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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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Bruins Must Respond

I’ve wanted to write about the Bruins the last few days as much as you’ve wanted to read about them.  It’s been a very depressing first two games of the series to say the least.  In case we had any women, children readers I did not fill these pages with obscenity laced tirades though I would have loved to.  What good would it do anyhow?  I can’t make the Bruins play hard, show passion, be aggressive.  I’m forced to sit back and just witness this atrocious play with the rest of you.  Obviously tonight is a must win, here’s a few keys to the game.

1) Don’t give up another early goal.

The Bell Centre will be rocking, we have to take the crowd out of it early.  We have allowed the Habs to score 3 times in the opening 3 minutes of the games.  This is plain and simple a team not coming ready to play.  If we allow Montreal and their crowd to gain early momentum in this one the Bruins can book their tee times.

2) Enough of the cross ice passes.

Where did this come from?  Our D wasn’t attempting these passes all year long.  Now they think you can make long, cross ice passes come playoff time?  Think again.  That play by Boychuk Saturday was terrible.  You don’t get away with that pass in my weeknight men’s hockey league.  We have to get back to the short passing game.  The turnovers are giftwrapping goals for the Habs!

3) Crash the net.

How many times this series has a Bruin carried the puck into the offensive zone, looked around for a pass and when he finds no options get it taken from him as he stands around like a deer in headlights.  Throw the puck to the net!  The other guys need to be crashing the net hard!  Make Carey Price uncomfortable!  Is Lucic, Horton going to run me over here?  I want him to have that doubt in his mind.  This is playoff hockey it isn’t gonna be pretty.  Stop looking for those one timers, they aren’t gonna happen.   You have to grind and grit your way to goals.

These to me have been some of the main issues plaguing the Bruins through the first two games.  They are facing an uphill battle to be sure.  The Bruins are 0-26 lifetime when losing the first two games of a series.  That being said I still think we can come back.  We have the better team although we haven’t come close to showing it yet.  Having captain Zdeno Chara back would be a huge help.  We must come out ready to play from the opening faceoff.  Limit the turnovers and don’t hand the Habs easy goals.  Offensively, crash the net and stop looking for the pretty play.  We have the big bodies, create traffic and stop letting Price have it so easy back there.  One win at a time beginning tonight.  Let’s Go Bruins!

-Size

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Bruins vs Habs Defenses

Today we will be breaking down the Bruins, Habs series by position.  You’ve heard the saying defense wins championships and that holds very true in hockey.  In the playoffs the majority of games are one goal, grind it out type of affairs.  Having the ability to keep the puck out of your net is paramount to success come playoff time.  Let’s take a look at the Bruins and Canadiens defensemen.

Montreal

The Canadiens are missing their best defenseman, Andrei Markov who has played only 7 games this year due to a knee injury.  While he is back on the ice, Markov is not expected to suit up this series.  The Habs did get some good news on the injury front however as Jaroslav Spacek has returned after undergoing knee surgery.  This is a big boost as Spacek leads the team in plus, minus with a +9.

James Wisniewski is second on the team in points with 51(10 goals, 41 assists).  PK Subban has 14 goals and 24 assists.  Subban also leads the Canadiens in PIMs with 124.  Roman Hamrlik, Brent Sopel and ex Bruins Hal Gill and Paul Mara round out the Montreal defensive corps.

Boston

The Bruins D is led by Big Zdeno Chara.  Besides being a physical force out there Chara has had a solid offensive year with 14 goals and 30 assists.  His +33 led the Bruins.  His partner Johnny Boychuk is also more than capable of delivering the big hit.  He does have the tendency of getting out of position to make these hits sometimes though.  Johnny will have to choose his spots wisely and make it a point to be responsible defensively.

The second pairing is made up of the Bruins two most offensive defensemen.  Kaberle was brought here for his puck moving skills and he finished the season with 4 goals and 43 assists.  Most of those stats came with Toronto however and Tomas needs to have a strong playoffs to justify the trade in my opinion.  Seidenberg is also a gifted puck mover.  These guys need to make sure they continue to move forward and attack but while first making sure business is taken care of in their own end.

The third pairing of Ference and McQuaid has been very impressive this season.  Ference is a +22 and McQuaid is a +30.  You won’t find better numbers from a 3rd pairing anywhere else in the NHL.  Both guys are stay at homers and love the physical aspect of the game.  Despite playing in only 70 games this season Ference earned 60 pims while McQuaid earned 96 PIMs in 67 games. Both have no problems dropping the gloves and excel at clearing traffic for Timmy.

The Bruins also have depth at the blueline in Steve Kampfer and Sugar Shane Hnidy.  Hnidy is a veteran D man and Kampfer played well for stretches this season appearing in 38 games.  It’s nice to have the luxury of depth as injuries are inevitable in the physically daunting playoffs.

Advantage- Boston

The Bruins have the best defenseman in this series in Zdeno Chara.  He is going to be heckled mercilessly at the Bell Centre but I don’t expect this to rattle the Big Slovak in the least.  The Bruins are obviously the more physical of the teams.  They have to make sure however that they keep their cool and don’t commit stupid penalties.  While I certainly want Boychuk leveling Plekanec and company I don’t want him giving up odd man rushes in doing so.

Wisniewski and Subban jumping into the play is going to be a big factor in this series.  The Bruins have to make them pay when they do so.  Although I can’t stand Subban for his hiding behind the ref after starting trouble in previous Bruins, Habs games he is a supremely talented player.  You have to watch him sneaking in from the point.

I don’t see the Canadiens D being able to deal with the physicality and size of the Bruins forwards especially Horton and Looch.  Their corps relies more on skating ability than grit, I mean Subban is their toughest Dman.  The Bruins should be able to control the slot area.  This will result in a lot of traffic in front of Price and some tip and rebound goals.

-Size

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