Bruins

Bean: Bruins created a monster that could end their season

Bean: Bruins created a monster that could end their season

It goes without saying that you should never let a team linger. The Bruins did that with the Maple Leafs, and here we are. Game 7 will be played on Wednesday. 

The longer a series goes, the more likely it becomes that one of many variables will work against you: The other goalie will get hot, one of your guys will get hurt or, most frustrating of all, you'll get unlucky. 

The Bruins let the series go longer than necessary with questionable coaching decisions and poor goaltending in Game 5. They lost that game. Now, they've created a monster: An inferior roster with a bad defense is about to knock them out of the playoffs if they aren't careful.  

MORE BRUINS: Bruins fail to finish off Leafs again, lose 3-1

Take the second period of Game 6. It was a complete reversal of fortune from Games 1 and 4. Whereas the Bruins were dominated in the second periods of those games but still emerged with a lead, they experienced the opposite Monday. 

The period, which the teams entered scoreless, started with three quick strikes, one from Boston and two from Toronto. The second Leafs goal, which came as a result of a poor clearing attempt from Charlie McAvoy, was overturned when it was determined that Zach Hyman interfered with Tuukka Rask.

From there, it was all Bruins. Were it not for strong goaltending from the either hot or freezing Frederik Andersen, they could have potted multiple goals. Instead, the game's next goal came when Brad Marchand couldn't clear a blocked point shot and Torey Krug left Mitch Marner all alone in the high slot. Marner pounced on the puck and backhanded it past a not-quick-enough Tuukka Rask to give the Leafs the lead. 

The Bruins nearly doubled up the Leafs in possession in that period. It was all Boston. But the other goalie was good and the B's were unlucky. That's hockey. It's just frustrating when "that's hockey" happens in a game that didn't need to be played. 

MORE BRUINS: Talking Points: Marner lights it up while Pasta struggles

So now the Bruins face elimination. I don't expect them to lose, but they could. You never know. The variables, the "that's hockey" thing, etc. 

Bruce Cassidy has made non-injury related changes in each of the last two games. In Game 5, he changed his bottom two defensive pairs and changed his top pairing's deployment to disastrous results. Game 6 saw him scratch Danton Heinen in for of Tommy Wingels and demote Rick Nash to the third line. 

The new line of David Krejci between Jake DeBrusk and Wingels generated a goal, but the third line of Riley Nash between Rick Nash and David Backes once again yielded fruitless 5-on-5 play from Rick Nash.

Backes turned in his sixth even-strength disappearing act in as many games. Cassidy's next move should be to put Ryan Donato in the lineup.

The rookie was not impressive in his lone game this series (Game 2), but the Bruins need scoring.

Then again, Cassidy, like most coaches, is generally hesitant to give a young player the keys. He trusts what he knows. He also likely knows he's not getting enough from some of his regulars. 

There's little-to-no chance Cassidy would sit Nash or Backes unless they were hurt. Wingels is the most obvious candidate to come back out of the lineup since Boston's fourth line is too good to be disrupted. 

But this is not where the Bruins thought they would be. They didn't think that they, one of the three best teams in the NHL during the regular season, would be looking for answers entering the seventh game of the first round. 

But here they are. The Leafs, armed with a hot goaltender and the best hockey coach on the planet, are ready to complete an upset on Wednesday. It shouldn't happen, but a sixth game wasn't supposed to, either.

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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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File photo

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.”

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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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