Bruins

Hagg Bag: Emptying out the questions before training camp

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Hagg Bag: Emptying out the questions before training camp

With training camps scheduled to open up all around the NHL this week, there won’t be a lot of time for the carefree days of Hagg Bag mailbags until we get into the grind of the regular season. It will be all about double-session practices, preseason games and getting everything into the rhythm that will ultimately catapult us into an 82-game regular season. So with that in mind here’s the final pre-training edition of the Hagg Bag mailbag where we answer any and all questions thrown our way.

As always these are real questions from real fans sent to my twitter account using the #HaggBag hash tag, real emails sent to my jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com email account and real messages sent to my CSN Facebook page.

Without further ado, let’s crack open the bag:

 

#haggbag Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has B's o/u point total at 92.5. If I gave you $100 that you had to bet what side would you take?

--BK (@bkhockey3)

JH: First off, thanks for the hundy. Secondly, I’d go with the over. The Bruins had 95 points last season, and had 93 points and 96 points in the previous two seasons while barely missing the playoff cut in each instance. Are we really going to believe that the B’s are going to be worse this season than they were in the two years they missed the playoffs?

Clearly, I have my doubts that this is a 100-point team quite yet. The defense is still very young in parts, and very big, old and slow in other parts. They have the David Pastrnak contract situation to deal with, and they’re also banking on a couple of young wingers to come through for them in training camp and potentially hold down some pretty important spots in the top-6. So there are definitely some question marks with the Black and Gold, for sure.

All that being said, I don’t see this team doing any worse performance-wise than last season when they sleep-walked through the entire first half of the year. They should be good for right around 95 points this season with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, David Backes and Tuukka Rask holding down the veteran core, and young guys like Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy continuing to step up in a big way.

The problem, as I see it, is that the rest of the Atlantic Division is getting better this year. There’s no way the Tampa Bay Lightning misses the playoff cut again this season with Steve Stamkos healthy, and a team like the Florida Panthers should bounce back strongly after the turmoil in their front office last season. The Buffalo Sabres will be much better this season, and the Maple Leafs should be very formidable as their youngsters continue to improve. Montreal should be a playoff team with Claude Julien coaching up a group in front of the best goalie in the world in Carey Price, and we almost forgot to even mention the team (Ottawa) that was still alive in the playoffs after every other Atlantic Division team had been eliminated.

My point: The Atlantic Division is much improved this season, and I see a scenario where the Bruins could get 95 points and end up missing the postseason again this year. So the 92-point over/under doesn’t mean much to me in that regard.   

 

Why won't Don pay up for pasta? and do you think bran stark is the night king?

--Drew (@ats860)

JH: The Bruins think that David Pastrnak’s asking price is based on what they perceive to be one extravagant contract handed out in Edmonton to Leon Draisaitl. The Bruins are wrong as both Draisaitl ($8.5 million per season) and Vladimir Tarasenko ($7.5 million per season) were very comparable to Pastrnak at similar points in their respective careers. Look at the list of 20-year-old players that have posted 30 goals and 70 points in a season, and it’s a comprehensive list of stud players across the NHL that now includes Pastrnak. He’s an elite talent and the Bruins will have to end up paying him upwards of $7 million per season if they want him on a long-term deal. The Bruins just have to dust the cobwebs off their bank vault and pay the man his money.

I don’t think Bran Stark is the Night King, but I do think it’s one of the Stark children’s ancestors. I’m looking forward to watching one of the dragons melt his face off in the final season, though I guess we should suspect it’s going to come down to him and Jon Snow in hand-to-hand combat for all the Westeros marbles, right?

 

Reaction to John/Dany's big scene at the end, ice dragon (Dragon and snowflake emoji removed for editorial purposes) & wall collapsing? Any hopes/predictions for season 8?

--Thomas Deon (@tdeon26)

JH: Yikes. Those Targaryens creep me out. I’m interested to see if the blue flames can do any harm to Dany or her dragons, or if they are impervious to that kind of flame as well. Hated to see the White Walker army get a dragon, but I guess they had to if they were ever going to get past the wall or even pose any semblance of a threat to an army boasting multiple dragons. My hope for season 8 is that the rest of the despicable characters in Westeros get the same kind of comeuppance as Littlefinger did by the Stark kids in Winterfell. It was kind of great seeing the walls close in around him as all of the Stark kids, with their unique abilities, boxed him and made him pay the ultimate price for setting up their dad like seven seasons ago. By the way, I’ve begun watching Game of Thrones again from the beginning in the last couple of weeks, and it’s really been enjoyable going through it while knowing where the roads lead for each of the characters.   

 

What do you think of Jesse Gabrielle??

--Johnny_Tabarnak (@Johnny_Tabarnak)

JH: I like his tenacity. I like his work ethic. I like his confidence. I like his willingness to do whatever it takes to get things done. I think he may need some development time in the AHL and it may be expecting too much for Gabrielle to turn into the next Marchand as an agitating player with some skill. But I’d be interested to watch him get a look as a fourth line option at some point this season, particularly if he starts putting the puck in the net at the AHL level. I’m still a little skeptical about his final potential as an NHL player until I see more of him, but you can tell he wants it really, really badly. That’s a good place to start if you’ve got a pretty good set of skills to start with, and his junior hockey resume with the gaudy goal totals says that he does.

 

If you had to come up with the words for this incarnation of House Bruin, how would it read?

--PWM @Shawn_Jorton

JH: Hockey youth is coming.

 

If a deal isn't made between Pasta and the Bruins & they trade him, does this further cement that the Bruins don't take care of young talent

--Trevor Krejci (@KrejciTrevor)

JH: It certainly would in my mind, and more importantly it probably would in the minds of other talented young players in the Bruins system. That’s why there is plenty of leverage on Pastrnak’s side even if he doesn’t technically have any rights or leverage as a non-arbitration eligible restricted free agent. The Bruins can’t botch this contract, and they can’t trade Pastrnak away and try to patch something together without him. They don’t have a single player in their organization that can replace his game-breaking ability and dynamic skill set.

 

#haggbag what player(s) get shipped out to make way for young guns this season?

--Mike Wazowski (@shotswithmike)

JH: I don’t think any players get shipped out per se. I still think a player like Ryan Spooner could get moved if Sean Kuraly outplays him in training camp, or if the Bruins decide they want to slide David Backes back over to center. I also think that Kenny Agostino could start the year in Providence, and is more of an experienced fallback option if Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen all look like they need more AHL development time. I’d expect the Bruins might give Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson a little run on the wing as well, and see if that would a better place for him to start his NHL career if he shows that he’s ready. My gut instinct on JFK is that he’s definitely going to need some development time in Providence, but I guess we’ll see about that over the next few weeks.

 

Who's your dark horse (sleeper) candidate to crack the opening night roster for the B's?

--Robert Brown (@bruins2nine)

JH: Jakub Zboril. I don’t think it’s going to happen and it would seem that he needs some time to mature and develop his game at the AHL level, but he’s got the talent to make the NHL roster right now if he’s focused on the task at hand. I’m just not sure it would be a good idea on an NHL roster to have three D-men (McAvoy, Carlo and Zboril) in their first or second year. That’s the kind of thing that could keep a team out of the playoffs because of mistakes and too much inexperience. 

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Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

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Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while enjoying the new Brown Sugar Cinnamon coffee flavor at Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s not Cookie Dough, but what is after all?

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer James O’Brien has the details on Radko Gudas getting ejected for an ugly, reckless and dangerous slash to Mathieu Perreault’s head last night. Gudas should be facing a long suspension for a play that has no place in the NHL. It’s time for Flyers fans to stop making excuses for a player who’s no better than a cheap-shot artist and hatchet man. He has to face the music for consistently trying to hurt his fellow players.  

*Frank Seravalli has some of the details for a historic GM meeting in Montreal where NHL hockey was born in the first place.

*You always need to link to a service dog being part of the pregame face-off ceremonies. That’s like a rule here at the morning skate?

*Cam Atkinson and the Columbus Blue Jackets have agreed to a seven-year contract extension, according to reports from the Athletic.

*It’s been quite an eventful year for Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet and some of it has been to the extreme both good and bad just a month into his first year as bench boss.

*For something completely different: Chris Mannix is all-in on the Celtics being the front-runners in the Eastern Conference after their big win over the Golden State Warriors.


 

Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

These are desperate times for the Bruins even after pulling out a solid, blue-collar 2-1 win over a sputtering Los Angeles Kings team on Thursday night.

The victory ended a four-game losing streak and gave the Bruins just their second road win of the season in eight tries. It was also the fourth win of the season for backup netminder Anton Khudobin, who is a sterling 4-0-2 and has given them everything they could possibly hope for out of the backup spot. The Bruins have a grand total of 18 points on the season and Khudobin miraculously has more than half of those (10 to be exact).

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It’s clearly a far cry from last season for Khudobin, of course, when it took until February for the goalie’s season to get in gear.

But Thursday night’s 27-save effort from Khudobin was also a stunning contrast to what Tuukka Rask has been able to produce this season. Khudobin has a .928 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average. Rask has a dreadful .897 save percentage while giving them average play between the pipes at best.  

Khudobin is tied for seventh in the NHL with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in save percentage and Rask is chilling in the NHL goalie statistical basement with retreads Steve Mason and James Reimer.

Quite simply, Khudobin has been way better than Rask and the Bruins have, for whatever reason, played better hockey in front of their backup goalie. Some of it might also be about Khudobin’s more adaptable game behind a Boston defense that can make things unpredictable for their goaltender, but Rask is being paid $7 million a season to be better and figure it out. It would be amazing if this trend continued for the entire season and it would certainly merit more examination from management as to why the rest of the Bruins and Rask can’t seem to combine for an effective, winning product on the ice.

For now, the Bruins need to simply win by whatever means necessary and that amounts to riding Khudobin’s hot streak for as long as it lasts. It should begin with the backup goalie getting a second consecutive start against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night and seeing where it goes from there. Perhaps the extra rest gets Rask additional time to get his game together, or serves as the kind of motivation to get the Finnish netminder into a mode where he can steal games for an undermanned, out-gunned team that needs that right now.

“We’re going to look at it,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked postgame by reporters in L.A. about his goalie for Saturday night. “He played very well against San Jose last time. They’re a heavy team. He seems to do well in these kinds of games with a lot of traffic around the net. But we’ll look at that decision [Friday].”

Khudobin has stopped 57 of 61 shots in his two games in November, so perhaps that level of hot goaltending could also allow the Bruins to survive a month that otherwise might absolutely bury their playoff hopes. Maybe Khudobin finally loses on Saturday night and the goaltending conversation, not controversy, ends as quickly as his point streak. For now, riding the hot goalie is the right call for a team that needs something good to hang onto.

The Bruins are in desperation mode until they get a number of their injured players back. There certainly might not be more of a desperate option than setting their beleaguered sights on a goalie they sent to the minors as recently as last season. But it’s a new season, Khudobin has been excellent and he’s earned a chance to carry this team for a little bit until they can get things back in order.

Calling Khudobin’s number is the right call right now for the Bruins and, quite frankly, shouldn’t be that difficult a choice given what we’ve seen so far this season.