Bruins

NHL: Minor-leaguers also barred from participating in Olympics

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NHL: Minor-leaguers also barred from participating in Olympics

Not only will Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and most of the best hockey players in the world not be going to the Olympics, neither will anyone on an NHL contract.

The league has decided that players with active NHL contracts, even those in the minors, will not be allowed to participate in the Olympics next February in South Korea. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the league's stance to The Associated Press on Monday

The league announced in April it wouldn't be stopping its season to go to the Olympics for the first time since 1994, but questions had remained about players in the American Hockey League and ECHL .

"A decision has been made that all players under NHL contract will be subject to similar treatment," Daly said.

This means players signed to two-way NHL contracts or who are loaned to minor league affiliates by their clubs won't be available to the United States, Canada or other national teams. The AHL said earlier this summer that general managers could decide to allow players on AHL contracts to play in South Korea.

Daly confirmed that players signed to NHL deals but who are playing in Europe, like Dallas Stars first-round pick Miro Heiskanen who is expected to spend the season in Finland, would not be precluded from playing in the Olympics. Those players loaned to European teams wouldn't be playing the season on their NHL contracts, which is the same situation for those on entry-level deals in Canadian major junior leagues.

Jim Johannson, USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations and the U.S. general manager for the 2018 Olympics, said that organization will honor its partnership with the NHL and not put anyone under contract in its player pool. Hockey Canada is also expected to avoid any potential conflicts.

Johannson said Friday the official Olympic regulations hadn't been finalized until recently.

"For me the bottom line is if they're not on the NHL registry, meaning an NHL registered contract, then they're eligible," Johannson said.

That means top American-born AHL players like 2016-17 leading scorer Kenny Agostino, defenseman T.J. Brennan and goaltender Troy Grosenick won't be part of Team USA because they're signed with NHL clubs for this season. Chris Bourque, son of Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque, and goaltender John Muse are examples of U.S.-born players on AHL contracts who could be selected.

The U.S. team is expected to be made up of a mix of current college players, those on AHL deals and professionals playing in European leagues. Canada, as it showed with rosters for two exhibition tournaments in Russia this week, will lean heavily on European-based players with others mixed in

NHL Power Rankings: Big shakeup in the Top 10 this week

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NHL Power Rankings: Big shakeup in the Top 10 this week

Sure, the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs are months away, but it's never too soon to look ahead, right?

The competition for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference could be tight, as several teams have surged forward recently, including the Flyers, Panthers and Canadiens — all of which missed the playoffs a season ago.

The picture is also crowded out West, where not many teams have started to separate from the pack as of yet.

How are the Bruins stacking up after a four-game losing streak? And which teams are making leaps forward?

Click here for Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings.>>>>>>

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David Pastrnak should be a lock in Bruins' shootout lineup going forward

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USA TODAY Sports

David Pastrnak should be a lock in Bruins' shootout lineup going forward

The shootout is a problem for the Boston Bruins, and already this season it has cost them three points. Now, that might not sound like a lot, but in a very competitive Atlantic Division that's shaping up to include five playoff-caliber teams, those points are quite valuable.

The Bruins blew a four-goal third-period lead Tuesday night and ultimately lost 5-4 in a shootout to the Florida Panthers at TD Garden. Charlie Coyle extended the shootout with a third-round goal, but it's Boston's only tally in 11 shootout attempts this season. Only three of the 26 teams that have taken part in at least one shootout have a worst shooting percentage than Boston. 

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy's shootout lineup was a real head-scratcher. Here's a look at the skaters chosen:

Chris Wagner: No goal
Brad Marchand: No goal
Charlie Coyle: Goal
Charlie McAvoy: No goal

The lack of speed and creativity with the puck made Panthers goalie Sam Montembeault's job too easy. Take a look for yourself in the highlights below:

The most curious absence from the above list is David Pastrnak, who leads the league with 16 goals and is tied for second place in scoring with 31 points. Pastrnak is just 3-for-19 in shootouts for his career, but despite this lack of success, he absolutely should be one of the first two shooters in this format, especially when the opposing team has its backup goalie in net, as was the case Wednesday night. The most talented players should be on the ice with the game on the line, and Pastrnak is without question the B's most skilled offensive player. 

Cassidy explained after why Pastrnak wasn't involved in his team's latest shootout loss.

"(Bruins goalie coach) Bob (Essensa) has information on that," Cassidy told reporters. "One thing Bob suggested -- we were going to use Wagner. There was maybe more shooters than dekers against this goalie coming in, but Charlie (Coyle) scored in the shootout shooting. You know, we put Coyle in and recommended shooting. Pasta tends to like to deke, so that’s why we went away from him. He’s been a little bit cold lately in the shootout, so give some other guys an opportunity that we feel can finish. Charlie McAvoy definitely has but didn’t happen."

Pastrnak has shot in two of the three shootouts this season. Jake DeBrusk has taken part in only one. David Krejci didn't shoot in the one game he's played in that ended with a shootout. Patrice Bergeron has zero shootout attempts despite scoring 70 goals over his last 147 games. Bergeron's nine shootout goals are tied for the team lead with Marchand since the beginning of 2012-13. Even defenseman Zdeno Chara deserves a look in the shootout with his powerful slap shot.

Let's be clear: shootouts aren't a new problem for the Bruins.

They actually ranked as the third-best shootout team during the 2011-12 season with 19 goals on 38 attempts, but it's been all downhill since then. The Bruins are dead last in the league with a 20.7 shooting percentage (49-for-237) in shootouts over the last eight seasons, including the current campaign.

We can complain all day about the shootout and say it's a gimmick, and that might be true, but the fact remains it's a very important part of today's NHL. The Bruins' lack of success in the shootout won't hurt them in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it could end up costing them the most desirable seed if the current trend isn't reversed soon. Consistently putting the most skilled offensive players on the ice would be a good way to remedy the situation.

Joe Haggerty: The root causes of this alarming Bruins skid>>>

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