Tuukka Rask

Bruins should invest in this season, even if it means taking risks

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Bruins should invest in this season, even if it means taking risks

In February of 2011, then-Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli took a calculated risk. It helped the Bruins at the time. It's helped another team since.  

The risk was that the young player he was trading, fledgling third-year pro and top-five draft pick Blake Wheeler, would end up becoming a star. Wheeler did, but it was a risk Chiarelli was willing to take because he wanted Rich Peverley and the cap space to fit (whooooooops) Tomas Kaberle. 

That trade, more so than the Joe Colborne-and-a-first-for-Kaberle deal, has proven to be the type of deal Bruins fans might fear right now: trading a good young player with plenty of development left in him for an older vet who might help more in the present. 

And it worked for both sides: The Bruins got a forward who helped them win the Cup and while Atlantapeg got its future captain.  

These trades don't always work, but that doesn't mean they're never worth making. If the B's saw it through with Wheeler, they might not have gotten out of that first round vs. Montreal, let alone win it all. 

This season, for as scary as it sounds, is one in which the Bruins should consider such a risk. The Bruins are on pace to win the Presidents' Trophy as the top regular-season team in the NHL. They'd have a difficult second-round matchup with Tampa, but if they can win that, they've got a realistic shot at a title in a season expected to be just another step in a soft rebuild. 

It's easy to sit back and think that the Bruins are playing with house money and that any playoff run on top of the kids' development is gravy, but there's another way of looking at it: This could very well be the Bruins' last shot at a championship with a Chara-Bergeron-Rask core. 

I'd assumed those days were already gone, squandered by the trades of Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton. Yet the combination of Chara's longevity and Don Sweeney's ability to supplement the roster with youth has the Bruins in a rare situation: They'll likely never have their vets - mainly Chara, but even Bergeron -- this good again. 

Next year, maybe (probably) Chara's not as effective. Even if the young players take another step forward, that could mean a worse team. Too many people in Boston underestimate the impact of Chara. Plus, maybe one of these other teams in the Eastern Conference amounts to something. Maybe Chicago comes back to life out West. 

So, now is the time to consider pouncing, to consider trading Brandon Carlo and a first-round pick for Ryan McDonagh. To turn any of the Bruins' ELCs not named DeBrusk or McAvoy into someone who would either beef up the defense or give one of the best offenses in the league one more stud scorer. 

It would be uncharted territory for Don Sweeney, who has yet to make such a deal while he's hoarded prospects in a style Sports Vulture Adam Jones compared to Ben Cherington. Jones probably made the comparison to insult Sweeney, but it should be a compliment: Sweeney's made it so the Bruins are not only one of the best teams in the league, but the team with all the guys the sellers should want. 

It would be a risk to miss out on one of these young players' careers, but it's also a risk to assume the Bruins will have this chance again. They should go for it. 

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Talking points: Pastrnak busts out of slump in OT win over Flames

Talking points: Pastrnak busts out of slump in OT win over Flames

GOLD STAR: David Pastrnak busted out of a mini-slump with a nice performance as he scored the B’s first goal of the game, and made a nice play picking up a loose puck off the side boards before curling to the net and beating David Rittich down low. Pastrnak finished with a team-high four shots on net, blocked a whopping three shots and generally played a committed, intense 18:38 of ice time after showing some quirks in his game over the last three or four weeks. Pastrnak still has just two goals in his last 12 games after Monday afternoon’s lamp-lighter, so the Bruins could use their 21-year-old right winger going on a scoring binge now that he’s broken through.

BLACK EYE: It was a pretty well-played game on both sides, so there aren’t a lot of easy, ready-made candidates, so Michael Frolik gets it by process of elimination. Frolik was stripped of the puck along the side boards by Patrice Bergeron, and that kicked a loose puck out to David Pastrnak for his successful scoring curl to the net. Frolik finished with a couple of shots on net, had a couple of giveaways in his 17:19 of ice time and wasn’t much of a factor for the Flames in a game where one mistake turned out to make a huge difference. All that being said, it was mostly a well-played game for both sides with Frolik’s early miscue playing a major role. 

TURNING POINT: Clearly it was about Tuukka Rask holding strong in the third period and overtime after he’d been just okay over the last week, and he did that with a good effort in the third period (12 saves) and a superhuman effort in overtime (five saves) when he stoned Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk prior to Brad Marchand’s game-winner. The overtime session was extremely impressive for Rask as he stood tall with a very important result on the line in terms of the defense/goaltending earning a good result after some subpar performances lately. Without Rask standing on his head, the Bruins don’t get the two points at the other end near the end of the overtime session. 

HONORABLE MENTION: With Pastrnak nailing down top honors after breaking his slump, Brad Marchand gets the honorable mention by “just” ripping home the game-winner in overtime on a breakaway. Marchand made his typical forehand-to-backhand maneuver and picked a spot on the five-hole through the leg pads of David Rittich, who was otherwise outstanding for the Flames in a tight game for Calgary. Marchand finished with the goal and a plus-2 rating, and finished with seven shot attempts in a whopping 21:38 of ice time. Both Marchand and Pastrnak had been pretty quiet as of late as the physical intensity has ramped up on them lately, but they responded well by powering the offense against Calgary.  

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 – With Monday afternoon’s OT game-winner, left winger Brad Marchand now stands second all-time behind Dit Clapper and Glen Murray for the most overtime winners in Bruins franchise history. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “You just stay patient and hope that the puck hits you, and it did.” –a matter-of-fact Tuukka Rask to reporters in Calgary on the overtime session where Rask did more than that in stopping five shots prior to Brad Marchand’s overtime game-winner.  

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Loui Eriksson elevates game against Bruins

Loui Eriksson elevates game against Bruins

GOLD STAR: Loui Eriksson has been a massive disappointment for the Vancouver Canucks, but he found a way to get some measure of payback against a Boston team that walked away from him in free agency a couple of years ago. Eriksson scored the game’s first goal two minutes into the proceedings when he overpowered Brandon Carlo in front of the Boston net, and then he added insult to injury with a shorthanded goal late in the third period to really put a capper on the blowout. Eriksson finished with the two goals and a plus-2 rating in his 17:18 of ice time, and also found a way to collect four shots on net and three takeaways with his always active stick. Those were the ninth and tenth goals scored during the regular season with Eriksson, who has really been a big Swedish bust in Vancouver to this point.

BLACK EYE: Brandon Carlo finished with a minus-4 rating. Oof. The young Bruins shutdown D-man was clearly struggling early when he was losing battles in front of the net highlighted by Loui Eriksson’s first goal, and he had major issues getting good gap control in a stretch where the Bruins are struggling defensively. It’s really a bit of bad timing for Carlo as his play is dipping right now as he’s been mentioned as a key prospect leading up to the NHL trade deadline. On the good side, Carlo dropped the gloves with Darren Archibald after he threw a questionable hit on David Pastrnak, and continues to slowly-but-surely grow into more of a physical, defensive stopper while learning at the feet of Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins actually outshot the Canucks by an 18-9 margin in the first period, and had some very good offensive chances turned away when Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak both hit the post in key spots. They had Anders Nilsson and the Canucks on the run based on controlling puck possession and getting some decent offensive chances against a goalie in Nilsson that isn’t a household name. But none of it mattered when Loui Eriksson scored just a few minutes into the first period and started a total defensive collapse that saw the Bruins surrender four goals in their worst period of the year. Through it all the Bruins continue to play hard even when a one-sided result on the scoreboard has pretty much dictated their fate.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk was really good for the Bruins with his dad, Louie, working between the benches in Vancouver on the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast of the Bruins/Canucks game. DeBrusk had a shot that snapped off the post at the beginning of one of his early shifts, and then DeBrusk clobbered a few more chances at the front of the net as well among his four shots on net in 17:18 of ice time. Perhaps just as impressive DeBrusk turned over three pucks in his night’s work as he was a constant source of energy and attack for the Bruins. If DeBrusk had heard his name in trade rumors over the last couple of days, it certainly didn’t seem like that was really bothering him as he was one of Boston’s best players during the game.

BY THE NUMBERS: 10 – Tim Schaller scored a bit of a garbage time goal in the third period for the Bruins to bust up the shutout, and perhaps just as important Schaller is now a double-digit goal-scorer for the first time in his NHL career. His impressive development curve continues for the Black and Gold.       

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We lost the slot battle in the first period. Not hard enough in that area. I thought we had our legs, but the commitment to defending the front of our net has come and gone lately, and it’s added up to goals scored against us.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN on the common thread in Saturday night’s loss to the Canucks that turned out to be a massive blowout.   

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