Monthly Archives: January, 2015

Super Bowl 49 Preview and Prediction

It’s almost here, and I’m having a hard time breathing when talking about the game, no exaggeration.  This game will either go down as the game that got the Patriots over the hump of the 4th Super Bowl that has alluded the team for so long, or the game that was the ultimate let down in what may, but hopefully not, end the Patriots reign as serious contenders every year in the playoffs.  The stakes could not be higher for this game, and I think that this one may even be more important than the 2001 Super Bowl, even though that was the first.  This could be the perfect culmination to maybe the greatest run in sports, when you consider factors like the salary cap era, the parity of the NFL, the number of times the Pats earned a 1st round bye, the number of division championships… and the list goes on.  Like I said, I’m having trouble breathing normally when thinking about this game, and, since the game is popping into my head every meal I eat, it’s considerably decreasing my appetite.

On to the X’s and O’s.  Of course, this is going to be a legendary quarterback going against a legendary defensive unit.  That we know, and that’s where most of the analysis has been for the past 2 weeks, other than the BS that was the deflated footballs controversy.  (I’m officially refusing to use the term “DeflateGate,” and I look down on anyone who thinks that’s a cool term.)

Specifically, the Pats are probably going to rely on their short, shifty passing game, which is the biggest weakness of Richard Sherman, Seattle’s best corner.  Sherman, at 6’3” 195 pounds, is a big, physical CB who shuts down receivers on both intermediate and deep passing routes, but the Julian Edelman – Wes Welker type game could give Sherm some issues.  In their Week 2 game vs. the Chargers, the Seahawks struggled against a short passing game with the likes of Eddie Royal and our boy Danny Woodhead, as well as with the play of Antonio Gates, especially in the red zone, as he scored 3 TDs.

The Patriots do have those kinds of weapons.  Gronk is the most important player on the field aside from Brady, but it’s no secret that the Seahawks will put special attention on him, especially with 2 weeks to prepare.  That being said, Gronk’s presence opens up so much of the Pats offense, as evidenced by how well the offense has done from week 5 when his percentage of plays on the field rose from just a little over 50% to over 80%.  All those times I got scared whenever Gronkowski got tackled during the regular season for fear of injury feel totally reasonable right now.  Gronk is huge, even if he doesn’t get 100 yards, just because of what he does for the entire offense.  The other factor here is that Richard Sherman rarely moves from the outside left part of the field, and the Pats’ 2 best receiving weapons, Edelman and Gronk, don’t need to play out there to be successful.  Either Sherman completely shuts down Lafell, which is a trade the Pats would take ever day, or he plays out of his element and maybe struggles.

Kam Chancellor scares me as the guy who would be covering Gronk, but I’ll take my chances with Gronk vs. anyone 1 on 1, especially giving Belichick 2 weeks to move around the chess pieces as he sees fit.  And if Chancellor needs help to cover Gronk, good.  All the more room for the rest of the offense.

Since Brandon Mebane’s season ending injury in November, which is HUGE for the Pats, their run stopping game hasn’t been good.  In fact, the Pats and Seahawks’ run defenses are trending in opposite directions, with the Pats looking a lot better against the run since Week 9  The unit seems to have stabilized since Jerod Mayo’s injury, which will be huge going against Marshawn Lynch.  Lynch will probably get his own, but probably not as much as most people (understandably) think.

Now for when the Seahawks have the ball.  The game that really scares me is the Packers game from just after Thanksgiving because of how much Aaron Rodgers scrambled.  The Pats haven’t faced a QB who leaves the pocket even close to as much as Russell Wilson, so I think I have every right to be incredibly nervous.  But it’s important to note that that was without Chandler Jones, and Rodgers had a much better receiving corp to target when he was scrambling all over the field.  Realistically, the Pats are probably going to have one of their linebackers or nicklebacks in QB spy all the time to prevent Wilson from scrambling or dumping off to Lynch.

Luke Willson may have a great day, because the Pats are also a little weak against tight ends, just like their counterparts in Seattle.  Jamie Collins is a beast, but do you really want to just put him on Willson and have that be all that he does on Super Bowl Sunday?  Collins is becoming one of the best linebackers in the league because he is so versatile and smart, so maybe it’s best to give up a few more Willson catches in order to let Collins do other things to slow down the Seattle offense.  But the Pats focus has to be on Wilson, Lynch, and Willson, because I’m more than ok with taking my chances with a secondary of Revis, Browner, McCourty, Chung, Arrington, Ryan, and Harmon covering guys like Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse 1 on 1.

The game will swing a little more on when the Pats have the ball than when the Seahawks have the ball, but you already knew that.  I don’t see the Pats defense getting absolutely torched, but I could see the Hawks shutting downt the Pats offense.  If Brady has one of those playoff games that we’ve unfortunately come to know over the years when he looks confused (2nd half vs. Ravens 2012, all game vs. Ravens 2011, Jets 2010, Ravens 2009, Super Bowl 42), then it could be a long night in the desert.

The 3 ways that the Pats could most likely lose are if Brady has one of those games, if Michael Bennett or Cliff Avril go off (which the Pats will probably try to counter by having blocking tight ends at the end of the line), or if Wilson scrambles around the field a ton and makes lots of plays with his feet.  But — and call me a homer if you want — I think that Belichick can handle those matchups.  He has the best defense to play with since 2004, and the offense has enough different options of how to attack the Seattle defense that I feel more confident than you’d expect with the Pats playing what may be the best defense ever.  An early injury on offense to Gronk, an offensive lineman, or obviously Brady would probably be a deathblow, because the offense seems to crumble when even one thing isn’t in place, like when the offensive line was horrible vs. the Ravens when Brian Stork went down.  But barring that, the Pats should be able to do enough against the Seattle defense. My prediction is that whoever loses the turnover battle will also lose the game, which usually happens anyway, but it’ll be especially important this game.  Brady can’t throw one of those weak interceptions to a linebacker like he did in both of the first 2 playoff games, and let’s hope that the Pats secondary reads Russell Wilson as well as they did when they picked off Flacco and Luck.

With offense and defense, the Pats and Seahawks are probably equal teams, or maybe the Seahawks get a slight nod.  But the Pats are far superior in both special teams and coaching, because of In Bill We Trust.  Patriots 27 Seahawks 20. 

Bob Kraft Rightfully Points Spotlight Back on NFL and Media

Bob Kraft is a beast.  When people like Ian O’Connor and even our own Jackie MacMullan, writing stupid pompous columns on how the Patriots have a culture of cheating and need to be suspended for the Super Bowl if anything is found to be just a little bit out of place, the Pats should be suspended for the Super Bowl.

Quick sidenote: I’m not saying that anyone who wrote such a piece, especially MacMullan, who should be in the Boston sportswriters Hall of Fame when its all said and done, is stupid.  But any piece suggesting that A) the Pats’ culture of cheating is so much worse than other teams or B) that the anyone on the team should be suspended for the Super Bowl is a flat out idiotic column to write.  By those standards, strip Aaron Rodgers of the MVP trophy that he’s probably going to win because he admitted that he likes to overinflate the footballs and just see if the refs catch it, which seems like a blatant disregard for the rules anyway.  And any team who has had a PED user get suspended should probably forfeit the season… which means that the NFL will comprise of exactly 0 football teams.  I’m surprised that MacMullan misfired by so much, but even the great ones suck every once in awhile, I guess.

But back to Kraft.  In a press conference once the team arrived in Phoenix,   Kraft demanded an apology from the NFL, which is getting tons of attention.  But I think the fact that Kraft made a point of how disappointed he was in the media also speaks volumes.  From the beginning, the media was ready to pounce all over the Patriots.  People have been throwing out theories why the media was all over the story — was it just the general need for pageviews in the 21st century, was it hatred for the Patriots, was it the NFL needing a storyline for the week before Super Bowl week?

It was all of them.  This was a perfect storm of events to jump on, and the media hastily did, as it often does nowadays.  Writing pre-mordem obituaries of the Patriots and Belichick’s reign doesn’t solve anything, especially when labs have actually done experiments and found that the drop in PSI was actually plausible in at least 10 of the 11 underinflated footballs, if not all 11.  Seems pretty stupid now to say that the Pats were ever done.

Now, it looks like the refs approved the footballs that were in question and may not have used a pressure gauge at all, which sums up how overblown this story is anyway.  If the refs felt it wasn’t that big of a deal to check the balls, rules or not, then isn’t it dumb to say that the Pats were committing Watergate levels of rule breaking.

Bob Kraft dared the NFL to come after him only a few days after Bill Belichick did the same thing, and both of them did it because they know there’s no way the Pats are going down for this.  I hope that the NFL and media get held to even 1% of the accountability that MacMullan, O’Connor, and so many others were saying that the Patriots need to be held to.  But it’s the NFL, and it’s the national media, so that won’t happen.  Not when O’Connor’s response to Kraft’s press conference itself is clearly an attempt to keep hating the Patriots.  The most powerful sports league in the country and the national media as a whole screwing up and not having to answer to it?  That’s America in 2015 for you.

State of the Bruins

Since today is the All Star Game and the State of the Union was just a few days ago, I figured it was the perfect time to give the State of the Bruins and look where they’re headed in the 2nd half of the season.  I’m gonna break it down by the 3 phases of the game: Forwards, Defensemen, and Goaltenders.

Forwards:
This section would probably be a lot different had I written this around the turn of the calendar.  The Bruins have scored just 2.667 goals per game and are in the lower half of the league in goals scored despite having played more games than most teams, and last year it would have been hard to imagine the Bruins having trouble scoring.  This year has been rough so far offensively, but the B’s have righted the ship in the offensive zone for the time being by getting 2.875 goals per game in their last 8 contests.  The call-up of David Pastrnak definitely has something to do with that, as the 18 year old rookie definitely has added a spark to the team, both in terms of the eye test when you just watch the game, the points he’s already accumulated, or  his surprisingly really good possession stats. (Although, they’re inflated because he always starts in the offensive zone, so it’s hard to tell whether he’s just good or actually great in terms of possession.)  Seth Griffith could hold his own at 1RW, and he definitely was better than anyone else they had tried at that spot all year, but the baby-faced Czech is clearly the better option.  He should not already be the on the top line of most contenders in the league, but the Bruins are different because of their depth in the Top 9 forwards.  Kelly, Soderberg, and Eriksson might be the best 3rd line in the league — primarily because Eriksson is an absolute stud — and Marchand, Bergeron, and Smith are simply fantastic as a line together — primarily because Bergeron is quietly becoming an icon in Boston who could be remembered as fondly as someone like Ray Bourque.

That leaves Krejci, Lucic, and Insert Name Here as the Bruins top line, and the 1RW spot was clearly the weakest link there.  Essentially, Lucic, Krejci, and Pastrnak don’t have to be a top line for a contender, because the Bruins have 3 lines capable of the “top line” status, and Claude will probably give them the 2nd most minutes behind the Bergeron line anyway.  Just improving the 1RW spot from “Passable but still way overmatched” with Seth Griffith or “Why the hell hasn’t Chiarelli traded for someone???” in Cunningham, Caron, Fraser, or Gagne is already huge for the Bruins.

Here’s the problem: Claude Julien loves his Merlot Line, and he clearly still wishes it was 2011.  Daniel Paille is probably overqualified as a 4LW, but Gregory Campbell should not be playing any minutes for a contender anymore.  Unfortunately, he declined fast, and it may have been the broken leg bone during his heroic penalty kill in the Conference Finals 2 years ago that helped speed his decline.  But either way, he needs to go the same way as Shawn Thornton, and by I mean, “He needs to be playing on a team other than the Boston Bruins.”  Since Cunningham came up as a center, I’d like to see the B’s give him a shot at 4C while getting Seth Griffith into the lineup at 4RW, give the kids a shot for a little over a month, and then see if they have to make any trades.  But that won’t happen, so don’t be surprised if a 4th line of Paille, Cunningham, and Griffith costs the B’s a few goals in the springtime.

Defensemen:
The Bruins still have Chara!  And Dougie Hamilton is already a beast!  Given that one’s a lefty and one’s a righty, that’s a hell of a top pairing!

Take all the joy that you can get from Chara and Dougie, because the Bruins defense is sooooo weak after that.  Dennis Seidenberg has fallen so far from 2011, maybe even farther than Gregory Campbell.  The Bruins need him to be a 3rd defensemen, and some feel that he’s questionable even as a 6th at this point in his career.  I’m ok with him as a 5th defensemen and maybe, just maybe, a 4th, because he’s still pretty good on the penalty kill and won’t take shit from anyone in the playoffs.  But he can’t be a 3rd, especially when the final 3 guys are Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, and Adam McQuaid.  Torey Krug is also fine for the role he plays, but there’s a chance that he’s the 3rd best all around blueliner on the roster, which is kind of a problem.  And Miller is clearly a 7th NHL defensemen while McQuaid is a 6th when he’s fully healthy, which is almost never.

But all of this could feel a lot better with a big trade for a defenseman at the deadline.  You know you’d feel a lot better about Seidenberg’s declining speed or Krug’s struggles in his own zone if they had a durable 3rd defenseman to back up Chara and Hamilton, thus sliding Seidenberg and Krug down to the 4th and 5th guys in terms of ice time.  You know what type of guy the Bruins would love to have here, a tough, battle tested, durable blueliner who also has both balls and an offensive touch?  Johnny Boychuk.  He’d be PERFECT for the Bruins right now.  Fuck that trade.

You can expect at least 5 posts between now and the trade deadline on possible trade acquisitions, and they’ll be primarily focused on the defense.

Goaltenders:
Tuukka Rask seems to get slightly overlooked in terms of his control with how far the team goes in the playoffs.  I don’t think enough Bruins fans realize just how much the season depends on whether Tuukka is merely a very good goaltender or a Vezina winner.  In fact, it’s not out of the question that Tuukka could play above the level of a Vezina winner in the playoffs and carry a Bruins team that probably won’t be as strong as last year’s.  In the seasons that ended in 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014, Tuukka has been roughly a 93 SV% goalie, which is absolutely awesome.  He’s improved his season totals enough to get it up from about 91% to 91.9% right now, and I think it’s fair to assume that he’ll be at least a 92% goalie in the playoffs.  But we can’t forget that in the 2013 playoffs, he was a 94% goalie, and he was even better than that in the Red Wings series last year.

Because the porous Bruins defense is going to give up a ton of shots on Tuukka, save for a great trade acquisition or the team doctors discovering some transcendent PEDs in the next few months, the difference between Tuukka Rask saving — let’s use some estimations here — 92.25% of his shots vs. 93.75% of his shots, which means he saves 1.5 more per 100, would mean he’d save the Bruins about half a goal a game assuming about 33 shots per night.  That’s huge.

As for Niklas Svedberg, who killed it during his time in the AHL, I feel the same way about him in the playoffs that the Patriots did about Matt Cassel from 2005 through Week 1 of 2008: I have a lot of faith in him if the superstar starter ever goes down, but I hope that he never has to see the field/ice.

Overall:
The Bruins are still the 6th best team in terms of corsi in the league, and their health is coming back.  Add Pastrnak to the Top 9 and a defenseman that Chiarelli should get at the deadline, and the Bruins should be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs.  The 2 biggest X-Factors for the team down the stretch and into the postseason are what kind of defenseman Chiarelli trades for and Tuukka Rask’s play.  If Chiarelli trades for another Andrej Meszaros or Wade Redden, or doesn’t trade for anyone at all, the team’s defense is probably gonna cost them.  If he swings a trade for Alex Edler, Andrej Sekera, Keith Yandle, or someone of that caliber, that could propel the Bruins to another deep playoff run.  But they will only go as far as Tuukka will take them, and I gotta say, Tuukka’s probably the number 1 goalie in the league to whom I’d want to pin my hopes.

 

Tuukka Rask Seems to be Back on Track

So far this season, the Vezina Trophy Winner has not been the Vezina Trophy Winner.  A few weeks ago, Tuukka’s save percentage was just a little bit over 91%, which is pretty average for a goalie in today’s NHL.  But in his past 7 games, the Tuukka that we know and love seems to be back.

In the last 7, Rask’s save percentages have been .972, .949, .960, .842, 1.000, .933, and .973.  That’s 5 awesome games, 1 really good game, and 1 flop.  Imagine that in a 7 game series (which is admittedly kind of a dumb way to look at it, the biggest reason being because the Bruins would be facing a good team for 7 games rather than teams like the Hurricanes, Flyers, and Blue Jackets).  That would be a pretty damn good series, and it’s more than we’d expect from Tuukka, Vezina and all.

It should come as no surprise that the Bruins recent win streak had coincided with Tuukka’s step up in how he’s playing… but actually, it hasn’t equaled wins.  Tuukka’s performances of .972 and .933 came in losses (the first one in overtimes), and his .842 performance came in a win.  So that’s weird.

But maybe it’s somewhat encouraging.  Maybe the Bruins are playing a little better in front of Rask because they have more confidence in the goalie behind them, but most of the difference in the team’s play is due to them just playing better all around, of course.  Pastrnak becoming a beast helps a lot, but the whole team is playing better, and we can see it.  While the Bruins have won more during Tuukka’s resurgence, only 1 of their wins in the past 6 has come by 1 goal, so they haven’t needed him to stand on his head all that much in order to win.  That’s a good sign that the Bruins are becoming the Presidents’ Trophy winners from last year once again, the same way that Tuukka Rask is becoming last year’s Vezina Trophy winner once again.

Patriots Footballs Underinflated, Not Sure What to Think

Here on GTDR, I try very hard to tow the line between diehard Boston sports fan — which sometimes leads me to being admittedly and almost purposefully biased — and being a rational, broad-minded sports fan who looks at happenings in Boston objectively, which means holding Boston teams accountable when they screw up.  But, as the NFL has apparently determined that 11 of 12 NFL game balls that the Patriots submitted were underinflated (spellcheck is wrong, “underinflated” is totally a real word in English), I’m not sure what to think.

I feel confident in saying that the Pats were slightly, slightly cheating.  The same kind of way that every team in the MLB has guys who cheat with pine tar.  The Pats probably tried to push or bend the rules a little bit, the same way that Aaron Rodgers admitted that he tries to inflate the footballs sometimes a little more than the league allows.  I’ll bet that the Pats were technically cheating a bit there, and they deserve to pay a minor price as all cheaters do, although it should be noted that a lot of players and teams try to bend the rules.  Brad Johnson is the best example, bribing guys to mess with the footballs right before the Super Bowl.

But maybe the Patriots went a little farther than we wanna admit.  In the ESPN story, which I linked in the first paragraph, the Colts felt a similar thing in their November game against the Pats.  Maybe the Colts are just being anti-Patriots whiny bitches, but why would they make a big deal about the footballs being deflated this time if there was nothing to it, especially because players in the league know that minor tampering with footballs is widespread?

So I definitely think that the Pats bent the rules, but I can’t tell them if they broke the rules to a higher degree than all teams do.  I know that this isn’t Spygate, but do the Pats actually deserve a docked draft pick?  Anyone saying that they deserve to DQ their spot in the Super Bowl is an idiot, but do they deserve a loss of a future player — a loss  actually hurts on the field — instead of just a fine?  That’s where I am, and I really don’t know.

The one thing I really do know is that the Patriots haters have one more annoying quip to come at Pats fans for.  As far as the Pats’ legacy goes, I don’t care.  But we’re still gonna have to listen to that how insufferable it is.

Best Bets for Championship Weekend

Here are my two best bets for the game, courtesy of Bovada.

Two team tease, 7 point adjustment, -130: Patriots as a pick, Packers +14.5.
The reasoning behind this one is that I feel really strong about the Pats winning, so a pick is easy, and I don’t think that the Packers realistically will get blown out.  They’ll keep it close, but it was worth taking the worse odds at a 7 point tease instead of doing a 6 point tease, because 13.5 would be risky, as I could easily see the Hawks winning by 14.

Most passing yards today: Aaron Rodgers +300 and Tom Brady +200.
I bet the same amount on each of these, meaning that if Brady wins, I get my money back.  If Rodgers wins, I win slightly.  I love this bet because I don’t see Andrew Luck picking apart the Pats defense, and the only way that he could win this bet is through garbage time passing yards.  And Russell Wilson won’t win it because the Seahawks are just gonna run the ball against the Packers anyway.

Bonus bet: Rob Gronkowski over 80.5 yards, -135.
Vegas clearly wants me to take this line, but I really don’t care.  Gronk is gonna go off today, as the Pats are gonna use the run game to open up spots for Gronk down the field, as I said in my game predictions earlier.  After 2 long plays of about 20-25 yards, he’s already more than halfway to his goal for the game.  Bet on Gronk all day every day.

Conference Championship Previews and Predictions

Green Bay Packers (+7.5) over Seattle Seahawks
Seahawks over Packers straight up.

I don’t think that anyone outside of Wisconsin is picking the Packers in this game, and I can’t say that I belong to that select group, either.  The Seahawks are just a better team, and they’re a way better team playing in CenturyLink field.

That being said, I’m not just willing to write this game off like so many are.  The Seahawks have an underrated offense, which is 3rd overall by Football Outsiders’ metrics, but the Packers are in 1st by a reasonable margin over the Steelers, and then there’s a big dropoff to the Hawks.  And yes, Aaron Rodgers has a calf problem.  But he’s Aaron Rodgers, and as much of a cliche as it sounds like, I’m not gonna bet heavily against a QB like that in a game like this.  The calf won’t slow him down as much as so many think.

If you removed Marshawn Lynch from this game, I’d probably pick the Packers, actually.  The Pack has the offensive weapons, especially in terms of depth, to go after the awesome Seattle defense.  But, the Pack won’t be able to stop Lynch without leaving tons and tons of passing lanes open for Russell Wilson.  The Pack just do not have the run defense to contain Lynch, and that’s gonna be the difference maker.

So don’t bet too heavily on the Seahawks, if only because Aaron Rodgers is on the Packers.  But while Seattle has the defense to contain Rodgers and his receivers, Green Bay doesn’t have the defense to contain Marshawn Lynch.

Seattle 31, Green Bay 24.

New England Patriots (-7) over Indianapolis Colts
Patriots
over Colts straight up.

Maybe this is something to be concerned about, but I have a ton of confidence about this game.  It’s a good thing that I don’t believe in jinxes at all, because this pick would definitely qualify.

The Patriots are just better than the Colts, and they match up perfectly.  The Patriots don’t have a great run defense, but the Colts have no rushing game.  The Colts have 1 legitimate receiving threat, but those are the kinds of teams Belichick thrives against defensively.  The Colts may have a good secondary, but I wouldn’t go to war with their front 7 against either the pass or rush, and if there’s one thing we know about the Patriots vs. the Colts, it’s that the Pats can run the ball.  I don’t expect anything near what Blount did last year or Gray did earlier this year, but the running game will find just enough holes to open up Gronk for another huge day.  Please, Jesus, don’t let him get injured.

Patriots are a better team, and it’s ridiculous that their line is closer to even than the GB-SEA line.  The Pats are a lot “more” better than the Colts than the Seahawks are than the Packers.

Patriots 34, Colts 17

Brad Marchand Reverts Back to Old Ways; Suspended for 2 Games

What an idiot.  Brad Marchand slew footed Derick Brassard last night, although the refs missed the penalty call.  Given Marchand’s history and the fact that it actually was a pretty dangerous play, the NHL gave him a very fair 2 game suspension today.

On Marek vs. Wyshynski today, they discussed the possibility that Marchand went back to his old habits because the Bruins are getting a little bit of their swagger back, and maybe Marchand felt that he could go back to being the pest that he once was, always playing on the edge and occasionally going over.  Maybe that’s what happened, but anyone who thinks that’s defensible for Marchand is stupid.  There’s a difference between “living on the edge” and being dumb and reckless.  You could make the case that Marchand popping Daniel Sedin at the end of Game 6 in order to get in Sedin’s head might be fair, because there actually could be a point to that, although I still don’t think it was worth the risk of an instigator penalty, which would have gotten him suspended for Game 7 because it was in the final 5 minutes of a game.  But slew footing?  There’s no reason for it whatsoever, and if you can’t play on the edge without going over it in order to slew foot, you shouldn’t be in the NHL.

How will this affect the Bruins lines?  I wouldn’t mind seeing Daniel Paille moved up to the 2nd line, or maybe move him and Kelly up 1 line each so that Kelly and Bergeron form a really good defensive line.  But this probably means 2 more games for Jordan Caron, so…

jonah hill fuck me right

Bruins Keep David Pastrnak on the Roster for Rest of Season

Make no mistake about it, this move is huge.  Peter Chiarelli announced via a press conference that the Bruins would not send Pastrnak back down to Providence before his 10th game of the season in Boston, indicating that this will be the 1st season of Pastrnak’s 3 year, entry level contract.  This is a classic case of a team deciding to go for it now while risking the future… and I think most Bruins fans are ok with that now.

After Pasta’s first 5 games, I was down on the idea.  He had played well, but he wasn’t gonna be the answer at right wing, and burning a year off of his ELC time was a high price to pay.  After the next 4, he changed my mind.  And I’m not just talking about his 4 goals in 2 games, but Pastrnak was actually around the puck all the time, where as before, he was a little more passive.

But now, check Pastrnak’s stats.  Look at where he fits in with the rest of the Bruins.  Sure, he is starting 68.4% of his non neutral zone shifts in the offensive zone, but when you’re beating even Patrice Bergeron in corsi, that says something.  He will not be one of the best 3 Bruins forwards for the rest of the season, and probably not even one of the best 6.  But for what they need?  He can fit in quite well.

The fact that Pastrnak is a right wing is what puts this over the top for me.  They need a scoring right winger, and they need it bad.  If he was LW, too bad, there’s already Lucic, Marchand, Kelly, and Paille locked in there.  If he was center, get in line, son, this is the Bruins and they always have tons of centers.  But RW? A scorer who can also make things happen on the power play?  Give the kid a shot.

He’s not the power forward that Iginla or Horton was, but he’s also not Craig Cunningham, Simon Gagne, or whatever other guy the Bruins would put there who should never be on what’s supposed to be the top scoring line for a contender.  The only other suitable options on the roster are Loui Eriksson, who Claude understandably doesn’t wanna separate from Soderberg and Kelly, and Seth Griffith, who was holding his own, but isn’t as good as Pastnak.  Claude definitely should put Cunningham at 4C (he’s also a natural center) and Griffith at 4RW for a different kind of 4th line than the one we’ve seen in recent years, but Claude won’t do that.  Instead, Campbell plays.  Dammit all.

So I like the fact that Pastrnak is on the team for the rest of the season, but there is one more wrinkle that Chiarelli might have considered… why not keep Pasta down in the minors for 6 weeks, then call him up if the Bruins don’t get someone at the deadline?  Part of me is worried that Chiarelli will (intelligently) trade for someone on the right wing at the deadline, and then Pastrnak’s Top 9 spot is gone.  And playing him 4th line minutes is not worth burning a year of ELC.

While I would have been totally fine with this option, I’d still say that it’s smart to call him up, because the game isn’t played by robots.  It’s never a good idea to tell a team with a championship pedigree that you’re not going for it all DURING the season.  Sends a horrible message.  If the Bruins players know that David Pastrnak can help them win more games this season, let the kid play.

New Weekly Tradition: Sportswriting of the Week

Every Friday, I’m gonna start acknowledging the best article or (probably) column that I read all week.  Two promises: First, they can either be about Boston sports or sports from other pathetic areas of the country, but of course, Boston sports stories will carry some internal value for me as a tiebreaker.  Second, I will never pull a Jaromir Jagr and acknowledge one of my own pieces.  Really, that last sentence was just an excuse to show Jagr being Jagr again.  God, I hope Chiarelli trades for him at the deadline one more time.

This week, there are 2.  Ian O’Conner’s piece on Dick Rehbein was gonna be the inaugural winner, but then Bill Simmons came in hot with a column on Grantland that puts into perfect perspective how much Patriots fans cherish the Brady-Belichick era.  And if you think it’s weird that there’s a theme to these columns being the winners for this week, well, you obviously forgot what Sunday is.  Can’t get enough of TB12 right now.

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