Thursday, December 31, 2009

Postgame Thoughts...And See You Next Year

The Canada-USA game exceeded expectations.

Team USA showed me a lot tonight with the way they were aggressive all night and didn't play it conservatively. They played to win and almost pulled it off.

Cam Fowler is a legitimate NHL prospect after the job he did on Taylor Hall tonight in completely shutting him down in the third period especially, and playing a very good two-way game overall. That loping stride of his doesn't make him look all that fast, but his pivots and turns are gorgeous. He could probably stand to work on his shot's velocity a bit, but he has no problem moving laterally along the point to uncork it, and he does have a good release. His first-pass ability is excellent as well. He needs to improve his assertiveness, but that will come with time and maturity, and I did see him stepping up and making his presence known at crunch time late.

Jack Campbell had some very nice moments, but he'd obviously like that tying goal to Alex Pietrangelo back. His glove is a strength, and the shorthanded shot beat him high to the glove side. He made a huge stop in OT on Eberle who broke in alone with about 25 seconds left. Unfortunately, he never recovered from the Eberle shootout shot that he initially got a piece of, but that hit the post, bounced down onto his back and into the net on Canada's first attempt. He gave up a multi-deke to Nazem Kadri and then was beaten cleanly by Brandon Kozun. So, on paper, Campbell didn't look so good, but he showed off his athleticism and poise for the most part and came up on the short end tonight. His future looks pretty good to me.

Jason Zucker, the youngest member of Team USA, who is just 1 week younger than Campbell, had a strong game even though he didn't show up on the scoresheet. The Nevadan is a fine skater who possesses good skills, but also seems to know what to do whenever he's out there. You don't see a lot of panic in him, and he plays with a maturity and confidence beyond his years. He's a strong candidate to go in the second round of the NHL draft in June if he continues to progress.

Tyler Johnson was named best U.S. forward and he deserved it. His pass sprang Jordan Schroeder on the first shorthanded goal, and then Johnson himself finished off Jerry D'Amigo's chance in the waning seconds of the middle frame. The Spokane, Wash. native who plays for his hometown Chiefs of the WHL and has not been drafted. Maybe the small (5-9, 165-pounds) forward is playing his way into getting his name called in June. He's still eligible.

Well, the end result was disappointing for Team America fans, but these guys gave the Canadian juggernaut a scare tonight. You can bet Canada's players have a healthy respect for this squad from south of the border. Let's hope there's a rematch, but first- USA has to get past Finland.

That's a wrap on 2009, folks. The next time I post, we'll be in 2010 and approaching the six-month mark until the draft.

So, I'll see you next year! Which, by the way, happens to be in about 10 minutes.Time to go watch the fiesta in Times Square.

USA-Canada: We've Got A Hockey Game

Its' 1-1 in Saskatoon after 20 minutes, with the pool's top teams playing an excellent period of hockey as expected.

Canada jumped on the board early with Stefan Della Rovere tipping home a shot from the point past USA goalie Jack Campbell for the early lead.

It didn't last long though, as USA forward Philip McRae, son of former NHL toughguy Basil McRae and a 2nd-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2008, slammed home a rebound on the power play to knot it up. It was his first goal of the tournament and the first marker to beat Canada goalie Jake Allen, who shut out Latvia and Switzerland previously.

The teams played an intense, uptempo period with both squads demonstrating their superior skill and a willingness to open it up and not be conservative.

Cam Fowler has had a solid showing thus far, continuing to keep it simple, yet making some good plays with long, crisp breakout passes and a blocked shot that led to a Chris Kreider odd-man break with Jeremy Morin. Morin couldn't get the puck past Allen, but he and Kreider demonstrated the kind of ood judgment and killer instinct to rush the puck the other way and get a good scoring chance.

Taylor Hall has been all over the ice as expected and even Jordan Caron has had several shots and made good decisions with and without the puck. His line has the lone goal for Canada, and Caron get the secondary assist on it.

Campbell has settled in nicely after giving up the early goal and is still showing off those quick feet and rapid recovery from the butterfly.

Let's hope this beauty of a hockey game continues...

UPDATE: Wowwww...Jordan Schroeder just scored a shortie at 9:08 to put USA up for the time being, 2-1. He was accelerating to top speed when he took the pass from Tyler Johnson and blazed up the ice on a breakaway, beating Allen through the five-hole. He is now two points shy of Jeremy Roenick on the all-time scoring list in the WJC for USA players with 23 points.

UPDATE: Edmonton prospect Jordan Eberle just tied it with a nice move to get behind the defender, slide past Campbell across the goalmouth and deposit the backhand. 2-2 with about 8 minutes left in the 2nd.

UPDATE: Kreider just had a penalty shot attempt go wide after Colten Teubert had pulled him down on what looked like a pretty questionable penalty shot call to me. Tripping? Yes. Penalty shot? Hello, momentum for Canada. 2-2 with 7 to play in the middle frame.

UPDATE: After Kyle Palmieri was denied on a breakaway with about 5 minutes remaining, Tyler Johnson sucked the life out of the building with another shorthanded goal in the second period's final minute. He chipped the rebound of a Jerry D'Amigo shot over Allen after D'Amigo was able to get a step on Alex Pietrangelo, gain the zone and fire a high shot from the left circle. Allen couldn't control the rebound and Johnson went straight to the net and popped it over Allen's shoulder. 3-2 USA after 40 minutes. Strap on the seatbelts, folks- it's going to be one crazy third period. Canada looks like they are missing defenseman Calvin de Haan tonight, who was injured in the last game. The 12th overall pick in last June's draft by the Islanders is an underrated defender in addition to being an outstanding puck mover and key to the transition from D to offense.

UPDATE: 1 minute into the 3rd...Canada on the PP...Taylor Hall misses the net twice after two great moves, the second of which completely fooled Campbell out of the U.S. net. The Americans , thanks to Derek Stepan's strip near the blueline, then transitioned the other way and Danny Kristo finished it off with a shot from inside the left circle that beat Allen (one he should have had, probably). 4-2, USA. Not a shortie, but just seconds after Canada's man advantage expired.

UPDATE: Eberle fires the crowd up with his second of the night (fifth of the tourney) at 10:03 when he deflects a point shot past Campbell, who never had a chance. That line of Eberle, Brayden Schenn and Luke Adam has given the U.S. fits all night. Schenn made it all happen by protecting the puck behind the net and getting it back out to the point for the shot. 4-3, USA with 10 minutes to play. And, the "CAAAAAAAMPBELL" chants rain down from the stands...

UPDATE: Whoomp...there it is. Pietrangelo makes up for all of his defensive gaffes tonight with a Canada shorthanded goal after picking off an errant pass in the neutral zone, skating in on the right side and firing a high wrister over Campbell's glove. The joint is jumping, 4-4 with 3 minutes left.

UPDATE: Goal! Canada! No, wait- what just happened? Goal waived off. Still 4-4 with 2 minutes left in regulation.

UPDATE: Buzzer on to overtime. Canada has showed a lot of moxie in coming back like that. And, Campbell made a late save on none other than Hall, so this game can go either way. Up next, 5 minutes of 4-on-4 action.

UPDATE: OT is done. Two players you wanted to have the puck on their sticks in sudden death for each team- Eberle and Kristo- denied by Campbell and Allen in the final 25 seconds to preserve the tie. Going to shootout. Winner gets a bye to the semifinal, while the loser plays Finland in the quarterfinal on Saturday.

UPDATE: Game over, Canada wins, 5-4. Heckuva comeback. The first four shooters scored- Eberle, Nazem Kadri for Canada and Kristo and Morin for USA. But then, Brandon Kozun beat Campbell cleanly with a wrister and Schroeder could not reciprocate, Allen making a beauty save.

USA faces the Finns Saturday, but they get a moral victory tonight in knowing they can compete with Canada.

This. Was. A. Great. Hockey. Game.

Saskatoon Showdown: Canada vs. USA Tonight

The first big moment many of us has been waiting for since the World Junior (Under-20) Championship began last week is here: the New Year's Eve match between Team USA and Canada, both sitting at 3-0 right now.

Canada is favored in this one and rightfully so. They've got four lethal lines and a deep defense. That team comes at you relentlessly, and it says a great deal about the team when you consider that Brayden Schenn (L.A. Kings prospect and top-10 pick last summer) is playing on the third line. B's No. 1 selection Jordan Caron is playing a shutdown role on this team and doing well with it.

The Americans have been very good, but they've clearly not been up against an opponent like Canada. It will be interesting to see how they respond. Unlike Canada, they've faced some adversity already, falling behind 2-0 to Slovakia early before coming back in their 7-3 win to open the tourney.

Goaltending will be key. Mike Lee and Jack Campbell have the ability to steal games, and whoever is in net (Campbell is due assuming coach Dean Blais is rotating during the round robin) will need to bring his A-game tonight.

USA also could get a big boost if defenseman Cam Fowler can have a strong game. He's had a solid if unspectacular tournament so far, and I was told that he's shown a penchant for deferring to older, more senior players at times during the junior season, and that might explain some of the missing assertiveness in his game. He's clearly got the skills, so it will be interesting to see if he can control the tempo of his team's play more than he has thus far. Every NHL team will have scouts in the house watching, so if ever there was a key moment for Fowler in this campaign, tonight is one of them.

Gametime is 8pm tonight on NHL Network, and the partisan crowd is sure to be raucous. USA's best hope will be to try to strike early to take them out of it a bit, because Canada truly enjoys a home ice advantage in Saskatchewan, and the locals have not been kind to their neighbors to the south.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Toronto Skids On Oil Slick At Rexall Place

A key two-point swing in the standings watch happened tonight in Edmonton, as the Oilers, sitting just above Carolina in the NHL cellar with 34 points, beat Toronto 3-1 thanks to a pair of goals from Patrick O'Sullivan (aren't youse guys glad the Bruins didn't pick him 45th in 2003 instead of Patrice Bergeron, which, if you hop into the wayback machine, was the hot topic on a lot of fans' minds back then).

Toronto stumbled badly in this one, although Phil Kessel did break his seven-game pointless streak with a late goal. What really hurts is that they lost to one of the two teams beneath them in the standings. Ouch. The Leafs are now 14-18-9 on the year at the exact halfway mark for them (41 games), on pace for 74 points and handing a lottery ticket to Boston as it stands right now.

Edmonton is still behind Toronto by a point, but once again- this is a game the Leafs really needed to have; two points they aren't going to get back and that could haunt them when their schedule gets rougher next month.

If you start doing the math, with every loss they accrue, especially to inferior clubs like the Oilers, that means the Leafs have to be that much better here over the second half of the season than they were in the first. With this team, even in your heart of hearts if you're the most ardent Leafs supporter, do you honestly believe they can do that?

They're up next against Calgary on Saturday as their western swing continues.

Tuukka Time? And, Bergeron To Vancouver Winter Games

I got a fever...and the only prescription is, More Tuukka!

OK-Tuukka Rask may not have the same kind of ring that Cowbell does, but you cannot deny that the rookie has played exceedingly well this season. Tonight, he blanked the Atlanta Thrashers in a 4-0 Bruins victory, his second shutout of the season.

It was a fine tuneup for Friday's eagerly awaited Winter Classic (the Philadelphia Flyers did their part with a 5-0 pasting of the New York Rangers tonight) at Fenway Park, and while Rask will give way to Tim Thomas for the start in that New Year's hockey extravaganza, the 22-year-old Finn has made a convincing case for more playing time.

I'm a believer in both goaltenders. I refuse to tear one down in order to advocate for the other. I have said multiple times that I think some fans give Thomas a rough shake simply because they don't like his contract and harp on the miscues he's had this season. His numbers aren't that bad, and no goalie, no matter how good, is going to go through an entire season without giving up soft goals here and there. Despite his mistakes, he's given his team a chance to win most nights, and that's what matters most.

Here's the deal: having two top goalies is a great problem to have, and while I still see Thomas as the team's starter, I also think that Claude Julien ought to give Rask more time between the pipes. He's earned it, and made all the scouts who said he was a stud going back to his time as a 16-year-old playing at the Viking Cup in Alberta bang-on geniuses.

Tim-or-Tuukka is the kind of debate that will polarize fans because the contrasting styles between the two players makes it red meat for sports radio, internet message forums or whatever passes for watercooler discussion these days. Thomas is chaotic and helter skelter, while Rask is smooth, slick economy of motion. Both are highly effective, and in Rask's case, he's lived up to the hype that has surrounded him for quite some time and then some.

Bottom line: Rask deserves more playing time, but he's not worthy of being the starter in Boston. Yet. His time will come, but for now, this is still Thomas' team.

Also- Congratulations to Patrice Bergeron, who was named to Canada's Olympic Team today. What he has done to play his way onto that elite All-Star squad of multiple futue Hall of Famers is remarkable given where he was two years ago after suffering that brutal concussion 10 games into the season.

I still feel privileged to have spent an afternoon with the then-17-year-old when I stayed at the same hotel in Nashville he did. At that time, we sat in the hotel restaurant and talked about a lot of things, some of it hockey, some of it not. He wasn't as confident or proficient an English speaker as he is now, but he never once shied away from trying to answer my questions or expressed any discomfort with the situation. I remember how serious and mature he was, and even though I'd never seen him play, I had a feeling he would be something special. He was just another teenager who'd heard his name called by an NHL team that day in June, but even as impressed as I was with who he was, I had no inkling that he would become an impact NHL player at 18, and eventually become one of Boston's top forwards and a 2010 Olympian.

Tonight, my glass is raised to the 24-year-old from Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec. I can think of no other player on that team who worked harder or is more deserving of that roster spot that Bergeron. He's not a hulking power forward in the mold of Ryan Getzlaf, but he's strong as an ox and nearly impossible to knock of the puck. He's not a lightning-fast skater, but manages to get where he needs to. He doesn't have a cannon shot, but knows how to bury the biscuit at crunch time. And when it comes to finding his open linemates in all zones, he's up there with the very best.

And, he's been on the precipice of seeing his career prematurely ended...and skated away from it. He knows better than most what it takes to be a winner in this game, and he'll bring that character, intensity and leadership with him to Vancouver in February.

Although it is disappointing not to see Marc Savard and Milan Lucic on the team, Steve Yzerman picked the right Bruin to represent Canada.

This Just In: Taylor Hall is Reeeeeeeally Good

I wanted to get this post up earlier, but was OBE (Overcome By Events).

But, after watching Team Canada run roughshod over Slovakia last night, there is no doubt in my mind that unless something drastic happens between now and June, Windsor Spitfires left winger Taylor Hall will be the top selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Hall, who entered the season as a clear favorite, was having a relatively quiet World Jr. tourney until he exploded for three goals and a helper in what was as dominating a performance as any I've seen in a while.

His second goal of the night was particularly filthy (and I mean that in a good way- like describing a baseball pitcher's best stuff); exploding down the left wing ice like an 18-year-old Alexander Ovechkin, Hall rifled a laser beam that flashed over the Slovak netminder's upraised glovehand, hit the upper left far post where the crossbar connects, and then bounced down and into the net with a loud Piiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing! It was truly a thing of beauty, and the appreciative fans in Saskatoon knew it, too- because the place went bonkers.

His hat trick goal was nice, too. But it was a bit of a headscratcher, as the Slovaks simply let Hall walk to the front of the net after corralling the puck along the left halfwall, where he zipped a high backhander into the yawning cage after the goalie appeared to be frozen in place and unable to stay with Hall moving to his (the goalie's) left.

Yes, folks- Hall (whom I saw in the Memorial Cup last year, so this tournament wasn't my first viewing and won't be the last) delivered the goods precisely the way all of the scouts have been saying he can all along. He's as dynamic a game-breaking wing you'll see anywhere and while he may or may not be a generational talent (I've heard that his hockey sense isn't what it could be in order to be the true definition of dominant), he's the NHL's next star-in-waiting.

It doesn't look like the Bruins will land him, but Hall is definitely worth watching. One scout told me that Hall's playing style and skillset reminds him a bit of Phil Kessel (not comparing personality/character) and he'd no doubt be a nice remedy for what currently ails this Boston team which lacks consistent scoring punch.

Of course, with Toronto playing better and putting more and more distance between themselves and the last-place Carolina Hurricanes (not to mention the Columbus Bluejackets and Edmonton Oilers looking pretty putrid lately, B's fans need not fall too in love with Hall.

But for one night at least- it was great to simply watch and admire the virtuoso hockey performance No. 4 for Team Canada executed while skating on home soil.

The kid's got game...if you watched the contest and didn't know it before, you surely do now.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Team USA: Openin' Up That Can O' Whoop *** on Latvia

Team USA took a 6-0 lead in the first period over Latvia, leaving the outcome of the game much like the one the plucky but overmatched Eastern Europeans played against Canada in the tournament's opener.

One thing that underscored how lopsided the matchup is occurred when Tyler Johnson, an undrafted and undersized player who skates for the WHL's Spokane Chiefs, his hometown team, scored with less than 20 seconds after Latvia had given up a power play goal to Chris Kreider with 1:02 remaining in the period. The Latvian goalie appeared to have it covered, staying square to the shooter as Johnson came at him with speed, but at the last moment, the netminder lost his angle and Johnson fired a high backhander past him on the short side.

Kreider, one of my favorites from last year's draft, scored a sweet power play goal off of a one-timer in the slot to make it 5-0, Yanks. Montreal prospect Danny Kristo has a pair of markers, and Brian Lashoff, younger brother of former Bruins prospect Matt, had a couple of helpers.

Quiet game so far from Cam Fowler. Maybe No. 24 is saving his best game for Canada?

Jason Zucker scored the second goal of the period on a nice feed from Ryan Bourque. Zucker was going hard to the net and deflected the pass into the net. Zucker is an interesting prospect who is a 2010 draft-eligible and could raise his stock at this tourney. He doesn't have a lot of size, but makes up for it with skill and intensity. Oh, and he's the first-ever Nevada native to play on the U.S. Team.

I'll update this blog post as the game goes on.

UPDATE: U.S. up against some questionable officiating and you have to wonder if we're seeing the old ugly selective calls that I see happen every year against American teams by international refs being employed here. David Warsofsky was mugged in front of the Latvia net, but the call went against him, giving Latvia a 5-on-3. Then a blatant trip by Latvia goes uncalled, but they nab Ryan Bourque to give them an extended 5-on-3. Latvia scores, 6-1.

Not to sound like the ugly American here, but this is one of those things that really bug me. The Latvians don't need charity- earn those power plays, guys. The refs ought to be ashamed at the way they looked the other way, while calling the U.S. team as draconian as possible. It really affects the integrity of the game when things like this happen, score be damned.

UPDATE: 7-1, U.S. Chris Kreider with his 2nd PPG of the game. Took a pass out in the slot and fired it past the goalie.

UPDATE: Heckuva rush from defenseman Matt Donovan, who skated through the Latvian team with a great display of speed and agility, but sent his shot just wide. Would have made all the highlight reels if he could've finished. Not bad for the kid from Oklahoma. Give the Islanders scouting staff credit for plucking him out of the USHL.

Much better period by Latvia and their goaltender. These guys have not rolled over and died and deserve credit for playing a rugged style in the face of superior skill.

UPDATE: Two USA goals in the first 10 minutes to make it 9-1 from captain Derek Stepan (Rangers prospect) and Zucker's second on the night with a wicked wrister on the short side, joining Kristo and Kreider with two apiece.

UPDATE: Final score: USA 12, Latvia 1 Kreider gets the hat trick thanks to a converted penalty shot in the third. He used his patented blazing speed to get in quick on the goalie, who was too deep in his net and beat him cleanly with a low shot to the stick side. Also scoring in the last 10 minu was Stepan, his 2nd and Jeremy Morin.

It's great to see Kreider doing so well. He's a quality person who has a world of talent but not the ego to go with it. With four goals in three games, he's playing extremely well and should have a lot of confidence when he gets back to Chestnut Hill.

B's Blah Against Tampa, Team USA Back In Action Against Latvia

The Bruins dropped a 2-1 game to Tampa Bay last night, getting a late goal from Marco Sturm (his team-leading 12th, which isn't even in the top-50), but couldn't overcome an uneven performance, including a lousy second period that saw them outshot 23-6.

As I said yesterday, the only good news is that Tampa Bay keeps Toronto down in the standings, and has put together a nice little win streak after stuggling horribly this month.

The Americans are back in action against the moribund Latvian squad at the World Jr. Championship today at 4 pm.

Trap game alert! Trap game alert!

USA looked solid in wins over Slovakia and Switzerland, so they really need to set the tone against Latvia for their Thursday showdown with Canada, who cruised with another shutout over the Swiss who were also blanked by USA.

Latvia was crushed by Canada and lost to Slovakia, so it's no contest on paper, but the games aren't played on paper, are they?

The Americans need to make sure they play their game and do not look past the Latvians toward the herculean challenge of Canada on New Year's Eve.

NHL Network has the coverage in the U.S.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Don't Call Me Vinny

Boston Bruins prospect Yannick Riendeau (no relation to former B's goalie Vincent) may make his debut tomorrow when the Providence Bruins take on the Springfield Falcons.

I say "may" because his presence isn't in the P-B's lineup isn't confirmed.

According to the Providence Journal's Providence Bruins blog, he was prevented from making his first pro hockey appearance since Boston signed him as a free agent last April because he was on injured reserve when the NHL's holiday roster freeze went into effect. That freeze expired yesterday, so he's apparently eligible (and don't ask me why a guy playing to the AHL would be subject to that rule unless it has to do with preventing teams from sending NHL roster players down to the minors, but still- why hold up his eligibility like that?). But, my source said that it wasn't confirmed yet that he is on the roster, so if he somehow doesn't play Tuesday, you'll know that it has nothing to do with health or coaching decisions.

Anyway- Yannick Riendeau is a right winger who could see some power play time on a struggling Providence offense that took a major hit when Brad Marchand suffered a tendon damage in his foot from a skate blade (expected to be out at least 6 weeks- probably longer). The Baby Bruins just don't have many guys who can put the puck in the net and it has shown in their record.

Of course, expecting Riendeau to carry the team as a rookie is setting the bar a might high. He reminds me a lot of a young Mark Recchi- smallish, not very fast, but gifted with his hands and hockey sense. He made a play during last May's Memorial Cup tournament that left me shaking my head in wonder. Facing the boards and with a defender on his back, he started going right, and as the defender moved with him, then spun left and slid a perfect blind pass behind him on the tape of one of his teammates positioned in the slot for the one-timer goal. That kind of pure offensive ability is something you can't teach a player; it comes naturally or not at all.

Don Sweeney told me recently that you can make players more aware of offensive situations through coaching, but the innate, "eyes in the back of your head", ability to see the play unfold before it actually does can't be taught. Riendeau certainly has those impossible-to-quantify offensive instincts working for him.

Whether Riendeau has enough of that hockey sense and shooting skills to become a serviceable NHLer given his lack of size and speed remains to be seen. He wasn't good enough to get a draft call, so he's a longshot. At the same time, he tied Mario Lemieux's QMJHL playoff goals record last year (29 tallies in 19 games), so the kid has done some special things in his young career.

I think that if he can more closely resemble Pascal Pelletier at this stage, Providence would be OK with that. He's had a long layoff with his recovery from shoulder surgery, so don't expect big things from Riendeau right away. If the offense comes, consider it gravy.

Boston Bruins 2010 1st, 2nd Round Draft Pick Position Updated 28 December

Toronto is movin' on up.

They beat Pittsburgh on the road last night thanks to a late Ian White blast after Mike Rupp of the Pens had just tied it up and the home team looked to have all the momentum.

Meanwhile, Columbus has tanked royally, as have the Oilers of late, so the Leafs have vaulted over them and with one more win could move up to the eighth draft spot.

Don't have a whole lot to say today, so I'll just post the picks and move on. Bruins face Tampa on the road tonight after surviving Florida yesterday, 2-1. The silver lining to any loss would be that the 'Bolts keep ahead of Toronto in the standings, although the teams are tied in points with 37 right now.

2010 Draft Pick Position

1st Round

5th overall- Toronto (37 points; 14-17-9)
18th overall- Boston (47 points; 19-11-7)

2nd Round
35th overall- Toronto
36th overall- Tampa Bay (37 points; 14-15-9)
48th overall- Boston

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Team USA Beats Switzerland; Jack Campbell and Cam Fowler Look Like 1st-Rounders

The Americans were back at it today in the WJC with an afternoon game against Switzerland after beating the Slovaks last night.

Goalie Jack Campbell looked like the first-round pick he is likely to be in the 2010 NHL Draft, shutting out the Swiss with 20+ saves in a 3-0 win to put USA at 2-0 in the round robin.

Campbell's got a big frame, extremely quick (especially in his down-up movements), has quick pads and glove, and seems to have the kind of mental toughness/competitive drive you want to see in a goalie. The Port Huron, Michigan native was originally committed to the University of Michigan, but changed gears and will now go to the OHL and the powerhouse Windsor Spitfires next season. I like Campbell a lot. He backstopped Team USA to gold at last spring's World Under-18 Championship, and he reminds me a bit of Ryan Miller with his size and playing style. The broadcasters today said that Campbell admires Miller and has followed him since his days at Michigan State.

Anyway- if the Bruins still have their first-round selection and are picking late-teens/early-20's, and Campbell is on the board, he would not be a bad option for them. He would provide a potential elite-level netminding prospect for their organization that doesn't have a lot of skill at the position after Tuukka Rask's graduation to the NHL this season.

As for Cam Fowler, he was the best defenseman on the ice for Team USA in my opinion, and has done nothing to create any doubts about him as a potential top-three pick in the 2010 NHL Draft in June. He was skating well and jumping up into the play throughout the game. It was his big point blast on the powerplay that Chris Kreider deflected home for the first and clinching score, and he's a guy who is going to get better as the tournament goes on.

As for the Swiss, their goalie, Benjamin Conz, played very well and was under siege as USA outshot his team by a 2-to-1 ratio. Conz did his level best, keeping it a 1-0 game until later in the third period when the Americans scored twice.

Swiss winger Nino Niederreiter was OK- I didn't see him do much in the open ice, but he was active along the boards, digging for pucks, and he did try and get to the net. It's just- the Americans played good defense and didn't allow for much sustained pressure at any time.

Team USA is off tomorrow and takes on Latvia on Tuesday, with the Swiss getting a chance to take on the Canada juggernaut. Conz had better be on his game like he was today or it will be a long day for Team Switzerland.

Americans Open WJC With Win Over Slovakia

Team USA overcame an early 2-0 hole to defeat Slovakia in their first game of the 2010 WJC tourney by a score of 7-3.

I thought the five minute penalty to start the game was an atrocious call, but Slovakia took advantage, beating goalie Mike Lee twice to take the early lead after Jason Zucker finished his check on a Slovak player. It appeared that both players' heads collided and then, when the Slovak hit the ice, his helmet cut him in the face. Dazed and bleeding, he left the game and the Russian ref made what I would deem a "convenient" call on a hockey play that was not illegal, just unfortunate. Of course, the ref made things worse by calling the wrong player (Tyler Johnson), so it was a bit of a Keystone Cops moment for the officiating.

However, the U.S. team roared back and seized control of the game and tempo after John Carlson's point blast got them on the board.

Cam Fowler, the defenseman who tops many B's fans' wishlists for the 2010 draft, looked pretty good last night. He has a long, loping stride and seems to see the ice very well. On one U.S. two-man advantage in the third period, he worked the puck adroitly at the point and had several shots on net. He has a low, hard shot that he has a quick release on. Defensively, he has good recovery speed and seemed to make the right decisions with and without the puck. As always with television viewings, you can't see what happens behind the play, but he showed why he's been a top draft candidate since last season.

The Slovaks did not get great goaltending in this one, and once Cislak gave up a couple of stoppable shots to the Americans, the game changed rapidly in Team USA's favor.

Today, Team USA will face Switzerland and forward Nino Niederreiter, who has been one of the real pleasant surprises for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL this season. He already plays a physical, aggressive North American-style game, and look for him to be active in all zones today. The game will be on the NHL Network at 4 pm EST today(Sunday), and then the U.S. team is off until Tuesday when they face Latvia, and then Canada on New Year's Eve. All games will be televised.

I also watched the Sweden-Czech Republic game yesterday, a lopsided 10-1 victory for the powerhouse Swedes. One player who really stood out for me was defenseman Adam Larsson, who is a 2011-eligible prospect and at age 16, is one of the youngest players to compete in the WJC along with other familiar names like Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby, Jason Spezza and Marco Sturm among others.

Larsson is a swift-skating, offensive-minded defenseman who moved the puck well and scored late on a bomb from the point. He seems to have all the goods, and former Bruin Dave Reid, who was doing the color commentary, said one NHL scout told him that Larsson is more polished than last year's No. 2 overall pick Victor Hedman, now playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Larsson is only 6-foot-2, so he's nowhere near as tall/big as Hedman, but he's fast, agile and appears to be the early favorite for top selection in 2011. Only one other player from Sweden, Mats Sundin, has ever been the 1st overall pick in the NHL Draft (1989).

Saturday, December 26, 2009

World Junior Saturday, Happy Boxing Day

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas celebration yesterday.

If you want to get a look at two out of three players who should be near the top of any Bruins fan's wishlist for the draft, and you have access to the NHL Network, the Canada-Latvia and USA-Slovakia games, the first of the 2010 World Junior Championship, will be broadcast at 4 and 8 pm Eastern respectively in the U.S.

Now that the tournament, being played in Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is underway, the hockey season is really heating up!

Taylor Hall, the odds-on favorite to be the top pick in next June's draft, can be seen skating for Team Canada, and is the only 2010-eligible to make the returning champions (who try to make it an unprecedented six straight since the Americans won gold in '04). As a bonus, B's fans can catch their team's top pick from last summer, winger Jordan Caron, in that game as well. Caron is the only Bruins prospect playing in the tournament.

For Team USA, defenseman Cam Fowler, Hall's Windsor Spitfires teammate, is wearing No. 24. He played for the team last year, and has looked good in the exhibition after an outstanding start to the OHL season.

Fowler is a complete defenseman: possessing excellent size, passing, shooting and all-around skills. He's seen as the one marquee talent at that position so far in the Class of '10, although Brandon Gormley is rising in the eyes of a lot of scouts who have been to Moncton to see him play.

Team USA also has three New England natives playing on the squad. There is a pair of Boxfordites (Mass.) in Chris Kreider (19th overall pick of the Rangers last summer) and Ryan Bourque (also picked by the Rangers -3rd round and son of Bruins legend Ray Bourque). BU defenseman David Warsofsy, who I saw win the national championship with the Terriers in Washington D.C. last April, also made the team.

Canada is the heavy favorite, but I think Team Sweden could play the role of spoiler. Team USA is deep, but unless they get amazing goaltending, not sure how well they match up against Canada and the Swedes.

Should be a great tournament, and next year, I plan to be in Buffalo to cover it in person. Until then, I'll have to be content watching it on NHL Network. Be sure to check your local listings for the game schedule in your area. Team USA takes the ice again tomorrow afternoon (4 EST)against the Swiss on NHL Network, so you'll have another chance to catch them if you miss today's action.

Oh, and it's Boxing Day in Canada. That holiday celebrated by our friends north of the border always rings in the WJC and I always seem to forget mentioning it!

UPDATE: Canada crushed the hapless Latvians by a 16-0 score. Gabriel Bourque, who looks like he may have been a steal for Nashville after being taken in the fifth round (132nd overall) in Montreal tied Team Canada's single-game points record (7) with Dave Andreychuk and Mike Cammalleri thanks to his three goals, four assists.

Taylor Hall didn't light it up, but he showed off his excellent skating and ability to stickhandle in traffic on several occasions. He's a guy you watch and realize that in a matter of minutes, he can take over a game by himself. He'll break through at some point during this tourney, and when he does, you'll understand what the hype is about.

Jordan Caron was solid for Team Canada...nothing spectacular. He's a big boy; a widebody who worked hard along the boards and took the puck to the net quite a bit, but got himself in too close and couldn't get the puck up in order to find the back of the net. But still, a lot to like and he looks like a nice pickup for the Bruins with the 25th overall selection last June.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bruins Sweaters of the Past #7: Dave Poulin (Christmas Eve Edition)

DAVE POULIN ("Poulie")
BOSTON BRUINS 1989-90-1992-93
5-11, 190
Born: December 17, 1958 in Timmins, Ontario
Games Played: 165 Goals: 34 Assists: 68 Points: 102 Penalty Minutes: 117

Twenty years ago next month, Harry Sinden acquired Philadelphia Flyers captain Dave Poulin for Ken Linseman, and the veteran center became one of Boston's team leaders and a clutch player who helped get the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals that spring.

Poulin, an undrafted free agent out of the University of Notre Dame (not well known for its hockey program back then) signed with Philadelphia. With the Flyers, he became one of the most respected players in the game, winning the Frank Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward.

In 32 games with Boston after the trade in early 1990, Poulin scored 6 goals and 25 points. However, it was his contributions in the 1990 postseason that left the lasting impression. In Boston's first-round series against the spunky and feisty Hartford Whalers, the B's were down 5-2 heading into the third period of Game 4, and a loss would give the Whale a stranglehold on the series, 3 games to 1. Poulin scored a pair of goals (along with Bob Beers and Dave Christian) in that third period, including the game-winner, to even the series which Boston eventually won in seven games. Mike Milbury was filmed hugging Poulin as the two left the ice, the veteran leader having come through for the team in a big way with Ray Bourque sidelined until the seventh game.

In the next round, against hated rival Montreal, Poulin tallied the lone goal in Boston's 1-0 Game 1 victory, setting the tone for the series. He would also contribute offensively in the Wales Conference Championship against the Washington Capitals, a Bruins sweep in four games.

Unfortunately, Poulin was felled in Game 2 of the final series against the Edmonton Oilers on a questionable hit from Mark Messier. Lost for the rest of the playoffs, the Bruins weren't able to get much going offensively, and not having Poulin certainly hurt.

His shoulder and back woes followed him, and in the next two seasons, Poulin was able to play just 49 games.

Poulin returned during the 1992-93 season to play all 84 games, posting his best single-season totals as a Bruin with a 16-goal, 49-point campaign. He signed with Washington as a free agent during the offseason.

This sweater is Poulin's last home edition as a Bruin, worn during his final campaign with Boston. It has a good amount of wear on it with lots of stick marks, repairs and some Boston Garder dasher paint as well. It has the assistant captain's 'A' and the Stanley Cup 100th Anniversary Patch that all teams wore throughout the 1992-93 season. There is a Set 2 stamp on the inside hem.

Poulin was a quality person and player who could have played a more prominent role for the Bruins on those contending teams of the early 90's had he not missed so much time to injuries. He was popular with the fans and after being a longtime coach and athletic director of his alma mater, has now moved on to a position with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization.
The fact that nearly 20 years (Jan. 16th was when the trade occurred) has passed since Poulin came to Boston reminds me of how quickly it has all gone by. I was a senior in high school when it went down and I'll turn 38 and have my 20th HS reunion this summer. Where has all the time gone? Back then, I thought the Bruins would be in the thick of the Stanley Cup race every year, but the elapsed time has been anything but kind to the Bruins and their fans.
This sweater takes me back to better days and I hope it does for you as well.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'Tis The Season To Be Jolly...If You Like The Bruins

The Boston Bruins gave their fans a nice gift tonight: a 6-4 win over the Atlanta Thrashers just before Christmas.

Dwayne Roloson, John Tavares and the New York Islanders gave them another one with a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Nassau Coliseum .

First, to Boston: The Thrashers and goalie Ondrej Pavelec gave up three goals in the span of 1:08 in the first period to give the B's a 3-0 lead (Marc Savard, Daniel Paille and Vladimir Sobotka were the culprits). After the starter got the hook, Atlanta cut it to 3-2 with a pair of quick strikes from Bryan Little and Maxim Afinogenov.

The B's got a 5-0n-3 goal from the captain Big Zdeno Chara (only his third on the year) to reestablish the two-goal lead in the second, and when Michael Ryder scored on another two-man advantage in the third period to make it 5-2, the B's looked to be cruising. But, Atlanta responded with goals from rookie Evander Kane and captain Ilya Kovalchuk just 1:10 apart to cut the lead to one.

Patrice Bergeron put it out of reach with an empty-netter (his 10th) in the waning seconds to send the TD Garden faithful home happy.

The Leafs got bupkus from Phil Kessel in their game, which isn't all that surprising, as he'll go through his peaks and valleys like any other player. But. the win was big for the Isles, who move one point ahead of Toronto, who now sits in the 27th-spot of the NHL standings and squandered yet another chance to earn points against a team below them.

Scoreboard watchers were also rewarded with the aforementioned Leafs failure, plus losses by Buffalo (to Washington) and Ottawa (chasing Boston for second place in the Northeast Division).
The B's have cut Buffalo's lead to four points (with a game in hand), and built their lead over Ottawa to three with two days off for Christmas.

The eggnog should be flowing freely in Bruins households this week- they followed up a nice road win in Ottawa by holding on to add two more points to their warchest before a brief, but well-earned respite.

UPDATE- The Flyers closed out the 'Bolts 5-2, so they close to within one point of Toronto. The Broadstreeters also help Boston with that draft pick, which would be 37th overall if the season ended today. So- between Toronto and Tampa, the B's are looking at 33rd and 37th overall for a few more days at least.

2010-2011 Total Bruins Draft Picks Refresher

Someone on another forum was asking about Boston's total picks in 2010 and 2011, so I thought I'd go ahead and post a refresher here.

It can't be stated enough that, even though 2011 isn't projected as a strong draft at present, that having the amount of picks that Boston currently possesses (and owning a pair from Toronto and Minnesota, neither of whom are expected to be powers next season), the Bruins have a chance to continue to stock a prospects stable that is pretty good right now.

Boston's obvious needs are on defense and the wing (and adding a top-end netminder wouldn't be a bad draft move either, but the B's shouldn't reach at that position); you'll see them address those needs this coming June, but with four more potential top-50 picks in 2011, they'll keep adding talent with a maximum total of 19 picks in the next two years if Dan Paille doesn't score 16 goals this year and no other trades involving picks are made (not likely to happen).

Bruins Assistant GM Don Sweeney put it to me this way when I spoke to him last week for my annual Bruins Top-10 Prospect Review for the New England Hockey Journal:

"The lifeline for our organization going forward will be drafting and player development."

Pay close attention to that remark. While GM Peter Chiarelli may be enticed to deal away a high pick or two in pursuit of a veteran player who can help get the Bruins more solidly into contention between now and the June draft, the organization isn't about to give away the store, especially since 2010 is shaping up as such a strong crop. I would expect any deals involving multiple picks to reflect a mix of 2010 and 2011 lottery selections.

Everyone in Boston, like Sweeney, understands that to win in this league, you've got to get your drafting and player development right, and while Boston has very good organizational depth at center, they really need to focus on premium talent on D and on the wings.

2010 Boston Bruins Draft Picks and Positions (as of 23 December)

Round 1
Toronto (4th overall)
Boston (16th overall)

Round 2
Toronto (34th overall)
Tampa Bay (37th overall)
Boston (46th overall)

Round 3
None- Traded to Buffalo for Daniel Paille

Round 4
Carolina (91st overall)*
Boston (106th overall)*

*Conditional based on Paille trade (Boston pick to Buffalo if Paille scores 16 goals. With three at present, he'd need to go on a major tear to meet this performance objective)

Round 5
Boston (136th)- approximate

Round 6
Boston (166th)- approximate

Round 7
Boston (196th)- approximate

2011 Boston Bruins Draft Picks

Round 1

Round 2
Minnesota (Acquired for Chuck Kobasew)

Round 3

Round 4

Round 5

Round 6

Round 7

Whenever there is a trade involving any of the afore mentioned picks, I will update the blog to reflect the transaction and conditions.

Quack Attack: Ducks Do B's Favor With Win Over Colorado

The Anaheim Ducks have some life in them after all.

They beat the resurgent Colorado Avalanche (the NHL's surprise team this year) by a score of 4-2 last night, pushing the Toronto Maple Leafs back down to the fourth-worst record in the league as of today.

That doesn't mean a whole lot in late December, but picking fourth or fifth puts the Bruins squarely in the running for someone like top Quebec league defender Brandon Gormley, little Finnish magician Mikael Granlund, and even talented, skilled Russians like Kirill Kabanov or Vladimir Tarasenko. In Tarasenko's case, the uncertainty surrounding the fact that any team that drafts him may have a hard time getting him to come over hurts his standing a bit, but there is no question that the little forward is an elite talent. The instability surrounding Russian players and a lack of a formal transfer agreement could drop him lower than 10th, however.

There is also Prince George (WHL) winger Brett Connolly, who is without a doubt a top 5-10 pick based on skill and upside alone, but he's had some troubling injuries this year and the latest (hip flexor) could be a chronic hurt that may scare teams off sitting at around 5-7. In this day and age- you can't afford to gamble picks that high on players who may be damaged goods.

Anyway- if you're a B's fan, be sure to give Anaheim thanks for winning a big game last night and further frustrating Leafs Nation for a day, at least.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Boston Bruins 2010 Draft Picks Rounds 1 and 2 Updated Dec. 22d

OK, gang- I missed Monday due to a lot of snow shoveling and other things, but am here with the updated draft pick scenario for this week.

The good news for Bruins fans is that the Leafs lost last night to Buffalo, who swept the home-and-home series and have won something like eight or nine straight games against their regional rival.

The bad news is that it took Derek Roy until overtime to get the winning goal, so Toronto got a point and moved up and out of the lottery range for the first time since I started this blog back during the second week of the NHL season.

Let's face it- the Leafs are a better team than they've shown; they are not a dead-last entry and we all kind of knew it. At the same time, they will have a tough schedule in January, so we'll have a real inclination of where in the standings we can expect the Leafs to sit when all is said and done based on what they do next month. They've given up an inordinate amount of points early; this hurts them because they can't get those back, so they essentially have to play winning hockey the rest of the way to have a sniff at the playoffs.

My guess is that they'll finish somewhere around where they did last year: at the 7th or 8th draft spot, which isn't a bad place to be for Boston in this 2010 class. If the Leafs are anywhere near five overall, then Bruins fans should be thrilled, because they'll be in prime shape to add some quality talent to the organization in both the first and second rounds.

OK- without further ado, here is where Boston would be picking if the season ended today (not taking the lottery into account):

Round 1
5th overall- Toronto (34 points; 13-16-8)
19th overall- Boston (41 points; 17-11-7)

Round 2
35th overall- Toronto
36th overall- Tampa Bay (35 points; 13-14-9)
49th overall- Boston

5, 19, 35, 36 and 49- all five picks still in the top-50, with 1 in the top-10, and another in the top-20.

By comparison, in 2008, when the Bruins came away with two of their better prospects in Joe Colborne and Max Sauve, they did it with the 16th and 45th overall selections, so the potential for adding quality and quality to the team's organizational system is considerable.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Farewell, Don Simmons...We Hardly Knew Ye

Tim Thomas moved past Don Simmons tonight with his 16th career NHL shutout (and fourth this season), good for ninth on Boston's all-time list with a critical 2-0 win over Northeast Division rival the Ottawa Senators on the road.

Simmons played 168 games for the B's between 1956-61, but Thomas knocked him down a peg and moved into a tie with Gilles Gilbert with his 29-save performance on a night when the B's managed to leapfrog over the Sens while the Toronto Maple Leafs lost at home to Buffalo in overtime.

Thomas has absolutely owned the Senators of late: in his last 10 starts, Thomas is 10-0-0 with a GAA of around 1.30 and save percentage over .950. Sens fans have to be seeing Thomas in his distinctive "Mage" mask in their nightmares every time their favorite team plays the B's.

Goals by Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm in the third salted the win away for Boston (Sturm converted a nice breakaway pass from Marc Savard to become the first Bruins player to hit double digits in goals this season with his 10th).

Most important, the Bruins are in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. That's a nice Christmas present to B's fans who had been turning into Grinches lately with some of their team's recent performances.

Hat tip to Martin Brodeur, who broke Terry Sawchuk's four decades old all-time shutout mark with his 104th shutout tonight in a 4-0 win over Pittsburgh on the road. He made a hellacious glove save on none other than Evgeni Malkin with about a minute left, so this one wasn't easy. Brodeur, who was picked one slot before Boston might have called his name in the 1990 NHL Draft continues to build on his amazing career.

P.S.- I know I didn't post the updated draft picks today, but will get them up tomorrow once I figure out the logjam at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Toronto's point elevates them, over the Flyers (who got smoked by the surging Panthers) and idle Ducks, but the Lightning and Rangers, who both won will move ahead, so once I figure it out, I'll get the updated picks up for you all on Tuesday.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Monster Shuts Out, I Mean...Boston Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson posted his first career NHL shutout at the expense of the undermanned Boston Bruins tonight, but to be fair- the Toronto Maple Leafs played well and deserved to win by a 2-0 score.

The Monster got the better of his goaltending counterpart, Tuukka Rask, who gave up a soft, soft goal to Tomas Kaberle in the second period and allowed a third frame tally to Jason Blake to lose his first career game against the team that drafted him.

When the Bruins defense consists of Johnny Boychuk, Andy Wozniewski and Adam McQuaid (playing in his 1st NHL game- h/t to "Quaider" who played his junior hockey in nearby Sudbury) in your top six to go with Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference and Matt Hunwick, you know you're going to have issues. But, on this night, it wasn't the D that was the problem- it was the lack of scoring punch from the forwards.

Marc Savard? 0 points in 6 games, with only one shot on net.

Michael Ryder? Ineffective and really hurt his team with a lazy boarding penalty on Luke Schenn late in the game when they were trying to break the whitewash.

Marco Sturm? Simply not getting the job done no matter who his center happens to be.

Byron Bitz? Couldn't convert several golden opportunities, but he is what he is- a grinding, plumber-type who can't be counted on as a top-six forward.

So, there it is. Rough night for the B's, who hung 4 on Chicago last night before falling in the shootout, but couldn't solve the Leafs. Montreal, Ottawa also gained two points in the standings, while Buffalo added one.

Celebrate good times tonight, Leafs fans- you weren't all that pretty either- and you essentially beat an AHL defense tonight, but the scoreboard don't say how, just how many.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tampa Loses to Detroit

That second-round pick is looking better and better each day, as Tampa Bay has been in free-fall lately after a promising start.

They looked like an AHL team tonight versus the Red Wings who looked like, well...the Red Wings.

Jimmy Howard got the shutout and Bruin-for-a-day Pat Eaves scored a nice goal to put the Wings up by three.

The 'Bolts are 1-7-2 in their last 10 and have dropped to 2nd-worst in the NHL (31 points), meaning that the Bruins would own the 32nd overall pick if the season ended today thanks to last March's deadline deal that brought Mark Recchi and Tampa's second choice this year to Boston.

The Leafs also have 31 ponts, but by virtue of their higher number of wins, they sit above the Isles and 'Bolts in the standings with Carolina sitting in the league basement.

The Isles, who have all-but-owned the Bruins this year (they'd be 3-0-0 if not for their third period collapse in the first meeting) got lit up by the Rangers, so they didn't go anywhere in the standings tonight.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bruins Sweaters of the Past #6: Andy Moog

BOSTON BRUINS 1987-88-1992-93
Born: February 18, 1960 in Penticton, British Columbia
5-8, 175
Games: 261 Minutes: 15,056 Wins: 136 Losses: 75 Ties: 36 GAA: 3.08 Shutouts: 13

Andy Moog is one of my all-time hockey idols after Gilles Gilbert and Mike Liut, who were my first hockey heroes in the 1970's.

Moog was traded to the Bruins after the Calgary Olympic Winter Games on March 2, 1988 for Geoff Courtnall, Bill Ranford and a second-round pick. The former Edmonton Oilers goalie had spent much of his career as Grant Fuhr's backup (though he was in net when the Oil clinched their first of five Stanley Cups, this one against the New York Islanders in 1984) and had three Stanley Cup rings to show for his time there.

Moog wanted to be a No. 1, so he left Edmonton after the 1986-87 season to join the Canadian National Team and played in the '88 Olympics, where he split time with youngster Sean Burke. At the time, it was widely believed that then-Oilers GM Glen Sather was going to trade Moog to Pittsburgh, but for whatever reason (likely Sather's asking price, which was steep), the deal never happened. Enter Harry Sinden, who was looking for a longer-term solution in net with Rejean Lemelin soon to be 34 and apparently lacking faith in the ability of the 21-year-old Ranford.

Although the B's didn't need a goaltender given how well the tandem of Lemelin and longtime backup Doug Keans was playing that season, the Moog to Boston announcement came as a bit of a surprise. The timing of the deal was especially interesting since Courtnall had recently tallied his first NHL hat trick against the Minnesota North Stars and had lit the lamp 32 times in 62 contests. Ranford seemed like a throw-in at the time, so while the trade had some mixed reactions, Moog was welcomed to Boston and would soon become a fan favorite for his agile and combative style between the nets.

Moog and Lemelin split time pretty equally until the 1990-91 season, when Moog became the No. 1 and kept that job for three full seasons. In 1988, Lemelin was the better goalie in the playoffs, outshining Moog in the Buffalo and Montreal series, even though the veteran from British Columbia did show signs of what he was capable. Moog actually started the 1988 Stanley Cup Final series, with Game 1 being played in Edmonton, a 2-1 loss in which Cam Neely scored Boston's lone goal and Moog played well, but not well enough. Lemelin would lose Games 2 and 3 before Moog returned for Game 4, initially played at the Boston Garden, but then shifted to Edmonton with the famous power outage and blackout which occurred after Edmonton tied the game in the second period.

After a disappointing loss in the second round of the 1989 playoffs to hated rival Montreal, Moog and Lemelin had an outstanding 1989-90 season, with the two capturing the Jennings Trophy for the first time in Bruins history, while Moog was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, losing out to Patrick Roy. The team won the Presidents Trophy and while Lemelin and Moog rotated initially in Boston's first-round playoff Adams Division semifinal series against the Hartford Whalers, Moog took over after coming into the 3rd period in relief of Lemelin in Game 4, with the Bruins down 5-2, and facing a 3-1 series deficit if they lost. An epic comeback saw the B's escape with a 6-5 win and Moog went the rest of the way, beating the Whalers in 7, Montreal in 5 and sweeping the Washington Capitals in the 1990 Prince of Wales Conference final. Unfortunately, the B's ran into the Edmonton buzzsaw again, and Bill Ranford made Sinden look foolish for trading him, stoning his former team and capturing Conn Smythe honors as playoff MVP after prevailing in a four-overtime goaltending duel against Moog which set the tone for the series, which ended in five games.

Moog would not take his team to the finals again, but the Bruins reached the semifinals in each of the next two years in 1991 and 1992, beating Montreal both times in the Adams Division final, only to fall to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the Conference finals each time. Tom Barrasso got the edge on Moog in both series, and since '92, the Bruins have not advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs.

Traded with Gord Murphy to the Dallas Stars for Jon Casey (and later retiring after a one-year stint with Montreal in 1998) after a horrific performance in the 1993 playoffs (a first-round sweep against Buffalo after finishing with the league's second-best regular season record) Moog finished his Boston career with 136 victories in 261 games, good for sixth all-time in the team's record books. However, his 36 career playoff wins are second only to Gerry Cheevers for tops in B's history. And, Moog did something Cheevers never could: he beat Montreal in the playoffs. Throwing out '88, in which Lemelin won all four games against the Habs to knock them out of the postseason for the first time since 1943, Moog presided over the elimination of Montreal from the postseason three times: 1990, 1991 and 1992.

I always admired Moog because like him, I am short in stature, so to see him play so well for as long as he did despite not being a tremendous athlete or having the kind of size that has now become a must for most pro goalies was an inspiration to me. I loved his goalie masks as well- the original "spokes" model he debuted with in Boston and used from 1988-91, and then his signature "snarling bear" that local mask maker and artist Dom Malerba designed for him.

This particular sweater was worn by Moog in the opening game of the 1991-92 season, the NHL's 75th season, a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers, in which both clubs wore "Turn Back The Clock" throwback designs to commemorate the league's anniversary. It doesn't have a lot of wear aside from some pilling where his glove and blocker rubbed up against the sleeve cuffs, because Moog wore it for only a few games before exchanging it for a bigger sweater. The TBTC B's sweaters were made of ultrafil knit material as opposed to the airknit fabric that they used in their regular shirts. Also, nameplates were not used on these- instead the individual letters in each players last name were sewn directly onto the back. The NHL 75th patch was sewn on the right breast.
Like all Moog gameworn sweaters, this one features his standard customizations: shortened sleeves and a slight taking up of the hem to reduce the length and how far it would hang down. If you compare photos of Moog's TBTC sweater to those of his teammates that year, you can clearly see that the amount of white on the shirt's body is shorter than the others, as are the sleeves, which on the unmodified TBTC models, have a black stripe at the end of the cuff. In the photos, you can clearly see that they've been altered.
This is the sweater Moog is wearing on the cover of the Bruins' 1991-92 Yearbook and is a great piece of history from one of Boston's best goalies, even if he was never able to help his team to the promised land.
I also have one of Andy's gameworn masks on display in this post. It's a Dom Malerba special, and has good wear- paint chips, puck marks, salt stains and other filth on the inside and is signed and dated "1992" by Mr. Malerba himself. I showed the mask to one of his colleagues at Pro Mask Inc., and he certified it as the real deal. These masks were made only for Moog and because he wore several in the two seasons he used this design, there could be more out there. Regrettably, I've never been able to photomatch this particular mask, but it is a prized piece of my hockey memorabilia collection and was probably worn during the 1992-93 season, as I've seen playoff footage of Moog from 1992, and the backplate of his mask did not have the "Moog" name stenciled on it. Unless this was a model used earlier that spring, it probably was used sometime between September-Dec 1992 and possibly beyond.

Red Line Report Releases December Rankings: Hall Back On Top

The latest issue of Red Line Report's monthly rankings is out, and well, what can I say? Taylor Hall is deservedly back on top of the 2010 draft class standings.

Hall is one of those players who can bring even the most curmudgeonly of hockey fans out of their seat with his speed, skill and flash. Oh, and did I mention that he makes the invincible-looking Team Canada World Junior Team that much more unbeatable? And speaking of Team Canada, Bruins prospect Jordan Caron made the team announced today, so congratulations to Jordan, who was also traded from the Rimouski Oceanic to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and will report to that team after the WJC tourney in January.

I'll have interviews with Hall and Cam Fowler (who departed today for the U.S. WJC Final Eval Camp at Lake Placid today) soon, so looking forward to talking to both and sharing their thoughts with my faithful readership. In all honesty- it's looking less and less likely that the Bruins will have a shot at Hall and Fowler, but it never hurts to dream big, right?

Red Line's December issue is historically one of their best because they post the first half assessments of the WHL and QMJHL players (with OHL to follow in January along with the WJC recaps). Their updated top-five is as follows:

1. Taylor Hall, LW Windsor (OHL)
2. Tyler Seguin, C Plymouth (OHL)
3. Cam Fowler, D Windsor (OHL)
4. Mikael Granlund, C HIFK Helsinki (Finland SM-Liiga)
5. Brandon Gormley, D Moncton (QMJHL)

A few notes: Russian Kirill Kabanov suffered a big wrist injury which has shelved him and dropped him down the rankings a bit. His fall is owed more to the outstanding play of teammate Gormley, who is clearly the second-best defenseman available in the draft after Fowler and could possibly be every bit as good in the NHL one day. Small but uber-skilled Mikael Granlund has been outstanding playing against men in Finland's highest league. He's silky-smooth and looks to have all the goods to make an NHL impact right away for whichever team lands him.

Portland right winger Nino Niederreiter has made a huge jump in the Red Line rankings, vaulting from 20 to 12, which is sad news for B's fans who were hoping they might get him with Boston's first-round pick. The cat is out of the bag on the Swiss forward who plays hockey with the passion and jam of a Western Canadian farm kid, and who will make some NHL team happy some day. He's a fine skater, but his real strengths are a wicked shot and release, excellent hockey sense and his premptive, hit-first style and willingness to go into the dirty areas of the ice.

After injured Prince George winger Brett Connolly, Niederreiter is Red Line's No. 2-ranked WHL prospect, which is saying something because one of Red Line's top/most experienced scouts is based out of Portland, so he sees Niederreiter quite a bit. If there were any major warts on this kid's game, he would've seen them by now.

One player who might bear watching with Boston's second first-rounder is Niederreiter's teammate, offensive defenseman Troy Rutkowski, who is Red Line's No. 6 guy out of the WHL right now. At 6-2, 210, he's got excellent size, mobility and a willingness to rush the puck. His production has dipped recently due to a desire to play more of a defensive game, but he's one of those guys who makes this draft such an deep and intriguing class.

And while we're on the subject of the Winterhawks, they have no fewer than FOUR of Red Line's top-10 WHL prospects at! If you're on the left coast and can get to a Portland game, they've got to be worth making the effort to go see (LW Brad Ross at 8 and C Ryan Johansen at 10).

Don't forget about Moose Jaw winger Quinton Howden, who hasn't had a great season given the expectations going in as a former top overall bantam draft pick, but he's got the size and skills to develop into an outstanding pro, and he's currently projected near the end of round 1.

Finally, for those who love 'em tough- check out Moose Jaw defender Dylan McIlrath, who at 17 is one of the most feared fighters in the Dub, and who has been beating on 19-year-old opponents. Red Line said that he's the toughest under-18 prospect since Scott Parker, which is really saying something (Red Line called him a "baggage smasher"- LOVE it!). Plus, he's a very good skater for his size. Don't expect much offensive upside, but that mobility and ferocity will probably see McIlrath get picked somewhere in the top-30.

For more on the Red Line Report, be sure to check out their website at:

That's it for now, but as the hockey season heats up, the 2010 draft coverage here is only going to get more in-depth and intense, so be sure to stick around!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

B's Lose, Leafs Win and Move Up A Spot

Boston's offense went MIA again in a 3-1 loss to Philly at home last night.

The winning goal appeared to deflect off of Blake Wheeler's glove, but will no doubt bring forth the critics of Tim Thomas once again. I won't go down the road of defending him, but anytime your team can only score one goal, chances are- you won't win the game.

On the other hand, Toronto beat the Ottawa Senators and have posted two wins in a row after their last defeat by the B's.

They now have 31 points, which ties them with seven other clubs, but by virtue of tie-breakers, they only managed to pass up the New York Islanders in the standings.

If the season ended today, the Bruins would own the third overall pick, but let's be honest- Toronto certainly appears to have gotten it together better and with Vesa Toskala actually playing like an NHL goalie these days, they're going to pass up some more clubs on the way up.

The bad news for Toronto is that they gave up a lot of points in the first two months of the season, so how far up they can go is the big question. They've got a tougher schedule here in the short-term so it will be an interesting measuring stick for them.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's Monday- Time for the Updated Bruins Picks for Rounds 1 and 2 (Dec 14th)

Not a bad Monday morning coming off a Patriots win despite a brutal performance from Randy Moss. I'm not going to pile on the guy any more than the majority of the Boston media already is...he had a bad game. Let's see how he does against Buffalo first. But, I do so enjoy watching Wes Welker play.

Bill Belichick was effusive in his praise of the diminutive receiver who had 10 catches for 105 yards in helping the Pats to a 20-10 victory over Carolina and became the 4th player in NFL history to post three consecutive 100-catch seasons. The ball coach even compared Welker to a hockey player in his postgame comments, likening him to the invaluable blue-collar type who goes into the corners for pucks and then succeeds in digging them out. Hat tip to you, coach- Welker has gotten more out of his talent than any Patriots player since Troy Brown. (Another receiver I enjoy watching play is Miles Austin of the Dallas Cowboys- you have to pull for a guy who played college at Monmouth State in New Jersey and shows such unbridled joy for the game as he does week in and week out)

OK, enough of the pigskin talk. The Bruins have a winnable matchup against the sinking Philadelphia Flyers tonight. It should be Brian Boucher in net for the Flyers, but they did go out and sign old pal John Grahame, who played for Peter Laviolette in Carolina.

Here are the updated pick positions for Boston. Toronto has quietly crept into position to jump over some teams at the bottom, so don't know how much longer the Bruins will be firmly in the Taylor Hall/Cam Fowler/Tyler Seguin sweepstakes, but we'll keep a close watch on the standings so you don't have to.

1st Round

2nd overall- Toronto (29 points; 11-14-7)
19th overall- Boston(38 points; 16-9-6)

2nd Round

31st overall- Toronto
36th overall- Tampa Bay (31 points; 11-12-9)
49th overall- Boston

So: 5 picks in the top-50 at 2, 19, 31, 36 and 49.

Even with a win over Philly tonight, the B's will stay in 2nd place in the Northeast Division, as Buffalo would have 19 wins to Boston's 17 while both would have 40 points.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

B's Lose Out on Point, Leafs Smack Caps

OK- I admit I'm a little gassed after my Rob Schremp manifesto, but it just seemed like the perfect opportunity to highlight the pitfalls of placing too much hope in an inexact science (like drafting).

THAT SAID- The Bruins dropped a tough game in OT to the Islanders, tonight. It was one they should have won, but former UMass-Lowell star Dwayne Roloson outperformed Boston's Tim Thomas tonight and was the key difference-maker in getting that extra point. "Roli" seems to have Boston's number lately, though. He's been outstanding against the Bruins this season, going 2-0-1 against them. Thomas was really hung out to dry on the Franz Nielsen OT breakaway goal when Dennis Wideman and Andrew Ference both moved up on offense and failed to get back into the play when Nielsen broke. That kid can play, btw. I watched him net a pair of goals against the Capitals in Washington earlier this season, and he's got some hands.

Michael Ryder and David Krejci set each other up on their goals tonight, the only two the B's could manage, but it is nice to see them both going.

If there is a silver lining to the loss, it is that the Isles gained the extra point to keep two points up on Toronto. It's only one game's worth of cushion, and the Leafs are still at No. 29 as of now (tied with Philly in points with 29) but they're just two wins away from vaulting up nine spots in the standings. Tank Nation watchers take heed!

Speaking of the Leafs, they beat the Eastern Conference-leading Caps tonight, 6-3. It was some serious weak sauce of a performance by Washington, who has looked lousy in their last two games against Toronto after taking the Leafs to the woodshed in the Caps' home opener way back in early October.

The Caps blew leads of 2-0 and 3-2, thanks to what I thought was some shaky goaltending from Czech goalie Michal Neuvirth. Leafs fans can certainly relate to that, but tonight, they got a solid performance from Vesa Toskala, Phile Kessel got off his four-game scoreless schneid (and added a couple of assists) and got a pair of goals from Matt Stajan. recap. The Caps are good enough to top the Eastern Conference, but blow it against Toronto, the Bruins drop a point they should have had on Long Island, and the Leafs could surge up the rankings next week if they can string some wins together.

Not good news for Bruins fans.

Rob Schremp: A Cautionary Draft Tale

Watching the game tonight, I couldn't help but notice No. 13 (interesting number choice) skating in the blue and orange of the Islanders, and how Syracuse, New York native Rob Schremp represents the dangers of overhyped "can't miss" NHL draft prospects who sometimes do.

Schremp got his first NHL goal tonight by swooping in and banking a rebound of his initial shot lying next to the post into the cage off of the back of one of Tim Thomas's skates. It was a nice move for sure- the kind of play you could easily call a "goal scorer's" kind of goal.

But, when you go back and look at Schremp's checkered past, you have to ask the big question: Why hasn't he done more to date?

I'm having a harder time accounting for a player who was more overrated before he'd even been drafted than Schremp was. I remember that the Hockey News had a story about him back when he was a 14-year-old skating for the Syracuse Jr. Crunch and scoring goals in bunches. The book on him was that he had phenomenal hands and offensive instincts, but his skating needed work.

Schremp eventually went to the OHL's Mississauga Ice Dogs (hardly a model franchise at the time) and scored 26 goals in his rookie season (2002-03). The following year he essentially forced a trade to the powerhouse London Knights where he went on to post a decent but not eye-popping 28 goals and 69 points in 60 contests with Dale Hunter's team.

Now, to hear the buzz on him all year (during his 03-04 draft season), you would have thought he was scoring at a clip like John Tavares, and you could surf the internet and find legions of Robbie Schremp fans defending his honor and lashing out at anyone who raised concerns about his lack of top-end speed and questionable attitude during the season and as the draft approached.

It was the first real experience I had with a powerful publicity and lobbying machine as it applies to a hockey prospect. Here was a guy who, when you look back at it, wasn't all that remarkable a player, yet he had an almost mystic aura building around him as the draft approached. Now, before you accuse me of MSU (making sh** up) understand that I remember seeing him with his entourage and meeting him at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft in Raleigh, N.C. (we stayed at the same hotel). Just the brief interaction I had with him and one of his handlers there simply reaffirmed what I had been hearing about him for the several years leading up to his draft: That he was a lot of sizzle, not much steak...and woe be to anyone who dared to question his path to NHL stardom.

When Edmonton grabbed him 25th overall, I still remember how so many in the media (or at least some of those sitting around me when the pick was made) tut-tutted the fact that he fell so much lower than anticipated. Many of those covering that draft rushed to declare the Oilers "winners" for spending two of their top draft picks on Schremp and huge goaltender Devan Dubnyk (14th overall) 24 hours after the event wrapped up and the teams went home for the summer.

Almost six years later, Schremp is a bit player on the Islanders and Dubnyk still hasn't made it (although he recently made his NHL debut with the Oil and is still a work in progress). The Oilers' 2004 draft class, which has produced exactly one NHL player on their current roster (Liam Reddox played a few games earlier this year but is back in the AHL as of now), has been by all accounts a complete and total bust. No. 146 overall pick Bryan Young played 17 scoreless games over parts of two seasons with the Oilers, but looks like he no longer fits into their plans. Schremp, who was in and out of the Edmonton lineup a few times for a cup of coffee (7 games, 3 assists), was placed on waivers at the beginning of the season and claimed by New York. Coming into tonight's game, he'd played in just 9 games, posting three assists. Even when he was on waivers in early October, I remember reading numerous teams' fans having debates on claiming him, even clubs with established depth up front. You see, almost six years after being drafted and despite a mediocre career in the AHL since he turned pro in 2006, Schremp's draft hype still lingered.

So, why bring any of this up at all?

Because it just goes to show you that sometimes, all of the buzz and excitement of an NHL team's draft class can wind up being meaningless. If you jump into the wayback machine and travel to June and July 2004, you'd be hard-pressed to find many,whether they were professional media or hockey fans posting on the net, who were critical of what Edmonton had done in Raleigh. They had two first-rounders, and both of them seemed destined for major success. However, given that five-year window that many NHL scouts use to judge the success or failure of their drafts, the Oilers' efforts from that year have fallen woefully short.

On the other hand, a team like Boston, who didn't even have a first-round pick, got very little press and attention outside of their regional coverage. In retrospect, the Bruins crushed Edmonton in that draft: they landed David Krejci late in the 2nd round, used Martins Karsums as a package to land Mark Recchi and what looks like an early 2nd-rounder in this year's draft, and then signed fifth overall pick Blake Wheeler as a free agent (even though that has nothing to do with what Boston did in '04, it speaks to their scouts, who kept tabs on him and advised Peter Chiarelli to make the pitch to sign him in '08). In the later rounds, they selected Kris Versteeg ('09 Calder Trophy finalist for Chicago) and defenseman Matt Hunwick. They even used another late-rounder, Ben Walter, to acquire that draft's 16th overall selection, Petteri Nokelainen, from the Islanders. Although Nokelainen couldn't keep his job in Boston (and was flipped to Anaheim for Steve Montador last spring), it was another example of the Bruins managing to get some That's what you call getting bang for your buck when you consider what Edmonton did with their top-two selections, both in the top-25.

So, one team with two picks in the top-25 and three in the top-45 (Roman Tesliuk), comes away with bupkus, while the other, with no picks until after 60 land their second/third line center, an impact 5/6 defender with some upside, and, had the GM been a little more patient, a solid 2nd/3rd line winger in Versteeg had he not been dealt to the Blackhawks.

In this day and age of a salary cap, drafting and developing players is everything. Missing in an entire year will come back to haunt you, as evidenced by their non-playoff finish last year and their current 17th-standing in the 30-team NHL.

Maybe Schremp gets it together and becomes a late-blooming NHL star, but to me, he's a cautionary tale of anointing these kids before they've ever skated a single shift at the highest level. As good as your team's draft looks the day after because perhaps they landed some "sexy" names or plucked the "can't miss" kid who inexplicably fell into your club's lap much later than expected, remember Rob Schremp and the '04 Edmonton Oilers. Completely missing in that draft has contributed to some of that team's recent struggles and underscores the importance of hitting with your draft picks, no matter how many or how few a club has.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

So Easy A Caveman Can Do It

Mark Stuart's point blast has put Boston up 1-0 over Toronto in the 1st period.

He teed up a perfect cross-ice pass along the blue line from Johnny Boychuk for his 2nd goal of the season and first point in 23 games.

Never known for his offense, he's a solid defensive presence who plays with toughness and courage. In fact, I was talking to Providence Bruins head coach Rob Murray the other day, and he compared current P-Bruin Adam McQuaid to Stuart. If McQuaid ends up being a player similar to Stuart for Boston, then the B's will have done well.

Tonight's goal is extra special for Captain Caveman, as he was presented with that flag from the group of Army NCOs before the puck drop. There's always something to be said for a little extra motivation, and you know that Stuey was thrilled to see the puck go past Vesa Toskala like that.

Tuukka Rask in net again for Boston, and I'll post more after the game.

UPDATE: Stuart just dropped the gloves with Jamal Mayers in a rematch from their fight on Saturday, but Mayers lost his footing and the B's defender let up after pulling the sweater over his head. Two minutes each for roughing early in the second.

Derek Morris with a power play bomb for his 3rd on the year, 2-0, Bruins.

UPDATE: Scratch that on the first dust-up. The two come out of the box and a fight ensues. Pretty even with both exchanging rights and Stuart with the takedown at the end. Five for fighting. Classy move not to pummel Mayers when he initially lost his balance but help him up so they could throw 'em. Stuart is indeed...Caveman Strong!

UPDATE: Final score: B's 5, Leafs 2...thanks to a pair of late goals by Mark Recchi to put it out of reach. I'll have more on the game tomorrow, but you have to wonder if Stuart will be having the roast duck with mango salsa tonight...

Tough Night for Tank Hopes

The Toronto Maple Leafs appear to have a pulse.

After their thrashing at the hands of the Bruins last Saturday, the Leafs returned home, where they posted back-to-back wins over the Atlanta Thrashers Monday and New York Islanders last night.

Although Phil Kessel's hot scoring hand has cooled, but others have stepped up, like Kessel's linemate Alexei Ponikarovsky, who tallied his 10th and 11th goals against Atlanta. Last night, Jason Blake did his old team in with the clinching score in the last five minutes after the Isles scored twice in the third to pull even.

Most encouraging for Leafs fans of late has been the play of goaltender Vesa Toskala, who has posted .917 and .938 save percentages in his last two starts while going 2-0. The Leafs are now 10-13-7.

The Buffalo Sabres blanked offensive juggernaut Washington last night, to re-take the Northeast Division lead, so that was a double whammy for the B's faithful.

On the brighter side, Tampa Bay lost to the Edmonton Oilers (meaning that second-round pick looks better for Boston; it would be 37th overall if the season ended today), while St. Louis, Minnesota all won to keep the Leafs in the rearview mirror a bit.

Tonight, the Leafs are back in Boston. A win could leapfrog them over both Florida and Anaheim, who are just one point ahead in the standings, and tie them with Philadelphia and the Isles with 29 points. So, huge game in the standings for the B's tonight.

Oh, and there will be a nice pre-game ceremony tonight. A group of Army Soldiers will present a Bruins flag to defenseman Mark Stuart, who recently purchased a sizeable amount of tickets for servicemen and women and their families at military appreciation night. The flag was taken on missions with a unit from the 25th Infantry Division while operating in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

This is the kind of thing that you don't see enough of, and it's nice for the troops to recognize Stuey as an embodiment of the kind of values they admire most in a hockey player, and take the time to appreciate his efforts on behalf of those who serve.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bruins Sweaters of the Past #5: Raymond Bourque

BORN: December 28, 1960 in Montreal, Quebec
BOSTON BRUINS 1979-80-1999-00
Games Played: 1518 Goals: 395 Assists: 1111 Points: 1506 PIM: 1089

This sweater was worn by the incomparable Raymond Bourque during the 1989-90 season when the Boston Bruins went to the Stanley Cup final series, losing to Edmonton 4 games to 1 after the B's won the President's Trophy as having the best regular season record.

Bourque was Boston's first pick, eighth overall in the greatest draft of all time: 1979. It was the first of two selections in the top-21, the second of which was another defender, Brad McCrimmon. The B's owned the early pick thanks to a trade in which they sent goalie Ron Grahame to Los Angeles for the King's first-rounder.

The rest as they say, is history. Bourque won the Calder Trophy in 1979-80 as the NHL's top rookie and spent the next 21 seasons in Boston, winning five Norris Trophies along the way, with numerous NHL All-Star accolades and becoming the team's all-time leader in games, assists and points. He also leads the team in the following playoff career categories: games, assists and points.

He retired after 22 seasons in the league, and after helping the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup in 2001. Many Bruins fans were left wondering what might have been had he been able to do so in Boston.

This sweater has obvious game use, including stick tape marks (including one nice streak on the upper portion of the crest's 'B'), several unrepaired holes, and one small repair. There is a gold Custom Crafted stamp on the rear hem, consistent with what the North Attleboro company did to the sweaters in that 89-90 set (the previous season had highly visible black Custom Crafted stamps on them.). The 1990 Stanley Cup Finals Patch is sewn onto the right upper front, the second year that the NHL went to patches for the two teams reaching the championship series. Bourque's captain's 'C' made permanent for him in 1988 until his trade to Colorado 12 years later, is sewn onto the left breast.

This sweater is no longer in my collection, but it lives on through the photos I took of it and the memories it evoked from almost 20 years ago. It's hard to believe it has been so long since the Bruins were able to reach the final round of the playoffs.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Boston Bruins 1st, 2nd Round Draft Picks Updated Dec 7th

It's Monday, so I'm back with the updated draft slots for Boston's first five picks in next June's draft.

It's also Pearl Harbor Day- 68 years ago, Japanese naval aircraft attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet at anchor in Hawaii. I always take time to remember those who lost their lives that day, and in the war's ensuing years.

In the world of hockey, the Anaheim Ducks lost to Ottawa last night via shootout, so they gained an extra point on Toronto, giving them 26. The Maple Leafs face the Atlanta Thrashers tonight at home and a win pulls them within one point of Anaheim for 28th in the NHL.

OK, here are the picks (if the season ended today, lottery issues aside)

1st Round

2nd overall- Toronto (8-13-7; 23 points)
22nd overall- Boston (15-9-5; 35 points)

2nd Round

32nd overall- Toronto
42nd overall- Tampa Bay (11-9-8; 30 points)
52nd overall- Boston

The Bruins don't play until Thursday, when they host Toronto again, while the Leafs play the Thrashers tonight, then face the New York Islanders at home again Wednesday as a tune-up before their rematch with Boston, where the B's await and their fans can't wait to heckle Phil Kessel again.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Domination on Causeway Street

As expected, the Boston Bruins took care of business at home tonight, all but erasing the memories of their putrid showing in Montreal Friday with a 7-2 thrashing of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Marc Savard tallied his third career hat trick (giving him eight markers on the season in 14 games), Tuukka Rask played very well (31 saves, 1 assist) despite giving up a pair of goals late (not really his fault). Patrice Bergeron continued his sublime play in all zones, going coast-to-coast on the power play to leave the puck on the doorstep for Mark Recchi to bang home, making it 5-0 early in the third.

It was a forgettable night for Phil Kessel, who was a -3 and was was booed by the home crowd every time he touched the puck. In the third, the boo-birds changed tactics and derisively taunted the forward's name. Hey- not a big fan of poking the sleeping bear with a stick, myself, so we'll see what happens when the venue shifts to Toronto next week. Kessel was a good player for the Bruins who did what a lot of guys do: treated his situation like the business it is. I don't think his treatment by the Boston crowd was necessary, but I understand it. We'll see him quite a bit, and I do know this: sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you. Kessel will gain the upper hand at some point, just as he came out on the short end tonight. (Hey, Kirk- enough with the bear references, eh?)

This game had a little something for every hockey fan: skating, scoring, hitting and fights. Shawn Thornton more than held his own against Toronto tough guy Colton Orr (what's with the porn star 'stache, Colt? Shave that disgrace growing on your upper lip soonest, please). Mark Stuart and Steve Begin both fought Jamal Mayers, who earned decisions (IMO) over the Boston players.

But- this was a big point swing for the B's. It put them back on top of the Northeast Division for thanks to the New York Rangers' 2-1 win over their cross-state rival Buffalo Sabres, and kept Toronto down in the standings (who had quietly crept within four points of tying the Broadway Blueshirts). Oh, and Carolina posted a rare win today (against Vancouver), giving them 17 points on the year- six behind the Leafs. Other teams like St. Louis, Florida, Edmonton and Minnesota all put some distance between themselves and the Leafs as well.

Getting back to the game- you just had this feeling that the Bruins were going to come out hard after the Habs mopped the ice with them, and unfortunately for Toronto, they got the kind of goaltending you'd expect from Joey MacDonald. He didn't lose the game for them, but he's not the kind of talent who was going to steal the kind of game his team needed given their own mediocrity tonight.

Now, the the bad news: Dennis Wideman left the game in the second period with an undisclosed "upper body" injury.

B's have some time off before their next one, so fans should have some time to enjoy this one. They can continue to energize the Tank Nation, and be pleased that their boys responded as needed.

Johnny Get Your Gun

I'll have more on Boston's big win against Toronto tonight, but I wanted to post about that bomb by defenseman Johnny Boychuk for his first NHL goal.

That's why he's the reigning Eddie Shore Award winner as the AHL's top defenseman, sportsfans. A shot like that is mostly genetic- hard, powerful, accurate and honed over years spent shooting thousands of pucks at sheets of plywood and regulation hockey goals. (At least Brian Rolston once told me he thought that the power behind a slap shot has more to do with genetics than technique.)

Back in '02, his fearsome shot and size was a big (pun intended) reason he was a high second-round draft pick, and it's nice to see him finally get his first big league marker seven-plus years later.

On the play in question, Boychuk stepped into David Krejci pass to the point at full gallop and Vesa Toskala never had a chance, the puck rocketing past him and into the twine much to the delight of the TD Garden faithful.

He replaced Matt Hunwick in the lineup thanks to the Michigander's fiasco of a game in Montreal, after scoring 20 goals for Providence last season, showing why he remains an interesting option whenever he can find the time and space to uncork his slapper.

Congratulations, Johnny!