Morning Skate: Flames acquire Smith from Coyotes

Morning Skate: Flames acquire Smith from Coyotes

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while hoping that Danny Ainge is right about Markelle Fultz. 


*Interesting feature piece on the draft prospect with the most dangerous shot in the entire class, Owen Tippett. Expect this kid to be taken in the top-10 in the first round and to be scoring goals in the NHL a couple of years from now. 


*The Flames have acquired Mike Smith from Arizona ahead of the trade freeze, and hope that the 35-year-old goalie can bring stability between their pipes over the next handful of years. 


*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Stephan Whyno on the epidemic of sports hernias in the hockey world, and how the recovery can vary wildly from player to player. Interesting to note the recovery difficulties while pointing out that Patrice Bergeron had one of those done this spring, and could be fighting it a bit when he comes back next season. We’ll have to see as the injury itself clearly took away some of his explosiveness this season. 


*A wild Grab Bag of topics including a crazy picture of a young Drake at an NHL Awards show long before he blew up to a superstar in the music game. 


*Congrats to FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance, who has kick-started “The Athletic” website for the Detroit area after leaving I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see one of those pop up in Boston sooner rather than later. 


*Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall is cautious about the Flyers path this offseason, but the time is right for a youth movement in Philly. 


*Here’s a mock expansion draft that has a player taken from each team, and it’s Colin Miller that is tapped from the Bruins in this draft exercise. I’ve seen Malcolm Subban as the guy in other mock expansion drafts, but I think that is wishful thinking by the B’s as the former first round pick looks like a bust to me. 


*For something completely different: Here’s another chapter in the unending saga of Colin Kaepernick still looking for an NFL job. 

Grzelcyk looks "good to go"; Rooney one of refs for Game 4

File Photo

Grzelcyk looks "good to go"; Rooney one of refs for Game 4

TORONTO – It looks like Matt Grzelcyk will be making his return to the Bruins lineup after a one-game absence with a lower body injury.

The Bruins rookie D-man took part in an optional skate at the Air Canada Centre for the Black and Gold on Thursday morning, and will be playing provided he gets through the pregame warm-ups without any hitches. A healthy Grzelcyk will replace Nick Holden in the B’s lineup and give Boston that puck-moving, fast-skating D-man that can be pretty effective counteracting a speedy, aggressive Toronto fourth line that’s been pretty good in the series thus far.

“He’s out there [skating] now, so he should be good to go. Obviously, it will be warm-ups and a game-time decision, but I anticipate he’ll go in,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He’s complemented well by his partner, who is usually [Adam] McQuaid or [Kevan] Miller. So you get a duo where he’s able to transition the puck very well by himself, and get out of some piles with the D-zone coverage and make a good first pass.

“He can track down pucks before defenses get set or during a line change, he’s good at getting it up [the ice] and seeing who is available. He’s very low risk generally in his game, and he does some very good things at the O-zone blue line to keep plays alive for us.”

The return of Grzelcyk appears to be the only change to the Bruins lineup ahead of a pivotal Game 4 made a little more intriguing by the NHL’s selection of South Boston native Chris Rooney as one of tonight’s referees (along with Gord Dwyer). Rooney has always carried the well-worn reputation of a referee that goes extra-hard on the Bruins to prove there isn’t a bias toward the hometown team, and the Bruins have a 7-9 record over the last three seasons in games officiated by Rooney. It’s not a main reason for the Bruins to either win or lose the game, but certainly something to keep an eye on as things unfold tonight in Toronto.

Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings vs. the Maple Leafs in Game 4 based on morning skate:  










Bergeron on Game 4: "It's about giving everything we have tonight"

Bergeron on Game 4: "It's about giving everything we have tonight"

TORONTO – Every game in the Stanley Cup playoffs is of great importance obviously, and teams approach each one with the kind of singular focus and intensity that makes for great postseason theatre. But some games within a particular best-of-seven series are more important than others, and Thursday night’s Game 4 at the Air Canada Centre will be one of those kinds of games.

The Bruins are up 2-1 in the series and should still have plenty of confidence based on the offensive chances they’ve been able to carve out again a compliant Toronto defense, even if they were stopped in Game 3 by some bad luck, an appearance by Auston Matthews for the first time in the series and a superhuman effort from Frederik Andersen in the third period of that game. In many ways -- whether it was liming Boston to just one power play or holding down Boston’s top line despite their 22 shot attempts -- it was the Leafs playing at a level they may or may not be able to replicate a few more times in this series.


All that being said, if the Maple Leafs can ride their streaky hot goalie or have Matthews take over a game with his undeniable skill they will head back to Boston tied at 2-2 apiece with two-way forward Nazem Kadri entering back into the series following his suspension. That would be a big swing that certainly could shake the confidence of the Black and Gold, who have looked like the better hockey club through the first three games of the series.

With that in mind, the B’s bench boss was taking the “straight ahead” approach to Thursday night’s pivotal game and not looking to put additional pressure on a result that clearly would make a big difference for either club.  

“We try to play the game in front of us and we’ve done that all year,” said Bruce Cassidy. “It’s Game 4 tonight and we’ll live with the result. We just want to play our game and improve in the areas that we thought we could be better at that Toronto did well. I think offensively we’ve been pretty consistent generating chances. The defensive side of things, there some plays that we need to defend a little better to limit their chances.

“I thought we did a better job of that at home than we did [in Game 3]. Give them credit, they came home and kind of like us they had a lot of energy coming out [of the gate]. So, we need to expect that and match that.”

It’s a much different series if the B’s can once again impose their will on the game, take a decisive 3-1 lead in the series and head back to Boston where they enjoyed two blowout victories over Toronto in the first two games.  The Bruins weren’t shying away from the game’s importance on Thursday night, or how key it will be to keeping the momentum on their side in the series.


“There’s a big difference and we all know that. At the same time, we’re approaching this game like we have from the start of the series,” said Patrice Bergeron. “It’s about giving everything that we have tonight. We know last game was about the way they came out and [in Game 4] we’re expecting the same. So hopefully we can handle that better.”

The best guess here: The Bruins offense breaks through against a Leafs defense that hasn’t been able to effectively stop them, Toronto can’t replicate the highly disciplined approach they took in Game 3 and Andersen again becomes a mere mortal that’s given up some soft goals in this series. But if Toronto can play at that high level again for a second straight game, well then, it’s a whole different-looking playoff series that could indeed go the distance as many people predicted at the outset of the seven-game series between Boston and Toronto.