Turn Out The Lights, The Party’s Over

by Joe Donahue on October 31, 2011

It’s time for Bruins’ General Manager Peter Chiarelli to officially put an end to the team’s glorious (and excessive) 2011 Stanley Cup celebration and the best means of accomplishing that is by trading names that were engraved on the Cup just about 30 days ago. Harsh – yes – but necessary if the Bruins harbor any hopes of repeating, or even making the playoffs, in 2012.

The Bruins are 10 games into the season – the vast majority played at TD Garden – and have a paltry three wins to show for their efforts. Let’s take a quick look at how the other Cup champions since the lockout have fared 10 games into the following season and their eventual end result.

Carolina:

Won Cup in 2006
Number of wins in first 10 games following season: 4
Did not qualify for playoffs

Anaheim:

Won Cup in 2007
Number of wins in first 10 games following season: 4
Lost in first round of playoffs

Detroit:

Won Cup in 2008
Number of wins in first 10 games following season: 7
Lost in Cup Finals

Pittsburgh:

Won Cup in 2009
Number of wins in first 10 games following season: 9
Lost in second round of playoffs

Chicago:

Won Cup in 2010
Number of wins in first 10 games following season: 5
Lost in first round of playoffs

Bruins management must take note that if teams with elite talent like Detroit and Pittsburgh can’t repeat, the chances of the Bruins doing so are almost nil. In fact, they probably best compare to the ‘06 champs Carlona Hurricanes, who were a Stanley Cup DNQ the following April.

The Bruins power player has been putrid for quite some time and any trade must cure that problem. The team needs a solid finisher, someone that can be automatically marked down for 35 goals before the season begins. Even better is a “hungry” player, one who has never won the Cup or even had a deep playoff run.

Only one team in the NHL at the moment has a record worse than the Bruins, the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus has never achieved sustained NHL success and it is time for them – along with the Bruins – to shake things up with a blockbuster trade. In fact, they even look to match up nicely for a real life trade instead of one generally reserved for fantasy hockey leagues.

Rick Nash is the exact player the Bruins need, a stud finisher who would immediately jump-start the Bruins’ slumping offense and ignite their power play. He’s been toiling in a college sports town his entire career and joining an Original Six team would be a shot of adrenaline to his hockey life. He is signed through the end of the 2015 season with annual cap hits from 7 MIL to just under 8 MIL.

Now, the tough part. Knowing full well that you must give to get, the giveback will be painful to the eyes at first. David Krejci and Tuukka Rask (and possibly draft picks if needed) are on the flight bound for Columbus, Ohio.

Yes, Krejci is your first line center at the moment but he’s a RFA at the end of this season and will be looking for a raise from his current cap hit of approximately 4 MIL per season. Tyler Seguin does indeed look like he could be ready in the very near future to assume the duties of a first line center. It’s a leap of faith but one worth taking.

Rask, also a RFA at the end of the season, will be looking for a bump in salary from his current cap hit of 1.5 MIL per season. The bottom line is that Columbus could surely use a goaltender (Mason is not cutting it) and the Bruins can only play one goalie at a time and Tim Thomas looks to be that guy for the next couple of seasons. Not to mention that Rask seems a bit too comfortable sitting at the end of the bench and opening the gate about 55 nights per season.

The Bruins can worry about their goalie of the future when that time comes and – who knows – Anton Khudobin from Providence might even be that guy.

As of today the Bruins are about 3 MIL under the salary cap so the trade is also feasible financially.

So, GM Chiarelli, are you prepared to let the band play on for the defending Cup champions or is it time to officially turn the page on the incredible 2010-11 season? Your call.

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2011 Stanley Cup Predictions

by Joe Donahue on April 12, 2011

After a prolonged absence from this space, Power Play is back and ready to tackle the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, as well as look ahead to the two teams still standing come late May and early June.

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

Vancouver over Chicago in 5.  Simple, teams in the NHL do not repeat these days as Cup champions and the Blackhawks bow out sooner rather than later. 

San Jose over Los Angeles in 5.  Usually the Sharks are bounced in the first round as favorites, but getting the Kospitar-less Kings was the ideal draw.

Detroit over Phoenix in 5.  The Coyotes were able to catch teams off-guard last spring but this year they will be a relatively out for the grizzled Red Wings squad.

Anaheim over Nashville in 7.   Toss-up, but the winner of this series will beat the Canucks in the second round.  The Ducks are a wide bodied team peaking at the right time and should outlast a game Predators squad.

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Washington over New York in 5.  The Rangers goaltending is not enough to counterbalance their lack of offensive firepower, now minus Ryan Callahan courtesy of blocking a Zdeno Chara shot.

Buffalo over Philadelphia in 7.  The Sabres have Ryan Miller.  The Flyers still haven’t replaced Ron Hextall.

Boston over Montreal in 6.  Power (with talent) over speed in the playoffs.  Unless the Habs are somehow up 2-1 going into a frenzied Bell Centre for Game 4, they don’t stand a chance.

Pittsburgh over Tampa Bay in 6.  The smoke signals indicate that Crosby will be suiting up.  He’ll probably have some obvious rust at the beginning of the series but will be hitting his stride come the elimination games.

SECOND ROUND:

Anaheim over Vancouver in 6

San Jose over Detroit in 7

Washington over Buffalo in 6

Boston over Pittsburgh in 6

CONFERENCE FINALS:

San Jose over Anaheim in 6

Boston over Washington in 7

CUP FINALS:

San Jose over Boston in 6

 

 

 

 

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2010-2011 NHL Preview & Predictions

by Joe Donahue on October 11, 2010

We apologize for the delay in posting as we were detained at Customs for five days by the kind folks at Prague Ruzyně Airport.

Okay, let’s try to determine which teams will still be skating come mid-April and from there we’ll take a stab at playoff predictions.  Teams are listed in a worst-to-first order for each conference in order finish by points and not factoring in the NHL playoff seeding format.  The italicized teams will not qualify for the playoffs.

WESTERN:

Minnesota (bring back Chris Snow)

Edmonton (two years away)

Calgary (in a steep decline)

Colorado (last year was a fluke)

Columbus (anonymous team in an anonymous pro city)

Anaheim (we reserve the right to change our mind like Pitino)

Dallas  (Jack Campbell, their #1 pick, will eventually be a stud in goal)

Phoenix (this season will not be as magical)

Nashville (quick, name four Predators; yeah, thought so)

St. Louis (the young, recent draft picks start making some noise)

Los Angeles (they should trade one of their two goalies for offense)

Chicago (Stanley Cup victory lap will make for a long season)

Detroit (the veteran team core makes one final push)

Vancouver (like the Houston Texans, the team to watch year after year)

San Jose (Tarzan in regular season and Jane in the playoffs)

EASTERN:

Florida (yes, they once did make the Stanley Cup Finals)

NY Islanders (like Edmonton, still two years away)

Carolina (the Calgary Flames of the conference)

Atlanta (Evander Kane for President)

Toronto (Looks like their #1 pick will be about 10-12 next year)

Ottawa (expect them to be in many high-scoring games– not a good thing)

NY Rangers (Gaborik, their best scorer will get injured)

New Jersey (get physical with them and they’ll cry “uncle”)

Buffalo (Tyler Myers might be the league’s best defenseman in two years)

Montreal (last year’s playoff comet won’t return in 2011)

Tampa Bay (exciting team to watch and back in the playoffs)

Philadelphia (still haven’t adequately replaced Hextall in the net)

Washington (tough division makes points not as easy this season)

Boston (most complete team on Causeway St. in decades)

Pittsburgh (team should be angry and want to make amends for Montreal loss)

PLAYOFFS:

In the Western Conference, throw out Phoenix, Nashville and St. Louis right off the bat.  Chicago will have too much of a Cup hangover to repeat.  That leaves San Jose, Vancouver, Detroit and Los Angeles.  The Sharks are confirmed choke artists so they’re gone.  Roberto Luongo will wilt in a big game (he tried giving Team USA the gold medal) so the Canucks are out.

Conference Final:  Detroit over LA in 7 games

Now, for the Eastern Conference, the home of the local entry.  Tampa Bay, Montreal, New Jersey and Buffalo are the quick outs, leaving the Northeast Corridor teams remaining.  Washington is San Jose East and Philly’s goaltending will bite them in the butt this time around.

Conference Final:  Pittsburgh over Boston in 7 games

Stanley Cup Final:  Pittsburgh over Detroit in 6 games

Enjoy the season!

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Update (4:22 PM)…  Joe Haggerty is reporting that Cam Neely will be named team President.

The buzz around Boston right now is that the Boston Bruins have called a major press conference for Wednesday afternoon and at that time it will be announced that head coach Claude Julien has been relieved of duties or that Cam Neely has been promoted to team President.

Power Play has not yet been able to confirm the true reason for the press conference and both scenarios are speculation.

Julien was named Bruins head coach before the 2007-08 season and the team has compiled a 129-67-32 regular season record under his tutelage.  He also guided the team to first round playoff victories in 2009 and 2010 before ultimately losing the seventh and deciding game in the second round both seasons.

Julien would be the second head coach hired and fired by General Manager Peter Chiarelli since being named GM prior to the 2006 regular season.

The other possibility of the press conference could be the announcement of Cam Neely being promoted within the organization.  Neely is currently listed as Vice President of the team but possibly could be named President, a title once held by the man who acquired him from the Vancouver Canucks in 1986.

Developing……..

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Squinting At The 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs

by Joe Donahue on April 14, 2010

After too many exhibition games and 82 regular season games, the mad dash to the Cup known as the NHL playoffs finally arrives this evening.  Power Play is going to take a quick look at the first round in the Eastern Conference in two different manners, one wearing black and gold Bruins glasses and the other while wearing nerdy, analytical glasses that detect the likely outcomes. 

Washington (1) vs. Montreal (8) 

Black & Gold:  Halak is hypnotized into thinking he’s Ken Dryden and the undersized Habs win in 7 games. 

Analytical:  The Capitals just have too much firepower.  Caps in 5. 

New Jersey (2) vs. Philadelphia (7) 

Black & Gold:  The disgraceful Flyers goon-up the entire Devils roster and win the series in 7 games. 

Analytical:  The Flyers, with shaky goaltending, are gassed after eking into the playoffs.  Devils in 6. 

Buffalo (3) vs. Boston (6)

 Black & Gold:  The Bruins sweep and Steve Montador gets pummeled by Daniel Paille and Matt Hunwick. 

Analytical:  Goals are at a premium with Miller and Rask.  Long series.  Bruins in 7. 

Pittsburgh (4) vs. Ottawa (5) 

Black & Gold:  Matt Cooke receives Evander Kane-like beatings in each game and the Senators win the series. 

Analytical:  Losing Kovalev took away Ottawa’s already slim chances.  Penguins in 5.

Looking at the Western Conference with the nerd glasses only: 

San Jose (1) vs. Colorado (8) 

The Avs peaked early and Joe Thornton & Co. won’t be exiting early this year.  Sharks in 5. 

Chicago (2) vs. Nashville (7) 

The Predators don’t have the offensive arsenal to stay with Chicago.  Hawks in 5. 

Vancouver (3) vs. LA Kings (6)

 Will be the best series of the entire first round with home ice being the difference in the end.  Canucks in 7.

 Phoenix (4) vs. Detroit (5)

 The defending conference champs turned it up a notch at the end.  Clock strikes midnight in Phoenix.  Red Wings in 6. 

Stanley Cup Finals Prediction: 

Chicago over Washington

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The True Spirit of Hockey

by Joe Donahue on March 18, 2010

For 364 days a year, Detroit, MI is known as Hockeytown, USA.  However, for one day each year that moniker travels approximately 700 miles eastward to Temple Street in West Roxbury, a well-kept, tree-lined street nestled right in the heart of one of Boston’s neighborhoods.  On this day, generations come together and celebrate the game of hockey with one of Boston’s newest and fastest growing traditions known as the Shamrock Shootout, held on March 17, naturally. 

The event started in 2008 after three friends and neighbors, Mike O’Brien, Dave Tracey and Marc Sanders, all products of the Bobby Orr mania of the ‘70s, lamented the fact that children these days were rarely seen playing street hockey, a far cry from your average day in 1974 when kids would leave their home at 9:00 AM with their Mylec street hockey stick and orange ball and not return home until dinner at 6:00 PM.  The next day would be the same, nothing but street hockey with your friends, sometimes playing other neighborhoods and the biggest worry usually being a ball falling into a catch basin. 

However, due to a variety of reasons, street hockey seemed to disappear from the streets of Boston over the past couple of decades and the three friends, not wanting their children to miss out on the game of their own youth, decided to take matters into their own hands by creating an annual street hockey tournament for local children, thus the birth of the Shamrock Shootout

Straight as an arrow and with nary a slope, Temple St. is the ideal street hockey “rink.”  The first year of the shootout, 2008, had a modest turnout but fun was had by all and doing it again in 2009 was a no-brainer for the friends and the buzz from the inaugural tournament pushed the number of players in ’09 to approximately 200.  Word of this new event spread like wildfire, even generating media coverage, and the three friends knew that the 2010 Shamrock Shootout was going to be the largest to-date but would also produce logistical nightmares in planning.  They figured the only ones capable of creating a four-game schedule for each of the 24 teams, almost all of them playing simultaneously on 11 makeshift rinks, would be their most trusted confidants—their wives.  Oh, not to mention acquiring street closing permits and organizing donations for enough food, drinks and snacks to keep the 1,000 or so grandparents, parents and children in attendance satisfied for the day.  Along with 80 other volunteers and numerous contributors, the three couples put everything together without any hitches and a great time was had by all. 

Hanging high above the day’s festivities was the white # 3 jersey of seriously injured Norwood High School hockey player Matt Brown.  Knowing that the Shamrock Shootout community would not hesitate to reach out to a fallen hockey player less than 10 miles away, co-founder O’Brien’s brother, Richie, suggested that something be done to honor and help Matt Brown with his recovery from his recent injury.  The Norwood High community was appreciative of the gesture and arranged for Matt Brown’s game jersey to get to West Roxbury to “oversee” the event.  Auction items were donated, merchandise sold and donations accepted and as the day drew to a close, co-founder O’Brien felt confident that the total raised for Matt Brown and his recovery would surpass $2,000. 

The Shamrock Shootout asks that all readers of this article take a minute to say a prayer for Matt Brown’s recovery, with the ultimate hope that one day he walks to center ice of the middle rink and drops the ceremonial first “puck” at a future Shamrock Shootout.

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Bruins 10 Point Plan

by Joe Donahue on January 26, 2010

Catch your breath now, Bruins fans, because your team has a few days off to regroup before beginning a 9 games in 16 days sprint before the Olympics that will likely determine the team’s fortunes and front office game plan going forward. 

As of this morning, the Bruins are tied for 9th place and first in line for the golf courses come mid-April.  To make matters worse, the Islanders, Panthers, Thrashers and Lightning are directly behind the Bruins and within striking distance.  That’s the bad news.  

As for the positive spin, they’re only one point out of sixth place and six points behind the suspect, at least to these eyes, Senators for fifth place.  Yes, the Bruins have been ravaged by injuries and the team, fans and media have been using the Make it to the Olympics break as some sort of crutch or excuse.  Well, it’s time to put up or shut up with the upcoming whirlwind of 9 games beginning Friday night in Buffalo and concluding February 13 in Florida.  Let’s take a look at the schedule as it does present some challenges. 

1/29 @ Buffalo

1/30 LA Kings

2/2  Washington

2/4  Montreal

2/6  Vancouver

2/7 @ Montreal

2/9 @ Buffalo

2/11 @ Tampa Bay

2/13 @ Florida 

At stake:  a maximum of 18 points in the standings.  Of course they’re not going to run the table, but the team should set a goal of at least acquiring 10 points during this time frame.  Ten points would probably let them keep their spot in the standings and let them return healthy for the final six weeks of the regular season.  Anything greater than 10 points would be gravy. 

When you get right down to it,  it probably doesn’t matter what order you get them, but the Bruins need victories in five of the games.  Logically, winning three out of four at home, splitting the games at Buffalo and winning one of the last two games in Florida would be the most realistic path.  However, the team and fans will take them in any way, shape or form. 

Conversely, securing 8 or 9 points would let them perilously tread water and anything less than 8 points would probably serve as a death sentence on the season and make the front office become sellers, rather than buyers, at the March 3 trading deadline.

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Remain Calm, Bruins’ Fans

by Joe Donahue on January 11, 2010

Step away from the Panic Button, Bruins’ fans.  The Bruins will definitely make the playoffs this season.

Yes, the Bruins, with 51 points, are in fifth place in the East as of this morning and on paper are only four points from being on the outside looking in, but let’s take a look at the big picture. 

The teams trailing the Bruins are the Rangers (50 pts), Senators (48 pts), Canadiens (48 pts), Flyers (47 pts) and Islanders (46 pts).  The only teams that should concern Bruins’ fans are the Rangers and Flyers.  Yes, they possibly could leap-frog the Bruins in the standings, putting the locals in seventh place but the object of the game is to still be playing come mid-April.   Ottawa, Montreal and the NY Islanders are still worse than Boston and will slug it out for the eighth and final playoff spot.  Best of all, this is probably the worst case scenario for Boston.  Let’s take a look at the more probable future for the locals. 

Hockey is a violent game and every team is eventually beset by injuries.  Some years they are minimal while other years they are never-ending and sometimes fatal to a team’s postseason chances.  This season the Hockey Gods have been unkind to the Bruins when it comes to doling out inuries. 

David Krejci came into the year still recovering from surgery and has yet to return to form.  The same holds true for Marco Sturm.  Chances are that both these players eventually return to form before the regular season ends and will be primed for the playoffs. 

Then there has been the relentless spate of in-season injuries.  Their best playmaker, Marc Savard, has been limited to 28 games played and will be out of action, in reality, until after the Winter Olympics.  Patrice Bergeron, their best player all season long, is now on the mend for approximately three more weeks.  Milan Lucic, the heart and soul of the forwards, has been limited to 12 games but is now back in action.  All this, yet the Bruins are still in fifth place in their conference. 

It is imperative that the Bruins just tread water between now and the end of the Vancouver Olympics.  Even if they slide a few points and playoffs spots, that’s fine, as long as their big guns are ready to hit the ice healthy come the beginning of March and begin the team’s final regular season push and having some momentum and confidence for the playoffs.

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Wanted: Sniper In Boston

by Joe Donahue on December 23, 2009

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has been busy extending the contracts of forwards this year—David Krejci, Milan Lucic and now Marc Savard are all locked up for the foreseeable future.  Krejci and Lucic were essentially no-brainers, younger, two-way players who should only get better over the next few seasons.  As for Savard, let’s take a closer look. 

Savard will be 32 at the start of next season, which means he’s probably at the tail end of his prime.  The Bruins have invested roughly 29 million in him over the next 7 years with a good chunk of the contract front- loaded, a wise move by Chiarelli and an indication that Savard was willing to work with the team for a cap-friendly contract.  Savard, once considered “soft,” has become a dependable two-way player for the Bruins but, bottom line, is that the Bruins are counting for him production, mostly in terms of assists.  Therein lies the dilemma—they’re handsomely paying a premier set-up man without a sniper riding shotgun on either wing.  

Think about it:  Adam Oates had Brett Hull and later Cam Neely; Bryan Trottier had Mike Bossy.  Centers with the skills of Savard need a winger that can bury a one-timer in their sleep and guys like Marco Sturm and Blake wheeler aren’t that guy.  The only player on the Bruins’ roster remotely resembling that player is Michael Ryder and, for some reason, he and Savard just failed to click last season and Julien doesn’t seem to think it will anytime soon. 

It’s up to Chiarelli to find Savard a running mate that will help define Savard’s long-term identity in Boston and hopefully end the team’s Stanley Cup drought.  Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers is rumored to be on the trading block, not to mention being an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.  He’s familiar with Savard from years past and would seem to be a perfect fit for the Bruins.  Granted, such an acquisition would require salary cap maneuvering by Chiarelli but that’s why he has a Harvard degree and sits in the GM office. 

Look back to the Islanders from 28 or so years ago.   Clark Gillies did the dirty work and cleared space on the ice.  Bryan Trottier was the marvelous center iceman.  Mike Bossy was lethal when passed the puck.

Lucic, Savard & Kovalchuk have the potential to be a similar trio for the Bruins.

Mr. Chiarelli?

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Very Early Thoughts On The Bruins

by Joe Donahue on October 5, 2009

bobby_carpenter-si_cover_2-23-81Okay, with the Bruins regular season 2.44% over, it’s time for Power Play to make some knee-jerk observations as what’s happened so far and take a quick peek at the week ahead.

The Good

Steve Begin: Nasty, in-your-face player. Appears to be an upgrade over Stehane Yelle on the fourth line and is a +3 on the season. Some teams in the league won’t be thrilled about facing the physical presence of Begin, Thornton & Bitz for 11 or so minutes a night.

Marc Savard: Never any questions as to his offense. His pass to Marco Sturm for a goal on Saturday was the epitome of threading a needle. Dropping the gloves and defending Sturm was even more impressive.

Marco Sturm: Rusty in the opener but was superb against Carolina. His pass to Hunwick for a goal was Savard-esque. Kessel’s goal will be replaced, folks.

The Bad

Mark Recchi: Admittedly, probably nit-picking here but he only has two shots on goal and is -2 on the season.

The Fans: Okay, just the ones booing Aaron Ward on Saturday night. He brought nothing but honor to the Bruins uniform. Sober up, or at least grow up.

The Ugly

Jay Harrison’s Face: “We’ve got a bleeder.”

Head-manning The Week:

The team catches a few days off before meeting up with Anaheim on Thursday night. The Ducks are an extremely physical squad and the Bull Gang better give an extra turn to the nuts, bolts and screw holding the boards together.

Saturday night brings the Islanders and highly touted prospect John Tavares into the Garden. He’s said to be a “can’t miss” player and, based on limited observations here, that would be tough to argue. Then again, the same was said about Bobby Carpenter on the cover of Sports Illustrated in the early 80’s.

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