Comparing the 2010-11 Boston Bruins to the 1989-90 version

9 Comments

Much like the Vancouver Canucks (last seen this late in the game in 1994), the Boston Bruins have been waiting a long time for another crack at the Stanley Cup finals. They last made it to the game’s grandest stage in 1990, when the post-Gretzky Edmonton Oilers dispatched them in five games.

Let’s take a look at how this year’s Bruins compare to the Ray Bourque-fueled team from 21 years ago, shall we?

The 1989-90 Boston Bruins at a glance

Record: 46-25-9 (first in Adams division); Goals For: 289 (11th of 21 teams); Goals Against: 232 (1st of 21); PP %: 23.58 (league average: 20.77); PK %: 83.23 (league average: 79.23)

The 2010-11 Boston Bruins at a glance

Record: 46-25-11 (first in Northeast division); Goals For: 246 (8th of 30 teams); Goals Against: 195 (3rd of 30); PP %: 16.17 (league average: 18.02); PK %: 82.64 (league average: 81.98)

From a big picture standpoint, these teams have some interesting similarities – they even earned 46 wins and went 25 games without a point in defeat. (You may recall that the 89-90 Bruins played in the pre-charity point era.) The earlier Bruins squad was even stronger than the current one, winning the 89-90 Presidents Trophy and losing just four games in the three rounds before that Stanley Cup finals series. Obviously, certain statistics are skewed by different eras, but both teams produced similar goal differentials. (89-90 earned a +57 mark, 10-11 earned a +51 one.) In other words, these teams weren’t Cinderella stories.

’89-90 top scorers (offense)

Cam Neely – 92 points (28 in playoffs)
Craig Janney – 62 points (22 in playoffs)
Bob Carpenter – 56 points (10 in playoffs)

’10-11 top scorers (offense)

David Krejci – 62 points (17 in playoffs)
Milan Lucic – 62 points (9 in playoffs)
Patrice Bergeron – 57 points (15 in playoffs)
Nathan Horton – 53 points (17 in playoffs)

As you can see, the 89-90 Bruins forward corps leaned heavily on the play of star power forward Cam Neely. There’s a serious drop-off from Neely to Janney (then again, he wasn’t the team’s real No. 2 scorer, who will get to in a second) while the current Bruins score by committee. Comparing the teams relative to their peers shows that the current Bruins might have had a stronger offense, in some ways. Lucic has a long way to go before he reaches Neely’s level, though.

’89-90 scorers among defensemen

Raymond Bourque – 84 points (17 in playoffs)
Greg Hawgwood – 38 points (4 in playoffs)
Glen Wesley – 36 points (8 in playoffs)
Garry Galley – 35 points (6 in playoffs)

’10-11 scorers among defensemen

Zdeno Chara – 44 points (5 in playoffs)
Dennis Seidenberg – 32 points (8 in playoffs)
Note: Tomas Kaberle had eight points while Andrew Ference had seven in the playoffs.

Both Bruins teams featured one blueliner who stood out among the rest (most literally in the case of Chara because he’s really tall and such). Bourque received the Norris Trophy for that season while Chara is one of the three finalists for the 2010-11 season. Each squad was strong at holding teams off the scoreboard, with the 89-90 Bruins allowing the least amount of goals and the current model coming in third place in their regular seasons. Team defense seems to be the biggest similarity between the two teams.

’89-90 top goalie

Andy Moog

Regular season: 24-10-7, 2.89 GAA and 89.3 save pct.; Playoffs: 13-7, 2.21 GAA and 90.9 save pct.

’10-11 top goalie

Tim Thomas

Regular season: 35-11-9, 2 GAA and 93.8 save pct; Playoffs: 12-6, 2.29 GAA and 92.9 save pct.

During the regular season, Moog (46 games played) was in a rotation with Reggie Lemelin (43 games played). He clearly took over during the playoffs, though, putting up what was then a sterling 90.9 save percentage. In some quarters, Thomas went into the season as an expected backup to Tuukka Rask but he quickly regained his Vezina Trophy form.

Moog was a good-to-strong goalie in his NHL career, but he never won a Vezina. Thomas is the odds-on favorite to take that trophy, which would mark the second time he would earn that award. If the current Bruins are significantly stronger than the older version in one area, it’s definitely in net.

***

Unlike the wildly different current Canucks vs. ’94 edition, the modern Bruins share a lot of similarities to the ’89-90 team. They both won their divisions, produced strong goal differentials and employed Norris Trophy defensemen. The ’90 version’s offense relied upon Neely and Bourque while the current team spreads its scoring over a couple lines, though.

My guess is that the Bruins might face a similar fate as their predecessors, possibly even down to the 4-1 series score. That’s just my opinion, though. Feel free to share your opinion on how the 2011 Stanley Cup finals will shake out by voting in this poll.

Clarke MacArthur helped off ice during Sens scrimmage

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 8: Clarke MacArthur #16 of the Ottawa Senators skates with the puck during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center on October 8, 2015 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/ Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Rough news for the Ottawa Senators on Sunday: forward Clarke MacArthur needed help off the ice following a big hit during a team scrimmage.

The hit was delivered by Patrick Sieloff, prompting an immediate response from Bobby Ryan, according to The Hockey News’ Murray Pam.

MacArthur has been hoping to return to NHL action after some serious concussion issues, so this is a troubling situation. More than a few people wonder if this might end his career.

Team Europe is happy to play underdog role

Leave a comment

TORONTO (AP) When the World Cup of Hockey started, Team Europe was not picked as a team to beat.

In fact, the unique team made up of eight nations outside of the continent’s traditional hockey powers was expected to be out of the best-on-best tournament.

Team Europe had other plans.

The blended group of players opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over the U.S. and then beat the Czech Republic in overtime to seal a spot in the semifinals before losing to Canada.

“I know nobody really expected us to be here right now,” Danish and Detroit Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen said Saturday. “But when you look in the room and go over the team, there’s not a lot of players better than (Anze) Kopitar in this tournament. We got (Marian) Hossa. We got some good guys on the backend and good goaltending.”

The Europeans will face Sweden on Sunday for a spot in the best-of-three finals against the winner of Saturday night’s Canada-Russia game.

When Team Europe players have faced Sweden for their countries – Switzerland, Denmark, Slovakia, France, Germany, Slovenia, Austria and Norway – in previous, they didn’t have a legitimate chance to win.

They do now.

A veteran group of skaters and a star in Kopitar along with Slovak and New York Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak give them a shot on any sheet of ice.

“He’s the kind of goalie that almost every night, he gives you a chance to win,” said Nielsen, who played with Halak in New York. “And, he’ll make that save when you need it.”

Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger said he’ll likely save his rah-rah speeches for another team because this one simply doesn’t need it.

Krueger began to sense something special was in store for Team Europe nearly a year ago when several candidates to be on the team met when Boston and the New York Islanders played. When the entire group gathered nearly three weeks ago in Quebec, Krueger got even more excited about the natural chemistry the team already had from their shared experiences.

“We didn’t have to do a lot of extra team-building,” Krueger said. “It just happened with a combination of leadership and personalities and character and will – of pure will – of these eight nations that are forever underdogs, forever going home when the final four is staged, forever watching other teams play in finals of best of best. That opportunity has fueled the fire that taken us here.”

Follow Larry Lage at http://www.twitter.com/larrylage and follow his work at http://www.bigstory.ap.org/content/larry-lage

Sadly, Crosby praise still comes at Ovechkin’s expense

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Alex Ovechkin #8 and Sidney Crosby #87 shake hands following Team Canada's  5-3 victory to move on to the finals during the World Cup of Hockey at the semifinal game during the World Cup of Hockey tournament at Air Canada Centre on September 24, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)
Getty
3 Comments

Here’s a homework assignment for you: praise Sidney Crosby‘s incredible work without downgrading Alex Ovechkin.

Yes, it’s not easy.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun presented an interesting column that spotlighted an admittedly “tired narrative” while still ultimately pumping up Crosby at Ovechkin’s expense.

LeBrun quoted anonymous executives who, yes, trotted out tired narratives. One executive did the baseball thing in making it Crosby (“five-tool guy”) vs. Ovechkin (“home run hitter”) while another equated it to a full-court player vs. a “half-court” player.

It’s all … well, tiresome.

Ovechkin may not have had the greatest game of his life on Saturday, but watching that game, was the takeaway really that he let Russia down? That the difference between the two teams was, in any way, about Crosby over Ovechkin?

You can throw out all sorts of stats or lean on the eye test to note how over-matched Russia really was in that game. Or you can consider the defensemen Russia dressed in a best-on-best clash:

Dmitry Kulikov, Dmitry Orlov, Nikita Zaitsev, Alexey Marchenko, Alexei Emelin, Andrei Markov and Nikita Nesterov.

Yikes.

Search your soul for a second and ask: how uneasy would an NHL team feel about that group of blueliners? Such a collection would struggle against one of the league’s 30 squads, let alone against a virtual All-Star team.

Is Crosby better than Ovechkin? There’s a strong chance that is the case, because of the whole “Crosby probably being the best player of his generation” thing.

How about this for a daring idea, though: why not enjoy the work of both players?

Ovechkin is easily the best sniper of his generation, and with 82 points in 84 career playoff games, sure seems like a strong big-game player. As we all know, hockey is a team sport, yet the blame falls on Ovechkin again and again.

Instead, let’s give Crosby and the rest of his brilliant teammates our attention, as we’ve seen here, here and here.

Datsyuk made some magic in North American ‘final act’

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 19: Pavel Datsyuk #13 of Russia skates against Germany at Ice Palace on May 19, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

TORONTO (AP) Pavel Datsyuk’s North American magic show had one final act.

Months after deciding to leave the NHL and go home to Russia, the Detroit Red Wings great showed off his fanciful skillset one last time on this side of the ocean at the World Cup of Hockey. A lower-body injury may have cut his tournament short but not before another remarkable performance against players 15 to 20 years younger.

Datsyuk’s legs aren’t what they used to be at age 38, but he was a difference maker killing penalties and keeping up with the pace of a lightning-fast end-to-end victory against Team North America that helped Russia advance. He missed Russia’s round-robin finale Thursday against Finland and was scratched again from the lineup Saturday night against Canada.

Datsyuk left a lasting memory on the NHL, especially to his peers who appreciate his play the most from watching him up close.

“Oh, he’s unbelievable,” said Russian star Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins. “You do not see much what he (can) do because he’s so professional. He’s (the) most professional I’ve ever seen.”

Datsyuk had 314 goals and 604 assists in 953 games for the Red Wings over 14 seasons. But his play with the puck is more memorable than the points he scored with it, so much so that Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri, used to recognize Datsyuk as “the magic man.”

Mike Babcock, who coached Datsyuk in Detroit before joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, said the Russian was a pleasure to be around and someone he learned a lot from. Babcock, who’s coaching Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews with Canada for a third time, knows Datsyuk wasn’t as prodigious as those stars who were elite as teenagers but said he made a major impact when he entered the NHL at age 21.

“His span, I don’t know how many years it was, in my opinion he was the best forward in hockey in that time,” Babcock said Thursday. “Lots of people would say somebody else scored more points. He was the best player in hockey up front for a period of time with and without the puck.”

Datsyuk made it look as if he had the puck on a string and was among the best at knocking it away from opponents. Four times he won the Lady Byng Trophy awarded to the player who exemplifies sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of ability.

That standard hasn’t faded. Russia coach Oleg Znarok said in Datsyuk’s case, “age doesn’t matter.”

“He is responsible for a lot of roles on our team like penalty kill,” he said through an interpreter. “Definitely one of the best players.”

Datsyuk signed with SKA St. Petersburg to finish his playing career in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. He has great respect from the game’s top players, and those who played with him understand that the most.

“Talking with guys on (the U.S.) team and guys that I’ve come across, (they know) just how good he is with the puck and his takeaways,” former Red Wings teammate Justin Abdelkader said. “He practices every day. A lot of people don’t see, but he’s always playing after games, small-area games or 1-on-1 with players. It just shows his commitment and how good he is.”

As exciting as watching Datsyuk in games has been for fans for over a decade, Abdelkader isn’t the only player in awe of his practice habits. Russian teammate Vladislav Namestnikov called Datsyuk “unreal” and figures he’ll get better just from soaking in how his elder prepares for games in the gym and after practice.

Injuries have hampered Datsyuk and he was traded at the draft – to the Arizona Coyotes to give Detroit cap relief. He’s on the Coyotes’ roster this season despite playing in the KHL, where he already has seven points in six games.

Datsyuk leaving with one year left on his contract may have rubbed some people the wrong way, but Babcock points out it happened for the right reason.

“Age catches up to all of us,” Babcock said. “But he’s still an effective player and he’s chosen to go home to be around his family and that’s good for Pavel.”

Follow Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno .