Bruins

Cassidy: Bruins slow starts are "not acceptable anymore"

Cassidy: Bruins slow starts are "not acceptable anymore"

BRIGHTON, Mass – It was perhaps inevitable that some of the bad habits creeping into the Bruins’ game would eventually hurt them. 

That was the case in their first regulation loss in 19 games when they dropped a 3-1 decision to the Anaheim Ducks after allowing their opponent, in this case Anaheim, to score first for the eighth consecutive time. In fact the Bruins were outshot 15-5 and gave up a pair of goals to dig themselves quite a hole, and it was one of worse starts out of those aforementioned eight games starting with a deficit. 

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Some of the time the Bruins haven’t been ready to go on time, and some of the time the goal has arrived midway through a fairly evenly played game. Either way it’s an area Bruce Cassidy wants to properly address as it’s readily apparent the Black and Gold are much better playing the front-runner role this season. Boston has a gaudy 18-1-5 record this season when they score the game’s first goal, and a much more middling 11-10-3 record when their opponents get the drop on them. 

“It’s a good question because it has crept in,” said Cassidy, when asked about the slow starts for the Bruins. “We’ve talked about it. Do you change your game-day routine? That’s the first thing you look at, and I don’t think we need to because we’ve been pretty consistent with that for a year-long stretch now. Are we complacent? We really don’t want them thinking ‘Well, we’ve won a lot of games, so we’ll find our game…we’ll get it together.’ So has that crept in? 

“We’ll have to talk about that. Teams understand when you’re on a roll and maybe they come into the game a little differently. So is that a factor? There are a lot of things that go into it, but it’s on the entire group to understand that it’s not acceptable anymore…especially at home where you should be well-rested and have the jump. As a staff the onus comes to us to coach in a few more details right off the bat, so maybe you’re a little more specific on the first five minutes to get them focused. It is a concern and I don’t think there’s one magic answer to it.”

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The bottom line for the Bruins is that they’ve got a huge cushion for a playoff spot these days, and clearly some of the urgency and hunger has left their game as they’ve rolled up points over the last couple of months. It hasn’t needed to be there as they continued to get the good result in game after game, but now the point streak is over and the good habits need to start returning to them as they navigate a challenging stretch against some very good teams. 

That starts for the B’s with a good start to the game for the first time in a while, and that will be a point of emphasis when the puck drops Thursday night against the St. Louis Blues.

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#HaggBag: Clock ticking for Bruins at NHL trade deadline

#HaggBag: Clock ticking for Bruins at NHL trade deadline

The Feb. 25 NHL trade deadline is quickly coming upon us and that means the Bruins will ultimately have to decide quickly how much they’re going to invest this season. Making it all the more difficult is the fact that the Bruins are playing some of their best hockey of the season with a five-game winning streak, including going 3-0-0 since David Pastrnak went down with an injury.

They've also pushed past the Maple Leafs into second place in the Atlantic Division for the first time in a long time and have a good chance to actually advance in the postseason if they stay in that spot. So what will the Bruins do whether it’s a big splash or a little splash?

My readers and followers have plenty of ideas. As always these are real tweets to my Twitter account, real messages to my NBCS Facebook page and real messages to my @JHaggerty@nbcuni.com email account. 

Now, on to the bag:

#HaggBag Do you think the Bruins stand pat at the deadline, considering the big players available at the deadline are going to cost a lot in assets and that player will potentially walk on July 1st? That player walking in free agency will be the final straw in trusting Sweeney!

--Alissa the Twitch Mermaid (@NerdMetalChic4)

JH: Hi Alissa. I don’t think the Bruins will stand pat at the deadline. It may they just go out and get a third-line center to finally stabilize a line that’s been in flux all season with Joakim Nordstrom, David Backes and a bevy of centers being rearranged like deck chairs on the Titanic. A strong veteran third-line center, such as Riley Nash the past couple of seasons, could be exactly what is needed to bring a little more depth and offensive punch to the lineup and they would not have to completely overpay for a player like that on the trade market.

Now, the top-6 winger who can score goals is going to be more costly and a bigger risk for the Bruins general manager. That will be where Don Sweeney ultimately has to decide whether it’s worth going after a player like Wayne Simmons, Artemi Panarin, Michael Ferland or Kevin Hayes, and losing whatever assets are dealt away for naught should that player walk away.

Do I think they should make that move? Sure, as long as it’s a conditional first-round pick with the condition being that the player ends up re-signing with the Bruins. Otherwise, a second-round pick and a prospect wouldn’t be the biggest price to pay

Do you see the Bruins pulling a big name player at the trade deadline? Or do you think whatever move they make will be on a smaller scale? #HaggBag

--Chris Milone (@Cjmilone)

JH: As I said above, I think they will make a move. But given that they shelled out a first-round pick for Rick Nash last season, given the supply of what are largely rentals that seem to be available and given how things stack up in the East, I’d be very surprised if the Bruins engineer a blockbuster. Especially if Danton Heinen continues to play like a man possessed while skating on the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. He’s shown he can do it before and if he can be a solid third wheel with those two, and David Pastrnak does come back healthy this season, there is a pathway where the Bruins might be able to get by without shelling out massive assets for a top-6 goal-scorer.

So, perhaps it’s a move to get an upgrade on the third line and also a top-6 winger if the price is right for the Black and Gold. Certainly, if they have any doubts about how Pastrnak is going to return when he does come back from the left thumb injury, then it does make it a little bit more important to get a top-6 guy who can score. I just think that the Bruins owe it to core guys Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask, among others, to invest at the deadline and at least give the team a fighting chance in a postseason they’re clearly going to competing in.

How have Zboril & Senshyn been playing for Providence? Do you see them as future NHLer’s? Hard to believe we could have a Thomas Chabot & Mathew Barzal instead of those 2 players.

--Neal MacDonald (@MacDonaldNeal)

JH: It’s really in question how Jakub Zboril and Zach Senyshyn are going to pan out in the NHL and it’s clear that at least Senyshyn was a mistake given Chabot, Matthew Barzal, Kyle Connor and Brock Boeser went right after that pick. I can understand the Zboril selection given that the Bruins needed a D-man and he was the consensus next player available after Ivan Provorov, Zach Werenski and Noah Hanifin were taken earlier in the first round.

But Senyshyn was an off the board pick when there were many better players still available in a deep draft and the Bruins wouldn’t be out looking for a top-6 winger right now or a third-line center if they had taken at least one of those players. So the 2015 draft is now most definitely hurting the Bruins and it really tells the story that neither of those players could really help the B’s when injuries hit them this season. It’s an old story given how much it’s been talked about, but the Bruins passing on Barzal three times in a row is one that’s going to sting for a while.

Joe,

What are the chances we don’t go after Mark Stone or another big name and instead wait for them to go to free agency? I don’t think Wayne Simmonds would be a good fit because of his age and wear and tear. 

On a side note, everyone talks about offer sheets...if Kasperi Kapanen goes to market, why not offer sheet him? Right shot, right wing, can score and has speed. Also, I think it would be in Columbus’s best interest to trade Panarin to get assets and then offer sheet someone like Patrik Laine. Your thoughts?

Anthony 

JH: Offer sheets just don’t happen in the NHL. Look at the track record of GMs that do them and then what happens to them after they inevitably lose their job as a general manager. It’s ridiculous that GMs refuse to use a tool available to them in the CBA, but the inflationary nature of them makes “offer sheet” a really dirty word around the league.

I do think it makes a lot more sense for the Bruins to chase after Mark Stone or Artemi Panarin after the season rather than shell out assets for a few months of their services. That’s why Simmonds might actually make sense given that he’s having just an “okay” season and his price might not be through the roof once it comes down to the deadline. There’s also a real problem with so many so-so teams hitting winning streaks so close to the deadline and perhaps taking some of the more desirable players off the trade market just a few weeks away from the trades flying around.

If I were the Bruins, I might go the rental route this season for a lesser price and then make a big move for a winger this summer once free agency opens.

Joe...I might be on an island on this one but I think don cherry needs to keep his "get off my lawn" opinions on the Carolina Hurricanes postgame celebrations and understand to lighten up. We ain't living in the past. Thoughts? #HaggBag

--matthew wilson (@mattframingham)

JH: I agree. Carolina is a non-traditional hockey market where there are big-time challenges drawing and keeping a loyal fan base. So, anything that can generate excitement and bring enthusiasm to Carolina about their hockey team is okay with me. Is it a little rah-rah and more appropriate for a college team than a pro setting? Probably. But the Hurricanes fans also tailgate outside the arena like it’s a college football Saturday, so that kind of goes along with the general vibe down there. It doesn’t bother me at all, though. I think it’s harmless fun even if it’s not something I can ever see the Bruins doing.

Don Cherry and Brian Burke are purists though, and probably see the celebration as disrespectful to the game in some way. I respect where they’re coming from even if I disagree. Let them try to sell tickets in Carolina and then maybe their tune would change a little bit, however.  

What’s a movie you always have to watch when it’s on TV?

--John Galvani (@John_G_88

JH: Right now it’s Spiderman: Homecoming, which is on all the time. Or any of the Marvel movies, really. Movies like Almost Famous, Back to the Future, Karate Kid and any of the Rocky movies always draw me in. When I was a kid it was The Last Dragon, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, Weird Science, Clash of the Titans or the Natural. And, of course, any of the Star Wars movies. That goes without saying.

Hey Joe,

Longtime follower from the Great White North! With the recent team success, does this deter trader Don from making a splash at the deadline. Can he afford to give up another first round pick in 2019? 

--Marina

JH: I don’t think he wants to give up a 2019 first-round pick unless he’s doing it for a player who's going to stick with the Bruins for a while. He gave up the 2018 first-rounder for Rick Nash with the intent to sign him after last season until the concussion issues cropped up and forced him to retire. Perhaps there will be another arrangement like that with another rental player acquisition this season, so my suggestion would be offering a conditional first-rounder with it being contingent on the player re-signing with the Bruins. I think that’s fair from a Bruins perspective, but who knows if it would interest a team that’s looking for a first-rounder for their rental player? The one thing I would hope the Bruins will keep in mind is this: Will the moves we make at the deadline actually make Boston better than, or at least able to beat, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division bracket?

It’s going to take quite a bit for the Bruins to vault ahead of Tampa in the talent category. They should be clear-eyed about that.

What percent chance do you give the Bruins of winning the Stanley Cup this season? And considering that number, do you think it’s worth making a big trade for a point per game player who might not be here very long? Because I don’t. #HaggBag

--Lucas (@sponge_ruiner)

JH: As currently constituted I’d give them about a 10-percent chance of winning the Cup. If they went out and got Artemi Panarin or Wayne Simmonds, I might bump it up to a 20-percent chance. Still, all of that can change depending on injuries in the playoffs or a hot goaltender, or any number of things. The bottom line is that the Bruins are a playoff team with a core group that’s won a Cup before and certainly deserves some kind of help added to the roster at the trade deadline. Does it need to be the top player available for a boatload of assets? No, it absolutely doesn’t. And it doesn’t have to be a massive trade either.

Still, the Bruins should go out and get a couple of forwards based on what we’ve seen from this roster all season, and based on the uncertainty of the Pastrnak injury. Remember when the B’s went out and got Drew Stafford for next-to-nothing a couple of years ago and he turned out to be a half-decent player for them? Something like that might be okay for the top-6 winger as insurance in case Pastrnak’s thumb doesn’t heal fast enough or if Jake DeBrusk and Heinen again start to struggle after this recent hot streak.

Who would you like to see cast as the next Batman, Joe? DC seems to be gaining momentum with the successes of Wonder Woman & Aquaman. Need a good long term casting for the next Dark Knight

--Dana C. Nielsen (@DCN829)

JH: I actually would be okay with Jon Hamm, who I have heard rumors about for the Bruce Wayne/Batman role. They still want somebody with that classic lantern jaw look and I think it should still be an aging Batman in the current incarnation of the DCEU. So that would be my choice. But there are a million different directions they could go with the role and have it be successful now that Zack Snyder is no longer a part of things. He was the problem rather than Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill or any of the other things be looked at as problems with the first batch of their movies. It was the self-serious tone of those movies while really making the heroes kind of unlikable. That was a huge problem and was so opposite the fun and celebration of the characters in the MCU.

Well, that’s it for the bag this week. See you next week!

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What We Learned in B's 4-2 win over Kings

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What We Learned in B's 4-2 win over Kings

Here’s What We Learned in the Bruins 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center on Saturday night:

1. Not only is Charlie McAvoy rounding into form after a first half full of injuries and getting up to speed, but he’s starting to regain that confidence and clutch ability that he regularly flashed in previous seasons in a Bruins uniform. After a rough game on Friday night against the Ducks, the 21-year-old McAvoy bounced back with a clutch game-winning goal late in the third period against the Kings on Saturday. It was a sweet give-and-go play with Jake DeBrusk to score the goal in the final two minutes of regulation play, and sparked a two-goal outburst that allowed the B’s to finish the second night of road back-to-back games with a big time kick. But it wasn’t just the final play for McAvoy. He finished with a plus-1 in 19:16 of ice time, four shots on net, six shot attempts, three hits and a pair of blocked shots in an excellent all-around effort. McAvoy continues to put together consistently excellent efforts over the last few weeks, and has two goals, four points and a plus-8 in eight games during the month of February while playing like a No. 1 D-man in the making.

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2. The Bruins continue to put themselves in a very good position. They’ve now won five games in a row and moved past the Maple Leafs for second in the Atlantic Division, which would give them home ice advantage in a repeat first round rematch against the Maple Leafs if the season ended right now. It would also put two of the NHL’s best teams, according to points, in the first round of the playoffs, which is perhaps inevitable given how stacked the Atlantic Division has been this season at the very top. But credit where it’s due with the Bruins, who continue to play very well when injuries throw a monkey wrench into their plans. One other correlation between the B’s winning streaks and a common denominator from their play: The Bruins get great goaltending whenever they start stringing together wins in a row and making a push up the standings. Jaroslav Halak was excellent in shutting out the Ducks on Friday night, and Tuukka Rask was similarly excellent in the 4-2 win over the Kings including a stupendous double-stack stave on Alex Iafallo in the second period when things were still very tight with the Kings.

3. The jury is out on Karson Kuhlman. The center played under 10 minutes of ice time and had a shot blocked in his only mark on the stat sheet. Credit Kuhlman for not looking out of place and for playing a strong all-around 200-foot game, but he also didn’t do much to distinguish himself from anybody else, or from being more of a factor than David Backes is on most nights after Backes was the one scratched in place of him. He’ll certainly get more of a look given the strong game he played in Providence, but he’ll need to be better than he was on Saturday if he wants to stick around Boston. 

PLUS

*Charlie McAvoy scored the game-winning goal, filled up the stat sheet in almost 20 minutes of ice time and generally played another excellent game against the Kings and one of his NHL role models in Drew Doughty.

*Tuukka Rask stopped 23-of-25 shots that he faced, and made a highlight reel-worthy double-stacked save on Alex Iafallo in the second period during an odd-man rush for the Kings. Rask made 10 saves in that pivotal second period and did a good job of keeping the Bruins in it.

*Jake DeBrusk has now scored goals in three straight games and is riding a hot streak to rival the cold stretch where he didn’t score a goal for over a month.

MINUS

*Drew Doughty was on ice for three of the four goals allowed by the Kings, and that is something you really don’t see every day. He wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t his usual Doughty-self either while being forced to play almost 30 minutes of ice time.

*Anze Kopitar finished a minus-2 and lost 12-of-19 face-offs in an uncharacteristically bad game for the usually adept two-way center. Call it to the Patrice Bergeron factor if you want, as he always seems to play top level against his Selke Trophy-winning peers.

*Matt Grzelcyk finished a minus-1 and looked rusty for the Bruins after returning to the lineup from a lower body injury that cost him the last few games played for the Black and Gold.  

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