Bruins

Haggerty: Marchand's Hart Trophy candidacy is very real

Haggerty: Marchand's Hart Trophy candidacy is very real

With each passing game, the unlikely Hart Trophy candidacy grows for Bruins left winger Brad Marchand.

Marchand picked up the second hat trick of his career in a 6-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night at the Rogers Centre and powered home the tying and winning goals in the comeback for the Black and Gold to kick off their Western Canada trip. 

Marchand is tied with Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead with 35 goals and is tied with Crosby for second in the NHL with a career-high 74 points after his four-point effort Monday night.

The real jewel of the third-period goal explosion was the game-winner, where he pick-pocketed Henrik Sedin and stole the puck from the Canucks captain at the half-wall, dangled it through Alex Edler’s legs on his way to the net and then flipped a backhanded bid past goalie Ryan Miller. 

It was the kind of game-winning, tone-setting play that you typically see from an MVP candidate and it’s exactly the kind of thing Marchand has done on a regular basis while scoring 25 goals in his last 28 games bringing the Black and Gold offense to life.

One of constants of so many of those goals has been the 5-foot-9, 181-pound Marchand attacking the net and going to the danger areas despite usually being the smallest guy out on the ice. He also has tied Patrice Bergeron for the B’s team lead with his seventh game-winning goal of the season. Combine that with the improved vision and puck awareness that’s allowed him to rack up a career-high 39 assists this season, and you have an all-around, elite player in the prime of his career creating an extremely worthy follow-up to last season's “career year” with 37 goals.

“You have to learn to adapt and change and you also pick up different techniques that guys use over the years and find different ways to create some space. Now with the game being quicker and the guys being a little more agile, it’s tough to continually cut back on them in the corner, especially most teams swarm down there and have three or four guys,” said Marchand after Saturday’s win over the Flyers. “You know the big thing is to just try to get the puck out of the area and either change sides, go behind the net and try to find some space. Stuff happens quickly out there and you learn to read plays a little bit better than maybe you did early on and it could be a mix of a few things.”

Clearly, it’s going to be a bit of an uphill battle in Hart Trophy voting for a sometimes-pest in Marchand who's gone way over the edge, and paid the price in suspensions, in his past history in Boston. Fellow elite NHL players, like the aforementioned Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Connor McDavid and Brent Burns, are also posting excellent seasons for playoff-caliber teams. None of them has the complicated, checkered past that Marchand does in a league that sometimes wants everything to be a little too squeaky clean.

But Marchand is on pace for 42 goals and 88 points, has spearheaded this Bruins surge to the playoffs and has raised his profile with Team Canada and NHL All-Star appearances already this season. Provided he can finish strong in the final 14 games, the Nose Face Killah is fully deserving of consideration for the Hart Trophy given to the Most Valuable Player in the league and he’ll get it from this humble hockey writer in a wonderful NHL success story of a guy that’s gone from fourth-line annoyance to elite MVP candidate in seven transformative seasons.

The Hart Trophy candidacy for Boston’s trouble-making Marchand might be a little surprising, but it’s very, very real at this point. 

Morning Skate: 'After Hours'? Injured Jagr is open

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Morning Skate: 'After Hours'? Injured Jagr is open

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering if it shouldn’t be more of an issue that potential Red Sox manager Alex Cora was good buddies with Dustin Pedroia when the two played together in Boston.

*Jaromir Jagr suffers a lower-body injury and then goes on Hockey Night in Canada’s “After Hours” program to show once again how wonderful it is to be “The Jagr.”

*The Ottawa Senators get Erik Karlsson back this week, but now they’ve lost power forward Bobby Ryan for a month with a broken finger.

*The Montreal Canadiens are getting exposed for the very flawed team that they are during a brutal start to the 2017-18 season.

*Keep an eye out on the Los Angeles Kings now that they’ve suffered an injury with Jeff Carter and do appear to be in the running for the playoffs this season.

*New Jersey Devils fans help a singer belt out the national anthem after there might have been a case of forgetting the words.

*Doug Gilmour might not have always enjoyed the prying eyes while playing in Toronto, a case that gives you an idea what it’s like to be a pro hockey player in a market like Toronto where everybody knows your name.

*For something completely different: There’s no doubting that Aaron Judge has brought life and energy back to the Yankees and that’s something that’s very good for baseball.

 

Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries

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Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries

BOSTON – It feels like the Bruins might finally be hitting their critical mass with all of the injuries in the first few weeks of the season.

The B’s were down Tuukka Rask, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and David Krejci as the new injuries Saturday night and clearly missed those players, along with the others currently out with injuries in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. The Bruins had a three-goal lead in the second period and a two-goal lead in the third but frittered away both while allowing the hapless Sabres to outshoot them 21-6 in the third and overtime.

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Anton Khudobin battled his rebound control for most of the game while facing 42 shots on net but it was the absence of Miller and McQuaid in the D-zone that made it a little too easy for Buffalo to push Boston when it mattered late.

Torey Krug was on the ice for the last three of Buffalo’s goals and was out penalty killing late in the third period in a spot where he would never have been in if the B’s were healthy on the back end.

“That’s where the appreciation comes in for the Kevan Miller’s and the Adam McQuaid’s of the world. They’re not always flashy, but in those instances, they’re money. They get it done. And that’s why they are paid to get it done,” said Bruce Cassidy. “So yes, we miss them. But, last week we missed other players. So the guys that are out there, it’s up to them to get it done, right?

“It didn’t happen tonight, and hopefully we learned from it and can be hungrier the next time. There’s not much else to analyze that. That was it. Someone had to play in that situation. We pick guys who we figure would get the job done, and it didn’t work out for us. Next time, we’ll keep working at it.”

As part of the injury factor, there are also players that are banged-up and back in who are also clearly not back to full strength. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and David Backes (diverticulitis) are both back from their early-season issues and Krug continues to play with a healing fractured jaw, but all three key players combined for just a single assist and three shots on net in a game that featured nine goals.

Krug was the most noticeable weak link in the loss as he was overwhelmed in the D-zone on the game-tying goal when an Evander Kane shot bounced on him on its way into the goal. Krug was down on his stomach after losing his balance while battling in front of the net. Krug then was out for an extended period in OT before bumping a Sabres player around the crease who fell into Khudobin just as Ryan O’Reilly was pushing the game-winning goal past him.

Krug spoke on Saturday morning about feeling like things were starting to come together for him but he finished a minus-3 against the Sabres with his big, bad teammates out with injuries. He's a startling minus-8 after the first two weeks of the season.

“Obviously we have to do a better job tonight. Two-goal lead in your own building, it’s got to be the hardest place for the opposing team to come in and overcome that. We’ve got to be better,” said Krug. “I thought I had an opportunity to win a battle in the corner on that loose puck. Just trying to swat away and all of a sudden it comes out the other side, and we just couldn’t overcome. That’s survival mode. “Especially when they were able to make changes like they were. We just got to stay calm, composed, and make sure we’re not getting beat one-on-one. We obviously managed it for a while, but we just couldn’t get the puck back.”

It was also clearly about Khudobin, who had a big chance to put the Bruins team on his back with Rask out with a concussion. The Russian netminder made 37 saves and at times looked energetic and ready to battle between the pipes but at other times couldn’t make the clean save that the Bruins needed in order to get a whistle and calm things down. In OT, Khudobin couldn’t make a clean glove save on a Rasmus Ristolainen tester from the high slot that would have allowed the Bruins to get some tired players off the ice in the 3-on-3 OT.

Instead, Krug, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were out on the ice for 2 minutes, 15 seconds and eventually got beaten on O’Reilly’s play that took the puck straight to the Boston net. Cassidy called it an “erratic” night for Khudobin when they needed calmer, more poised play from their goaltender and that was clearly a reflection of the Black and Gold missing Rask.

“[Khudobin] was erratic. He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. [He] certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him,” said Cassidy. “But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out [on plays] that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.

“[There were instances] in the third period, plus overtime, where we needed to calm the game down. Whether it’s a face-off, even right before the overtime goal, we had opportunities to get possession out of that pile. They came out with it. And that’s what I said. They were hungrier than us. Late, they won more pucks. If we win that puck out of that pile, we might not be talking about losing. Maybe we get out of trouble and it goes our way. We’ll never know.”

Maybe things would have gone the Bruins way if they had more of their walking wounded back and contributing. Instead, it feels as if the B’s are being tested with new, damaging injuries with each passing day. A number of those had a direct impact on a brutal loss to the Sabres on Saturday night. One has to wonder if there are more of those coming until the Bruins can start stabilizing their medical situation.