Hagg Bag: How about a Bjork-Donato line with _______?

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Hagg Bag: How about a Bjork-Donato line with _______?

It’s that time of the week again. Time for the Hagg Bag mailbag with real questions from our readers using the #HaggBag hashtag on Twitter, sending messages to my NBC Sports Boston Facebook page or emailing my account. Now on to the bag!

Sup Haggs?

A lot of people have been yelling about getting someone to play on Krejci's wing but after watching the last couple of games, I'm intrigued by Bjork and Donato playing together. Backes isn't the most fleet of foot guy on the team and I don't see him as a great fit between those two guys. Do you think the B's could possibly trade for a guy like Jason Zucker? I'd be willing to give up Heinen and maybe one of the young D-men and maybe draft picks or whatever. I think a Zucker, Bjork, Donato line would have some serious potential and Backes, at this point of his career, would probably look better playing wing with Kuraly and Acciari.

Billy Hud
Revere, MA

JH: Hey Billy. I think there was a better shot of trading for Jason Zucker when he was unsigned with the Minnesota Wild over the summer. I like the player and think he is the kind of guy that the Bruins obviously need right now. In my humble opinion, the Bruins are short one established top-six forward right now. I know some people think it’s the third-line center that the Bruins should be chasing instead, but what happens if you get a fairly young guy such as Zucker and pay him? Now you’ve blocked Trent Frederic and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson from winning that job and you’ve tied up money at a spot where you could have a young player on an entry-level deal if you show a little bit of patience. The Bruins still need a goal-scoring winger on the second line and that’s where I’d be chasing if I were Don Sweeney right now.

I do think that the Bruins are going to have to give up either Bjork, Heinen or Donato to get a quality player. I’d be okay with potentially shipping Matt Grzelcyk as well if It was the right deal that could improve the Bruins as Toronto and Tampa have clearly done over the past 8-10 months. I am with you on Backes, though. He needs to be a bottom-six winger at this point in his career, though I’m still not ready to relegate him to the fourth line. I honestly worry more about the concussion stuff eventually catching up to him.

Favorite and least favorite Star Wars character & movie. Show your work.

--Dave Green (@DavidMGreen)

JH: Favorite Star Wars character? Chewbacca. He’s loyal, he’s physically stronger than everybody else and he’s proud enough that he needed to be kicked in the butt to go down the garbage chute. Least favorite Star Wars character? That’s easy. Jar Jar Binks. I have taught my 5-year-old son that his name is actually Jar Jar Stinks and he still believes that to this day. Favorite Star Wars movie is Empire just like everybody else, and my least favorite is probably the Phantom Menace. Although the Last Jedi was a big disappointment to me as well, though I’m not opening up that Pandora’s Box in the mailbag. Thanks for the question, Greenie!

Hi Joe!
Your thoughts.....

We all know ‘Krech’ had his best years with bigger wingers (Lucic, Horton, Iginla and a small sample with 61Nash).  Still think having a winger with snarl, size, & skills to go with DeBrusk and/or can move up/down in lineup is the answer...And as I briefly stated before, really think that player is currently being wasted in Anaheim... Nick Ritchie. 

If and when he is traded (like possibly Anderson, another big, skilled winger with CBJ) to Toronto or another division/conference team... oh, well a loss for B’s!!

Would even call up Senyshyn for ‘trial’ on when games count and given big shot after a decent preseason, why not? Heinen, Donato, man up!!

Keep the write ups coming!!!

Saitama, Japan 

JH: Ritchie would have been a solid idea last week before the Anaheim Ducks signed him to a three-year deal after his protracted holdout. He has some good size and pretty decent physicality as the Bruins have seen first-hand, and he’s obviously got talent as a first-round pick. I even noticed that Anaheim special assignment scout Dave Nonis had a pretty long conversation with Sweeney that made me think the wheels were turning on something with Ritchie, but may there is still something to be done with Anaheim now that they’re in pretty tough salary-cap straits. So, stay tuned with the Ducks and the Bruins.

Zach Senyshyn was one of the first Bruins prospects sent down to Providence and cut from training camp, so I don’t think the B’s were overly wowed by what they saw out of him. I don’t think he’s close right now. The more likely scenario is a trade in the coming weeks with one of Bjork or Heinen probably going the other way for a young, top-six type winger or third-line center, but it’s difficult to pull off early-season trades. We may see the Bruins simply try to shine it on with their young guys for a bit until the trade deadline gets here. I will keep the write-ups coming.

At what point do the bruins run out of patience with tuukka? #HaggBag

--matthew wilson (@mattframingham)

JH: We may know as soon as Saturday night in Vancouver when it comes to Tuukka Rask. If Jaroslav Halak gets a second consecutive start then Bruce Cassidy has already run out of patience with his slow-starting No. 1 goalie less than 10 games into the season. Who can blame him? Rask has given his team zero shot to win in two out of his four starts this season, including both starts against likely playoff teams. Rask has a 4.08 goals-against average and an .875 save percentage. Those numbers are putrid. Frankly, he really doesn’t deserve to play at this point until he turns his game around.

Would you be willing to create a package that is centered around Brandon Carlo? If they won’t take Krug he’d be the next D-man I’d move

--Bar Bobby (@BGBobLucy)

JH: If it comes to that, but it would have to be a game-changing top-six goal-scorer that the Bruins envision in their lineup for a long time. I like Carlo a lot and still think there’s an upside to his game offensively along with the clear size, strength and toughness qualities that will make him a good shutdown D-man. The guy is 6-foot-5 and strong and can skate. Those kinds of D-men stay employed in the NHL for a long time.

The one consideration with Carlo, and with Charlie McAvoy for that matter though nobody should consider trading him, is that the entry-level contract is ending this season and both of those young D-men are going to start costing a lot more money. If it was a player such as Artemi Panarin with assurances he was going to sign with the Bruins, I would include Carlo in that type of package to the Columbus Blue Jackets. If it’s an aging player, such as Wayne Simmonds, who's about to cost a lot of money in free agency, I would not be wasting my good young players on an admittedly still-good asset that’s in decline.

Morning Joe,

Is Bjork going to get a look on the Krejci-Debrusk line anytime soon? I think he has looked pretty great coming off injury and without any real preseason action. With the speed of Debrusk and Bjork, I think the line could fly if old man Krejci can keep up. Thoughts?


Mark (Jacksonville)

JH: Hey Mark. I wouldn’t mind seeing Anders Bjork with Krejci and DeBrusk at some point after Heinen and Donato have gotten their looks there. That being said, I thought Heinen looked good back with Krejci and DeBrusk on Thursday night in Edmonton after a couple of healthy scratches. He picked up his first point of the season on a nice play that helped set up Krejci’s goal early in the game. Heinen is the best two-way player of the three winger candidates to play there and I think that’s a big reason why he is going to continue to get looks. If Bjork continues to play a heavier brand of hockey to go along with his speed and skill, though, he’ll get his look there too. He just needs to continue to build on some of the good things we’ve seen from a hungry player that wants to establish himself. I just wonder if Bjork is the guy who eventually gets moved for an established player given his value as a prospect. He’s also shown a bit of a softness to his game at times that the Bruins can’t be wild about. He’ll score in the NHL, but I’m not sure if he’s ever going to be strong or heavy enough to be a frontline player on a playoff team.

That’s it for this week’s bag, we’ll see you next week!  

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Are Bruins just one top-six power forward away from greatness?

Are Bruins just one top-six power forward away from greatness?

A little more than a year ago the Bruins fell in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in part because their forwards couldn’t fight through the big, strong Tampa Bay defensemen corps in a five-game playoff series.

The Perfection Line was held in check in 5-on-5 play and the Bruins forwards really didn’t do much of anything offensively after the opening game of the series.

This postseason, the B’s obviously pushed a lot further into the Stanley Cup playoffs while making it all the way to the Cup Final. Some of that was by the circumstance of the way the postseason played out with the early exits of many of the top seeds, of course, but some of it was also Boston’s ability to play different styles against Toronto, Columbus and Carolina.

Still, the Bruins again sealed their fate when their forwards couldn’t do enough 5-on-5 against a St. Louis Blues team that featured a massive, committed D-corps that didn’t let the B’s anywhere near the front of the net. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were banged up while combining for exactly zero even-strength goals in the series and David Pastrnak was battling a crisis of confidence that saw him finish with a team-worst minus-7 in the series.

Similarly, David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and whoever was manning the right wing for the B’s second line didn’t do much damage either against the Blues back-enders.

The Bruins had great depth all-around among their forwards this postseason and that helped them make it to the final round of the postseason. Again, it seemed as if the Bruins were short in the size and strength department among their top-six forwards when it came to net-front presence and getting to some of the rebounds left around the net by rookie goalie Jordan Binnington.

“It’s really a blend of your hockey club. We played sort of four different teams throughout the playoffs, and we matched up pretty well in all of them," Bruins GM Don Sweeney said this week at his end-of-the-season press conference. "When you come down to the margins that you have of losing a Game 7, I don’t know whether or not you necessarily say now did we score enough 5v5? No, but everybody would say that throughout our lineup, if we had just chipped in. To St. Louis’ credit, it wasn’t just the defensemen that were doing that. They make it hard on you, the same way that Tampa did.

“We had more depth this year to be able to withstand some of those things and take the matchups in other places in the lineup that I think helped our hockey club, and it showed. That’s why I think we went further. We gave ourselves a chance to win right until the very end. If you’re telling me there’s a perfect player to solve some of those, what every team would be looking for, yeah. Yeah, I’ll put that guy right in there, but sometimes you just have to allow other players to get better in their own right. We have players that will hopefully continue to do that.”

There may not be a perfect player out there for the Bruins unless they start putting more of a premium on drafting the next great, young power forward. Chris Kreider is an intriguing name that brings size, scoring and a little bit of nasty to the table.  He's coming off 28 goals and 52 points for the Rangers this past season.

Former fourth overall pick Jesse Puljujarvi is 6-foot-4, 211 pounds and wants out of Edmonton so badly he’s willing to play in Europe this season if the Oilers don’t move him. Forwards James Neal and Michael Frolik will be mentioned in trade talks around July 1 and hard-hitting, nasty winger Michael Ferland, a free agent, might be exactly what the Bruins are looking for.

Maybe it will be Charlie Coyle bumping up to the right wing on one of the top two lines, or perhaps a younger, big-bodied Peter Cehlarik or Trent Frederic can bring some of that power forward game internally.

“Does Charlie Coyle move up in the right side? Again, putting Charlie in a consistent spot is I think when he plays his best hockey,” wondered Sweeney aloud. “He referenced that when he was in Minnesota, a production role. He could slide up and play right wing if another player emerged from within.

“I could go through the guys. Trent Frederic would be the obvious [third-line center candidate] if he inserts himself, Sean [Kuraly] plays up, maybe you move Charlie to the right. For right now, I think the balance of our group, what Coyle presents is mismatch is at times for other teams gives us balance.”

Still, it was apparent this postseason as it was last postseason that the Bruins are in need of a power forward winger among their top-six forwards. The Perfection Line is just a little too much undersized when push comes to shove and spent too much time on the perimeter against the Blues.

What the Bruins could really use is a time machine to send 35-year-old David Backes back 10 years to the player he was in his prime with the Blues. That isn’t going to happen, so they need to go out and find the next best thing, whatever that may be.

Part of the problem seems to be that the Bruins aren’t identifying this as the biggest issue facing their forwards. Sure, Bruins President Cam Neely said they want to get another top-six forward, but it sounds as if he simply wants a player that’s going to shoot the puck with an itchy trigger finger.

“I mean, if they can skate,” said Neely with a smile when asked if the B’s top-six needs a little more size and snarl. “You have to be able to skate nowadays, as you know in this game. I thought that we could’ve put more pucks on the net to give their defensemen a turn, and look to where the pucks are as opposed to trying to beat guys one-on-one.

“I felt we should’ve shot the puck a little more to try to create, whether it’s rebound opportunities or at least get them scrambling around a little bit. Give [the Blues] credit. They played well. They kept us on the outside, but I felt like we passed on too many opportunities to put pucks on the net and then see what we could’ve done from there.”

Certainly, that sounds like an indictment of Marchand and Pastrnak passing up clean looks to shoot in the Stanley Cup Final. It also wasn’t a ringing endorsement of a search mission for the next great power forward, but there’s no getting around it as the element that’s feels missing when you look at the strengths and weaknesses among the B's top six.

A dynamic big body that can get to the front of the net, bang home loose pucks and win battles against big boy D-men was sorely lacking against the Blues. 

It feels funny to have to make the case to a former player such as Neely that the Bruins are one top-six power forward away from greatness, but here we are with the Black and Gold after falling a little short in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

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Blues' Ryan O'Reilly beats out Bruins' Patrice Bergeron for Selke Trophy

Blues' Ryan O'Reilly beats out Bruins' Patrice Bergeron for Selke Trophy

Once again, the Blues get the better of the Bruins.

Blues center Ryan O'Reilly earned the Frank J. Selke Trophy over Patrice Bergeron at Wednesday night's NHL Awards. It was O'Reilly's first time winning the award in his career.

O'Reilly has had a month to remember, of course leading St. Louis to a Stanley Cup victory over Boston and earning the Conn Smythe Trophy in the process.

Bergeron finished third in the voting behind O'Reilly and Vegas Golden Knights winger Mark Stone.

On the bright side, B's fans did earn one victory over St. Louis on Wednesday night as general manager Don Sweeney earned NHL GM of the Year honors over Blues GM Doug Armstrong.

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