Bruins

Hagg Bag: Slow down with the Franson/Byfuglien talk

cody-franson-072715.jpg

Hagg Bag: Slow down with the Franson/Byfuglien talk

With the Boston Bruins and the rest of the NHL in a bit of a summer hibernation hiatus for the next couple of weeks, it’s a perfect time for another edition of the Hagg Bag mailbag, where we answer your questions about the Bruins, the NHL and pop culture in general . . . whether it’s movies, television, music, or wondering whether a hot dog is a sandwich (for the record, it is not). As always, these are real questions from my twitter account using the #HaggBag hash tag, from my e-mail account at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com and from my newly verified CSN Facebook page.

On to the bag:

With the goalies that the Bruins currently have ...who do you think will get the backup gig in Boston? My thoughts are Jeremy...but ....that is simply going on what we saw all year last year in Providence...thanks!
--Heather Schey (via Facebook)

It’s a good question, and I don’t think even the Bruins know the answer. Jeremy Smith would be the logical solution, since he’s the oldest (26), the most experienced (going into his seventh pro season), is coming off a great year in Providence, and his cap hit is only $600,000. He outplayed his P-Bruins teammate Malcolm Subban with a .933 save percentage and 2.05 goals-against average, and is at the point in his career where he deserves a legitimate NHL shot.

That being said, Zane McIntyre is big, talented, and coming off some truly great collegiate seasons at North Dakota. He could be a real surprise in training camp after leaving school one year early to sign with the Bruins. McIntyre has the kind of outward confidence and accomplished hockey background that could allow him to really take off in a tandem with Tuukka Rask, in a way Niklas Svedberg was never able to last season.

The one caveat with McIntyre is that the backup goalie position at the NHL level is difficult for young players, as Svedberg found out last season. Jumping from the NCAAs all the way to the NHL isn't easy, either, so McIntyre remains a long shot in my mind.

Subban definitely isn’t ready, based both on my own eyeballs and everything that the Bruins have said organizationally. He needs more AHL seasoning before he’d be ready for regular NHL duty this season, and the former first-round pick should get that this year with the P-Bruins in a tandem with either Smith or McIntyre. I’d be stunned if Subban starts the year in Boston.

Also, there’s still a fair chance the Bruins will bring in a veteran free agent better suited to be a backup goalie at the NHL level. That might end up a better option rather than relying on another young goalie in a backup role that could again force Rask into a heavy workload that leaves him fatigued at points during the regular season.

Hearing rumblings that Franson close to signing with b's. Offering 2 years 4.7mil Hearing this? How ‘bout Byfuglien trade?
--Jason Roeck (@JasonRoeck)

I’m not saying either couldn’t happen, because both could be viable options as long as a) Cody Franson remains unsigned with seemingly few true suitors out there and b) the Jets appear motivated to move Dustin Byfuglien. But I don’t think there’s anything imminent, and the Bruins would have to make other moves to clear cap space in order to do either one. Yes, the Bruins might have the cap space to pull off a $4.7 million-per-season contract for Franson, but they’re not going to enter into the season bumping up against the cap ceiling. Also, a $4.7 million number for Franson seems a bit low to me; I’m not sure they’ll be able to get him that cheaply. It struck me as odd that Franson publicly named the Bruins as one of his suitors in an interview with Vancouver radio last week, and didn’t name any other teams among the “five or six” allegedly interested in him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team actually sign a player it has been so publicly linked with in free agency, but I guess there’s a first time for everything. But count me as skeptical that Franson will ever actually sign with the Bruins.

The same cap space clearance applies to Byfuglien, who has a $5.2 million hit entering the final season of his contract. His ability to play both big, heavy winger and puck-moving defenseman/power play quarterback would temporarily fill voids left by the departure of Dougie Hamilton.

If the Bruins make a trade for a defenseman I think it happens closer to training camp, or during training camp after they’ve had a chance to look at the seven or eight NHL-caliber defensemen they’ve already got under contracts. The one good thing about trading for San Jose’s 2016 first-round pick is that it allows the Bruins to potentially trade their own pick in a package for Byfuglien, Brent Seabrook or some other puck-moving defenseman who becomes available prior to the start of the season.

I also like the fact Don Sweeney isn’t resting with what he’s got on his current roster, and is still trying to improve a group that definitely needs another bona-fide top four NHL D-man entering the season.

His biggest challenge is upgrading the defense corps, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he still has a card or two up his sleeve. I’m just not so sure any of these “reports” are accurate about something being on the verge of happening.

CSNNE Mount Rushmore = @tomecurran , @HackswithHaggs and nuemy. #amen
Matt Rego (@matt_rego)

If you add my tanned compatriot Mike Giardi to that foursome, then I think you’re onto something, Matt. I’m down with that quartet just as long as Bob Nuemeier gets the prestigious George Washington spot on the CSNNE monument. Neumy is a living legend that I grew up watching cover the Boston sports scene, and it’s such a treat to be able to share a studio with him sometimes. It’s great to have him feeling better, and back with us on the Burlington CSNNE campus.

Got a question for your mailbag segment. Does it make sense to trade Kelly (possibly for a D-man) and let the big Finn play 4th line center?
--Will Ferrero (via Facebook)

I don’t think a Kelly trade is out of the realm of possibility, but I don’t think it will be for a defenseman. A Chris Kelly trade would be a salary-cap dump for a draft pick were it going to happen, and I wouldn’t rule out a place like Edmonton as a landing spot. He’s slotting in to be a fourth-line center at this point, and his $3 million cap hit is egregious for a fourth-line player. But I still like what he brings to the table, off and on the ice, and feel Kelly will be primed for a solid season should he remain in Boston. Handing things over to a 27-year-old Finnish center who's never played outside of his home country would be a big mistake, and I’ll have to see Joonas Kemppainen in action before I’m sold on him being an NHL option.

Going from Europe to North America is a big jump, and Kemppainen may not be quite there when the season starts in October.

Dustin Byfuglien rumoured to be available. 2016 1st and prospects will get it done. Let's go get him!
--Danny Mirabella (@DMirabe)

Given that the Bruins got a first-rounder, an NHL goaltender in Martin Jones, and a top AHL prospect in exchange for a rental in Milan Lucic, I think the Jets will be looking to get more for the final year of Dustin Byfuglien’s services. So I think the price would be a bit higher than this to get it done. But Byfuglien would also be an intriguing, versatile, talented fit for the Bruins if they have the right package of assets to interest Winnipeg. I just don’t see this kind of move happening right away.

With 7 defenseman currently on one-way contracts, do you think they'll trade one if they sign a Franson or Ehrhoff or if someone like Morrow or Colin Miller makes the team?
--Ray Guarino (via Facebook)

Yeah, I think a defenseman would have to go in order to make room for a free-agent signing or a trade for another available D-man. It would be just as much for salary-cap purposes as for the contract situation, but the Bruins can’t hang on to all those defensemen if they’re not going to keep them at the NHL level. I suspect they would want to get a look at Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman and Colin Miller before they signed an established player like Marek Zidlicky or Christian Ehrhoff to a one-year deal, anyway. But to answer your question, signing Cody Franson to a multiyear deal would change things within their established corps, and require a move or two. It would seem to me that Dennis Seidenberg would have to be the guy to be moved should the Bruins wish to go that route, but he has a no-trade clause. And I would like to see Seidenberg almost two years removed from knee surgery, and see how close he can get to his prior form as a defensive warrior capable of moving the puck up the ice.

If Ryan Spooner slots into the 3rd line center spot (unless Joonas doesn't) and puts up numbers like he did last year, what do you think are his chances of staying? He can produce against other first lines…we saw that last year!
--Victoria Jimenez-Rojo (via Facebook)

If Ryan Spooner produces offensively, there's simply no reason to move him. He will definitely stay with the Bruins, and he’s already signed to a two-year deal so he’s at least going to be here for the next couple of years as a very affordable third-line center. He brings a speed element the Bruins desperately need, and he is positively Marc Savard-like with the way that he works offensively off the half-wall on the power play.

Besides a top 4 defenseman, I believe the B's need two of these three players to provide breakout performances. Of these three, who do you think of most likely to significantly contribute: Connolly, Trotman or Morrow? I think Connolly is the key for the B's. He has the potential to be the best RW Bergeron has played with. His skill set has the chance to take advantage of the opportunities Bergeron and Marchand create. 18-25 goals would do a long way to provide the young defense a safety net and room to grow.
-- Josh, Dedham (via Facebook)

I actually think its Zach Trotman, and I feel like he’s a dark horse to be the top-4 defenseman that Boston will need to step up in training camp. Trotman still needs to work on playing up to his tremendous size and strength, and developing a little more nastiness into his D-zone work. But the offensive upside is there, and the confidence he showed both at the NHL and AHL level at the end of the season was encouraging.

If Trotman can step into the top four and play alongside Zdeno Chara, for instance, that would really put the Bruins in excellent shape cap-wise while also starting to give them the youthful turnover they need across their defensemen corps.

The jury is out a bit on Joe Morrow until we see him take the governor off his offensive game, and show everything he can do. I think he was afraid of making D-zone mistakes and losing the confidence of the Bruins coaching staff last season, and that hampered his ability to cut loose and show all the skills that made him a first-round pick.

I think you make a good point with Brett Connolly. Whether it’s Connolly, David Pastrnak or Jimmy Hayes, whichever right wing ends up on the line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand will be getting a golden opportunity to score goals, and take full advantage of their talented linemates. One would think it would be Hayes or Connolly in order to bring a little more size and strength to a Marchand/Bergeron two-way combo that’s one of the best in the NHL. But all the new faces will certainly make for an interesting training camp.

Haggerty: For first time in series, Bruins feeling the heat

Haggerty: For first time in series, Bruins feeling the heat

TORONTO -- For the first time in their first-round series against the Maple Leafs, it looks like the Bruins are a little shaken, somewhat rattled, and more than a little frustrated.

The Bruins' top line was held off the score sheet for the third time in the best-of-seven series in Boston's 3-1 loss in Game 6 at the Air Canada Centre Monday night, which tied the series at 3-3 and set up Game 7 Wednesday at TD Garden. Not coincidentally, the Bruins are 0-3 in the series when getting zero point production from Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

DJ BEAN

But this was markedly different from the first couple of Boston losses in the series, where it seemed like Toronto was basically holding on for dear life. In those games, it felt like goalie Freddie Andersen and the Maple Leafs managed to escape rather than accomplish anything sustained or significant against a Boston attack that felt relentless and inevitable.

This time, a stouter Leafs defense blocked 21 shots and battled every step of the way with speed and admirable tenacity. And, of course, Toronto received another standout effort from Andersen, who seems to be getting into the heads of the Boston players.

Especially Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak. They still managed to squeeze off 26 shot attempts and a half-dozen scoring chances, but, by the third period, Marchand and Pastrnak both seemed to be feeling the pressure of not scoring. They began doing things they hadn't previously done in the series, getting overly fancy with a lot of their moves in the offensive zone and turning the puck over rather than pushing with precision and hard work toward the net.

"That's playoff hockey," said Marchand. "Regardless of what happened tonight or any other game, you've got to let it go. You just need to worry about the next one. We'll focus on that and let this one go . . . They just kept coming. They're a good team. They've been resilient all year, so you've got to give them a lot of credit.

"If anybody told us at the beginning of the year that we'd be in a Game 7 in the first round at home, I think we would have taken it. It's tough given the position that we're in, but we're just going to look forward to the next game. That's all that we can control. Whatever happened in the last six games doesn't really matter anymore. We're going to be fighting for our lives, and it's going to be a lot of fun."

It sure didn't seem like Marchand was having much fun in Game 6. He couldn't hang onto a loose puck in the D-zone slot late in the second period, and the sequence ended with Mitch Marner snapping home a backhander that broke a 1-1 tie and put Toronto ahead to stay. Whether it was forcing plays that weren't there, over-passing at points when a simple shot would have been better, or missing the net too often while trying to be too fine picking corners against Andersen, the frustration showed for Marchand and his linemates.

That's not a good look for a top-heavy team like the Bruins, which relies on those top forwards to score for playoff success. After piling up 20 points in the first couple of games in the series, the top line has no points and a minus-16 plus/minus rating in the three losses.

"Maybe there was a little bit of [frustration], but you need to go back to the drawing board and find the character that we've shown all year," said Bergeron. "Now it's all about that one game. You can look back all you want, but now that's where you're at and that's the position that we're in. You have to prevail and be good.

"The bottom line is that we need to bear down and be better. It's as simple as that. It's how it should be . . . We have some amazing young players that are in this locker room, and I know they're going to step up. That's the approach that we're going to have, and that's it. There's not much more to be said other than we need to be better."

The question now facing the Bruins is a deep, difficult one.

Should Bruce Cassidy perhaps break up the top line, making the Bruins attack a little less imbalanced and top-heavy? Should he perhaps move Pastrnak down to the David Krejci line while moving David Backes, Rick Nash or Danton Heinen up with Bergeron and Marchand? Should he insert Ryan Donato into the series for a spark of offense and perhaps try him on his off-wing with Bergeron and Marchand in a move that might spark them with a different kind of energy?

By the end of Monday night's Game 6, the Bruins top players almost looked like the weight of carrying Boston's offense had finally begun to wear on them. That's a dynamic that needs to be fixed quickly. Home ice, a couple of adjustments, and the immediacy of a winner-take-all Game 7 might do the trick.

If not, that weight on the collective shoulders of Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak will be the thing that ultimately drags the Bruins down.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Talking Points: Marner lights it up while Pasta struggles

Talking Points: Marner lights it up while Pasta struggles

GOLD STAR: Mitch Marner has been a problem for the Bruins during the regular season, and he’s proving to be a problem once again in the playoffs. The Leafs forward scored the game-winning goal in the second period when he jumped on a Brad Marchand turnover in the D-zone, and snapped a backhanded bid past Tuukka Rask to give Toronto a 2-1 lead. It was part of a two points, plus-2 night for Marner in his 16:44 of ice time where played strong, solid hockey, and stayed patient until Boston’s top line made a misstep that they could jump all over at the end of the period. Otherwise Marner mostly stayed out of the fray in the game and simply played a strong two-way game that was easily their best defensive effort of the series. Marner now has two goals and eight points against the B’s in the six games played thus far.

BLACK EYE: David Pastrnak just wasn’t good in this game. He missed three shots on net, had another six blocked and finished a minus-1 with one shot on net in 19:44 of ice time while clearly looking frustrated at what was going on around him. Both Pastrnak and Brad Marchand were pulling out overly fancy moves, over-passing and missing the net with their shot attempts in a clear sign that Freddie Andersen is beginning to get in their heads. If that doesn’t cease quickly in Game 7 then the Bruins could be in a world of hurt with a big chance to take a nice step this season, and move on to at least the second round if not getting any further than it. But right now the Bruins top line has gone from looking like a well-oiled machine to looking like a sputtering jalopy in need of some service at the shop.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins took over the game in the first period with their puck possession and usual dominance from their top line, and looked really ready to roll when Jake DeBrusk scored little more than a minute into the second period. But the Bruins allowed Toronto to score right back 35 seconds later and that seemed to really knock the Bruins off their pins for most of the rest of the game. It was a long rebound of a Nazem Kadri shot that was kicked out by Tuukka Rask, and then went right to William Nylander for the rebound score. The Bruins were fortunate that another goal was overturned due to goalie interference that would have quickly made it a 2-1 game, but it was clear the Bruins never really controlled the game again after the two quick goals at the start of the second period.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk had the only goal for the Bruins, so he earns a little credit in a 3-1 loss. DeBrusk now has three goals in the series and was on the spot firing home a shot after a David Krejci offensive zone face-off win that gave Boston’s second line their third even strength goal of the series. DeBrusk also finished as one of only two players, along with Tommy Wingels, that ended the night with a positive plus/minus rating, and had three hits while playing fast and strong along the boards and in front of the net. There are a few other young players that haven’t looked particularly adept at the playoff-style of play in this series for Boston, but DeBrusk has thoroughly looked like he belongs since the drop of the puck in Game 1.

BY THE NUMBERS: -- minus-16: the combined plus-minus rating for Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak in the three Bruins losses where they’ve also been kept off the score sheet by the Leafs defense.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Maybe there is a little bit of [frustration], but you've got to go back to the drawing board and find the character we've shown all year. Now it's about one game." –Patrice Bergeron, on battling the frustration of losing two straight and instead getting ready for a Game 7 showdown on Wednesday night.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE