Bruins

Complacency and comfort are real concerns for a Bruins team running away with division

Complacency and comfort are real concerns for a Bruins team running away with division

BOSTON – The good news for the Bruins is that they hold a 15-point lead over every team in the Atlantic Division and it isn’t even Christmas.

The relatively bad news for the Bruins is also that they hold a 15-point lead over every team in the Atlantic Division and it isn’t even Christmas.

Clearly, the Bruins would rather be up 15 points than behind 15 points, but with every situation there comes challenges.

It certainly seems as if some disarming comfort and an old-fashioned lack of urgency have crept into the B’s game as they again stumbled through the first 40 minutes Thursday night before a patented third-period comeback earned them a point in an eventual overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden.

The game against Chicago was particularly damning because it uncovered a real lack of focus in the overall game. The Bruins allowed a pair of special teams goals in the final two minutes of the first period and were caught napping again 17 seconds into the third to dig a 3-0 hole.

One can dissect the individual problems, whether it was a costly turnover from Charlie McAvoy on the power play that led to Chicago’s shorthanded goal, or the ensuing penalty from David Pastrnak that allowed the Blackhawks to double up with a PP goal 37 seconds later. Or Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug flat out getting caught flat-footed on Alex DeBrincat’s speed rush in the opening shift of the third that finally seemed to act like smelling salts to the Black and Gold.

It says something about the character and the overall talent of the team that they can continuously overcome deficits in the third period. There’s no denying they are the best team in the NHL in the final 20 minutes of the game.

They are outscoring opponents by a 2-1 margin (42-21) in the third period and have a whopping plus-21 goal differential when it comes to winning time.

But the lack of urgency out of the gate game after game of late sure looks like complacency and certainly looks like a team that knows they are far out ahead in the standings.

“Complacency? I would say no. Lack of urgency some nights? I would say yes. We’re not pushing as hard as we need to to get to our level. Is that because of where we are, is that because of last year, is that because we feel like we’re a good enough team that we can flip a switch? Probably bits and pieces of all those things, I’m not going to deny it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Our job is to make sure we don’t get complacent. I don’t think we have been, to be honest with you. I think it would show in our record if we were.

"But, lack of urgency from period to period, absolutely. We’re going to continue to address it, but to get to your level 82 times a night for 60 games, if you feel you’re better than – you’re going to be in that second season, it is a challenge for a coach, and it’s a challenge for the players, but we’ll need [the urgency]."

The danger, of course, is that the Bruins turn into this season's version of the Tampa Bay Lightning, where they race off to such a commanding lead that they never truly face character-building adversity in the regular season. The B’s have enough experience and talent to overcome that once they are in a playoff series, which would make them demonstrably different than a Lightning team that folded like a cheap chair in four games against Columbus last spring.

But there is still very much a danger now that the Bruins can float through the rest of this regular season where they only need to win half (27) of their remaining 53 games to still get to 100 points based on their bounding start. Essentially the Bruins could play .500 hockey the rest of the way and still breeze right into the playoffs, and win the division as well.

It's difficult to stay sharp under those circumstances and it will be equally difficult to match the intensity in the postseason facing a team that will have been scratching and clawing in order to get there. Torey Krug maintained he didn’t know what kind of lead the Bruins had in the Atlantic Division standings, and that’s probably the best thing for the Bruins to do right now.

“I would say normally yes, but it doesn’t feel like we’re in that position right now,” said Krug, when asked if the Bruins need to guard against complacency. “I don’t why that is. It’s so early in the season and we’re chasing perfection, and there’s a high standard here. So maybe that’s where it comes from,  but it doesn’t feel like we’re that far ahead [of everybody else].

“We’re missing a lot of guys too, so you always feel like going into these games that you need to bring your ‘A’ game because of who we’re missing. As a veteran guy, you feel like you need to take more onto your shoulders. I’m not even sure if guys know [their lead in the Atlantic] and it’s probably a good idea to just stay in the moment.”

Clearly, Krug walks it the way he talks as it was the puck-moving D-man that notched the tying goal Thursday in the final minutes to cap off the three-goal comeback in the third period.

The one silver lining that could stoke the B’s hunger and keep them at least partially invested in the game-to-game gauntlet the next five months: The top seed in the Eastern Conference is still wide open in competition with the Capitals.

Home-ice advantage all through the playoffs is certainly something to play for and could be a difference in a conference final showdown with Washington, and that should be a carrot directly in front of the Bruins that the coaching staff can sell them on.

But at no point does it seem as if the Bruins are going to have to fight for their lives for the rest of the season and they are already close to finishing the season series with the Maple Leafs and Canadiens, rivals that are chasing them in the standings.

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Potential Bruins trade target Chris Kreider responds to rumors ahead of deadline

Potential Bruins trade target Chris Kreider responds to rumors ahead of deadline

New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider is going to be one of the most talked about players as the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline approaches.

It's not hard to understand why. The 6-foot-3, 216-pound winger has the type of power forward skill set that is well-suited for the Stanley Cup playoffs, which makes him an attractive trade target for any contending team. In fact, NBC Sports Boston's Bruins insider Joe Haggerty reported earlier this week that Kreider "will be the Bruins' top option for a top-six winger at the trade deadline, according to multiple hockey sources."

The Rangers are 11 points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild-card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, so the chances of the Blueshirts making the postseason are pretty slim. Kreider is an unrestricted free agent in July, and it would make sense for the Rangers to trade him before the deadline and not risk losing a very talented player for nothing in free agency.

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Kreider was asked about his Rangers future at NHL All-Star Media Day on Thursday, and his immediate focus is solely on his current team.

"I’m just worried about winning hockey games," Kreider said Thursday at All-Star Media Day, per ProHockeyTalk. "Winning solves a lot of problems. It’s the old adage and probably a little bit cliché, but we take it one day at a time, one game at a time and just try and get better. I think we are getting better. Our group’s worlds better than we were at the beginning of the year.”

Kreider also added: "I’ve only ever pictured myself in a Rangers jersey, and until I’m not a Ranger, I’m a Ranger.”

The 28-year-old forward has tallied 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists) in 48 games this season. He's almost certainly going to hit the 20-goal mark for the fifth time in his career.

Besides his offensive skill and physical style of play, Kreider also is a good target for the Bruins because of his familiarity with Boston. He was born in Massachusetts and played three seasons at Boston College. 

Kreider has 77 games of playoff experience as well, and several of his 23 career postseason goals came in clutch situations.

The Bruins have a great chance to win the Stanley Cup this season, and it would behoove them to upgrade their roster with another proven top-six forward who can provide secondary scoring behind the Perfection Line. Kreider is an ideal player for that type of role.

Haggerty: Top-six forwards for B's to pursue at trade deadline

David Pastrnak set to take part in cool Shooting Stars competition

David Pastrnak set to take part in cool Shooting Stars competition

David Pastrnak will be the sole Bruins player representing the Black and Gold at NHL All-Star Weekend commencing in St. Louis tonight, so he’ll be the guy the Bruins fans will be watching when it airs on NBCSN tonight starting at 8 p.m.

Even cooler, the 23-year-old Pastrnak will be taking part in an exciting new part of Friday night’s Skills Competition with the inaugural “Shooting Stars” event.

While it was perhaps a little bit of a surprise that Pastrnak won’t be defending his title in the Honda NHL Shooting Accuracy competition that he won at last year’s NHL All-Star Weekend, it’s no surprise at all that the league chose his star power and natural charisma to help usher in this newly invented shooting competition.

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Pastrnak is leading the NHL with 37 goals at the All-Star break and is on pace for 60 goals and 113 points this season in a half-year that’s already garnering Hart Trophy talk for the B’s right wing.

The Shooting Stars will involve players standing approximately 30 feet high on a platform and shooting at targets on the ice just as Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin did in a recent video starring the two faces of the Penguins.

Along with Pastrnak, here are the rest of the “Shooting Stars” competitors, also including a pair of female players from the U.S. and Canadian select teams that will be selected by social media vote:

Participants:

  • Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames
  • Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
  • Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
  • Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators
  • Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues
  • David Perron, St. Louis Blues
  • Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs

Here’s a rundown on the Shooting Stars competition, courtesy of the NHL: Ten players — eight NHL All-Stars, and one American Elite Women’s All-Star team member and one Canadian Elite Women’s All-Star team member — will compete in the Gatorade NHL Shooting Stars™.

Players from the American and Canadian Elite Women’s All-Star teams will be selected by social media vote. Players will be positioned on an elevated platform behind the goal, approximately 30 feet above the ice surface, where they will shoot pucks at a variety of targets located on the ice, with each target possessing different point values. One at a time, each player will attempt seven shots and earn points for each target hit.

• Pucks that do not hit a target will earn no points.

• Pucks that bounce, deflect, or otherwise ricochet onto or into a target will be counted for the highest scoring value they hit.

• A puck that hits the face of a target then falls into the center will be scored as if it went directly into the center.

• A puck that hits the center and bounces out will be scored the point value of the center.

• A puck that bounces off the ice then up onto or into a target will be awarded the corresponding value.

• A puck that hits the base of the target will not be awarded any points.

• Players may hit the same target multiple times.

All scoring denominations will be decided by the on-ice officials. If at the completion of the event there is a tie for the highest score, players will shoot three pucks each to determine a winner. If the players remain tied after the three pucks, a sudden death “score-off” will occur.