Bruins

Morning Skate: Bruins cap situation isn't messy at all

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Morning Skate: Bruins cap situation isn't messy at all

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while going through withdrawals with no Game of Thrones on Sundays anymore. 
 
-- I love PHT writer James O’Brien like the NBC Sports brother that he is to all of us over here at CSN New England, but I think there’s some serious sportswriting hyperbole being used when he talks about the Bruins with a “messy” salary cap situation. That hasn’t been the case since the Bruins swallowed hard once Don Sweeney took over and traded away Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton as high-priced items they weren’t going to pay anymore. Sure they have a few contracts -- like David Krejci, David Backes and Matt Beleskey -- that wouldn’t be considered very good at all under any circumstances, but they also have cap space this season (roughly $3 million) along with almost zero big contract decisions to make for at least a couple of years. It’s literally been years since they needed to make a trade due to salary cap reasons. They also have an armada of young, cheap and talented prospects coming up through the system right now or already on the team, like Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy and Anders Bjork, who are going to be cheap labor for the foreseeable future. Could their cap situation be better? Sure. Anybody’s could. But they got Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak signed to under-market deals and they face no imminent cap issues with the cap ceiling expected to still go up by a few million each season. So as far as I can see, Boston’s cap situation is actually a pretty good one as compared to many other teams around the league.  
 
-- Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov aim to pick up where they left off this season for the Tampa Bay Lightning after the Stamkos injury hurt them last season. 
 
-- It looks like former Merrimack standout Stephane Da Costa is going to have to put the NHL return on hold after suffering an injury while reportedly talking to the Montreal Canadiens about a contract. 
 
-- A number of prominent players, like JVR, Evander Kane and others, are entering the final season on their contracts, and could be at play in trade talks moving forward this year
 
-- Here are a few things that the NHL can learn after its first foray into China, where the league hopes to really make a dent in a massive, growing market. 
 
-- Interesting piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Joe Smith on Tampa Bay’s evacuation for the Lightning organization during Hurricane Irma, and the menagerie of animals that it included.  

-- For something completely different: This is truly a sad state of affairs when artists like U2 and Ed Sheeran have to cancel concerts in St. Louis due to safety concerns for themselves and their fans.

Jarome Iginla practices with P-Bruins

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Mark Divver

Jarome Iginla practices with P-Bruins

Jarome Iginla skated with the Providence Bruins in the AHL team's practice on Tuesday, according to the Providence Journal.

Iginla doesn't want to retire yet. But he's not necessarily going to get a shot in Boston. The Bruins aren't interested in signing the 40-year-old winger, but instead wanted to do him a favor, a source told the Providence Journal.

"I'd love to still play," Iginla told the Providence Journal. "This is kind of the first step, getting out here and seeing how it is. … I wanted to see if I can still go. I don't have any deals at this point."

Iginla has had a prolific career with 525 goals and 570 assists (1,095 points). During his 2016-17 season, he spent time with the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings. He played in 80 games, and finished with 14 goals, 13 assists and a minus-30 rating.

Bruins' defense, goaltending enjoys mini-breakthrough against Flames

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Bruins' defense, goaltending enjoys mini-breakthrough against Flames

Here’s what we learned in the Bruins 2-1 overtime win over the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday afternoon.

1)      Once again the Bruins were challenged and provided the perfect response. After giving up 15 goals in their previous four games and getting blown out by Vancouver last weekend, the Bruins recognized their defensive game had slipped in all zones. Their defensive layers had disappeared up and down the ice, the fore-check had gone missing and the D-zone coverage was leaving big holes in the slot and in front of the net. The Bruins weren’t working particularly hard, they were making some pretty elementary mistakes and they were allowing opponents to gain way too much speed and momentum entering their zone. All of that changed against Calgary after a spirited practice on Sunday, and the Bruins allowed just four shots on net in the first period against the Flames. They went on to allow just a single goal in the game, and kept grinding until they took a 2-1 win in OT. Hand-in-hand with the B’s defense responding was the Bruins goaltending situation responding to the challenge as well. Tuukka Rask hadn’t been particularly good in recent losses to the Buffalo Sabres and Canucks over the last week, and he wasn’t getting the support in front of him either. That added up to a lot of goals allowed and getting yanked in the Canucks loss amid some poor rebound control. Rask was locked in from beginning to end on Monday afternoon, and made five show-stopping saves in OT prior to Brad Marchand’s breakaway game-winner. What’s impressive is that it took just one bad loss for the B’s to totally snap back into place. There are times when it can take three, four or even five games for a hockey club to shed their bad defensive habits, but the Bruins did it immediately and haven’t lost back-to-back games since November. That is simply amazing at this point, and a testament to the coaching staff and the players. 

2)      In addition to the Bruins defense and goaltending responding, it was impressive to see Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak respond with big goals as well. Neither player was very good in the blowout loss to Vancouver, and Pastrnak had been mired in a bit of a slump with just one goal in his last 11 games headed into Monday afternoon. Both players have been targeted and thumped pretty solidly by opponents just as they were down the stretch last season as well, and they hadn’t really responded in an effective way until Monday. Even into the playoffs last season, Pastrnak really struggled to respond to some of the elevated intensity and physicality that he saw. Pastrnak scored in the first period on a nifty play aided by a Patrice Bergeron active stick against the side boards, and he enjoyed a number of scoring chances against the Flames. Marchand had seven shot attempts that culminated with his breakaway in overtime for the game-winner, and he was also engaged and physical throughout while both he and Matthew Tkachuk tried to “out-punk” each other on the ice. With a Bruins team that’s going to need their top line to produce regularly for them as the games get tighter, Monday’s mini-breakthrough was an important sign that Marchand and Pastrnak are ready to fight through some of the resistance thrown their way.

3)       Monday’s win also saw the Bruins once again drop the gloves to defend one of their teammates. On Saturday night it was Brandon Carlo sticking up for David Pastrnak, and on Monday afternoon it was Adam McQuaid dropping Garnet Hathaway after he took a shot at Charlie McAvoy right in front of the Bruins bench while practically inviting No. 54 to get involved. The Bruins will need to continue to bring their immediate reaction to borderline hits and opponents taking runs at their players, and that starts with McQuaid and trickles down through the rest of the lineup. Team toughness, they call it.

Plus

*Brad Marchand finished up with the sweet, little backhanded five-hole goal on the breakaway in overtime, and played an excellent overall game with seven shot attempts and plenty of active, engaged play all over the ice in 20 plus minutes of action. 

*Tuukka Rask stopped 28-of-29 shots against Calgary and was solid throughout the game. But he was amazing in the overtime session when he was turning away Grade-A chances from Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett at one end while making five stops overall in the extra session. That little stand-on-his-head routine bought the B’s enough time for Marchand’s game-winner at the other end, and he certainly carried the Bruins to the extra OT point this time around. 

*Four shots on net and an eye-catching three blocked shots for David Pastrnak in 18:38 of ice time, including the game’s first goal in the first period when he curled to the net and beat Dave Rittich low with a shot. 

Minus

*Michael Frolik finished as a minus player for the Flames, and had the turnover to Patrice Bergeron in the first period that led directly to David Pastrnak’s goal. It was a pretty well-played game, so those little mistakes really stood out for either side. 

*Two giveaways and a minus-1 in 22:49 of ice time for Dougie Hamilton, who pretty much had a nothing game in a reminder to Bruins fans that they upgraded when they made Charlie McAvoy their No. 1 defenseman of the future. 

*No shots on net in 12:54 of ice time for Jake DeBrusk, who didn’t seem to have the same jump to his game on Monday that he did last weekend in Vancouver. He may have been saving it for Edmonton, where he grew up and certainly wants to put on a show on Tuesday night.