Bruins

Bruins look like they need outside help at forward in a big way

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Bruins look like they need outside help at forward in a big way

The great news is that the Bruins top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak are off to a strong tart with a combined 34 points in six games.

The sobering news for the Black and Gold is that Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak have accounted for 15 of the team’s 24 goals, which means the rest of the B's only managed to score a combined nine goals in six games. That means that the "Perfection Line" is supplying 63 percent of the team’s goal-scoring  through the first couple of weeks of the regular season. Any diversity in scoring certainly hasn’t been there against the above-average opponents. 

That was the case again in the Bruins' 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome with Bergeron and Marchand providing the goals. Pastrnak had one in the first period that was ultimately called back on a coach’s offside challenge.

So, for a team exposed as too one-dimensional in the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning last spring, it sure looks that's the case again in the early going. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise given that there were no major goal-scoring additions made to the roster over the summer with the B’s falling short in their pursuits of both Ilya Kovalchuk and John Tavares.

The only other player with more than one goal aside from the top line is second-year winger Jake DeBrusk, who is expected to be a consistent source of offense on the second line. Fellow young wingers Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato, who were thrust into big offensive roles, haven’t been up to the challenge thus far. If that doesn’t change rather quickly, the Bruins are going to need to make a move outside the organization to find some goal-scoring punch and perhaps mitigate some of the rampant youth at their wing positions.

TSN’s Darren Dreger reported on Wednesday that the Bruins are looking at a trade for a center given how in flux their third-line situation is with 34-year-old David Backes centering Bjork and Donato. The sense at this address is that they’d always prefer a center given the versatility somebody who can play center will provide for them, but that they simply need another forward that can either A) man the wing on the second line along with Krejci and DeBrusk or B) get a center who can bring a little more stability to their third line as Riley Nash did last season.

The Bruins don’t want to get into a situation where they deal for a veteran center who's going to block both Trent Frederic or Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson from winning the job eventually, which the Bruins hope will be this season.

Naturally, the biggest name out there continues to be Columbus Blue Jackets sniper Artemi Panarin, who is off to a solid start with three goals and seven points in five games. Still, the biggest name also comes with the biggest price, which would undoubtedly include a top defenseman and a young forward in any package for a contending team such as Columbus. 

Perhaps the Bruins could sell them on a trade offer built around Torey Krug and Danton Heinen, but more likely the Blue Jackets are going to ask for DeBrusk as other teams around the NHL have since last season. Add into the equation the fact that Panarin is in the last year of his deal and hasn’t indicated he’ll be willing to sign an extension ahead of free agency. There is a lot of caution for Bruins GM Don Sweeney dipping his toes into those waters given the price tag and the risk involved.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, one of the other possible targets is off the table after Nick Ritchie signed a three-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks. Sweeney was spotted at TD Garden last weekend in a long conversation with Ducks special assignment scout Dave Nonis and it’s certain that the two execs weren’t chatting about the beautiful fall foliage in Boston. Ritchie is the kind of big, skilled forward that the Bruins could use on their second line, but he’s obviously off the table after ending his prolonged holdout with the Ducks.

My CLNS cohort James Murphy has mentioned Chris Kreider as another possible target for the Bruins. That shouldn’t be a surprise given Sweeney’s penchant for trading with Ranger GM Jeff Gorton and Kreider’s status as a local guy that also played at Boston College. He fits the profile given his size (6-3, 216), speed and offensive game, though injuries and inconsistency have kept him from consistently living up to his potential with the Rangers. Kreider is off to an excellent start with the rebuilding Blueshirts this season with four goals and six points in seven games.

Aside from those names, this early point in the season is going to dredge up the high-priced, underachieving veterans that don’t fit the profile of what the Bruins are looking for, i.e., Bobby Ryan and Milan Lucic, guys who carry with them cap complications that Boston simply shouldn’t be looking to inherit right now.

The bottom line for the Bruins is pretty simple. They have a need for a veteran forward who can fill one of a couple of different roles for them up front, bring some more secondary scoring and perhaps alleviate some of the youth on the wing by dealing back Heinen or Bjork in exchange for their services. The B’s are too one-dimensional offensively and look like they’re setting up to have the same flaws as last season if they’re not properly addressed. 

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NHL free agents 2019: Ranking top 25 players available this offseason

NHL free agents 2019: Ranking top 25 players available this offseason

The 2019 NHL Draft is scheduled to begin Friday, and less than two weeks later free agency will open for all 31 teams.

It's going to be a busy and important couple of weeks for franchises looking to make major changes to their rosters with the hope of winning the Stanley Cup in 2020 and beyond.

Let's take a look at the top unrestricted and restricted free agents that could hit the market in July.

Click here for the top 25 free agents of the 2019 NHL offseason>>>

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Bruins plan to address Bruce Cassidy's contract as he enters final year of the deal

Bruins plan to address Bruce Cassidy's contract as he enters final year of the deal

As Bruce Cassidy enters the final year of his contract as head coach of the Boston Bruins, it probably goes without saying that he deserves an extension. 

The good news for B's fans, according to Joe McDonald of The Athletic, Boston is pleased with Cassidy's performance and plans to address his contract. 

'He’s under contract, so we have decisions that we’re going to progress with, and he’ll be part of that,' general manager Don Sweeney said. 'He’s under contract, so it’s not a concern right now, but we will address it.'

After a 107-point 2018-19 campaign, good for the second-best mark in the NHL, Cassidy led the Bruins to the brink of a Stanley Cup only to fall in Game 7 at TD Garden to the St. Louis Blues.

One of the major themes of this year's Bruins team was their resiliency under Cassidy. Boston fought back from a 3-2 deficit in the first round of the playoffs against Toronto and a 2-1 deficit against Columbus to win those series, and then won another Game 6 on the road down 3-2 to the Blues. 

The Bruins have made the playoffs in each of their first three seasons with Cassidy leading the charge, improving their finish in the postseason each year. 

BRUINS UNDER CASSIDY

2016-17: 44-31-7 (95 points), lost in the first round (4-2)
2017-18: 50-20-12 (112 points), lost in the second round (4-1)
2018-19 49-24-9 (107 points), lost in Stanley Cup Final (4-3)

Cassidy is the second-fastest Bruins coach to reach 100 wins as he has cemented himself as one of the best coaches in the league. And team President Cam Neely certainly thinks highly of him. 

'He’s done a very good job for us, obviously,' Neely said. 'Coming in when he did and getting us to the playoffs and then almost having two, back-to-back 50-win seasons — pretty impressive. He learned from our playoff losses and how to maybe coach a little bit differently in the playoffs.'

We'll see if the Bruins extend Cassidy before the 2019-20 season starts, but it definitely seems like they view him as their long term answer on the Black and Gold's bench. 

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