Haggerty: Bruins on sidelines while top NHL GMs make big moves

Haggerty: Bruins on sidelines while top NHL GMs make big moves

The Bruins were all around the action on Wednesday as the massive hockey trades dropped fast and furiously, but once again they were on the outside with their anticipatory faces pressed up against the glass as the top GMs in the game did their thing.

Instead, the B’s were left to mull an offer sheet to Jacob Trouba that isn’t very likely to drop on Friday and wait for the secondary defenseman market in free agency as it appears the Oilers might have snapped up Jason Demers already.

Some of the bold moves clearly may be mistakes: the Canadiens got older, slower and much more explosive in swapping out P.K. Subban for Shea Weber one-for-one, but also will be tougher to play against in some ways with Weber and Andrew Shaw now added to the mix. Clearly, GM Dave Poile once again was the right manager in the right place at the right time to land the super-talented Subban, who will pack the hockey house in Nashville and help continue a tradition of stud defensemen for the Predators organization.

One keen hockey source cautioned me when I said the Habs got worse on Wednesday: “I don’t think people understand how good Weber really is in the East. Montreal has become a lot harder to play against with him and Shaw.”

This certainly may be true, but the Bruins lost their cherished Habs villain with Subban moving to the Nashville Predators, where he will become a genuine U.S. hockey market superstar. Subban was charismatic and colorful, and played the role with the flops and the phantom embellishment that has become synonymous with Habs hockey over the years.

His personality and elite skill level won him a Norris Trophy a few years back and made him one of the biggest stars in the NHL and his absence now significantly reduces the wattage of the modern Bruins/Canadiens rivalry. That’s another blow to a storied rivalry that was flat as its been in years last season without Milan Lucic. It’s one that might have some rocky roads ahead with the Bruins very clearly in need of some roster help.

Peter Chiarelli became the first GM in NHL history to trade both the first and second overall picks in the same draft after shipping away Tyler Seguin in 2013 and then dealing Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday for young, developing D-man Adam Larsson.  Essentially he traded two top-of-the-draft lottery picks for two Swedish mid-first round talents in Loui Eriksson and Larsson. That’s going to leave many questioning his decision-making process until we see the final picture this October in Edmonton.

If things don’t go very right for the Oil this season, with Larsson developing into a prime time top-pairing D-man, the heat could turned up on Chiarelli in the never-ending rebuild in Edmonton.

Once again credit a veteran GM in Ray Shero with getting exactly what his team needed in a dynamic scoring force like Hall and doing it while giving up something that hadn’t been a significant piece over the past few seasons in New Jersey. This may just be the cost of doing business for Chiarelli if Lucic and Demers are indeed on their way to the Oilers as free agents, and if the whispers are true that Edmonton might move Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for defensemen help as well.

None of this even begins to mention GM Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay, who calmly and patiently waited out the Steve Stamkos free agency sweepstakes until his star player came back to him for a massive hometown discount. Now, he has the superstar, the young and talented core group and the players from those two second-round picks the B's charitably sent along for right wing bust Brett Connolly. 

The one thing that defies explanation is the Bruins-friendly voices that say inking the 22-year-old Trouba to an offer sheet “makes no sense.” Guess what really makes no sense? That would be going into next season with close to the exact same back-end group that missed the playoff cut over the past two seasons and couldn’t break the puck out of their zone under pressure if their collective lives depended on it.

The Bruins don’t have the trade assets in their organization to match offers of players like Taylor Hall and Matt Duchene, and they were beaten to the punch for top free agent D-men like Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski and perhaps even Demers. That “makes no sense” for a Bruins team that finished 19th in the league in goals allowed and had a blue line group that couldn’t execute simple tape-to-tape passes up the ice.  

Signing Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million contract extension? Signing fringe free agent D-men like John-Michael Liles? Not getting anything done with anybody in the trade or free agency market around draft weekend and July 1? That’s what really “doesn’t make sense” to me if I’m trying to cough out the Black and Gold party line right about now.

Because the NHL management groups with the big stones, the matching respect factor and the real NHL assets are making big, bold moves all across the league right now, and the Bruins are still waiting idly for their numbers to get called at the NHL deli counter. 

Bruins start strong and don't look back vs Lightning

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Bruins start strong and don't look back vs Lightning

GOLD STAR: Torey Krug assisted on all three goals and finished off with a couple of strong games while stepping up in the absence of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy. Clearly all of the D-men stepped up knowing that their top pairing wasn’t going to be available against the Lightning, but it was Krug at the offensive end with his three assists that put him over 50 points for the second straight season. They were big plays too, whether it was finding David Pastrnak in the slot for the first goal or firing wide of the net on the second score that David Backes pumped into the net. The third goal was once again a PP shot from the outside circle that Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out and was eventually shot past him by Riley Nash. Pair that with a couple of hits and a blocked shot in 19:37 of ice time, and it was a full night for Krug.

BLACK EYE: Nikita Kucherov was not his MVP self in this one. Instead he managed just a single shot on net in his 18:43 of ice time, and missed the net with three other shot attempts in a harmless, invisible kind of game. Kucherov also didn’t really do much of anything else in a game where the Bruins didn’t have defensive stoppers Zdeno Chara or Patrice Bergeron, which has to start making the Lightning wonder how difficult it’s going to be for them when those two players return ahead of the postseason. The Lightning were rested and waiting for the Bruins for a couple of days and should have been at their absolute best. Kucherov was among a number of Bolts players that were far from that, including goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. 

MORE - Scary incident involving Backes

TURNING POINT: The Bruins came out of the starting gate firing and roared past the Lightning with a strong opening period. They outshot Tampa Bay by a 12-5 margin in the opening 20 minutes and didn’t even allow a single scoring chance to the Bolts while playing letter perfect hockey for pretty much the entire time. That led to a David Pastrnak goal little more than three minutes into the game, and then the Bruins doubled their lead with a power play strike midway through the game. Once the Bruins had built up a two-goal lead with the kind of strong defense that they were dealing out on Saturday night, it was going to be awfully difficult to beat them. And Tampa didn’t even come close. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Riley Nash was dropped from the top line to the third line to start the game, and responded with one of his best all-around games of the season. Nash scored on a power play strike from the slot after a big rebound bounced to him there, and that pretty much iced the game in the second period. But he was good all night with a couple of shot attempts, a couple of hits and a couple of takeaways in 18:30 of ice time, and was excellent in the face-off circle while winning 9-of-11 draws in a big performance for the Black and Gold. Nash also stepped back into his usual spots once Backes was lost to injury at the end of the first period, and resumed the kind of solid play that’s allowed him to have his best NHL season in Boston this year. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 15-6-1 – the career record for Tuukka Rask vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning after another shutout win on Saturday night. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I’ll play a second period one of these days.” –a smiling David Backes as he limped out of the visitor’s dressing room in Tampa after leaving tonight’s win over Tampa with a laceration above his right knee caused by a skate blade. Backes was also tossed from Thursday night’s game in Florida with a match penalty in the first period as well.


Bruins make a statement with 3-0 win over Lightning

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Bruins make a statement with 3-0 win over Lightning

TAMPA – The undermanned Bruins went into Saturday’s big showdown with Tampa Bay missing four of their best players, and they lost another in the game when David Backes exited after catching a skate blade above the right knee. 

MORE - A scary incident involving Backes

But as adversity hasn’t stopped the Bruins all season long, it didn’t stop them against on Saturday against the best team in the NHL. Instead it inspired them as the Bruins scored a pair of goals early and rode that fast start all the way to an impressive 3-0 victory over the Lightning at Amalie Arena. The victory closes the Bruins to within two points of the Lightning for the NHL’s top spot with two more meetings with Tampa over the season’s final dozen games. 

The Bruins scored little more than three minutes into the game when Torey Krug fed David Pastrnak cutting down the middle of the slot, and Pastrnak slid a backhanded bid underneath Andrei Vasilevskiy for his 29th goal of the season. Backes got on the board next prior to his exit from the game, and hammered a loose puck in the slot after Krug had missed wide with a point blast that rocketed off the end boards. 

Krug was at it making plays again in the second period when he fired a shot from the outside of the face-off circle that Vasilevskiy kicked into the slot area where Riley Nash corralled. Nash put it home for his 14th goal of the season, and that was enough for the Bruins to hold on for victory as the Lightning threw everything at the net in the third period looking for some offense. 

Rask was solid at that point in the game as he stopped everything in front of him and made 22 saves to add to his gaudy lifetime record against Tampa Bay over the course of his B’s career. There was no update on Backes following the game other than his laceration required “several stitches” and that he was done for the night after the incident late in the first period.