Bruins

Bruins wary of negatively impacting "very good chemistry" at trade deadline

Bruins wary of negatively impacting "very good chemistry" at trade deadline

TORONTO – It doesn’t take much searching on the Google machine to uncover noteworthy accomplishments from the Bruins this season. 

The Bruins are top-five in the NHL in offense, defense and penalty kill, and they have gone an amazing 31-6-4 since the middle of November while storming to the very top of the NHL standings. Along the way they’ve overcome injuries, tough losses bad starts, one lengthy Brad Marchand suspension and a fan base that was only half paying attention until the season ended anticlimactically for the New England Patriots a couple of weeks ago. 

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They also did all of this while introducing a lineup with five or six rookies in it every single night, and playing for a head coach in Bruce Cassidy in his first full year running the NHL team after 13 years between NHL gigs. They’ve been resilient and filled with fighting character all along, and they’ve overwhelmed opponents with their depth and quality of players on the vast majority of nights. 

They’re an entertaining and fun hockey club to watch, to be sure, and they are a group that sticks up for each other and genuinely likes one another while also sitting mere points behind the top dog Tampa Bay Lightning. That was all evident when the entire team enjoyed a night out together in Toronto on Wednesday, and wound up using the team-wide get-together as quality content for their Instagram accounts. 

Long story short, the Bruins have been extremely good this season on a consistent basis and look primed for an intriguing run into the postseason as the NHL trade deadline beckons. 

With all that in mind, it’s a delicate balance for Bruins management between making necessary roster improvements and not upsetting a tangle team chemistry that’s been notably special this season. The always candid Cassidy admitted as much when asked that question while meeting with reporters at the Bruins team hotel on Thursday morning. 

“I think it’s been factored into conversations between me and Donny [Sweeney] that we have a group with some real togetherness there this season,” said Cassidy. “At the end of the day if you can add and make your team better then you always have to look at it, and Donny is looking at that right now. 

“Adding [Nick] Holden I think he’s done that and we’ve added some more depth. But after that I do worry about if we subtract somebody from the room. If you’re adding and you’re not subtracting, i.e. future assets, then as a coach you always prefer to go that way. But Donnie will do what’s best and as a coaching staff we’ll take it from there so to speak. But there is a good chemistry with that group…a very good chemistry in that locker room.”

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Translation: There's a real concern that trading away a young NHL roster player like Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen or Brandon Carlo could be altering the team's DNA a little too boldly. 

This is the factor to keep in mind chasing after rental wingers like Michael Grabner, Thomas Vanek and Patrick Maroon that are unlikely to cost more than a “B” prospect or reasonable draft pick in exchange for them. It’s expected that the Bruins would need to give up at least one young NHL asset, possibly two in a true blockbuster for a player with term, if they chased after bigger ticket targets like Rick Nash or Ryan McDonagh with the Rangers.

Certainly there might be some level of impatience that the Bruins should go for broke at the deadline based on the promise this group has shown this season. Perhaps some are worried the window is starting to close for some of their veteran core players, but the numbers say otherwise with players like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand all enjoying vintage seasons. This isn’t a 2011 “Go for the Cup” type situation this season with the Bruins where they were primed and ready for a lengthy playoff run, and deals for Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Tomas Kaberle helped put them over the top. 

This year’s group is much more reminiscent of the 2008-09 Bruins that blew away expectations with a strong regular season, and enjoyed breakout performances from a number of younger players that saw them soar high above expectations. The youth and inexperience caught up to the Bruins that season when they were eliminated in the second round during a rugged seven game series with the Carolina Hurricanes, but the experience helped grow them into a contender on a steady trajectory over the next three seasons. 

That’s where the Bruins are this season. 

They’re a pleasant surprise team with a group of talented youngsters helping to push them to a higher level, and they’re due for a learning experience down the stretch and into the postseason. That isn’t likely to develop into an extended two-month Cup run unless a lot goes tremendously right for the Black and Gold, but the experience will pay dividends for next season and beyond. 

It might be that there’s just one more player for the Bruins to add ahead of Monday’s deadline, and that it will be more “sensible roster addition” than “take-your-breath-away blockbuster.” But that’s really okay when it comes to the Black and Gold.

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It’s okay because it means Don Sweeney hasn’t attempted pulling the roster apart at any of the seams, and will instead roll with his chemistry-filled Bruins regular season juggernaut to see exactly how good they stack up to be in the postseason. They’ve certainly earned that right after kicking the tar out of the rest of the NHL for the last three plus months, and it’s starting to feel like they’re going to get it.

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Bruins readying for biggest game of season vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Bruins readying for biggest game of season vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

TAMPA – The Bruins are headed into Tampa Bay on Monday night with their biggest regular-season game on the docket tonight against the juggernaut Lightning crew.

Sure, the B’s have already clinched a playoff spot thanks to Saturday night’s demolition job of the Florida Panthers in a 7-3 win, and they’ve now won four games in a row after a spate of injuries knocked them into a three-game tailspin. The losing stretch seems like a long time ago, and the Bruins are beginning to get those injured skaters back into the lineup, including David Pastrnak scoring goals in two of his three games since returning from a thumb injury.

They’ve also outscored opponents by a 19-5 margin over the four-game winning streak with offensive contributions from up and down the lineup while the defensive clamps have also been locked down.

The Black and Gold may not quite yet be peaking at the exact right time given that there’s still more than a handful of games between now and the end of the season, but they are peaking when it comes to a golden chance to make a meaningful statement to a Lightning team looming for them in the postseason.

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The Bolts have a ridiculous 120 points with two weeks to go in the regular season and will coast into the playoffs as the consensus best team in the NHL. 

Both teams may be playing it more conservatively when they face off on the final day of the regular season in April, so now is the time for both powerful rivals to make their lasting impressions.

“It was a nice continuation of the road trip. We’re putting pucks in the net and keeping them out of our net for the most part. We’re getting some secondary scoring. It’s something we talked about striving for earlier in the year and we seem to have hit on it now in the last month,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy to reporters in Florida after Saturday night’s win. “So that’s good. I think every team would tell you they don’t want to rely on three or four players to score, and we’re no different than that. They’re going to be our leaders — [Bergeron’s] line for sure, Krejci and the power play — but it makes everybody’s job easier when everybody is contributing.

“I don’t care how long that you’ve been in the league, it feels good to score a goal. It’s what everybody is out there to try and do, so good for the guys.”

The Bruins are also catching the Lightning on a losing note after they dropped a 4-3 decision to the St. Louis Blues to snap a seven-game winning streak of their own, but Tampa Bay should be well-rested and ready to make their own statement as well. As good as the Bruins have been this season, the specter of Tampa Bay has been there looming for Boston in the second round should they advance in the playoffs. It’s difficult to imagine the Bruins doing much better than bowing out in five games as they did last season in the second round against the Lightning, but a dominant showing on Monday night in Tampa could change some minds in that regard.

So as much as any game this season, tonight’s date with the Tampa Bay Lightning should have an intense playoff feel for a Bruins team looking to prove something to everybody else, and even more importantly to themselves.

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Marcus Johansson on absence: 'When you’re out, you just miss it'

Marcus Johansson on absence: 'When you’re out, you just miss it'

Marcus Johansson was one of the key players the Boston Bruins acquired ahead of the 2019 NHL trade deadline. The 28-year-old wing was added to provide some veteran depth and help fit in on the team's second line, which had seen a plethora of different players play alongside David Krejci during the season.

However, Johansson played in just four games with the Bruins before suffering a lung contusion that has kept him out of the lineup. He last played on March 5 against the Carolina Hurricanes but he appears to be close to making a return to the lineup.

Johansson will be a game-time decision ahead of the Bruins' Monday night game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After skating with the team at Sunday's practice, he opened up about what a potential return to the lineup would mean for him, via the Bruins' official Twitter account.

I’m just happy to be out there with the guys. And you know when you’re out, you just miss it. There’s nothing worse than sitting out and watching. I’m just excited to be here.

While Johansson may not necessarily return against the Lightning, he should return in the near future. His presence will make it easier for Charlie Coyle to slot back in as the third-line center. Coyle had been playing the wing on the second line in Johansson's place until Sean Kuraly suffered a thumb injury that will keep him out for four weeks. With Johansson back, that move can be permanent.

Additionally, Johansson will be able to develop chemistry with his linemates ahead of the postseason. Despite only having played with the Bruins for a brief time, Johansson has enjoyed playing on the second line with Jake DeBrusk and Krejci and recently spoke about that.

I’ve had a lot of fun in the games I’ve played with them. They make it easy on you. They’re so good with the puck and move their feet and make plays. You just got to be in the right spot for them.

If Johansson can't play against the Lightning, the recently called-up Karson Kuhlman will get another start. He scored a goal in the Bruins' 7-3 win over the Florida Panthers and has notched three points in six games this season.

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