Bruins

Bruins teetering on the edge of disaster

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Bruins teetering on the edge of disaster

BOSTON -- Even the most optimistic Bruins fan had to know that the month of November was going to be a struggle.

The B's faced a stretch of 12 games against eight teams that made the playoffs last year, and they were doing so with a raft of damaging injuries and a considerable amount of youth in the lineup. And even the four opponents that didn't make the playoffs last year -- the Golden Knights, Kings and Devils, in particular -- are off to very strong starts this season. 

It had trouble written all over, and November has turned into exactly that for the B’s after a 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs on Saturday night at TD Garden. They're now on a three-game losing streak and have lost six of their last eight. In addition, they're a putrid 0-3-3 against Eastern Conference teams they’re competing with for a playoff spot.

“You know, it’s early to [play] the ‘What-If’ game, but . . . you want to win against the teams you’re going to be fighting for down the road for playoff position,” said Bruce Cassidy. “That’s our goal, so I’m not going to hide from that. Any points are good for us, and the division games mean more, no doubt. We let some get away [in Saturday's 4-1 loss], and actually [on Friday night], you know. If we close that out, it’s a .500 weekend. So that’s a tough one.”

The home loss against the Leafs was particularly frustrating as they outshot Toronto by a 39-24 margin but were 0-for-4 on the power play -- which is operating without David Krejci, Ryan Spooner and David Backes -- dropping them to 2-for-21 with the man advantage in the month of November. But that wasn't the sole reason for the loss. Shutdown defender Brandon Carlo was the culprit behind three of the four goals allowed, and Tuukka Rask once again couldn’t come up with a big save in Boston’s biggest time of need.

The way they lost was clearly frustrating for the Bruins, and that was the insult added to the injury of getting swept in a home-and-home series to their rivals in Toronto, which is playing without its own best player in Auston Matthews. The Bruins are trying to put on a brave face and it's true that they’ve been in just about every thus far this season from a competitive standpoint, but it’s clear the weight of all the missing players is beginning to drag them down.

“We’ve done a good job of making sure that we’re in every game so far and we’ve had a chance to win hockey games, and we’ve clawed our way back,” said Torey Krug. “We’ve had some tough starts but we never give up and that’s a good characteristic to have. It would be nice to start flipping the script there and play with the lead and for a whole 60 minutes and lead the game. But it’s not going to look like that when you’re missing a lot of key players. We’ll just have to keep going.”

Of the biggest concern is the picture in the Eastern Conference as the Bruins are sliding down the standings. The Bruins are now 14th out of 16 teams in the East and a full four points out of a playoff spot with the Thanksgiving marker only a couple of weeks away. The only teams below the Bruins in the Eastern Conference standings are the perennially bad Buffalo Sabres and the permanently adrift Florida Panthers.

That should be a clear message that what the Bruins are doing right now isn’t good enough, even with the built-in excuses. Sure, the B’s have some games in hand against most of the other teams, but they aren’t of much value if they lose them. That’s the situation right now as the Bruins ready to embark on a West Coast road trip that could push them deeper into the depths of the standings.

“I’m not nervous," said Rask. "I think you gotta look at the positives. We haven’t played bad hockey. You know, there’s been bad 5-10 minutes, but it hasn’t been work ethic or nothing like that. You know, we’ve been making plays and battling hard out there. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. You know, we’ve been here before. We just have to dig deeper and win some road games, it’s definitely not going to be an easy road trip.”

The numbers aren’t really debatable at this point. If the Bruins aren’t in a playoff spot by Thanksgiving, history shows they have about a 25 percent chance of making the postseason. If they’re more than five points out of a spot on Turkey Day, they're in deep, deep trouble.

It’s beginning to feel more and more like the “deep, deep trouble” thing might be a reality for the Bruins, and they’re going to need to do some spectacular things in the next couple of weeks to get out of it.

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Rangers hire David Quinn away from BU as new head coach

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Rangers hire David Quinn away from BU as new head coach

In what is becoming a growing trend, a National Hockey League team has dipped into the collegiate ranks to find its next head coach. After a successful five-year stint as Jack Parker’s successor at Boston University, David Quinn has been named the 35th coach of the New York Rangers.

Quinn reportedly received a five-year contract to oversee a plan to reload the Blueshirts roster.

In that respect Quinn is perhaps the perfect choice for the Rangers -- a young, enthusiastic coach that excels in the teaching aspect of the game with young player. He posted a 105-67-21 record in his five seasons with the Terriers while developing young NHL talent like Jack Eichel, Charlie McAvoy and Clayton Keller. Quinn didn’t win a national title at Boston University but did finish as college hockey’s runner-up in his second season, losing to Providence College in the 2015 NCAA title game.

Leaving BU for New York had to be a difficult choice for the 51-year-old Cranston, R.I., native, given that the BU job probably could have been a lifetime gig (as it was for the legendary Parker before him). But there were certainly things about the Rangers job that Quinn couldn’t pass up, among them the prestige of coaching an Original Six team and also where familiar faces like Jeff Gorton and Chris Drury are part of the management team. Being able to compete head-to-head against his good friend Mike Sullivan, the coach of the Penguins, certainly didn’t hurt either.

Quinn expressed all of those mixed emotions in a statement released by BU when New York made his hiring official on Tuesday.

“I’m incredibly excited for this new challenge, but leaving a job like this is very hard to do,” he said. “BU is a special place that has given me so much, not only as a player and a student, but also as a coach. The lifelong friendships I’ve developed here over the years absolutely mean the world to me.

“I was so fortunate to work with the very best in athletic director Drew Marrochello and senior vice president Todd Klipp. BU hockey has always been bigger than the coach and they will bring in an outstanding one to continue the winning tradition here.”

Quinn is the latest in a new movement by NHL teams to pluck their coaches from the college ranks, which is producing so many quality players these days. The Flyers kicked it off in hiring Dave Hakstol away from the University of North Dakota a couple of years ago, and earlier this month the Dallas Stars hired Jim Montgomery away from the University of Denver after the Rangers initially showed interest.

It will be interesting to see where Boston University goes next. The Terriers have a wide swath of hockey-playing alumni to choose from, and people like Bruins assistant coaches Joe Sacco and Jay Pandolfo could also be candidates list if they wanted a college job.

Morning Skate: Look for Lightning strike in Game 7

Morning Skate: Look for Lightning strike in Game 7

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while we’re almost ready for Stanley Cup Final time.

*Who is going to step up in Game 7 between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning for the right to play in the Stanley Cup Final? Put my money on Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Bolts, but don’t sleep on Brayden Point either. That dude has been awesome in this postseason for Tampa Bay. Make sure to check out all the action tonight (8 p.m.) on NBCSN where Game 7’s are treated with the proper gravitas and import.

*Interesting piece from Pittsburgh columnist Ron Cook, who says part of Pittsburgh’s downfall this spring had to do with a “sour relationship” between Phil Kessel and Mike Sullivan. Is Phil Kessel becoming a problem in an NHL dressing room? This is me with my “not shocked” face.

*Pierre Lebrun talks with TSN 1040 out in Vancouver about the Evander Kane contract extension with the San Jose Sharks, which is supposed to be in the seven-year, $49 million range. That is a massive gamble on a player that’s scored 30 goals once in a career where he’s underachieved most of the time. To put it in perspective, Kane will be getting paid $1 million more per season than a much better player in Boston in Brad Marchand. That’s the makings of a really, really bad contract in my humble opinion.

*PHT writer James O’Brien says that the Carolina Hurricanes trading Jeff Skinner would haunt the team, but it sure looks like the Canes are moving for a house-cleaning in Carolina.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Pothier out in Vegas says that all of the skepticism is gone when it comes to the Golden Knights acquiring Ryan Reaves after his big playoff moment.

*For something completely different: I’ve always wanted to see Mysterio on the big screen battling Spider-Man, and it looks like we will see that sooner rather than later as played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Sounds groovy to me.  

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