Anthony Kwetkowski: B’s-Lightning Series Analysis

Here’s a guest post written by Anthony Kwetkowski of Bruins Network where he takes on several areas of the Bruins-Lightning matchup and gives his thoughts on what could happen. The B’s are up 1-0 in the best-of-seven series, but things can change quickly. Our thanks to AK for contributing this piece.- KL

Style of Play:

As opposed to the Carolina Hurricanes, knocked off by Boston in five games, Tampa plays with similar speed, but also more precision and skill. Tampa, while able to play a similar run and gun style to Carolina,  thrives along the boards, working the puck inwards toward the attacking zone. In certain cases, this style will work with and against Boston— I’ll elaborate. For some of Boston’s slower players, Zdeno Chara and Nick Ritchie, Carolina’s runs and gun style really seemed to overwhelm and render them ineffective at times.

This precision style has a chance to be a better matchup for Chara and Ritchie because of their positioning and size. Tampa, as they work the puck inwards from the boards, will have to work a bit harder to get the puck through the likes of someone like Chara who’s as positionally sound as they come. Ritchie, who was simply ineffective against Carolina, is looking for a rebound series as he’s slated to play in Game One. He’s not nearly as sound as Chara, but he does possess good reflexes and hand-eye coordination, which might help him be effective in this series. Not saying these players will prevail, but I definitely see the line of thinking from Boston by inserting Ritchie again right now.

 

Skill:

In terms of pure, natural skill and talent, Tampa usually receives the nomination over Boston in these categories, but I think it’s closer than some suggest. While Tampa obviously has the ultra-skilled types in Kucherov, Stamkos*, Point, Hedman, Sergachev, Cirelli and more, Boston has their own ultra-skilled types in Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, McAvoy, Krug, Krejci and now Kase. Tampa’s deadline additions, Coleman and Goodrow, will certainly be useful in their quest to compete with Boston’s middle-six types in Coyle, Bjork, DeBrusk, Kase and Ritchie. However, I think Boston is actually on par with Tampa is regards to skill, they just possess skill in different areas.

Boston obviously has their heralded “perfection line” leading the charge, but what about David Krejci? He was arguably Boston’s best player in the Carolina series and that bodes very well for them. Krejci, in my opinion, has been playing like a No. 1 center throughout the playoffs thus far and that presents a problem for Tampa. Though shutting down Bergeron’s line can heavily influence a series, that’s not nearly as pressing if lines two and three are rolling on all cylinders. Krejci and Coyle have both been dominate, so that presents quite the mismatch for Tampa as Boston’s redundancy plan is currently in full effect.

Size:

With a defensive core largely compiled with players standing over 6’1”, Tampa has more size than Boston does. This is definitely part of the reasoning to roll with Ritchie in the lineup to start as well. I don’t think size is as important in this series as some are suggesting, Boston will have their hands full— they can handle it. How? Well, the same way they’ve been handling it, by grinding and hustling by the likes of Coyle, DeBrusk, Kuraly, Clifton, Nordstrom, Wagner, Marchand and McAvoy. These players stood out in the Carolina series and possess the necessary elements to combat Tampa’s size.

Goaltending:

Unfortunately for Boston, Tuukka Rask opted out of the playoffs in the middle of the Carolina series, citing personal and family reasons. Rask, who historically performs very well against Tampa, won’t be available for this series, leaving Jaroslav Halak as the No. 1 starter moving forward. While Halak ultimately got it done against Carolina, he needs to be sharper and has his work cut out for him against Tampa. I think Tampa definitely has the goaltending edge right now, especially since Halak was shaky and inconsistent against a lesser opponent in Carolina. I expect to see Tampa test Halak early and often, which might prove to be problematic in the series. Boston needs to try and limit the amount of rubber that Halak sees by clogging passing lanes and thwarting Tampa’s high-end precision plays.

Outcome:

Before Rask had opted out, I’d probably have decidedly picked Boston to win, but without him? I think there are concerns for goaltending. Could Halak return to mid-season form quicker than he’s on track for currently? That’s the million dollar question and if he does, then I think he can handle Tampa. It won’t be easy, though, especially if the teams have to play back-to-back games in G6 and G7. Goaltending aside, I think the Bruins have an overall edge to Tampa and will be performing better than some are giving them credit for. Remember, this is two seasons in a row now that the Columbus Blue Jackets have given Tampa fits. Tampa ultimately won this time around, but that high-end grinding game really wears them down.

Columbus plays a style similar to Boston, but with less talent and less efficiency, in my opinion. That’s why Boston beat a better Columbus team last year in six games. These grinding elements are persistent in Boston’s game and Tampa will absolutely have their hands full. If Boston can play to their potential and fire on all cylinders, I predict they will ultimately defeat the Tampa Bay Lighting.

*Steven Stamkos has been battling some injuries in recent months and who knows what his availability will be. As of this moment, he’s not expected to be ready.

The Bruins & the Cap- Where do they Stand?

by Dominic Tiano

For the vast majority of hockey fans, the National Hockey League’s Collective Bargaining Agreement and the salary cap can be a nightmare to understand unless you have a law degree from Harvard. Now, I don’t have such a degree, but I do talk to people who work with the CBA and Cap daily and have a good understanding in what the Boston Bruins are facing this upcoming season and beyond.

So here is my take on what General Manager Don Sweeney and cap guru Evan Gold face:

With the announcement by the Bruins yesterday that they have reached a contract agreement with Colby Cave, the Bruins have all their restricted and unrestricted players signed for the 2018-2019 season (at the very least, those they wanted to retain). Unless of course you want to count Rick Nash, who is still undecided if he wants to continue playing because of health issues.

Using CapFriendly as a source, we find the Bruins with $2.95 million in cap space with a 23-man roster. That money can be banked to use throughout the season to add to their current roster, including Nash if he wishes to return to playing hockey and with the Bruins.

Their cap space was reduced for 2018-2019 because of performance bonuses paid out to Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen that could not have fit under last season and are carried over. Under the CBA, a team can exceed the cap by 7% because of performance bonuses and have it charged to the following season. For 2018-2019, that charge to the cap is $774,000.

Further reducing their cap space is what is often called “dead money” – money paid to players no longer on the roster because they were bought out or the team retained salary in a trade. For 2018-2019, the Bruins are still paying Dennis Seidenberg ($1,166,167 for two more seasons) and Jimmy Hayes (866,667 for one more season) after buying them out. They are also paying Matt Beleskey in a salary retained deal with the New York Rangers $1.9 million for two more seasons, although the numbers could change if the Rangers choose to buyout Beleskey during the second buyout period. That’s just shy of $4 million in “dead money”.

At the end of the 2018-2019 season, the Bruins could be tagged with a bonus overage of just over $3.7 million. Potential bonuses that could be paid out are Zdeno Chara ($1.75 million) McAvoy ($500,000), DeBrusk ($425,000) Heinen ($212,500) and Ryan Donato ($800,000). Based on where the cap is today and barring no roster changes (although there are sure to be callups from Providence when injuries occur further reducing the cap) and that most, if not all those bonuses will be attained, fans and the Bruins can look forward to a bonus overage carried over to the 2019-2020 season. Just how much depends on how much of their current $2.9 million in space is used.

The cap is almost certainly going to rise, either by increased revenue or by the NHLPA invoking the escalator (artificially increasing the cap by 5%). But there is always the possibility that the NHLPA does not invoke the escalator (they’ve done that once in the salary cap era and other times increasing it by less then 5%). Hayes will come off the books, but it still leaves a tad more then $3 million in dead money from the Seidenberg buyout and Beleskey trade.

According to CapFriendly, the Bruins have $16.5 million in cap space for 2019-2020 (if the cap remains stagnant) with 16 players on the roster. Some of those spots could be filled with prospects making the jump from Providence.

But the Bruins have to dish out new contracts to McAvoy, Carlo, Heinen and Donato. And if Big Z decides he wants to play another season, well, that pretty much eats up that $16.5 million with two roster spots left to fill. The problem still lies with how much bonus overage there is going forward and that $16.5 million is directly influenced by that figure.

But, the cap will rise. Whether it rises enough is anyone’s guess.

In the end, there are a lot of “ifs” when looking beyond the upcoming season. The only definitive answer I can give you now is that Sweeney and Gold will get it done.

3 Amigos Supplemental Podcast (Ep. 9): Ask the Amigos

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As promised, Dom, Reed and I are back with a 45-minute Q & A from questions we got from listeners and readers on Twitter.

We’re giving you our best shot, because we wanna be your dogs. It’s true- just like Iggy Pop does for our podcast music.

This will be the last Amigos podcast for a while- we enjoy bringing these to you, but we all have full-time gigs and don’t have the ability or resources to produce regular offerings. Appreciate the support as always.

Enjoy.