Bruins

Cassidy hoping Stanley Cup Final experience will be an advantage for Bruins

Cassidy hoping Stanley Cup Final experience will be an advantage for Bruins

BOSTON – The Bruins obviously have an experience edge over the St. Louis Blues when it comes to the postseason, and more specifically, the Stanley Cup Final.

Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask have all been there before twice, and hoisted the Cup in 2011 after their epic seven-game series against the Vancouver Canucks. This will be the first time for the St. Louis Blues in the Cup Final since losing to the Bobby Orr-led B’s way back in 1970, so that alone illustrated the disparity in experience.

It won’t be the end-all, be-all for the Black and Gold, obviously, but Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy expects that level of experience to play into Boston’s favor and in the idle moments leading up to it after 11 days between the conference final and the Cup Final for his team.

“I’d hope it will be an advantage for us. I can’t speak for St. Louis. I do believe those guys have been great. I’ve said it more this week that right now with this downtime, I think a lot of young guys aren’t sure how to approach it. Even some guys that have been around," said Cassidy. “So they have been a great deal with this particular [time leading to Cup Final] about staying focused, being selfish with your time and getting away from the rink and relaxing.

“Once the puck drops, they’ll obviously do their thing when it comes to helping the young guys, but that’s when our team will just be playing hockey. I think the biggest value I’d assume this week. For me, it means a lot. I talked to Zee [Chara] and Bergeron after the scrimmage the other night. The last two guys to leave, of course, and the two most accomplished guys. They’re taking this very seriously and I think the team feeds of those guys. If they’re focused then we need to be focused. So it’s just a trickle-down effect, which helps us.”

Certainly, there is something to the ability to hyper-focus on the task at hand and block out the potential distractions from the media, the hype or the general attention paid to the Cup Final, and it stands to reason the B's might be better at it with their veterans having been through it a couple of times before. 

Once the puck drops, it will equal be parts experience, roster depth, overall talent, physicality, puck luck and any number of other factors where the two teams are pretty equal on many levels. Still, the Cup Final experience is an area where the Bruins hold a distinct advantage over the Blues and should leverage that for everything it's worth when it comes to deciding an ultimate winner for Lord Stanley’s Cup. 

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Danton Heinen's play for Bruins hints there's more to his game

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Danton Heinen's play for Bruins hints there's more to his game

Danton Heinen certainly takes a lot of heat when it comes to being a member of the Boston Bruins.

The 24-year-old winger is on pace for 15 goals and 38 points in 82 games this season, and has had his moments for the Black and Gold. One of them was in Tuesday night’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes when he stripped Jake Gardiner at the defensive blue line and then pushed the puck up the ice, leading to the game-winning, third period goal for Charlie Coyle.

It was part of a makeshift line that Bruce Cassidy threw together during the win over the Hurricanes with Heinen manning the right wing alongside Brad Marchand and Coyle while serving in a top-6 role for the Bruins. Now Cassidy looks like he’s going to keep that trio together for Thursday night’s home date against the Chicago Blackhawks while Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and David Pastrnak form the other top-6 trio.

All of it will cease once Patrice Bergeron enters back into the lineup, but the defensive play and assist on the game-winner showed what Heinen can do when he’s operating at full two-way efficiency.

“Sometimes these young guys, they’re not going to win them all, but [Heinen] stayed with it. He really did. And that’s the part I like — the second effort, to win a puck in a 0-0 game, in a non-scoring situation,” said Cassidy, who has given Heinen power play time this season and been rewarded with some pretty strong passing and puck movement when he’s out on the ice. “It was more of a defensive play than anything, and he stuck with it. You need to be able to do that. He made the play, kind of going up through the neutral zone and the o-zone. He’s going to be able to do those with time and space.

“I was happy for him because we trust Danton in those situations and we don’t want him to lose that [confidence in our trust] when things aren’t falling into place for [him] offensively, you’ve still got to be able to do that. [So] good for him.”

The frustrating part about Heinen’s game is that there is more to his game offensively, as he showed in his rookie season when he posted 16 goals and 47 points. He teamed with Riley Nash and David Backes to carry the Bruins at times offensively as a dynamic third line in the first half of his rookie season, but that confidence hasn’t been as prevalent since that point.

There’s hesitancy from Heinen to shoot the puck with a paltry 32 shots on net in 28 games as clear evidence he needs to look for his shot a little more often than he does right now. 

The cerebral part of the playmaking game and the solid hands are there, and Heinen can finish plays when he's around the net. Even the compete level part of it has improved for the young winger. But the confidence that he can create plays offensively comes and goes, and makes him hit-or-miss when it comes to consistently producing offense. 

The humble Heinen even admitted that the long bank pass off the boards for the game-winning goal on Tuesday was a flubbed pass attempt from him rather than a crafty, creative play.

“It’s nice. I felt like I needed to redeem myself after giving away the puck earlier in the shift,” said Heinen, who had three goals and eight points along with a plus-4 rating in 14 games during the month of November. “There’s definitely not a lot of panic. All of the games have been down to the wire. We’re a confident group in tight games and guys make plays at the right time.”

It was clearly Heinen’s time against the Hurricanes at a great time — both for him and for the Bruins.

The bottom line with Heinen is this: He’s a solid two-way, third-line winger who the Bruins still have on the cheap at $2.8 million per season. Right now it says more about the Bruins' poor roster depth on the wings than it does about Heinen that he’s been thrust into a top-6 role, but the hope is still there that he can reach another level offensively at just 24 years old in his third year at the NHL level.

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NHL rumors: Here is Devils' asking price for a Taylor Hall trade before deadline

NHL rumors: Here is Devils' asking price for a Taylor Hall trade before deadline

The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 24, and the superstar dominating the rumor mill is New Jersey Devils left winger Taylor Hall.

Reports last week indicated the Devils were listening to teams interested in making a deal for the 2017-18 Hart Trophy winner. Hall is in the final year of his contract and eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer. The Devils are going nowhere this season, and sit in last place in the Metropolitan Division entering Thursday's games.

So, which teams are interested in making a deal for Hall?

The Boston Bruins have not come up in any recent rumors involving Hall, and that makes sense. The salary cap part of a Hall trade wouldn't be easy to work, and the Bruins also need cap space to re-sign defenseman Torey Krug when he's a free agent in July or find a suitable replacement if he leaves.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, in his recent 31 Thoughts column, mentioned several teams in the mix. But perhaps more interesting, he noted what the Devils are seeking in return for Hall.

The Taylor Hall trade talks have intensified, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen at this time.

“He’s trying,” another GM said of Shero.

The Devils have made it clear they want first-rounders (although they are willing to discuss conditional situations, depending on the acquiring team’s ability to re-sign Hall or playoff results) and/or high-level prospects who are ready to play. They badly need defence, which is why there’s a lot of focus on Colorado as the perfect trade partner. The Avalanche have plenty of defensive prospects and think they can win. Several teams believe Arizona is making a serious effort. Hall is what they need, too. It’s believed Dallas and St. Louis are among other pursuers.

Hall missed most of last season with an injury, but he's been healthy in 2019-20. He's tallied 22 points (four goals, 18 assists) in 27 games and would make a strong impact for any contending team's top-six forward group.

The asking price, as it should be, is substantial, but it would be worth it for teams that strongly believe they can re-sign him after the season.

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