Bruins

Bruins-Flames Talking Points: B's return home with a thud in 5-2 loss

Bruins-Flames Talking Points: B's return home with a thud in 5-2 loss

GOLD STAR: Mikael Backlund was heavily involved for the Calgary Flames whether it was on the negative end on Brad Marchand’s shorthanded goal or his two goals in the third period that pushed the game out of reach for Boston. 

It was Backlund that threw a puck off the boards to move around Torey Krug while springing himself free for a breakaway before throwing a five-hole attempt through Tuukka Rask for the back-breaking insurance strike.

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Backlund then added insult to injury with an empty-netter to give him two goals on the night, a three-point performance and a plus-2 rating in 18:14 of ice time. Backlund finished with three shot attempts, one hit and two takeaways along with taking 25 draws in the Flames' win.

BLACK EYE: David Krejci might have been one of the players that Bruce Cassidy wasn’t exactly enamored with after the loss after his disinterested back-check on the back-breaking fourth Calgary goal in the third period. Krejci finished a minus-2 with just one shot on net in 16:23 of ice time and forced Cassidy to switch up the left wingers when it was clear both Krejci and Jake DeBrusk weren’t getting it going.

It’s perhaps understandable in the first home game after a long road trip through Western Canada, but it still merits mention that No. 46 wasn’t very good for the Black and Gold. He wasn’t alone, but that minimal effort on a big play in the game was notable.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins brought a little energy into their game when Marchand scored a shorthanded goal in the second period to tie things up at 1, but at that point, the wagon wheels fell off. 

Calgary scored with Boston’s best defensive players on the ice three minutes later when Johnny Gaudreau knifed through the middle of the defense before dishing to Sean Monahan for the one-timer from the high slot. Then the Bruins took a roughing call when Matt Grzelcyk stood up for Charlie McAvoy and five seconds later, the puck was in the back of the Boston net to essentially put things out of reach. 

The Bruins allowed 13 shots to Calgary in the second period and never truly regained control of the game.

HONORABLE MENTION: Chris Wagner was one of the best players on the ice for the Bruins and the fourth line was undoubtedly the best one for the B's Tuesday night. Wagner scored a third-period goal while on his belly as he shoveled a puck into the net on a mad scramble in front as the fourth line was grinding away. 

Wagner had a couple of other potential scoring chances in the game that he wasn’t able to capitalize on, but he finished with the one goal in 14:52 of ice time, two shots on net, three shot attempts, a hit, a takeaway and 4-for-8 from the face-off circle in an excellent effort.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the number of regulation losses at TD Garden for Tuukka Rask after finally losing one to Calgary while letting up four goals on 30 shots.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Some guys came to play, and some guys…didn’t. They didn’t break a sweat, some of them it looked like.” –Bruce Cassidy, clearly not loving the flat effort from the B’s.


 

Bruins prospect Jeremy Swayman named Hobey Baker finalist

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File photo

Bruins prospect Jeremy Swayman named Hobey Baker finalist

Bruins prospect Jeremy Swayman will begin his professional career once the NHL regular season pause is over, but the goaltending prospect has already ended his college career in style.

The University of Maine goaltender was named one of three Hobey Baker finalists as the top player in all of NCAA hockey this past season after a tremendous year with the Black Bears.

Swayman, a fourth round draft pick of the Boston Bruins in 2017, finished up his junior season in Orono by playing over 2,000 minutes and leading the nation in saves (a school-record 1,099) with a 2.07 goals against average and a .939 save percentage (second in the country).  

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Swayman earned Hockey East Player of the Year and Mike Richter Finalist honors in addition to being named a Hobey Baker finalist and leaves the Black Bears in the same rarified air as fellow Maine alums like Ben Bishop and Jimmy Howard.

The 21-year-old Swayman signed an entry level contract with the Bruins last month and will embark on his professional career once hockey has resumed. Swayman obviously will be in need of some development at the pro level before he’s considered NHL material in Boston, but he’ll be in the pipeline to be the heir apparent to the No. 1 gig in Boston along with fellow prospects Daniel Vladar and Kyle Keyser.

Swayman joins University of Minnesota Duluth defenseman Scott Perunovich and University of North Dakota forward Jordan Kawaguchi as the three finalists up for college hockey’s top honor, which will be announced on April 11.  

Hindsight 2020: David Backes' Bruins contract costly in too many ways

Hindsight 2020: David Backes' Bruins contract costly in too many ways

If there’s one move that Don Sweeney can be fairly and vigorously quaestioned for from the semi-recent past, it’s the signing of David Backes to a costly albatross of a five-year, $30 million contract during the summer of 2016.

It’s not the only second-guess opportunity when it comes to Sweeney running the Bruins, of course, but that’s the same story with every other general NHL manager in the 31 organizations.

It should be noted the B’s general manager has also led the franchise to an impressive run as one of the best teams in the NHL over the last four seasons and has done it while focusing largely on the draft-and-development component.

But there are some well-worn blemishes to be sure.

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There’s the 2015 NHL Draft, obviously, when the Bruins missed on two out of three picks in the first round by taking Jakob Zboril and Zach Senyshyn in a loaded draft class. That decision continues to sting. Or the initial moves later in the summer of 2015 to acquire Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes and Zach Rinaldo in a futile attempt to bring physicality to a Bruins team that had dealt Milan Lucic at the draft.

We’ll give Sweeney a mulligan for that entire first year, though, as he navigated the first season on the job, asserted himself as the final decision-maker on hockey operations decisions and attempted to transition a once-great-but-aging hockey club weighed down by some ill-advised contracts.

As of late, it’s been much more difficult to pinpoint obvious Bruins mistakes as they have developed young star players like Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk and pushed all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last season.

But one could make an easy argument the Bruins might have won Game 7 last summer against the St. Louis Blues if they’d utilized that $6 million in cap space for a more effective player than the 35-year-old Backes.

The aging Backes went through his worst NHL season last year with seven goals and 20 points in 70 games while showing consistent difficulties in keeping up with the NHL pace. Then he was in and out of the lineup in the playoffs before serving as a healthy scratch for the final three games of the Cup Final in favor of a player in Karson Kuhlman who's managed just four goals and 11 points in 36 career NHL games.

Clearly the summer of 2016 wasn’t a good one for the NHL free agent market when the Bruins were tossing around their big money.

Backes was a beyond-his-prime bust. Loui Eriksson has been consistently terrible for the Vancouver Canucks. Milan Lucic hasn’t been the same as he was in his best years with the Bruins and has switched teams from Edmonton to Calgary in that time period. Andrew Ladd and Troy Brouwer were respective free agents busts for their new NHL teams as well.

In hindsight, the Bruins would have been better off simply holding off on spending the money that summer, and instead waiting until the right fit came along for them rather than wasting valuable cap space on an aging power forward incapable of posting the hard-hitting 20-goal/50-point seasons that he did in his best years with the Blues.

A more effective top-6 winger than Backes or Kuhlman certainly would have made a bigger impact in the seven-game series against the Blues last postseason, and would have left the Bruins without a massive top-6 winger void over the last few seasons. It’s a roster imperfection that, to this point, still hasn’t been properly addressed by the Bruins front office after a massive swing-and-miss on Backes.

Insult was added to the salary cap injury just a couple of months ago when the Bruins needed to part with their 2020 first round pick, sending it to Anaheim, in order to free themselves of the odious Backes contract for next season. On top of it all, the Bruins were forced to still eat a portion of the Backes deal ($1.5 million) for next year even after coughing up a valuable first round pick in the Backes/Ondrej Kase swap with the Ducks.

The Bruins assumed they would get at least a couple of good seasons from Backes at the beginning of the $30 million deal where he would be a big, strong, versatile top-6 winger — or third line center — who would take weight off the shoulders of guys like Patrice Bergeron.

Instead they spent premium dollars on a good man who may have been a consummate pro and an excellent leader within the Bruins dressing room, but on the ice was a hockey player already breaking down on the back nine of his NHL career.

The Bruins will still be paying that price for years to come with a 2020 first round pick they no longer own and nothing to show for the big money they spent hoping Backes would hang onto his effectiveness in his mid-30s.

Sweeney and the B’s will probably know better the next time they are tempted with the same kind of quick-fix solution to their needs because, after all, hindsight is 20/20.