Bruins

Hagg Bag: Looking for ways to improve the B's, including trading Tuukka

Hagg Bag: Looking for ways to improve the B's, including trading Tuukka

With the first month of the NHL season firmly in the books, the Bruins are off to a pretty good start at 7-3-2. They’ve endured some injuries, taken advantage of a schedule that eased them into the regular season and left a lot of room for improvement over the remaining 70 games. So, there is plenty to review and even more in the future to talk about in this week’s edition of the Hagg Bag mailbag. As always these are real questions from real fans sending them on Twitter using the #HaggBag hashtag, via a message on my NBC Sports Boston Facebook page and via email at @JHaggerty@nbcuni.com. Now, on to the bag:

Hey Joe

Enjoy reading your coverage of the Bruins. Here is an early season blockbuster with a bit of a gamble. Tuuka, Grezlcyk and Shenyshyn to the Oilers for Talbot, Puljujarvi, Kassian and a 2nd.

Bruins get another 1B tender and reduce goalie annual cap hit to 7 million per season. They get a right winger with upside to play with Krejci (a worthwhile gamble for 4th overall pick). Much needed toughness upfront for when the situation calls for it Marchand 2 fighting majors are enough don’t need him breaking his hand although it is admirable. Oilers 2nd or Isles 3rd to offset the different ability of goalies and the Oilers get a true No. 1 who looks like he needs a change of scenery. A long sought after puck moving D-man and throw in Senyshyn to offset Puljujarvi.

The B’s take a bit of a gamble but Puljujarvi but playing him with a more experienced center and a change of scenery maybe everything he needs.

And salaries are within a 1M of each other

Thoughts?

DJ Lund

JH: Hi DJ. Interesting scenario. I am sure that Peter Chiarelli would be happy to bring on a goalie of Tuukka Rask’s pedigree to the Oilers situation, and Edmonton assistant GM Keith Gretzky was the head scout with the Bruins when Zach Senyshyn was picked back in 2015. There are a few things that might punch some holes in this trade happening, though, and I’d imagine the biggest is that Rask could squash this deal with the no-trade language in his contract. I like Edmonton. It’s a lovely Canadian city full of red-blooded hockey fans that love their Oilers and there are plenty of great people that cover the team in Edmonton too. But I don’t see Rask agreeing to go to Edmonton, or really anywhere else aside from Boston in the NHL at this point. In an ideal world, the Bruins could trade either Rask or David Krejci at some point down the road to free up cap space, and they might just be able to do it once the no-trade language is lessened a bit in either one of their contracts. This just isn’t the time for that to happen since both players like it here in Boston and have young kids that I can’t imagine they’d be wild about uprooting right now. People don’t want to hear this kind of stuff, but these are the kind of real-world things that factor into these kinds of scenarios. On paper, I think this deal is tilted a little too much toward Boston’s favor given the upside that’s still there presumably for Puljujarvi. Grzelcyk is a puck-mover, but he’s also a bottom-pairing D with limited offensive upside and Senyshyn hasn’t really looked like an NHL player to this point in his pro career. But I do think this is the kind of deal that the B’s will need to make when/if dealing Rask becomes a realistic scenario.

Hi Joe,

Once again, great job covering the Bruins. I agree with you and the Hagg Baggers, Rask is not an elite goaltender. Another soft goal last night, what's that 6 or 7 softies in 6 starts? Halak has allowed one soft goal. An elite goaltender stops the shots he is supposed to, makes the big save when the game is on the line, and steals games when the team is bad in front of him. When's the last time Rask stole a game for this team? I'm not sure Halak is the answer, but he is certainly the best option right now. What's with Marchand the number of poor decisions and giveaways lately? Marchand needs to simplify his game.

Terry Carpenter

JH: Thanks, Terry. I agree with you on Rask to this point this year. When he’s going bad, it seems like he gives up about a soft goal per game and that’s one soft goal too many in the NHL. He’ll get hot at some point this season (maybe it’s even November) and eliminate that from his game, but one really has to wonder what’s behind his slow starts every season. Maybe he’s not putting in the proper amount of work in the offseason to get ready or maybe he needs to play a little more in the preseason to prepare for the regular season. Whatever he’s doing now is leading to some pretty piss-poor October performances on a consistent basis. That needs to change.

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As far as Marchand goes, he can get loose with the puck when he’s going throw bad stretches and can throw some ill-advised passes when he’s not feeling it offensively. He’s done some of that in the early going, but his two-goal performance against Carolina on Tuesday was encouraging given that he was shooting and scoring the puck. That’s what he’s doing when he’s at his best rather than filling the playmaker role that he can also do on occasion. It’s an area he’s made a lot of improvement at in his game, but the risky plays and turnovers are still there when he hits a period of struggle.

Any chance we get KoKo to return from KHL? How is he playing this year?

--David Landry (@davmonti)

JH: Alex Khokhlachev has eight goals and 16 points in 25 games for Moscow Spartak this season and 19 goals and 50 points in 52 games for them last season. So, he’s playing okay this season. But he’s clearly not lighting it up in the KHL, so is he really worth the effort to get him back in the North American fold and clear off a roster spot at the NHL level when he has shown little evidence that he’s any better than the young guys they have now?

God bless Bruins fans for constantly viewing their Russian prospects as some kind of sleeping giant, but I didn’t see much evidence that Koko could actually play in his years in Providence/Boston. He felt like a classic tweener to me: A quality AHL player that was too small, not fast enough to succeed when he got called up to the show. He’s probably in the right place for him now that he’s in the KHL, and no longer has to complain about not getting a proper chance in Boston.

Not dogpiling on Tuukka, but just a question: does he have a no-trade clause? Maybe limited? I bet we could entice the Kings. I’m not even looking for a return, just cap flexibility to get the winger we need.

Sign me Dr. Nate

JH: You’re not the only one judging by the emails in my inbox, Dr. Nate. I don’t see Tuukka waiving his no-trade clause to go anywhere, but you’d need to get some kind of a return for an All-Star, former Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender that’s still in his prime. The cap flexibility really becomes important once guys such as Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk get out of their entry-level contracts in the next few years.

And to answer your question, Rask’s modified no-trade includes just eight teams that he can be traded to, but that number jumps up to 15 teams next season.

Bruin fan 45 years Haggs...I want to know if Bruins GM thinks his team is heavy enough up front?

--M.Reel (@MReel10)

JH: Given that the Bruins were chasing after Ilya Kovalchuk and John Tavares over the summer, I would say the answer is “no” when it comes to being heavy enough or dangerous enough offensively. The Bruins are short at least one top-six forward right now in my humble opinion, and probably short a couple of top-nine forwards when you consider their third-line center situation.

Who knows? Maybe Joakim Nordstrom is this year’s Riley Nash and he’ll take the third-line center job and really run with it. That remains to be seen, or he could give way to bruising, physical, young third-line center Trent Frederic who might be able to help this B’s team in the second half. He checks some of the boxes that you’re asking about.

They could absolutely use a bruising, tough winger that can score goals and intimidate, but those guys don’t exactly grow on trees. Maybe Wayne Simmonds becomes available if the Flyers really fall out of it, but he’s also a player who's had his share of injuries recently and does most of his damage offensively on the power play. Still, he’d be a dangerous player to put on a line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci. That’s exactly what they need right now.

Given how undersized and outgunned physically this team has looked at times after dealing away Adam McQuaid, I’d really like to see them trade for a tough energy player who could drop the gloves if it's needed. But the fourth line (Noel Acciari, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner) has been the least of Boston’s problems, so I think that goes way down on the priority list right now.

Sup Haggs?

Thanks for answering my question in your last bag!

I agree with your story about that boring B's/Habs game Saturday night. What happened to this sport? As a kid, I remember getting fired up to watch Boston vs. Montreal. Would Jay Miller and John Kordic go for what seemed like the 500th time! Would Lyndon Byers wrap Todd Ewen with one of his patented upper cuts. Would Neely crunch Svoboda in the boards.

Would Bruce Shoebottom get called up for the game!! I hear the league yelling that they want to open it up and have more scoring but last time I checked, Gretzky was putting up over 200 points in a year with the likes of Dave Semenko and Kevin McClelland on his team. Seriously, who would you rather have on the current Bruins 4th line right now?

Guys like Wagner, Acciari or Kuraly or Shawn Thornton? I'd take Thornton every time and the funny part is, you barely lose any offense with Thornton. Wagner, Acciari and Kuraly aren't lighting up scoreboards. Thornton provided way more to the B's than any of those guys. The "Merlot Line” impacted games in the biggest moments. Stanley Cup Finals moments! You were right in your article. The emotion is gone. Max Domi and Jake Debrusk's dad's must watch a game like that and cringe.

When the game was too flat when those two animals played, they made a point to create some excitement. Every B's game I ever attended in my life, the bigger the confrontations, the better the memories. Terry O' Reilly with his left hand from hell. Chris Nilan sucker punching Paul Boutilier. L.B. getting jumped by Dirk Graham after beating the bag out of Everett Sanipass. PJ Stock throwing an insane amount of punches against that dude from the Capitals. All the way up to Looch and McQuaid, kind of the last of the Big Bad Bruins. Tell me Haggs. What the hell happened to our sport?

Billy Hud

JH: It’s a legit question, Billy, and one I ask all the time. I don’t think it’s ever going to be like it was back in the '70s and '80s because of concussions and the clear and present danger that too many blows to the head are scientifically proven to lead to brain damage. Nobody wants to see players unable to enjoy quality of life after their careers. or have their lives come to tragic ends, just to satisfy the old-time hockey fan in all of us.  

But there’s got to be some kind of happy medium in there where hits and fighting are tightly legislated, but still allowed in the NHL while the emotion and hate still stay part of the game as well. The other problem is that across all pro sports there’s just not as much as hate in the game as there used to be. That hate created sparks and rivalries and led to so many of those unforgettable moments. It seems as if players these days would rather build their personal brand through social media rather than do it by making things happen on the ice.

Somebody needs to inject some life into the Bruins/Canadiens rivalry to get it back to where it needs to be. The only way that’s going to happen is by somebody stirring things up as they did in the old days. Is there anybody on the B’s roster still willing to do that? Outside of Marchand, who awaits a massive suspension the next time he crosses the street without looking both ways, it doesn’t seem like there is right now.

That’s all for the Bag this week. See you next week. 

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Bruins hope Tuukka Rask concussion 'settles itself quickly' after nasty hit

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Bruins hope Tuukka Rask concussion 'settles itself quickly' after nasty hit

BOSTON – Things turned quickly for Tuukka Rask in Saturday’s loss to the New York Rangers where it went from going for a historic win to not even being able to get out of the first period in one piece. Rask was knocked out of Boston’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers with a concussion after getting crushed by Rangers winger Filip Chytil on a power rush to the net that resulted in New York’s first goal.

Chytil was headed to the net with a head of steam, and went airborne when shoved by Charlie McAvoy in what ended with a violent collision at the net. Rask was spaghetti-legged as he left the ice with a concussion and Jaroslav Halak absorbed his fourth loss in his last five appearances while allowing two goals on 13 shots.

Now the Bruins are hoping that more than a week of rest time – thanks to the bye week and NHL All-Star weekend – will be enough to find Rask healthy and ready to resume his duties when the regular season resumes.

“He’s concussed. That’s all I know, so he’ll go into protocol. The best-case scenario for those is usually the next day if he’s doing well,” said Bruce Cassidy of Rask, who went into Saturday night with a 2.43 goals against average and a .920 save percentage while playing some of his best hockey of the season. “Then he’s up and running and it shouldn’t be too badly affected by it other than the immediate, today’s kind of pain and symptoms. If he’s not, then it’s one of those where you just keep your fingers crossed and hope it settles itself out quickly.

“I don’t want this to come out of context, but the timing is probably the best it’s ever going to be, right? If you’re going to have this injury because you do have nine days before you play again, so for any player. But there is no good timing, having said that, because who knows how it’ll play out for him. So it’s unfortunate.”

Cassidy was also quick to point that he didn’t think the collision was intentional on the part of Chytil, who definitely appeared to lose his balance once he made contact with McAvoy while going full speed at the Bruins net.

“I don’t think there’s intent to hit the goalie. I think that’s rare. There’s probably a player or two that tries not to get out of the way, for sure. I don’t think this kid tried to hit him. I think he did hit him. How much Charlie [McAvoy] affected that? The reaction is did the goal go in because he hit him or the puck went in first clearly, so it’s a good goal? I thought there are nights where it would’ve been called goalie interference after the goal and we would’ve been on the power play, not that tonight would’ve been the best night for that,” said Cassidy. “At the end of day, I’ve seen that call. He didn’t make it. He felt Charlie had something to do with the contact, and you move on.”

It’s the second documented concussion for Rask after he suffered one in Bruins practice a couple of years ago when Anders Bjork ran over him during a particularly lively practice drill, and ended up missing more than a week of action in his recovery. 

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Talking Points from the Bruins 3-2 loss to the Rangers

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Talking Points from the Bruins 3-2 loss to the Rangers

Talking points from the B's loss to the Rangers. . .

GOLD STAR: Mika Zibanejad certainly wasn’t a dominant figure in the shots created department and he was only 11-for-30 in the face-off circle while getting his lunch handed to him on the draw for the most part. But he made the plays for the Rangers when it mattered scoring two of the three goals scored by the Rangers with the first one as a tipped shot camped in front of the net, and then he scored the game-winner on the power play midway through the third period as well. He topped 20 minutes of ice time, created four shot attempts, had three takeaways and made the plays when it mattered for the Blueshirts. There weren’t enough guys that did that in Black and Gold on Saturday night.

BLACK EYE: Tuukka Rask was done for the night in the first period after making just six saves, and it was due to a painful chain of events. Filip Chytil drove hard to the net, got shoved by Charlie McAvoy on the way there and somehow went airborne with his elbow catching Rask on the jaw in as violent of a collision as you’ll see at the net. Rask was helped off the ice by teammates and medical staff, and was diagnosed with a concussion a short time afterward with no chance to return to the game. It’s a good thing Rask has the bye week and All-Star weekend to rest and recover, but it remains to be seen if he’s going to be okay when the action resumes after that. That’s really unfortunate given how well Rask had been playing going into Saturday night.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins had a four-minute power play in the first period after Ryan Lindgren caught David Krejci with a high stick, and they did absolutely nothing with it. There was zero urgency, there was almost no real setup of the PP formation in the offensive zone and hence there were as many shorthanded rushes for the Rangers as there were shots on net for the Bruins. It was a horrible way for the Bruins to start the game from a momentum perspective, and it showed a group that seemed to have their minds on their bye week plans rather than the job at hand. As it turns out that’s really how the entire game ended up playing out.

HONORABLE MENTION: Danton Heinen had one of his best games of the season as he scored the first goal of the game, and was active winning battles and getting involved in the offensive zone. He finished with three shots on net in 12:27 of ice time, and he didn’t hesitate when Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson slid a pass back to him in the face-off circle as he crashed down to the net for a one-timer. It’s that kind of assertiveness and willingness to get involved without hesitating that hasn’t been present enough in Heinen’s game this season with just two points in January headed into Saturday night. But he scored his sixth goal of the season in Saturday’s loss and the hope has got to be that he can turn that into momentum in the final few months of the season.

BY THE NUMBERS: Minus-7 – The combined plus/minus of Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak on Saturday night, which usually spells doom for the Bruins.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Are we playing down to the level of competition or are we going to play to our standard? I think that the message from us as a coaching staff over the last two, three years is we need to play to our standard. So, I guess that’s the message we have to get back to and start measuring ourselves against our best selves, so to speak.” –Bruce Cassidy, on some recent losses to teams below the Bruins in the standings.   

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