Rick Nash

Hagg Bag: It just feels like it’s the Bruins' year

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Hagg Bag: It just feels like it’s the Bruins' year

With 10 games remaining in the season, the Bruins have clinched a playoff berth with plenty of room to spare and get healthy for the postseason. It remains to be seen if all of Boston’s banged up players can sufficiently heal up for a Stanley Cup playoff run that’s set to begin three weeks from now, and it remains to be seen if the Bruins still have any chance whatsoever to pass the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

So with the Bruins in the home stretch, it felt like an opportune time to crack open the Hagg Bag mailbag and answer some questions. As always these are real tweets using the #HaggBag hash tag, real emails to my jhaggerty@nbcuni.com email address and real messages to my NBCS Facebook Page. Now, onto the bag:

What a surprise this year. They've been so much fun to watch. Kudos to [Don] Sweeney and [Bruce] Cassidy.

--Ross Mullin (@scoopsdad)

JH: Yeah, and Cam Neely too. You’ve got to give the Bruins management group credit for taking their lumps when they missed the playoffs a couple of years in a row, learning from their missteps early on in that transition process and then really focusing on the things that qualify as their strengths be it drafting or development.

The Bruins have been a ridiculous 39-10-4 since the middle the middle of November and really have been the NHL’s best team since that point with no consistently discernible weakness. They’re top-10 in just about every major category and top-5 in the NHL in both offense and defense, and the mix of proven, battle-hardened veterans and energetic, dynamic young players is exactly how you’d want it on this roster. Really when you think about it, the Bruins have hit it right on just about everything this season from leaving roster spots open in camp for Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk, to benching Tuukka Rask back in November, and all the way to picking up Rick Nash, Brian Gionta, Tommy Wingels and Nick Holden at the deadline and signing Ryan Donato late in the season. Everything has worked for Sweeney and Cassidy, and that’s one of those things that make you start thinking something special is happening when you witness it firsthand for a while.

One thing that you can’t really quantify is the mental toughness and heart the team consistently shows as well. Coming from three goals down in the third period in Carolina, or shutting down the East’s best team while missing your two best defensive players…the last few weeks have just been a window of what we’ve seen all season from a team that’s surprised at every turn with how ready they are to compete already this year. It all adds up to an “aura of greatness” that you start to sense about this year’s team. Not “greatness” in the sense that they’re the 1988 Edmonton Oilers, but “greatness” in the sense that they are capable of something great this season.

It just feels like it’s their year with the way everything has gone right for them amidst a sea of adversity and injuries, doesn’t it?


Hey Joe how are u? I'm a listener of The Big Jab Radio station... Got a question: What do u think is going to happen with McQuaid are they going to keep him or would u say he could possibly be on the way out the door?

--Brandon Knight

JH: It’s never easy parting with a Stanley Cup winner or a gritty, tough competitor like Adam McQuaid that always selflessly stands up for his teammates, so you don’t come at this question with a very easy answer in your head. As long as McQuaid is in Boston, he’ll always be a warrior in the defensive zone and a player that you want on the ice for his sheer toughness alone.

That being said the Bruins are going to need to start paying their young players after next season, and they are going to need salary space in order to do just that. It might not make it vital that McQuaid is moved this summer, but it might be a situation where the Bruins will be it might be a situation where the Bruins will be pushed into moving on from him in free agency a year from now. That being said, McQuaid spent a fair portion of this season as a healthy scratch and was left unprotected in last summer’s expansion draft.

So if the right deal that made sense came along for the Bruins this summer, they would certainly think about it. That being said, they also don’t have a ton of organizational depth on the right side of their defense beyond Charlie McAvoy, Kevan Miller, Brandon Carlo and McQuaid. So if they traded McQuaid they’d still have to spend money to go out and get a replacement for him that could play at the NHL level as well, and he certainly wouldn’t bring some of the intangibles to the table that a guy nick-named Darth Quaider already does for the Bruins. So I wouldn’t be so quick to move him with just a year to go on his contract.

Any idea what the @AHLBruins Star Wars jerseys are going to be for this Friday? If anyone knows it would be you

RossDaLostCauze @RossOliveira1

JH: I don’t know and I’m not sure I’m going to be able to make it down to Providence for the Force-filled festivities, unfortunately. Now if the P-Bruins want to send along some cool photos or a video of their Star Wars sweaters for this weekend, I’d be happy to promote it for them. I’m just glad they’re finally joining the party with all these other minor league organizations that have enjoyed majorly successful events by holding these Star Wars and superhero nights. They’re great for business and the team usually makes a lot of dough for a worthy charity by raffling off whatever Star Wars jerseys they wear during the game. I think this would be my all-time favorite Star Wars hockey jersey worn by the Fort Wayne Komets, and yes I do own one of them.


Joe, seems like everyone minus Bjork will be back for playoffs. What do you think the lines will look like when we cross that bridge?

--Dan (@dan_baraniuk)

JH: Good health will be a good problem to have for the Bruins and a major problem for anybody that they play. I think the B’s are going to be a handful for anybody, but I do also think the first round vs. the Maple Leafs might be the toughest matchup for them as well. As far as what the lines might look like, here it goes:





The fourth line is a tough one to handicap because the Bruins could go in a number of different situations, and this would push Sean Kuraly, Tim Schaller and Tommy Wingels to the bench as healthy scratches. Would Bruce Cassidy do that to his fourth line after they’ve been so good, tough and effective all season? Will Ryan Donato continue to play well enough to push his way into a top-6 spot jumping straight from Harvard? It’s too tough to make the call on these kinds of things with weeks to go until the playoffs, and with more injuries potentially coming as the B’s are still in the 16 games in 31 days stretch during the month of March.

But that’s a rough idea of what it might look like to get the conversation rolling. A lot of the decisions may come down to the team that they’re playing in the playoffs as well, and how the series is playing out for both teams.


Who would you rather have right now out of the three…Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller or Colin Miller?

--Greg Ventura

JH: I’d rather have Bobby Orr. He turned 70 years old the other day, you know. In all seriousness, I’d take Kevan Miller as the guy I’d rather have for right now. I certainly haven’t come anywhere close to giving up on Brandon Carlo as a player that could continue to develop and enjoy a long, very solid NHL career as a top-4 defenseman. Certainly Carlo hasn’t really taken a step forward in second season and life has been difficult for him away from the Zdeno Chara pairing, but he’s still a young 6-foot-5 defenseman with size and strength that can also skate very well. Those guys don’t exactly grow on trees and he’s still just 21 years old. All that being said I’m not very surprised by the 10 goals and 39 points for Colin Miller with Vegas. You could see that talent when he was here in Boston, but he wasn’t going to get big minutes on the right side (5-on-5 or power play-wise) in Boston with Charlie McAvoy coming to town. Let’s wait to see what Colin Miller and Kevan Miller do for their respective teams in the playoffs before we start asking these questions. Also, Carlo doesn’t really enter into this equation as he was exempt from the expansion draft and it didn’t ever come down to picking Carlo over Colin Miller, who are two very different kinds of D-men.

Hey Haggs, Is the Sat morning Hockey Show available as a podcast anywhere?

--Guy Cascio

JH: Yes, and my good buddy and Hockey Show host Ryan Johnston (@RJohnston985) tweets it out from his twitter account within an hour or two after the Hockey Show has ended on Saturdays.

Mr. Haggerty, Do you remember in the shortened 2012-13 season the Bruins were referred to as a “Jekyll and Hyde” team as some nights they played outstanding, yet lost to teams that they should have been beating? Do you think that this current team, despite losing some matchups where they should be coming away with two points, has the potential to make a deep rub and get through the teams in the East like Toronto, Tampa, Pittsburgh, Washington? Some nights I feel that I see greatness, some nights I feel that I see a mediocre team at best. I know the schedule is tough with short back-to-backs. I do like the recent acquisitions to this team

--Charlie McLaughlin

JH: A deep rub? No. A deep run? Yes.

What is with the teams and poor line changes!!! Minor hockey coaches teach line changes when the puck is out of your zone and over the red line!!

--Randy Weiler (@hornytoad17)

JH: I think the easiest answer to this is that stuff happens in games. I don’t think the Bruins are any more prone to a bad line change here or there, than any other of the 30 teams in the NHL. It happens to every team over the course of 82 games, and I think stuff like that can be even more prominent when the schedule gets really dense for a team as it is for the Bruins right now with 21 games in 39 days to close out the season. Is it a coach’s fault if a player screws up the dump-in attempt as the rest of the group goes off the ice for a line change? I don’t think so. These guys are pros and should be able to do something like that.

The delay of game penalties are something I’d look at as more of a reflection on mismanagement coming from the bench, and admittedly the Bruins have had a couple of those as well. But when you look at the way the special teams are coached with this group, how each player is held accountable whether they are a rookie or a veteran and when you look at the development of the B’s young guys, I’m not sure how you could view the coaching as anything but a major strength on this Bruins team. Bruce Cassidy has done a hell of a job, and would be factoring much more prominently into the Jack Adams conversation if Gerard Gallant weren’t taking his expansion Golden Knights team to the playoffs. I think it’s even been enough evidence for the Claude Apologist Crew to finally put away their crybaby soup for good.


Banged-up Bruins lose two more -- Rick Nash, McQuaid

Banged-up Bruins lose two more -- Rick Nash, McQuaid

BOSTON – It’s another day and another injured player, or two, for the Boston Bruins.

Veteran right winger Rick Nash was a late scratch for the Bruins on Monday night against the Blue Jackets after getting banged up in last weekend’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid had to exit due to injury in the third period of Monday night’s 5-4 overtime loss at TD Garden.  

“[Nash] got hit in Tampa, so we thought he was fine. He had an upper-body injury,” said Bruce Cassidy. “This morning, pregame skate, we thought he’d be fine, and it turned out after pregame skate, early afternoon, he wasn’t. So, you know, we had to make a call for Anton Blidh.”

The Nash absence forced the Bruins to recall Blidh from Providence on emergency recall and plug him into the lineup not using him in the last couple of road games in Florida, and it also pushed 21-year-old rookie Ryan Donato into a top-6 role alongside David Krejci in his NHL debut. Clearly things worked out for Donato with a 1-goal, 3-point performance in his first NHL game, and that along with some quality organizational depth is helping them withstand some of the injuries.

McQuaid was held to just 10:42 of ice time that was the fewest among all Bruins D-men on Monday night, but it was unclear exactly what befell him on the ice injury-wise.  

It is getting a little ridiculous for a Bruins team that’s missing Patrice Bergeron (fractured right foot), Zdeno Chara (upper body), Jake DeBrusk (upper body), Charlie McAvoy (sprained left MCL), David Backes (right leg laceration) and now may have to go without Nash (upper body) and McQuaid (undisclosed) as well. Clearly it’s something the Bruins will have to play through for the time being while simply hoping that it all conveniently clears up ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

“You know, you call a player up [from the AHL], right? We signed one out of college; that helped. So, that’s it. [The injuries] are uncontrollable to a certain extent. It’s kind of enough, now. I would agree. We’ve had our share, so let’s get these guys healthy and get ready to play,” said Cassidy. “I don’t know. You’ve got to play the game in front of you and you just hope the string of, kind of, tough luck, is over.

“That’s it. It’s a physical game. We’ve said all along, to have successful seasons, both regular and playoffs, you need a certain level of health. That’s what we’re hoping, that these guys come back, and that’s it. Until then, we plug the holes and play the game in front of you.”

Plugging those holes will continue to get more and more challenging if the Bruins keep losing players from their lineup on a nightly basis as they may have on Monday with both Nash and McQuaid now banged up as well.


Slowed after a hot start, Rick Nash looking to 'open up the gates' on offense

File photo

Slowed after a hot start, Rick Nash looking to 'open up the gates' on offense

TAMPA, Fla. – Rick Nash stormed in smoking hot for the Bruins after his trade to Boston ahead of the NHL trade deadline. He had two goals, three points and a whopping 15 shots on net in the three games after jumping into the lineup.

But it’s been a bit of an offensive slowdown for Nash with one goal and two points in his past seven games on Boston’s second line as they’ve shouldered a bit more offensive responsibility with Patrice Bergeron out. Nash, 33, it’s been par-for-the-course for a career where goals have come in bunches and offense moves in bursts that have become more spread out as he’s gotten a little older.

“It seems like my whole career I’ve always scored in bunches,” said Nash. “The chances are there. That’s the positive thing, but usually, it takes a funny one to go in to open up the [flood] gates. If we get a bit more traffic around the goalie it helps, and get a few more shots from the inside than the outside, where it’s tougher to score. You look at the highlights every night and the goals are all scored right around the net.”

Nash has enjoyed his share of chances in those seven games with 23 shots on net and at Carolina on Tuesday night was the only real stinker for him among the bunch. He's been around the net with his 6-4, 220-pound frame, working on the chemistry with David Krejci and actually skating better than most around the Bruins might have hoped for such a big-bodied player.

So, Bruce Cassidy is expecting his big power forward to finish some of those chances as he heats up a little bit offensively.

“I think he’s had one game where he didn’t have very many opportunities, but other than that he’s been around the net every night. It just hasn’t gone in as much as we had hoped,” said Cassidy. “So I don’t know him well enough to know whether that’s a trend, or if he’s just a little snake-bitten.”

The bottom line with Nash is that he’s consistently been a beast around the net and a puck possession force that can’t be derailed by defensive players attempting to take the puck from him. It will be interesting tonight for Nash playing against a number of his former teammates with ex-Rangers Ryan Callahan, J.T. Miller and Ryan McDonagh now all members of the Tampa Bay Lightning. That familiarity, along with the teams vying for the Atlantic Division top spot, should make it a special night for Nash along several lines.

“His size is his biggest asset I think, and the way he can hold onto it and control the play. Sometimes he grabs the puck and you can’t take it off his hands. He reminds me a little of Jaromir Jagr when you played him, and he sticks his butt into you and you can’t do much with it,” said former New York Rangers captain and current Lightning forward Callahan. “It’s tough to see him go to Boston where it’s a divisional rivalry, but I know what kind of guy he is, what kind of player he is…and that’s a huge pickup for Boston.”

In a huge game against the Lightning, who the B's are chasing. Facing his old Rangers buddies, Saturday night would certainly be a perfect time for the Nash goal-scoring floodgates to open for an undermanned Bruins team looking to make a stand.