Bruins

Bruins take another big hit, as Marchand out tonight vs. Wild

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Bruins take another big hit, as Marchand out tonight vs. Wild

BRIGHTON -- Add Brad Marchand to the list of Bruins walking wounded.

Marchand is out for Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild after getting pretty banged up in last weekend’s black-and-blue outing against the Washington Capitals. Marchand, nursing what appeared to be a knee injury, took a borderline low hit from Washington defenseman John Carlson behind the play midway through the game while also absorbing a number of high hits as well, including one from Tom Wilson. After the Carlson hit, Marchand limped to the bench and smashed his stick over the dasher in frustration and perhaps now we know why he was so aggravated.

The good news is that Marchand finished the game and coach Bruce Cassidy said today that he hoped it was “nothing serious,” especially with David Krejci, Ryan Spooner, David Backes, Adam McQuaid and Noel Acciari already sidelined.

But Marchand is Boston’s leading goal-scorer (eight goals) and highest scorer all-around (14 points in 12 games), so missing him is going to dramatically impact the B's ability to generate offense.

“He’s out tonight,” said Cassidy. “I don’t think [it’s a long-term injury], but I’ve thought that with a few other guys. So I don’t want to speculate anymore. It seems like they’re coming fast and furious, the injuries, and we’ll have an update. Hopefully it’s not long term.

“He got hit early and he got bumped by Carlson later, so he had a couple of bumps along the way. He was able to finish the game, so that’s the encouraging part.”

The good news was that Ryan Spooner (groin) has begun skating on his own and Acciari joined the B’s in practice in a no-contact jersey, but they are both obviously some time away from returning to the lineup.

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings against the Minnesota Wild based on morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena:

Bjork-Bergeron-Pastrnak
Beleskey-Nash-Czarnik
DeBrusk-Szwarz-Vatrano
Schaller-Kuraly-Heinen
Acciari (no-contact jersey)

Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
O’Gara-Miller
Postma

Rask
Khudobin

Rask doing his best - or is it worst? - to start a Bruins goalie controversy

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File photo

Rask doing his best - or is it worst? - to start a Bruins goalie controversy

With the Bruins falling to the Flames 5-2 Wednesday night in Calgary, here’s what we learned from the opening defeat on a four-game swing through Western Canada:

1) Tuukka Rask is going to find himself pulled into a goalie controversy if he’s not too careful.
He’s now started four games on the season and has a save percentage under .900 in two of those games after the performance in Calgary. That’s two out of four starts where Rask hasn’t given the Bruins a chance to win, and where he’s been bad against playoff-caliber teams after rolling through a couple of inferior opponents in between. 

On Wednesday night, it was the first period where Rask buried his team after playing well for the first few minutes as his teammates tried to get settled in front of him. The Flames scored a pretty good goal where interior passing set up a wide open shot and then the bottom completely dropped out on the B’s No. 1 goalie. He kicked out a juicy rebound after a Noah Hanifin tester and that turned into an open put-back for Johnny Gaudreau to make it a two-goal deficit.

Less than a minute later, Rask completely whiffed on a Juuse Valimaki shot from the point that clanged off his glove hand and trickled over the goal line to put the Bruins down 3-0 before they even knew what had happened. 

Rask managed to turn things around and keep the Bruins within striking distance by making a few saves in the final 40 minutes of the game, but that doesn’t really do anybody much good when he’s already buried them after the opening 20 minutes.

Rask now has an .875 save percentage and a goals-against average north of 4.00 while Jaroslav Halak has played lights out between the pipes early in the season. If Halak goes out and dominates against the Oilers tonight, there could be a fairly good chance that he gets the call again on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks. 

If that happens then all bets are off and we could already be talking about some kind of goalie controversy or shared duties between the pipes. Nobody could blame Bruce Cassidy if he again has to go there early in the season with Rask once again looking less-than-stellar. Rask even joked about that a few days ahead of the trip saying that “it takes a while to get the old diesel engine going.” 

Well, that diesel engine might get stuck on the bench for a bit just as he was last November after being outplayed by Anton Khudobin early in the season. It sure looks like history is repeating itself with a whole different backup this time around.

2) An offside coach’s challenge was used to essentially wipe a good goal off the board.
David Pastrnak was able to score to make it a 3-1 game late in the first period, but a coach’s challenge was used to see if the Bruins had been offsides entering the zone a good 10 seconds before the goal was scored. As it happened, Bergeron did cross over the blue line ahead of John Moore carrying the puck and so technically it was an offsides play. But the zone entry really had nothing to do with the goal itself and wiped out a nice play by Brandon Carlo keeping things alive in the offensive zone until Pastrnak was able to light the lamp. 

In a league where they value offense, talent and goal-scoring above all else, it makes zero sense to have something on the books that is going to wipe out potentially good goals. There should be a time limit where you can’t challenge a goal after the puck has been in the zone for a certain amount of time. Maybe it’s 10 seconds or maybe it’s 15 seconds used a limit to challenge offside plays, but a coach’s challenge used to wipe out a goal that had very little to do with the offsides play in the first place makes very little sense to me.


3) The Bruins have 26 goals and Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak have 15 of them.
Only Jake DeBrusk has more than one goal on the Bruins aside from that top line and he has just two goals in the first six games. The Bruins wanted to get away from the top-heavy, one-dimensional offense this season, but there are very few signs that they’re any more diversified than they were last season.

There are also few options they can turn to aside from their current personnel after essentially telling Lee Stempniak they weren’t going to sign him prior to leaving for their four-game road swing through Canada. They look like a pretty good NHL team that’s one skilled top-six veteran short of a complete roster. That they’ll probably be in that situation unless Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork step up and provides something they really haven’t in the first handful of games this season.

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Bruins look like they need outside help at forward in a big way

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Bruins look like they need outside help at forward in a big way

The great news is that the Bruins top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak are off to a strong tart with a combined 34 points in six games.

The sobering news for the Black and Gold is that Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak have accounted for 15 of the team’s 24 goals, which means the rest of the B's only managed to score a combined nine goals in six games. That means that the "Perfection Line" is supplying 63 percent of the team’s goal-scoring  through the first couple of weeks of the regular season. Any diversity in scoring certainly hasn’t been there against the above-average opponents. 

That was the case again in the Bruins' 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome with Bergeron and Marchand providing the goals. Pastrnak had one in the first period that was ultimately called back on a coach’s offside challenge.

So, for a team exposed as too one-dimensional in the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning last spring, it sure looks that's the case again in the early going. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise given that there were no major goal-scoring additions made to the roster over the summer with the B’s falling short in their pursuits of both Ilya Kovalchuk and John Tavares.

The only other player with more than one goal aside from the top line is second-year winger Jake DeBrusk, who is expected to be a consistent source of offense on the second line. Fellow young wingers Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato, who were thrust into big offensive roles, haven’t been up to the challenge thus far. If that doesn’t change rather quickly, the Bruins are going to need to make a move outside the organization to find some goal-scoring punch and perhaps mitigate some of the rampant youth at their wing positions.

TSN’s Darren Dreger reported on Wednesday that the Bruins are looking at a trade for a center given how in flux their third-line situation is with 34-year-old David Backes centering Bjork and Donato. The sense at this address is that they’d always prefer a center given the versatility somebody who can play center will provide for them, but that they simply need another forward that can either A) man the wing on the second line along with Krejci and DeBrusk or B) get a center who can bring a little more stability to their third line as Riley Nash did last season.

The Bruins don’t want to get into a situation where they deal for a veteran center who's going to block both Trent Frederic or Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson from winning the job eventually, which the Bruins hope will be this season.

Naturally, the biggest name out there continues to be Columbus Blue Jackets sniper Artemi Panarin, who is off to a solid start with three goals and seven points in five games. Still, the biggest name also comes with the biggest price, which would undoubtedly include a top defenseman and a young forward in any package for a contending team such as Columbus. 

Perhaps the Bruins could sell them on a trade offer built around Torey Krug and Danton Heinen, but more likely the Blue Jackets are going to ask for DeBrusk as other teams around the NHL have since last season. Add into the equation the fact that Panarin is in the last year of his deal and hasn’t indicated he’ll be willing to sign an extension ahead of free agency. There is a lot of caution for Bruins GM Don Sweeney dipping his toes into those waters given the price tag and the risk involved.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, one of the other possible targets is off the table after Nick Ritchie signed a three-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks. Sweeney was spotted at TD Garden last weekend in a long conversation with Ducks special assignment scout Dave Nonis and it’s certain that the two execs weren’t chatting about the beautiful fall foliage in Boston. Ritchie is the kind of big, skilled forward that the Bruins could use on their second line, but he’s obviously off the table after ending his prolonged holdout with the Ducks.

My CLNS cohort James Murphy has mentioned Chris Kreider as another possible target for the Bruins. That shouldn’t be a surprise given Sweeney’s penchant for trading with Ranger GM Jeff Gorton and Kreider’s status as a local guy that also played at Boston College. He fits the profile given his size (6-3, 216), speed and offensive game, though injuries and inconsistency have kept him from consistently living up to his potential with the Rangers. Kreider is off to an excellent start with the rebuilding Blueshirts this season with four goals and six points in seven games.

Aside from those names, this early point in the season is going to dredge up the high-priced, underachieving veterans that don’t fit the profile of what the Bruins are looking for, i.e., Bobby Ryan and Milan Lucic, guys who carry with them cap complications that Boston simply shouldn’t be looking to inherit right now.

The bottom line for the Bruins is pretty simple. They have a need for a veteran forward who can fill one of a couple of different roles for them up front, bring some more secondary scoring and perhaps alleviate some of the youth on the wing by dealing back Heinen or Bjork in exchange for their services. The B’s are too one-dimensional offensively and look like they’re setting up to have the same flaws as last season if they’re not properly addressed. 

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