Bruins

Report: Leafs targeting Colin Miller in expansion draft deal

Report: Leafs targeting Colin Miller in expansion draft deal

There remains some question as to which Boston Bruins player will end up getting selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in Wednesday’s NHL expansion draft in Las Vegas, but the high probability is that it will be a defenseman, either Adam McQuaid or Colin Miller. If Vegas does end up making the pick for the player to eventually be on their own roster this then the informed speculation is that it could be McQuaid based on his connection to some in the Golden Knights organization.

If GM George McPhee and the Golden Knights have designs on flipping the player they lift from Boston’s unprotected list, however, it’s looking more and more like it could be the 24-year-old Miller. To make matters worse, it looks like the talented, young puck-moving defenseman might also be headed to one of Boston’s rivals in the Atlantic Division, and could be spun off to the Toronto Maple Leafs following the expansion draft, according to TSN insider Frank Seravalli.

Here’s more from Seravalli:

It’s no secret that the Leafs have been on the prowl for a top-four defenceman to add to their blueline. The NHL’s expansion draft protection scheme – with most teams opting to protect seven forwards, three defencemen and one goaltender – by definition means McPhee will have a bevy to choose from and flip as trade currency.

The Leafs’ front office would also be intimately familiar with Bruins defenceman Colin Miller, a right-shot from another division rival who could represent a more inexpensive option and fit in coach Mike Babcock’s quest to perfectly balance pairs with left and right-shooting defencemen.

Seravalli went so far as to ask if Miller is “the Leafs’ most likely target” this week to bolster their back end.

Maple Leafs assistant GM and noted fancy stats enthusiast Kyle Dubas was the GM of the Soo Greyhounds when Miller exploded on the scene as a hard-shooting, fast-skating defenseman on the fast track to the NHL. So there’s a strong connection between the Toronto front office and the 24-year-old D-man that’s shown flashes in the last two seasons at the NHL level, but has been inconsistent with his hockey sense and puck management.

Miller’s inclusion on the Boston non-protection list was twofold. There was a real lack of progress over the last two seasons combined with Boston’s overwhelming depth on the right side with Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy. Miller scored six goals last season while getting sporadic power play time, but also finished with three less points this past season despite playing in 19 more games for the Black and Gold. He was initially looked at as a big time top-4 prospect for the Bruins after arriving via the Milan Lucic deal with the Los Angeles Kings, but Miller was never able to tap into the kind of play that saw him post monster numbers in the AHL as a member of the Kings organization.

Miller’s puck-possession numbers have been strong over the last couple of seasons, however. It’s also undoubtedly part of the reason that an analytics-savvy group like Toronto would be interested in him above others, and would be willing to part with good assets to swing a side deal with Vegas this week. It clearly also doesn’t hurt that Miller is still a very cheap player at $1 million for next season while still working on his second NHL contract.

The reasoning was sound for the B’s to protect a big, strong, proven defenseman like Kevan Miller over Colin Miller when it came time to finalize the list, and there really isn’t a readily available spot for Miller to continue developing with Boston this season. But it will no doubt sting if Lou Lamoriello and the Maple Leafs pull the end-around after the expansion draft, and somehow find a way to siphon a talent like Miller away from the Black and Gold as the two rivals vie for Atlantic Division supremacy.

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.

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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.

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“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.

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Morning Skate: Why should missed games disqualify Bergeron from Selke?

Morning Skate: Why should missed games disqualify Bergeron from Selke?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while it was once again snow-flurrying in Toronto this morning on freakin’ April 19. That is obscene.  

*I’ll admit it. I don’t get why some people think Patrice Bergeron should have been pulled from Selke Trophy consideration based on missing 18 games with an injury. Do the missed games mean he wasn’t the NHL’s best defensive forward in the other 64 games? The fancy stats say otherwise, his face-off stats say otherwise, his goal production and plus/minus obviously say otherwise, so this was no reputation vote for No. 37 and his seventh straight Selke nomination. He may cede the actual award to Anze Kopitar based on the games missed, but I’m sorry if you think that William Karlsson (fourth on his own team in D-zone face-offs taken), Mikko Koivu (won slightly more than half of his draws and was a plus-9 for the season), or Aleksander Barkov (again finished just a plus-9 on the season) was a better defensive forward than Bergeron this season. They absolutely were not.  

*Nice gesture from Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis toward the little girl looking for a puck from Brett Connolly, whose video went viral after it happened. Her family will be getting the owner’s seats up against the glass in the next playoff game for the Caps.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Kurz has Martin Jones entering elite goalie territory after backstopping the Sharks to a sweep of the Ducks.

*Props to David Puddy, a.k.a. Patrick Warburton, for convincing his actor alter ego to show up for the Devils/Lightning game to root for New Jersey on Wednesday night. The "D" painted on his chest was a nice touch.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynski gets a lot of mileage out of a Bon Jovi theme for the Mitch Marner/Auston Matthews twosome in Toronto. I think he nails the personality on Matthews in this long read, and obviously their talent as well.

*For something completely different: I’m glad to see that Chris Pratt and Anna Faris are getting on with their lives after the divorce. I thought those crazy kids were going to make it.

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