Bruins

What we learned: Winnable one gets away from B's

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What we learned: Winnable one gets away from B's

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Tuesday night ,where the Black and Gold failed to collect at least a point in what will likely end up being the most winnable game of the three-game road gauntlet through California:

1) Not even close to good enough from the Bruins third line

Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes totaled just one shot on net for the evening and were on ice for the tying goal from Brent Burns. It was a tough break for them given that it was a pretty rough line change getting them on the ice and the Burns goal was a trailer shot from inside the blue line that ricocheted off Spooner’s stick. But Hayes brought nothing to the table on Tuesday night with zero shots on net, and even worse hurt the team with the illegal check to the head penalty in the third period that led to San Jose’s game-winner. Hayes has one goal in his past 17 games, so he needs to step up immediately within the high-intensity, competitive environment of late-season hockey, or another young guy such as Frank Vatrano (sent back to Providence Wednesday) might come in and seize his spot. In general, though, the third line needs to be much, much better than it was against the Sharks.

2) Reappearance of 'Playoff Krejci' encouraging

The playmaking center was banged up enough that he missed Monday’s practice and one still wonders if he’s been nursing an injury this season, but Krejci has been elevating his game since the trade deadline. He has a goal and six points in eight games in March and finished with a goal and two points, along with a plus-2 rating in Tuesday night’s loss. He was the best player on the ice for Boston and the 20:50 of ice time would seem to signify that: he jumped on the rebound of a David Pastrnak shot for Boston’s first goal, and then gave them an early lead with a slick PK pass that led Loui Eriksson in for a short-handed goal. Krejci, Eriksson and Pastrnak are really coming together as a line this month and giving the Bruins another viable offensive line to count on. Unfortunately, we learned again against San Jose that the Bruins need more than one line going if they’re going to have success against good teams.

3) Watching Brent Burns another reminder of what the Bruins don’t have

Burns scored his 26th goal of the season to set a new record for defensemen with the Shark, and tied the score after stepping in as the trailer with a shot that was aided by a deflection off Ryan Spooner’s stick. The All-Star D-man’s production is no accident and was part of a whopping 12 shot attempts that Burns fired on net in his 26 plus minutes of ice time. The 31-year-old is on pace for 31 goal and 76 points this season and is a hulk of a No. 1 defenseman in the prime of his career. He can move the puck and obviously score, but he’ll also play the heavy, shot-blocking game that’s sometimes needed by San Jose as well. The Bruins have 38-year-old Zdeno Chara playing a pretty solid level right this moment, but they need a No. 1 D-man in his prime like Burns on their roster as soon as possible. They won’t Cup contenders without one. That is much easier said than done for the B’s, and that remains the challenge for Don Sweeney in the offseason.

Plus

*David Krejci finished with a goal and two points, five shot attempts and 10-of-18 faceoff wins in 20:50 of ice time, and now has a goal and six points in eight games in March while picking up his game at crunch time.

*Loui Eriksson finished with a short-handed goal, four shots on goal and was very good in a whopping 21:56 of ice time for the Bruins as the chemistry comes alive with David Krejci and David Pastrnak. He has three goals and five points in his last three games, and is catching fire again after a slow stretch right around the trade deadline.

*Brent Burns was a beast all night with a goal and two points, a game-high 12 shot attempts as a constant offensive threat and a massive 26 plus minutes of ice time as the linchpin of San Jose’s D-man corps. He’s one of the best in the league and set a San Jose franchise record with his 26th goal as a defenseman on Tuesday night.

Minus

*No shots on net and no offensive presence for Jimmy Hayes. Even worse, he took a couple of penalties including an illegal check to the head call in the third period that led to the game-winning, power-play goal for the Sharks. It’s one thing if Hayes is going to disappear as a 6-foot-6 forward, but it’s infinitely worse when his penalties and mistakes are costing the Bruins.

*Dennis Seidenberg was on the ice for all three goals against, was a minus-2 for the game in 15:07 of ice time and had a tough night in the defensive zone against one of the big, heavy teams the B’s will face on this trip.

*Rookie fourth line Noel Acciari was on the ice for two goals against in 8:58 of ice time. He’s largely been pretty good for the B’s since getting called up at the trade deadline, but he was guilty along with Seidenberg and John-Michael Liles of leaving “the house” open on San Jose’s first goal of the game. Big breakdown all-around.

 

 

Bruins go home empty-handed on NHL Awards night

Bruins go home empty-handed on NHL Awards night

The Bruins didn’t take home any hardware at the NHL Awards show on Wednesday night in Las Vegas, but appropriately one of their youthful players was recognized among the league’s best and brightest. Rookie D-man Charlie McAvoy was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie team along with New Jersey Devils D-man Will Butcher, forwards (Islanders) Mat Barzal, (Canucks) Brock Boeser and (Coyotes) Clayton Keller and Nashville Predators goalie Juuse Saros.

The 20-year-old McAvoy finished fifth in Calder Trophy voting as well behind Barzal, Boeser, Keller and Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Connor, but the rookie D-man didn’t get any first-place votes on ballots across the PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers Association). 

Patrice Bergeron finished third in the Selke Trophy voting behind Selke winner Anze Kopitar and Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier while going for his record-breaking fifth Selke Trophy. While it might be a little shocking to see No. 37 finish third based on his season and his overall two-way prowess, he did miss 22 percent of the regular season (18 out of 82 games) and some voters may have dinged him a bit because of that. 

Likewise, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy finished a distant second in the Jack Adams Award voting behind Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant. In any other season, Cassidy’s job leading the Bruins to 112 points in his first full year behind the Boston bench would have been a shoo-in for the coaching award. Instead, it deservedly went to Gallant after guiding the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to a playoff spot and eventually all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. 

Don Sweeney also finished fourth in the GM of the Year voting just behind the three finalists for the award, a clear recognition from those around the league for the job he’s done turning things around in Boston over the last few seasons. Zdeno Chara (Norris), David Pastrnak (a first place Lady Byng vote, no less), Bergeron (Byng and Hart Trophy), Tuukka Rask (Vezina), Jake DeBrusk (Calder) and Brad Marchand (Selke and Hart Trophy) all received at least single votes on award ballots in a pretty strong Black and Gold representation across the board. 

A positive thought for all the Bergeron backers that felt he got robbed this season: It was the NHL-record seventh consecutive Selke Trophy finalist appearance for Bergeron on Wednesday night, and there certainly should be several more chances for No. 37 to win again and add to a resume that looks more and more Hall of Fame-worthy with each passing season.

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Cassidy says Kovalchuk would be 'nice addition' to Bruins

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Cassidy says Kovalchuk would be 'nice addition' to Bruins

As the free agency period of July 1 inches closer, the hype machine for 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk will grow more and more frenzied for teams like the Bruins.

And coach Bruce Cassidy gladly added to it on Tuesday in Las Vegas, telling reporters assembled for the NHL Awards that the Russian winger would be “a nice fit” for the Black and Gold. 

“Yeah, that would be interesting . . . you never want to speculate,” Cassidy said to reporters in Vegas during his press availability as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. “You can’t get too far ahead . . . he’s a top-six guy, he can play left and right wing, he’s a big body. He’d be a nice addition. I am sure any team would say that right now. 

“He’s going to make your team better, and I think that’s what you always look at as a coach, and fitting [talented players] in is the easy part. The tough part is getting those types of players.”

MORE HAGGERTY

The Bruins will be among a handful of teams vying for Kovalchuk, who spend the last five seasons playing in the KHL after bolting the New Jersey Devils and the NHL after the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season. Even at his advanced NHL age, the expectation is that Kovalchuk can still have an impact offensively even if he’s not exactly the same player who posted 37 goals and 83 points in his last full season in Jersey six years ago. 

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound winger still has the big shot, the scoring ability, the size and the game-breaking skills that made him a former first overall pick in the NHL draft, and it may just be that he has more left in his tank than the younger Rick Nash. Clearly there was a concussion that played a big part in Nash’s time in Boston, but he also didn’t look like the explosive scoring ability was still there like it was in the Columbus/New York power forward’s younger years. 

The Bruins haven’t yet locked in a time when they’ll make their pitch to Kovalchuk’s camp, but it’s expected to happen ahead of the July 1 opening of free agency. Kovalchuk's representatives have already had meetings with teams on the West Coast like the Kings and Sharks. It’s expected that Kovalchuk, 35, be looking at a shorter-term deal making something close to the $6.67 annual salary he was being paid by the Devils when he departed the NHL. 

If Kovalchuk were to land in Boston, he’d fill a need for secondary scoring behind the big guns of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.He would allow the Bruins to keep their top forward line intact while filling a hole on the second line right wing alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. 

With the news that next season’s salary cap is going to be in the $79-80 million range, the Bruins will also have somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million in cap space for their offseason shopping list. That should give them plenty of room to sign Kovalchuk to a short-term deal and still address the other openings on their NHL roster, including third-line center and a backup goaltender. Still, Kovalchuk would be the big fish, and that’s why the talk about him is front and center.

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