NHL Notes: Bruins in ruins; more
Bruins coach Claude Julien offered a surprisingly measured response to the 9–2 hide-tanning his team received courtesy of the Kings on Tuesday night.
“Sometimes you have to go through growing pains, and sometimes you look at your bench and say, ‘Well, I don’t really have all the experience I’d like to have to be able to counter some of these situations.’ But it’s not a big deal, it’s part of the, I guess, stage that we’re at right now with our team.”
The unasked follow-up question: What stage is this, exactly?
The Bruins clearly see themselves as a playoff team, a reasonable position considering the quality of competition in the Eastern Conference. They might even wind up with a favorable opponent in the opening round and sneak into the second. But as that roll-over against the Kings pointed out, they’re in no way ready to match up against a real contender. Like Julien says, too many of the players hes been given, especially on the blue line, lack the experience to meet that kind of challenge. And those that do have it, veterans like Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, don’t have much tread left on their tires.
It’s an awkwardly constructed group, one that seems more likely to take a step back next season than to take one forward. And that puts pressure on general manager Don Sweeney to commit one way or the other: either bolster the lineup for one more kick at the can, or set his sights squarely on the future.
Doing nothing while hoping things sort themselves out? That’s not really an option.
The Bruins have 10 games remaining before the trade deadline. Their next six games are on the road, including stops in Detroit, Nashville and Dallas. They’ve been great away from TD Garden this season, going 16-5-3. If they play close to that standard, Sweeney may look to be a buyer.
And if they struggle? Julien might find even less experience the next time he looks down the bench.
• With Artemi Panarin tearing it up alongside Patrick Kane, and Dylan Larkin starring in the All-Star Game, the battle for the Calder Trophy is turning into a two-man race.
But maybe we shouldn't be so quick to count out Shayne Gostisbehere.
The slick defender chipped in an assist on Philadelphia’s lone goal in a 4–1 loss to Anaheim on Tuesday night, extending his scoring streak to nine games (2-10-12) and giving him 28 points in just 34 games this season.
That’s impressive enough on the surface, ranking him 24th among all defenders and fifth among freshmen skaters. Not bad for a guy who didn’t earn a recall from the minors until Nov. 14. But where it really shines is under the bright light of #fancystats.
One of the most intriguing numbers offered up by the analytics crowd is points/60, a stat that recalibrates offensive production as a factor of time on ice. And by that measure, Gostisbehere isn’t just having a good season. He’s equaling the best season by any defenseman since the lockout.
According to War On Ice, Gostisbehere is chipping in an astonishing 2.63 points per 60 minutes of ice time. To put that in perspective, Erik Karlsson ranks second at 2.29 this season. P.K. Subban was at 2.32 during his Norris Trophy season of 2012-13. Kris Letang came in at 2.47 the same year.
The only defender to match what Gostisbehere is doing was Mark Streit, who also posted a 2.63 over the course of 81 games with the Canadiens back in 2007-08.
It’s worth pointing out that Ghost has put up his numbers over half a season, while those other totals reflect a full campaign. It’s entirely possible, if not likely, that he’ll regress before the end of the year. Still, it’s an eye-popping start to a career that has Flyers fans picturing glorious days ahead.
• According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the NHL is reviewing the throat-slicing gesture made by Toronto’s Nazem Kadri in response to a heavy hit from Calgary’s Mark Giordano on Tuesday night. The league could decide to fine Kadri, or suspend him for one game, much like it did Nick Boynton for issuing a similar threat in a preseason game back in 2010.
UPDATE: On Thursday, the NHL fined Kadri $5,000, the maximum allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
If it comes to that point, no one should have an issue with it. Empty threat or not, it goes way beyond the boundaries of sportsmanship and doesn’t belong in the game. But seeing this kind of attention paid to a simple gesture, you have to wonder why the league continues to shrugs its shoulders at incidents like Wayne Simmonds’ cheap shot on Ryan McDonagh, or the cross-check from McDonagh that preceded it.
Simmonds' punch left the Rangers captain with a concussion that has already cost him one game and clouds the team’s future heading toward the trade deadline. He received a five-minute match penalty and game misconduct for intent to injure, but nothing in the way of supplemental discipline. That’s absolutely stunning given the damage he inflicted and the league’s supposed concern over the effects of head trauma.
McDonagh shouldn't get a pass, either. Though Simmonds was unharmed, it was a reckless use of his stick that targeted an opponent's head.
For the moment then, it appears that gesturing hands are bad while throwing hands is just business as usual.
The numbers game
• In their 9-2 romp over the Bruins, the Kings tied their franchise record of nine different goal-scorers in one game—something L.A. had done four times, most recently on Jan. 21, 1987 vs. the Penguins (10-5 W). They also became the first team with nine different goal-scorers in one game since the Jets did it against the Flyers on on Oct. 27, 2011.
• After blanking the Blackhawks 2–0 on Tuesday night, Martin Jones is now the fourth Sharks goaltender to ever shut out a defending Stanley Cup champion on the road. The others are Steve Shields (1999-00 at Dallas), Evgeni Nabokov (twice in 2001-02 at Colorado) and Antti Niemi (2014-15 at Los Angeles).
• Roberto Luongo of the Panthers has tied Hall of Famer Glenn Hall for sixth on the NHL’s all time games played by a goaltender list, with 906.
• Elliotte Friedman offers his take on the Dion Phaneuf trade, Sidney Crosby's scoring surge, and deadline possibilities in his 30 Thoughts column.
• Losing your pearly whites comes with the territory for hockey players.
• The Red Wings have trademarked a phrase to describe their new arena. And it is really, really bad.
• Now that Dustin Byfuglien has been signed, when does the other shoe drop in Winnipeg?
• A former member of the Minnesota Wild says it’s time to fire coach Mike Yeo.
• A jersey change is coming for the Penguins.