Morning Skate: Doc Emrick honors Dave Strader


Morning Skate: Doc Emrick honors Dave Strader

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while buckling up for a great day of Boston sports. 
-- What a wonderful, poignant tribute from one great hockey guy to another as NBC play-by-play man Doc Emrick honors Dave Strader with a beautiful remembrance piece between periods of last night’s Penguins/Blues telecast. 

 -- Here are four things we learned from opening night of the NHL season, including that the Toronto Maple Leafs are really, really explosive. 

-- Good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Harrington about new Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill, and the hockey family that he grew up in

-- Some really great stuff with the TSN pieces done with Paul Kariya going back over a storied NHL career that was marred by some pretty nasty concussions. 

 -- Jaromir Jagr makes it official that he will play his 25th NHL season after signing a one-year deal with the Calgary Flames. Mullets for everybody! 
-- For something completely different: Just in time for season 2 of Stranger Things, it looks like Netflix is raising their prices

Bruins waive Matt Beleskey


Bruins waive Matt Beleskey

BOSTON - The Bruins have been avoiding a permanent decision with their roster the past couple of weeks and were able to buy time after Ryan Spooner's continued groin issues sent him back on injured reserve. With Spooner back practicing this week, his return necessitated some hard choices.

The wheels are beginning to turn on those choices with the Bruins waiving left winger Matt Beleskey on Thursday. With no points this season and only three goals and a minus-18 rating in his past 64 games with the B's, it simply looks like the game has sped up on Beleskey while he's showed little of the occasional offense and momentum-shifting physicality he flashed with the Anaheim Ducks.  


NHL insider Darren Dreger, on the NBCSN broadcast of the Bruins-Red Wings game on Wednesday night, first reported the likely Beleskey move for the purpose of sending him down to the AHL, if he clears waivers, “to build his confidence.” 

The Beleskey contract has turned into one of the biggest busts of the Don Sweeney Era. The left winger was signed as one of the top free-agent forwards three summers ago when he agreed to a five-year, $19 million deal and he hasn’t lived up it. Beleskey, 29, was pretty solid in his first season while putting up 15 goals and 37 points, but his hard-nosed, bruising style hasn’t been a good fit with Bruce Cassidy’s up-tempo, offensive style since he took over as coach.

Per league sources, the Bruins have been attempting to trade the underperforming Beleskey and/or Frank Vatrano, 23, the past few weeks with few takers for either one. Clearly, the contract is the issue with Beleskey. He’s still owed $3.8 million in each of the two seasons following this year and has been a healthy scratch for the past six consecutive games with zero points and a minus-8 in 14 games this season.

Quite simply, the Bruins have found forward lines they really like while winning nine of their past 11 games and Beleskey wasn't forcing his way into the Danton Heinen-Riley Nash-David Backes third line or the Noel Acciari-Sean Kuraly-Tim Schaller fourth line.

If he clears waivers, Beleskey could potentially get another shot with Boston simply based on Acciari’s history of accumulating injuries with his rugged, fearless style of play, but it would be a tough blow for the veteran NHL player to be sent to the minors. Given the wealth of young forward talent that the Bruins have in Providence, it would be tough to see Beleskey pushing his way past them.

It’s not a matter of effort or attitude. Those things haven’t been a problem with Beleskey at all, but it just feels like he’s no longer a good fit for the Bruins while it also being very apparent the B’s overpaid for him.  

The expectation is that Beleskey will clear waivers and that would give the Bruins only $1.025 million in salary cap relief based on the current CBA, which doesn’t allow teams to summarily bury bad contracts in the AHL without some penalty. Similarly, Vatrano has just two goals in 19 games played along with a minus-3 rating and hasn’t consistently shown the goal-scoring flashes this season that he’s had in previous years.

There have been a couple of standout games thrown into the mix, unlike Beleskey, and it would appear that a change of scenery might be beneficial for him after falling behind Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen on the top-nine depth chart. Vatrano has been frustrated with the lack of ice time and power-play time and it’s believed that a trade from his hometown team wouldn’t be considered a bad thing from the player’s end of things.

The problem is that Vatrano’s value is down given his lack of production and teams are also wary of a player who'll require waivers to go down to the AHL. NHL general managers are a smart bunch, so why would they give up an asset for a player they might be able to snatch up on waivers at some point at zero cost other than taking on his entry-level contract.



Talking Points: Marchand puts Bruins on his shoulders late


Talking Points: Marchand puts Bruins on his shoulders late

GOLD STAR: Brad Marchand decided to put the team on his shoulders late in the game, and not allow the Bruins to lose in Detroit. Marchand snapped off a slick cross-ice pass to David Pastrnak for the game-tying goal late in the third period with the goalie pulled, and then scored on a filthy backhanded finish in a breakaway in the 3-on-3 OT. Marchand finished with five shot attempts, a goal, two points and a plus-1 rating in 21:27 of ice time, and should put these highlights in his greatest hits reel for Hart Trophy consideration at the end of the year. Marchand is so fun to watch in those moments when he elevates his game with everything on the line, mainly because he is one of the few players that can do it.

BLACK EYE: Henrik Zetterberg looked every bit of his 37 years of age in this game finishing with a minus-3 and with just one shot on net during an otherwise decent, disciplined effort from the Red Wings. Zetterberg is really the poster boy for all that’s wrong with Detroit through no fault of his own where he’s a reminder of past Red Wings glory, but he’s not a player that should be around anymore as they build around younger players. Zetterberg can still play in the league and be pretty good, but he’s also not what he used to be when the Red Wings were perennial Cup contenders. It’s amazing that he was on ice for all three of the goals scored by the B’s in this one.

TURNING POINT: Bruce Cassidy pulled the goalie with slightly less than two minutes to go in the third period, and it turned into a good call as the Bruins skill players went to work with a scrambling Red Wings group on the ice. Marchand authored an elite, cross-ice pass through three Red Wings players in the middle of the ice to a waiting David Pastrnak for the game-tying goal, and that at least guaranteed the Bruins a single point in a game where they hadn’t played really well. That’s what good teams do: Grind out points when they’re not at their best, and somehow find ways to win some of those games by any means necessary.

HONORABLE MENTION: Noel Acciari helped the Bruins get some energy in the third period when he scored a gritty goal in front of the Red Wings net on a loose puck. Acciari attacked the end boards after the Red Wings had won a defensive zone face-off and forced a turnover on the exchange between Detroit D-men. That aggressive play turned into a shot at the Boston net from Tim Schaller, and then a follow-up from Acciari where he spotted the loose puck and flipped it past Jimmy Howard for the Bruins first goal of the game. Acciari only ended up with a shot on net and two hits in 10:50 of ice time, but it was exactly the kind of contribution that every team is looking for from their fourth line. Acciari came up big in this game.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 – the number of wins in a row for Tuukka Rask, who made 31 saves and played solid for a Bruins team that didn’t play very good hockey in front of him for most of the game. 

QUOTE TO NOTE:  “I didn’t see even see Marchy. I thought he was going to shoot it, and I just saw it at the last second. It wasn’t an easy shot and it was coming in pretty hot, but I got it down on the ice and was shooting at an empty net.” – David Pastrnak, on receiving the cross-ice pass from Brad Marchand through three Detroit defenders for the game-tying goal in the final minutes.