Bruins

Game 3 shows that Brad Marchand is still deep in Justin Williams' head

Game 3 shows that Brad Marchand is still deep in Justin Williams' head

CAROLINA – Don Cherry had some words of warning for the Bruins after the first period of Tuesday night’s Game 3 in Carolina. He saw Brad Marchand suckering Hurricanes captain Justin Williams into taking a stupid penalty in Game 2, and then mocking Williams with a hand “C” gesture and directions to the penalty box after duping the esteemed playoff veteran.

It led to a Bruins power-play goal in a blowout win in Game 2 in Boston, and the Hockey Night in Canada analyst thought Williams was going to make the Bruins pay in Game 3 at PNC Arena after watching the scoreless first period dominated by the Hurricanes.

“Never, ever, ever upset a guy like [Justin] Williams. He was fast asleep. I’ve watched him for 18 years. I’ve never seen him like this before. He’s got that team pumped up right now,” said Cherry. “It’s because of him. He’s the captain. Think if you ever did that to Steve Yzerman or Wayne Gretzky. There would be riots. He is ready. I’m telling you in that dressing room, he’s got them wired. I still say that the Bruins are going to win, but it’s going to be a lot harder because you did a stupid think like that with Williams.”

Well, not so much.

Instead of getting the Hurricanes pumped for a necessary win in the series, Williams took three penalties in the first period and took to Marchand-like activity, punching David Backes in the head while on top of him in the scrum by the Carolina net. It seemed like Williams had a thirst for vengeance with Torey Krug rather than Marchand after both players got matching penalties for throwing punches to the head, holding Krug’s stick and then throwing an elbow aimed at Krug’s head in the closing minutes of the first period.

Just watching Williams take run after dangerous run at Krug while playing with legitimate recklessness was enough to make this humble hockey writer wonder what kind of uproar it would cause in Canada if it was a player like Marchand behind it all. Instead, the Canadian media was talking about how “pumped up” Williams was and justifying each of the cheap, dangerous things he did on the ice against the Bruins.

That’s quite an interesting double-standard going on there.

It was also pretty clear that Marchand is in Williams’ kitchen cooking bacon and eggs right now given that he couldn’t let it go in Game 3, and instead executed his own personal parade to the penalty box during a pivotal first period for his hockey club.

That complete lack of poise and self-control was pretty stunning from a Game 7 playoff hero and a captain like Williams, and, contrary to Grapes’ opinion, it didn’t help the Hurricanes at all in a 2-1 loss at PNC Arena on Tuesday night.

“We’ll look at everything tomorrow, but right now it’s a very disappointing loss,” said Williams. “It was more of how we wanted to play, but it just didn’t happen for us. It stinks but that’s how it happens sometimes.”

“Too many penalties for us. If we want to win we can’t take that many penalties and we know that. A couple of the [Williams penalties] I thought were kind of light… especially this time of year,” said Rod Brind’Amour. “I think that’s the thing, but he has to understand how they’re calling. You’ve got to kind of understand that. But he’s just trying to win and giving us everything that he has.”

Williams was asked about the penalties and getting preoccupied with Krug in this game, and he just answered with a quick “no.” 

The 37-year-old must have been watching a different game than the rest of us in all those minutes that Williams spent in the penalty box.  

Instead, the Canes are on the brink of elimination with a possible sweep in Thursday’s Game 4 in Carolina, and the “poop sandwich” bonanza may just keep on coming into the offseason for the humbled Williams and his Carolina teammates. 

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Boston Bruins Development Camp: Day 1 thoughts and observations

Boston Bruins Development Camp: Day 1 thoughts and observations

BRIGHTON, MA – Another summer means another gathering of Bruins prospects at the B’s practice facility where those recently drafted merge with past prospects and undrafted hopefuls to bring a little hockey back in late June. This time around Bruins fans won’t be seeing some of the top B’s prospects as center Jack Studnicka, winger Jakub Lauko and goalie Kyle Keyser won’t be on the ice at all over the next few days. Studnicka and Keyser both worked with the Black Aces during the B’s playoff run so they just finished up a couple of weeks ago, and Lauko was injured toward the end of his junior team’s run to the Memorial Cup Final.

So they’ll be participating without getting in any on-ice sessions. But otherwise it was a great start on Wednesday for the 31 players on the ice broken up into three work groups.

Here are some thoughts and impressions from the first day of Bruins Development Camp at Warrior Ice Arena on Wednesday morning:

*2019 first round pick John Beecher is massive and he’s super-fast on the ice. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame looks like it’s ready to add even more size and his big, ice-chopping strides really stand out when he’s doing any kind of drills on the ice. Certainly it remains to be seen how his skill is going to translate into offense beyond what he did as basically a fourth-line center on the US NTDP behind Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte and Trevor Zegras, but the tools are there for him to be a big, fast game-changer from the center position. It sounds like he’s going to be a top-6 center for the University of Michigan right off the bat next season, so Bruins fans paying attention to college hockey will be able to see pretty quickly how his raw talent is going to translate into points and production.

*It’s still difficult for me to figure out 2018 second-round pick Axel Andersson. The defenseman makes some nice plays like during one drill when he showed some wiggle through the middle of the ice and snapped one under the bar during one particular line rush. But he also fumbled away picks during those very same drills and doesn’t look like the smooth offensive player he was reputed to be when the Bruins drafted him last summer. He’s planning to play in Providence this coming season and that will be a better time to evaluate exactly what the Bruins have in Andersson. In the good news department it does seem like he’s gained 5-10 pounds from last season and filled out a bit, which will be a necessity to deal with the physicality coming his way in the AHL.

*It’s really too bad that Bruins fans won’t get a chance to watch Jack Studnicka and Jakub Lauko in this week’s development camp as they’re arguably the two most exciting forward prospects in the entire system. Studnicka is expected to push for a top-6 center gig at the NHL level in the next couple of seasons and Lauko excited everybody with his performance at Bruins training camp last season when he showed a package of skill, speed and tenacity that could be really effective at the NHL level. Instead both players will rest up, heal up and get ready for NHL training camp in the fall where both could begin their long journey toward locking down NHL jobs.

*Obviously 6-foot-6 Daniel Vladar looks big and imposing in his goalie equipment between the pipes as he has during his long tenure as a Bruins prospect. But Jeremy Swayman was impressive during the opening day of development camp after putting together a strong season at the University of Maine where he’s posted save percentages of .921 and .919 in his first two seasons for the Black Bears. He showed some tremendous athleticism during the drills on the opening day of the camp, and looked like the best goalie in the bunch while sharing time with a great story in incoming Merrimack goalie and Walpole native James Corcoran.

*One player that stood out on the first day of development camp from a free agent perspective was 19-year-old Matt Brown, a New Jersey native playing for Des Moines (30 goals and 57 points in 57 games) in the USHL. Brown is only 5-foot-9, 181-pounds, but his speed and hard, heavy shot were both head-turners during the drills as he looked powerful both skating and shooting, and should be an impact player for the UMass-Lowell hockey program he’ll be headed to starting next season.  

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Projecting contract offers for the Bruins' restricted free agents

Projecting contract offers for the Bruins' restricted free agents

Don Sweeney's biggest strength is re-signing his own players. He's not amazing in the draft, has handed out some horrid free-agent contracts and has been hit-or-miss in the trade market, but there might not be a better GM in the league at locking up his own guys. That alone is a primary reason as to why the Bruins remain an annual Cup contender.

Brad Marchand is entering the fourth year of an eight-year pact negotiated by Sweeney with an absolute steal of a $6.12 average annual value. David Pastrnak has four years left at $6.66 million a year on a contract also done by Sweeney. Those are two of the best contracts in the league. 

Now, it's time for Sweeney to work his magic again. Boston has three key restricted free agents in Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen. Though the values of the players vary, none are more important than McAvoy, Sweeney's best draft pick as Boston's GM. 

As we learned with Pastrnak, what a player deserves and what they eventually sign for can be very different. Here are some guestimations at what these RFAs could get, while always allowing for the possibility that Sweeney pulls off another miracle or two. 

(Note: Money is tight right now for the Bruins, who have a little over $12 million in cap space. This means that not only should we expect unrestricted free agents Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari to depart, but a trade to shed salary is seemingly coming.) 

CHARLIE MCAVOY

McAvoy is the Bruins' best defenseman right now and figures to be for a long time. The Bruins' priority should be to sign him to as long a contract as possible (eight years is the max) so they won't have to give him yet another massive raise in a few years. 

That's what happened with the Canadiens and P.K. Subban. The Habs cheaped out and gave Subban a two-year bridge deal at the end of Subban's entry-level contract. One Norris later, they had to pay him $9 million and eventually traded a very good player because they'd mishandled the money with him. 

So what would it cost the Bruins to avoid such a scenario with McAvoy, who reportedly turned down the Bruins' first offer last summer? Evolving Hockey has a contract projection tool that factors in the market, production and the actual standing of the salary cap to determine hypothetical deals for free agents. It pegs McAvoy's next deal at $7.13 million a year over six years. 

That's not a bad deal for the Bruins, but if I'm them and know that I've got to dip into the $7 million range to get him on a longer deal, I'd try to go all the way in an effort to get him for eight years at $7.5 million per, which is the same contract as Florida's Aaron Ekblad. That way you've got his prime years, taking him up to unrestricted free agency at 29. 

The best-case scenario: Eight years at around $7.5 million AAV

The good-enough scenario: Six years at around $7 million AAV

The playing-with-fire scenario: Four years in the $6 million AAV range

BRANDON CARLO

With all due respect to Carlo, the steady shutdown defenseman isn't going to threaten for Norrises and huge contracts the way McAvoy is. That said, the Bruins saw when he finally played in the postseason just how valuable to the operation Carlo is. 

The Bruins won't need to sell out to keep Carlo around, as it's not like the money he'd make in UFA after a six-year deal would be enough to make him the flight risk McAvoy could become in such a scenario. So while you don't need to go eight, bumping up Carlo's AAV a bit to get him for five or six years would be a very good idea. Evolved Hockey projects a contract for him at $4.23 million annually for six years. If I'm the Bruins, I call up Carlo's camp and try to get that deal done ASAP. 

The best-case scenario: Six years at around $4.5 million AAV 

The unnecessary scenario: Eight years at around $5.5 million AAV 

The boring scenario: Four years at around $3.75 million AAV

DANTON HEINEN 

You've got to think both sides take the measured approach here and re-assess in a couple of years. Heinen is a good NHL player and a sure thing at wing beyond Boston's stars in Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk. He's not yet reached his ceiling, however, and if he has, he's in for just a decent career. 

That said, the Bruins should give him a two-year deal to see what's what. Is he the long-term answer on Patrice Bergeron's right or is he a two-way bottom-sixer best served at driving possession and special teams? There's value in both those things, but one is obviously worth a lot more. 

Evolving Hockey pegs Heinen at two years times $2.89 million. My guess was about two times $3 million, so anything around there is perfect. It won't break the bank but it will give you stability on the wing. 

The logical scenario: Two years at around $2.5-3 million AAV

The other scenarios: I'm not sure they exist

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