Bruins

Talking Points: Khudobin's effort helps B's snap losing streak

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Talking Points: Khudobin's effort helps B's snap losing streak

GOLD STAR: Anton Khudobin continues his stretch of picking up points in all of his games for the Bruins as he made 27 no-nonsense saves in a straight-up, blue collar kind of hockey game between the B’s and the Kings. Perhaps even more encouraging the Bruins dominated much of the final 20 minutes while protecting a third period lead, so Khudobin was forced into making just five saves against Los Angeles in something a little less than a frenzied, frenetic between the pipes performance that we’re sometimes used to seeing out of the backup. The big period for the Russian backup was the middle 20 minutes when he was making 17 big saves and eventually improving to 4-0-2 on the season while just simply winning all the time these days.  

 

BLACK EYE: Just one shot on net and three giveaways for Anze Kopitar in 22:08 of ice time for the Kings, who did have an assist on Drew Doughty’s power play goal in the second period during the loss. Kopitar had three giveaways in a bit of a sloppy effort taking care of the puck, and he lost 12-of-22 face-offs as well while facing off directly against his Selke Trophy winning competitor in Patrice Bergeron. Kopitar has never been really all that impressive going up against No. 37 over the years, and he hasn’t really been a killer when it comes to facing the Bruins. That sort of thing played out again for the Kings against the Bruins this season with guys like Kopitar and Doughty not quite enough against Boston. 

 

TURNING POINT: The Bruins scored the game’s first goal in the first period, and that proved to be one of the big difference-makers in the eventual victory for the Black and Gold. Charlie McAvoy’s early goal put the Bruins on the board and forced the LA Kings to start chasing the game a little bit more in a strange sequence of events that hasn’t been the norm with the Bruins much as of late. Once McAvoy darted in after the offensive zone face-off and scored in the first, the rest was up to a Bruins team that’s managed to score the first goal of the game for just the seventh time in 18 games this season. Given the real lack of depth on the roster for the B’s due to injuries, it’s vital to take an early lead and force the Kings, or any other opponent, to respect their game plan a little bit more armed with an early lead.    

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie McAvoy was a beast for the Bruins while topping 27 minutes of ice time, scoring the game’s first goal in the first period and not depriving himself of any of the physical play over the 60-minute course of the game. It was McAvoy that took the puck in a win on an offensive zone face-off, and darted straight to the front of the net where he was able to lift a backhanded a shot past Jonathan Quick for the early goal. It was his second goal of the season, and his first score since lighting the lamp on opening night vs. Nashville. Above and beyond that McAvoy had a goal and a plus-1 rating in 27:53 of ice time, and filled out the dirty work portion of his job description with four blocked shots and four registered hits to go along with his skill contributions. 

 

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 – the alarming number of giveaways for Zdeno Chara in the win while also registering the game-winning goal in the second period amongst his 26:53 of ice time on the second night of a back-to-back game.  Chara was obviously far from perfect, but he was digging deep for the win. 

 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “No passengers. I think everybody pulled on the rope today. A lot of guys blocked shots and took hits to make plays, and that’s what it took.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN on what the difference was in Thursday night’s win over the LA Kings. 

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

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AP Photo

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.


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Bruins trade for defenseman Nick Holden from Rangers

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USA TODAY Sports photo

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.   

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