Bruins

'Complacency is the enemy' for the B's headed into Game 3

'Complacency is the enemy' for the B's headed into Game 3

TORONTO – The more experienced players in the Bruins dressing room know that a 2-0 playoff series lead doesn’t mean much of anything for what lies beyond those first two wins. 

They even know that a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series doesn’t mean anything is a done deal either, as guys like Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask were cast into the role of postseason victims after blowing a 3-0 lead to the Flyers back in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs.

David Krejci was the key figure in that series as it was a Mike Richards' center ice hit on him in Game 4 of that series that dislocated his wrist, knocked him out for the rest of the playoffs and keyed four-straight losses for the Black and Gold to blow their commanding lead. 

So even though the Bruins head into Toronto on Monday night with a 2-0 lead where they’ve piled up 12 goals, five power play goals and have never trailed for even one second in the series, they know the best punch has yet to come from the Maple Leafs. 

“A couple of bounces have gone our way. I don’t know we’ve done anything any better than any other line other than get a couple of lucky bounces,” said Marchand, whose line has directly scored five of the 12 goals through two games in the series. “Especially last game, they played really hard and had a lot more zone time and were a tougher team to play against than in the first game. 

“Playoffs are hard. The game ramps up a bit and there’s a little less space out there. They compete hard and they’ve had some chances, so it’s been a good battle both ways.”

As the old hockey saying goes, it’s not really a Stanley Cup playoff series until the home team loses a game. The Bruins hope they can do that at least once this week with a couple of games against the Leafs in Toronto, and that would give them a chance to close things out on home at TD Garden this weekend. Toronto isn’t going to be an easy mark at home, however, where their young guys will be better and where Mike Babcock will get the match-ups he wants in the series. That will probably mean getting Auston Matthews away from Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara, where he can do some damage offensively. 

“We need to make sure we come out the right way, play with our legs and play with some energy,” said Bergeron. “We do know they’re going to do the same thing, especially at home and we’re expecting that. It’s about how we handle it.”

The Maple Leafs won 13 games in a row on home ice at the Air Canada Centre in the middle of February and March, so the Bruins are going in with the proper amount of respect for an opponent they’ve truly kicked around the arena in the first couple of games. 

“It’s going to be pretty hostile and we understand that,” said Bruins rookie winger Jake DeBrusk. “I just remember playing the games there earlier this year and it was pretty crazy. But it’s going to be different obviously in the playoffs. 

“They’re down 2-0, so they’re going to come out really hard. We need to respond and play our game. You understand that no team wants to go down 3-0 and we want to up, three-nothing, so the biggest thing is just trying to get one win. We’re going to do that in the next game.”

One other pitfall that might be there for the B’s if they’re not too careful? Other players on the B’s roster getting a little comfortable or complacent simply relying on their Perfection Line to keep cranking after combining for 20 points in the first two games of the series against a suspect Toronto defensive corps. David Backes said that taking the foot off the gas pedal just two games into the series would be a costly mistake even if the Leafs are weakened without players like Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov, and seemingly in a first round mismatch against the Bruins. 

“You want to keep your foot on the gas because this team has had success against us in the past and they’ve done a good job playing us, especially in their building,” said Backes. “Complacency is probably the enemy at the moment, but we need to go start from the puck drop. It’s a 0-0 game, and establish ourselves again.

“The rest of us, we need to make sure that we’re not just saying, ‘Well they’re going to have another awesome night tonight.’ If we’re going to just sit back and wait for them to do it, if there’s a night where they just don’t have it, or they don’t get a bounce or two, we need secondary scoring to step up and make sure we have that.”

The Bruins are certainly saying all the right things going into Monday night’s Game 3 and know another win will give them a really stranglehold on the series against a wounded, reeling Leafs team that’s desperate enough to be playing Tomas Plekanec on their second line. Now it’s a matter of Boston going out and backing up the talk with the same kind of play that’s essentially dominated Toronto through the first 120 minutes of the series.

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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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