Contract years swindled Boston Bruins

bostonbruins.jpgLast season, the Boston Bruins were one of the league’s true surprise teams. Simply put, they were on fire at times, getting plenty of good bounces and more than a few career seasons from its players. It was a perfect storm of contract years and good fortune that – clearly – has proven to be unsustainable.

Obviously, Phil Kessel is no longer with the team but he still fits the bill in having an unusually productive contract year season. It honestly is a bit staggering how much of their success could be attributed to conveniently timed peaks. Here are the other three contract year stories from that season.

Tim Thomas – he’s been a big disappointment a year after winning the Vezina trophy. To be fair, the Thomas signing was at least slightly logic; after all, last year was his best season but not his only productive one. Still, I doubt the Bruins are happy with his deal right now.

David Krejci had an impressive season last year (73 points) but is now down to 40 points this season. I get the feeling Krejci was “chosen” over Kessel, but I wonder if the correct answer would have been “none of the above.”

Dennis Wideman has been a disappointment for most of his career, until he had a fantastic 2008-09 season in which he matched Zdeno Chara’s 50 points while posting an impressive +32 rating. This year he’s gone back to being a poor defensive player (-17) and middling offensively (only 20 points this season). Wideman’s deal must be the biggest regret for Boston.

Now, if you combine the contract years of Kessel, Thomas, Krejci and Wideman with somewhat lucky seasons from Blake Wheeler and Milan Lucic, the picture becomes clearer. I’m not trying to say that the Bruins weren’t legitimate last season, but it’s clear that monetary motivation and luck just aren’t on their side like they were last season.

So, the bad news is that the Bruins’ cap will be clogged with players who will struggle to meet their contract expectations after atypical years. The good news, though, is that they can really stock up on prospects if those Maple Leafs picks end up being top-5 material. It’s not all rosy for Boston, but things should get better.

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    Little-known Langhamer spurns Ducks comeback for Coyotes

    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 14:  Ryan Getzlaf #15 of the Anaheim Ducks skates with the puck during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on January 14, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. The Ducks defeated the Coyotes 3-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    Both of Monday’s games could have gone beyond regulation, yet the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks were left kicking themselves after failing to generate standings points.

    In the case of the Ducks, they simply couldn’t overcome a lousy start to the Arizona Coyotes. They erased most of a 3-0 deficit but ultimately fell 3-2 on Monday.

    Again, it was an ugly opening for Anaheim.

    Randy Carlyle turned to John Gibson to start the second period and the red-hot goalie didn’t give up a goal; even so, his strong work wasn’t rewarded with anything but nice numbers.

    Ryan Getzlaf scored both of Anaheim’s goals, including one with less than 30 seconds remaining in the third period and the Ducks’ net empty. You’d think that would be the end of the drama, but that wasn’t the case.

    Mike Smith needed to leave the net during the third, likely because of a collision with Jakob Silfverberg. (Sounds like he’s OK, though.)

    This forced Marek Langhamer to close out the game, meaning he had to deal with Anaheim’s endgame barrage. That included making quite the clutch stop against Sami Vatanen, spurning quite the attempt to tie:

    Wow.

    A quick primer on Langhamer: he was a seventh-round pick by the Coyotes (then Phoenix, 184th overall in 2012). He’s spent chunks of this season in both the AHL and ECHL, so this must be quite the moment for the 22-year-old.

    As cool as that story is, the Ducks have to be kicking themselves. Instead of going ahead of the Edmonton Oilers for the second spot in the Pacific, both teams remain locked at 72 points (with Edmonton holding two games in hand).

    Coyotes fans might have mixed feelings about the returns for Michael Stone, but beating their division rivals had to feel like a resounding win.

    Yes, the Florida Panthers are indeed on fire

    SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 09:  Michael Sgarbossa #48 of the Florida Panthers is congratulated after scoring a goal during a game against the Los Angeles Kings at BB&T Center on February 9, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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    The Florida Panthers are on a ridiculous roll right now. They’re even hotter than the also-quite-hot St. Louis Blues.

    You could practically hear the air leave the building in St. Louis as Vincent Trocheck‘s goal made it 2-1 with just five seconds remaining in regulation. To little surprise, that ended up being the final score on Monday in what was otherwise quite the goaltending duel between James Reimer and Jake Allen.

    The Panthers won all five games of what seemed to be a harrowing road trip on paper:

    Feb. 11: 7-4 win against Predators
    Feb. 15: 6-5 OT win against Sharks
    Feb. 17: 4-1 win against Ducks
    Feb. 18: 3-2 win vs. Kings
    Tonight: 2-1 win over St. Louis

    The Panthers now face a four-game homestand to close out February and also play seven of eight in Florida. (Actually, eight of nine, as they close out that run by visiting the Lightning on March 11).

    Anyway, the Cats are in the catbird seat, and they finish the night back in front of the Boston Bruins for third in the Atlantic Division:

    1. Canadiens – 70 points in 59 GP
    2. Senators: 68 in 57
    3. Panthers – 66 in 58

    Bruins – 66 in 59
    Maple Leafs – 65 in 58
    Sabres – 62 in 60
    Lightning – 60 in 58
    Red Wings – 58 in 59

    As you can see, games in hand stand as Florida’s advantage over Boston, but with the Bruins holding the second wild card spot, the Panthers’ position in the playoff picture is clear (if vulnerable).

    Again, it wasn’t like the Panthers outright dominated the Blues.

    St. Louis and Florida both looked sharp in this one, but the Blues have lost two straight games in regulation after reeling off a six-game winning streak. With a ton of road games on the docket through the next month, the Blues will just need to keep fighting.

    At least Mike Yeo has an easy team to point to in explaining how the Blues can overcome such challenges.

    Video: Reimer, Allen shut down dangerous one-timers

    SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 09:  James Reimer #34 of the Florida Panthers makes a save during a game against the Los Angeles Kings at BB&T Center on February 9, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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    In an ideal world, goalie equipment wouldn’t be such an issue. Teams would be able to “get goalies moving” with great passing and chances just about no one could stop.

    Then again, there are also those saves that a select handful of humans can pull off. A big reason why there’s only been one goal between the Panthers and Blues tonight is the lateral movement shown by both James Reimer and Jake Allen.

    First, watch as Reimer robs Jori Lehtera on what’s likely the save of the night:

    Allen really hasn’t been that far behind Reimer, right down to making a similar stop:

    Considering the two nearly identical one-timer goals scored by Arizona against Anaheim in finding seams for big passes through opposing defenses, tonight’s goalies might want to do some extra stretching during intermissions.

    Dvorak, Coyotes put Ducks in early hole with slick goals (Video)

    GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 11:  Connor Murphy #5 (second from left) of the Arizona Coyotes celebrates with Alexander Burmistrov #91, Shane Doan #19 and Christian Dvorak #18 after Murphy scored the game winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on February 11, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Coyotes defeated the Penguins 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    The Arizona Coyotes’ happy thoughts are mostly centered on the future. Christian Dvorak possibly being more than a guy who put up nice junior numbers with Matthew Tkachuk and Mitch Marner could fuel some really nice thoughts.

    He’s been red-hot in February, in particular, including a goal already tonight as the Coyotes raced off to an early 2-0 lead against the Anaheim Ducks.

    Check out that smooth play for his 10th goal of 2016-17:

    Again, he’s been on quite the roll lately.

    February: nine points (and counting?) in nine games
    Rest of the season: 13 points in 45 games

    He only had one assist in 12 January contests, so this outburst is even more unexpected than the Coyotes racing off to this lead.

    Interestingly, the Coyotes two goals looked awfully similar, at least in the finish:

    Randy Carlyle’s mood? Probably not too chipper right now.