On a day for Bruins vets, Bergeron shines brightest


On a day for Bruins vets, Bergeron shines brightest

All due respect to Zdeno Chara as the No. 1 star of the game, according to 98.5 the Sports Hub, but Patrice Bergeron was the dominant force Saturday afternoon in the win over the Detroit Red Wings. It was Bergeron who scored two of Boston’s three goals, led all Bruins players with six shots on net and eight total shot attempts and won 15 of 20 face-offs while completely dominating his 17:21 of ice time. The first goal was the game-winner in the third period as he stepped into a perfect dish from Brad Marchand and smoked a one-timer past Jimmy Howard for his ninth goal of the season. Then he scored his 10th for good measure on an empty-netter from mid-ice as Niklas Kronwall was attempting to tackle him with the puck. This was a Bergeron-type of day where veterans like him were really leading the way.


Tough day for Martin Frk, who only ended up playing nine-plus minutes in the game after a disastrous first period. Frk had a rebound that bounced straight up in the air nearly carom into the net off him were it not for a quick reaction save. Then, later on, that same shift Frk attempted to simply receive a bank pass off the boards, caught an edge and then slammed hard into the side boards where it looked like he sustained some damage. Frk eventually returned to the bench, but those two plays back-to-back should have been enough for him to decide to take the rest of the afternoon off ahead of the Christmas break.

The Bruins were outshot 13-9 in the middle period and certainly weren’t playing their best hockey but they managed to turn things around in the final 20 minutes to finish strong heading into the break. Their best players simply stepped up. Bergeron scored both of his goals in the third. Marchand set up the first one with a slick pass to his longtime linemate and Tuukka Rask slammed the door with 12 saves in the final 20 minutes as the Red Wings desperately attempted a push. It’s been impressive to watch different groups of players step up at different times as the Bruins have gone on their run over the past month-plus. Today, it was certainly about Boston’s best players carrying the day.

David Backes only had a handful of hours of sleep the past couple of days as his wife gave birth to their son, but the 33-year-old still suited up and became a big factor. Backes had the primary assist on Boston’s power-play goal in the first period on a smart pass from below the goal line and then he also notched a helper while rotating in with Bergeron and Marchand in the closing minutes of the third with the B’s nursing a one-goal lead. Backes finished with two assists, a plus-1 and a brand new baby boy in 19:07 of ice time. It sets a great example when veteran players like Marchand and Backes suck it up through illness or fatigue to suit up and play. It’s an even better one when they can actually factor positively into the game.  

8-0-1 – Tuukka Rask’s record over the past nine games as he continues to be very strong between the pipes for a Bruins team that’s rising through the ranks.

“Merry Christmas, everybody!” –David Pastrnak popped his head into the postgame dressing room and blurted out a holiday message before off he went into that good night in a sleigh headed home. 


Morning Skate: Donato's stock rising with each Olympic victory

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Morning Skate: Donato's stock rising with each Olympic victory

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while Team USA continues its uphill journey toward an Olympic medal.

*Ryan Donato potted a couple more goals in a decisive win for Team USA over Slovakia in elimination play and has been one of the top American hockey players at the PyeongChang Winter Games in South Korea. Donato showed a little bit of everything in the performance with a sniper shot off a loose puck, another goal off the rush and he played through a nasty hit up high that appeared to bloody his nose. It’s no exaggeration at this point to say that Team USA goes as Donato goes after he’s secured two-goal performances in each of their victories.

Even better, Donato did it after a surprise visit from his old man, former Bruins player and current Harvard coach Ted Donato, after it was up in the air whether he’d be able to get away to South Korea to watch his son play. From a Bruins perspective, it’s all good things watching Donato score and lead the Americans on a large, global stage while his prospect profile grows with each play that he makes. It’s clear he’s going to sign with the Bruins and go pro shortly after the Olympics, with the only question being whether it makes a quick detour back to Harvard to finish up his college season prior to signing with the Black and Gold.

What’s less clear is the immediate future for Donato, 21. He continues to show high hockey IQ and a scorer’s toughness that’s allowed him to basically be a goal-per-game performer for the Crimson this season. Those will serve him well in the pros. But it would be unrealistic to think that Donato can jump right in and play for the Bruins at this late point in the season. It’s far more likely that he instead spends some development time in Providence after finally inking his entry-level deal.

The Bruins may have to burn off the first year of the entry-level deal when they sign Donato as has become customary with many of the college prospects, but it would be in his best interest to gain experience in Providence rather than sitting and watching as Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson did last season. That experience has done him little good as he’s spent this season in Providence working up to being ready for his shot in the NHL.

What Donato could do for this year’s Bruins team is something else, however. His mere presence as a prospect about to join the pro ranks would allow the Bruins to part with one of their young players on the wing in a deadline deal trade. Anders Bjork would be the NHL-ready prospect most likely to move if the B’s had to give up one of their best and brightest in a big deadline move.

Bjork has speed and skill in large amounts and showed it in flashes when he was in Boston earlier this season, but the Bruins are dealing with a massive surplus of skilled wingers and left-shot defensemen in their prospect ranks right now. You can’t play them all in the NHL and Donato’s presence could and should allow Don Sweeney to deal one of them away ahead of Monday afternoon’s deadline.   

*Petr Mrazek is officially now in the playoff chase and also the newest goalie hope in Philly after getting traded to the Flyers from the Red Wings.

*Mat Barzal has overcome any bitterness about his previous experiences in pro hockey to become a Calder Trophy favorite with the Islanders.

*Interesting look at a typical practice with the struggling Montreal Canadiens from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Arpon Basu, who sees meaning in the mundane daily ritual.

*Larry Brooks seems to be dreaming of a lottery pick for the New York Rangers, who have not had one at the very top in a long, long time.

*Women’s Olympic Hockey will be expanding from eight to 10 teams for the next Winter Games, which is great news.

*For something completely different: Kurt Cobain would have been 51 today. Wow, that makes me feel wicked old.


Bruins trade for defenseman Nick Holden from Rangers

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Bruins trade for defenseman Nick Holden from Rangers

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was active and out ahead of the pack with the NHL trade deadline looming next week and he’s made his first move. The Bruins have sent defenseman prospect Robbie O’Gara and a 2018 third-round pick to the New York Rangers for left-shot defenseman Nick Holden, who fills one of the big needs that the Black and Gold had entering this month.

Holden, 30, has been a solid player for the Rangers and Avalanche the past couple of seasons with career highs of 11 goals, 24 points and a plus-13 rating last season to go along with 20:38 of ice time per game for the Blueshirts. Holden has been a little less effective this season with three goals, 12 points and a minus-3 in 55 games for the Rangers, but he’s been a solid top-four, two-way D-man for the past few seasons.

This kind of move gives the Bruins exactly the kind of depth they were looking for on the left side of their back end and adds somebody else on the left side who can play penalty kill and shutdown-type roles behind Zdeno Chara. It also would seem to preclude them from being in the mix for any potential blockbuster for Rangers D-man Ryan McDonagh, but that’s a good thing given that the Bruins didn’t give up anything from their NHL roster to make this deal.

One interesting thing about Holden is that he can play either on the left or right side as a left shot D-man, so it adds flexibility to Boston's back end while also potentially opening up some of their other, younger D-men for corresponding trades if that's the direction Sweeney wants to go. 

O’Gara, 24, is a solid, stay-at-home prospect for the Bruins who's played in 11 games in Boston the past two seasons, but wasn’t the kind of battle-hardened veteran that the B’s were looking for in a playoff run. It also gives O’Gara, from Massapequa, New York, the chance to play for one of the teams he grew up watching and rewards a prospect who has done absolutely everything the B’s have asked of him since he was drafted in the fifth round in 2011.

Presumably, this move will allow Holden to slot in on a pairing with Charlie McAvoy and gives the Bruins the possibility of reuniting Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo as a shutdown pairing that enjoyed all kinds of success holding down other team’s top offensive players. It gives Bruce Cassidy the versatility to mix and match those four D-men to find the best combos and it should drop Torey Krug down to the bottom pairing where he’s probably best suited as an undersized power play maestro.

The bottom line is this gives the Bruins some back-end depth if injuries hit them hard as they did toward the end of last season. It also addresses a big need without giving up anything from an NHL roster that’s vying for the President’s Trophy. The price was a reasonable one for a player the caliber of Holden and could actually be much less than some other GMs pay for D-men closer to the Feb. 26 trade deadline. Sweeney deserves some credit for being an early bird and a tone-setter when it came to making this deal.