Bruins

Bruins core has a chance to join some select company with another Cup win

Bruins core has a chance to join some select company with another Cup win

The Bruins aren’t quite there yet, of course, but the third Stanley Cup Final appearance in the past decade puts them in some pretty select company.

The Chicago Blackhawks are the standard-bearer with three Stanley Cup titles, along with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who also hoisted the Cup three times the past decade with their core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury, surrounded by a couple of vastly different-looking supporting casts.

Then there’s the two Stanley Cups for the Los Angeles Kings with a core of Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick. They're beginning now to hit some hard times as they grow older just as the Bruins did about five years ago.

Just getting to the Final three times in an eight-year span puts the Bruins in that conversation. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask were all a big part of those teams. It’s also a fitting return for a core still looking for that capping achievement to put them in the same conversation with those other dynastic teams after they fell short vs. the Blackhawks in 2013.

So, it’s a pretty important opportunity for the Boston legacies of elite players Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, Chara and Rask. A second championship can put them in a higher category in NHL and Bruins lore. Chara is headed to the Hall of Fame once he retires regardless of what happens, but a second Stanley Cup could be the final accomplishment that punches the Hall ticket for Bergeron as well.

For a group that has grown up together and is now older, wiser and more established, it’s an exciting return to a place they weren’t sure they’d ever get back to again.

“It’s very special. It means a lot. We’ve basically grown up together [since] we’ve been around each other for so long. It’s been a fun ride along with this core group as the leaders. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs,” said Bergeron, who enters the Cup Final with eight goals and 13 points along with a plus-8 in 17 games in these playoffs. “Like I’ve said before, the older you get, you realize how hard it is to get to his point. You need to be thankful for that. But over the last few years, we’ve built something special with the young guys. They are a big part of this group and this team. They want to get better and they are big-time players. They relish every challenge, so it’s been a fun ride.”

It remains to be seen who they'll face after the St. Louis Blues evened the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks on Friday night, but the B’s will be in as good of a situation as they’ve ever been entering the Cup Final. They'll be healed and well-rested with 10 days off between their sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes and the May 27 start of the Cup Final at TD Garden. They got the short playoff series they desperately needed with the four-game sweep of the Canes.  

For Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, Chara and Rask, another Cup will be career-defining. For 13-year veteran David Backes, it will be even more so, and for younger players David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Brandon Carlo and others, it’s just the beginning of what should be bright careers in Black and Gold.

“You don’t know when you’re going to get these opportunities. It’s something we’ve stressed to the younger guys that they’re pretty darn fortunate to be in the Stanley Cup Final now,” said Backes. “We were saying Eastern Conference Final before, but now it’s Stanley Cup Final. Some guys play their whole career and never get this opportunity.”

The bottom line is this: The Bruins are the prohibitive favorite after the Lightning, Capitals and Penguins, among others, all faltered and opened the door wide for another Boston championship opportunity. It’s up to them to walk through, but this is probably the best shot that Boston’s veteran core will ever have to win another Cup in their standout careers.

Each member of the Bruins core will get the chance to stamp the Bruins as one of the best, most dynastic teams of the past decade in the NHL, That’s really all any hockey player can ask for.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

 

Bruins offense is top-heavy again; could Anders Bjork provide a spark?

Bruins offense is top-heavy again; could Anders Bjork provide a spark?

BOSTON — Much as they did last season, the Bruins have an offensive balance issue this year despite winning five of their first six games to start the regular season.

Sure, it’s great that the B’s are 5-1-0 and that David Pastrnak is in the NHL’s top five in both goals and points after his four-goal outburst in Monday afternoon’s win over the Anaheim Ducks. But a look at the Bruins stat sheet also shows a real top-heavy problem when it comes to their offense. Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have scored 11 of the team’s last 14 goals over the last five games, which is great for them and not-so-special for everybody else.

Aside from the aforementioned red-hot Perfection Line, fourth-line center Sean Kuraly is the only other Bruins forward who's scored even more than just a single point this season, and he’s got two assists in six games thus far this year. Some of it is about some very slow starts to the year offensively for some of Boston’s skill players, some of it is about injuries that have dogged David Krejci early in this year and some of it is about two goals called back against Colorado that would have padded Jake DeBrusk’s stat line a little bit in the early going.

 
BRUINS POINT LEADERS  
David Pastrnak 10
Brad Marchand 9
Patrice Bergeron 5
Torey Krug 4
Sean Kuraly 2
11 Players with  1

Clearly Bruce Cassidy is concerned and said it was a front-burner issue for him after watching Pastrnak drop four goals against the Ducks on Monday afternoon.

“It’s not in the back of my mind. What’s on the forefront of my mind is more the other guys, what could we do to help them get going?” said Cassidy, when asked if the top-heavy nature of his offense was in the back of his mind after Monday’s victory. “What can they do themselves to help themselves? As a coach, is what I’m thinking about.

“I’m happy they’re on, they’re going and the power play unit’s found their mojo again. That’s good. But my mind’s more on the other group. How can we help them out? We’ll keep looking at it.”

The disappointment has been across the board as the second line hasn’t done much outside of the goals called back against the Avalanche, and Charlie Coyle has been silent along with the rest of the third line since a good opening game against Dallas. With young wingers like Karson Kuhlman, Brett Ritchie and Danton Heinen yet to get going this season, perhaps the time has already come for the Bruins to dip into the minor leagues and call up Anders Bjork.

The once highly regarded prospect had an excellent training camp before being one of the last cuts to Providence, and the 23-year-old Bjork is off to a hot start with the P-Bruins, piling up three goals and five points in his first four games. He’s bringing speed, offense and two-way play to the table for the P-Bruins as he did in his best moments in Boston while healthy over the last two seasons, and it was a foregone conclusion he’d be back up with the Bruins at some point this season once he got his game going.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was in Providence last weekend to watch Bjork play in person, and saw for himself that the young winger is operating at a high level right now while finally healthy.

Whelp, it’s going right now in Providence in a big way. So perhaps it’s time to send a non-performer like Kuhlman or Par Lindholm down to the P-Bruins, and bring up a guy in Bjork that could add a little spark to a slow-starting group of Bruins forwards this season.

It can’t hurt for a Bruins team that’s once again searching for ways to diversify a top-heavy offense that was the exact same issue this hockey club faced for most of last season as well.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Ducks coach marvels at Bruins' ability to transform in recent years 

Ducks coach marvels at Bruins' ability to transform in recent years 

BOSTON — Sometimes the best perspective on something can be collected by going outside any given organization to get some thoughts.

Certainly the Bruins were critical of themselves even as they were beating the Ducks on Monday afternoon to get off to a 5-1-0 start to the season, and Bruce Cassidy went so far as to call the second period “exceptionally poor” for the Black and Gold while getting outshot 16-6. Still, we’re talking about a hockey team that’s won five of its first six games with four of those games coming on the West Coast to start the season, and also a team coming off a run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last season.

For all the criticism and tough love that the Bruins get from within and from their own fan base still heartbroken from last June, it’s easy to forget there are at least 20-25 other NHL teams that would gladly switch places with them in a heartbeat.

That’s something Anaheim head coach Dallas Eakins reminded everybody about after watching David Pastrnak score four goals to take down his team Monday afternoon.

"I think there’s lots of lessons that we can all learn from this organization,” said Eakins. “The way they transitioned their organization maybe five years ago and where they’re at today, how fast they play. You can see why they were 60 minutes from a Stanley Cup ring. There are lots of lessons to be learned."

Clearly Eakins is impressed with the way the Bruins have gone from a big, slow juggernaut capable of beating down other teams to a fast, skilled group that dazzles while still paying attention to things like defense and goaltending, and team toughness. And there’s also the power play that scored eight seconds into its first possession in the first period, and has top PP unit members in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Torey Krug and Jake DeBrusk that have been playing together for a while.

"The one [top] unit has been together for a while. The [guys on the power play] don’t even have to look up. They know where everybody is. They’ve been together. They’ve been dangerous for a while,” said Eakins. “The thing they do incredibly well is that you rarely see a guy stickhandle with the puck. That’s habit-based and it’s something obviously they’ve worked on and they believe in.”

It sure sounds like Eakins has been admiring the Boston Bruins, and an old adversary from the AHL coaching days in Bruce Cassidy, from afar before taking over the head coaching gig in Anaheim this season.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.