Bruins

Could two goals in the Bruins scrimmage spark David Pastrnak?

Could two goals in the Bruins scrimmage spark David Pastrnak?

BOSTON – Certainly an intra-squad scrimmage isn’t going to amount to much in the grand scheme of things once the Stanley Cup Final gets going at the start of next week.

But maybe, just maybe, Bruins right winger David Pastrnak can start catching fire offensively in the best-of-seven game series against the St. Louis Blues after scoring a couple of goals in Thursday night’s glorified practice. Pastrnak and David Backes both scored two goals apiece in the 5-3 final score in the intra-squad, and Pasta does have a solid seven goals and 15 points along with a plus-7 in 17 games during the playoffs.

“It was good. I’m going to give it to Jaro [Halak] a little bit,” said the Czech-born Pastrnak, who scored both of his goals against B’s backup Jaroslav Halak. “He’s Slovakian, so I love to score on him. I’ve never practiced so many days without a game before, so [the scrimmage] is going to be useful.”  

Certainly Pastrnak was being tongue-in-cheek about scoring on his own goalie, but the truth is that the 22-year-old hasn’t really enjoyed a truly dominant stretch in this postseason to this point aside from notching two-goal games against both Toronto and Columbus in the first couple of rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Certainly part of that is the tight-checking nature of the playoffs and the best teams’ top lines cancelling each other out in most games. But there’s also a sense that Pastrnak hasn’t been able to unleash his big shot on the power play with much regularity, and a legit curiosity factor as to whether or not he’s playing through some kind of injury.

As he said during the Columbus series when things were a little slow offensively, Pastrnak is doing the best he can and has certainly seen an uptick in his involvement since joining back up with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the Perfection Line.

“I think we’ve done just fine. We’re just playing as a team and every single night it’s somebody else’s turn to shine. That’s what the good teams do,” said Pastrnak. “It’s unbelievable how good every line has been in different games, and that’s what so much for us to enjoy in the room.

“I’m doing my best. Every game is different. Obviously there have been games where I’ve been better and there have been games where I’ve been worse, but this is not what I’m focusing on. I’m focusing on trying to help the team rather than whether I’m scoring or not.”

Still, Pastrnak only had six shots on net in the entire four-game conference final series against the Carolina Hurricanes, and he should be more of a consistent threat than that when he’s healthy and going well. So perhaps that scoring burst in the scrimmage can light the candle that ignites the flame on Pasta’s offense at a crucial time when a hot goal-scorer could carry his team to the Stanley Cup. 

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Who are the Top 10 NHL players from Massachusetts?

Who are the Top 10 NHL players from Massachusetts?

There’s a strong tradition of hockey in the state of Massachusetts, and not so surprisingly there is also no shortage of standout NHL players from this state.

A great deal of those talented players arrived in the years since Bobby Orr first came to town in Black and Gold and brought with him a hockey rink boom all over the Commonwealth, so there’s no coincidence to the timing of it all.

Another non-shocker: The greatest generation of Massachusetts hockey players continues to be the 1990’s when Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk and Tony Amonte along with Bill Guerin grew into dominant forces of talent at the NHL level. There may never such a concentration of star NHL players from Massachusetts all playing at the same time.

There were older pioneers and standouts, of course, like St. John’s Prep phenom Bobby Carpenter, one of the few high-level elite Massachusetts guys that laced up for the B's, and Acton-Boxborough’s Tom Barrasso on those Stanley Cup teams in Pittsburgh. Here’s a list of the top-10 all-time NHL players born in Massachusetts with apologies to Scott Young, Mike Milbury, Cory Schneider, Tom Poti, Tom Fitzgerald, Chris Nilan, Shawn McEachern and Jay Pandolfo for not quite making the cut.

Canadiens in the playoffs? Tony Marinaro calls that 'the stupidest thing I've ever heard'

Canadiens in the playoffs? Tony Marinaro calls that 'the stupidest thing I've ever heard'

The one clear benefit of the play-in round for this summer’s Stanley Cup playoff conclusion to the 2019-20 campaign is it gives new life to hockey clubs otherwise out of it with a month to go in the regular season.

The biggest beneficiary of that new postseason life is undoubtedly the Montreal Canadiens, who had the lowest point total (71) of any of the 24 teams that will qualify for the play-in round. The Habs were a bad team playing out the string that’s now been thrown a life preserver due to the unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Montreal is scheduled to play the fifth-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins once the postseason format begins and will face an uphill battle against a healthy, rested group that still features Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and is just a few seasons removed from back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. One would expect that Canadiens fans, media and anyone interested in the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge would be looking for reasons to justify their newfangled postseason presence.

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But TSN 690 radio host Tony Marinaro wasn’t having any of that sunshine Habs talk during a recent NBC Sports Boston Zoom call with myself and Boston Sports Now’s James Murphy when asked about Montreal’s new life.

“The station I work for TSN 690 is the official partner of the Montreal Canadiens. We air Montreal Canadiens on our radio station. This is great for the Montreal Canadiens. It’s great for the fans. It’s great for the radio station that I work for. It’s great for me and it’s great for my show,” said an animated Marinaro. “Now, personally how do I feel about it? I think it’s stupid. [This is] a team that lost eight in a row at one point, and on another occasion lost another eight in a row. On another occasion lost five in a row.

“On another occasion lost three in a row and finished with 31 wins and 40 losses. [They] have a chance at a play-in to get into the actual playoffs? I think it’s the stupidest thing that I’ve ever heard in my life. These are exceptional times that call for exceptional measures. There are a lot of things that I don’t agree with. I think I speak for all of us that we all want hockey back and that the National Hockey League would want to have as many markets involved, in the mix, as possible to try and generate as much interest as possible, and to try and generate as much of the lost revenue as possible. I’m at a point where I just want sports back. As I much as I think it’s stupid, I want sports back more than I think it’s stupid if that makes sense.”

It certainly should make sense to anybody and everybody that loves, and right now misses, the NHL.

The hapless Canadiens were 10 points out of a playoff spot when the NHL regular season went on pause, haven’t made the postseason in back-to-back years, and will have not won a playoff series in five years when they eventually suit up against the Penguins this summer. Despite all of this, they might have a fighting chance with a rested, healthy Carey Price in a short series against a Penguins group coming off a long break.

A win by the Habs in the play-in could even eventually set up a playoff series between the Bruins and the Canadiens. Selfishly, who wouldn’t want to see Claude Julien and his Canadiens match up with the Black and Gold in a playoff series that could help rekindle a rivalry that’s been on life support over the last few seasons?

All that being said, it’s going to be tough to feel like low-seeded play-in teams like the Canadiens actually deserve a regular Stanley Cup playoff berth given so many critical voices viewing skepticism at the 24-team postseason format set up by the NHL.