Bruins

Eriksson, Nilsson lead Canucks past Bruins, 6-1

bruins_canucks_2172018.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Photo

Eriksson, Nilsson lead Canucks past Bruins, 6-1

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Anders Nilsson finally had his hard work rewarded with a victory.

Loui Eriksson scored his second goal of the night late in the third period and Nilsson stopped 44 shots to pick up his first win in 2 1/2 months as the Vancouver Canucks beat the Boston Bruins 6-1 Saturday night.

Nilsson was 0-7-0 in his last 11 appearances, including nine starts, since beating Nashville on Nov. 30.

"I feel like I'm getting back to my game a little bit," the 27-year-old Swede said. "Even though the results haven't been going my way, or the team's way, I'm feeling like my game has slowly been getting back to the way it should be and the way when I play my best.

"It feels great to be able to contribute to two points."

Nilsson started the season strong with four wins in his first five starts, including shutouts over Ottawa and Minnesota. Since December, however, he has struggled. His win against the Bruins improved his record to 7-10-1.

Jacob Markstrom was scheduled to start against the Bruins after Nilsson played in a 4-1 loss to San Jose on Thursday night. Nilsson learned after the morning skate that Markstrom was sick and he'd be starting instead.

"It was plenty of time to get prepared," he said. "I still had the whole day. I just prepared the way I normally do."

Daniel Sedin, Sven Baertschi, Nic Dowd and Bo Horvat also scored for Vancouver, which scored four goals in the first to take control. It gave the Canucks just their second win in eight games.

Vancouver was outshot 45-23 but got some timely saves from Nilsson.

Tim Schaller scored in the third period for the Bruins, who lost in regulation for just the third time in 27 games. Tuukka Rask started and gave up four goals on eight shots in the first period. Anton Khudobin came on to start the second and finished with 13 saves.

"I look at the goals and they got there," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "They wanted to get there, and we didn't prevent them from getting there.

"We got sloppy at times and we paid the price."

Nilsson made a couple of big saves early, including getting a pad on Danton Heinen's shot off a rebound during a first-period Boston power play. In the third, he robbed Schaller and Sean Kuraly on back-to-back plays.

Nilsson also got a little lucky as the Bruins hit three posts in the first 20 minutes.

"We played a pretty good game, but we have to be honest, we got some bounces," Nilsson said. "It was nice to see us get an early lead and maybe control the game.

The Canucks were outshot 18-9 in the first period but led 4-0.

Eriksson opened the scoring two minutes into the game. Rask gave up a big rebound off Alex Edler's shot, and Sedin took a swipe at the puck before it rolled to Eriksson, who whacked it into the net.

The Canucks went ahead 2-0 at 10:54 on a pretty play from Thomas Vanek. He skated down the middle the ice then feathered a pass through the legs of Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo to Sedin, who was alone at the side of the net.

Horvat made it 3-0 just 56 seconds later as he took a pass from Troy Stecher, skated around defenseman Charlie McAvoy, and put a shot over Rask's glove. Nilsson earned an assist on the goal.

The Canucks made it 4-0 on a strange play. Rask stopped a shot from Baertschi and Boston's Noel Acciari tried to clear the rebound, but the puck hit Kuraly's stick and went into the net.

"We hung our goalies out to dry," the Bruins' David Backes said. "Then you are climbing uphill the rest of the games."

Dowd scored the only goal of the second period to make it 5-0. Jake Virtanen cut across the front of the net and took a shot that Khudobin stopped but Dowd put in the rebound for his second at 2:44.

NOTES: Canucks D Ben Hutton was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game and the ninth time in the last 25. ... Baertschi returned to the Canucks' lineup after sitting out Vancouver's 4-1 loss to San Jose on Thursday. ... Louie DeBrusk, the father of Boston rookie forward Jake DeBrusk, worked between the benches as a color analyst for the first time in a game his son played.

UP NEXT

Bruins: At Calgary on Monday afternoon in the second game of a five-game trip.

Canucks: Host Colorado on Tuesday night.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Ranking the NHL's Top 100 players for 2020: Nos. 75-51

Ranking the NHL's Top 100 players for 2020: Nos. 75-51

With the NHL getting ready to go back to work with training camps across the league set to start on July 10 for a Return to Play, what better time to discuss the Top 100 players in the NHL right now.

Certainly, we took the shortened regular season into account along with the player’s body of work prior to this year, and with a little projection as to how much room they have to grow in the future. Put it all together and you’ve got a mix of two-way centers, high-scoring wings, hard-hitting defensemen and red-hot goaltenders who combine to get the best 100 players in the league.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

Here’s the second 25 (Nos. 75-51) of those players as we count down from 100 all the way back down to 1 with apologies to familiar players like Phil Kessel, P.K. Subban and Henrik Lundqvist, all of whom fell out of the Top 100 with tough seasons this past year.

75. William Nylander, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs

Now that he’s removed from the contract squabbles, Nylander is back to being one of the best young players on a young, talented Maple Leafs roster. He still has defensive issues and isn’t as dominant as one would like him to be a nightly basis, but he posted 31 goals and 59 points in 68 games before the regular season went on pause in mid-March.

He’s only 23 years old so there’s time to improve, but he’s also clearly not up with peers from his age group like David Pastrnak and Leon Draisaitl.

74. Sebastian Aho, LW, Carolina Hurricanes

The fact that the Aho got both Hart and Selke votes last season at just 21 years old should let everybody know that he’s a force to be reckoned with down in Carolina.

Sure, he went through the whole offer sheet fiasco when he almost bolted for Montreal. But he bounced back with 38 goals and 66 points in 68 games this season before the games went on pause, and he was still a plus-10 while also leading the NHL with four shorthanded goals this season. He was well on his way to 40 goals this season and seems to keep getting better every season.

73. Jaccob Slavin, D, Carolina Hurricanes

Extremely underrated because he’s not a pure offensive defenseman, Slavin is an old-fashioned two-way D-man with size (6-foot-3, 207-pounds), decent offense with six goals and 36 points in 68 games and a plus-30 mark that shows how he excels at both ends of the ice.

Slavin keeps growing support each season for All-Star consideration and the Norris Trophy as well, and is one of the best defensemen in the NHL that nobody talks about. The Stanley Cup Playoffs may have been a bit of a learning curve for him last season, but he just keeps getting better.

72. David Krejci, C, Boston Bruins

After posting 20 goals and 73 points last season in a standout year for the veteran center, the 33-year-old Krejci had fallen back a bit this year with 13 goals and 43 points in 61 games. He was a plus-10 and was playing 17:10 of ice time per game while driving things on Boston’s second line with an inconsistent Jake DeBrusk and a group of musical wingers on the right-hand side. So he wasn’t getting much help either.

Krejci did show how much greatness he is capable of, however, when he centered Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak for a couple of weeks when Patrice Bergeron was out with injury. Krejci has precision passing skills and a keen hockey I.Q. and those things become weapons when he’s playing with big scorers on his line.  

71. Mikko Rantanen, RW, Colorado Avalanche

After back-to-back 80 point seasons, Rantanen took a little bit of a step back this year due to injuries. He had just 19 goals and 42 points in 41 games while the Avs had a hard time keeping their super line of Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon together, and Rantanen was back to being a minus player after a couple of years in the positive.

Rantanen also had six goals and 14 points in 12 games during last spring’s playoffs and showed there’s an extra gear there when it matters most. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound right winger just keeps getting better and better.

70. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Arizona Coyotes

A lifelong member of the Coyotes organization, the 28-year-old Ekman-Larsson was enjoying another solid year with nine goals and 30 points in 66 games in Arizona. He was also only a minus-3 after some pretty rough defensive seasons in the recent past, so that’s not too shabby for a guy who's a minus-92 for his entire NHL career.

He was also one goal short of scoring double-digit goals for the seventh straight season and had only finished under 40 points once in the last seven years.

69. Morgan Rielly, D, Toronto Maple Leafs

Coming off 20 goals and 72 points for the Maple Leafs last season, the bar was set pretty high for Rielly headed into this year. Instead he was with a Maple Leafs team that struggled out the gate and resulted in Mike Babcock getting fired while Rielly took a major step back with just three goals and 27 points in 47 games.

Some of that might have been about losing out on offensive chances to new D-man Tyson Barrie, but perhaps some of it was also about last season being a bit of a monster, aberrational year for the 26-year-old former first round pick. Still, he’s good enough to be the No. 1 guy in Toronto right now.

68. Matthew Tkachuk, LW, Calgary Flames

The 6-foot-2, 202-pound Tkachuk has certainly made a name for himself in Calgary, where he’s a power forward who can beat you with his physicality, his offense and the attitude he brings to the table as well. Like many Flames players, he took a bit of a step back from last season where he posted 34 goals and 77 points while totaling over 200 shots on goal for the first time in his career.

This season, he dipped into the minus and had just 23 goals and 61 points in 69 games, but he’d also become a major crap-stirrer in games against the L.A. Kings and Edmonton Oilers. There aren’t many guys in the league like Tkachuk anymore, so it’s important to fully credit the guys who do play that way.

67. Jordan Binnington, G, St. Louis Blues

The runner-up for the Calder Trophy last season and a player who got Vezina, Hart and All-Star votes while leading the Blues to their first Stanley Cup title, Binnington wasn’t quite as brilliant this year. But he was still solid with a 30-13-7 record along with a .912 save percentage and 2.56 goals against average, and was dealing just fine with heightened expectations after he stormed onto the scene as a 26-year-old rookie.

Binnington could be one of the best in another year or two as he keeps getting comfortable at the NHL level, but he’s already shown he’s a big-time performer in the playoffs.

66. Zach Werenski, D, Columbus Blue Jackets

The 22-year-old Werenski was enjoying his best NHL season this year with 20 goals and 41 points in 63 games while averaging a career-best 23:59 of ice time per game. He also bounced back from a tough defensive season last year to be a plus-9 this season for a Blue Jackets group that wasn’t nearly as talented as they were a season ago.

He should get the most Norris Trophy consideration he’s ever received this year when it comes time to tabulate the votes and he’s just scratching the surface of how good he can be as he gets into his mid-20s.

65. Travis Konecny, C, Philadelphia Flyers

Another member of the 2015 NHL Draft, the 23-year-old Konecny was in the midst of setting career-highs with 24 goals and 61 points in 66 games while becoming one of the young leaders on a Flyers team pointed to the playoffs.

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound winger had topped 20 goals and 40 points in each of the previous two seasons, but it appeared that he’d taken his consistency and overall game to a different level this year while doing much more damage on the power play. The feisty Konecny is a great fit for the Flyers group.

64. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Washington Capitals

With just 12 goals when the season went on pause, it looked like Backstrom was going to miss out on scoring 20 goals for the first time in five years this season, but the playmaking Swedish center was still nearly a point-per-game with 54 points in 61 games. Impressively, only 18 of his points came on the power play, so Backstrom was earning everything he was getting on the ice offensively.

He’s still one of the best dishers in the entire NHL and forms a dangerous 1-2 combo with Alex Ovechkin when they really get going. He may begin seeing decline in his game at 32 years old, but he should still be a mainstay for the Capitals for years to come.

63. Filip Forsberg, C, Nashville Predators

The 25-year-old Predators center has trailed off a little after back-to-back 30-goal seasons from 2015-2017, but he’s still a premium game-breaker for a Nashville team headed for the playoffs.

Forsberg had 21 goals and 48 points in 63 games for the Predators when the regular season went on pause in mid-March, but was also headed to being a minus player for just the second time in six seasons. But the potential is there for the 6-foot-1, 205-pound pivot to really take over games and he’s shown it in the postseason with 21 goals and 44 points in 61-career playoff games.

62. Tomas Hertl, C, San Jose Sharks

Injuries and a lousy Sharks team conspired to railroad his season this year with 16 goals and 36 points in 48 games along with a minus-18 rating, but he’s a premium talent who's shown it in flashes. He also put together a season where he posted 35 goals and 74 points in 77 games last season and earned Lady Byng consideration in the process.

It hasn’t been quite as smooth this season for the 26-year-old center, but everyone knows he’s a big, skilled dominating force when healthy. The 10 goals in 19 playoff games last spring were a testament to that as well.

61. Tyler Seguin, C, Dallas Stars

One of the most athletically gifted players in the entire NHL, the 28-year-old Seguin is another player with so-so numbers this season with just 17 goals and 50 points in 69 games. Some of that is about a much greater attention with the Stars' approach to defense and playing the 200-foot game, but still we’re talking about a guy who just last season had 33 goals and 80 points in 82 games.

Two seasons ago he scored 40 goals for the first time in his career. This year he was barely going to break 20 goals and clearly is better than that when he’s at his best. Both Seguin and Jamie Benn could have stood to be better in Dallas this season.  

60. Braden Holtby, G, Washington Capitals

A two-time All-Star, Vezina Trophy winner, Jennings Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champ, Holtby was not having a good year by his standards in Washington. Holtby had a 3.11 goals against average and .897 save percentage and had lost some playing time to youngster Ilya Samsonov as the season rolled on.

In fact there was some question who was going to man the pipes for the Capitals in the playoffs. Interestingly enough, he hasn’t been quite as good since the Capitals winning season in 2017-18, but he’s still young enough to turn things around at 30 years old.

59. Seth Jones, D, Columbus Blue Jackets

Normally a workhorse who plays more than 25 minutes per game, Jones was injured this season and had just six goals and 30 points in 56 games with a plus-10 rating. But he was averaging over 25 minutes of ice time per game and the pause to the season has allowed him time to get healthy for a return when the playoffs happen in August.

He hasn’t been as good in the last few years as he was when he snagged All-Star honors with 16 goals and 57 points for the Blue Jackets in 2017-18, but he is a No. 1 defenseman who’s fully capable of greatness. The 6-foot-4, 209-pounder has everything you could want in a franchise D-man and he’s got a partner in Zach Werenski who's just as talented.   

58. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Calgary Flames

Like many other Flames players, Johnny Hockey was not close to his best this year. with nearly half as many goals (18) and points (58) as last season in 70 games played. He was also a career-worst minus-10 for the Flames this year, so he wasn’t his standout self at either end of the ice in Calgary.

Given that he’d averaged around 30 goals and 90 points the two prior seasons and was good enough to finish fourth in the Hart Trophy voting last season, one has to believe that things are going to be a lot better for the 26-year-old Gaudreau when the NHL is playing again. He’s way too good to have struggled like he did this year.

57. Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh Penguins

A two-time Cup winner and two-time All-Star, Letang has come back from concussion issues to continue being an extremely effective top defenseman for the Penguins. Letang finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 61 games while playing to an even plus/minus rating and has averaged over 25 minutes of ice time in each of the last six seasons for Pittsburgh.

Letang has only finished as a Norris finalist once and has been top-5 just twice in his NHL career, which seems like a criminal underrating for a scrappy, skilled player who has been a leader on an excellent Penguins team.

56. Brock Boeser, RW, Vancouver Canucks

The 22-year-old Boeser has been a key part of a youth movement with the Vancouver Canucks, but battled injuries this season while putting up 16 goals and 45 points in 57 games. He’s gone upwards of 20 goals and 50 points in each of his first two NHL seasons.

In the good news department, he was a plus player for the first time after finishing in the minus in each of his first two seasons. It’s about offense with Boeser, though, who features a dangerous shot from the wing and has good size (6-foot-1, 208-pounds) to mix it up physically. He should be back healthy once the playoffs begin while Vancouver hopes he continues to improve after locking him up long-term.

55. Ben Bishop, G, Dallas Stars

The 6-foot-7, 215-pound Bishop has been instrumental in Dallas shifting to a greater defense-and-goaltending approach and was enjoying an excellent year with a .920 save percentage and a 2.50 goals against average. Bishop had teamed with Anton Khudobin to be an outstanding 1-2 combo between the pipes and was coming off an All-Star season last year where he finished as the runner-up for the Vezina Trophy.

He could be in the running again this season as a finalist and would appear to be at the peak of his game at 33 years old. My only question is how long a big-bodied goaltender like Bishop will be able to keep in peak form.

54. Mitch Marner, RW Toronto Maple Leafs

Mitch Marner can certainly score points. After nearly getting to 100 points last season, Marner battled through injuries and early Toronto struggles to still post 15 goals and 67 points in 59 games this year.

Marner is ultra-quick and ultra-skilled while forming a lethal 1-2-3 combo with Auston Matthews and William Nylander, and should be poised to dominate in the Atlantic Division for years to come. Last season he garnered All-Star, Selke and Lady Byng consideration and should continue to threaten in those categories for years while also dangerous with the puck on his stick. 

53. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Vegas Golden Knights

The 35-year-old Quebec native continues to enjoy a second chapter in his NHL career with the Vegas Golden Knights. MAF was 27-16-5 this season with five shutouts and had decent .905 save percentage and 2.77 goals against average numbers this year.

Flower isn’t always able to stay healthy throughout the year and needs a good backup supporting him these days, but he showed a couple of seasons ago how good he can still be in the playoffs while leading the Knights to the Cup Final. There’s a reason he was a No. 1 overall pick back in the day and is approaching Hall of Fame status with his career numbers and three Stanley Cups. 

52. John Klingberg, D, Dallas Stars

The 27-year-old Klingberg is another Dallas player who seems to have made the transition from all-offense to two-way player this season for the greater good. After routinely racking up double-digit goal totals and big points as an offensive D-man for the run-and-gun Stars, Klingberg six goals and 32 points in 58 games this year while dealing with some injuries.

He was also a minus-10, which tells you the adjustment to tighter defense was a challenge for him. Still, he’s a guy who's garnered All-Star, Norris and Lady Byng consideration during his NHL career and has career highs of 13 goals and 67 points as a defenseman. 

51. Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks

While Toews might not be the guy he once was when the Blackhawks were winning Stanley Cups, he’s still a premier two-way center and Selke Trophy favorite each and every year. Toews had 18 goals and 60 points in 70 games when the regular season went on pause, but was also a minus player for just the second time in his entire NHL career for a struggling Chicago team.

The 31-year-old Toews got off to a rough start to the year before catching fire midway through, but should have plenty of energy stored when Chicago gets to take part in the playoffs this summer. That’s when Captain Serious gets really series.

Jake DeBrusk's agent brushes off talk of hometown discount with Bruins

Jake DeBrusk's agent brushes off talk of hometown discount with Bruins

While the NHL offseason has been put off until the late fall based on the Return to Play timeline, it’s still coming for the NHL and for salary cap-strapped teams like the Boston Bruins.

The NHL is on the verge of approving a CBA extension with the NHLPA that’s going to push out a flat salary cap for at least two seasons, and it could end up being three seasons based on the expected economic and revenue downturn.

That means the NHL is going to have an $81.5 million salary cap ceiling for at least the next few years, and the Bruins won’t have a ton of space based on the $63.5 million already paid out for salaries for the 2020-21 NHL season.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

The Bruins will then have about $18 million in cap space to sign restricted free agents Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk and Anders Bjork as well as unrestricted free agents Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara. The Bruins aren’t expected to pay out abnormally extravagant numbers to Bjork, Grzelcyk or the 43-year-old Chara, but it’s going to be a little dicey when it comes to contracts for DeBrusk and Krug.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Krug was looking at something in the neighborhood of $8 million per season on a long-term deal — either with Boston or with another team looking for a power play quarterback and elite point producer on the back end. The 23-year-old DeBrusk, meanwhile, has averaged 20 goals per season in his three-year NHL career and had 19 goals and 35 points in 65 games when the NHL regular season went on pause this year.

DeBrusk has averaged 20 goals and 40 points per season with a high of 27 goals scored last year, and he’s essentially been a top-6 winger for his entire career in Boston. That had Edmonton Oilers radio analyst Bob Stauffer trumpeting him as “a $6 million a year player” when talking about DeBrusk’s future on an NBC Sports Boston Zoom call last week.

“I think Jake is a really good top-6 forward, top-6 winger. You guys saw him against the [Maple Leafs] and the Blues in the playoffs, he’s got a little bit of gamesmanship to him,” said Stauffer. “It’s interesting because he was such a late bloomer. The player I compared Jake to was Joffrey Lupul, who suddenly became a scoring star in junior hockey.

To me, I think Jake is a $5.5-6 million player. Maybe that money comes down a bit because of the cap. I think he’s a $6 million forward. He’s a guy that’s going to be capable of scoring 25-30 goals in a full season. That’s a $6 million forward to me.

One thing is for sure: If DeBrusk is a $6 million a year player and Krug is an $8 million a year player, then one of them is probably not going to be in Boston next season.

Interestingly enough, Stauffer had DeBrusk’s agent, Rick Valette from Octagon, on his Oilers Now radio show on Monday to talk about the future negotiations between DeBrusk and the Bruins. It didn’t sound like DeBrusk was going to be taking a hometown discount like some of the other B’s players have done in the recent past.  

“I don’t really consider that at this point. Will it play into it? Maybe,” said Valette, when asked about the internal salary structure for the Bruins that sees Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand all on pretty team-friendly deals under $7 million per season. “I would hope not. That’s not typically how I would approach that. The one thing I would add to Jake is that you want to look at his playoff performance and what he’s done in the playoffs in big games. The Toronto series from a couple of years ago, for example. He’s a big-game performer and he’s been a top-6 forward almost from the moment he stepped into the National Hockey League.

“Boston certainly has some internal things that they like to look at, but I’m going to try to not look at that. I guess that’s the way I would say it to you.”

A couple of forward peers from DeBrusk’s 2015 draft class, Brock Boeser (3 years, $17.625 million or $5.875 million AAV) and Travis Konecny (six years, $33 million or $5.5 million AAV), both now top $5 million per season on second contracts they signed this past year. Kyle Connor signed a seven-year, $50 million deal ($7.142 million AV) at the high end while Mat Barzal enters this offseason as an unsigned RFA as well. Both Boeser and Konecny had numbers similar to DeBrusk prior to signing those contracts, so DeBrusk knew what kind of payday awaited him if things were running along per usual.

Boeser is in a bit of a different class given his upside and production, but DeBrusk and Konecny would have been comparable players had DeBrusk surpassed 20 goals and 40 points with another month of games played (which he certainly would have done with 12 games left in the season).

Some of it may depend on how this postseason shakes down for DeBrusk. He was great two years ago with six goals and eight points in 12 playoff games, but last season had fewer goals (4) with 11 points in 24 playoff games during Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

A great playoff performance for DeBrusk could give those postseason numbers a real boost prior to him cashing in on his second deal, or a playoff struggle could drop him back under $5 million per season given some of this past season’s inconsistencies.

Either way it’s expected DeBrusk could be able to command something in that $5 million AAV neighborhood after averaging 20 goals per season in a league where goal-scorers still get paid.

Watch Joe Haggerty's Zoom call with Bob Stauffer below or on NBC Sports Boston's YouTube page: