It’s Boston Bruins day at PHT

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If nothing else, you shouldn’t confuse next season’s Boston Bruins with the group who failed to make the playoffs in 2014-15.

After a pretty impressive run of seven postseason berths, the Bruins fell two points short of the postseason, but apparently the bitter flavor of that campaign was too much for management.

Granted, as much as new GM Don Sweeney wants to modernize the team’s transition game, there are still some core tenants remaining.

The defense will depend upon aging star defenseman Zdeno Chara, perhaps more than ever. Tuukka Rask may be expected to earn every cent of his $7.5 million salary in 2015-16. It looked dicey for some time, but Claude Julien remains behind the bench.

It’s tough to gauge what, exactly, we should expect from a very different Bruins team. People probably won’t be any happier if they miss the playoffs again, though.

Off-season recap

That’s because their offseason seemingly went from – pardon the cliche – rebuilding to reloading.

OK, maybe it’s wisest to label it a partial rebuild. Would they be totally blowing things up and still sign Matt Beleskey to a five year, $19 million contract? More than a few Bruins fans cringed at acquiring Zac Rinaldo, yet the move argues at least partially for a change of pace rather than punting on competitiveness altogether.

After all, they’re investing plenty of money in Chara, Rask, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, right?

It’s true that the Bruins did sacrifice the present a bit for the future, however. Moving Milan Lucic out of town took many aback, and trading away Dougie Hamilton will stand as a polarizing decision (to say the least).

One could say that Hamilton and eventually Lucic would be too expensive to keep, but again, they spent some of the cash they conceivably could have used on Hamilton to sign Beleskey.

In summary, the Bruins fired Peter Chiarelli in favor of Sweeney, essentially traded Lucic for Beleskey, added beef actually trading Reilly Smith for Jimmy Hayes and parted ways with Hamilton.

That’s a brain-full, and we could see even more changes if the Bruins don’t make gains next season. Stay tuned.

PHT Morning Skate: Virtual reality and the Capitals

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

The Washington Capitals are embracing virtual reality for development and fan experiences. PHT is embracing the joy of finding funny photos of people in virtual reality helmets. (Capitals)

Aside: goofy hockey players in goofy helmet pictures better surface.

Justin Bourne discusses the increasingly valuable ability for defensemen to shoot around shot blockers. (The Score)

Now this is some quality trolling: Sean McIndoe gauges the “validity” of Stanley Cup wins. So, so many people left angry … especially if they only skim. (Grantland)

On Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs winning the 2015 Lester Patrick Award. (CSNNE)

Scotty Bowman would tweak a couple rules if he was in charge. (Bleacher Report)

Milan Lucic and four players who can rebound during the 2015-16 season. (The Hockey News)

Should Alex Galchenyuk play at center or wing? (TSN)

It sounds like Pacioretty’s knee is recovering well

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Max Pacioretty is renowned for getting injured often yet recovering with seemingly mutant powers, so it’s not too surprising that his injury update is optimistic.

“Wolverine” is doing well when it comes to his knee injury rehab, as the Montreal Gazette’s Dave Stubbs reports:

There wasn’t an update regarding Pacioretty sharpening his adamantium claws, however.

Speaking of bad jokes, he appeared in this amusing comedy club video, although fellow Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher fared a little better:

Then again, Gallagher has more experience yapping, so you’d expect him to boast superior comic delivery, right?

Jonathan Quick turned some heads with his effusive praise of Pacioretty, 26, yet the American winger needs to heal up to show how underrated he really is. We’ll still need to wait and see if he’s ready for the start of the 2015-16 season (the prognosis was a three-month recovery back in June), but the early outlook seems promising.

Oilers’ biggest question: What about the blue line?

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For all the young talent they’ve amassed up front, and even if the goaltending proves better next season, you can’t help but look at the Edmonton Oilers’ blue line and think, Oy, that’s not a very good blue line.

And in a league where it’s rare to win a championship without at least one elite defenseman, that’s a problem.

Case in point, when the Oilers made the finals in 2006, they had a guy by the name of Chris Pronger on the back end. He was traded that summer and they haven’t been back to the playoffs since.

From 2006 to 2012, Edmonton drafted 17 defensemen. The best was Jeff Petry, who’s in Montreal now. Today, the Oilers’ best veteran is probably the newly acquired Andrej Sekera. A solid player, sure. But certainly no threat to win the Norris Trophy. 

Which is why Oilers fans are so hopeful that 20-year-old Darnell Nurse, drafted seventh overall in 2013, can become a cornerstone defender, a la Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, etc.

It’s also why GM Peter Chiarelli doesn’t want to screw up Nurse’s development by throwing him into an NHL role too soon.

“For a defenseman, it is harder to break into the league properly,” Chiarelli said, per OilersNation.com. “With Dougie Hamilton (in Boston), he had a good strong core around him, and they are completely different players. Darnell is a defender and a puck transporter. He has a few more nuances to learn as far as defending, but I saw him play at the end of his playoffs and he played well. He has world class speed and strength.

“That is a hard one (whether Nurse is NHL ready). I want to be patient with these guys knowing that they are good young players and you’d like to have them help you as soon as you can.”

The Oilers have a few other promising defensive prospects, including Oscar Klefbom and Griffin Reinhart. They’re also still hoping Justin Schultz will realize the potential they see in him.

Bottom line: Without a much improved defense, even Connor McDavid will find it tough to bring the glory back to Edmonton.

Related: Todd McLellan is under pressure

Quick: Pacioretty is ‘the most underrated player’

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Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick wrote the second part of his Elite Snipers 101 article and while it’s a great read from start to finish, his take on Montreal forward Max Pacioretty is perhaps what stands out the most.

Per The Players’ Tribune:

When I think of Max, I think of the most underrated player in the NHL. Only three players have scored more goals than him over the past three seasons — and these aren’t all pretty power play goals. Most of his goals come in 5-on-5 situations where space is tight, and I know he had 10 game-winners last season. Max is similar to Tavares in the way he works in dirty areas. It blows my mind that he’s not talked about more because he’s such a great scorer.

Fair enough, so let’s talk about him a bit.

First off, to Quick’s point: He is of course correct that there are just three players that have netted more goals than Pacioretty over the last three seasons: Alex Ovechkin (136), Steven Stamkos (97), and Joe Pavelski (94). Pacioretty is tied with Perry for fourth place with 91 markers over that span. Granted, Perry has played in five fewer games, but if that’s going to be brought up, then the fact that Pavelski has participated in 15 more contests than Pacioretty has to be raised as well.

Quick also brought up power-play goals and sure enough just 21 of Pacioretty’s 91 markers have been scored with the man advantage, which is significantly less than the players ahead of him. Still, if you want to just look at five-on-five markers over the last three seasons, then Pacioretty’s still tied for fourth place with 55, it’s just that now it’s Rick Nash (64), Perry (62), and Ovechkin (56) ahead of him.

Whatever method you’re using though, it’s clear that Pacioretty is one of the top snipers in the game today, but if he’s not as popular a subject as some of the other players that have been roughly as productive as him, then perhaps there’s a simple explanation. Unlike Ovechkin, Stamkos, Nash, or Perry, the Canadiens forward hasn’t had a monster campaign yet. He’s around their level in terms of overall production because he’s been consistently great in recent seasons, but he hasn’t finished in the top-three in goals yet or being a major contender for the Hart Trophy. Pacioretty also hasn’t made his mark in a playoff run yet.

That’s a theory at least, but it doesn’t take anything away from him. Meanwhile, Montreal has him at a $4.5 million annual cap hit through 2018-19 while Pavelski is at $6 million through 2018-19, Stamkos has one campaign left at $7.5 million, Perry is at roughly $8.6 million through 2020-21, and Ovechkin is at about $9.5 million through 2020-21.