B's aiming to be true contenders again soon

B's aiming to be true contenders again soon

Building Back the Bruins is a five-part series in which we'll examine the slow, difficult process of turning the team back into a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Today in Part 5, we look at where the Bruins are at right now, and when they might truly be ready to contend for another Cup.

When Peter Chiarelli took over a downtrodden Bruins franchise in 2006, he had a five-year plan to turn things around. As it worked out, the B's won the Stanley Cup exactly five years after Chiarelli was named general manager.

Even though Chiarelli wasn't subsequently able to sustain what had been built over the first five years -- which wound up costing him his job -- the success of that plan was a good example for Cam Neely, Don Sweeney and the new management team to follow, especially since they had an admittedly better group in place when they took control two seasons ago.


Chiarelli inherited a bunch of bottom-dwellers still reeling from the franchise-altering trade of Jumbo Joe Thornton. Sweeney, by contrast, took over a team that had an aging core group, salary-cap issues, and a barren player-development system. Those B's “bottomed out” by missing the playoffs by a point in two straight seasons. Now they look like they’re pointed upward again after pushing back into the postseason this spring.

The good news is that Sweeney, Neely and Co. aren’t just satisfied with a first-round taste of the playoffs and know there's more to do before the Bruins are true contenders again. A left-wing running partner with David Krejci is a necessity, and a top-4 left-shot defenseman who can skate with Charlie McAvoy next season is another vital need. They're also looking at an overhaul of the third line.

So the Bruins are under no illusions. They know they have significant work to do this summer, even if they’re not likely to chase any big-ticket items in free agency.

“It’s been challenging,” said Neely. “I know how competitive this city is and how successful some of the other teams have been, and we certainly want to be that successful. I knew what we were signing up for and it’s hard to relay that information to your fan base because they want results now. And I get that. They’re coming to watch us play and they’re expecting a good performance from our team.

“So I knew where we were headed. It just wasn’t going to happen overnight. I think now with some of the players that are stepping in this year it’s given some hope -- not only to us, but also to the fans -- of where we’re headed and what the future looks like because of it.”

How long, exactly, is it going to take before the B’s are once again perennial playoff participants and threatening to win Atlantic Division crowns on a yearly basis? How many more seasons should it be before they're considered a power in the Eastern Conference, as they were for a solid six-year stretch from roughly 2008-2014?

The core group of Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, David Backes and Tuukka Rask are mostly (with the exception of Chara) still in their prime years, and could be for at least a couple of more seasons. Couple that with the 19-year-old McAvoy, 20-year-old David Pastrnak, 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, and perhaps another prospect or two who pops in training camp, and next season should provide an interesting mix of experience and youth on another playoff-worthy roster.

Realistically, however, the Bruins won't be a legitimate Cup contender team until McAvoy becomes a No. 1 defenseman capable of playing big minutes and leading the team's back end. Boston can’t, and shouldn’t, expect that from him next season in his true rookie year no matter how talented he might as a transformational young player.

“In the last few years, we’ve identified some guys that we think can grow with us," said Sweeney. "We got a bit of a quick snapshot of [McAvoy] that might continue . . . I think that’s still a moving target to some degree.”

The offseason plan is obviously still in flux, and it sounds like there’s a fairly good chance the Bruins might be leaning more toward utilizing youngsters like Jake DeBrusk or Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson to plug some of the roster needs rather than investing heavily in trades or free-agent signings. That would be a way for the Bruins to show patience and trust in the game plan Sweeney put together a couple of years ago for rehabbing the franchise, and give their new general manager the exact same five-year window that Chiarelli had.

There’s every chance that in another two or three seasons -- with Pastrnak, McAvoy, DeBrusk, Jakob Zboril, Zach Senyshyn, Carlo, Jeremy Lauzon and Anders Bjork all fully developed as NHL players -- the Bruins will be a well-rounded, talented group prepped for another arduous, inspiring journey to the top of the Stanley Cup mountain.

And, at the end of the day, that’s the name of the game, isn’t it?

NHL still debating possible discipline on Schenn-Krejci collision

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NHL still debating possible discipline on Schenn-Krejci collision

The NHL Department of Player Safety is still debating if supplemental discipline is needed for the Blues'  Brayden Schenn for the violent hit he delivered to the Bruins' David Krejci in the B's 2-1 overtime loss in St. Louis on Wednesday night. 

In the second period, Schenn clobbered David Krejci in the corner with a punishing hit to the head as the B’s playmaking center was facing him immediately after releasing the puck. Schenn was whistled for a two-minute minor for charging at the time of the collision, but luckily Krejci was able to remain in the game and played 15:54 of ice time in the loss.

Upon further review, it was very clearly a big, heavy hit delivered to Krejci’s head, but there were plenty of mitigating factors. Krejci had his head down until the last second while looking down at the puck on his stick and was hunched over as Schenn moved in to deliver a check on a player eligible to be hit. Schenn’s skates left the ice to finish the hit after impact, which made the collision look even worse to the casual observer, but that isn’t considered launching into a hit by the NHL’s standards.

Adding to the equation is that Schenn has been suspended twice by the NHL before, three games in 2016 for a charging hit on TJ Oshie and one game back in 2013.

Clearly, it’s a difficult call for the league as they try to deter hits to the head and reduce the number of concussions. Still, this would appear to be another situation where, as the league says, a player “assumed a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable." It’s absolutely similar to the Patrick Hornqvist/Charlie McAvoy hit from a few weeks ago that never ended up with any supplemental discipline for the Penguins hard-hitter despite plenty of hue and cry from the Bruins fans.

So what does everybody else think about this hit, and whether or not Schenn should be facing discipline from the NHL as a result of it?


Talking points: Ryan Donato's goal helps Bruins clinch playoff berth

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Talking points: Ryan Donato's goal helps Bruins clinch playoff berth

GOLD STAR: Jaden Schwartz stepped up and won the game for the Blues with a couple of really good plays in the third period and overtime. He took advantage of a line change and a lax Bruins defense to snap a shot past Anton Khudobin from the face-off circle in the third period that tied up the game, and then went on a one-man rush in overtime before blasting a puck past Khudobin for the game-winner on a beautiful individual play. Schwartz finished with the two goals that represented all of the St. Louis offense, four shots on net, a hit and a takeaway in 20:02 of ice time while logging a plus-2 rating as well. The Blues clearly needed somebody to step up to the plate with Vladimir Tarasenko and the Schwartz was with St. Louis on Wednesday night.

BLACK EYE: The Bruins were quite literally black and blue after a physical, punishing game with the St. Louis Blues. A number of players took heavy hits against a St. Louis team that felt free to throw hits and take runs with Zdeno Chara and David Backes out of Boston’s lineup among other players, and that culminated with Brayden Schenn drilling David Krejci in the second period. It was a hit that earned Schenn a two minute penalty for charging midway through the period, but shouldn’t result in anything more for the Blues forward. The hit wasn’t late, his skates were on the ice when he made contact, and Krejci was crouched down when Schenn made impact on a heavy check with his elbows tucked in, so it looked like a relatively clean hit that isn’t going to be on the radar of the NHL’s Player Safety Department. That physicality for the Blues really seemed to slow down the Bruins a little bit as things went on over the 60 plus minutes of the overtime game.


TURNING POINT: The Bruins actually only got outshot by a 15-13 margin in the second period, third period and overtime, but it was clear that they slowed down in terms of attacking and creating chances as things moved on in the game. By the latter half of the game the Bruins were simply trying to hang on to their one-goal lead, and then after that simply trying to hang in there for the point earned by getting to overtime. They managed to do it, but it was a different wave of momentum in the game once the Blues tied things up in the third period on Schwartz’s first goal. After that the Bruins were scrambling and hanging on, and did just enough to hang in there for a single overtime point for the second game in a row.

HONORABLE MENTION: Ryan Donato made it two goals in two games when he stepped into a loose puck created by an Alex Pietrangelo turnover that bounced off referee Brad Watson after he attempted to throw a puck up the middle of the ice. Donato pounced on the fortuitous bounce and rocked a puck on edge past Jake Allen for the game’s first goal and another affirmation that the 21-year-old can both shoot and score. Donato was pretty quiet after that goal, of course, with a couple of shots on net, but it seemed like a big, heavy hit on him by Dmitri Jaskin in the second period kind of quieted the youngster down a little bit. Still, you’ve got to love the production from a player just getting his feet wet at the NHL level.

BY THE NUMBERS: 100 – The number of points for the Bruins after falling in overtime by a 2-1 score to the Blues, and in getting to the century mark the B’s clinched a playoff spot for the second season in a row.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s step one. Going into the season we wanted to make the playoffs and be a Stanley Cup contender. Right now we got in and we’re going to be a contender, right? Now it’s about being in the best position possible going forward.” –Bruce Cassidy, to reporters in St. Louis about clinching the playoff spot on Wednesday night.