Category Archives: Bruins

Bruins sign Johnny Boychuk to 3 year extension

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli got a head start on what is still likely to be a very busy off season in Beantown this summer, signing defenseman Johnny Boychuk to a 3-year contract extension that will carry a cap hit of $3.36 million. That still leaves Chiarelli with a sizable list of free agents, both unrestricted and restricted, to address before the 2012-2013 season, but it’s nice to see him being proactive and taking care of something that was clearly at the top of his to-do list early. After this season Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, and Joe Corvo will all be unrestricted free agents while Benoit Pouliot and Tuukka Rask will become restricted free agents.

Clearly there is still some work to be done, with Tuukka Rask probably sticking out as the most important guy on that list, but for now let’s focus on the Boychuk deal.

At first blush, I’m sure a lot of the reaction to the amount of money Boychuk got in this deal will be that of shock considering he got a pretty decent raise from his current $1.85 million dollar a year contract. Also, when you look at his offensive numbers since he’s become a mainstay in the Boston lineup 2009, it certainly doesn’t help make his case for such a hefty pay raise, as he had 5 goals and 10 assists in his initial year here, followed by a season of 3 goals and 13 assists. To this point in the season he has only managed to tally 3 goals and 7 assists. Certainly not lofty numbers. However I think it’s important to look at the entire makeup of a player, and especially a defenseman, before making a final judgement on whether he is worth the money he makes.

In the case of Boychuk, there are a few things about his game and what he has done in Boston that warrant the kind of contract he received, which is a fairly standard contract for a top-4 defensemen in the NHL these days. First, he is a guy that really fits in well in a top-4 role and is someone who can really eat minutes on the back-end. For the B’s, Boychuk actually slots in on the first pairing playing alongside Zdeno Chara and so far this season has averaged just over 20 minutes a night. Granted he’s numb three on the depth chart as I’d say Dennis Seidenberg is probably the number 2, Boychuk is still an extremely important part of the Bruins d-corps.

On top of his ability to log important minutes, he has also proven that he is by no means a liability defensively, as he’s been a plus player in each of his three years with Boston, and as of right now is a +23 which is good for 5th best among all NHL defensemen. I’ve really been a fan of his game since he’s been in Boston. He’s been a very steady presence on the back-end. He’s  an above average shot blocker, which is you look at a team like the New York Rangers, has become a pretty invaluable part of the game lately. He’s also someone who loves to bring a physical edge to the ice and has shown an ability for throwing those big, game changing types of hits.

And to be honest, I really believe there is a lot more offensive potential in his game despite the modest numbers he’s put up in three years with the Bruins. This is a guy who, in 2008-2009, won the award for best defenseman in the AHL playing with the Providence Bruins after posting an incredible season of 20 goals and 45 assists for 65 points. I also think he turned a bit of  a corner with his play during last year’s playoff run as he scored 3 goals and 9 assists during the B’s run to the Cup. Despite his slow offensive season thus far, I feel he certainly has the ability to become the kind of defensemen who can give you a solid defensive game, play some big minutes and score somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 goals. He has an absolute cannon of a slap shot and likes to jump into the play offensively when the opportunity presents itself. He also gets time on the power play, mainly because of his shot. A guy like that though is valuable in today’s explosive and offense-heavy NHL.

I think the main reason for Boychuk’s raise though, lies in his formerly impending status as an unrestricted free agent. He’s a guy who, at 28 years of age, still sits firmly in his prime. It was likely that had Chiarelli waited and allowed Boychuk to hit the open market he could have garnered offers north of the $4 million range. A comparable guy is the Hurricanes Tim Gleason, who plays a similar physical, stay at home type of game and probably is more limited offensively then Boychuk while being a bit more solid defensively. Gleason is currently in the middle of a contract that pays him just over $4 million a year. Also, you can look at guys like Tomas Kaberle ($4.25 mill) and James Wisniewski ($5.5 mill) to know that with Johnny B at $3.3 million for the next three years, the Bruins locked up a known commodity, someone who has entrenched himself into the Bruins top-4 and who has developed some really good chemistry with big Z, for a pretty reasonable price.

I for one am glad that Boychuk will be sticking around. Hopefully we can see a lot more of this over the course of the next three years:

 

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Super Bowl XLVI: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly… from the Pats Perspective

I finally feel as though enough time has gone by where I can actually talk about the Super Bowl. Obviously, from a Pats fans perspective, the result is absolutely sickening. However, there were some bright spots.

The Good

There was a lot to like as a Pats fan in that game. First of all, the defense was awesome. That’s saying a lot for this year’s team. Among the brights spots was a healthy Pat Chung. It was good to see him flying around and sticking people all game long. His hit on Hakeem Nicks on the sideline was unreal. I didn’t think Nicks was getting back up. A healthy Chung would have meant a lot to the Pats throughout the year. Hopefully, he can keep himself healthy going into next year after two injury plagued years. His style of play is quite similar to that of Bob Sanders, a guy who when healthy can be a game changer. However, you have to wonder if his uber-physical style of play is going to have him dinged up and out of the lineup on a regular basis. Mark Anderson also looked pretty decent as he was able to get some consistent pressure on Manning. I don’t know what his contract status is, but I would like to see him back to play a situational 3rd down pass rushing roll next year. Shaun Ellis also made a guest appearance at the Super Bowl. I had forgotten that he was even on the team. He was the anchor that helped that D-Line control the run for a better part of the game. I thought that Sterling Moore played a good game as well. It will be interesting to see what role he will play next year with Arrington and McCourty healthy and the possibility of a Bodden return. The best part of the D for me was Brandon Spikes. He was an absolute animal. He was everywhere and he was laying the lumber. Much like Chung, I think a healthy Spikes in the line up on a regular basis makes this a whole different defense. It allows Belichick to do a lot more with Mayo and it helps our run D tremendously. Offensively, I thought the O-Line played really well. Brady had a great game too. The Giants had no answer whatsoever for the hurry up offense and I felt that we really should have kept our foot on the gas pedal and stayed aggressive rather than go conservative as a means to protect the lead.

The Bad

Gronkowski, where were you bud? I don’t want to hear anything about him not being 100%.  It just didn’t seem like Brady was looking for him. The ankle looked fine, especially on the backpedaling reach up catch he made. He also looked rather limber on the dance floor at the post game party He also was smart enough to get up field behind Blackburn in what turned in to the worst play of the game when Brady drastically underthrew him. Also in amongst the bad was the complete absence of Vince Wilfork after one of the best games of his career in the AFC Championship game against Baltimore. The only time I heard his name mentioned was when the commentators talked about how the Giants O-Line was completely handling him. Big Love was also a complete non-factor. When Gerard Warren is playing the best out of all your D-Line, you got issues. There were a couple of bad penalties as well. The 12 men call on the Sterling Moore force fumble was a killer and lost in all the Welker talk was the fact that Ninkovich’s offside penalty gave the Giants a second chance after the D stopped the Giants on third down. That was unfortunate because I thought that Ninkovich was finally getting it and the Vrabel comparisons were finally coming to fruition.

The Ugly

For me, now that the audio has been released is the fact that the Giants did exactly what Belichick wanted and it killed us. He was imploring his D to let Manning to Manningham, which Eli did to kill us. Coaching killed us in this game. Belichick’s decision to let Manningham beat us was a bad one. He made the unbelievable catch, but there were a few other occasions where he was wide open and Eli kept going to him and BB failed to adjust. Bill O’Brien, gone by choice, should have been fired if he was staying on. Why he went away from the no huddle when the Giants admittedly had no answer for it is beyond me. The two penalties mentioned before, the 12 man and the Ninkovich offsides were beyond ugly. The mental toughness and intelligence that are usually the hallmark of Belichick defenses, especially in big games, were replaced by serious mental lapses. Finally, on to the most ugly was the Welker drop. We can’t blame Welker for the game because there were a number of other things that just didn’t go our way. How do you force three fumbles and not recover one? How does Sterling Moore let Manningham behind him and how does Chung not get over fast enough to help out? It was tough to watch Eli Manning do his best Tom Brady impression at the end of the game. It pains me to say it, but Eli is a great quarterback. Not great in the sense that he is going to put up ridiculously gaudy numbers, but Derek Jeter great. Eli is the new Derek Jeter. He’s not elite, he’s not flashy, but he’s just so damn good and he does everything right. He does what he needs to beat you, again and again. Disagree if you want, but the throw to Manningham was absolutely perfect. Manningham made a great play, but you have to admire the throw. He floated it over two defenders, hit Manningham in stride, and basically dropped it right into his outstretched hands. I just puked in my mouth.

The Future

I think that the future is bright for the Pats. I think that the defense really matured in the playoffs. I think that if we can stay healthy our defense will make a meteoric rise. I think that it is imperative that the Pats use one of those 1st round picks on a stud D-End. Carter is old and coming off of injuries. Ellis was a complete non-factor all year long. Mark Anderson is best suited a pass rush specialist. We need a big guy that can not only hold the edge on running downs, but also a guy that can create a pass rush on his own. We have relied on our sole pash frush from our outside linebackers for too long. We need a Ty Warren type to come back in and give us an edge presence. I also think that we need to use the other pick on a stud receiver. Alshon Jeffrey out of South Carolina and Michael Floyed out of Notre Dame are to physical freaks that would wreak havoc on the outside. I have seen a few mock drafts that have the Pats taking one of the two on a few websites. I think we need that outside threat to help open the middle up and take the focus off of our tight ends. I think having an outside threat will also allow Welker to operate in the spaces underneath where he is most effective like when Moss was in town. I truly hope that BB won’t trade out and will use some of that cap space to A. Sign Welker and B. Bring in some elite, NFL ready talent with the two #1 picks. Our rookie free agent projects have worked out in the past, after a couple of years in our system,  but bringing in big program elite talents will help right away (see Chung, Spikes, Mayo, McCourty). All of the picks in the lower rounds can be used to add depth. While the loss was crushing, I think we’ll be back. I think Brady still has some good years left in him and we still have the best coach in the world. From what I understand, most of the team’s core will be back. The O-Line is still all under contract and Koppen will be back to anchor that unit. Adding a studdly outside receiver to our core and resigning Welker will give Brady even more fire power. Ridley looked good and Vereen will be healthy next year giving us a lot of matchup options out of the backfield. Defensively, health is the biggest issue. I think we need to use a majority of our picks on defensive depth especially in the linbacker corps in defensive backfield. We need help at safety big time. I can’t take another year of James Ihedigbo getting burnt and getting hurt every single game.  As bad as the Super Bowl loss felt, I can’t help but be optimistic about the good things to come in Foxboro. We have come to a level of expectation that we will be in it to win it every year. It didn’t happen in 2012, but next year is another year and it will be business as usual. For now, let’s go B’s and C’s and spring training is a couple of weeks away.     -Satch

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I feel like puking.

Yup. That’s about it.

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Team Chara tops Team Alfredson one more time

Same captains, different teams, same result. Last night at the TD Garden, the Bruins kicked off the unofficial second half of the NHL season welcoming in division rival Ottawa for the two teams’ first game post-all star break. The two All Star game captains squared off once again, and much like Sunday, Chara and his squad got the better of Alfredson’s team, riding a late three goal rally to take a 4-3 victory over the Sens.

For a game stuck right in the middle of the regular season, it held a lot more importance than some might think. The last couple weeks for the Bruins leading up to the all-star break were a real mixed bag of performances and results, with the recurring theme being inconsistency. The Senators, who are probably the biggest surprise in the league in terms of what they’ve done and where they sit in the standings to this point (6th in the Eastern Conference), and at one point just prior to the break had gotten to within just one point of the division leading Boston Bruins. Coming into last night, the Senators sat just 4 points back in the standings, so the result of last nights game would make a pretty big impact on the division lead one way or another.

WIth the win, the Bruins stretched their divisional lead to 6 points over Ottawa and kept pace with the 1st place New York Rangers, who have just one more point than the B’s. It was just a little bit alarming to see inconsistency once again plague Boston during last night’s game as they basically disappeared during almost the entire 2nd period while the Senators built a 3-1 lead and outshot the B’s 20-5. Thankfully the Bruins displayed why they’ve been the best 3rd period team in the league all year-long though, and were able to mount a comeback and escape with the win.

Like I’ve done for games in the past, I will go through some of my thoughts and observations from last night, in random order.

– Strike first. Something that became common during the Bruins slumping play just prior to the break was falling behind early in games. It’s never good to be playing from behind right off the bat, so it was nice last night to see them weather Ottawa’s early pressure and then get on the board first with Chara’s PP bomb. Of course allowing that late first period goal to tie the game up hurt and I think lent to the Sens 2nd period dominance a bit.

– Inconsistent again. I have hated the way that recently the Bruins will fluctuate between being that dominant team capable of controlling play and really taking it to teams, and that team that lacks in compete level, loses battles, lazes in the defensive zone and allows other teams to dictate the pace of play. During November and December you always knew you would at least get a top-notch effort from the black and gold, this has gone by the wayside a bit lately though and is certainly not a recipe for success as we get closer to the playoffs.

– Never count them out. It’s been the case all year-long, and the numbers certainly don’t lie. The Bruins are the BEST 3rd period team in the entire NHL. They have scored 71 goals in the third period so far this season while only allowing 33, which is a pretty monstrous differential. To add to that, the Bruins have yet to lose when taking a lead into the third period, going 21-0-0 so far this season. They also have far and away the best record when trailing after two periods, going 6-8-1 in that scenario. Not amazing, but almost .500 in that situation definitely speaks to their resiliency and never-say-die attitude.

– Bergeron, Marchand and Seguin. This line was by far the Bruins most effective and most dynamic line during last night’s game. Even during the second period where the B’s struggled to get much of anything going, this trio continued to push the tempo and create scoring chances for the home team. When they are on, they are clearly one of the tougher lines in the league for opposing teams to defend. The blazing speed on the wings with Marchand and Seguin, coupled with the smarts of Bergeron in the middle make them extremely dynamic. The two young wingers, too, have shown they have elite finishing ability as well. It was good to see these three reclaim their chemistry last night, and if they continue that play the Bruins will be more than alright moving forward.

– I really like Rich Peverley. Look, it’s obvious that the Bruins do miss Nathan Horton slotting in at his familiar position on the wing with Milan Lucic and David Krejci. When healthy and at the top of the game, that is one of the better lines in the league, and I am in no way debating that fact. I’m simply saying that Rich Peverley is once again proving to be an invaluable member of the Boston Bruins with his versatility and ability to really slot into any position up front and be effective. He made a beautiful pass to Lucic in the slot last night on the B’s 2nd goal of the game, showing poise and patience with the puck before dishing to the hulking left winger. He brings speed, creativity and smarts to the lineup and whether he’s being asked to take on a more defensive role with Chris Kelly on the 3rd line, or provide some offensive punch up with Krejci and Lucic, he always seems to do his job perfectly. This has turned out to be a brilliant trade and signing from GM Peter Chiarelli at last year’s deadline.

– Tim Thomas looks shaky. I know he’s proven himself time and time again in Boston, and I’ll never forget what he’s done for this organization and city. I’ve always been a big Tim Thomas supporter, and for most of this season he has once again been stellar in goal for the B’s. However, I do think that down the stretch coming into the all-star break, when the B’s were mired in their slump, Thomas looked extremely average in net and certainly didn’t help the team in front of him much. He’s seen his GAA jump up and his save percentage dip. He’s struggled at times, letting in some uncharacteristically soft goals rather than providing his team with those big saves when they’ve needed them the most. And while I don’t want to bring this up again, I’ll just say that I really didn’t appreciate the stunt he pulled in skipping the Bruins’ visit to the White House last week. Again last night he just didn’t look great. The Bruins struggled in the 2nd period, and when they needed their goalie to back them up the most, he let in 2 consecutive goals short side, being beat cleanly by both shooters and putting the Bruins in a hole. I hope he can find his game again because there’s no doubt the B’s will need him, but I’ll be honest, lately I think Tuukka has looked more like the #1 goalie than Timmy.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. It was good to see the Bruins get right back to work with their 32nd win of the season. Tomorrow night they welcome back the Carolina Hurricanes, whom they have yet to beat this season despite the Canes low position in the Eastern Conference standings. Hopefully they can get this monkey off their back and take win #33 at home tomorrow night.

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Welker Wants to Remain a Patriot

If Wes Welker has his way he will remain a New England Patriot for next year and beyond.  Welker is in the last year of the 5 year, 18 million dollar deal he signed when leaving the Miami Dolphins for the Pats.  “I plan on being back.  I am not really too worried about that right now. I am fully concentrated on this game and what we have to do, but I plan on being back”, said Welker.

I have to admit I am skeptical that Wes will be back after this season though it’s great to hear he wants to be.  There is no doubting his value to the team and he has been probably the biggest bargain in the league under his current contract.  However, I just don’t see the Patriots giving him number one wide receiver money, approximately 10 million per year.  Now that the Pats have not one but two world class weapons at tight end in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez it would seem to be less of a priority to have a high priced, slot receiver.  Ideally this money would be spent on an outside, down the field receiver though those guys are very difficult to come by.

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