Bruins

Cassidy: Bruins slow starts are "not acceptable anymore"

Cassidy: Bruins slow starts are "not acceptable anymore"

BRIGHTON, Mass – It was perhaps inevitable that some of the bad habits creeping into the Bruins’ game would eventually hurt them. 

That was the case in their first regulation loss in 19 games when they dropped a 3-1 decision to the Anaheim Ducks after allowing their opponent, in this case Anaheim, to score first for the eighth consecutive time. In fact the Bruins were outshot 15-5 and gave up a pair of goals to dig themselves quite a hole, and it was one of worse starts out of those aforementioned eight games starting with a deficit. 

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Some of the time the Bruins haven’t been ready to go on time, and some of the time the goal has arrived midway through a fairly evenly played game. Either way it’s an area Bruce Cassidy wants to properly address as it’s readily apparent the Black and Gold are much better playing the front-runner role this season. Boston has a gaudy 18-1-5 record this season when they score the game’s first goal, and a much more middling 11-10-3 record when their opponents get the drop on them. 

“It’s a good question because it has crept in,” said Cassidy, when asked about the slow starts for the Bruins. “We’ve talked about it. Do you change your game-day routine? That’s the first thing you look at, and I don’t think we need to because we’ve been pretty consistent with that for a year-long stretch now. Are we complacent? We really don’t want them thinking ‘Well, we’ve won a lot of games, so we’ll find our game…we’ll get it together.’ So has that crept in? 

“We’ll have to talk about that. Teams understand when you’re on a roll and maybe they come into the game a little differently. So is that a factor? There are a lot of things that go into it, but it’s on the entire group to understand that it’s not acceptable anymore…especially at home where you should be well-rested and have the jump. As a staff the onus comes to us to coach in a few more details right off the bat, so maybe you’re a little more specific on the first five minutes to get them focused. It is a concern and I don’t think there’s one magic answer to it.”

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The bottom line for the Bruins is that they’ve got a huge cushion for a playoff spot these days, and clearly some of the urgency and hunger has left their game as they’ve rolled up points over the last couple of months. It hasn’t needed to be there as they continued to get the good result in game after game, but now the point streak is over and the good habits need to start returning to them as they navigate a challenging stretch against some very good teams. 

That starts for the B’s with a good start to the game for the first time in a while, and that will be a point of emphasis when the puck drops Thursday night against the St. Louis Blues.

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Vanek? McDonagh? Questions abound as trade deadline approaches

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Vanek? McDonagh? Questions abound as trade deadline approaches

With the NHL trade deadline a week away there are plenty of questions surrounding the Bruins,  who could be a prime mover and shaker among the 31 NHL teams.

Are they going to mortgage part of their future for 28-year-old Ryan McDonagh in a move that could fortify their back end? Will they finally succumb and trade for Patrick Maroon or Thomas Vanek after both players have spent years tormenting them? Is it incumbent on general manager Don Sweeney to make moves as if the Bruins are Stanley Cup contenders despite their youth and inexperience at a number of key spots on this season’s roster?

All these and more will be answered in a brand, spanking new Hagg Bag mailbag produced just in time for all of the crazy trade deadline stuff that will be addressed, critiqued and summarily dispatched if there is no evidence supporting it. As always, these are real e-mailed questions from real fans to my jhaggerty@nbcuni.com e-mail account, tweets to my Twitter account using the hash tag #HaggBag, and messages to my CSN Facebook page. Now, on to the bag:
 
Joe......your take on Carlo...and what you think other teams see him as...a 3 or 4??
--Dean Goodman (@bostonbees)

 
My take on Brandon Carlo is that he’s a 21-year-old defenseman who's been a top-4 D-man since coming into the league at age 20 and still has room to grow at both ends of the ice. He can certainly get a little more aggressive in spots on offense, using his accurate, hard shot from the point a little more and taking advantage of the fact that he’s a very good skater for a guy who's 6-foot-5. I think his pairing with Torey Krug puts him in a place where he has to consistently choose defense over offense because Krug is the one usually stepping up and playing aggressively with the pinches and playing in the offense zone. So we haven’t seen much in the way of offensive progression from Carlo this season.

But at the other end of the ice, Carlo has the size and strength to a top-flight shutdown defenseman. I think for him it comes down to being a little more mean in the defensive zone a little more consistently, and playing more to his size and strength than he sometimes does. Some of that is going to come with experience as he gets older, stronger and more confident in what he can and can’t do on the ice, but he needs to be a D-man who's hard to play against if he wants to continue his development as a top-4 guy. It was great to see him step up and fight Darren Archibald last weekend after Archibald threw a heavy hit on David Pastrnak, and that’s something Carlo is also going to need to do from time-to-time based on his role and his size/strength.

At 21, Carlo is just scratching the surface of how effective he’s going to be. We know he’s never going to be Erik Karlsson or Drew Doughty, of course, but there aren’t that many 6-foot-5 defenseman as mobile as Carlo either. Whether teams see him as a 3 or a 4, he still holds plenty of value as a guy that can play in the league for the next 10 plus years.
 
Do you think the Bruins should kick the tires on Vanek at the trade deadline and if so what is the most you think the Bruins should give up to get him?
--Nicholas Tate (@boredbostonian)
 

 Yes, I think they should and I think they will. He’s not ideal because he can disappear for stretches in the compete department, and clearly he’s slowed down at age 34. But Vanek can still put the puck in the net, is a big body that will battle around the front on occasion and is on pace for 22 goals and 56 points for the Canucks. He could definitely help the Bruins, and would cost a draft pick and maybe a mid-level prospect. I don’t even think the Canucks would be able to get a first-rounder in exchange for him, so you’re talking secondary assets to land a player who could help really help fill a need for a big-bodied, experienced winger who can put the puck in the net. I don’t think Vanek is the top guy on their shopping list, but maybe he should be given how he’s tormented the Bruins over the years.  
 
Cannot stand how Bruins writers and dumb fans talk about Loui Eriksson like he actual sucks. If you blame Loui for the Bruins troubles 3 years ago you are beyond reproach as a hockey fan. Guy gets bashed because he couldn’t replace Seguin (but he actually did). Not his fault.
--Nick Salerno (@nick_sal1)
 

You should go talk to the people in Vancouver, where Eriksson was given a six-year deal for $6 million per. He finished with 11 goals and 24 points along with a minus-9 rating last season, and is on pace for 15 goals and 33 points along with being a minus player again this year. I’m sure they’d have some fairly pointed things to say about his game, like what a colossal disappointment he’s been for them.
My point is always the same with Eriksson: He coasted a lot during his first two seasons with the Bruins, and then came to play hard with 30 goals and 63 points when his contract was up. Now he’s gone right back into his passive, floating game with a rich, long-term contract in his back pocket. He’s not a winning player and only works hard when the mood strikes him. Those kinds of guys do kind of suck in my book, but far be it for me to step in the way of your clear love and admiration for a player that “replaced Tyler Seguin” in your opinion. Wow, I can’t even type that with a straight face.
 
Pastrnak is just 5 and 6 months older then DeBrusk and Carlo; let that sink in. Wow
--Mind Within (@Northern)

 
Yup. That David Pastrnak is something special, and you could see it the very first day he showed up for Bruins development camp. That whole 2014 Bruins draft class is something special with Pastrnak, Ryan Donato, Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen selected with the first four picks. He still has moments where his puck management and his compete level wane a little bit, but he’s become a player you can bank on for 30 goals and 75 points at 21 years old. There just aren’t a lot of players like that anywhere.
 
Hey Joe. The Buins need a good young: left shot D and 2nd line RW, and have for about 3 years.  The Left D is harder to find and get than the RW.  An old veteran RW (Vanek) rental is a waste of time and resources.  Bruins should be looking to trade Krug, Vatrano and Spooner. They could also add a draft pick and/or prospect, such as O'Gara Zboril depending upon the package and the return.When Minnesota is out of it what would they want for C. Coyle or J. Brodin ? 
 
Thanks,
Mike

 
 It’s a week until the deadline and the Wild are still in a playoff spot, so I don’t see them being sellers. And Jonas Brodin is hurt now as well, so no homecoming for Charlie Coyle this time around. I disagree with you about the right wing as well. I think you could do very well with an older, experienced winger at the deadline to play alongside David Krejci. The Bruins have enough youth and speed on the wings already. They need a bigger, older player with some experience and ability putting the puck in the net.  
 
And now we’ve reached the portion of the Hagg Bag mailbag where fans just throw out random trade scenarios hoping to throw something against the wall that sticks:
 
Belesky Bjork Grzelcyk and first round pick for Ekman Larrson.  
--Allan Gregory (@AllanGregory7)
 
Carlo, Krug, Kuraly, and Vatrano for Karlsson and Dzingel ?
--Tom Walsh (@tjw0218)

 
I don’t think the Bruins are really very interested in Oliver Ekman-Larsson, as they’re looking for more of a rugged, frontline top-4 D-man than a slick offensive guy. I think Nik Hjalmarsson would be the guy they’d be looking at more closely from the Arizona Coyotes. That Karlsson trade proposal? Dude, the Senators just preemptively fired you from possible employment with them for even writing that one down. Why on Earth would Ottawa give up a multiple Norris Trophy winner for guys like Sean Kuraly and Frank Vatrano?  
 
As I said. You’re looking at a Stanley cup run and this team can’t beat the bigger western teams. Too many mistakes and goalie who can’t do it on his own. We are fun to watch but we r not a Stanley Cup contender.
--Len Hess (@bosam53)

 
I’d say this is mostly accurate, actually. I think they’re a year or two away from a legitimate Cup run, but I also think the Bruins have put themselves in a position this season where they deserve to be upgraded at the trade deadline. But I wouldn’t sell out any anything of significant value just to make a run this season because, to me, it feels like they may be one of those teams that comes up short in the postseason. I’m also going to need to see Tuukka Rask carry this team to a victorious Stanley Cup run before I will believe he can do it.
 
Hi Joe – loving your stuff and want to get your opinion. With the Trade Deadline approaching AND the brutal schedule starting Feb. 24 I think the key for playoff success and the best seeding possible is…health and rest for the team so they are all ready to go and are 100% on April 9. On Feb. 25 the B’s will have played 58 games in 142 days (a game every 2.5 days) and then will play 24 games in 46 days (a game every 1.9 days) and finish with 5 games in 8 days – a BIG difference. I want your thoughts – should management give a similar number of days per game for the team that they have had to date and scratch everyone for a few games to avoid burnout and injuries?? If the 18 core players sat 3-4 games that would be roughly 60 man games needed to be filled in.  This would be a great opportunity to give a great dress rehearsal for many of the key P-Bruins and current “scratches” and could be one more “Trade Deadline” move. Can they do this and should they do this and hold to this plan??
 --Phil Bunsick

 
They probably could do some of this, and I certainly think they will be practicing very sparingly in the stretch they’ve officially entered start this past weekend. But I don’t see them just scratching guys in terms of rest or maintenance once the schedule gets busy. You could make the argument that it will keep them fresher amid a grueling finale where they will play 27 games in 52 days, but I’m not sure that would keep them healthy as well. You play 16 games in a month’s time as they do in March, and players are going to get hurt whether they’re rested for a random day here or there. There’s also the difficulty of telling competitive, proud guys like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron to sit down for three or four games down the stretch when they’re not hurt. I just don’t see it happening even though the end of the season is clearly going to take a chunk out of the Bruins.   
 
Bruins need to pay whatever it takes to land a Ryan McDonagh type, desperately need it
--Jimbo (@jimbro83)

 
No, they don’t need to pay whatever it takes to get McDonagh. Certainly they could use a player like that for the present and for the future. He would give the Bruins a formidable top-4 group of D-men going into any playoff series, and he would give the B’s a ready-made replacement for Zdeno Chara as a veteran head of the back end if/when the B’s 40-year-old captain finally moves on. He’s pretty much exactly what they’re looking for as a long term partner for Charlie McAvoy.

But would you give up Jake DeBrusk, Brandon Carlo and a first-round pick in exchange for McDonagh, which essentially equates to three first round picks for McDonagh given that Carlo was a high second rounder that’s played in the league since he was 20 years old? I wouldn’t. If the Rangers want to take an Anders Bjork/Brandon Carlo/draft pick package or a Robbie O’Gara/Jake DeBrusk/draft pick trade offer, then I might be tempted.

But I’ll be honest, Jake DeBrusk is a high character kid, he’s a player that’s only going to get better from his current solid level as a 21-year-old rookie and he’s the kind of player that could be a very good Bruin for the next 10 years. I don’t give up on those guys very easily if I’m Don Sweeney, and I would stick to my guns and not offer too much in the way of young players from Boston’s NHL roster in talks for McDonagh.

The bottom line with McDonagh and the Rangers is that they could wait until the draft to deal McDonagh if they don’t get the boatload of stuff they’re looking for. I think the Bruins should be patient with this one. It’s going to be a good test for Sweeney, who really hasn’t had to make a blockbuster-type deal leading up to the deadline in his three years running the team. He needs to make sure he gets this one right, and doesn’t give up too much of what’s making his team special right now. That’s a legit concern with a hockey club that’s showed so much promise to date this season, and has been so fun to watch.
 
You don’t touch this [Ryan McDonagh] deal, not with a ten foot pole! Often injured and just not worth giving up DeBrusk let someone else overpay for him
--Kenny Smith (@orrigan77)

 
And there’s your counterpoint. We’ll leave you on that with a week to go until we get all the answers we’re looking for at the NHL trade deadline. See you in the next bag!

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Capitals forward calls fans' racial taunts 'disgusting'

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Capitals forward calls fans' racial taunts 'disgusting'

BUFFALO, N.Y.  -- This wasn't the first time Devante Smith-Pelly has had racial taunts directed at him during a hockey game.

And the Washington Capitals forward knew immediately what the intent of the message was when a few fans began chanting "basketball, basketball, basketball," while Smith-Pelly sat in the penalty box during a 7-1 loss at Chicago on Saturday night. Smith-Pelly, a black player in a sport dominated by white athletes, heard a similar taunt years before while playing in a tournament in British Columbia.

"It's pretty obvious what that means. It's not really a secret," Smith-Pelly said after the Capitals practiced in Buffalo on Sunday. "Whether it's that word or any other word, I got the idea. And I'm sure they got the idea, too. Just one word, and that's really all it takes."

What stunned the 25-year-old is how incidents such as these keep happening.

"It's disgusting," Smith-Pelly said. "You'd think there would be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working toward it, I guess, and we're going to keep working toward it."

The Blackhawks and United Center officials reacted swiftly by ejecting four fans shortly after an off-ice official sitting next to Smith-Pelly - serving a fighting major for a scrap with Chicago's Connor Murphy - notified building security.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement Sunday, saying the league condemns the fans' behavior as being "unacceptable and reprehensible."

"While this was isolated in nature, no player, coach, official or fan should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games," Bettman said.

The Capitals released a statement saying they are "extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior" by a select group of fans in Chicago.

In thanking the Blackhawks and arena security, the Capitals said: "It is crucial to confront such appalling conduct."

The Blackhawks issued a statement apologizing to Smith-Pelly and the Capitals following the game, and said they "are committed to providing an inclusive environment."

Video shows Smith-Pelly seated in the penalty box while looking and pointing to his left. He then gets up with his stick and gets into a verbal exchange with a male fan on other side of the glass.

Smith-Pelly said he stepped forward publicly to call out the fans for what they said because he didn't want to "brush it under the rug."

"I guess I'm trying to get the conversation started and show whoever these people were their true colors," he said.

Joining the Capitals on their road trip, which concludes at Buffalo on Monday, are players' fathers, allowing Smith-Pelly an opportunity to discuss what happened with his dad.

"We've had this conversation before," said Smith-Pelly, who is from Toronto. "So he said, `It's just a few idiots being ignorant.'"

Smith-Pelly has seven goals and nine assists in 54 games is in his first season with the Capitals. He has 40 goals and 53 assists in 320 regular-season games with in seven seasons with Anaheim, Montreal, New Jersey and the Capitals.

Capitals rookie defenseman Madison Bowey said what happened in Chicago made him "sick to my stomach."

Assistant captain Brooks Orpik said: "I wish I could say it's surprising but it's probably not all that surprising."

"I think no matter what you do, you're going to find pockets of ignorance anywhere you go," Orpik said. "Devo is as well liked as anyone in this room. I think it's important for him to know that, and to know that everyone respects him a ton in this room."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz reiterated his post-game comments by saying there's no place for racism in hockey or the country.

"For the 22,000 people in Chicago at the game last night, there were a lot, a lot, a lot of good people," Trotz said. "And a few individuals keep bringing the ugly part of society out, and that was unfortunate."

The fans' taunts occurred during the NHL's monthlong "Hockey is for Everyone " campaign to promote the game as being inclusive for all players regardless of race, color, religion, national origin or gender. February is also Black History Month in the United States.

The NHL has had to previously deal with racial insults.

During the 2014 playoffs, the Boston Bruins denounced fans who posted racial comments on social media targeting then-Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who is black, after he scored in double overtime.

In 2011, a fan was fined $200 after pleading guilty to engaging in a prohibited activity for throwing a banana on the ice at Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, who is black, during an exhibition game at London, Ontario.