Bruins

Haggerty: Right move for Bruins to stand pat?

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Haggerty: Right move for Bruins to stand pat?

Peter Chiarelli admitted he doesnt get many cold calls from the NHL's 29 other general managers these days.

He likes his hockey club and it shows.

Chiarelli is bringing 12 forwards back from last years Bruins team minus Benoit Pouliot, and five of their six defensemen plus 19-year-old super prospect Dougie Hamilton. Theyve got two goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin that suited up for the Bruins last season even if Tea Party Tim Thomas has flown the Black and Gold coop to Colorado.

When asked if teams constantly ask about Bostons top prospects in potential trade talks, it seems Chiarelli is successfully sending out a consistent message: He intends to keep the 2011 Stanley Cup-winning nucleus together.

"Ive been pretty clear over the last year and a bit that I really like the large makeup of our team," Chiarelli said. "Other GMs have been backing off. I dont get a lot of trade calls. Guys call and try to cherry pick on our top end guys, and I dont blame them for doing it. But I dont get a lot of calls. Its kind of a cycle: were a good team and nobody really wants to help us.

I dont want to say comfortable because you never want to say comfortable in this position. But Id be very content if our roster now is the roster we go with to start the season. Id be really content. But crazy things happen in trades or free agents, so you have to be on top of it in case you want to do something.

There is plenty of reasons for Chiarelli to be enamored with his club. After all, they marched to the Cup and proved they could be successful in their current incarnation.

When the factors are right, Bostons combination of toughness, depth, and quality goaltending gives them as good a chance as anybody else to come out of the Eastern Conference, which has been wide open the last two postseasons.

The Bruins also have young players like Hamilton, Rask, Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand that are still on the upswing in their careers, so theres plenty of argument to be made that they can get even better.

Whats the biggest potential flaw in Chiarellis potential status-quo plan?

It would appear every other team in the Eastern Conference is steadily improving, and some are hastily attempting to build a hockey super power.

The Bruins are getting busy staying the same while the rest of the East is moving on with their improvement plans.

Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby, Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, and it has begun clearing money from their salary cap to make serious runs at both elite unrestricted free agents, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. That is a scary proposition for the rest of the league when the Penguins were already one of the favorites to win the Cup next season.

The Rangers could have been the team in the Cup Finals rather than the New Jersey Devils, and they have a cast of young players hungry for their first Cup as well as plenty of cap space to make a big move headed into next year.

The Flyers have taken a step forward defensively after their deal with Toronto for Luke Schenn, and GM Paul Holmgren seems on the verge of making a big splash each and every offseason. Last season his moves gave Los Angeles the building blocks for a Cup winner, but they also tend to keep Philly strong and hungry every year.

The Washington Capitals still need a head coach, but they had a good weekend at the draft adding former Montreal flop artist Michael Ribeiro and tough customer Tom Wilson after they already seemed to be getting the hang of the winning thing during the playoffs.

The Maple Leafs have already added 22-year-old forward-on-the-verge-of-a-breakout James van Riemsdyk and look ready to pull the trigger on a Roberto Luongo swap that could finally address their longstanding goalie problems.

Erik Karlsson has helped elevate the Ottawa Senators to a legitimate playoff team as he augments a roster with an intriguing mix of young players and capable veterans who have Cup Finals appearances on their resume.

Tampa Bay still has Steve Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, Victor Hedman and a crop of talented young players with GM Steve Yzerman reshaping them into a contender.

The Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils return playoff teams confident they can get back there again even if the Jersey roster is suffering through some painful turnover.

The Carolina Hurricanes were a much better team under new coach Kirk Muller in the second half of the year, and their young squad is going to play with a different kind of energy watching the Staal brothers, Jordan and Eric, skate together for the very first time.

The Buffalo Sabres still have the same team everybody listed as trendy Northeast Division favorites last fall before team chemistry issues and Milan Lucic's assault on their goaltender submarined their season.

The Montreal Canadiens organization finally had a much-needed front office enema after last years embarrassing campaign, and the New York Islanders and Winnipeg Jets should be improved next season.

The point of going through the off-season ups and downs of the Eastern Conference is simple.

Nearly every other team in the conference has done something significant to improve themselves. The Bruins have done nothing aside from retaining their own players while their GM stays faithful to a team that bowed out in the first round of the playoffs.

the departures of Joe Corvo and Benoit Pouliot might be addition by subtraction, but thats a different story for another day.

Chiarelli will still be hunting for a Recchi-type forward after July 1 to add to the Boston mix as their one big roster-building move for next year. Any veteran acquisition the Bruins make will surely be done after the start of free agency, and be part of the secondary trade market Chiarelli has mentioned more than once.

Otherwise, Chiarelli likes what he has.

Everyone talks about teams that have oodles and oodles of cap space, but youve got to find players, said Chiarelli. Youve got to fill spots. I like the spot that were in right now.

Watching other teams improve wouldnt be a sole determiner for us to add somebody. I dont ignore it, but I wouldnt engage in trade talks because of it. I think were in a good spot right now. Were in a good roster spot.

Is standing pat the right move for the Bruins? Or should they be showing a willingness to execute a big, bold move in what's an important offseason for the Bruins?

Depending on how it all ends up, Chiarelli's decisions will be looked at as either justified faith or stultifying conservatism.

There will be all kinds of frustration if Nathan Horton goes down early in the season, and the Bruins have the same kind of offensive struggles that cropped up once he was done with a concussion in late January.

The Bruins are also slicing and dicing the power play this summer in hopes of revamping and improving it for next year, but its legitimate to question how much offense can be siphoned out of the same old PP personnel that crapped out during the last two playoffs.

Time will tell whether Chiarelli made the right call by standing pat, but thats his offseason plan and hes sticking to it.

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.

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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. 

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