BOSTON -- Perhaps some of it was because the Bruins will be hosting their team at TD Garden on Thursday night. Perhaps some of it was about their scouting the Montreal Canadiens.
But whatever the reason, the St. Louis Blues had a group of talent evaluators at TD Garden Monday night for the Bruins-Canadiens game – vice president of hockey operations Dave Taylor, assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting Billy Armstrong, and pro scout Kevin McDonald –- while the Bruins scouting staff has spent the last few days meeting in Boston as well.
Certainly the Blues -- second-to-last in the Western Conference and certain to be sellers at the trade deadline -- could be looking at both Bruins and Habs players, since both Boston and Montreal are jockeying for playoff position in the Eastern Conference. St. Louis is expected to make a number of veterans available ahead of the deadline, and several hockey sources say forward Brayden Schenn is someone who interests the Bruins. But perhaps the B's are aiming even higher, with Vladimir Tarasenko rumored to be available.
Schenn would undoubtedly be a versatile, rugged fit for the Bruins as a center coming off a career-high 28 goals and 70 points last season. He’s also a hard-nosed type who could add size, strength and versatility to Boston’s forward group.
Tarasenko, on the other hand, would be a home run for any NHL team. He hasn’t scored fewer than 33 goals or 66 points in any of the last four seasons and would be the kind of game-breaker who could transform Boston’s second line into a bona-fide weapon. He'd immediately make the Bruins a much more serious contender.
It was apparent once again in Monday night’s loss that the B’s still are in need of another top-6 offensive forward. Despite Bruce Cassidy mixing and matching players on the second and third lines, the team still managed to scrape up only two goals on 43 shots.
The coach admitted after the loss he’s trying to find some high-performing forwards to pair with a motivated David Krejci, who has scored goals in three straight games and is poised for a big second half if the Bruins can provide him with wingers who'll finish off plays.
“I think [Krejci] has played really good hockey for us this year, whoever’s been on his wings, so you don’t want to lose him if, say, his linemates aren’t going well,” said Cassidy. “So we mix someone else in there. Then you get behind and you think, well, maybe you have to use [a] more offensive-minded [player], say [Ryan] Donato, who’s scored some goals, who . . . when [he] gets a chance can bury it.
“It’s a bit of the thought process in there. And then if we feel like a guy’s just not committed, then that’s a message usually to a younger guy.”
Both Schenn and Tarasenko are signed beyond this season and thus would cost far more in trade assets than a rental. It remains to be seen what St. Louis would be looking for, beyond perhaps a first-round pick and B's prospect (and St. Louis native) Trent Frederic. It would make sense that either Torey Krug or Matt Grzelcyk could be available, as Urho Vaakanainen doesn’t appear too far away from regular duty in the NHL after a promising performance for Team Finland at the World Junior tournament.
We'll see if Bruins GM Don Sweeney changes course a little bit this season and gets aggressive with an early deal ahead of the rush at the deadline. But the big Blues presence is a sign they’re at least taking a closer look at an awfully big, and needed, upgrade.
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