Bruins

Chris Wagner turning out to be the Bruins best free agent move last summer

Chris Wagner turning out to be the Bruins best free agent move last summer

BOSTON – It was a pretty unheralded signing for the Boston Bruins at the open of NHL free agency, but bringing Walpole native Chris Wagner to Boston has been arguably the best move Don Sweeney made in the offseason.

Certainly an argument can be made for bringing in goalie Jaroslav Halak, who was ace at the start of the season when Tuukka Rask struggled and has pushed Rask to one of his best seasons in recent memory. But Wagner has served as a pair of jumper cables to a B’s fourth line that was pretty good last season with Noel Acciari, Sean Kuraly and Tim Schaller, but has gone to a different, higher level since Wagner was brought into the fold.

The hard-hitting winger scored his 11th goal of the season to tie the game in Boston’s 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night at TD Garden, and did it during 4-on-4 play while getting some shifts with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Needless to say Wagner was pumped at the chance and showed his excitement by tipping home a Torey Krug point shot after winning a battle for net-front position against 6-foot-7 D-man Ben Harpur.

MORE BRUINS

“I think he was over top of me for a little bit there, and then I saw Torey [Krug] kind of looking at me and I kind of knew he was going to shoot it,” said Wagner. “So I was just trying to get my stick free and, you know, I was turning around to see if there was a rebound, but you know, it trickled in.

“I was just trying not to screw up. Didn’t really make a couple good plays on the wall, but yeah, it’s an honor to play with them. Just shuffling things around, trying to make things work. So, yeah, it was awesome.”

That’s good, old-fashioned blue-collar Bruins hockey, and that’s what Wagner has been about for the Black and Gold all season.

“That line was a little off, so we gave them a guy to go to the net. I just thought we had to do a little more of that, getting to the top of the crease. Wags will definitely do that, and the second part of [him playing with Bergeron and Marchand] is that he’s played well, Wags. He’s earned some extra minutes, so he got them,” said Bruce Cassidy. “And it’s a good message for the rest of the group. I mean, who doesn’t want to play with those two? I’d put my stuff on and go out and play with them if I could.

“Who knows tomorrow what any guy on the bench is thinking: hey, if I’m going maybe Coach will move me up there and get rewarded. So, there’s a little bit of that involved too, to give them some motivation. Especially when you play 82 games, and the regular winger is out. We know who it is. We know who’s going back in there when he’s healthy. Right now, we’ve tried different guys, and Danton’s done a good job, but maybe throw a bone to someone else. It keeps guys kind of emotionally invested in these types of games that late in the year sometimes you’re not as focused on.”

As far as Wagner goes, he’s got a career-high 11 goals and has totaled 17 points while being the foremost hitter for the Bruins and showing off some surprising offensive skill. He’s got the speed and tenacity of a Daniel Paille type-fourth line player, but Wagner also has the ability to finish off his share of plays as well with a pretty decent pair of hands.

BRUINS 3, SENATORS 2

All of that has made him an upgrade on a fourth line that could really be a weapon for the Black and Gold come playoff time.

“The way he’s dancing out there right now, it’s a lot of fun to watch. I mean, he’s playing very good hockey right now,” said Brad Marchand of Wagner. “He’s hard on the puck, he gets to the net, he’s making good plays and he’s dangling everybody.

“Their line right now is 1A, we’re 1B, so he got demoted [playing with Bergeron and Marchand] tonight. But it was fun to play with him for a bit.”

Put all of that together with a straight-line player that’s making just $1.25 million per season, and Wagner is one of the biggest free bargains out there from last summer. His contract and his impact on Boston’s fourth line make him Don Sweeney’s best signing in a free agent class that was low on star power, but pretty high in the bang for their buck department. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Bruins will seek advice from Patriots on how to handle long layoff

Bruins will seek advice from Patriots on how to handle long layoff

With an 11-day gap between taking the ice for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Final sweep of the Hurricanes and Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, it'll be much like another long wait between conference title game and championship that a New England team regularly has to deal with.

See where we're going with this?

Bruins GM Don Sweeney said Saturday he'll be reaching out to a "local team" that has been fairly successful handling long layoffs leading up to their title game.  

Hmmm, who could that be? 

"There's different sports, there's crossovers that we've all kind of identified that we're going to tap into. There's a local team that had time between when they were going to Super Bowls," Sweeney said. "So, we are going to look at different resources that have done it and done it well."

Of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Sweeney said he doesn't know him well but, "I have a hell of a lot of respect for the man. I think we're going to reach out to their group and see if we can tap into...we look at everybody's assets in that way and hopefully they'll be able to share some information with us."

Sweeney said the Bruins have given players a couple of days off after wrapping up the Eastern Conference Final Thursday night and will practice for a few days and leave decisions on if and when to have scrimmages up to coach Bruce Cassidy. 

On Friday, Cassidy mentioned perhaps scrimmaging one day leading up the Game 1 on May 27 at TD Garden against either the San Jose Sharks or St. Louis Blues, whose Western Conference Final is tied at 2 with Game 5 on Sunday afternoon in San Jose.

"We do have the Black Aces [a group of Providence Bruins], do we scrimmage one day to keep the edge?" Cassidy asked rhetorically. But even then, if you scrimmage are guys really gonna be physical against one another? They're not."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Injury news isn't good for Bruins' Kevan Miller and Chris Wagner

Injury news isn't good for Bruins' Kevan Miller and Chris Wagner

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins got bad news on a couple of injured players as Kevan Miller (knee) has had a setback in his attempt to return for the Stanley Cup Final and Chris Wagner (right arm) doesn’t look as if he'll be back either. 

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney addressed the media on Saturday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, as he’s done prior to every playoff series, and said Zdeno Chara is trending to be ready for Game 1, he mentioned the word “setback” with Miller as he attempts to return from a knee injury that’s kept him out for the entire postseason.

“We’ve got some time to evaluate where guys will be,” said Sweeney, referencing the 10-day layoff between the conference final and the Stanley Cup Final. “I don’t expect [Miller] to be ready to play. I’ll be really surprised if [Wagner] will be ready to play, but we’ll see where that goes.”

While Miller has worked out with the Bruins and been with the team on their playoff journey, he really hasn’t been anywhere close to returning at any point in the playoffs with multiple setbacks following his late-season injury.

Wagner left Carolina after blocking a Justin Faulk point blast in the waning moments of Game 3 and was transported to Boston midweek for subsequent testing and treatment. At this time of year, NHL teams tend to be secretive and vague about injuries, and it honestly would be a surprise to see either back for the Stanley Cup Final even with the nearly two-week layoff between playoff rounds.

Noel Acciari and Connor Clifton have stepped up and played well filling in for the injured players and the Bruins haven’t missed much of a beat as they ready for a chance at their second Stanley Cup title since 2011. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.