Bruins

Countdown to Bruins camp: Patrice Bergeron

Countdown to Bruins camp: Patrice Bergeron

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Patrice Bergeron.

The 33-year-old Bergeron had a great season on many levels, but also a sobering season in that he again missed time with injuries and showed that he is indeed mortal and subject to the power of Father Time. Despite missing 18 games with injuries, Bergeron put together some Hart Trophy-level numbers that would have been even more impressive had he played, say, 80 games. All that being said, Bergeron at 33 years old is still a franchise player for Boston, one of the best in the game and the best two-way forward working in the NHL today. That should continue for at least a couple more years before real, noticeable decline begins to chip away at his game. 

What Happened Last Year: The 33-year-old Bergeron battled groin issues early and a fractured foot late in the season, and missed 18 games with his assorted injuries throughout the regular season. In between Bergeron was brilliant as he clearly rededicated himself to scoring from the slot area, and rifled home 30 goals and 63 points in just 68 games. Bergeron and Brad Marchand teamed with David Pastrnak to form the best forward line in the entire NHL, and Bergeron still managed to be the league’s premier defensive forward along with a special teams beast both on the power play and penalty kill. Bergeron then ripped up the postseason with six goals and 16 points in 11 games as that line dominated the Toronto series before things dried up a bit against Tampa. All in all, it was another stellar season for Bergeron, who missed out on his record fifth Selke Trophy largely because of the games missed due to injury.  

Questions To Be Answered This Season: The 33-year-old Bergeron simply needs to stay on the ice and maintain his current level of play, and that will go a long way toward answering the questions for this season anyway. It’s going to be tough for Bergeron as he underwent summer groin surgery that put a big pause in a lot of his offseason workouts and has him ramping things up slowly in training camp while hoping to be ready for the Oct. 3 season opener. So Bergeron is working to come back from injury while hoping to remain largely healthy this season and avoid some of those injuries – both of the freak and repetitive usage variety – that caused him to miss time last season. That in itself is the question: Is Bergeron simply beginning to age after playing in the league since he was 18 years old and approaching 1,000 games played this coming season, or can he stave off the aging process for at least a few more years without injuries and age slowing him down? He’ll get an 82-game season to answer those questions this season. 

In Their Words: “A lot of the guys are young and learning and they’re going to keep getting better, and obviously there are a lot of young guys that are down in Providence that are kind of pushing for a spot as well. It’s looking good, but that being said, you know, you start over at square one next year. You have to put in the work again. You have to start over for 82 games to make it into the playoffs, so you know, you have to realize it’s not going to be easy, and people are going to be ready for us. So it’s a step, hopefully, in the right direction, but you know, there’s a lot of work that hasn’t been done.” –Patrice Bergeron, on the brightness of the future for the Bruins for this season and beyond.

Overall Outlook: Bergeron is the No. 1 center on the Boston Bruins, the best two-way center in the NHL and a player that’s certainly in the top-10 players in the entire NHL after a brilliant 15 years in the league. He’s coming off a season where he might have won either the Hart or the Selke had he been able to avoid injuries, and should continue to center Boston’s top line for the foreseeable future. The big thing for No. 37 is managing his workload during the regular season to get the best out of him, and then avoiding the injuries that have begun to nag at him over the last couple of years. Bergeron has logged a lot of hard miles over the years, and the B’s have to do whatever they can to preserve his best years for as long as possible. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bruins at the bye week: In good shape, but in need of an upgrade

bergeron_marchand_carlo_pastrnak_011919.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Photo

Bruins at the bye week: In good shape, but in need of an upgrade

The Bruins hit the bye week in a pretty good spot, even if they dragged bottom a little bit in getting there.

Losses over the last two weeks to a couple of non-playoff teams in the Flyers and Rangers certainly revealed a team that was in need of a break, but it also underscored some shortcomings with the Bruins team in general. Some of those shortcomings can be addressed by adjustments and the good coaching everybody has seen for three seasons from Bruce Cassidy and Co. and some of it will need to be solved by searching outside the organization.

“I thought we had some really good games. You know we had some games we could’ve probably played better, but overall I think we’re in a good position going into the break. Obviously after the break it’s going to be very important to keep playing strong and keep climbing in the standings,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to obviously be the second half of the season. It’s always very important to play better and keep improving and closer you get to the playoffs, you know, you demand to play the best hockey.”

Perhaps even more young players like Peter Cehlarik and Trent Frederic will provide some of those answers in the second half of the season following the bye week and NHL All-Star weekend. But those questions will be answered in the future over the next three months.

Now is the time to take stock with where the Bruins currently sit, and where they hope to be once the playoffs begin in April.

MORE BRUINS

Offense: On the periphery, things are very good offensively for the Bruins. They managed to survive an extended period when both Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara were injured, and their Perfection Line once again led the way in the first half. David Pastrnak has gone supernova while on pace for 45 goals and 97 points in what would be one of the best offensive seasons for the Black and Gold in decades, and both Patrice Bergeron (28 goals and 82 points) and Brad Marchand (32 goals and 89 points) are in line for outstanding offensive campaigns of their own. Jake DeBrusk is on pace for 26 goals in his second NHL season, and David Krejci is on pace for a pretty strong 17 goals and 67 points as the second line center. Torey Krug is on pace for nine goals and 60 points, which are close to his normal numbers in each of his previous three seasons.

Multiple injuries to Charlie McAvoy have taken away some of the offensive bite from the back end this season, and have certainly played into a team that’s been inconsistent at even strength despite their offensive stars.

The third line has been a season-long riddle for Bruce Cassidy, and the first half struggles for players like Danton Heinen, David Backes and Ryan Donato absolutely played into bottom-6 inconsistency. The Bruins brought up Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson to bring something to the third line, and there have been some moments for a kid third line of JFK, Donato and Heinen over the last month. But there’s still not much consistency in terms of secondary scoring from the third line, and the entire Bruins team in general is struggling to do damage during even strength play. The Bruins are second in the league with a 27.2 percent success rate on the power play, and that’s been a major weapon for them all season. But they’ve also become overly reliant on special teams to win games, and their power play has allowed an NHL-worst 10 shorthanded goals this season.

The fourth line has been excellent over the last couple of months, and Chris Wagner is on pace for 10 goals and 20 points while Sean Kuraly has used a great past six weeks to put himself on pace for 10 goals and 25 points.

The real question is whether the Bruins can properly fix their even strength situation by inserting young players like JFK, Trent Frederic or Cehlarik, and perhaps also removing Pastrnak from the top line while pairing him with his fellow Czech in Krejci. Or can those issues only be solved by going outside the organization for a top-6 winger like Wayne Simmonds, Micheal Ferland, Brayden Schenn or some other name in that class. Because it feels pretty certain that they need something added to their group if they hope to beat Tampa Bay come the postseason, and that’s been apparent since last season’s five-game playoff loss to the Lightning. Otherwise, the same fate could be awaiting the Bruins again this spring based on some of the offensive shortcomings as compared to teams like the Lightning and the Maple Leafs.

MORE HAGGERTY

Defense and Goaltending: The Bruins are tied with Nashville and Dallas for the lowest goals against average (2.61) in the entire NHL, and they’ve managed to do that despite injuries to Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller, Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug, and significant portions of the season where players like Steve Kampfer, Connor Clifton and Jeremy Lauzon have needed to step up and play important roles. Tuukka Rask started slowly this season per usual and Jaroslav Halak hit the skids going into the All-Star break, but they have combined to be arguably the best goaltending tandem in the league with the numbers to back it up. Halak was top-5 in goals against average and save percentage for most of the first half of the season, and Rask’s current .919 save percentage would be his best mark in four years.

Given the way things played out over December and January, one would expect Rask is going to take on the traditional No. 1 goalie role in the second half of the season after splitting equal time with Halak in the first half of the year. What will be interesting, though, is to see how things break down in the playoffs, and whether or not the B’s coaching staff would go with Halak if Rask isn’t playing his best in the big games. But for now both goalies have given the Bruins a chance to win on the majority of games in the first half, and that’s the most a hockey club can ask for.

Clearly the goaltenders masked some of the issues that the Bruins were having when they went through their spate of injuries, but the Bruins seemed to have found ideal combos of puck movers and shutdown D-men since everybody got healthy. Miller and Chara are still stalwart penalty killers and defensive warriors, and Brandon Carlo has arguably made the most strides of any of Boston’s defensemen over the last calendar year. Even Matt Grzelcyk has offset some of his physical weaknesses in the D-zone with his smarts, solid positioning and great technique along with the ability to skate the puck out of the zone quickly and efficiently. But there are definitely some defensive weak spots on this team. Krug is a minus-5 and goes through bouts where he gets trapped in the defensive zone against the elite offensive players he’s sometimes matched up with. Donato is a team-worst minus-11 and had a trip to the AHL for some remedial defensive work in the first few months of the season, and Noel Acciari is a minus-8 while getting the short end of the defensive stick on occasion.

One area where the B’s could improve? They are middle of the road on the penalty kill with an 80.7 percent success rate. It’s certainly not terrible and the penalty kill hasn’t been a major issue in most games, but they should be even better given the personnel, the goaltending and the way they’ve performed even strength for most of the season. While there are still plenty of areas for improvement up front for the Bruins in the second half, the B’s appear pretty set on the back end. The only question is whether one of those D-men might be on the move in a big trade given that John Moore has become a healthy scratch over the last few weeks. Players like Grzelcyk, Krug and Carlo would have significant trade value in a package for a game-breaking forward and the Bruins have the kind of defensive depth where they could execute that kind of deal. 

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.

NHL Rumors: Oilers fire ex-Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli amid rough season

peter_chiarelli.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

NHL Rumors: Oilers fire ex-Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli amid rough season

Peter Chiarelli's second tenure as an NHL general manager was much shorter than his first.

The Edmonton Oilers fired Chiarelli as their GM late Tuesday night after losing their final game before the NHL All-Star break, TSN's Ryan Rishaug reported. The team has yet to confirm the news.

Chiarelli was named the Oilers' GM in April 2015 and began his tenure on a high note, selecting superstar Conor McDavid first overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. He has failed to surround McDavid with enough talent, however, and has made several questionable moves since then, from trading away former No. 1 pick Taylor Hall to spending $42 million on Milan Lucic.

Things have gone from bad to worse this season in Edmonton, where the team is second-to-last in the Pacific Division entering the All-Star break and recently placed Ryan Spooner, whom Chiarelli traded young forward Ryan Strome to acquire in November, on waivers.

Boston Bruins fans may have seen this coming. Chiarelli spent nine seasons as the Bruins' GM and helped the club win a Stanley Cup in 2011 but couldn't build a roster that sustained success. Boston missed the playoffs in the 2014-15 season, leading to the Harvard alum's firing in April.

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.