Bruins

Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries

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Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries

BOSTON – It feels like the Bruins might finally be hitting their critical mass with all of the injuries in the first few weeks of the season.

The B’s were down Tuukka Rask, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and David Krejci as the new injuries Saturday night and clearly missed those players, along with the others currently out with injuries in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. The Bruins had a three-goal lead in the second period and a two-goal lead in the third but frittered away both while allowing the hapless Sabres to outshoot them 21-6 in the third and overtime.

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Anton Khudobin battled his rebound control for most of the game while facing 42 shots on net but it was the absence of Miller and McQuaid in the D-zone that made it a little too easy for Buffalo to push Boston when it mattered late.

Torey Krug was on the ice for the last three of Buffalo’s goals and was out penalty killing late in the third period in a spot where he would never have been in if the B’s were healthy on the back end.

“That’s where the appreciation comes in for the Kevan Miller’s and the Adam McQuaid’s of the world. They’re not always flashy, but in those instances, they’re money. They get it done. And that’s why they are paid to get it done,” said Bruce Cassidy. “So yes, we miss them. But, last week we missed other players. So the guys that are out there, it’s up to them to get it done, right?

“It didn’t happen tonight, and hopefully we learned from it and can be hungrier the next time. There’s not much else to analyze that. That was it. Someone had to play in that situation. We pick guys who we figure would get the job done, and it didn’t work out for us. Next time, we’ll keep working at it.”

As part of the injury factor, there are also players that are banged-up and back in who are also clearly not back to full strength. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and David Backes (diverticulitis) are both back from their early-season issues and Krug continues to play with a healing fractured jaw, but all three key players combined for just a single assist and three shots on net in a game that featured nine goals.

Krug was the most noticeable weak link in the loss as he was overwhelmed in the D-zone on the game-tying goal when an Evander Kane shot bounced on him on its way into the goal. Krug was down on his stomach after losing his balance while battling in front of the net. Krug then was out for an extended period in OT before bumping a Sabres player around the crease who fell into Khudobin just as Ryan O’Reilly was pushing the game-winning goal past him.

Krug spoke on Saturday morning about feeling like things were starting to come together for him but he finished a minus-3 against the Sabres with his big, bad teammates out with injuries. He's a startling minus-8 after the first two weeks of the season.

“Obviously we have to do a better job tonight. Two-goal lead in your own building, it’s got to be the hardest place for the opposing team to come in and overcome that. We’ve got to be better,” said Krug. “I thought I had an opportunity to win a battle in the corner on that loose puck. Just trying to swat away and all of a sudden it comes out the other side, and we just couldn’t overcome. That’s survival mode. “Especially when they were able to make changes like they were. We just got to stay calm, composed, and make sure we’re not getting beat one-on-one. We obviously managed it for a while, but we just couldn’t get the puck back.”

It was also clearly about Khudobin, who had a big chance to put the Bruins team on his back with Rask out with a concussion. The Russian netminder made 37 saves and at times looked energetic and ready to battle between the pipes but at other times couldn’t make the clean save that the Bruins needed in order to get a whistle and calm things down. In OT, Khudobin couldn’t make a clean glove save on a Rasmus Ristolainen tester from the high slot that would have allowed the Bruins to get some tired players off the ice in the 3-on-3 OT.

Instead, Krug, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were out on the ice for 2 minutes, 15 seconds and eventually got beaten on O’Reilly’s play that took the puck straight to the Boston net. Cassidy called it an “erratic” night for Khudobin when they needed calmer, more poised play from their goaltender and that was clearly a reflection of the Black and Gold missing Rask.

“[Khudobin] was erratic. He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. [He] certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him,” said Cassidy. “But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out [on plays] that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.

“[There were instances] in the third period, plus overtime, where we needed to calm the game down. Whether it’s a face-off, even right before the overtime goal, we had opportunities to get possession out of that pile. They came out with it. And that’s what I said. They were hungrier than us. Late, they won more pucks. If we win that puck out of that pile, we might not be talking about losing. Maybe we get out of trouble and it goes our way. We’ll never know.”

Maybe things would have gone the Bruins way if they had more of their walking wounded back and contributing. Instead, it feels as if the B’s are being tested with new, damaging injuries with each passing day. A number of those had a direct impact on a brutal loss to the Sabres on Saturday night. One has to wonder if there are more of those coming until the Bruins can start stabilizing their medical situation. 
 

Bruins sending clear message they're going for it with Nash deal

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Bruins sending clear message they're going for it with Nash deal

TORONTO – The clear message signaled from the Bruins to the rest of the NHL this weekend is that they’re going for it. 

The Bruins landed their big fish at the trade deadline on Sunday morning by acquiring power forward Rick Nash from the New York Rangers in exchange for a 2018 first round pick, Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey, college D-man prospect Ryan Lindgren and a 2019 seventh round pick. Nash, the 2002 first overall pick that’s scored over 400 goals and 799 points in his 14-year NHL career, will be in Buffalo and available to suit up immediately for the Black and Gold in tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. 

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While on paper it might seem like the Bruins gave up a lot in the deal, the truth is the Bruins landed the top available winger on the market and had to move all of those pieces in order to make the salary cap side of things work. 

Sure Nash hasn’t been a great player in the last couple of years with his best season coming in 2014-15 when he scored 42 goals for the Rangers, but he’s just 33 years old and fully capable of re-energizing his game in a contract year for a Bruins team with a legit chance at a Stanley Cup. In his last three playoff runs with the Blueshirts, Nash has 10 goals and 23 points along with a plus-9 in 39 games for New York and has been an effective offensive player when the bell goes off. 

Even more importantly for the Bruins, Nash is the exact kind of power forward-type at 6-foot-4, 213-pounds that has enjoyed excellent success with David Krejci in the past and really gives that Bruins second line a formidable look for a postseason run. He’ll fit right in replacing the speedy, skilled Spooner alongside Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, and give them the exact kind of rental winger they’d been looking for on the trade market. 

With only David Backes as a big, heavy physical winger among a bunch of smaller, younger and skilled wings headed into the trade deadline, the Bruins needed to get bigger and stronger with the physical battles ahead in the stretch run and postseason. 

To his credit Spooner had turned his game around this season and showed that he wanted to stick with the Bruins, and actually had lesser, but comparable, numbers to Nash with nine goals and 25 points this season in Boston. Spooner will get a chance to be part of the fast, young, skilled Rangers group as an RFA after this season, and could very well flourish given a fresh start in a different organization after doing many of the right things for his NHL career this season. With the youth movement in full swing in Boston, however, there was no real room for Spooner on the Bruins roster moving forward beyond this season’s expected playoff run. 

There was also no room for Spooner as anything more than an extra part if he did remain on the Bruins after the Nash deal with his spot gone on the second line, and no appetite from the B’s to break up third or fourth lines that have been very good for them this season. If the Bruins were going to remove a piece from their NHL roster without really disrupting all the good things that they’ve done this season, Spooner might just have been the best candidate in a trade. 

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Beleskey was buried in the AHL after disappointing the last couple of seasons, and the Bruins get salary cap relief by including him in the deal as a contract that needed to be moved in order for the Bruins to absorb Nash’s $7 plus million cap hit. 

The real cost here, obviously, is the first round pick and a solid Bruins prospect in Lindgren, a sophomore defenseman at the University of Minnesota and a 2016 second round pick. But that’s the going rate to land the premier winger available on the trade market even if Nash hasn’t cracked 40 points with the Rangers in each of the last two seasons. 

Lindgren was a staple on the Team USA World Junior team in each of the last two seasons and is well-thought of in scouting circles for his leadership and toughness, but he’s also a stay-at-home, left shot defenseman in an organization that is well-stocked in that area with Jakub Zboril, Urho Vaakanainen and a number of other players even after trading away Lindgren and Robbie O’Gara. 

The message from the Bruins is clear here: The Black and Gold are going for it this season and they didn’t have to give up any of their untouchable pieces in order to do just that. That’s something Bruins fans should be ecstatic about once the shock of a big time rental move engineered by Don Sweeney is digested and broken down beyond this weekend.

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UPDATE: Bruins acquire Rick Nash from Rangers

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UPDATE: Bruins acquire Rick Nash from Rangers

UPDATED: The Bruins and New York Rangers completed the trade for Rick Nash this morning:

More to come . . . 

TORONTO – It sounds like the Boston Bruins are on the verge of a fairly substantial trade if they can iron out some of the details both big and small.

According to multiple reports and sources, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney is closing in on a trade for New York Rangers winger Rick Nash ahead of Monday afternoon’s trade deadline. The 33-year-old Nash has 18 goals and 28 points in 60 games this season for the Blueshirts, and really has been in decline over the last couple of years in New York since scoring 42 goals and 69 points back in the 2014-15 season.

Still, Nash has quite the resume as the first overall pick in the 2002 NHL Draft and a guy that’s scored over 400 goals and nearly 800 points in his 14-year NHL career while starring for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Rangers during that time. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder would bring the size, heaviness and experience factor that the Bruins have been looking to add to their wing ahead of the stretch run and playoffs, and certainly could be energized down the stretch while potentially playing a second line role with a center like David Krejci.

Don Sweeney indicated prior to the reports surfacing that the Bruins could be more invested into the rental market this season, given their strong campaign, than they originally thought they’d be when the season started.

“We’d like to think that the group can continue on along the path that they’re on, but if you can add to it and help it…the rental market depends on what you’re going to give up, and what that impact of that player is necessarily going to be and how they’re going to fit into the group,” said Sweeney. “The chemistry piece is an important piece in and around the trade deadline, so that’s something we have to be cognizant of.”

There are, however, a couple of issues for the Bruins and Rangers to work out before it’s a done deal. One is the massive cap hit for Nash that would still be well over $3 million even if the Rangers agree to eat half of his remaining contract, and that would leave the Bruins to need to clear some space with a corresponding deal elsewhere. There’s also the matter of ponying up assets in exchange for Nash, who it’s believed would cost the Bruins a first round pick and a solid prospect that is not yet on the NHL roster.

That means the Bruins would able to avoid potentially dealing Brandon Carlo, Jake DeBrusk or Danton Heinen from their NHL roster, which it wasn’t expected they would need to move in a rental deal for Nash. But it does mean the Bruins likely would be parting with a blue chip prospect still in the development stage, whether it’s Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jakub Zboril, Zach Senyshyn or even a college hockey prospect like Trent Frederic.

That’s a big price to pay from Boston’s future to be sure, but it would be done based on Nash being an impact player this season for a Bruins team that looks like they might have a pretty good postseason run in them.

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