Bruins

Bruins send Pastrnak a message with demotion against Flames

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File photo

Bruins send Pastrnak a message with demotion against Flames

BOSTON -- With 27 games left in the regular season and the President's Trophy -- given to the team with the best record in the NHL -- within their grasp, now is not the time for the Bruins to be easing up.

So coach Bruce Cassidy decided Tuesday night it was time to send David Pastrnak a message. The slumping 21-year-old right wing was dropped to the third line in Boston’s 5-2 win over the Calgary Flames at TD Garden as big, physical David Backes took Pastrnak's spot alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the Bruins' top line.

Pastrnak finished with a minus-1 rating and a couple of shots on net in the win, and acknowledged that he had some work to do.

“I don’t mind playing with anyone, you know?" he said. "I think I’m the kind of player, you know, I can find chemistry with someone. I don’t know. I want to be better, and we’ll see. I was trying to get better. I need to kind of get better and think what I will do, and what will be the best for the team.”

Some of it was clearly about the matchup against a gritty, fast-skating and skilled Calgary crew that doesn’t shy away from the contact. Cassidy admitted as much after the game.

“Their line plays hard; they play honest and play in straight lines," said Cassidy. "I thought, well, if they’re going to beat us, they’re going to go 200 feet. I thought they got an easy goal against us, too easy for how good they are and how good we want to be defensively. Then Backes would see [Matthew] Tkachuk on the left wing, who is an ornery guy. So, it’s just a bit of a matchup to keep everything honest in our building, give us a little more push back, and then Pasta would slide down with [Riley] Nash and [Danton] Heinen, which is still a very effective [third] line.

“So, you know, just a little tweak and a little different matchup worked tonight, and we’ll see going forward."

That part of it certainly worked as the Bruins shut down the Flames defensively in the final 40 minutes, Bergeron scored a pair of third-period goals and Backes finished with a pair of helpers in a solid, blue collar night’s work.

But some of it was also about a player in Pastrnak who has just one goal in his last 10 games and began to fly under the radar when Marchand was suspended.

The game-breaking right wing is a minus player thus far during the month of February, and hasn’t been generating much in the way of shots on net or scoring chances . . . both of which were coming in bunches earlier in the year.

So, once Pastrnak took an ill-advised slashing penalty after getting stood up by Mark Giordano a couple of times with hard hits at the offensive blue line, the time arrived for Cassidy to make change.

It’s time for everybody up and down the Bruins roster to roll up their sleeves, do their share of the hard-nosed work and play up to the intensity and focus their opponents are showing them on a nightly basis -- and that includes electric offensive talents like Pastrnak.

“I was trying to say that politely, all kidding aside,” said Cassidy, when asked if he was sending a message to his young right wing by dropping him to the third line and just 12-plus minutes of ice time. “You know, because I don’t like to do it through [the media] -- David and I always talk. Yeah, to a certain extent [you] try to get a lot of the guy’s attention, but he’s one that [has to know] you’re going to have tough matchups come April and May.

“If we’re fortunate enough to be playing well and playing at that time of the year, that’s what he is going to see. [Pastrnak] is going to have to grow from the experience he got last year. So there was a little bit of [message-sending], for sure. I love David’s passion for the game, his willingness to compete. We just have to remind him every once in a while how to compete, how to manage the puck, and how to best help the team.”

Pastrnak had a couple of goals and four points in the playoff series last spring against the Ottawa Senators, but there were also times when he struggled to play his game amidst the elevated postseason intensity all around him.

Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak have been the best forward line in the NHL since they were put together a month or two into the regular season. But Tuesday night served as a reminder to Pastrnak that he’s going to need to up his battle, his involvement and his “hard to play against” quotient if he wants to stay there when the going gets tough.

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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.

Takeaways from the Bruins' 6-1 blowout loss to the Canucks

Takeaways from the Bruins' 6-1 blowout loss to the Canucks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins Saturday night 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Centre. 

1)  The young players for the Bruins are responding very differently while knowing they’re front and center in trade rumors going on this month. It’s a funny time of year when the rumors and the whispers kick up to high gear in the final weeks ahead of the NHL trade deadline, and it’s no different this season with the Bruins heavily involved with the deadline little more than a week away. Brandon Carlo has been mentioned early and often as a young D-man that’s drawn interest around the league, and it’s no surprise given that the 6-foot-5 defenseman has been a constant top-4 guy during his two seasons. He’s accomplished plenty at 21 years old and holds plenty of value around the league even if he’s never going to be a puck-moving demon like fellow youngster Charlie McAvoy. All that being said, Carlo responded to hearing and seeing his name kicked around by having one of his worst games of the season. Loui Eriksson basically backed him into the front of the Boston net on Vancouver’s first goal against the Bruins, and Carlo was an adventure with both defensive zone coverage and gap control all night. He finished a minus-4 in the blowout loss, and he was every bit that bad. Conversely, Jake DeBrusk has seen his name come up recently in the Ryan McDonagh rumors, and it’s clear other teams would hold him in high esteem given his solid NHL debut as a 21-year-old rookie this season. DeBrusk responded to the rumors by enjoying one of his best games of the season even if he didn’t end up on the score sheet. DeBrusk finished with four shots on net, hit a post in the first period on a nasty shot from the high slot and was turning pucks over while playing active, engaged hockey all night. DeBrusk was Boston’s best player, and that’s impressive given the circumstances. But then again, DeBrusk has shown early in his career that he responds in a very good way when he’s challenged by the circumstances around him. That kind of character is one of the reasons I wouldn’t want to give him up in a trade if I were Don Sweeney. Either way, it’s interesting to see how both of these young players are responding under the microscope. 

2)  Leave it to Loui Eriksson to pick his spot against the Bruins. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the years covering Eriksson, it’s that the Swedish winger can be a very good NHL player when he really wants to be. Like when he’s playing for a big contract in his final year with Boston, and posted 30 goals and 63 points while playing grittier and tougher than he ever had in his previous two seasons with the Bruins. After signing a huge six year deal with the Canucks, he responded with 11 goals and 24 points last season and is once again just “meh” this season as a minus player that’s pacing for much less than 30 goals and 60 points. But he rose to the occasion against his old Bruins team and scored a pair of goals while attacking the Boston net, and generally playing with an urgent approach that I’m pretty sure Vancouver hasn’t seen much of over the last two seasons. One of the best things that Don Sweeney did was take a pass on the passive, play-when-the-mood-strikes Eriksson, and instead replace him with a bigger, tougher and more consistent – if not quite as offensively gifted – winger in David Backes. Good luck with four more years of Eriksson, Vancouver. Yikes. 

3)  Once again Thomas Vanek gave Bruins fans a reminder that he is a certified Bruins killer and that perhaps they could use a player like Vanek at the trade deadline. Vanek didn’t even have a shot on net during the game, but it was his play attacking the Boston net that freed up Daniel Sedin for a wide open goal during the four-goal, first period onslaught against the Bruins. The 34-year-old Vanek has 16 goals and 40 points this season along with a minus-13 rating, and definitely stands as one of those second tier wingers that could be available to Boston if they strike out on Rick Nash as the top rental winger that’s going to be available at the deadline. It’s interesting that both Vanek and Patrick Maroon, who are both on Boston’s trade radar, will be available to the Black and Gold if they want them after tormenting the Bruins pretty much every time they play against them. The current tally: 33 goals and 68 career points in 63 games, and a plus-21 mark against the Black and Gold. That is some serious damage against the Bruins over the years, so maybe it bodes well for what he could do if the notoriously streaky forward donned the Black and Gold.  

PLUS

*Loui Eriksson – Credit where it’s due to the Swedish winger that stepped up and probably had his best game of the season against the Bruins scoring a couple of goals and doing some of the things that allowed to put up a massive final season in Boston. The two goals and constant pressure around the net were a big factor in the win for Vancouver. 

*Jake DeBrusk – The Bruins rookie winger didn’t end up scoring any goals, but he was all around the net with four shots and one post on a Grade-A chance from the high slot. It was an impressive performance in an otherwise gross effort from the Bruins, and it also came in front of his dad, Louie DeBrusk, who was working the color analyst gig between the benches for Hockey Night in Canada’s crew covering the Canucks/Bruins game. 

*Anders Nilsson made 44 saves, so credit where it’s due in the victory over the Bruins. But the backup goalie was shaky throughout while not making any clean glove saves, so the best thing the Bruins ever did for him was fall way behind early in the first period. That took the pressure off Nilsson, and he was able to keep it simple with a big cushion and ride that to victory. 

 

MINUS

*The minus-4 for Brandon Carlo was literally and figuratively the biggest minus for the Bruins in defeat. Carlo wasn’t nearly tough enough in front of the net early in the game, had some coverage issues in the defensive zone and really was a liability with Torey Krug as a pairing. Credit Carlo for stepping up and dropping the gloves with Darren Archibald after a big hit on David Pastrnak, and in doing so displaying a little toughness midway through the game. But it was too little, too late at that point.

*One shot on net and a minus-1 rating in 20:03 of ice time for Brad Marchand, who was clobbered early with a high stick that went uncalled and remained pretty silent in the game after that despite logging over 20 minutes of ice time. Marchand has had some pretty eventful games in Vancouver during his NHL career. This was not one of them. 

*The defense was dreadful in front of Tuukka Rask, but he also gave up four goals on nine shots before getting pulled after the first period. His rebound control was poor while he was in there in the first period and the Bruins only gave up a couple more goals the rest of the way, so it certainly feels like it was a combination of a bad night for the B’s and their goalie when they’ve both been so brilliant this season.

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