There are a lot of words that could be used to describe the 2014-15 season of the Boston Bruins. ‘Successful’ would not be one of them. Coming off of a Presidents’ Trophy a season ago, big things were expected from the Black and Gold, but they never got to showcase their full potential as injuries to several key players derailed their season and now there is only one team from the Garden that is playoff bound. Whether Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli return in 2015 is still up in the air, but the team did announce Monday that it will be parting ways with longtime fourth-liners and unrestricted free agents, Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell, as they look to improve in the goal-scoring department for next season. Before we completely turn the page to next year, however, let’s look back at the final two weeks of play, which featured a teenaged rookie setting a Bruins’ record and joining some pretty impressive company in the process, the first NHL goal for one young defenseman, the team’s most shots on goal in two years, a dismal scoreless streak against one playoff-bound team, a woeful piece of all-time history relating to a particular season series and Boston becoming the first team to miss the postseason the year after earning one of the league’s most impressive trophies. For the final time in 2014-15, this is Boston Bruins: Final Two Weeks By The Numbers.
The Bruins head off the ice after a disappointing end to the 2014-15 season.
0: The Bruins did not allow the Rangers (this year’s Presidents’ Trophy winners) to have a power-play opportunity in their 4-2 win on March 28. It was the first time since Nov. 10 against the Devils that the Bruins’ opponent did not have a single power play and just the second time this season.
1: Zach Trotman scored his first career NHL goal – the game winner – to beat the Red Wings late in the third period on April 2.
1: The Wings led the Bruins, 1-0, after two periods in that game before the B’s rallied to win with three goals in the third. It marked the first time this season that the Wings lost a game in regulation in which they led after two periods (21-1-4).
.167: The Bruins had a .167 winning percentage this season when Torey Krug committed a penalty – the lowest of any regular player on the team. Zdeno Chara (.214) was the next lowest.
1.85: New York’s Henrik Lundqvist came into the March 28 meeting against Boston with a 1.85 goals-against average in 36 career appearances against the B’s before surrendering four goals in the loss.
One thing is clear: if the Bruins are going to make the playoffs this season, they are going to have to be nearly perfect in their eight remaining games. In the last two weeks, they have fallen out of the playoff picture, missed a chance to sweep the season series from one division rival for the first time ever, surrendered a half dozen goals to another division foe for the first time in almost a decade, got their first shutout in one Eastern city in nearly four decades and still have not scored a goal this year against one team they are chasing. This is Boston Bruins: Last Two Weeks By The Numbers.
The Bruins have been bumped out of the playoffs, but Tuukka Rask has been far from the problem.
0: The Bruins shut out the Penguins, 2-0, on March 14 and then were shut out by the same score at the hands of the Capitals in their next game the following night. It marked the first time the B’s were involved in shutouts in consecutive games since Nov. 19 and 21, 2011 with 6-0 and 1-0 wins over the Islanders and Canadiens. It was also the first time they won a game via a shutout and then lost their next via a shutout since March 24 and 26, 2010 against the Canadiens and Rangers.
1.35: Ottawa’s Andrew Hammond came into last Thursday’s win over the B’s with a 1.35 goals-against average in 12 starts before surrendering four to Boston.
After a less than stellar February, the Bruins seem to have found their stride again during the first half of March as they have put some separation between themselves and those chasing for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. The team has gone 6-0-1 in its last seven games and seen their first shootout goal of the calendar year, one winger accomplishing something not done in 31 years, a rare two-goal game for a member of the fourth line, the special teams doing something they have not done since 2009 and the team opening the scoring in as consistent of a way they have not done since 1990. This is Boston Bruins: Last Two Weeks By The Numbers.
Brad Marchand has been doing his part to help jumpstart the Bruins in the month of March.
0: Carl Soderberg failed to win a face off against the Flyers on Saturday for the first time since Nov. 21.
1: Ryan Spooner scored the first goal of his career on Feb. 27 to give the Bruins their 30th win, 3-2, over the Devils in overtime. It came in his 35th career NHL game.
1: Six nights later, he took the first shootout attempt of his career in the loss to the Flames (0-1).
1: Max Talbot earned his first point as a member of the Bruins with the primary assist on Brad Marchand’s game-winning overtime goal to beat the Flyers, 3-2, on Saturday.
1.20: David Pastrnak is tied for fifth in the league with 1.20 points per game against the Atlantic Division this season (just five games).
2: Daniel Paille recorded goals in consecutive games on Feb. 24 and 27 for the first time since Jan. 4 and 7, 2014.
I recently read an excellent article written by Alex Speier of the Boston Globe that I believe offers a great deal of perspective on both the Red Sox’ offseason strategy and their plan moving forward. There has been popular sentiment among most Red Sox fans that the team’s offseason goals remain incomplete due to the lack of an “established ace;” whether that deficiency changes the Red Sox’ postseason aspirations remains to be seen. However in the article mentioned above, Speier examines the returns on $20 million Average Annual Value contracts for pitchers, and then compares them to drafted amateurs who earned a bonus of $5 million or more, and Cuban free agents who received a bonus of $10 million or more. The article is definitely worth a read for more in-depth analysis, but the main conclusion is that while you generally get what you pay for, future considerations favor the Red Sox’ offseason strategy.
1 Hanley + 1 Sandoval = 1 Lester
The first part of Speier’s article asks why the Red Sox flexed their financial muscle on Yoan Moncada instead of Jon Lester. This is really not a fair comparison, since the $63 million the team spent on Moncada (including the overage tax) is roughly one-third of what Lester eventually received from the Cubs in free agency ($180 million, including a seventh year option). Instead, let us compare Lester’s signing to what the Red Sox actually did with the money they saved from his defection. The Red Sox spent about $183 million to sign Hanley Ramirez AND Pablo Sandoval, effectively getting two above average players instead of one. While there is still room for improvement in the rotation, the lineup was also a major issue last season and getting two above average bats for the price of one above average starting pitcher should be applauded.
First a little disclaimer: the headline might be somewhat misleading. The Red Sox’ signing of Cuban uber-prospect Yoan Moncada does seem to stabilize the team’s infield picture, but for the future, meaning two or three years down the line. There is no current opening in the Red Sox infield, but there should be by the time Moncada is ready to show the world why the Red Sox just paid $31.5 million to a 19 year-old who has never played baseball in the United States. The tools, talent, and projectability are allegedly off the charts, so once he is ready the Red Sox might more or less have to find a spot for him, but it might not be as hard as it sounds.
Consider the Red Sox infield picture beyond the 2015 season; Mike Napoli is headed for free agency, and while he says he would like to stay beyond this season, there probably won’t be much motivation for the Red Sox to get something done beyond a one-year deal. So that leaves Dustin Pedroia and Pablo Sandoval locked up long-term, plus Xander Bogaerts sticking around at shortstop. However, given Sandoval’s less-than-inspiring physique (plus his career 0 DRS and 2.2 UZR at third), it might be best to move him to first base in the long term. If injuries or weight really become an issue, he could even DH on a near full-time basis, thereby leaving first base open for Hanley Ramirez. Regardless, the first base/DH duties should go between Sandoval and Ramirez, in whatever order the Red Sox see fit.
The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks contested arguably the greatest Super Bowl of all-time. It had everything from hard hitting defense to brilliant offense and just pure drama as the two teams battled it out until literally the last seconds of the game. With 23 seconds to go Russell Wilson threw an interception to Patriots rookie defensive back Malcom Butler on the one yard line sending the New England Patriots players and fans around the world to go in to a frenzy of celebration as well as disbelief that they had finally captured their first Super Bowl championship since 2004.
|Brady’s reaction to Butler’s intercepted summed it all up for anyone associated with the Patriots
After Jermaine Kearse’s catch down at the goal-line it appeared that New England would surely suffer a third straight Super Bowl defeat as it seemed once again that the football gods were once again going to snatch victory away from the Patriots with a David Tyree/Mario Manningham type play. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in particular needed this victory more than anything to quieten down all the doubters and finally get this massive weight off of their shoulders. Despite all Brady and Belichick have achieved if Wilson had indeed completed that pass to Lockette or if the Seahawks had just run the ball with Lynch like 99.9% of people would have done then Seattle would have surely won this game and left the Patriots franchise in devastation.
But the beauty of sport is that it is all swings and roundabouts and that is none truer than in the National Football League. When Brady started his career he was a young kid fighting tooth and nail to make it in the NFL and under the guidance of Belichick the Patriots won 3 Super Bowls in 4 years thanks to a a fantastic defense, great coaching and the heart as well as the desire of a young quarterback. Some would say that at that time Brady was just a game manager, some would say that despite having the best win ratio in NFL history he hadn’t won the big one since 2004 and that it was just because of that great defense that Brady had 3 Super Bowl rings. People would even dare to call Brady a choker and bring up the lack of Super Bowl success since SpyGate despite guiding his team to the big one two more times since 2004. The 2007 team almost pulled of perfection, in 2011 the Pats just couldn’t get the job done and it appeared that the 4th championship may never come around.