Bruins

Bruins shut down the Leafs, 4-1

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Bruins shut down the Leafs, 4-1

BOSTON – It had been about time for the Bruins to break Toronto’s hold over them in the Atlantic Division, and that’s exactly what they did on Saturday night.

The Bruins dominated long portions of the game and then held strong in the third period amid a series of penalties en route to a 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs at TD Garden. The win snapped a stretch of four losses in a row for Boston against Toronto on home ice, and snapped an overall seven game losing streak against their closest trailer in the Atlantic Division.

It also extended Boston’s lead to five points over the Leafs for second place in the Atlantic Division and home ice in a potential showdown in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Patrice Bergeron got things going early in the first period when he rifled home a Danton Heinen centering pass from below the goal line, and made it two straight games that Boston has scored first against the opposition. Mitch Marner and the Leafs responded quickly with a fluky point shot that ricocheted into the net off Charlie McAvoy’s idle stick in front of the net.

That was it for the Leafs, however, as Boston poured on some offense in the second period with a pair of goals to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

David Pastrnak cruised behind the entire Leafs penalty kill as Ron Hainsey flubbed a puck retrieval, and Pastrnak snapped a short side strike past Freddie Andersen for the eventual game-winning goal. Then later in the third period Torey Krug smoked a one-timer short side from the right face-off dot off a feed from Austin Czarnik.

The rest was up to the Bruins penalty kill and Tuukka Rask with 10 saves in the third period, and Tim Schaller with the long distance empty net goal that cinched things with less than two minutes to go in the game.  

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Cassidy says Kovalchuk would be 'nice addition' to Bruins

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Cassidy says Kovalchuk would be 'nice addition' to Bruins

As the free agency period of July 1 inches closer, the hype machine for 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk will grow more and more frenzied for teams like the Bruins.

And coach Bruce Cassidy gladly added to it on Tuesday in Las Vegas, telling reporters assembled for the NHL Awards that the Russian winger would be “a nice fit” for the Black and Gold. 

“Yeah, that would be interesting . . . you never want to speculate,” Cassidy said to reporters in Vegas during his press availability as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. “You can’t get too far ahead . . . he’s a top-six guy, he can play left and right wing, he’s a big body. He’d be a nice addition. I am sure any team would say that right now. 

“He’s going to make your team better, and I think that’s what you always look at as a coach, and fitting [talented players] in is the easy part. The tough part is getting those types of players.”

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The Bruins will be among a handful of teams vying for Kovalchuk, who spend the last five seasons playing in the KHL after bolting the New Jersey Devils and the NHL after the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season. Even at his advanced NHL age, the expectation is that Kovalchuk can still have an impact offensively even if he’s not exactly the same player who posted 37 goals and 83 points in his last full season in Jersey six years ago. 

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound winger still has the big shot, the scoring ability, the size and the game-breaking skills that made him a former first overall pick in the NHL draft, and it may just be that he has more left in his tank than the younger Rick Nash. Clearly there was a concussion that played a big part in Nash’s time in Boston, but he also didn’t look like the explosive scoring ability was still there like it was in the Columbus/New York power forward’s younger years. 

The Bruins haven’t yet locked in a time when they’ll make their pitch to Kovalchuk’s camp, but it’s expected to happen ahead of the July 1 opening of free agency. Kovalchuk's representatives have already had meetings with teams on the West Coast like the Kings and Sharks. It’s expected that Kovalchuk, 35, be looking at a shorter-term deal making something close to the $6.67 annual salary he was being paid by the Devils when he departed the NHL. 

If Kovalchuk were to land in Boston, he’d fill a need for secondary scoring behind the big guns of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.He would allow the Bruins to keep their top forward line intact while filling a hole on the second line right wing alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. 

With the news that next season’s salary cap is going to be in the $79-80 million range, the Bruins will also have somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million in cap space for their offseason shopping list. That should give them plenty of room to sign Kovalchuk to a short-term deal and still address the other openings on their NHL roster, including third-line center and a backup goaltender. Still, Kovalchuk would be the big fish, and that’s why the talk about him is front and center.

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Bruins open home season with a day game against Ottawa

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Bruins open home season with a day game against Ottawa

The Bruins normally start the home portion of their schedule with a festive Opening Night celebration. But not this year.

This year, it'll be an Opening Day ceremony.

The Columbus Day matinee makes it a rare day opener for the B's. But they'll have had a normal Opening Night before that, and what a night it figures to be:

(The Caps say Banner 'Day' since they'll be raising their Stanley Cup championship flag, but since Oct. 3 is a Wednesday -- and since this is opening game of the entire NHL schedule -- the assumption is it'll be played at night.)

The NHL will release the full schedule tomorrow, but teams are being allowed to Tweet out the dates of their home openers. So, in addition to the season opener in Washington and the home opener against the Senators, we know two other game dates for the Bruins:

And tomorrow, we'll know the whole thing.