as a deadline loan for the Atlanta Thrashers. In four playoff games, he potted one goal and two assists.

Blues fans have also criticized Tkachuk for playing with indifference in his past few seasons. Would he bring those bad vibes to Beantown?

Asking Price –

The slumping St. Louis Blues have been open about trading Tkachuk at the deadline. Right now, they’re rumored to be asking for a second-round draft pick.

Boston doesn’t have its second-rounder in 2009. It’ll have to offer a third-round pick and a mid-level prospect for a shot at Tkachuk.

#2 – Mark Recchi, Tampa Bay Lightning

Pros –

Recchi brings solid playoff experience and two Stanley Cup championships to the table. And like Tkachuk, Recchi has playoff action in 12 post-seasons.

But he’s played more post-season games than the average bear. Recchi clocks in at 140 playoff games, potting an impressive 47 goals and 70 assists.

The 41-year-old also comes into this month hot, registering nine points in his last nine games. Could he keep up the same pace with the Bruins?

Cons –

Recchi doesn’t have the size or strength of Tkachuk, making it difficult to find the right line for him.

The winger could possibly play with Marc Savard and Phil Kessel, but he might not have the speed or hands to keep up with them. He doesn’t have the physicality to play on the fourth line, either.

One dark part of his recent career can’t be ignored – the Pittsburgh Penguins placed Recchi on waivers last season. Nobody picked him up. Should the B’s target that kind of player?

Asking Price –

The Tampa Tribune reports that Recchi may be dealt to a playoff contender in the coming weeks for a draft pick. Chances are a fourth- or fifth-rounder would get the deal done.

#3 – Bill Guerin, New York Islanders

Pros –

Bill Guerin is no stranger to Boston. The winger played in one playoff series with the Black and Gold, putting up four goals and two assists in six games. The former All-Star also boasts 14 playoff appearances in his career.

The Islanders captain brings Stanley Cup experience to the table. Guerin won the cup with the 1994-1995 New Jersey Devils, scoring 12 goals and 13 assists in 48 games.

Cons –

Guerin didn’t put up spectacular numbers in his most recent playoff appearance. In 2007, he scored no goals and tallied only two assists in nine playoff games with the San Jose Sharks.

The Worcester native also left Boston on a sour note. “Dollar Bill,” as he was nicknamed by fans, left the B’s in 2002 as a free agent to sign a more lucrative contract with the Dallas Stars.

On the flip side, Boston made little effort to retain Guerin. He might not waive his no-trade clause to return there.

Asking Price –

The Isles want picks/prospects for their veteran forwards. A fourth rounder and a low-level prospect could do it.

But rumors floating around the ‘net say that Guerin will only be traded if packaged with fellow Islander Doug Weight. Boston doesn’t need two veteran forwards and likely wouldn’t make the deal.

B's @ Canadiens Recap, 2/1/2009

Game #51
(1) Boston Bruins
(4) Montreal Canadiens
Final Score: Bruins 3, Canadiens 1

First Period

Montreal goal by R. Lang (power play goal)
Montreal assists from A. Markov, A. Kostitsyn

Boston goal by D. Wideman (unassisted)

Second Period

Boston goal by S. Thornton Boston assists from B. Bitz, S. Yelle

Third Period

Boston goal by M. Savard (empty netter, unassisted)

The Good

1.) Call of the Wild -- Shawn Thornton

Thornton jerseys are back in style in Boston. And they're not sporting #19.

The B's signed tough-guy Shawn Thornton last season to stir the pot and get under the opposition's skin. He's done just that and much more.

A little more than one minute into yesterday's game, Thornton dropped the gloves with Habs newbie Alex Henry. With a few jabs and an uppercut, Thornton gave the recent Canadiens call-up a clinic in Hockey Fighting 101.

But his rampage didn't end there. Thanks to hardhat effort along the boards, the fan favorite lit up Habs goaltender Carey Price in the second period. With the go-ahead goal, the enforcer notched his fifth tally of the year.

Prior to this season, Thornton only recorded eight goals in five NHL seasons.

2.) For Whom the Buzzer Tolls - Dennis Wideman

In 2005, Dennis Wideman played his first NHL season with the St. Louis Blues. The defenseman recorded an embarrassing plus/minus rating of -31 and only scored eight goals. He didn't improve much in his second season, either.

But what a different three years can make.

Thanks to a tying goal against Montreal in the first period, Wideman bumped his league-leading plus/minus rating to +30. And he's only two goals shy of passing his career high of 13.

The goal came with .6 seconds left in the period. Wideman shot with perfect poise, slapping the puck past Price and into the corner shelf of the goal.

Wideman also lugged a little more than 24 minutes of ice time yesterday, second only to Zdeno Chara.

Not bad for an eighth-round draft pick.

The Bad

1.) Things Fall Apart - The Power Play

Boston's power play woes didn't end yesterday afternoon. The Black and Gold went a dismal 0-4 on the man advantage, and they've only scored one power play goal in their last 12 opportunities.

Don't be surprised to see Coach Julien shake up his special teams formations. Patrice Bergeron manning the point has been ineffective, seeing as he doesn't pass nor shoot as well from that area of the ice. Look for him to slide down and start working the corner boards soon.

Also expect bigger bodies down low to clear the crease and screen the goalie. Not a guy like Chara, since his bomb of a shot is more effective from the point. But Milan Lucic and maybe even Byron Bitz could wreak some havoc down low if given the opportunity.

2.) The Fellowship of the Ping - Kessel, Ryder, Wheeler

Where have all the scorers gone? Aside from hitting pucks off posts and the side of the net.

Apparently, a few of Boston's top players went into hibernation. Phil Kessel, Michael Ryder, and Blake Wheeler haven't potted a goal since before the All-Star break. No doubt, there's a connection between this and the B's three one-goal games last week.

Supplementary scoring from third- and fourth-liners can only help for so long. Somebody needs to wake these sleeping bears if the B's are to keep their winning ways.

The Ugly

1.) The Diving, The Convicts , and The Wardrobe

Where's Waldo? Apparently, the Habs know.

Montreal players sported vintage jerseys from 1912 yesterday afternoon. The outdated rags -- lined with red, white, and blue stripes -- were sore on the eyes and caused a glare for the cameras.

It may possibly be the ugliest jersey ever worn in a professional sport. Maybe even worse than the Los Angeles Kings' atrocious 1981 home jersey.

Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak" came to mind every time a Hab touched the puck.

Rask Back With Baby B's

Bruins goalender Tuukka Rask was assigned to Providence this morning. The move suggests injured 'tender Manny Fernandez is ready for action this week.

Rask went 1-0 in his tenure with the big club, posting a shutout against the New York Rangers last weekend. He's currently 19-15-0 with the B's AHL affiliate.

It's an expected move, really. The B's Brass can't have three goalies eating up more than $12 million in salary on the books. If Manny is here to stay, Rask likely won't have another shot at NHL action until next season.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

New Background

Bruins Nation --

Starting tonight, Backcheck With the Bruins Buff will be sporting a new look. Uploading this new layout will hopefully only take a few days.

Apologies for any bugs or errors you might encounter during the process. My web consultant and I are trying our best to have the layout up as soon as possible.

A recap of this afternoon's game will be up by tomorrow. Thanks for your patience!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rags @ B's Recap -- 1/31/2009

Game #50
(1) Boston Bruins
(4) New York Rangers
Final Score: Bruins 1, Rangers 0

First Period

No Points Recorded

Second Period

Bruins goal by M. Savard
Bruins assists from M. Lucic, D. Wideman

Third Period

No Points Recorded

The Good

1.) The Curious Case of Tuukka Rask

Tuukka Rask turned heads with outstanding goaltending during the Bruins training camp last summer. But despite his admirable performance, the rookie was sent down to the minors at the season's start.

He came into this afternoon with four NHL games under his belt, posting a 3.25 goals against average and a .886 save percentage.

Wipe those stats from your memory. There's a new Tuukka Rask in town -- a Tuukka that's ready for the big league.

The Finnish Flash stopped all 35 shots from the Rangers this afternoon, posting his first career NHL shutout. He showcased his tremendous speed, cunning flexibility, and agile reflexes to keep the Black and Gold on top.

With a little work on his rebound control, Tuukka could take over the starting position as early as next season.

2.) Iron Man -- Marc Savard

Bruins center Marc Savard was already hot coming into tonight's game. The former Ranger had points in seven straight games, including one goal and one assist against the Devils on Thursday.

Savard scored the lone Bruins goal with 20 seconds left in the second period. The All-Star tipped the puck in with a beautiful deflection off an initial shot by Dennis Wideman.

The tally brings Savard's goal total to 19 on the year, a four-goal improvement over last season. But don't expect Savard to stop there -- he's capable of even more. The All-Star potted 28 goals with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2005-2006.

3.) The Dark Knight -- Aaron Ward

The Warrior played one of his best games of the season this afternoon. Ward led the team with four blocked shots and five hits, notching more than 21 minutes of ice time.

His veteran presence and leadership on the blueline continues to be essential to the success of the team. And Ward -- a three-time Stanley Cup champion -- has experience that will no doubt come in handy in the post-season.

He currently stands at a +14 rating this year.

The Bad

1.) Slumdog Millionaire -- Tuukka Rask's Cap Hit

Though Rask put on an excellent performance this afternoon, the B's brass can't overlook his cap hit if he were to remain on the squad.

Boston would have to pay more than $3 million in salary and bonuses to keep Rask on the roster this season. With more than $5 million already locked up between Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez, it doesn't seem plausible for Tuukka to mind the pipes for the big club.

That is, unless the B's swap one of the two veteran 'tenders for prospects, draft picks, or a cheap veteran player before the trade deadline.

The Ugly

A shutout win against one of the top teams in the East? Nothing ugly about that.

Tuukka Time

Tuukka Rask will mind the pipes this afternoon against the New York Rangers. The rookie was called up on an emergency basis earlier in the month to cover for the injured Manny Fernandez.

Rask has not played in an NHL game this season. Last year, the Finnish Flash tallied four games with the big club, posting a 3.25 goals against average and a save percentage of .886.

Prior to his call-up, Tuukka started a majority of the games for the Providence Bruins in the AHL. He's gone 19-15-0 in 34 games with the Baby B's.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Super Bowl Weekend Preview - Part I

Game #50 Preview
(1) Boston Bruins: 35-8-6
(4) New York Rangers: 29-17-4

Saturday, January 31, 2009 @ 1 pm
Home Arena: TD Banknorth Garden
Season Series: Rangers lead 1-0
TV Broadcasts: NESN (HD), MSG (HD)

Boston Injuries

(G) Manny Fernandez: Day-To-Day
(C/W) Petteri Nokelainen: Day-To-Day
(LW) Marco Sturm: Out For Season

New York Injuries

None to Report

Who's Hot For the Bruins?

(D) Dennis Wideman -- 4 points in last four games, top plus/minus rating in the league at +28
(C) David Krejci -- 12 points in last nine games,

Who's Hot For the Rangers?

(C) Scott Gomez -- 2 goals, 3 assists in last three games
(LW/RW) Markus Nasland -- 5 points in last three games

The Buff's Three Keys to the Game

1.) Expose a Slumping Lundqvist

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist can't seem to shake off iffy numbers in recent games.

The Swedish 'tender boasts 41 starts this season, the fourth most in the entire league. He's posted a respectable 24-14-3 record topped off with a .911 save percentage.

But his numbers haven't been stellar as of late. He's only won a single game in his last three starts, battling a lackluster 3.67 goals against average in those matches. His losses include an embarrassing six-goal performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.

Boston needs to take advantage of Lundqvist's slump before he decides to pick up his game. An early goal or two will likely deflate his confidence.

2.) Stay Out of the Sin Bin

When it comes to the power play, the Rags aren't ones to brag. The club ranks 27th on the man advantage this year, potting only 32 goals on 215 chances.

But that doesn't mean the B's can afford to take penalties. Boston averages 13 penalty minutes a game, eighth highest in the league. And thanks to a poor special teams performance this week, the Bruins penalty kill dropped to ninth overall.

Keep the sticks down. No hooking calls. No high-sticking offenses. Only fighting majors to stir up the bench.
Which transitions smoothly into my next point...

3.) Move, Move, Move. Shoot, Shoot, Shoot. On the Power Play.

Boston's power play hasn't been up to snuff this week. The B's went 0-6 on the man advantage in Tuesday's game against the Caps -- a team with a PK ranking in the bottom half of the league.

But New York is a whole different beast to wrestle with. The Rangers have penalty killing techniques down to a science, boasting the top PK unit in the NHL. Their PK percentage is top-notch on the road at 87.8 percent with only 13 goals against.

The Bruins can't stand ignore those numbers coming into tomorrow's game. No more standing around like statues. No more lazily drifting to the corner in an attempt to retrieve the puck.
Boston's recipe for power play success: Aggressive on the rush, aggressive on the backcheck, and aggressive along the boards. All complimented with dabs of crsip passing and clear shooting to the net.

Fact of the Game

Marc Savard is no stranger to the New York Rangers. The All-Star began his NHL career with the Rags in the 1997-1998 season.

New York picked Savard in the fourth round, 91st overall, of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. He played 25 games with the club in his rookie season, notching his first goal early in the year against the New York Islanders.

Savvy went on to score 10 goals and 41 assists in his 98 games with the Rangers. He also saw some time with the Hartford Wolfpack, New York's AHL affiliate.

But his career with the Rangers ended in 1999. New York traded Savard and a 1st round draft pick to Calgary for a 1st round pick, a 3rd round pick, and negotiating rights with Jan Hlavac.

Since the trade, Savard has put up admirable numbers against his former team. The center holds 21 points in his 20 games against the Rangers.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Game Recap: Devils @ B's, 1/29/2009

Game #49
Boston Bruins
New Jersey Devils
Final Score: Bruins 3, Devils 4 in OT

First Period

Devils goal by J. Langenbrunner (Shorthanded)
Devils assist from T. Zajac

Second Period

Devils goal by Z. Parise (Power Play Goal)
Devils assists from J. Langenbrunner, P. Martin

Third Period

Bruins goals by C. Kobasew, M. Savard, D. Wideman
Bruins assists from P. Bergeron, A. Ference, P. Kessel (2), M. Lucic, M. Savard

Devils goal by P. Elias
Devils assists from B. Gionta, D. Oduya


Devils goal by J. Langenbrunner
Devils assists from T. Zajac, C. White

The Good

1.) They Call Him the Working Man - Chuck Kobasew

Chuck Kobasew only holds nine goals this season, but he sinks them when they matter most.

The B's went into the third period down by two goals, treading tight waters after an onslaught of shots from the Devils. Boston needed a hero on the ice, and Kobasew answered the call early in the third.

Alone in the attacking zone, Kobasew launched himself to the corner boards as the first man in on the forecheck. Devils goalie Scott Clemensen was oblivious to the tactic and carelessly played the puck toward Kobasew's stick.

Eager to take advantage of the giveaway, Chuck pounced on the puck and grinded his way to the net. He jammed the biscuit into the post, clashing sticks with the opposition in a desperate attempt to score.

The puck pinballed past Clemmensen's pads and barely crossed the goal line. After a review of the play, the refs pointed to the center of the ice and signaled a goal.

Kobasew's solid effort cut the Devils lead in half and kick started much-needed offensive pressure by the B's.

2.) Thriller Night -- Phil's Triumphant Return

Mononucleosis sidelined Phil Kessel for six games, but the winger didn't show any symptoms of the illness tonight.

The Thrill lugged more than 19 minutes of ice time, the second longest among Boston's forwards. And though he scored no goals, Kessel notched two assists in the third period and finished even on the night.

The winger brought outstanding speed and vision back to Boston's first line. He even showed off a few of his signature moves in the attacking zone.

Marc Savard looked much more comfortable tonight with a designated scorer on his wing. Look for the two to start lighting up the goal lamp this weekend.

3.) Standing on Top of the World -- Dennis Wideman

Dennis Wideman came to Boston in 2006 with a career plus/minus rating of -38. Two-and-a-half years later, and he's now at the top of the league.

Wideman potted a goal and finished +2 against the Devils tonight, bumping his season rating to +28 overall. The defenseman finished the game with a little more than 22 minutes of ice time.

Currently, the top four plus/minus ratings in the league belong to Boston players -- Wideman, Wheeler, Savard, and Krejci, respectively.

The Bad

1.) It's, It's a Byron Bitz

The injury bug struck Boston early in the new year, knocking big-bodied players like Milan Lucic out of the lineup. The B's brass needed a quick, temporary fix to fill the ice and maintain the team's physical presence.

Byron Bitz of the Providence Bruins packed his bags and drove up to Boston to play for the big club on Jan. 10. The 6'5" Saskatchewan giant turned some heads after delivering a few big hits to the Carolina Hurricanes. He topped off his NHL debut by notching his first career assist.

It was electric. So frightfully hectic.

But his initial call-up adrenaline quickly wore off. Bitz hasn't potted a point since his first game with the big club, and he's even on the year for a team that boasts its tremendous plus rating.

Bitz looked lost on the ice tonight. Slow, hesitant to move the puck, and unsure of what plays to make in the attacking zone. His hockey sense isn't up to par with the rest of the squad.

Boston doesn't need another big body now that Lucic is back from injury. It's clear that Bitz needs to head back to the Baby B's.

2.) Good Times, Bad Times -- Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas started in his seventh consecutive game tonight, stopping 26 of 30 shots and posting a .867 save percentage.

But he failed to come up with remarkable, memorable saves to keep his team in the game. The Flint Flopper played more like a fish out of water tonight than he had all season.

Timmy looked out of sorts positionally, as if he'd grown fatigued and needed to resort to pure recklessness to stop the puck. His acrobatics couldn't withstand NJ's firepower in the end.

Though Thomas led Boston to plenty of W's this season, he needs to take a breather and regain his composure. Expect B's prospect Tuukka Rask to stand between the pipes against the Rangers on Saturday.

3.) Livin' on the Edge -- Patrice Bergeron v. Faceoffs

Patrice Bergeron must've grown too comfortable playing left-wing last game.

Bergeron returned to the B's third line and played center, winning only two faceoffs on the entire night. He faced 13 draws altogether.

The rest of the team registered 67 percent at the faceoff dot. Bergeron's draw percentage simply isn't acceptable and needs be addressed in tomorrow's practice.

The Ugly

1.) Hello Darkness, My Old Friend... -- The Power Play

The Bruins went an abysmal 0-6 on the man advantage tonight. They failed to gain and maintain puck possession in the offensive zone time after time again.

NJ played a tight defensive system along the blueline to prevent the B's from rushing into the attacking zone. The Devils easily knocked the B's off of the puck and even scored a shorthanded goal in the first period.

Boston tried to adjust its special teams as the game went on, employing a dump-and-chase strategy on later power play opportunities. But the B's weren't strong enough along the boards and were moved off the puck by NJ's penalty killers.

Kessel and Ryder Back In

The Boston Globe confirms that Phil Kessel and Michael Ryder will suit up for tonight's game against New Jersey.

Boston will need all the firepower it can muster up against the red-hot Devils. Having two of its leading goal-scorers back might help put them over the top to grab the W.

And the return of the two wingers means that the Bruins latest bout with the injury bug is almost finished. Marc Savard's top-line has a scorer again in Kessel, and the Wheeler-Krejci line is complete with Ryder's return.

No word yet on what Patrice Bergeron's role will be tonight. He played on Krejci's wing Tuesday night against the Caps and notched an assist on the power play.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Game 49 -- New Jersey Devils @ Boston Bruins Preview

Game #49 Preview
(1) Boston Bruins: 35-8-5
(3) New Jersey Devils: 30-15-3

Thursday, January 29, 2009 @ 7 pm
Home Arena: TD Banknorth Garden
Season Series: Bruins Lead 1-0
TV Broadcasts: NESN (HD), MSG (HD)

Boston Injuries

(G) Manny Fernandez: Day-To-Day
(LW) Marco Sturm: Out For the Season
Notes: Phil Kessel (RW) and Michael Ryder (RW) are expected to play tonight after missing time with the club.

Petteri Nokelainen (C/W) did not practice yesterday due to an undisclosed injury and may not suit up for the game.
New Jersey Injuries

(G) Martin Brodeur: Out indefinitely

Who's Hot For the Bruins?

(G) Tim Thomas: 5-1-1 in seven consecutive starts with a .941 save percentage
(C) Marc Savard: 17 points in the last 14 games, +26 rating on the year

Who's Hot For the Devils?

(G) Scott Clemmensen: 4-0-0 in four consecutive starts with a 1.25 goals against average
(LW) Zach Parise: 6 points in last four games, 28 goals this season

The Buff's Three Keys to the Game

1.) Top New Jersey's Goaltending

New Jersey is stuck with a goaltending situation they couldn't have possibly imagined. But the team isn't complaining.

Devils goaltender Marty Brodeur went down with an elbow injury in November -- an injury that continues to keep him off the ice. Most experts wrote off the Devils right then and there, claiming that New Jersey couldn't make a playoff run without the face of its franchise.

In a move that screamed desperation, New Jersey called up rookie 'tender Scott Clemmensen from the Lowell Devils in the AHL to stand between the pipes. But he's done more than just that.

The Iowa native is a stunning 20-9-1 this season, boasting a .923 save percentage. More than half of those wins have come on the road, where Clemmensen holds an 11-5-1 record on the year.

He comes into Boston with five wins in his last five starts. But Clemmensen only has two career victories over the B's. They'll have to shoot hard, shoot quick, and shoot often to get under his skin.

2.) Gain the Early Lead

The Devils have only won five games when trailing on the scoreboard after the first period.

But they're 15-3-2 when leading after the first. And the squad hasn't lost a game in regulation when holding the lead after the second period.

The B's need to pounce on the Devils early and pot a few goals right off the bat. They can't wait too long or NJ will sucker them into playing the neutral zone trap -- a form of hockey that can cure even the heaviest cases of insomnia.

3.) Stay Out of the Box

The Bruins may have well bought a timeshare at the penalty box Tuesday night. The team made six trips to the sin bin thanks to careless hooking and high-sticking penalties.

Luckily, Washington failed to convert on any of those chances.

But New Jersey might not give the B's that luxury. Though its power play is only ranked 14th in the league, NJ has scored three goals on the man advantage in its last five games.

Fact(s) of the Game

Devils goaltender Scott Clemmensen never suited up for the Bruins, but that doesn't mean he's a stranger to Boston hockey.

Clemmensen led the Boston College Eagles to a National Championship in 2001, his fourth and final year with the team. He played 39 games with the club that season, posting an impressive 30 wins topped off with a whopping 876 saves.

Another interesting fact -- NJ defenseman Jay Leach has two connections to the Bruins.

Leach played in the AHL with the Providence B's for three seasons starting in 2004. He even got a taste of the NHL, registering no points and seven penalty minutes in two games with Boston.

Leach is also engaged to Kathryn Tappen, NESN's studio host for Boston Bruins games. The two announced their marriage plans late last year.

Kessel Cleared to Play

Joe Haggerty of WEEI reports that Phil Kessel has been cleared to play by team doctors.

The Bruins need him back as soon as possible. Their toughest stretch of the year is ahead, starting with games against the Devils, Rangers, and Habs this week.

Thomas Moves Up

With last night's win against Washington, Tim Thomas moved past Reggie Lemelin and Pete Peters to break into the top-10 on Boston's all-time goaltender wins list.

Thomas has 94 career wins with a .920 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.61. The Flint, Michigan native was drafted in 1994 by the Quebec Nordiques in the ninth round.

It only took the All-Star three-and-a-half season to reach this milestone. He wasn't ever expected to play at the NHL level, making Thomas one of the most popular "feel good" stories in the league.

But does this feat reflect poorly on the club? The fact that Thomas was able to move up in the ranks so quickly shows Boston's inability to maintain a solid goaltender since Andy Moog's departure in 1993.

To break into Boston's top five, Thomas needs to put up an average of 30 wins per season by the end of his career. He broke this barrier once in the 2006-2007 season.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Game Recap: Caps v. B's, 1/27/2009

Game #48
Boston Bruins
Washington Capitals
Final Score: Bruins 3, Capitals 2 in OT
First Period

Washington goals by M. Green, M. Nylander
Washington assists by A. Semin, A. Ovechkin, T. Fleischmann, C. Clark
Boston goal by S. Thornton, unassisted

Second Period

Boston goal by M. Savard
Boston assist by P. Bergeron

Third Period

No goals by either team


Boston goal by D. Krejci
Boston assists by D. Wideman, Z. Chara

The Good

1.) The Return of Patrice Bergeron

The B's power play looked revived with Bergeron back at the point. A diving play in the second period kept the puck in offensive zone and resulted in a power play goal for the B's.

And tonight, for the first time all season, Bergeron showed flashes of his former self. Crisp passes in the third period led to chance after chance for the home squad. Fearless, he positioned himself perfectly to restrict passing and shooting lanes for the opposition.

Though his speed wasn't top-notch, Bergy managed to keep up with the tempo of the game and comfortably transitioned into playing again.

2.) Save After Save a la Tim Thomas

All-Star Timmy Thomas stopped 34 shots, effectively stunning the offensive Washington juggernaut.

Despite letting a few juicy rebounds fly, Thomas looked unusually sound positionally. He played a relatively flopless game, relying more on his pads and trusty glove for tough saves.

Toward the end of the game, Thomas robbed the Caps with a fantastic save using the tip of his skate. He must've learned a thing or two from watching the Circus De Soleil at the All-Star game.

3.) David Krejci: Man or Mammoth?

David Krejci lugged more than 20 minutes of ice-time tonight, but it paid off. The rising star snuck the puck around the post and right into the left-corner of the goal, winning the game for the B's in overtime.

The goal bumped Krejci's season total to 18. Combine that with his 35 assists, resulting in a whopping 53 points.

The Bad

1.) Penalties, Penalties, Penalties

The Bruins booked six tips to the sin-bin tonight, including one only seven seconds into the game. Taking four hooking penalties is inexcusable. And two high-sticking calls? Unacceptable.

The boys needs to watch their sticks along the boards and especially in the corners. Energy and grit are important to the game, but not to the point where they can cost you games.

Luckily, Washington's power play failed to convert on every chance.

2.) Sparkless Milan Lucic

Lucic didn't fulfill one of The Buff's keys to the game: Dominate the physical play. Though he registered four hits, none of them stood out and none of them changed the tempo of the game.

Looch proved tonight that he's a non-factor unless he's at the top of his physical game. Bone-crunching hits leads to turnovers for the opposition and opportunities for the B's. The team turns for Lucic to fill this role.

Hopefully he just needs to shake off some rust and get used to throwing his shoulder again.

3.) Clip Hunwick's Wing

Matt Hunwick proved tonight why he belongs on this team as a defenseman, not as a forward.

The rookie looked lost on the ice. He seemed inclined to shift back to defensive positioning and forego his role as a forward. And he only saw about seven minutes of playing time.

Hunwick did finish the game even, though. Not bad enough to be considered "ugly."

The Ugly

1.) Byron Bitz v. Donald Brashear

I'll give credit to Bitz for going after one of the NHL's top heavyweights. But it wasn't hard to tell that Brashear didn't want to hurt the kid.

The bout was a grappling match if anything. Brashear threw a few jabs on Bitz's chin toward the end of the scrap and then took him down for the KO.

I don't think B's fans would be disappointed if Bitz didn't drop the gloves again this season.

Designed by: SC Web Innovations