Bruins

Haggerty: Wheels begin to turn on Bruins' summer improvement plan

Haggerty: Wheels begin to turn on Bruins' summer improvement plan

With June upon us, now is the time for Don Sweeney and the Bruins to step up the efforts to improve a roster that still has some significant holes.

Sure, the B’s were good enough to make the playoffs, and even have a handy alibi of injuries as to why things went wrong for them in the first round against the Senators. Still, Bruins management and scouting staff were quick to recognize following the season that they need to ice a better, deeper group as they look to make another step forward.

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“We have a lot of work to do as an organization, still. We want to become a deeper, more talented team from top to bottom,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney at his end-of-season press conference in April. “Taking one step forward, in my opinion, is not successful. It’s a good step, but we have work to do in a lot of areas that we want to continue to get better.”

A top-six left wing capable of scoring some goals, preferably with some size, is definitely a need alongside David Krejci. A top-four, left-shot defenseman suitable to potentially be paired with 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy is another big ticket item on Sweeney’s summer shopping list. Chances are the Bruins might just see what they have in Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk for the open winger spot when training camp opens. Perhaps being paired with established offensive performers David Krejci and David Pastrnak could open up some scoring space for one of those young forwards and mitigate the need to go searching for somebody such as Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog.

Let’s assume that a top-four, left-shot defenseman is the top priority outside the organization. Clearly, the re-signing of Pastrnak to a suitable second contract stands as the most important thing Sweeney will do between now and October. This should be the right offseason for Sweeney to get something done with Sami Vatanen, Matthew Dumba, Jonas Brodin and Tyson Barrie, to name just a few, potentially available on the trade market for the right price.    

With Vatanen, Dumba and Barrie all right-hand shots with McAvoy and Brandon Carlo locked in as top-four, righty D-men for the foreseeable future in Boston, Brodin seems like a clear person of interest for the Black and Gold.

One hockey source indicated to CSNNE there should be attention paid to the ongoing trade discussions between the Bruins and Wild for a couple of reasons. Those talks first started leading up to this past season’s trade deadline. The 23-year-old Brodin Is a left-shot D-man with cost certainty signed for four more years at $4.166 million and has been a top-four defenseman for the Wild since breaking into the league as a teenager. The 6-foot-1, 194-pound Brodin is coming off a career-high 25 points, while also averaging a career-low 19:34 of ice time, and has settled in as a solid, two-way D-man who's never going to dazzle anybody with his workmanlike skill set.

Brodin can move the puck skillfully enough, he can defend and he can play in any situation, but he’s never going to light it up with a 50-point season and will battle through his share of injuries: He’s only once played more than 71 regular-season games in five NHL seasons.

That’s exactly the kind of solid, steady, young veteran the Bruins could use alongside a budding, special talent in McAvoy. Brodin would fit in with Boston’s salary cap structure as well. On the Minnesota side, there are indications around the hockey world the Wild want to get back into the first round after shipping their first rounder (No. 23 overall) to the Coyotes in exchange for Martin Hanzal at the trade deadline.

The Bruins still have their first-round pick at the 18th spot and Sweeney made no mystery about his willingness to discuss dealing that pick when talking to reporters at last weekend’s NHL prospect combine.

“It’s an effort to try and improve our hockey club,” said Sweeney to reporters in Buffalo last weekend. “We have had a number of selections the last couple of years and we feel that they’ll all materialize into very good players for the Boston Bruins and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t explore what could improve our hockey club now in the shorter term.

“I owe it to our players and the organization to continue to do that. Whether or not it happens, I don’t know. Some people have looked at me sideways at times when holding three first-rounders [in 2015] and not being able to do something at that point in time. The right deal didn’t take place. I can’t say that it’s going to at this time as well, but it’s certainly an area I’ve looked at that if we can improve, then we would move it.”

The best way for the Wild to do that would be to dangle one of their defensemen while clearing off some cap space with big paydays coming this summer for Minnesota restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. It will be interesting to see what a package centered on Boston’s first-round pick and restricted free agent Ryan Spooner could net for the Black and Gold as the B’s clearly would like to move the speedy, creative power-play specialist this summer. Part of the Bruins’ sell job to get center prospect Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson signed last spring was strong indications he’d be in the NHL this season. That would mean the writing is on the wall for Spooner, 25, a talented, inconsistent third-line center who might just need a change of scenery.

It’s no coincidence the Bruins have been one of the best PP teams in the NHL the past two seasons with Spooner working the half-wall on their top unit.  

Sources have indicated Spooner’s name has been discussed leading up to this month’s Vegas expansion draft and that “the interest is out there” for a center who averaged 12 goals and 44 points the past two seasons. That doesn’t mean he’ll absolutely be moved prior to the expansion draft, but it would appear that Spooner is one of the pieces in play for the Black and Gold as fortify their roster for next season.

Sweeney is going to have to eventually execute a good hockey trade or two if he truly wants the Bruins to rise to a different level in the next couple of seasons and it sounds as if the pieces are starting to move to try and make that happen this summer. 

Stanley Cup odds 2019: Here's where Bruins stand vs. Sharks or Blues

Stanley Cup odds 2019: Here's where Bruins stand vs. Sharks or Blues

The Boston Bruins have an unprecedented 11-day break between their Eastern Conference Final-clinching win over the Carolina Hurricanes and Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

The B's know when (May 27)  and where (TD Garden in Boston) they'll open the  Cup Final, but they don't yet know which team will oppose them for the best trophy in sports.

The St. Louis Blues likely will be the opponent -- they lead the San Jose Sharks 3-2 entering Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Tuesday night. But oddsmakers already have made up their minds when it comes to the favorite to win the Stanley Cup. The Bruins are the clear favorites at -145.

Check out the full odds, via Caesars Palace in Las  Vegas, in the tweet below:

These odds make sense.

The Bruins deserve to be favorites over the Sharks or Blues. Boston has more talent and a lot more Stanley Cup-winning experience than either of these two Western Conference clubs, and B's goalie Tuukka Rask is the best player at his position remaining in the playoffs. Let's not forget the Bruins have home ice advantage as well.

The Blues' goaltending and overall scoring depth probably would create a tougher for the Bruins than the Sharks, but St. Louis just doesn't have the elite-level talent or experience to be favored over Boston in a seven-game series.

Bruce Cassidy pays Bruins' leadership group a huge compliment>>>

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Bruins had many turning points this season before reaching Stanley Cup Final

Bruins had many turning points this season before reaching Stanley Cup Final

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Veteran Bruins players that have been there before always have the expectation that something special is going to happen with each and every hockey season.

Perhaps it’s just part of the culture that the Bruins have built over the last 12 years, and a key optimistic part of what’s pushed the Bruins to three Stanley Cup Final appearances over the last eight years. Certainly it’s the mindset that 42-year-old captain Zdeno Chara brings to the table every season, and has made the Bruins a playoff team in 10 of the 13 seasons that he’s been in Black and Gold.

“There are always some moments and sequences when you can look back,” said Chara, when asked if there was any moment that he knew this Bruins team had the makings of a special group. “I’ve never felt any differently this team. The team that we have is always one that I believe in. That won’t ever change. That’s the biggest thing for me.

“I always believe that the group of guys we have, the players we have, the coaches, the system and what management goes, I always believe that’s the way we go and I follow the lead that’s set by the organization. I just go and try to make the best out of it.”

But optimism was high coming off last season when the Bruins pumped 112 points out of their regular season, even if it was a little bit guarded with the knowledge that they still needed to get by a Tampa Bay Lightning juggernaut in their own division.

As circumstances would have it, the Bruins once again had an excellent regular season in 2018-19 even if it wasn’t the kind of historic campaign put together by the Lightning. Then they outlasted Toronto in the playoffs and all of a sudden people started paying much closer attention to a Bruins team that had a clear pathway to the Stanley Cup Final once Tampa, Washington and Pittsburgh all fell by the wayside in the first round of the playoffs.

But let’s not shortchange this Bruins team either. They have been one of the NHL’s best teams for most of this season, and they truly do deserve to be in the Stanley Cup Final, whether they received breaks along the way or not.

“I’m proud of the guys. We’ve earned the right to be where we are and be in the Stanley Cup Final,” said Bruce Cassidy.  “We’ve beaten three good teams. There’s a bit of unfinished business here, but I think our guys understand that there are four more steps to go here.”

They traveled all the way to China during training camp, took the Winter Classic crown when they defeated the host Blackhawks at Notre Dame’s football stadium, ripped off points in 19 straight games down the stretch and have pieced together an impressive seven-game winning streak during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Bruce Cassidy felt like the Winter Classic and the “Peaky Blinders” outfits worn by the Bruins players was a turning point moment for the B’s when things really started coming together.  

“There was the core [group] right from the beginning, right? But some of that core group wasn’t in China, so it was a lot of the young guys that had to take charge. Guys like Jake [DeBrusk] and Charlie [McAvoy] that had been here for a year got a little more vocal. I think the Winter Classic was a little bit more of a turning point if you want to look back. The whole ‘Peaky Blinders’ theme really brought the guys together, and I think that was Torey Krug’s doing if I’m not mistaken.

“But in the game itself we seemed to take off from there. That was one instance where we really came together. I think that was the first time we had probably had everybody healthy with the group we thought we’d start with at the beginning of the year. We’ve always allowed the players to kind of have that room. It’s Zee, Bergeron, Krejci and Tuukka, these guys have won a Cup. We’ve never really interfered with it too much and have always viewed it as a positive that [the players] can kind of police their own things.”

Certainly the Bruins season has been about overcoming adversity with the Bruins losing both Patrice Bergeron and Chara for an overlapping month, losing David Pastrnak toward the end of the season with a freak thumb injury and not getting a truly effective Charlie McAvoy until after the midpoint of the season. That as much as anything else has defined the Bruins over the course of this NHL regular season and steeled them against many of the things thrown underneath them over the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“There are a lot of things that brought us together throughout the season,” said Brad Marchand. “The Winter Classic was a pretty special thing to go through as a group, but another one was [the trip] to China. We had a lot of fun over there as a group, and a couple of long nights and fun bus rides. Those are the things that bring you together and you look back on as building relationships. There were a lot of different things that we went through this year and things you can look back on. But it’s also something we stressed in the room and take a lot of pride in. It’s really paying off for us right now.”

No trash talk from John Tortorella “denting” Tuukka Rask was going to throw the Bruins off track, and no amount of scrutiny thrown at Brad Marchand was going to make him shrink from the big moments, even if the entire Canadian media seems to be against him at any given moment.

This Bruins team has proven time and again that they are big game performers and that they are survivors who will be there at the end of the day. Those two things as much as anything else allow the Bruins to be there still standing at the very end of the Stanley Cup playoff tournament, and lying in wait for a challenger in the Western Conference that’s going to be the underdog in the final series, no matter who it is. 

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