Tag Archives: Boston 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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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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State of the Bruins Address

Boston Bruins with Stanley Cup

Image by slidingsideways via Flickr

In light of the Bruins being off right now due to the All Star break, their trip to the White House in our nation’s capital on Monday and President Obama’s recent State of the Union Address, I figured it might be fitting to put together my own address to Bruins Nation on the current state of the Bruins as they enjoy a much-needed week off. So here it goes, I hope you enjoy it:

My fellow Bruins die-hards, I come to you today in waiting for tonight’s All Star weekend festivities; one of the most entertaining nights of the year, as the NHL’s All Stars will square off on the ice of Ottawa’s Scotiabank Place in a skills competition. A night where the players temper their normal aggressions and focus their competitive energy in a more light-hearted way. The skills competition is much more of an exhibition for fans of the sport then a competition for the players. They will skate, they will shoot, and more than likely they will laugh as their amazing skill and talent is on display. 

At this juncture in the season, we’re all able to sit back and catch our breath, as we ready ourselves for the grueling final third of the 2011-2012 season. To this point, as we sit just under 50 games into the season, our beloved black and gold have performed more than admirably in their first Stanley Cup defense since the days of Orr and Esposito. Continue reading

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Bruins vs. Rangers – Battle for First in the East

It’s finally here. The matchup myself and likely every Bruins and Rangers fan out there has been waiting for since the two teams have maintained a stranglehold on the top two spots in the Eastern Conference since just before the Christmas break. Two of hockey’s top teams will square off on Causeway Street this afternoon, and despite the fact that in years past games between Boston and NYR have typically been classified as snooze fests, the implications on the standings and all of the build up for today amplify the excitement a bunch.

With extremely similar makeups, both the Rangers and Bruins have gotten to where they are in the standings by deploying near identical game plans. They each rely on a solid defense-first system with their steady defensive corps, backstopped by spectacular goaltending, and fueled by depth up front and a very balanced attack. One of the few differences between the teams comes between the pipes. While both teams boast excellent goaltenders, the Rangers are really a one-horse team as they ride Henrik Lundqvist, unquestionably one of, if not the top goalie in the world. At the other end, the Bruins are fortunate enough to have the best goaltending duo in the entire NHL as they can deploy either Timmy Thomas or Tuukka Rask on any given night and have confidence they are going to get a top quality performance. Continue reading

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Bruins need to regain swagger fast

It took a monster of a third period effort from the Bruins to knock off the Devils, who had been playing some very good hockey entering last night’s affair down in Newark, as the B’s ended their 4-game road trip with a 4-1 win.

I won’t lie though, I’m pretty alarmed by how lethargic the Bruins’ play has been as of late. Really, I think it goes back to the Stanley Cup finals rematch at the Garden 2 weeks ago with the Canucks. Granted that Saturday afternoon tilt was more of an emotional and physical battle that saw 2 separate game misconducts, a suspension, 4 power play goals and ultimately a buzz-killing 4-3 loss to the floppers from British Columbia. Continue reading

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