Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Recap: Ye Olde Flyers-Bruins Parlay

(Warning: This post got away from us. We have a lot of thoughts about our favorite hockey teams, and this is quite a long read. It’s a review of the games last night, and sort of a glimpse into the Bruins and Flyers for those of you who don’t follow religiously.)

There is a three-step recipe for turning a lame Tuesday night in February into a somewhat enjoyable Tuesday night in February:
  1. Hockey
  2. Gambling
  3. Beers 
Simple, right? And when you can share that experience with a friend, it's even better. Last night, the Bruins hosted the Maple Leafs and the Flyers hosted the Canadiens. So we parlayed the B's and Fly's, threw up our middle fingers to Canada, and Ye Olde Flyers-Bruins Parlay was born.

A few things to note before getting to the games:

Loui v. Broons

There have been a bunch of rumors popping up over the past few weeks about negotiations between Loui Eriksson and the Bruins. This is going to be a tough one. It was reported that Loui is looking for a deal in the neighborhood of 6 years/$36M. When Don Sweeney heard those numbers, he probably sat back in his big leather chair, rubbed his hands together and said “Let the games begin” (he for sure did not do this).

The Bruins reportedly offered Loui a deal before Christmas but were rejected, as Loui’s camp believed the AAV and length to be unsatisfactory. The report also stated that the Bruins offered this contract as a gesture to get the ball rolling. As the saying goes, you can’t just dive headfirst into home, you gotta wine and dine.

Sweeney basically went on NESN a few weeks back and said that he isn’t interested in overpaying for players that aren’t consistent. He added that if he doesn’t believe the Bruins will resign a player in the offseason, he will look to move him (see Soderberg, Carl). Seeing as Loui has underperformed in his last three seasons, there is no way Sweeney gives him what he’s looking for. Personally, I’d be more comfortable with 4-5 years/$5M. But at 30, Loui is at the age where he is looking for security in the form of a lengthy deal.

The Bruins don’t have much leverage here. This would be a much easier decision if:

  1. Brett Connolly was panning out as planned. But….he’s shit. I can’t stand watching him skate on the first line anymore, but that’s for another rant. Or
  2. There was a decent market to move Loui. But…there’s not. There was a report that the Wild are interested in acquiring Lou-E’s talents, but they don’t seem to be the right fit in terms of a trade partner.

The Bruins only have two Top-6 wingers on their roster (Brad Marchand and Loui). With Pastrnak’s development hindered by injuries so far this year, the Bruins are in desperate need of resigning Loui.

Flyer Free Agents

The Flyers don’t have any contracts expiring this summer that are quite as vital as Loui Eriksson. The only unrestricted-free-agent-to-be is Michael Raffl, who might fetch about half of Loui’s desired money. He’s a useful possession winger with enough size and offensive talent to contribute anywhere in the team’s top nine. He also seems to be a great locker room guy, and from my point of view I think he’s a great presence. That said, I really don’t want to overpay him.

The most I think about it, the more similarities I see between Raffl’s situation and Eriksson’s. Of course both teams would like to keep their European wingers around, but there is probably someone in the league who will overpay. The Bruins might have to overpay because they’re looking to compete now. The Flyers have the luxury of not being forced into paying Raffl - might they even move him before the end of the month?

Smaller pieces like Ryan White, Jordan Weal, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning, and Nick Cousins all figure to be re-signed at decent-value contracts. Sam Gagner is unrestricted and will probably walk this summer if he’s not shipped out before then. There isn’t a whole lot of noise to be made about this group.

There is, however, the curious case of Brayden Schenn. He’s obviously due a raise on his $2.5 million, and he’s playing like the kind of top-six winger that would deserve almost double that much. I would hope he sees his place here for the better part of the next decade - right next to Sean Couturier - and takes a hometown discount. And if an offer sheet from another team comes into the equation, the salary will result in that team sending a first- and third-round draft pick back as compensation.

Pasta Night
David Pastrnak was in the Boston lineup last night after spending the All-Star break in Providence (3GP/1G/3A). Pastrnak is looking to forget a first half of the season that was plagued by a fractured foot that cost him two months of ice time.

To be honest, I was less than thrilled to see him playing in Helsinki with the Czechs. But since his return to the Bs, he’s scored three goals and two assists in eight games. We know the kid has it in him - 37 points (10G/17A) last season in 46 games at 18 years old is no joke. He just has to stay healthy (and crash the net when he’s not scoring- see CBJ game).

Party In The Streets! Umberger's Out!

After one full, complete, 365-day calendar year of not scoring a goal - including half a dozen blown high-danger scoring chances over the past two weeks - Flyers coach Dave Hakstol finally decided to bench RJ Umberger.

Hak inserted Sam Gagner on the Sean Couturier line with Brayden Schenn, bumping Michael Raffl down to Umberger's usual spot with Scott Laughton and Matt Read. We'll talk more about the line combinations - and options going forward - later, but seeing Umberger's name in the Healthy Scratch box is always going to make me happy.

Now, to the actual on-ice action:

First Period in Boston

After a week off for the squads (aside from Bergy), the Bs came out flat early. The first three minutes were spent in the defensive zone, no thanks to Patrice’s absence during the first shift due to a lost tooth (not confirmed, but he took a puck to the face and immediately went down the tunnel)...he was back for his next shift.

The fourth line helped turn things around during their first call with some serious forechecking by Talbot and Rinaldo. I think it has to be said that Rinaldo has been a pretty solid fourth liner for the Bruins this year. And by said, I mean I whispered that so nobody heard me. I hate to admit it, but the guy hasn’t done too much to live up to the Bertuzzi-esque reputation. He’s done what successful Bruins’ fourth-liners have done in the past: play as hard as possible in the few minutes you get.

Anyways, we can just forget I said any of that and move on. Boston’s been able to prove the doubters wrong by staying in the top spot in Power Play efficiency for most of the season (25.9%), and they now sit second in the league, behind only the Washington Capitals (26.8%). Not terrible company. It didn’t take long to see the power play and they looked good in their first chance, moving the puck well and getting a few chances. This momentum led to a goal soon after their man-advantage expired.

It seems like Jimmy Hayes listened to the Bruins faithful that have been yelling “SHOOT!” at their TV screens every game. I get that Hayes’ game is to be a big body, screen and collect goals from in front. But he’s a big body, aka he can shoot the puck hard. We’ve seen him start to shoot from higher up in the slot, and even score a few. Tonight, on a furious-looking three-man-rush, Jimmy threw a shot on goal that rebounded perfectly to Brad Marchand. Marchand was in the perfect spot to score his 21st of the season, and he has scored at least 20 goals in all five of his full-length seasons since joining the League in 2010. Not bad for a dirtbag.

Boston controlled the pace for the majority of the first period, with the Bs missing a few juicy chances. One of which came on the power play on an ingenious (shout out Evan Turner) feed from Spooner to Bergy in the high slot. Patrice wasn’t able to settle the puck but was all alone.

That being said, Spooner is that dude. He had five SOG and created a ton of scoring chances for his line and the power play. Claude needs to stop trying to be Rainman and leave Spooner as the third-line centerman. He has been unreal this year and is one of the main reasons the Bruins found themselves in a playoff spot come the halfway point. Spooner has 36 points (10G/26A) in 49 games and leads the team in assists after recently passing the perennial assist leader, Bergeron. The thought of him developing into a Top-2 center while the Bs have Bergy and Krejci is erection-inducing. Spooner has been by far the most fun player to watch this season because of his creativity whenever he enters the offensive zone. The guy puts on a show and can make even some of the older guys in the league look like they have two left skates.

First Period in Philly

An All-Star first line center returning from Nashville, an aggressive fourth line that doesn’t get as much love as they should, and powerplay success resulting in a lead after the first period? It’s like the TVs were mirroring each other.

But while the Bruins’ early goal came from a smart play on the rush, both Flyers’ goals were products of Jake Voracek quarterbacking the powerplay unit. He fed two beautiful passes to Brayden Schenn, who dished one off to Wayne Simmonds and potted the other for himself. The powerplay has had its struggles - which can be equal parts surprising and frustrating to watch - but the boys in orange made it look like child’s play last night.

And then, in typical Flyers fashion, they allowed the Habs to climb back with a powerplay goal with under two minutes remaining in the first. Given how this season is going, I’ll never complain about a lead after the first. But it would be so refreshing to see them play a complete period just one time.

Something else that needs to be mentioned is the Wells Fargo’s constant, incessant, ridiculous booing of PK Subban. It’s not just when he dives or interferes or scores - it’s all the goddamn time. I am under the impression that it dates back to the Mike Richards era, but at this point it just makes us all look like assholes. My unofficial “Boo This Man” list is pretty short: Crosby, Kane. On a game-by-game basis, obviously we can boo other people too. But I don’t understand how this city can have that level of hatred for one of the most likable guys in the league.

Second Period in Boston

Toronto equalized midway in the second when Tuukka Rask had a puck take a rough bounce off a screen. It fell right on the stick of a guy who has scored two goals in 31 games and I don’t really want to talk about it. The Bruins didn’t seem to control the pace as much in the second and it only felt like the third line was bringing any intensity. If there has been one major character flaw in this year’s Bruins, it’s been a lack of consistency, and it was evident during the second period last night. Let's just skip that and move right on to the third.

Second Period in Philly

We were in good shape in both game after the first periods. The second periods kind of cratered. Within about fifteen minutes, Daniel Winnick equalized for Toronto and Jeff Perty equalized for Montreal. I started to question the unit cost of a Heineken and wonder if it was still in my budget.

I’ll follow Alex’s lead here and say let’s just skip right to the third periods.

The Song Remains the Same

My oh my, what a goal to start the third. After some serious forecheck board-work by Pasta in the corner, Krejci wizardly slap-passed to Marchand, who was waiting weak-side to put away his second of the game.
On the rush following the faceoff, Torey Krug rung one off the post which led to a scrum in front and resulted in a goal for Krejci. This was all set up by forechecking and net presence. On Krejci’s goal, both Krejci and Loui were crashing the net, causing mass chaos among the Leafs’ d-men and Bernier not being able to cover. This is what we want. This is what we need.

Wayne Simmonds scored his second of the night off yet another beautiful pass from Voracek, but the big story of the third period in Philly was the referees. Following a Subban cross-check to the back of Simmonds, Jake got in PK’s face.
Naturally, because this is Philadelphia, Subban’s initial hit was unpunished and Voracek was penalized for roughing. Jake, your thoughts?
And then, if you can believe it, things got worse. Radko Gudas was called for a phantom Clipping penalty with about seven minutes left in the game. I would include another GIF to keep this visually stimulating blog going, but I can’t because there was nothing that warranted a penalty. Lucas Lessio dumped the puck into the zone from center ice, took a hit from Gudas, and stayed down on the ice. He wasn’t concussed, or dead, or bleeding, but getting hit by Radko Gudas hurts. And then like a minute later, the whistle blew, Gudas was ejected, and the Habs were awarded a 5-minute power play to try to tie the game.
I don’t quite know how to describe what happened next. I’m assuming the whole team blacked out, because the Flyers’ usually questionable penalty kill held strong for the entire five minutes. Nobody was trapped on the ice for an unreasonable amount of time, the passing and shooting lanes were appropriately covered, and Team Dad Matt Read sniped the empty net in the final minute to put the nail in the coffin.

The Flyers win and leapfrog the Habs, and are sitting pretty in 5th place in the Wild Card. Last I checked, the Bruins were up by a pair of goals in the third. Let’s get this money so I can do some late-night Amazon-dot-com-ing.

Let me just flip my GameCenter Live back on to check on that other game....

But wait! Guess what! The Bruins blew a third period, multi-goal lead. The defense had more than a few brutal sequences, including the minute leading up to Komarov’s 17th goal of the season. Rask was hung out to dry more than a few times and the Bruins continued to let him down as Kadri scored the game tying goal soon after. All three of the Leafs’ goals came on screened shots from the blue line. You just hate to see that. You also hate to see literally anything good happen to Nazem Kadri.

So, overtime. We can live with that. The Bruins were a reasonable 4-5 in games decided after regulation, and everyone knows that the Maple Leafs are trying to tank their way to the top of the draft board. We’re good. No worries. Except the Leafs unveiled their new logo tonight and it is admittedly awesome. Maybe this gave them a boost (prob not but I’m running out of excuses for this Bruins team).
Overtime is normally called “free hockey”- this game was anything but. And after a nonsense holding penalty called on David Krejci, the Leafs converted on the man advantage and won the game. And we lost.
With both Detroit and Tampa idle, the Bruins had a chance to jump into 2nd in the Atlantic with two points. But the Bruins are the Bruins and the one point OTL leaves them tied with Detroit and Tampa at 58 points. The Lightning host the Wings Wednesday night.

A Few Quick Bruins Notes

Torey Krug is electric on the power play. This has been evident all season, and last, but you just can’t take your eyes of Krug when the Bs are a man up. While Torey isn’t a top 4 defenseman at even strength, his skillset absolutely shines on the man advantage. A few heavy slappers led to some real scoring chances during this game and I’m looking for the Bruins to remain towards the top of the PP% rankings for the rest of the season.

After spending the past few weeks of Colin Miller being a healthy scratch, we saw Claude Julien scratch Joe Morrow and insert C. Miller into the second D pairing. Be careful what you wish for.

Colin looked uncomfortable handling the puck along the blue-line and cost the Bruins a few offensive possessions. I’m guessing this was just a case of rust, because in his limited time this season, Miller has definitely showed that he should stay in that second pairing. Also, Kevan Miller didn’t look horrible. I know, it’s like bizzaro world where K. and C. Miller just swapped abilities. K. Miller made some plays on both ends of the ice tonight and that’s all you can really ask from a guy who spells Kevan with an “a” (and does things like this).

The Bruins look to escape their home-ice struggles as they travel to Buffalo to face Eichel and the Sabres on Thursday, and the Flyers will travel to Nashville to face the Predators. We'll see you on Friday morning, and hopefully we’ll be less poor than we are today.

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