Bruins

Bruins' top line not frustrated after being held down in Game 3

Bruins' top line not frustrated after being held down in Game 3

TORONTO – The big headline was there for everybody to see after the Bruins' Game 3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Boston’s big top line was held without a point after piling up 20 points in the first two games and that played a major role in the 4-2 loss to the Leafs at Air Canada Centre. They were even on the ice for the eventual game-winner for Auston Matthews in a fatigue-created event when they couldn’t clear the puck out of the zone and get off for a change.

So, the natural question to be asked after Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak are shut down: Could frustration possibly begin to creep into their game, particularly after a number of close calls they couldn’t finish when it mattered most in Game 3?

The short answer from that trio is a confident “no.”

“[Frederik Andersen] made the great saves. A little bit of bad luck this game, but these games happen. We need to do the same thing we did after the first game, and just come in [the next few days] and get better,” said Pastrnak. “I think we’re still the better team. We had tough luck around the net and they didn’t. We forget about this and get ready for Game 4.

“You see that it happens in your life as well. One day you’re having a great day, and the next day you wake up and it’s an absolutely [expletive] day. So it happens, you know. Just like I forgot about those first two games, you know, we forget about [Game 3] and get better for the next game.”

That goes for their coach as well, who went one step further and said those particularly competitive players would be pushing even harder after putting up a goose egg in their first road playoff game in Toronto.

“I don’t think they’ll be frustrated at all. Pasta not as much, but the other two have been through a lot in the playoffs. Sometimes it’s going to go your way and sometimes it’s not,” said Bruce Cassidy. “It didn’t go our way [in Game 3]. Pasta had a lot of good looks and he’s going to finish. We saw that in the first two games.

“Clearly, it’s going to give them some motivation and it should when you keep them off the score sheet. It’s going to be talked about just like it was talked about with [Auston] Matthews. At the end of the day, I don’t think it will bother them one bit, and in fact, they might bear down a little bit more. That’s what you hope would be the case when they don’t go in. You make sure it does go by them when you get the chance.”

The evidence is pretty compelling that this was much more about the Bruins not finishing and less about the Maple Leafs defense really holding them down. Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak had 22 shot attempts, hit at least three or four crossbars and posts and had a bevy of scoring chances that went unfinished with only one power play in Game 3. The Leafs certainly battled them a little harder with Tomas Plekanec at the center of a checking line designed to disrupt and contain them and there were certainly more of a concerted effort by Toronto's defense to up the battle level around the net.

But the B’s Perfection Line also could have easily had two or three goals in Game 3 without the posts or the 18-save superhuman effort by Andersen in the third period. Those things are very unlikely to be repeated by Toronto three more times in a best-of-seven series. The smart money says it will be production, rather than frustration, that everybody will be talking about with Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak once things have settled on a pivotal Game 4 on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre.

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Bruins go home empty-handed on NHL Awards night

Bruins go home empty-handed on NHL Awards night

The Bruins didn’t take home any hardware at the NHL Awards show on Wednesday night in Las Vegas, but appropriately one of their youthful players was recognized among the league’s best and brightest. Rookie D-man Charlie McAvoy was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie team along with New Jersey Devils D-man Will Butcher, forwards (Islanders) Mat Barzal, (Canucks) Brock Boeser and (Coyotes) Clayton Keller and Nashville Predators goalie Juuse Saros.

The 20-year-old McAvoy finished fifth in Calder Trophy voting as well behind Barzal, Boeser, Keller and Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Connor, but the rookie D-man didn’t get any first-place votes on ballots across the PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers Association). 

Patrice Bergeron finished third in the Selke Trophy voting behind Selke winner Anze Kopitar and Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier while going for his record-breaking fifth Selke Trophy. While it might be a little shocking to see No. 37 finish third based on his season and his overall two-way prowess, he did miss 22 percent of the regular season (18 out of 82 games) and some voters may have dinged him a bit because of that. 

Likewise, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy finished a distant second in the Jack Adams Award voting behind Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant. In any other season, Cassidy’s job leading the Bruins to 112 points in his first full year behind the Boston bench would have been a shoo-in for the coaching award. Instead, it deservedly went to Gallant after guiding the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to a playoff spot and eventually all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. 

Don Sweeney also finished fourth in the GM of the Year voting just behind the three finalists for the award, a clear recognition from those around the league for the job he’s done turning things around in Boston over the last few seasons. Zdeno Chara (Norris), David Pastrnak (a first place Lady Byng vote, no less), Bergeron (Byng and Hart Trophy), Tuukka Rask (Vezina), Jake DeBrusk (Calder) and Brad Marchand (Selke and Hart Trophy) all received at least single votes on award ballots in a pretty strong Black and Gold representation across the board. 

A positive thought for all the Bergeron backers that felt he got robbed this season: It was the NHL-record seventh consecutive Selke Trophy finalist appearance for Bergeron on Wednesday night, and there certainly should be several more chances for No. 37 to win again and add to a resume that looks more and more Hall of Fame-worthy with each passing season.

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Cassidy says Kovalchuk would be 'nice addition' to Bruins

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File photo

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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