Bruins

Fallen Bruins ignoring traditional Thanksgiving benchmark

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Fallen Bruins ignoring traditional Thanksgiving benchmark

Thanksgiving has been an early benchmark for every NHL team over the last 10 years.

The numbers are tried and true: Teams in one of the playoff positions on Turkey Day have a 75 percent chance of making the postseason. Teams within a few points of a playoff spot have close to a 25 percent chance. And teams more than five points out of the playoffs on Thanksgiving are on the NHL’s slow boat to nowhere.

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The Bruins currently rank 14th among the 16 Eastern Conference teams and are four points behind the Islanders for the eighth and final playoff spot. They're now facing a three-game West Coast road trip that could drop them further behind.

Clearly, the B's know how critical the next few weeks are, even though we’re little more than a month into a new regular season.

“This is where you need to come through and really play hard,” said Matt Beleskey. “Guys like myself need to start chipping in and helping us win some games. It’s so tight every year, but there are games [that really matter] at the beginning of the year when you’re not even thinking playoffs. Then at the end you realize how important every single game is.”

A swing through Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose usually brings the Bruins to their knees during the best of times, but it’s difficult to envision them being all that competitive without David Backes, Ryan Spooner, Adam McQuaid, Brad Marchand, Anders Bjork and David Krejci for at least a portion of the trip.

But since the Bruins have yet to field their full lineup once all season,  Bruce Cassidy isn’t putting much weight behind the B’s status on Thanksgiving this time around.

“We’re aware of the stats and the data around [Thanksgiving], so we want to be mindful of it . . . but we can’t let it run the show so to speak,” said Cassidy. “The message as a group is that we have to ‘trust the process.’ If we trust the process and play the right way, then we believe that we’ll get enough points. It might not be that way on Nov. 24, but that’s just the way we feel.

“Given the amount of adversity that we’ve dealt with, I think we’re going to have to let the Thanksgiving thing go a little bit. Hey, we don’t even know what our true team looks like right now to be honest with you. So I don’t think it’s even fair to use that [Thanksgiving] benchmark to say we’re not good enough. That’s how we look at it. The data matters, but the process matters and is equally important.”

It's understandable that the B's -- having lost six of their last eight with a depleted, rag-tag roster -- would feel that way. And perhaps they have a few pleasant surprises in store.

But it certainly sounds and feels like they're going to need a long run of winning, high-performance hockey for them to get where they want to be going.

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A return "imminent" for McQuaid after two-month absence

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A return "imminent" for McQuaid after two-month absence

BRIGHTON, Mass – It sounds like the toughness quotient might be going up quite a bit higher for the Bruins in the near future.

Adam McQuaid may be cleared to play as soon as Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, or at least later on in the week if it doesn’t happen against the rough-and-tumble, Metro Division Blue Jackets. The 6-foot-5 hard-nosed defender has been out for nearly two months with a broken right fibula, but has been back skating with the Bruins for a couple of weeks.

“I don’t know if Monday he’ll be cleared, but he’s getting close. He’s practicing with us, so it’s imminent for him. I just don’t want to pinpoint an exact day,” said Cassidy of McQuaid, who was one of a handful of players along with Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Frank Vatrano, Paul Postma and Anton Khudobin that skated on Sunday at Warrior Ice Arena.

There certainly may be some rust in McQuaid’s game after missing the last 24 cgames dating back to the Oct. 19 injury. Ddding another tough customer and D-zone warrior certainly won't hurt the Bruins. In the short term, the presence of McQuaid could protect some of B's top players like Brad Marchand who has received some questionable hits over the last couple of months. In the long term his presence adds more size, strength and toughness in the defensive zone.

In terms of pairings it would be logical to swing Kevan Miller back over to the left side, and potentially pull rookie puck-mover Matt Grzelcyk out of the lineup once McQuaid is ready to play. But Bruce Cassidy indicated it won’t be that simple, and there may be times when the Bruins roll seven defensemen given their strength in numbers once McQuaid comes back.

“If you take the last guy in, Grzelcyk, [out of the lineup] then you’re back to your four righty [defensemen]. We had mixed levels of success with that, and then it’s a matter of who on the right Is going to come out if he stick with the three lefties,” said Cassidy. “That’s an internal discussion that we’ve already started to have. He will definitely help the penalty kill. It could be a different lineup every night where we go with six D one night, and then go with seven D the next night. It will create good competition.”

McQuaid wants to temper the excitement now that he’s on the verge of a return, and is simply putting in work until he’s given the green light to play. The busy NHL schedule and the lack of quality practice time isn't the perfect scenario for the 31-year-old defenseman to return, so it’s simply a matter of doing what’s best for player and team.

“I’d like to get back as soon as I can obviously. I’ve missed a lot of time, but it’s a process. I just try to approach it like I’m not getting my hopes up too much,” said McQuaid, who had an assist and a minus-3 in the six games he did appear in. “We’ll have a better idea tomorrow. The more and more game-like situations you get in [can help].

“We haven’t gone too far down the road so I don’t know exactly [when I’ll return]. I’m just out there trying to get closer, but I’m excited about where I’m at and the possibility of moving forward. It’s been fun watching the guys, but I can’t wait to get back in there and be part of a winning hockey team again.”

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Morning Skate: Senators kind of a mess right now

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Morning Skate: Senators kind of a mess right now

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while I still remain pretty conflicted about my thoughts on the Last Jedi. See yesterday’s morning skate for the full review.

*Happy Holidays from the Boston Bruins, who all wore spiffy Christmas-inspired suits into TD Garden for Saturday night’s game against the Rangers. The clear winners are Christmas Elf Brad Marchand and bedazzled Patrice Bergeron, but everybody is a winner when they’re in the holiday spirit.

*Here’s a blueprint for all 31 NHL teams to get an outdoor game next season if you’re really looking to run the concept into the ground.

*Everybody loves a goalie fight, and the Providence Bruins had one last night even if it was more like slightly angry hugging than actual fighting.

*This quick snippet from an Ottawa Senators radio broadcast this weekend is one of the oddest things I’ve heard in a while. No idea what took them down that path.

*Speaking of the Senators, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says he has no idea why the Sens are having such big attendance problems at their arena. I can think of one reason: location, location and location.

*Larry Brooks goes over the Sean Avery memoir just in time for Christmas for all those looking for a stocking stuffer, or just looking for the perfect gift for that hockey rat in your life.

*Hacksaw Jim Duggan dropping the puck for a minor league hockey game is definitely something to brag about. Ho!

*For something completely different: 20 years later, the crazy story of how the blockbuster Titanic ultimately got made.

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