Posts tagged ‘Rene Bourque’

May 2, 2014

Habs-Bruins Game 1, Round 2: A Man Possessed

by Jacob Saltiel

call-of-duty-ghosts

 

At times like these, one wonders how a Bruins fan processes a game like last night’s. Watching your team control the game for two straight periods into overtime, getting open looks on the other team’s goalie, outhitting the opposition, and all but shutting down every Canadien except PK Subban and the unguardable Rene Bourque, can you even feel bad about your team’s play? Of course not. There is one thing to be very nervous about though, and that’s Carey Price’s glorious display.

The playoffs are a tricky thing for statisticians. Jonah Keri, of Grantland.com, makes the point that once the playoffs begin in MLB, he throws away his stats, since postseason series’ are comparatively short compared to the regular season, and just a few abnormal performances in either direction by key players can skew a mediocre team to victory and a good team to defeat. So it is with NHL goaltending in particular. Many a hockey fan will dread the familiar disaster that is an opponent’s goaltender finding a groove where nothing short of a bulldozer can push the puck past him.

Distressingly for Bruins fans, Price seems to have made a deal with the devil signed in blood, making a series of preposterous stops last night. Statheads will talk about elevated PDOs and unsustainable Fenwicks, indicating that the Canadiens are definitely screwed, and they might be right. For Bruins fans, they’d better hope that those numbers regress to the mean before the end of the series. For Habs fans, they’d better hope more players than Price, Subban, Bourque, Eller, and Plekanec show up in Games 2-7.

What’s Next?

The Bruins will probably come back in game 2 with a similar gameplan. If they play the same way in game 2 as they did in game 1, they could conceivably win by several goals with the only difference being pucks bouncing differently. The Bruins, recognizing that playoff nightmare that is a goaltender possessed by the daemon Mammon, will probably adjust their gameplan slightly to start running Price’s crease, camping in his line of sight, and crossing themselves before every shift. Bob McKenzie on TSN points out how all three Bruins goals occurred when Price couldn’t see the puck. The Bruins can’t do too much about Price playing the pucks he can see, but they can try and knock him out of his comfort zone and pray he doesn’t gain the ability to swivel his head 360 degrees around his neck.

The Canadiens, on the other hand, had better be ready to defend their goaltender. While Francis Bouillon scored a goal, Therrien might consider dropping him for Jarred Tinordi (Legend). I can hear you reading this and protesting some combination of:

1) Bouillon scored!

2) He’s experienced and tries hard!

3) Don’t tinker with a winning lineup!

But 1) Bouillon probably won’t score in any hockey league for another 6 months. 2) He’s also 5″8 , old, and these are professional athletes- they all try hard or they wouldn’t be here. 3) The Canadiens might have won that game on the scoreboard, but if you think this lineup doesn’t need some tinkering with, you’re still drunk from last night.

As the Bruins start hitting more, the Canadiens will need to respond, and playing Weaver and Bouillon at the same time- no matter how tough those two are or how great a story Bouillon- leaves the Canadiens at a serious size mismatch against forwards like Carl Soderberg, Milan Lucic, Daniel Paille, Jarome Iginla, etc… etc…

Therrien also really needs to do something about his best line being Eller, Bourque, and whoever skated with them since it’s unclear if any other Habs forwards touched the puck last night. Leaving aside the question of how Bourque can be objectively mediocre for 166 games over the last 3 seasons and then become the Prairies’ answer to Alexander Ovechkin, the Canadiens can’t win too many games without better performances from other forwards.

Travis Moen returned to the lineup, replacing the more-deserving Bournival. The arguments for including Moen are similar to the arguments for including Bouillon, but Bournival is good with the puck, a heck of a lot faster, and a better passer than TraMoen. As much as toughness will be an issue for the Canadiens in their crease, they need to take back the possession game, and Bournival can help do that.

That’s a relatively minor issue compared to the struggles of the top two lines. Desharnais seems like the only member of the topline who either gets the puck or harasses the Bruins D. Despite facing harder competition, Vanek and Pacioretty need to show something, even if it’s just physical play, to distract the Bruins from hoarding the puck.

Meanwhile, there was an interesting stat on RDS showing Krejci’s 1st round points, 23, and how only 1 goal from that number came against the Canadiens, since Plekanec has consistently shut him down. If Krejci didn’t score last night, it has less to do with being shutdown by forwards than by bad puck luck and Price’s play. If Plekanec and Gallagher aren’t going to score, they’d better get that puck and make life hard for the Bruins forwards tomorrow afternoon.

Ghosts

The media will now shift from discussing hatred and depth to ghosts and history. Despite Price being very much a creature of flesh and blood and some substance, the story will become about haunted goalposts and goaltenders of playoffs past stifling the Bruins. While the media hires exorcists to serve as panelists on their in-game talkshows, the Bruins will bring the hate back by beating the Canadiens down if they can’t put the puck in the net. As discussed above, Therrien’s got some adjustments to make for the real live players on his roster, since trusting in ghosts isn’t exactly a 21st century coaching strategy. It’s cute to imagine a team meeting around the campfire with each player passing a flashlight around and taking turns telling stories of their favourite playoff caper against the Bruins. But that won’t cut it, especially given the rumours that Subban, for all his sound and fury, gets the heebie-jeebies from ghosts.

Look, while it’s fun watching TD Garden fans pull out their hair as the Bruins throw holy water on Price in an attempt to rid him of the demons possessing him- CHECK THOSE WATER BOTTLES, REFS!- you have to hope that the Canadiens will start passing around the locker room whatever dietary supplement Bourque’s been snacking on.

BAD ADVERTIZING UPDATE: 

If Apple plays that iPhone 5 ad with the god-awful cover of the Pixies’ Gigantic one more time, I’m going to start vomiting uncontrollably and speaking in deviltongues. MERCY, PLEASE!

January 15, 2013

Here’s Your Money Now Go Away: The Canadiens and Compliance Buyouts

by Jacob Saltiel
rene-bourque

Why won’t Bergevin return my calls?
from 25stanley.com

Gomez we know about. The Canadiens will still have another compliance buy-out to use after the season, and unless Kaberle or Bourque retire, they might be strong candidates to be paid to play hockey badly somewhere else.

Who should it be? While many may hope that Kaberle is given the golden handshake next, due to his propensity to go into anaphylaxis when asked to play his position competently, Bourque will actually be a much better player to expunge from the salary record. Unless, of course, he can show something (anything!) this season.

Having covered Kaberle’s contribution to the Canadiens here, let’s examine Bourque’s.

Rene Bourque: To Play or Not to Play, That is the Question

The Habs desperately need a big winger who can score and play on the 2nd line with Plekanec. Prior to last season, Bourque had scored 27 goals a season for two straight years. Bourque also stands at 6″2 and weighs over 200lbs. After East-Rivering Cammalleri last season, it looked like the Habs might have located a player who could do just that.

Wow, did that ever not happen. After arriving in Montreal, Bourque scored 5 goals in 38 games, and gave hope to all the casual fans in the city that they could one day fumble passes directed at them by Plekanec. All this despite playing the 6th most minutes per game for Habs forwards at 17:49/g.

This season, that 2nd line wing spot is still tantalizingly available, and those goals need scoring more than ever if the Canadiens are going to make the playoffs this year. If Bourque can play like last year was a horrible dream that he’s awaken from, then Kaberle’s as good as gone. Otherwise? Not so much.

Heres why:

Rene Bourque is signed until 2016. 

Think about that. Think about 4 more seasons of watching him make children cry and grown men curse with his lackadaisical play, and even if- even if!- Kaberle’s cap hit is nearly a million more than his, Bourque’s 3.33m/year salary lasts far longer than Kaberle’s.  The only players signed for longer than Bourque on the Habs today are Pacioretty, Gorges, and Price. Bourque, 31, doesn’t play with the grit or have the defensive awareness to play on the 3rd or 4th lines, and will essentially be a handicap on the team’s spending until 2016.

2016.  Four more years. That’s a long time.

It comes down to what the team thinks will be more valuable: Kaberle’s expiring 4.25m contract in 2013-2014 as a trade chip or Bourque’s contribution to the team as a 2nd-line scorer.

Whether or not Bourque can improve his play from last year, it may still be worthwhile to buy-out his contract since he’ll be 35 at its conclusion. Unless Bourque lights up the league during the shortened season and shows some hitherto unseen-at least in these parts- spring in his skateboot, Bergevin would be wise to keep and then attempt to trade Kaberle’s contract to a team facing a cap crunch next year. The cap drops next year, and it’s unclear what the cap will be the year after that since it’s tied to the new revenue split. It’s entirely conceivable that some teams could make use of an expiring $4.25 million contract. Buying-out Gomez and Bourque will still save the Canadiens approximately $10.5 million in cap space anyway. Do you know what any team does not want in a situation in which the salary cap can come down? Being tied into 4-years of a player who can’t contribute.

Buying out Kaberle would save the team less than a million dollars more, which wouldn’t be worth taking their chances with Bourque for 3 more years beyond Kaberle’s departure.