Bruins

B's brace for final stretch: 'No easy way the rest of the season," says Chara

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B's brace for final stretch: 'No easy way the rest of the season," says Chara

TORONTO – The in-season breathers and breaks are essentially over for the Bruins and the sprint to the end of the regular season begins Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.

With the drop of the puck in Toronto, the Bruins will play a whopping 24 games in 44 days to close out the season and will have a series of big games against the Maple Leafs and then three games vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning that will essentially decide the top spot in the Atlantic Division. 

It reaches a fever pitch in March when the Bruins play a whopping 16 games, but the entire month-and-a-half stretch is one that the Black and Gold have been eyeing warily all season.

“It’s going to be tough. Especially when you look at the games...none of them are going to be easy games,” lamented Brad Marchand after B’s morning skate at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday morning. “There are a few very important ones against Tampa and Florida and tonight in Toronto. So it’s going to be a very tough [stretch], but I think the biggest thing is to take it all day-by-day. You can’t start looking ahead at the schedule. You just have to focus on the next practice or the next game, and then go from there.”
So what can be done about it?

The Bruins have already begun efforts to combat the attrition that’s sure to come by making a depth move for defenseman Nick Holden from the Rangers. The expectation is that the B’s will do the same thing up front with at least one established winger coming there way. So, the trade deadline move before Monday should be an effort to combat the sheer number of games played. Still, the Bruins will also have to hope that the injury bug doesn’t whack them as badly as it last season when they lost three of their top four defensemen during the playoffs.

The challenge will be incorporating any new players into their system as the Bruins are also expected to drastically scale back on their practice schedule with the heavy slate of games. It won’t be easy, of course, but it’s something the Bruins have also known about all along after a breezier schedule at the beginning of the year when they were besieged by injuries all over the roster.

“We knew that this was going to be our schedule. We obviously know that every team is ahead of us in terms of games played, and we were going to have to catch up,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s the schedule. There is really no easy way for the rest of the regular season. We’ve just got to battle through it.”

It will be particularly challenging for the soon to be 41-year-old captain as well as the handful of rookies that the Bruins employ in their lineup on a nightly basis. The good news in all of this is that the Bruins have cleared every other hurdle thrown at them this season and the dense final spate of games provides one more challenge prior to the postseason.

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With two-year deal in place, Grzelcyk ready to work on 'weaknesses'

With two-year deal in place, Grzelcyk ready to work on 'weaknesses'

BRIGHTON, Mass – Now that Matt Grzelcyk has put a full NHL season under his belt and holds a two-year NHL contract for $2.8 million after signing with the Bruins last week as a restricted free agent, it’s on to becoming the best player he can be.

The 24-year-old posted an impressive three goals and 15 points in 61 games last season as a rookie who really never looked back after winning a job early last season.

Grzelcyk showed excellent skating wheels and a real knack for breaking the puck out of the defensive zone without a lot of hesitation or costly mistakes normally associated with a first-year D-man. Even better, he managed to avoid opponents taking advantage of his 5-foot-9, 174-pound frame. Now, Grzelcyk is looking to remove some of the weaknesses in his game. 

“I don’t ever want to be too comfortable and I always want to make sure I earn everything that I get,” said Grzelcyk, while talking about his new deal in the Bruins dressing room at Warrior Ice Arena on Monday afternoon. “It helps from a piece of mind standpoint to not constantly be looking over your shoulder, but there’s still a lot of competition. I’m looking to forward to coming into camp stronger and healthier, and ready to earn my ice time.”

Some of that is about the obvious: as one of the smallest D-men in the NHL, he'll need to get bigger and stronger. Grzelcyk is also looking to improve his shot from the point, a skill that could make him a much more attractive candidate on the Bruins power play. Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy are the main trigger men on the PPs with big cannon shots from the point. That’s the kind of company Grzelcyk would like to join if he can turn his long-distance shot into a weapon.

“I can always get bigger and stronger. That’s something I’m always working on,” said Grzelcyk. “I think offensively I can use my feet to my advantage more on the blue line and obviously my shot is pretty much the No. 1 thing I’m looking to improve this [upcoming] year. I’m working hard toward that, so hopefully, that will pay a difference come training camp.”

“[I really learned] what I need to do to be successful and help the team, which is using my feet to my advantage. I think that’s huge as a smaller defenseman. Just getting that number of games under my belt and knowing what I have to do each night on the ice to get the wins, it gives me a lot more confidence and allows me to work more on my weaknesses.”

Clearly, a bigger shot and a bigger role in the offense would mean bigger point production for Grzelcyk, but it remains to be seen how high his offensive ceiling can be after a promising NHL beginning.

The question now is, how much bigger his role might be next season after averaging 16:44 of ice time last season as a bottom-pairing D-man? There is certainly room to grow, but it will all depend on how the rest of the roster comes together this fall after what’s expected to be a fairly action-packed offseason for Bruins GM Don Sweeney.  

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Anderson: Feeling good about the Bruins chances to sign Ilya Kovalchuk

Anderson: Feeling good about the Bruins chances to sign Ilya Kovalchuk

Appearing Friday morning on Toucher & Rich, 98.5 The Sports Hub's Ty Anderson spoke about the Bruins' chances at signing former NHL All-Star winger Ilya Kovalchuk, saying he thinks they might have a leg up on other teams due to their cap space.

Kovalchuk, 35, was regarded as one of the NHL's premier scorers for much of his tenure with the Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils, before returning to his native Russia in the summer of 2013 to play in the KHL full-time. He most recently won a Gold Medal with the makeshift "Olympic Athletes from Russia" team at the 2018 Winter Olympics men's ice hockey tournament.