Bruins

Bruins know early deficit is 'not a good recipe for winning games'

Bruins know early deficit is 'not a good recipe for winning games'

NASHVILLE – The Bruins had a particularly vexing brand of frustration as they ushered out of Bridgestone Arena on Monday night after dropping a 5-3 game to a red-hot Nashville Predators group on their home ice.

The Bruins outshot the Predators by a 40-25 margin and seemed to control healthy chunks of the 60-minute game at both ends of the ice, and they even finished strong with a couple of goals scored in a third-period barrage. But the B’s also piled up the defensive zone breakdowns and so-so goaltending in the opening 25 minutes of the game, and that was too much to overcome after falling behind by a four-goal margin.

“Digging yourself a 4-0 deficit is certainly not a good recipe for winning games,” said David Backes. “The second half of the game was much better, but it was too little, too late. We need to start on time.”

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A long Anton Khudobin rebound turned into goal No. 1 for the Predators on the stick of Craig Smith, and Torey Krug vacated his defensive position to open up a free lane for Smith to score his second goal after a perfectly chipped pass from Kevin Fiala. Nick Bonino scored on a scramble in front of the Boston net just two minutes into the third period, and then Kevin Fiala twisted Zdeno Chara into a defensive pretzel on a drive to the net before again beating Khudobin with the shot.

The Bruins had their problems with a Kevin Fiala-Kyle Turris-Craig Smith line that accounted for three goals, seven points and a plus-6 rating for the game, but the Bruins acknowledged afterward it was much more about shooting themselves in the foot.

"The [Predators] are pretty deep, they play hard, but they didn’t really deserve a lot. We just kind of gave it to them. It’s tough to lose like that,” said Brad Marchand, who finished with an assist as one of only three plus players on the Bruins roster along with linemates David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron. “We did a good job of pushing back and making it a game, but we need wins.

“You can’t give a good team like that so many good scoring opportunities. . . especially unforced. I thought we played the better out of the two teams. No matter the score I thought we played better than they did, but we just gave up a few chances they capitalized on.”

There were some positives to be taken from a strong showing against a quality opponent in Nashville that’s playing close to the top of their game. The Bruins enjoyed plenty of offensive chances, they finished with 40 shots on net and they showed ample heart and character in clawing back from a four-goal deficit.

But they also let a winnable game slip through their fingers through simple mistakes and mediocre goaltending, and that’s a losing formula we saw far too much of from the Bruins in the first six weeks of the season.  

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Sweeney on Kovalchuk: 'We feel we're a team he has strong interest in'

Sweeney on Kovalchuk: 'We feel we're a team he has strong interest in'

DALLAS – The Bruins are officially interested in 35-year-old free agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk, and have held extensive enough discussions with the Russian star’s camp to discuss what kind of role he’d be expected to play with the Black and Gold. It sounded like the B’s haven’t made any hard offers to Kovalchuk’s camp at this point in the proceedings, but they are very clearly interested in a right winger that could fit in very nicely as a game-breaking scorer with David Krejci on their second line.

Don Sweeney said there aren’t any timelines or face-to-face meetings set up with the winger at this point, but the interest remains high from Boston if Kovalchuk decides to pursue things with the Black and Gold. 

“We’ve spoken to their camp. We have not met with them in person, but we’ve spoken and had numerous conversations with his representatives about where they’re at. We feel we’re a team he has strong interest in and we’ll see where it goes between now and however long he takes to make his decision,” said Sweeney of the Kovalchuk pursuit. “We’re in a position to explore it. We talked very specifically about our roster with him and where we see him fitting in, and what he brings to the table. We’ll be excited to continue to explore, but I don’t know necessarily where it goes. 

“The scoring potential, the size and strength [are all positives]. It is five years removed from the NHL [for Kovalchuk] and a lot has changed in those five years if you think about what’s transpired in the league. But I think he’ll be fine. He’s played in big stages and been very successful. He’s a unique talent and fits into a slot that we could hopefully utilize if it comes to fruition.”

It certainly sounds like Kovalchuk is still weighing the pros and cons of free agent NHL suitors like the Bruins, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights among others, and determining which teams could put him in the best position to succeed and compete for a Cup. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder certainly may not be the guy that last scored 37 goals and 83 points for the New Jersey Devils in his final full NHL season, but Kovalchuk still topped 30 goals and 60 points in 53 KHL games last season in addition to winning a gold medal for Team Russia. 

It’s expected that Kovalchuk wouldn’t be looking for a long-term deal at this point in his career, and something in the two-year, $12 million range would be a fair offer for a player looking to reestablish himself after bolting from the NHL five years ago. The Bruins are also keeping the door open for 33-year-old Rick Nash after giving up a boatload of assets to the Rangers for him at the trade deadline, but it’s pretty clear at this point that Nash is the B’s backup plan.

With that in mind, it sure feels like Nash is headed for free agency on July 1 after underwhelming in his two-month stint (six goals and a minus-11 in 23 regular season and playoff games) with the Bruins following the trade deadline. 

“We continue to talk to Rick, and he’s going to continue to take some time to make the decision that he wants to make,” said Sweeney. “Time is on his side. He gets to make that [decision] into looking at that. Obviously, we close the door [on Nash talks] if we were fortunate enough to sign Ilya, but you’re kind of jockeying simultaneously. He will have options [in free agency] as well.”  

If the Bruins miss out on Kovalchuk and Nash while looking to fill that second line goal-scoring winger, it remains to be seen what exactly they’re going to do to find some of that scoring depth they sorely needed in the postseason.

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Sweeney admits B's not picking in first round will be 'painful'

Sweeney admits B's not picking in first round will be 'painful'

DALLAS – With the first round of the NHL Draft less than 24 hours away, it’s looking like the Bruins aren’t going to find their way back into the first round after dealing the 26th overall pick to the New York Rangers for Rick Nash at the trade deadline. While it was clearly an understandable move at the time for a player in Nash that seemed like he’d be a great fit for the Bruins, it obviously didn’t work out that way with the 33-year-old power forward struggling to consistently finish off plays while dealing with a concussion just before the postseason.

With hindsight being 20/20 and the Bruins without a pick on Friday night at the American Airlines Center, Don Sweeney admitted it will be a “painful” exercise watching the other NHL teams select the top 31 players among the 2018 draft class. 

“This is buyer’s remorse right now in terms of where we sit not having a first-round pick,” admitted Sweeney. “Walking in there tomorrow night [for the first round] is painful. We’ve spent a lot of time with our amateur scouts over the last two days that we’ve been here tightening up the list from top to bottom. 

“You feel badly that these guys have covered a lot of ground [to scout players], and I mentioned that the deadline. We took a swing. I don’t feel badly for taking a swing given where our team was, but it didn’t work out. There are probably seven by my count [that traded first-round picks] and only one team won…and they didn’t give it up. We still think there will be a very good player at No. 57 and we’ve improved our position in the third round.” 

Clearly, it’s a totally different space for Sweeney than his first few years running drafts in Boston where the reloading B’s had a bevy of first and second round picks and stocked up a prospect cupboard with talented young players that are now filtering through their system. 

Barring any last minute trades, the Bruins won’t be picking until the 57th overall choice in the second round and will obviously be much busier on Saturday morning’s second day of the draft in Dallas when they make all their selections.   

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