Haggerty: Bruins could bring out the best of Nash

Haggerty: Bruins could bring out the best of Nash

Now that Rick Nash has been delivered to the Bruins ahead of the NHL trade deadline as their “go for it” move for this season, it begs one simple question. How much will the 33-year-old Nash impact the Bruins positively or negatively while clearly in the back nine of his NHL career, and also a big time player that’s at times underwhelmed during the postseason in the past?

Some of the numbers are tough to ignore whether it’s failing to crack 40 points in each of the last two seasons with the Rangers, or a player that’s managed only 15 goals and 41 points in close to a full regular seasons’ worth of 77 career playoff games.

But a closer look at the numbers reveal a player that’s been much better in the Stanley Cup playoffs in recent seasons with the Rangers (10 goals and 23 points in his last three playoff runs), and there is something to consider with a laid back personality like Nash. Perhaps there is a parallel to be drawn to Pittsburgh acquiring a similar All-Star performer in Phil Kessel that never seemed to be everything that his former teams wanted him to be.

Being the third or fourth banana with the Penguins really lifted a burden off Kessel’s shoulders to be “the guy”, and unlocked his game to the point where he’s been an extremely important contributor to their Cup teams. Could a similar setup be beneficial to Nash where he doesn’t need to be a player carrying the Bruins on his sturdy 6-foot-4, 212-pound shoulders, but simply needs to go out produce and simply be another piece to the Black and Gold puzzle?

It’s a scenario the Bruins are banking on while teaming up the big-bodied Nash with a skilled, playmaking center in David Krejci that’s traditionally fared very well with power forward-types like Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Jarome Iginla.

“I just think that Rick Nash brings a bit of a different dynamic to that line in terms of puck protection and the ability to get to the hard areas in a [part of the] season where it gets even more difficult to get there,” said Don Sweeney. “Hopefully David will have some juice as a result of this, and that line will find a way to score a few more goals. And more importantly play well defensively, which is something that Rick has done in the past.”

They certainly gave up a full package of assets for Nash with a 2018 first round pick, prospect Ryan Lindgren, Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey and a 2019 seventh round pick, but there should be absolutely nobody believing the big-bodied, dynamic Nash isn’t a serious playoff upgrade over a speedy, skilled finesse player in Ryan Spooner.

Scanning some of the prices to acquire rental players on Monday’s deadline day, Bruins fans should be more than okay with the price Don Sweeney paid for the premium power forward rental player that’s on the market. There isn’t a single asset that the Bruins will truly miss this season whether it’s the late first round pick, a solid character, limited upside prospect in Lindgren, a bad contract in Beleskey or a productive, albeit redundant player in Spooner given the young, speedy and skilled wingers flowing through the Bruins system.

Nash will also be an upgrade along the walls and in the defensive zone as well, things that take on much greater in the heat of the battle during the playoffs.

When you can acquire a potential difference-maker like Nash at the deadline for a collection of pieces that don’t really take anything from the NHL team, you make that trade every single time if you’re an NHL general manager. And you don’t look back or grumble about dealing away first round picks or second tier prospects when this season’s Bruins team has shown they might have a legitimate shot at a deep playoff run.

That’s certainly what Don Sweeney believes given both his words and his actions.

“We hope that he’s going to be the impact player that he has been. We’ve identified that [him] playing on that second line with David would be a boost to our hockey club. We need it to be,” said Don Sweeney. “Our players have made a push, and we wanted to inch that along if we could and reward them in a way.”

Certainly Krejci himself knows what the acquisition of Nash means to the Bruins as a team this season, and what it means to him and his line specifically.

“There’s no secret about it. We want to make a run and we have a good team,” said Krejci, who set Nash up for a couple of very good scoring chances to no avail in the loss to Buffalo on Sunday. “If you go into the season with low expectations, then there is no point in playing the hockey. I feel like we have a good team, and we want to go as deep as we can. A trade like this obviously makes us better. It’s a sad day losing [Ryan Spooner]. He’s a great guy and a great player, but at the same time [management] needs to do what’s best for the team.

“[Nash] is a great player. He’s got size, he’s got speed and he’s got a great shot. He works hard and plays at both ends of the ice. I’m obviously excited to play with him. He puts the puck the net pretty often every year and he’s been pretty consistent. My job is to get him the puck and that’s it.”

Best of all Nash doesn’t have to be the big goal-scoring sniper for the Bruins with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak already filling that category nicely. He doesn’t have to be their best player on a nightly basis because Patrice Bergeron already has that covered this season, in past season and in seasons to be named later. He doesn’t even have to be the lone, big-bodied power forward as David Backes is right there with Nash to throw their collective weight around at a time in the hockey season when that style pays dividends.

Nash simply has to come in and be a good compliment to what the Bruins already have going on rather than being “the man” as he’s been in both Columbus and New York in the past. That could make all the different for a laid-back hockey player that’s never really been put in this kind of position before in his All-Star career.

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

AP Photo

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.

Pastrnak scores with 12 seconds left to lift Bruins over Stars, 3-2

AP Photo

Pastrnak scores with 12 seconds left to lift Bruins over Stars, 3-2

DALLAS - David Pastrnak broke a tie with 12 seconds left and the Boston Bruins scored three straight goals in the third period to rally past the fading Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night.

A scramble followed a faceoff in the Dallas end, and Brad Marchand passed to Pastrnak in front. While falling down, he put the puck past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.

TALKING POINTS: B's resiliency on full display vs Stars

Tuukka Rask made a season-high 40 saves for the Bruins. Marchand scored Boston's first goal and also assisted on a short-handed goal by Tim Schaller that tied it midway through the third period.

The second-place Bruins won for the first time in three games (1-0-2) to move within four points of Atlantic Division leader Tampa Bay. Boston has already clinched a playoff berth.

The Stars are winless in their last seven games (0-5-2). They remained four points behind Colorado for the second Western Conference wild card.

Dallas led 2-0 on a first-period goal by Esa Lindell and Jamie Benn's short-handed score late in the second.

In the third, Marchand tipped in a shot by Pastrnak before Schaller scored on a 2-on-1 with Marchand.

Lehtonen finished with 33 saves.

Lindell scored 2:26 into the game. Jason Dickinson tried to deflect a shot from the right point into the net but the puck went wide right. Curtis McKenzie picked it up behind the goal line and passed to Lindell high in the left faceoff circle. His wrist shot went in off Rask's right arm.

Benn missed two good scoring opportunities early in the second period, but connected at 19:22. He took a pass from Tyler Seguin at the Dallas blue line and had a breakaway when Matt Grzelcyk fell down. Benn slid a backhand under Rask.