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For the Bruins, watching Olympic hockey "stings a bit"

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For the Bruins, watching Olympic hockey "stings a bit"

TORONTO – It’s no secret that NHL players weren’t happy about being barred from participating in the Winter Olympics wrapping up in South Korea this week. 

Instead the NHL continued their regular season with business as usual while skipping the Olympics for the first time since 1998, and college hockey players, minor league players and players already playing overseas in Europe were utilized to comprise the teams for the US, Canada and others participating in the Olympic Men’s Hockey tournament. 

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The lack of NHL participation has made for a wide open tournament at this month’s Olympics, and led to the major upset of Canada actually losing to Germany on Friday in a match to play for the gold medal game this weekend. That was bad news for former Bruins forward Chris Kelly as the captain of Team Canada at the tail end of his hockey career, but great news for fellow former B’s forward Marco Sturm as the head coach of Team Germany. 

Naturally one couldn’t help but wonder what was going through the minds of players like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, who certainly would have both been on Team Canada, watching Hockey Canada fall short of the gold medal game. 

“Obviously you cheer for your country and that’s what we were all doing. I got up early to catch a little of the game,” said Bergeron. “It’s too bad. I thought Germany played a really good game, and there’s a part of me that’s very happy for Marco [Sturm] since he’s a friend of mine. We played together for a long time.

“It was tough. You wanted to be out there and you wanted to be able to compete. It’s too bad that we didn’t have a say in it. That’s probably the biggest thing for me. That’s my biggest disappointment that we had no say in being a part of it. It was different. The last two Olympics I was in it, and now being able to watch it on TV it’s actually been a lot of fun to be able to watch different events at any time of the day.”

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While Bergeron has his two gold medals from each of the past two Olympic Games to go along with his memories, Marchand might have missed his one chance to be a part of Team Canada at the Olympics during the peak of his hockey career. Coming off last season’s stunning performance from Team Canada at the World Cup, Marchand would have been close to an automatic for the Olympic roster, but instead it’s an experience he may have simply missed the boat on given that he’ll be 33 years old the next time around. 

“Obviously you get over it, but it was more about it being an opportunity lost, I think,” said Marchand. “It was a potential opportunity lost, but it allows other guys to have opportunities. I couldn’t be any happier that a guy like Chris Kelly gets to be there. It’s a huge opportunity. A lost opportunity for us is a huge opportunity for other guys…but it would have been nice to be there and be a part of it. It’s the biggest stage in the world.  

“The biggest reason it stings is that I never thought I would even be potentially be looked at for a team like that. With how things have played out the last couple of years, I might have been able to crack that [Olympic] lineup. So I think it stings a little more for that reason…to have the rug pulled out from under you for no reason. It does sting a bit, but that’s how it goes.”

That stinging feeling from the league pulling out of the Olympics will no doubt be revisited the next time the NHL and NHLPA go to the bargaining table for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. But that’s a different story for a different day as the first Winter Olympics without NHL players in 20 years finally goes into the books this weekend.

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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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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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