Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Series 1: Bruins (Summer) Dome

A busy day and refusal to acknowledge that game even happened on Saturday means that I haven't done the Bruins dome in days. (I can tell from all the comments that you all miss it dearly...)

Anyway, I thought it better, now that they're gone for a few months, that I should review the Bruins series - in this format of course.


Dome hockey team
They're going into the last minute with these 6 against the charity radio contest winners (and they're attached to the ice, so they're not coming off)...

Forwards

Wasn't looking great for the Bruins forwards on the whole up until Game 4. They came largely as advertised: inexperienced and nonthreatening. Between Sturm, Krejci and Lucic chances Ovechkin would have had 16 goals. Their talent around the net was, however, temporarily born (can't really say reborn, can we?) for a couple of games and a very hairy start to game 7, but ultimately, they left the way they came. A couple stood out, and one other makes the dome because the defence weren't much better for games 1 and 7.

Marc Savard
– a choice for the dome in every game but game 1, where understandable rust kept him out. When I called him the game breaker back before the series began, I meant it, but I never expected him to break so many.

For me, Marc Savard was the Bruins best offensive player by a full body length or two. He doesn't mess around with the puck, does Marc. His passes are crisp and they are smart. Even defencemen we rate very very highly were caught out by seconds on his passes. Unfortunately for Marc and the Bruins, so were his wingers. Even though he ended up leading the Bruins in points, from some of the passes I saw, he could have been leading the playoff tournament with even a half-decent finisher on his flank.

It's not all wax lyrical though. Even though he did save a goal, his defensive play was not the stuff that has people lining up to put him on for the last 2 minutes. Even so, I will here

Phil Kessel
– Claude Julien showed all the imagination he was known for in Montreal in this series. Benching Phil Kessel was the tactical error of the series. Amazing he managed to trump even Carbo's dandgerous duo gaffe. This was Montreal prospect development of old - make all of em into defensive forwards. Sorry Claude, Phil played selfishly and concentrated on offence not defence. Um, that's what he is paid to do. As the only talented goalscorer on your team, you truly missed out when a goal was all you needed.

Phil himself came back to prove that he was what he promised to be - an offensive threat and an unpredictable nightmare for defences. His goal in Game 5 was pure goalscorer, and his double in Game 6 were just reward. He even looked the threat again in Game 7, stifled only by his nemesis to be for the next 20 years, Mr. Price.

While Lucic gained all the praise for what in the end turned out to be having a big body and not much else, Kessel was the wonderful prospect on show. Like other small Bruins forwards before him, you only wonder how long it will be until he is packaged and sent away for a Dennis Wideman on defence or something

He gets into my dome on the basis of three strong games to finish up (oh wait, 3/4)

Marco Sturm
– as I said earlier, this forward gets the consolation prize. In game 1, I had Shane Hnidy up front. Nokelainen has made it. Even Schaefer. But Sturm was the class of the ones without skill.

It would be unfair to say he has no skill, for he is one of the fastest skaters I can remember seeing recently. He also plays a mean PK. But when he sniffs a goal, know that it will be single digit completion rates for Sturm. In this series, he directed 23 shots at Price on his own. The lasting memory of Sturm from this series will be of him missing those breakaways - he had at least three clear-cut breakaways and countless open chances. But, despite all that, he's still number three among the forwards and into the dome.

If Sturm were worse he would be Axelsson (hence his omission from my dome), if he were better I probably wouldn't have written about him while I sulked

NOTES:
How does Lucic miss?
Frequently. No, seriously, Lucic proved he was big, immature and unhoned around the net. When people stopped caring about his hits, he looked lost.

How does Axelsson miss?
If I believed the PK was the key to the series, I would have put him in here, believe me. But a team that scored less than a goal every 10 chances just made the second round. Where was Axelsson at even strength in games 1, 6 and 7? Add to that his total ineptitude going forward. You have an answer.


Defencemen

Zdeno Chara
- seven for seven I think. I called him gamemaker, and made games he did. Claude Julien pored over his arsenal incessantly between games for a weapon to use, but kept coming back with Chara. Not surprisingly either given how well he can play.

If anyone is confused about where the Habs offence went, you should have a look under Chara's equipment back. He almost singlehandedly took care of both Kovalev and Plekanec. And once Kovalev was frustrated, out went the PP and Kostitsyn too. His skill goes beyond his size (he's developed since the Islander days), as he plays a very good possession and maintain possession game with a functional shot and surprisingly deft pass. While I think it's a travesty he is nominated for the Norris trophy on the merits of regular season play over Markov, he certainly out dueled him over the seven games.

In addition to the dome, Chara is player of the series for the Bruins and another reason fans of the Senators are looking up at the sky these days

Aaron Ward
- standing out among Bruins defencemen is no easy task. It seems each D is mandated to play an ultra simple game, compounded by the fact that this is how they believed Montreal would be vanquished.

For me, over the seven Aaron Ward was the second standout among defenders. A good distance behind Chara in both execution and skill, any team should nonetheless be happy to have Ward in the fold

As a defensive defenceman, he didn't really do much to make me stand up and rave about, but there is one thing. I suspect that Ward was playing with quite a decent injury and playing well too. In addition, he carries himself well avoiding some of the dirtier play his counterparts partake in. All in all a good right for Chara's left

Goaltender

Tim Thomas
- alright throughout the series. Nothing more, nothing less. Amazingly, apart from the first and last 30 minutes of the series, that's pretty much all he needed to be. Having doubted him for so long, I almost expected him to rear up and kill the Habs like Andy Moog would have.

Instead, Thomas let in timely (or untimely if you're Bruins folk) goals in at least 3 losses. You cannot allow a goal a minute into a playoff series (with a second to follow in short shrift). Nor can you allow a Swiis defenceman to score the backbreaker on a breakaway. Not if you want to be a playoff here anyway. Still, if you want to be in the dome for a team that lost in the first round of the playoffs, all that will suffice.

I predict the next time the Canadiens play the Bruins in the playoffs it will be a goaltenders duel between 2005 draftees. I predict Thomas has played his Huet February here. Some team like Detroit might just benefit from Boston's youth movement yet


So, who's next? Who do we want? New York or Philly? A team we fear or another team we will underestimate?

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