Bruins

Bruins know early deficit is 'not a good recipe for winning games'

Bruins know early deficit is 'not a good recipe for winning games'

NASHVILLE – The Bruins had a particularly vexing brand of frustration as they ushered out of Bridgestone Arena on Monday night after dropping a 5-3 game to a red-hot Nashville Predators group on their home ice.

The Bruins outshot the Predators by a 40-25 margin and seemed to control healthy chunks of the 60-minute game at both ends of the ice, and they even finished strong with a couple of goals scored in a third-period barrage. But the B’s also piled up the defensive zone breakdowns and so-so goaltending in the opening 25 minutes of the game, and that was too much to overcome after falling behind by a four-goal margin.

“Digging yourself a 4-0 deficit is certainly not a good recipe for winning games,” said David Backes. “The second half of the game was much better, but it was too little, too late. We need to start on time.”

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A long Anton Khudobin rebound turned into goal No. 1 for the Predators on the stick of Craig Smith, and Torey Krug vacated his defensive position to open up a free lane for Smith to score his second goal after a perfectly chipped pass from Kevin Fiala. Nick Bonino scored on a scramble in front of the Boston net just two minutes into the third period, and then Kevin Fiala twisted Zdeno Chara into a defensive pretzel on a drive to the net before again beating Khudobin with the shot.

The Bruins had their problems with a Kevin Fiala-Kyle Turris-Craig Smith line that accounted for three goals, seven points and a plus-6 rating for the game, but the Bruins acknowledged afterward it was much more about shooting themselves in the foot.

"The [Predators] are pretty deep, they play hard, but they didn’t really deserve a lot. We just kind of gave it to them. It’s tough to lose like that,” said Brad Marchand, who finished with an assist as one of only three plus players on the Bruins roster along with linemates David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron. “We did a good job of pushing back and making it a game, but we need wins.

“You can’t give a good team like that so many good scoring opportunities. . . especially unforced. I thought we played the better out of the two teams. No matter the score I thought we played better than they did, but we just gave up a few chances they capitalized on.”

There were some positives to be taken from a strong showing against a quality opponent in Nashville that’s playing close to the top of their game. The Bruins enjoyed plenty of offensive chances, they finished with 40 shots on net and they showed ample heart and character in clawing back from a four-goal deficit.

But they also let a winnable game slip through their fingers through simple mistakes and mediocre goaltending, and that’s a losing formula we saw far too much of from the Bruins in the first six weeks of the season.  

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Haggerty: If Iginla returns to B's, it's because they struck out elsewhere

Haggerty: If Iginla returns to B's, it's because they struck out elsewhere

Future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla has been skating with the Providence Bruins this week as he thinks about an NHL comeback at 40. Iginla looked like he was pretty close to the end (just 14 goals in 80 games and a minus-30 rating) while playing for the Colorado Avalanche and L.A. Kings last season and it’s clear at this point he’s probably not even the player he was in his one-year stint with the Bruins in 2013-14.

The official word from Don Sweeney is that the Bruins are doing Iginla a solid by letting him work out with the P-Bruins this week and Iginla would need to sign with a team by Monday in order to be eligible for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Could Iginla be an option for the Bruins even though it doesn’t seem likely?

In a word, maybe...but it would only mean that Don Sweeney struck out on everything available going into the Monday afternoon trade deadline.

Michael Grabner is off the board after being traded from the New York Rangers to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a prospect and a second-round pick and that sets a pretty strong market for sellers in the rental winger market this weekend. Still, the Bruins are interested in Rick Nash, Thomas Vanek and Patrick Maroon at the top of their trade wish list, but realistically are probably only going to be willing to pay the price for Vanek or Maroon.

Rangers GM Jeff Gorton is looking for two prospects, including one “A” prospect, and a first-round pick in exchange for Nash, who is clearly the top hired gun on the winger market. Even beyond those names, there is Evander Kane and Mike Hoffman and a host of others that should be moved ahead of Monday afternoon.

There’s also this with Iginla: If the Bruins were a second round-and-out playoff team when Iginla was much closer to his prime four years ago, what would the 40-year-old really be able to bring them this time around? It would be something of a cool rallying cry for the playoffs to “Win One for Iggy”, but this is about players that can actually help the Bruins in this spring’s playoff run. With all due respect to Iginla, he ranks fairly low on that list right now but could be a “safety school” option for the Bruins if they come away empty-handed with trades.  

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Bruins wary of negatively impacting "very good chemistry" at trade deadline

Bruins wary of negatively impacting "very good chemistry" at trade deadline

TORONTO – It doesn’t take much searching on the Google machine to uncover noteworthy accomplishments from the Bruins this season. 

The Bruins are top-five in the NHL in offense, defense and penalty kill, and they have gone an amazing 31-6-4 since the middle of November while storming to the very top of the NHL standings. Along the way they’ve overcome injuries, tough losses bad starts, one lengthy Brad Marchand suspension and a fan base that was only half paying attention until the season ended anticlimactically for the New England Patriots a couple of weeks ago. 

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They also did all of this while introducing a lineup with five or six rookies in it every single night, and playing for a head coach in Bruce Cassidy in his first full year running the NHL team after 13 years between NHL gigs. They’ve been resilient and filled with fighting character all along, and they’ve overwhelmed opponents with their depth and quality of players on the vast majority of nights. 

They’re an entertaining and fun hockey club to watch, to be sure, and they are a group that sticks up for each other and genuinely likes one another while also sitting mere points behind the top dog Tampa Bay Lightning. That was all evident when the entire team enjoyed a night out together in Toronto on Wednesday, and wound up using the team-wide get-together as quality content for their Instagram accounts. 

Long story short, the Bruins have been extremely good this season on a consistent basis and look primed for an intriguing run into the postseason as the NHL trade deadline beckons. 

With all that in mind, it’s a delicate balance for Bruins management between making necessary roster improvements and not upsetting a tangle team chemistry that’s been notably special this season. The always candid Cassidy admitted as much when asked that question while meeting with reporters at the Bruins team hotel on Thursday morning. 

“I think it’s been factored into conversations between me and Donny [Sweeney] that we have a group with some real togetherness there this season,” said Cassidy. “At the end of the day if you can add and make your team better then you always have to look at it, and Donny is looking at that right now. 

“Adding [Nick] Holden I think he’s done that and we’ve added some more depth. But after that I do worry about if we subtract somebody from the room. If you’re adding and you’re not subtracting, i.e. future assets, then as a coach you always prefer to go that way. But Donnie will do what’s best and as a coaching staff we’ll take it from there so to speak. But there is a good chemistry with that group…a very good chemistry in that locker room.”

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Translation: There's a real concern that trading away a young NHL roster player like Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen or Brandon Carlo could be altering the team's DNA a little too boldly. 

This is the factor to keep in mind chasing after rental wingers like Michael Grabner, Thomas Vanek and Patrick Maroon that are unlikely to cost more than a “B” prospect or reasonable draft pick in exchange for them. It’s expected that the Bruins would need to give up at least one young NHL asset, possibly two in a true blockbuster for a player with term, if they chased after bigger ticket targets like Rick Nash or Ryan McDonagh with the Rangers.

Certainly there might be some level of impatience that the Bruins should go for broke at the deadline based on the promise this group has shown this season. Perhaps some are worried the window is starting to close for some of their veteran core players, but the numbers say otherwise with players like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand all enjoying vintage seasons. This isn’t a 2011 “Go for the Cup” type situation this season with the Bruins where they were primed and ready for a lengthy playoff run, and deals for Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Tomas Kaberle helped put them over the top. 

This year’s group is much more reminiscent of the 2008-09 Bruins that blew away expectations with a strong regular season, and enjoyed breakout performances from a number of younger players that saw them soar high above expectations. The youth and inexperience caught up to the Bruins that season when they were eliminated in the second round during a rugged seven game series with the Carolina Hurricanes, but the experience helped grow them into a contender on a steady trajectory over the next three seasons. 

That’s where the Bruins are this season. 

They’re a pleasant surprise team with a group of talented youngsters helping to push them to a higher level, and they’re due for a learning experience down the stretch and into the postseason. That isn’t likely to develop into an extended two-month Cup run unless a lot goes tremendously right for the Black and Gold, but the experience will pay dividends for next season and beyond. 

It might be that there’s just one more player for the Bruins to add ahead of Monday’s deadline, and that it will be more “sensible roster addition” than “take-your-breath-away blockbuster.” But that’s really okay when it comes to the Black and Gold.

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It’s okay because it means Don Sweeney hasn’t attempted pulling the roster apart at any of the seams, and will instead roll with his chemistry-filled Bruins regular season juggernaut to see exactly how good they stack up to be in the postseason. They’ve certainly earned that right after kicking the tar out of the rest of the NHL for the last three plus months, and it’s starting to feel like they’re going to get it.

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