Bruins

Bruins try to simplify things after a couple of rough losses

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Bruins try to simplify things after a couple of rough losses

GLENDALE, Arizona – After stubbing their toes in back-to-back games against the Colorado Avalanche after a promising opener, the Bruins have plenty they need to show this weekend in back-to-back games on the road. 

The Bruins are dead last in the NHL in defense with 4.3 goals allowed per game and the penalty kill is 23rd, averaging a PP goal allowed per game.

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The Bruins aren’t getting any offensive bang for the defensive transgressions either while averaging just 2.3 goals per game. Clearly, they miss key offensive performers Patrice Bergeron and David Backes out with injuries but need to start finding some answers out of the still-talented group that’s healthy and playing.

Bruce Cassidy ran the Bruins through practice ahead of the Saturday night showdown with the winless Coyotes and seemed to be focused on simplifying things for a team that’s a lot of mistakes in the first few games. That means simply taking things to the net in the offensive zone and playing it a little safer when he comes to pinching and jumping on plays at the offensive blue line.

It’s not the ideal way this assertive, aggressive version of the Bruins wants to play, but it might be necessary at this point early in the season.  

“The third period [in Colorado] we scored two goals and I don’t think we did anything spectacular other than win pucks, go to the net and be belligerent there. If that’s what it takes to get going, that’s what it takes sometimes to score goals in this league,” said Cassidy. “There are pretty goals and there are goals like that. If we can carry that attitude going forward that we’re going to be hard to play against in front of their net then I think things are going to loosen up for us and we’ll get rewarded. But that’s something where [the players] have to take that mindset on the ice.

“On the offensive blue line, I thought we had some struggles and maybe we were overthinking it and being too active. It’s stuff we’re trying to coach into the game to create some space, but other nights you just need to make sure it gets past their first layer and on net. Sometimes it’s going to get blocked by the second layer on the way to the net, but you have to get it past the first layer if you’re a D-man. That’s very important so the guys going to the net get some sort of reward.”

The message sounds simple to the Bruins at this point: Just play simple, hard and strong hockey and get some results until they’re in a position to add a little more flash and dazzle to a fuller, healthier group that’s got the basics down. Right now the Bruins are doing very little at a high level, and that’s not a good recipe for success in the NHL. 

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Report: Veteran Brian Gionta, 39, drawing interest from Bruins

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Report: Veteran Brian Gionta, 39, drawing interest from Bruins

TORONTO – The Bruins are lining up their options at the NHL trade deadline and that includes backup plans in case things don’t go their way by late Monday afternoon. 

One of those might just be 40-year-old Jarome Iginla, who has been working out with the Providence Bruins this week. Another potentially remote possibility for the B’s is Brian Gionta coming off his stint with the US Olympic team in PyeongChang, according to a report from The Athletic’s Pierre Lebrun.

Gionta, 39, had 15 goals and 35 points for the Buffalo Sabres last season, then sat out the first half of this season in order to compete with Team USA at the Olympics. Gionta and the Americans fell short of a medal, of course, and the captain had a pretty quiet tournament with college kids Ryan Donato and Troy Terry leading the way for the USA.

Clearly, the Bruins have a need for an experienced, heavy player on the wing to augment the multitudes of youthful, smaller, skilled players that the Bruins have currently have on the wing outside of David Backes. But the 5-foot-7, 178-pound Gionta really doesn’t fit Boston’s current roster need outside of the experience factor given his 112 games of Stanley Cup playoff experience.

As with Iginla, Gionta would seem to be a remote possibility for the Bruins if they happen to strike out on all of their trade scenarios leading up to the Monday 3 p.m. deadline. A trade for a big, heavy top-six winger like Edmonton's Patrick Maroon or Vancouver's Thomas Vanek would be much more meaningful roster improvements for the Bruins. 

Other than as a Plan B or Plan C, Gionta doesn’t make a lot of sense as an upgrade over what the Bruins currently have and really didn’t show much in the Olympic tournament to indicate there’s a ton left in the gas tank.

There certainly would be an interesting full circle element to Gionta’s career if he were to end up with the Bruins after starring at Boston College prior to the NHL. Still, the feeling from this humble hockey writer is that the B’s could do a lot better than that when it comes to augmenting their roster ahead of what the organization hopes will be a long playoff run in Boston.

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B's brace for final stretch: 'No easy way the rest of the season," says Chara

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B's brace for final stretch: 'No easy way the rest of the season," says Chara

TORONTO – The in-season breathers and breaks are essentially over for the Bruins and the sprint to the end of the regular season begins Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.

With the drop of the puck in Toronto, the Bruins will play a whopping 24 games in 44 days to close out the season and will have a series of big games against the Maple Leafs and then three games vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning that will essentially decide the top spot in the Atlantic Division. 

It reaches a fever pitch in March when the Bruins play a whopping 16 games, but the entire month-and-a-half stretch is one that the Black and Gold have been eyeing warily all season.

“It’s going to be tough. Especially when you look at the games...none of them are going to be easy games,” lamented Brad Marchand after B’s morning skate at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday morning. “There are a few very important ones against Tampa and Florida and tonight in Toronto. So it’s going to be a very tough [stretch], but I think the biggest thing is to take it all day-by-day. You can’t start looking ahead at the schedule. You just have to focus on the next practice or the next game, and then go from there.”
So what can be done about it?

The Bruins have already begun efforts to combat the attrition that’s sure to come by making a depth move for defenseman Nick Holden from the Rangers. The expectation is that the B’s will do the same thing up front with at least one established winger coming there way. So, the trade deadline move before Monday should be an effort to combat the sheer number of games played. Still, the Bruins will also have to hope that the injury bug doesn’t whack them as badly as it last season when they lost three of their top four defensemen during the playoffs.

The challenge will be incorporating any new players into their system as the Bruins are also expected to drastically scale back on their practice schedule with the heavy slate of games. It won’t be easy, of course, but it’s something the Bruins have also known about all along after a breezier schedule at the beginning of the year when they were besieged by injuries all over the roster.

“We knew that this was going to be our schedule. We obviously know that every team is ahead of us in terms of games played, and we were going to have to catch up,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s the schedule. There is really no easy way for the rest of the regular season. We’ve just got to battle through it.”

It will be particularly challenging for the soon to be 41-year-old captain as well as the handful of rookies that the Bruins employ in their lineup on a nightly basis. The good news in all of this is that the Bruins have cleared every other hurdle thrown at them this season and the dense final spate of games provides one more challenge prior to the postseason.

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