Canadiens fans are pretty familiar with the Bruins. We get to see them numerous times every year, and they also happen to be one of the Habs' most frequent playoff opponents. This year's Bruins aren't quite the championship-calibre team they once were, but this is likely still the most heated rivalry the Habs have.
I answered a few questions for their side, and I had a few questions of my own. I was nice, and didn't ask them about the Tyler Seguin trade. I did, however, ask them about a more recent trade that stung a little.
EOTP: Habs fans had a bit of a laugh at the Bruins 2015 draft, but how do Bruins fans feel it went?
SCoC: Feelings on the draft have softened, for the most part. In the immediate aftermath, it was as angry as the Bruins fanbase has been in years, which is no small feat when the team has traded Tyler Seguin, Phil Kessel AND Joe Thornton.
It was understandable: the team got immediately worse, and none of the three draft choices is exactly a household name. To make things worse, the Bruins passed on bigger names like Barzal and Connor to go way off the board and draft Senyshyn.
However, as the "Hamilton is gone, whatever" feelings have settled in and the CHL season has gotten underway, excitement has built a bit about the prospects. By most accounts, Zboril is the kind of defenseman the Bruins want: big, strong and a little nasty. Senyshyn has scored some highlight reels goals, and DeBrusk has done OK as well.
That draft will always be hard to swallow because the Bruins gave up someone good immediately and had to wait years before it paid dividends. If Zboril (or any of the three, really) ends up being a stud, it will have been (kind of) worth it, but that doesn't make it any less maddening in the meantime.
EOTP: Speaking of that; how badly, if at all, are the Bruins missing Dougie Hamilton this year?
SCoC: Badly. As you'll see tonight, basically every defenseman not named Zdeno Chara (and maybe Torey Krug, who continues to impress) is playing a slot higher than he should be. Hamilton's departure, and the injury to Dennis Seidenberg basically bumped everyone up the depth chart.
Chara remains the first pairing guy, but then players like Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow, etc. are all forced to play, say, second-pairing minutes, not third-pairing minutes. It shows, because that new second pair ends up facing guys like Plekanec instead of Torrey Mitchell.
Ideally, the return of Seidenberg will stabilize things a bit, but he's not the player he once was either. The Bruins are going to need these kids to really learn on the fly or to acquire a mid-pairing defenseman, or this season isn't going to go anywhere but down the tubes.
EOTP: Why are the Bruins hesitating to use players like Spooner and Khokhlachev, instead of guys like Zac Rinaldo?
SCoC: Claude Julien values nothing more than dependability. He LOVES his veteran guys who he can count on, night in and night out. For that reason, he'd rather use the GRIT AND GLUE guy like Rinaldo (who truthfully hasn't been bad this season) than roll the dice on Spooner. Claude would rather ice a line of veterans who won't create any scoring chances but won't allow any either, as opposed to using a line of skilled kids that creates 5 chances but allows 3.
Gregory Campbell was the prime example of this. When David Pastrnak was coming up last year, he found himself stapled to the bench more than once after failing to clear the zone. In fact, this just happened to Alex Khokhlachev in Thursday night's game. He's since been demoted. Claude didn't tolerate the teenager making mistakes.
However, late in a game against Philly last year, Campbell iced the puck for no reason: had plenty of time, plenty of space, just flung it down the ice. Philly tied the game on the ensuing faceoff. Campbell was out for his next shift. The common refrain on Twitter then was "if that was Pastrnak/Spooner/etc. they'd already be tossed out of the building."
Claude's system works. He's gotten results. However, his insistence on clinging to veterans who he knows over kids who have high ceilings, just because he's unsure of them, gets very frustrating as a fan.
Big thanks to Dan Ryan over at Stanley Cup of Chowder for participating in this. It is always fun to have a little back and forth with a Bruins fan when it can stay civil.