Bruins

Bruins showing some fight when it comes to defending teammates

Bruins showing some fight when it comes to defending teammates

BOSTON -- A nasty hit in the first period of Wednesday night’s Bruins/Senators game resulted in some of the best and worst developments of the season.

Ottawa defenseman Fredrik Claesson drilled Noel Acciari with a shot to the head in the first period of the B’s 5-1 win over the Senators, and that spurred Tim Schaller to drop the gloves and bludgeon Claesson to the ice with a series of right-handed punches. The fact that Schaller stood up for his teammate -- as many Bruins players have been doing this season -- was good.

Claesson was handed a match penalty for his nasty, high shot to Acciari’s head.

“That was a headshot,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “I am not going to comment on the intention or not; I just know it was a high shot."

The bad? Schaller was given an instigator penalty for challenging the Ottawa defenseman after the dangerous hit on his linemate. However, he also given deserved props from his teammates for stepping up to protect Acciari, who eventually returned to the game after a temporary stay in the Quiet Room. 

"Noel will go to bat for anybody on this team, so it’s good to see Timmy do it [for him]," said Cassidy. "It is well-received in the room. People will have different opinions on hey, ‘Clean checks in hockey and you should be able to take a number.’ I don’t disagree with that, but I think that was a high hit, and Timmy reacted accordingly.”

Schaller waited to make certain Claesson was ready to defend himself before dropping the gloves, and it was entirely called for given that the head shot was bad enough to get the Ottawa D-man bounced from the game. But Schaller was still called for 17 minutes worth of penalties with an instigator call, just as Jake DeBrusk was whistled last month under similar circumstances for a fight with Casey Cizikas after a hit on Charlie McAvoy.

An argument could have been made it was a cleaner hit on Cizikas that started the DeBrusk fight, and that the referees were in the right for going instigator in that instance. But on Wednesday night it was a high, reckless hit by Claesson on Acciari, exactly the kind of dangerous plays where teammates should be allowed to step up and defend a teammate provided the hitter is ready to defend himself.

Instead Schaller was slapped with the instigator call after doing the right thing on the ice, and this humble hockey writer was struck with a major case of annoyance at the referees overreacting. Clearly an instigator is called for when a player jumps somebody not ready, or willing to drop the gloves, but that wasn’t the case -- in any way, shape or form -- with Schaller and Claesson.

“That was a really bad hit, so I had to step in,” said Schaller. “That [instigator call] was interesting. I talked to the ref before I got in the box, and I said I was polite about it. I made sure he [Fredrik Claesson] said yes. So I was surprised when I got it, but it was worth it [to defend Acciari].”

That’s the bottom line with instigator calls when a player is stepping up against a legitimately dangerous, dirty hit: NHL teams with character and good chemistry are going to continue to defend their teammates even if it comes with 17 minutes of penalties. And the instigator call will continue to vex a large faction of the fan base that remembers when the rules didn’t interfere with so much of what makes hockey special.

The good news in all of this: Acciari was okay following sitting out the rest of the first period, and finished out the game after a hit that could been a lot more damaging.

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Haggerty: Bruins should pass on trading for Wayne Simmonds

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File photo

Haggerty: Bruins should pass on trading for Wayne Simmonds

DALLAS -- Interesting times for the Bruins as they head into NHL Draft weekend here, as a number of names have been bandied about as possibilities,. Things are fluid right now as far as targets and potential strategies go, what with the draft being held this weekend and free agency opening on July 1. 

One name that has popped up in recent days is Flyers power forward Wayne Simmonds, who is entering the final year of his contract at age 29. Simmonds was mentioned as a possible target by NBC Sports Boston way back in May, and has been kicked up in the last few days with The Athletic’s Michael Russo mentioning him as possible trade bait for the Minnesota Wild. 

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In a vacuum, Simmonds would be a terrific second-line fit for Boston. Despite battling injuries that culminated with him undergoing hip surgery, Simmonds scored 24 goals and 46 points last year. Just a couple of seasons ago he put up 32 goals and 60 points. At his best, the 6-foot-2, 183-pounder is a prototypical power forward capable of scoring goals around the net, throwing big hits and dropping the gloves with a ferocious level of intimidation when the situation calls for it. 

He’s very much in the mold of Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Jarome Iginla as the kind of power winger that’s been very good with David Krejci in the past, and would make the Bruins a little tougher and much harder to play against. 

So, clearly, as a player Simmonds would be “a great addition” for the Bruins, as Bruce Cassidy said about Ilya Kovalchuk, with all things being equal. 

Here’s the rub: The cost is going to be considerable for Simmonds. The Bruins will have to give up significant assets to get a full year of Simmonds ahead of his free-agent walk year, and then they’d need to pay up again to sign him to a big contract extension at some point next season.

Certainly the B’s would feel beholden to sign Simmonds if they gave up blue-chip prospects and draft picks to land him.

As with most trade discussions over the last year, Jake DeBrusk is a name that's been an ask from other team. Even if it's Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork involved in the discussions instead, the Bruins would need to give up a valued young winger in order to get the more established Simmonds. 

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They’d be doing all this for a big-bodied, 29-year-old player who's probably going to start slowing down, and breaking down, over the next few seasons.

A couple of years ago landing Simmonds would have been a master stroke move for the Bruins as they sought to replace Lucic’s hulking presence in the lineup. Certainly they could have used the offensive punch on their second line, where Rick Nash disappointed after arriving at the trade deadline last spring. 

But in this humble hockey writer’s opinion, the window should probably be closed at this point on acquiring Simmonds, given the cost in terms of both assets and future dollars.

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Morning Skate: One man's NHL awards ballot (sorry, Patrice)

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NBC Sports Boston illustration

Morning Skate: One man's NHL awards ballot (sorry, Patrice)

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while giving full credit to the NHL for an excellent awards show that adeptly highlighted very emotional hockey stories involving Las Vegas and the Humboldt Broncos. Seeing all those Humboldt kids together while the Broncos head coach’s widow made an awards speech was very moving.

-- Speaking of the awards, here’s my full PHWA ballot submitted at the end of the season. I’ll admit that I had a very different line of thinking than most with my Hart Trophy vote, as I didn’t have Taylor Hall in my top five. I wasn’t going to penalize players like Evgeni Malkin and Nikita Kucherov for having outstanding seasons on good teams, as it seemed like this season’s voting was all about players, like Hall and Nathan MacKinnon, who essentially carried middling teams to the playoffs. I’d also stick with Patrice Bergeron as the best defensive forward in the NHL even if he missed 22 percent of the season (18 games) due to injuries. I know that many voters ended up dinging Bergeron for the time missed to injuries, and that opened the door for another very viable candidate in Anze Kopitar to win the Selke for the second time.

Victor Hedman for Norris and Mathew Barzal for Calder were both no-brainers, and the Lady Byng is always a toss-up as I didn’t have winner William Karlsson on my ballot either. Anyway, here’s my ballot:

Hart Trophy

1. Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Claude Giroux Philadelphia Flyers
3. Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
4. Nikita Kucherov Tampa Bay Lightning
5. Blake Wheeler Winnipeg Jets

Norris Trophy

1. Victor Hedman Tampa Bay Lightning
2. PK Subban Nashville Predators
3. John Carlson Washington Capitals
4. Drew Doughty Los Angeles Kings
5. Shayne Gostisbehere Philadelphia Flyers

Calder Trophy

1. Mathew Barzal New York Islanders
2. Brock Boeser Vancouver Canucks
3. Yanni Gourde Tampa Bay Lightning
4. Charlie McAvoy Boston Bruins
5. Clayton Keller Arizona Coyotes

Lady Byng Trophy

1. Ryan O'Reilly Buffalo Sabres
2. Alex DeBrincat Chicago Blackhawks
3. Ryan Spooner New York Rangers
4. Mark Stone Ottawa Senators
5. Evgenii Dadonov Florida Panthers

Selke Trophy

1. Patrice Bergeron Boston Bruins
2. Anze Kopitar Los Angeles Kings
3. Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks
4. Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins
5. Aleksander Barkov Florida Panthers

-- Think there might be some angry Edmonton Oilers fans who want a refund on the Hall-for-Adam Larsson trade that Peter Chiarelli engineered a couple of seasons ago? Yeah, I think there probably might be.

-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Darren Dreger says his gut feeling is that Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson is going to get traded.

-- Which teams might be interested in Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly? Well, there should be plenty, given what kind of player he is. This is part of the problem with the B’s trying to deal David Krejci or David Backes this offseason. There are going to be much better, younger players available out there on the trade market like O’Reilly.  

-- Now that the foundation is in place for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the job becomes taking that next step with the Leafs.

-- It sounds like it’s going to be a busy weekend for Jeff Gorton and the New York Rangers as they have a slew of first-round picks to make on Friday night.

-- It sounds like Dallas isn’t all that pumped about hosting the NHL Draft this weekend. Or maybe they just don’t know it’s going on.

-- For something completely different: Boy, Kevin McHale sure gained some attention this morning after being a very noticeable audience member during yesterday’s Trump speech in Minnesota.