Bruins

Vesey has 'a short list' of teams, and the Bruins are on it

Vesey has 'a short list' of teams, and the Bruins are on it

FOXBORO – This summer has been like no other for Harvard hockey standout and North Reading resident Jimmy Vesey. He’s had Buffalo Sabres GMs and coaches fly to Boston in order to pitch him on signing, and he’s got a score of NHL teams just waiting to get a chance to sign him when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15.

The 23-year-old said it was “comfortable” and a “very good meeting” with the Sabres contingent of GM Tim Murray, coach Dan Bylsma and former Harvard assistant coach/Sabres scout Jerry Forton last week when they flew to Boston to make their pitch to Vesey. But the Hobey Baker Award winner and his camp are insistent on getting to the Aug. 15 date when he’ll become a free agent, and talk to “a short list” of teams.

“I think it would be a little crazy to meet with all 29 teams,” admitted Vesey to CSN in an exclusive interview prior to his weekly Wednesday night appearance in the summer pro league at the Foxboro Sports Center. “We have a little bit of a short list going that I’ve worked on with my agents and my family. We’re going to narrow it down as best as we can, and get through it as quickly as we can on Aug. 15.”

While Vesey didn’t go through the entire list of teams, he did freely admit that the Bruins will be one of them that will get a chance to win him over next month.

“I’ve said it all along that Boston is definitely on my list of teams that I’d like to talk to. It’s a team that I’ve rooted for all my life, and it’s a team that I watched win the Stanley Cup in 2011,” said Vesey, who finished with 24 goals and 46 points in 33 games with the Crimson as a senior last season. “I’ll definitely be meeting with Boston in August.

“I was a huge Joe Thornton fan growing up. He wore No. 19. I wear No. 19. He was my favorite player. I got to know Torey Krug a little bit through playing with him at the world championships last year.  So it would be really cool to play with Torey and put on the Bruins jersey. It’s the team that I’ve watched for my whole life.”

Vesey also put to rest the lingering rumors that he was leaning away from the Bruins after watching the way Jimmy Hayes was criticized on the sports talk radio airwaves while struggling during his first year in Boston. Perhaps some like Vesey’s own dad feel like the pressure would be too much for the hometown kid playing for the Black and Gold. But it sounded like he was undaunted by the Boston pressure cooker as a hockey product of that environment.

“I work out here in Foxboro with the Hayes brothers, and I’ve known them all my life. I have a good relationship with Jimmy, and he had nothing but good things to say about [the Boston Bruins],” said Vesey to CSN. “To a little bit of an extent I’m a homebody and I definitely have a big crew of family and friends in the Boston area, so it would be comforting to have them around. Like I said, a lot of things are on my mind right now [headed into Aug. 15].”

The sense at this address: the Bruins, Sabres, Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils are the teams on Vesey’s short list with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a possible dark horse candidate after winning the Stanley Cup last spring. There’s little doubt the B’s could use him to step right into a top-6 wing role after losing Loui Eriksson in free agency. Vesey’s presence might also free up Don Sweeney and the Bruins to trade another talented young forward for the puck-moving defenseman they’ve needed for more than a year.

The ball is now in 6-foot-2, 210-pound Vesey’s court after the final meeting with the Sabres brass last week, and everybody should know about a month from now what was truly in the Harvard kid’s plans. 

What We Learned in B's 4-2 win over Kings

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What We Learned in B's 4-2 win over Kings

Here’s What We Learned in the Bruins 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center on Saturday night:

1. Not only is Charlie McAvoy rounding into form after a first half full of injuries and getting up to speed, but he’s starting to regain that confidence and clutch ability that he regularly flashed in previous seasons in a Bruins uniform. After a rough game on Friday night against the Ducks, the 21-year-old McAvoy bounced back with a clutch game-winning goal late in the third period against the Kings on Saturday. It was a sweet give-and-go play with Jake DeBrusk to score the goal in the final two minutes of regulation play, and sparked a two-goal outburst that allowed the B’s to finish the second night of road back-to-back games with a big time kick. But it wasn’t just the final play for McAvoy. He finished with a plus-1 in 19:16 of ice time, four shots on net, six shot attempts, three hits and a pair of blocked shots in an excellent all-around effort. McAvoy continues to put together consistently excellent efforts over the last few weeks, and has two goals, four points and a plus-8 in eight games during the month of February while playing like a No. 1 D-man in the making.

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2. The Bruins continue to put themselves in a very good position. They’ve now won five games in a row and moved past the Maple Leafs for second in the Atlantic Division, which would give them home ice advantage in a repeat first round rematch against the Maple Leafs if the season ended right now. It would also put two of the NHL’s best teams, according to points, in the first round of the playoffs, which is perhaps inevitable given how stacked the Atlantic Division has been this season at the very top. But credit where it’s due with the Bruins, who continue to play very well when injuries throw a monkey wrench into their plans. One other correlation between the B’s winning streaks and a common denominator from their play: The Bruins get great goaltending whenever they start stringing together wins in a row and making a push up the standings. Jaroslav Halak was excellent in shutting out the Ducks on Friday night, and Tuukka Rask was similarly excellent in the 4-2 win over the Kings including a stupendous double-stack stave on Alex Iafallo in the second period when things were still very tight with the Kings.

3. The jury is out on Karson Kuhlman. The center played under 10 minutes of ice time and had a shot blocked in his only mark on the stat sheet. Credit Kuhlman for not looking out of place and for playing a strong all-around 200-foot game, but he also didn’t do much to distinguish himself from anybody else, or from being more of a factor than David Backes is on most nights after Backes was the one scratched in place of him. He’ll certainly get more of a look given the strong game he played in Providence, but he’ll need to be better than he was on Saturday if he wants to stick around Boston. 

PLUS

*Charlie McAvoy scored the game-winning goal, filled up the stat sheet in almost 20 minutes of ice time and generally played another excellent game against the Kings and one of his NHL role models in Drew Doughty.

*Tuukka Rask stopped 23-of-25 shots that he faced, and made a highlight reel-worthy double-stacked save on Alex Iafallo in the second period during an odd-man rush for the Kings. Rask made 10 saves in that pivotal second period and did a good job of keeping the Bruins in it.

*Jake DeBrusk has now scored goals in three straight games and is riding a hot streak to rival the cold stretch where he didn’t score a goal for over a month.

MINUS

*Drew Doughty was on ice for three of the four goals allowed by the Kings, and that is something you really don’t see every day. He wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t his usual Doughty-self either while being forced to play almost 30 minutes of ice time.

*Anze Kopitar finished a minus-2 and lost 12-of-19 face-offs in an uncharacteristically bad game for the usually adept two-way center. Call it to the Patrice Bergeron factor if you want, as he always seems to play top level against his Selke Trophy-winning peers.

*Matt Grzelcyk finished a minus-1 and looked rusty for the Bruins after returning to the lineup from a lower body injury that cost him the last few games played for the Black and Gold.  

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This stat shows Bruins forward Brad Marchand's impressive consistency

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This stat shows Bruins forward Brad Marchand's impressive consistency

There's no question Boston Bruins star Brad Marchand is one of the best wingers in the NHL, and consistency has become a huge reason for that.

Marchand scored a goal in Saturday night's 4-2 road win against the Los Angeles Kings, giving him a team-leading 70 points (also leads the team with 47 assists) through 58 games. It's his third straight season with 70-plus points, moving him higher on an impressive list of scoring wingers in Bruins history.

Hitting the 70-point mark in three consecutive seasons is pretty good, and Marchand is the first Bruin to accomplish that feat since Marc Savard from 2006-07 through 2008-09.

Marchand has scored at better than a point-per-game level in each of the last two seasons, and he's projected to do it again in 2018-19. His current pace would put him at just under 98 points by the end of the regular season. Marchand also is well on his way to finishing as the B's top scorer for the third consecutive campaign. 

The Bruins are on a 10-game point streak (including five wins in a row) entering Monday night's game against the San Jose Sharks. Marchand has tallied 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) during the team's point streak, serving as the catalyst for the Boston's offense without leading goal scorer David Pastrnak, who will miss several weeks with a thumb injury.

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