Bruins

Bruins' key fourth liner Sean Kuraly set to return in Game 5

Bruins' key fourth liner Sean Kuraly set to return in Game 5

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins will get their fourth line reunited in Game 5 for the first time during these Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it could be a difference-maker for them.

After missing the first four postseason games with a fractured right hand that was still healing, Sean Kuraly has been cleared and is ready to go for Friday night’s Game 5 against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.

“I feel good. I feel back to 100 percent and looking forward to get going,” said Kuraly, who finished with eight goals and 21 points in 71 games this season. “I just want to keep it simple and not over-complicate things…take away time and space and be physical when I can, have a good stick when I can and get up and down the ice as well.

“There will definitely be energy. That’s what my job is and that’s expected of me, to bring energy, so luckily I’ve got a little bit of that.”

Joakim Nordstrom will be the scratch for the B’s after netting an empty net goal on Monday night in Toronto. The Bruins fourth line struggled in Boston’s Game 4 win over the Leafs while getting hemmed into their zone quite a bit, and that’s an area where Bruce Cassidy feels like the Bruins will get a boost from Kuraly drawing back in.

“They were really good all year for us and Sean is a big part of that,” said Cassidy. “He’s a bit undervalued on paper, but he’s a guy that can get to loose pucks in our end and get it out of the zone. That’s what we missed [in Game 4] and he’s good at protecting the puck down low in their zone. He’s certainly a guy that’s hard to get the puck from when he’s on, and that certainly compliments [Chris] Wagner and [Noel] Acciari that can go to the net and win the puck battles for second chances. That’s what they do well.

“Sean holds it for them and allows some separation. That’s why they’re good in the D-zone because they play in the O-zone. They’ve done a good job of tilting the ice so we can get our offensive players out there. He’s hard to play against. His last two playoffs have been very good offensively and we’d love that to happen [again].”

With a reunited fourth line, here’s a projected look at the line combos and D-pairings after an optional morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena:

Marchand-Bergeron-Heinen

DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak

Johansson-Coyle-Backes

Kuraly-Acciari-Wagner

 

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Moore

 

Rask 

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Haggerty: These blown leads are becoming a plague for the Bruins

Haggerty: These blown leads are becoming a plague for the Bruins

PITTSBURGH — If it happened once or twice, it could be shrugged off as a coincidence.

But the Bruins have blown three-goal leads three times this season, including two in the last week alone. That gives them one of the NHL's worst records when leading after two periods, with seven losses already this season.

To put Sunday's 4-3 loss at Pittsburgh in perspective, the Bruins went into the contest 200-1-6 since 2010-11 in games where they’d held a three-goal lead. 

It came down to a couple different things on Sunday, but you can start with their sloppy second period. They basically did nothing for the first 10 minutes coming out of the first intermission. That opened the door for everything that followed.

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First, Sidney Crosby made a couple of All-World plays to set up goals and get the Penguins back in the game. Then, it came down to the Bruins dooming themselves with mistakes, allowing two more goals without any offensive response. 

On the third goal, their top power-play unit stayed out on the ice far too long, and a gassed Brad Marchand couldn’t catch Jack Johnson as the trailer unloaded a shorthanded bomb. Then in the third, Evgeni Malkin stripped Charlie McAvoy behind the Boston net and set up Bryan Rust for the Penguins' game-winner.

To a man, the Bruins said it wasn’t about taking the foot off the gas pedal. Instead, they pointed to mistakes made while crediting Pittsburgh for pushing back.

“It’s typically how does it happen? We saw some poor defending and some poor goaltending in Philly, and tonight it was more of the same to be honest with you,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Not so much on the goalie. They were good goals. But we get beat off the wall and the last one I can’t tell you what happened to be honest with you.

“I saw them bump their urgency up. The goals we are giving up against a good team…what is it a lack of focus? Do we lose our urgency? Because they are gifts a little bit. You can get outplayed by good teams, and you will in stretches. But these were gifts today.”

But it sure feels like the mind-numbing results fly in the face of their denials. Instead, something feels inherently wrong with a team that consistently plays down to the worst teams in the league, and seems to ease up once they build a comfortable lead. Those are the kinds of team traits that don’t go away as things get more challenging, and will certainly crop up when things are heightened. It’s also a shocking development for a Bruins team that’s been very good at closing out other teams over the years.

“We just need to bear down and you can’t just have a good effort and be satisfied with that, and then come back in the next game and just play for half of a game or whatever that was,” said Patrice Bergeron, who scored his 21st goal of the season and won 20-of-25 face-offs. “We need to take it upon ourselves. We all need to take responsibility and be accountable for how we’re able to play in this locker room.

“It’s one of those games where we’re playing a good team and they’re going to give you a push, but you can’t let that go by. It’s a 3-0 and you know there’s a lot of game left, so you need to play the right way and keep pushing in order to increase that lead.”

The good news for the Bruins is that they still have a half-season to figure things out. But it also makes one wonder if something has to change from the outside to improve things for a Bruins team that's almost the same as last season’s Stanley Cup finalist.

It remains to be seen what’s going to right the ship, or if it will ever get righted at all. But the list of problems is growing for a Bruins team that can’t live off its early-season success for much longer.

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Bruins don't expect David Backes to retire after demotion to AHL

Bruins don't expect David Backes to retire after demotion to AHL

David Backes was waived by the Boston Bruins late last week. The statement move to demote the veteran Bruin was part of two critical changes that the B's made to their team. The other was waiving fellow enforcer and physical forward Brett Ritchie.

After Backes' demotion, there was some speculation that the 14-year veteran may opt to retire instead of playing in the AHL for the Providence Bruins. But according to Bruins president Cam Neely, Backes hasn't indicated that he will do that.

"I don’t think he has a mindset of retirement," said Neely per Kevin Paul Dupont of The Boston Globe. "He’s a very proud man, and a professional. I still have the feeling he thinks he can help, so we’ll see where it goes from here."

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This isn't altogether surprising. Backes may be holding out hope that he'll get another chance to play moving forward if he can prove himself in the AHL. 

Backes turns 36 in May, but hockey players often have long careers. So, it's possible that Backes could find a role as a veteran depth piece for another team. It'll just be on a deal much cheaper than the five-year, $30 million deal he signed with the Bruins back in the 2016 offseason.

That said, it's worth noting that Backes has had concussion issues in recent seasons. So that could impact his decision-making moving forward.

In 16 games this season, Backes had just one goal and two assists for the Bruins. He'll take some time off before joining the Providence Bruins later this month.