Bruins

Hagg Bag: Goalies, Backes and forward trade talk aplenty

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Hagg Bag: Goalies, Backes and forward trade talk aplenty

It’s another week and another Hagg Bag mailbag with the Bruins managing to get through a rash of injuries the past week and an interesting side story developing with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak between the pipes. As always these are real questions from our readers on Twitter using the #HaggBag hashtag, sending messages to my NBC Sports Boston Facebook page or emails to my @JHaggerty@nbcuni.com email account. Now on to the bag!

What do you think is the real reason/reasons Rask is underperforming? Are his best days behind him?

--Stewart-Allen Clark (@StewartAllenCl1)

JH: Well, he is 31, which is entering middle age for NHL players. But goalies tend to age a little more slowly than position players in the NHL, and Rask should still be able to perform at his highest level for extended periods of time. I just don’t think he’s a true No. 1 goalie in that he can’t maintain his performance amidst heavy usage, he doesn’t always show up for the big moments like a true No. 1 guy would and Rask struggles when he doesn’t get good defensive play in front of him. Now, all goalies struggle on some level when they don’t get good defensive play, but you also see the truly good ones pick up their teammates when they’re having a bad night. You very rarely see Rask do that. I don’t think his best days are behind. I just think the Bruins play a little bit of a different system now that’s weighted toward offense, and that means it’s not quite as structured and geared toward protecting the goalie as it once was in the D-zone. Therefore, Rask sees higher quality chances at times and lets in more goals. I think Rask is what he is at this point, and a true No. 1 goalie wouldn’t require that you pay $2.75 million to the backup that’s going to have to play 30 plus games this season. So the real reason in my eyes? Tuukka Rask is a slow starter and that’s playing into the right now, but he’s also not as good as some people believe him to be when he goes through one of his really excellent stretches in the middle of the regular season. When he goes through one of those stretches in the playoffs, if and then I’ll be a much bigger believer.

Hey Joe, what’s the best Star Wars theme night put on by a minor league hockey team? Trying to get my kids more into hockey with promises of Star Wars.

--Mike Mahoney (@MMahoney224)

JH: Hmmm. Well, I know the Providence Bruins got into the act last season and even had their own Star Wars theme jerseys that they raffled off for charity. I’m assuming they will do it again this season because the Star Wars theme nights, in general, have been very good money makers for minor league baseball and hockey. I go to the Lowell Spinners Star Wars night just about every season and it’s always a great take for the kids. So I’d say Providence is probably the best place to go locally for a Star Wars hockey night taking place March 22-23 against the Belleville Senators. I didn’t make it to the Worcester Railriders either last season, but they had a pretty great R2D2 jersey during their Star Wars theme night as well.

If you could go anywhere, there are some ECHL and AHL teams that really go the extra mile with Star Wars night: Reading Royals, Hershey Bears, Cincinnati Cyclones and Allen Americans among others. Most of them have one and they look pretty fun.

Hi Joe.

This team, as currently constituted, isn’t going to win the cup IMO. Not enough depth scoring. Third line is a mess. Who do you think is available to go after and what do you think the cost would be? #HaggBag

--Ray Guarino (@rayguarino)

JH: I agree with you, Ray. This team is at least one forward short and might be two forwards short if they can’t figure out a solution at third line center. I don’t think a 34-year-old David Backes is the answer over the course of a full season. I don’t think the Bruins do either. Joakim Nordstrom isn’t the answer there either. But I think one of the kids, whether it’s Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson or Trent Frederic, will end up stepping up and claiming the job at some point midway through the year. Frederic is off to a good start with three goals in seven games, but both players are minus players at this point in the AHL season. That will obviously need to change.

But the Bruins are absolutely in need of a veteran top-six winger that can put the puck in the net. It seems like they are in need of that kind of player just about every year, come to think of it. So I’ll lead this into the next email below that tosses a few names out there that might become available at some point during the season.

Hi Joe!

For sometime there has been talk on finding a bonafide RW for Line 1B, not named Pastrnak! Possibly going outside organization...now who could that be? And at what cost? Answer??

• Simmonds (Phil.), a pending UFA could certainly provide some much needed size, snarl and net front presence, but age and recent injury history would be of concern????

• Crouse (Ariz.), though a LW could provide size and net front presence now that ‘JD’ is adapting to playing RW with Krejci... and is younger than Simmonds. Certainly could move up/down lineup....??

• Others- Atkinson (CBJ) or Rantanen (Avalanche)??

All would require giving up young assets and/or picks!
Final answer: I say stay the course and exhaust all possible organizational depth starting with Senyshyn, Cehlarik, Kuhlman, and Bakos before
dealing any assets for above players...

Your thoughts?
Ron

JH: My thoughts? There’s no way the Avs are trading Rantanen. That kid is special. Wayne Simmonds would probably be the best choice given that he’s a rental that the Flyers look like they aren’t going anywhere this year. The catch will be the price. Do the Flyers expect to get a first-round pick for a rental such as Simmonds, who has been a legit top-six power forward throughout his career?

If so, then the Bruins will have to think twice about it after giving up a boatload for Rick Nash last season, and then watching as it didn’t really work out with a player that should have been a good fit. I don’t think the Bruins would be interested in retaining Simmonds given that he’s an aging power forward that’s going to be looking to cash out with a long-term deal after this season. It’s just not a good investment just as Milan Lucic wasn’t a good investment for the Oilers up in Edmonton. The Bruins could use that kind of player, but they can’t sign a power forward in decline again after already having one of those in David Backes.

Cam Atkinson? Maybe, but I don’t think the Blue Jackets are going to be sellers. Would Ottawa trade a player like Mark Stone to the Bruins? I think that’s exactly the kind of guy they’d love to plug into that second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. There will be other names that will pop up over the course of the season, but the trouble right now is that nobody is really looking to trade anybody until they know what they have this season. Most NHL teams won’t make that determination until after US Thanksgiving at the earliest, so all of this talk is very premature.

Hey Joe,

I’m enjoying Daredevil season 3 as well. What do you think Marvel is going to do with their Netflix programs after canceling Iron Fist and Luke Cage?

--Brian Cain (@BrianCain9)

JH: My opinion, it’s got less to do with Iron Fist and Luke Cage and more to do with Disney starting their own streaming service where they’re going to do their own MCU television series. I would love to see them do a “Heroes for Hire” series with Cage, Fist, Colleen Wing and Misty Knight all together in one limited series. I didn’t love the last season of Cage, and thought the best episode was when Power Man and Iron Fist were together. So putting them together would be the best way to proceed and I’m sure we’ll see those actors playing those roles again in some form or fashion.  

Haggs,

I think it’s time to address the non-goalie elephant in the Bruins locker room. The third line has lots of speed and tenacity without Backes. Where does he fit when he gets back? Is he coming back? Should he retire given his concussion history?

Thanks 
Andy DeWilde

JH: I don’t think this is an elephant in the Bruins dressing room at all. I’m not sure I’ve seen all that more tenacity or production with Backes out of the lineup and it’s only been a couple of games. I think he’ll go back to the third line when he comes back. Maybe he’ll get a look on the fourth line as well with Ryan Donato kind of miscast there right now, but I’d be a lot less willing to break up the third line if they were scoring goals in addition to being just “fast and tenacious.”

Backes was walking around the dressing room post-workout at the B’s practice facility on Friday and looked like he was obviously feeling better. The same with Charlie McAvoy after seeing him on Friday night at a charity event at Ocean Prime. I think both players will be back on the ice soon and are making strides to return from their “upper body injuries.” The Bruins need the size, physicality and leadership that Backes provides, so I don’t understand the notion that there won’t be a place for him when he’s healthy. He can still be an effective player as long as the concussion thing doesn’t become a nagging issue for a player who has logged a lot of hard miles.  

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What We Learned in B's 4-2 win over Kings

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What We Learned in B's 4-2 win over Kings

Here’s What We Learned in the Bruins 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center on Saturday night:

1. Not only is Charlie McAvoy rounding into form after a first half full of injuries and getting up to speed, but he’s starting to regain that confidence and clutch ability that he regularly flashed in previous seasons in a Bruins uniform. After a rough game on Friday night against the Ducks, the 21-year-old McAvoy bounced back with a clutch game-winning goal late in the third period against the Kings on Saturday. It was a sweet give-and-go play with Jake DeBrusk to score the goal in the final two minutes of regulation play, and sparked a two-goal outburst that allowed the B’s to finish the second night of road back-to-back games with a big time kick. But it wasn’t just the final play for McAvoy. He finished with a plus-1 in 19:16 of ice time, four shots on net, six shot attempts, three hits and a pair of blocked shots in an excellent all-around effort. McAvoy continues to put together consistently excellent efforts over the last few weeks, and has two goals, four points and a plus-8 in eight games during the month of February while playing like a No. 1 D-man in the making.

🏒MORE BRUINS COVERAGE

2. The Bruins continue to put themselves in a very good position. They’ve now won five games in a row and moved past the Maple Leafs for second in the Atlantic Division, which would give them home ice advantage in a repeat first round rematch against the Maple Leafs if the season ended right now. It would also put two of the NHL’s best teams, according to points, in the first round of the playoffs, which is perhaps inevitable given how stacked the Atlantic Division has been this season at the very top. But credit where it’s due with the Bruins, who continue to play very well when injuries throw a monkey wrench into their plans. One other correlation between the B’s winning streaks and a common denominator from their play: The Bruins get great goaltending whenever they start stringing together wins in a row and making a push up the standings. Jaroslav Halak was excellent in shutting out the Ducks on Friday night, and Tuukka Rask was similarly excellent in the 4-2 win over the Kings including a stupendous double-stack stave on Alex Iafallo in the second period when things were still very tight with the Kings.

3. The jury is out on Karson Kuhlman. The center played under 10 minutes of ice time and had a shot blocked in his only mark on the stat sheet. Credit Kuhlman for not looking out of place and for playing a strong all-around 200-foot game, but he also didn’t do much to distinguish himself from anybody else, or from being more of a factor than David Backes is on most nights after Backes was the one scratched in place of him. He’ll certainly get more of a look given the strong game he played in Providence, but he’ll need to be better than he was on Saturday if he wants to stick around Boston. 

PLUS

*Charlie McAvoy scored the game-winning goal, filled up the stat sheet in almost 20 minutes of ice time and generally played another excellent game against the Kings and one of his NHL role models in Drew Doughty.

*Tuukka Rask stopped 23-of-25 shots that he faced, and made a highlight reel-worthy double-stacked save on Alex Iafallo in the second period during an odd-man rush for the Kings. Rask made 10 saves in that pivotal second period and did a good job of keeping the Bruins in it.

*Jake DeBrusk has now scored goals in three straight games and is riding a hot streak to rival the cold stretch where he didn’t score a goal for over a month.

MINUS

*Drew Doughty was on ice for three of the four goals allowed by the Kings, and that is something you really don’t see every day. He wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t his usual Doughty-self either while being forced to play almost 30 minutes of ice time.

*Anze Kopitar finished a minus-2 and lost 12-of-19 face-offs in an uncharacteristically bad game for the usually adept two-way center. Call it to the Patrice Bergeron factor if you want, as he always seems to play top level against his Selke Trophy-winning peers.

*Matt Grzelcyk finished a minus-1 and looked rusty for the Bruins after returning to the lineup from a lower body injury that cost him the last few games played for the Black and Gold.  

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This stat shows Bruins forward Brad Marchand's impressive consistency

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This stat shows Bruins forward Brad Marchand's impressive consistency

There's no question Boston Bruins star Brad Marchand is one of the best wingers in the NHL, and consistency has become a huge reason for that.

Marchand scored a goal in Saturday night's 4-2 road win against the Los Angeles Kings, giving him a team-leading 70 points (also leads the team with 47 assists) through 58 games. It's his third straight season with 70-plus points, moving him higher on an impressive list of scoring wingers in Bruins history.

Hitting the 70-point mark in three consecutive seasons is pretty good, and Marchand is the first Bruin to accomplish that feat since Marc Savard from 2006-07 through 2008-09.

Marchand has scored at better than a point-per-game level in each of the last two seasons, and he's projected to do it again in 2018-19. His current pace would put him at just under 98 points by the end of the regular season. Marchand also is well on his way to finishing as the B's top scorer for the third consecutive campaign. 

The Bruins are on a 10-game point streak (including five wins in a row) entering Monday night's game against the San Jose Sharks. Marchand has tallied 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) during the team's point streak, serving as the catalyst for the Boston's offense without leading goal scorer David Pastrnak, who will miss several weeks with a thumb injury.

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