Bruins should invest in this season, even if it means taking risks

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Bruins should invest in this season, even if it means taking risks

In February of 2011, then-Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli took a calculated risk. It helped the Bruins at the time. It's helped another team since.  

The risk was that the young player he was trading, fledgling third-year pro and top-five draft pick Blake Wheeler, would end up becoming a star. Wheeler did, but it was a risk Chiarelli was willing to take because he wanted Rich Peverley and the cap space to fit (whooooooops) Tomas Kaberle. 

That trade, more so than the Joe Colborne-and-a-first-for-Kaberle deal, has proven to be the type of deal Bruins fans might fear right now: trading a good young player with plenty of development left in him for an older vet who might help more in the present. 

And it worked for both sides: The Bruins got a forward who helped them win the Cup and while Atlantapeg got its future captain.  

These trades don't always work, but that doesn't mean they're never worth making. If the B's saw it through with Wheeler, they might not have gotten out of that first round vs. Montreal, let alone win it all. 

This season, for as scary as it sounds, is one in which the Bruins should consider such a risk. The Bruins are on pace to win the Presidents' Trophy as the top regular-season team in the NHL. They'd have a difficult second-round matchup with Tampa, but if they can win that, they've got a realistic shot at a title in a season expected to be just another step in a soft rebuild. 

It's easy to sit back and think that the Bruins are playing with house money and that any playoff run on top of the kids' development is gravy, but there's another way of looking at it: This could very well be the Bruins' last shot at a championship with a Chara-Bergeron-Rask core. 

I'd assumed those days were already gone, squandered by the trades of Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton. Yet the combination of Chara's longevity and Don Sweeney's ability to supplement the roster with youth has the Bruins in a rare situation: They'll likely never have their vets - mainly Chara, but even Bergeron -- this good again. 

Next year, maybe (probably) Chara's not as effective. Even if the young players take another step forward, that could mean a worse team. Too many people in Boston underestimate the impact of Chara. Plus, maybe one of these other teams in the Eastern Conference amounts to something. Maybe Chicago comes back to life out West. 

So, now is the time to consider pouncing, to consider trading Brandon Carlo and a first-round pick for Ryan McDonagh. To turn any of the Bruins' ELCs not named DeBrusk or McAvoy into someone who would either beef up the defense or give one of the best offenses in the league one more stud scorer. 

It would be uncharted territory for Don Sweeney, who has yet to make such a deal while he's hoarded prospects in a style Sports Vulture Adam Jones compared to Ben Cherington. Jones probably made the comparison to insult Sweeney, but it should be a compliment: Sweeney's made it so the Bruins are not only one of the best teams in the league, but the team with all the guys the sellers should want. 

It would be a risk to miss out on one of these young players' careers, but it's also a risk to assume the Bruins will have this chance again. They should go for it. 


Morning Skate: After another B's comeback, looking toward playoffs

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Morning Skate: After another B's comeback, looking toward playoffs

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while some inspiring kids march their lives in every city across the country.

*Here’s the podcast version of this week’s 98.5 the Sports Hub hockey show where FOH (Friend of Haggs) Ryan Johnston and yours truly talked about the ref’s treatment of Marchand, the comeback win over Dallas, Ryan Donato and what the Bruins lineup might look like in the playoffs.

*Ottawa Senators coach and aspiring Bond villain Guy Boucher knows that his job performance is going to be evaluated at season’s end just like that of his underperforming players.

*The Bruins playoff marketing ad chastising Mike Felger for his early season hot take is drawing plenty of attention and praise, including from Forbes Magazine.

*Here’s a cool behind-the-scenes story about how "Hockey Night in Canada" comes together on a weekly basis to be the very heartbeat of NHL coverage in Canada.

*Sean Monahan’s season is over with the Calgary Flames as they plummet out of playoff contention in the Western Conference.

*For something completely different: The March For Our Lives is not only inspiring to somebody like me, but a sign that things are changing in our country. There is a sea change coming and it’s long past time for it to happen.  


Bruins resiliency on full display in third-period comeback vs Stars

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Bruins resiliency on full display in third-period comeback vs Stars

GOLD STAR: Every once in a while Brad Marchand wills the Bruins to a win that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise had, and that happened again on Friday night with a three-point explosion for No. 63 in the final 20 minutes. Marchand finished with a goal and three points in 19:57 of ice time along with a plus-2 rating, and played a key role in the three-goal outburst that allowed the B’s to vanquish a 2-0 deficit. It was Marchand that opted not to shoot from the face-off dot with a look at the net in the closing seconds, and instead dropped it down low to David Pastrnak as he curled around the net and pushed a puck past Kari Lehtonen for the game-winner. Marchand finished with two shots on net, eight total shot attempts and a number of big plays in the third period redirecting pucks in close, kicking off shorthanded scoring plays and then setting up clutch game-winners in the final 15 seconds of the game. It’s the kind of night where Marchand played like an MVP even if he isn’t going to get much of a sniff at the Hart Trophy. 

BLACK EYE: Jamie Benn scored a shorthanded goal for the Dallas Stars, but he also jumped up in the air and clobbered Brad Marchand from behind with a completely unnecessary hit in the third period that went without a penalty being called. Instead it seemed to incense Marchand, who never gave up in the final sequence and ultimately fed a pass to David Pastrnak down low for the game-winner with just 11.1 seconds remaining in the game. Benn finished a minus-2 for Dallas while being on the ice for a pair of goals against, had a brutal 1-for-7 performance in the face-off dot and really acted like a punk on the play with Marchand in the third period. Benn is a better player than that and shouldn’t be resorting that level on a fellow star player like Marchand. 

TURNING POINT: Once again the Bruins really turned things around in the third period while outscoring the Stars by a 3-0 margin, and really flooding the Dallas net with 10 of their 36 shots on net for the night. It all started with a relentless shift from Boston’s top line where Riley Nash made a pass from his knees before taking a big hit, and then Brad Marchand redirected a David Pastrnak shot from the slot off his leg and into the net for Boston’s first goal. That first score finally allowed the Bruins to begin building some momentum, score each of the next two goals as the game slipped away from Dallas and once again proved themselves as a hockey club that one doesn’t ever doubt in the third period. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Tuukka Rask had a career-high 40 saves and turned away some really good looks from the Dallas offense while showing exactly what the Bruins can be capable of when their goaltending is on point. The only goals that beat Rask were a first period score with droves of traffic in front of the net, and a second period shorthanded score for Jamie Benn where he pulled one of those unconventional finishing moves on Rask at the very end. Rask made 11 saves on the Dallas power play alone during a trio of PP chances, and made a crucial leg pad save on Antoine Roussel in the third period that helped open things up for the goal-scoring outburst late in the game. Hopefully the strong, resounding performance from Rask answers some of the questions about some of his recent so-so performances between the pipes.   

BY THE NUMBERS: 29 – the number of goals this season for David Pastrnak as he readies to become only the ninth Bruins player to hit the 30-goal plateau in back-to-back seasons over the last 35 years of franchise history. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Resiliency. We didn’t want to go quietly for sure. We can live with the end result as long as we play the right way. The end result went our way again in the end, and I think that’s a credit to the guys.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN about another comeback win for the Black and Gold.