Bruins

Talking Points: Bergeron continues to light the way

Talking Points: Bergeron continues to light the way

GOLD STAR: Who else but Patrice Bergeron? No. 37 has 13 goals in 15 games since the start of January, scored two more big goals in Wednesday night’s win over the Rangers and also made a huge defensive play in the first period to rob Vinni Lettieri of a goal at the doorstep. Not only all that, but Bergeron led the Bruins with seven shots on net and 11 shot attempts in his 18:10 of ice time as a dominant offensive force that never relented against the Rangers. The most amazing thing about it all was that No. 37 actually struggled in his usual role of dominant play with just a 6-for-16 performance on the draw to go along with everything he did offensively. It seems like Bergeron has been at the top of so many of the good things for the B’s lately, and that was the case again in New York.

BLACK EYE: It’s not often that the Bruins chase Henrik Lundqvist out of a game, but that’s exactly what they did on Wednesday after hitting their stride in the second period. The first couple of goals were pretty legit scores by the Bruins even if King Henrik was a little overactive on the first one scored by Riley Nash. But Patrice Bergeron beat Lundqvist from long distance with a five hole goal that was completely soft serve, and then Tim Schaller dangled through a pair of Rangers defenders before flipping a shot past the Rangers No. 1 goalie. That was it for Lundqvist, who was pulled after allowing the four goals on 16 shots behind a Rangers defense that really wasn’t putting in much of an effort in front of him.

TURNING POINT: Anton Khudobin was massive in the first period when it was still a close game, and the Rangers were taking advantage of a lot of uncharacteristically good chances against the Bruins defense. Khudobin made a flurry of saves to deny Mika Zibanejad and Rick Nash after Nash had already scored a pretty good-looking goal earlier in the period, and he kept things close until the Bruins got untracked in the second half of the first period. This is not the first time that Khudobin stood tall for the Bruins while they got their bearings on the second half of back-to-back games, and it continues to be a huge boost for the Black and Gold.

HONORABLE MENTION: Tim Schaller only had the one shot on net, but what a shot it was for the New Hampshire native. The Bruins winger took the puck on a dangling rush to the net, completely faked out both Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Smith and then beat a potential future Hall of Game goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist. It was Schaller’s goal that knocked Lundqvist out of the game and pushed the game into the blowout category, and it was also Schaller’s dangling beauty that immediately rose to the top of his own personal highlight reel package. With goals from Schaller and Sean Kuraly and a pair of goals from Patrice Bergeron, there was an impressive spread in scoring up and down the lineup. The score also gives fourth line winger Schaller a new career-high at the NHL level with his eighth goal of the season.    

BY THE NUMBERS: 10 – the number of consecutive games where David Pastrnak has a point after racking up an assist on Patrice Bergeron’s first goal. Pastrnak became the first Bruins player to post two point streaks of at least 10 games in a single season since Cam Neely in 1993-94.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “That first period, it was pretty even and then we started moving the puck and established ourselves much better, establishing the forecheck and placing pucks to establish our game and make more executions. We scored some goals that put us in a good spot going into the third period.” –Zdeno Chara, on a rundown of how the Bruins/Rangers game went from tight first period contest to third period blowout.

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Morning Skate: Golden night for Team USA

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Morning Skate: Golden night for Team USA

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while glad it was finally a gold-medal experience for the USA women in Olympic hockey.  

*As mentioned above, late in the American night, Team USA women’s hockey defeated their Canadian arch-rivals in the shootout and clinched their first gold in 20 years. What an exciting game and a great lesson in resiliency from the USA ladies.

*Speaking of the Olympics, it looks like some Maple Leafs players lost a bet with coach Mike Babcock and had to bust out their Team Canada gear at practice as a result.

*Former Boston College standout Nate Gerbe has resurfaced in the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets after working to get back to this level.

*It’s not looking great for the Chicago Blackhawks' Corey Crawford to return this season as he continues to deal with mysterious symptoms that certainly sound like they’re concussion-related.  

*New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal can’t wait for the trade deadline to be over and done with as some of his teammates are being prominently mentioned.

*Speaking of the Rangers, both Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh are taking it like pros as their names are being mentioned everywhere as trade possibilities. The Bruins remain in discussions on both players, but it’s going to be at the price Don Sweeney wants to pay or not at all. Pierre LeBrun also tweeted that the Rangers' price needs to drop on McDonagh for the Bruins to get really interested. 

*A good piece on former Bruins energy forward Craig Cunningham and his life after hockey following last year’s scary cardiac arrest incident that obviously changed his life forever.

*For something completely different: The chances are pretty good something is high quality if Jesse Plemons is in it given his recent body of work, so “Game Night” might be worth seeing.

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Which prospects should the B's be willing to give up at the deadline?

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Which prospects should the B's be willing to give up at the deadline?

Looking at it from the long term view, the Boston Bruins are in a fantastic position at this point in time.

They’re a point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the NHL’s top spot, they have a group at the NHL level that’s an ideal combination of proven, veteran Cup winners and talented, enthusiastic young players ready to make their mark.

The Bruins also have a wealth of young prospects below the NHL level working their way to Boston whether it’s former first round picks like Jakub Zboril or Zach Senyshyn just a step away in Providence, or college hockey players like Ryan Donato or Trent Frederic that form the next wave of youngsters. The simple fact of the matter with the Black and Gold is that there isn’t going to be room for every single prospect at the NHL level, and that goes doubly so for a deep, talented group like the Bruins. Another simple NHL fact is that teams have to give up something to get something around the trade deadline, and that means the B’s are going to have to part with something of quality if they want to land a potential big fish like Ryan McDonagh or Rick Nash, or perhaps even a medium-sized fish like Michael Grabner.

Whether it’s again dealing with the Rangers, or the Edmonton Oilers for Patrick Maroon, or the Vancouver Canucks for Thomas Vanek, the GMs around the league are also well aware of the wealth of prospects within the Bruins organization. And they’re looking to land some of them in any potential deals with the Black and Gold. The Rangers, in particular, want NHL-ready prospects to quickly reload their roster, but that’s what all of these teams are looking for in potential rental deals, or trades for players like McDonagh with more term on the contract.

So the million dollar question is what the Bruins should be willing to part with in those types of deals. GMs will certainly ask about Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Brandon Carlo at the NHL level as all four players are midway through their entry level contracts, and have already established themselves as considerable NHL players. McAvoy, DeBrusk and Heinen should all be completely off the table in any of the deals the Bruins could be expected to make, and the expectation is that Don Sweeney isn’t going to deal any of them. Those three players are already tightly woven within the fabric of the team, and subtracting them from the roster would substantially worsen the team both in the short term and the long term.

Carlo is perhaps in a little bit of a different story in that the 21-year-old could be a viable trade piece if it was in something like the McDonagh deal, where the Bruins were going to be able to substantially upgrade their defensemen situation. Still, the Bruins aren’t very deep organizationally when it comes to right shot defensemen, and dealing a young, promising righty like Carlo for a lefty like McDonagh would only further complicate that situation.

That's above and beyond the fact that a clever, experienced GM like Jeff Gorton is going to attempt to maximize his return for a big asset like McDonagh, and attempt to get a package featuring two young NHL players (Carlo and either DeBrusk or Heinen) and a pick in exchange for New York's captain. 

The bottom line: of the four established NHL players mostly likely to be coveted by other NHL GMs in trade talks, stay-at-home defenseman Carlo is the only that should be seriously considered as a trade piece.

In the same vein, the most viable Bruins prospect up front that could be moved in the right deal is Anders Bjork. The 21-year-old Bjork has four goals and 12 points in 30 games for the Bruins this season while jumping from Notre Dame straight to the NHL, and is currently injured with an upper body injury suffered last month. He’s shown great skating speed, good hockey IQ and the offensive creativity needed to be a top-6 forward, and has been considered the same class of forward prospect as Heinen and DeBrusk.

It’s still entirely possible that Bjork becomes the best of all three players when it’s all said and done, but it’s also clear Heinen and DeBrusk have hopped over him on the organizational depth chart as this season has played out.

More importantly, Bjork, if traded, could be replaced rather immediately in the B’s talent pipeline by forward Ryan Donato after his impressive five-goal performance for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. That’s how it works for an organization like the Bruins where draft and development has become a success story. Some prospects make it to the NHL level and supplant veterans while keeping the salary cap from becoming an issue, some prospects perhaps don’t live up to the hype and other prospects are used as trade assets to address roster needs at the NHL level when things like the trade deadline come to the fore.

The real challenge for Sweeney over the next few days will be deciding which ones like Robbie O’Gara can be utilized in trades to support the NHL team, and which ones like McAvoy, DeBrusk and Heinen should be absolutely untouchable right now.

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