Bruins

Bruins' five goals not enough in shaky game for Rask vs Penguins

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Bruins' five goals not enough in shaky game for Rask vs Penguins

GOLD STAR: Sidney Crosby didn’t score any of the six goals for the Penguins in the overtime win, but he finished with three assists and was involved in the most important play of the game. It was Crosby that made a quick, brilliant pass from below the goal line to a wide open Evgeni Malkin for a power play one-timer strike that got the Penguins to within a single goal with just three seconds to go in the second period. In all though, Crosby brought some of that “refuse to lose” spirit to a Penguins team that badly needed the points, and he wouldn’t allow them to give in even after blowing an early 3-1 lead. Crosby finished with the three helpers in 22:38 of ice time, had four takeaways and won 16-of-27 face-offs during a strong all-around game. 

BLACK EYE: Tuukka Rask simply wasn’t good for the Bruins in his biggest game in over a month. He gave up a pair of goals in the first period on 55-60 foot long distance shots that he was able to get a good look at, but somehow reacted late to before failing to stop. Then he gave up another soft goal in the third period on a game-tying score from the Penguins when he was off his angle, and that gave room on the short side for Riley Sheahan to shoot at. Rask did make 16 saves in the third period when the Bruins were clearly tiring on the second night of back-to-backs, and the Penguins starting goalie was even worse before getting pulled in favor of Matt Murray. Rask ended up stopping 29 of 35 shots in the game and helped the Bruins get a point, but the only reason Boston had to score five goals to get there was because the Bruins No. 1 was way off his game vs. Pittsburgh. 

TURNING POINT: The turning point for the Bruins earning a point was the effort they showed in fighting their way back into the game in the second period. Down 3-1 after 20 minutes and in their final game before the five-day bye week starts for them, it would have been very easy for the Bruins to cut their losses, turn their heads to vacation and basically mail in the final 40 minutes. In fact we might have seen that out of this Bruins team just a couple of years ago. But these Bruins fight, scratch and compete down to the bitter end, and that means they are never truly out of any game they’re playing. The Bruins scored four goals in the second period, took control of the game and did enough to overcome a really rough first period. The fact they also did on the second night of back-to-back just makes it all the more impressive. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Brad Marchand finished with a goal and two points, a plus-1 rating and five shot attempts in 19:11 of ice time. Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak were all very good early in the game while generating offense and doing some fine work on the power play, and Marchand kept it going throughout. It was Marchand that had a penalty shot in the third period that could have iced the game when his breakaway chance was broken up by a nasty Jamie Oleksiak slash to his hand. Matt Murray ended up shutting the door on Marchand’s penalty shot attempt when he closed down the five-hole quickly, and that set up the overtime where Pittsburgh finally took home the game. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 – the number of hits for both Tim Schaller and Sean Kuraly, who continued to bring the blue collar fourth line game that helped draw a penalty and eventually set up a goal for fellow linemate Noel Acciari.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We should have been able to put it away. We pride ourselves on that. We didn’t. Give them credit. They can score goals and they can attack.” –Bruce Cassidy to reporters, on the B’s inability to close out a 5-3 lead before setting for a point in the overtime loss. 

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Morning Skate: Donato's stock rising with each Olympic victory

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AP Photo

Morning Skate: Donato's stock rising with each Olympic victory

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while Team USA continues its uphill journey toward an Olympic medal.

*Ryan Donato potted a couple more goals in a decisive win for Team USA over Slovakia in elimination play and has been one of the top American hockey players at the PyeongChang Winter Games in South Korea. Donato showed a little bit of everything in the performance with a sniper shot off a loose puck, another goal off the rush and he played through a nasty hit up high that appeared to bloody his nose. It’s no exaggeration at this point to say that Team USA goes as Donato goes after he’s secured two-goal performances in each of their victories.

Even better, Donato did it after a surprise visit from his old man, former Bruins player and current Harvard coach Ted Donato, after it was up in the air whether he’d be able to get away to South Korea to watch his son play. From a Bruins perspective, it’s all good things watching Donato score and lead the Americans on a large, global stage while his prospect profile grows with each play that he makes. It’s clear he’s going to sign with the Bruins and go pro shortly after the Olympics, with the only question being whether it makes a quick detour back to Harvard to finish up his college season prior to signing with the Black and Gold.

What’s less clear is the immediate future for Donato, 21. He continues to show high hockey IQ and a scorer’s toughness that’s allowed him to basically be a goal-per-game performer for the Crimson this season. Those will serve him well in the pros. But it would be unrealistic to think that Donato can jump right in and play for the Bruins at this late point in the season. It’s far more likely that he instead spends some development time in Providence after finally inking his entry-level deal.

The Bruins may have to burn off the first year of the entry-level deal when they sign Donato as has become customary with many of the college prospects, but it would be in his best interest to gain experience in Providence rather than sitting and watching as Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson did last season. That experience has done him little good as he’s spent this season in Providence working up to being ready for his shot in the NHL.

What Donato could do for this year’s Bruins team is something else, however. His mere presence as a prospect about to join the pro ranks would allow the Bruins to part with one of their young players on the wing in a deadline deal trade. Anders Bjork would be the NHL-ready prospect most likely to move if the B’s had to give up one of their best and brightest in a big deadline move.

Bjork has speed and skill in large amounts and showed it in flashes when he was in Boston earlier this season, but the Bruins are dealing with a massive surplus of skilled wingers and left-shot defensemen in their prospect ranks right now. You can’t play them all in the NHL and Donato’s presence could and should allow Don Sweeney to deal one of them away ahead of Monday afternoon’s deadline.   

*Petr Mrazek is officially now in the playoff chase and also the newest goalie hope in Philly after getting traded to the Flyers from the Red Wings.

*Mat Barzal has overcome any bitterness about his previous experiences in pro hockey to become a Calder Trophy favorite with the Islanders.

*Interesting look at a typical practice with the struggling Montreal Canadiens from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Arpon Basu, who sees meaning in the mundane daily ritual.

*Larry Brooks seems to be dreaming of a lottery pick for the New York Rangers, who have not had one at the very top in a long, long time.

*Women’s Olympic Hockey will be expanding from eight to 10 teams for the next Winter Games, which is great news.

*For something completely different: Kurt Cobain would have been 51 today. Wow, that makes me feel wicked old.


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Bruins trade for defenseman Nick Holden from Rangers

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USA TODAY Sports photo

Bruins trade for defenseman Nick Holden from Rangers

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was active and out ahead of the pack with the NHL trade deadline looming next week and he’s made his first move. The Bruins have sent defenseman prospect Robbie O’Gara and a 2018 third-round pick to the New York Rangers for left-shot defenseman Nick Holden, who fills one of the big needs that the Black and Gold had entering this month.

Holden, 30, has been a solid player for the Rangers and Avalanche the past couple of seasons with career highs of 11 goals, 24 points and a plus-13 rating last season to go along with 20:38 of ice time per game for the Blueshirts. Holden has been a little less effective this season with three goals, 12 points and a minus-3 in 55 games for the Rangers, but he’s been a solid top-four, two-way D-man for the past few seasons.

This kind of move gives the Bruins exactly the kind of depth they were looking for on the left side of their back end and adds somebody else on the left side who can play penalty kill and shutdown-type roles behind Zdeno Chara. It also would seem to preclude them from being in the mix for any potential blockbuster for Rangers D-man Ryan McDonagh, but that’s a good thing given that the Bruins didn’t give up anything from their NHL roster to make this deal.

One interesting thing about Holden is that he can play either on the left or right side as a left shot D-man, so it adds flexibility to Boston's back end while also potentially opening up some of their other, younger D-men for corresponding trades if that's the direction Sweeney wants to go. 

O’Gara, 24, is a solid, stay-at-home prospect for the Bruins who's played in 11 games in Boston the past two seasons, but wasn’t the kind of battle-hardened veteran that the B’s were looking for in a playoff run. It also gives O’Gara, from Massapequa, New York, the chance to play for one of the teams he grew up watching and rewards a prospect who has done absolutely everything the B’s have asked of him since he was drafted in the fifth round in 2011.

Presumably, this move will allow Holden to slot in on a pairing with Charlie McAvoy and gives the Bruins the possibility of reuniting Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo as a shutdown pairing that enjoyed all kinds of success holding down other team’s top offensive players. It gives Bruce Cassidy the versatility to mix and match those four D-men to find the best combos and it should drop Torey Krug down to the bottom pairing where he’s probably best suited as an undersized power play maestro.

The bottom line is this gives the Bruins some back-end depth if injuries hit them hard as they did toward the end of last season. It also addresses a big need without giving up anything from an NHL roster that’s vying for the President’s Trophy. The price was a reasonable one for a player the caliber of Holden and could actually be much less than some other GMs pay for D-men closer to the Feb. 26 trade deadline. Sweeney deserves some credit for being an early bird and a tone-setter when it came to making this deal.   

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