Bruins

Hagg Bag Mailbag: Seeking some answers during the Bruins losing streak

Hagg Bag Mailbag: Seeking some answers during the Bruins losing streak

The Bruins have lost four games in a row, but it’s not exactly panic city for the Black and Gold. Nor should it be after their torrid month of October with things now coming back to reality. Certainly the schedule is catching up with the B’s, injuries are playing a role and they may just be getting a little tired after last season’s run until mid-June.

It all means they aren’t going to romp wire-to-wire this year and that there are weaknesses to be exploited on the B’s roster. These are things realistic fans already knew going in, so don’t expect too many frenzied, breathless demands that half the team be traded, benched or sent back down to Providence at this point.

Still, there is some frustration from the Bruins fans in this week’s Hagg Bag. As always these are real questions from real fans on twitter using the #HaggBag hash tag, real messages to my NBCS Facebook fan page and real emails to my jhaggerty@nbcuni.com email address.

Now on to the Hagg Bag:

Hagg bag,

Do you see McAvoy developing into an offensive star? He has the ability to become the future top D-man on the B's, however if he continues down the road to be a pass first guy, will he achieve that status?

--Brian A (@fouronorr)

JH: It’s a great question and it’s one I’ll be investigating further this weekend after talking to McAvoy and some other Bruins. But for the Hagg Bag, I would say the jury is still out on exactly how impactful he will be as an offensive player anytime soon. Certainly it’s going to be difficult if he doesn’t simply shoot the puck. McAvoy has only 20 shots on goal in 18 games this season, and that’s not nearly enough for a player of his skill set, ability and potential impact when it comes to creating offense.

There was a perfect example on Tuesday night’s loss to Florida when he passed up a shooting lane in overtime to dish the puck off to David Pastrnak in the face-off circle. It might be the proper play given the situation and the personnel on the ice, but you’d like to see McAvoy simply rip it, or take it to the net, with a little more frequency to keep defenses guessing as to what he’s going to do.

I think McAvoy will be a capable offensive D-man and could become an even bigger force if he ever gained entry to the top power-play unit, but I’m just not sure he’s ever going to be the 10-goal, 50-point guy that Torey Krug has developed into over the years. That development would be made tougher by his defensive responsibilities with Zdeno Chara against other team’s top lines.

Long answer short, he needs to shoot the puck more if he wants to be the true No. 1 defenseman he aspires to be.

Hi Joe -

We know that the Perfection Line has carried the team to where they are at now, but realistically, the B's really don't have any depth past this line. I really don't see this team getting anywhere near last year's success. It'll be tough to get in just as a wild card!

I would like to see Krug packaged with [Peter] Cehlarik and traded for someone that can put pucks in the net NOW vs. the trade deadline. I think both Moore and Miller can also be used as bargaining chips. Clifton has played well and is much speedier, and in my opinion has surpassed both of these players. I also think Vaakanainen can be called up on a permanent basis with the B's.

Cheers, Art

JH: Do you really think Peter Cehlarik has much trade value? I’m not sure that he does after he was bypassed by every team when he was waived and sent down to Providence. I also don’t think John Moore or Kevan Miller have any trade value at all until they return from injury and show other teams they are healthy. On top of that, Moore is in the second year of a five-year contract. I don’t see other teams getting in on that at this point either.

Honestly, I’d rather have a healthy Kevan Miller in the lineup over Connor Clifton because the Bruins could use a little more thump and toughness on the back end. Clifton hasn’t exactly been ironclad defensively over the last few weeks either. I have wondered whether his play dipped because everybody knows moves are coming on the back end once Miller and Moore regain good health and are ready to play.

I’m really curious to see how Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy play with Torey Krug out of the lineup for the next few games. If they step up and show that the Bruins aren’t going to miss a beat offensively or on special teams, then you might be on to something. But I still think they’d be better served keeping Krug, trading for another Marcus Johansson-type at the trade deadline and then potentially going out to find a long-term solution this coming summer either via trade or free agency.

The Bruins should hire Don Cherry.

--Kevork Kasparian (@KasparianKevork)

JH: I don’t think Don Cherry needs the work. He’s 85 years old and he had a great run on Hockey Night in Canada. I was always a fan and I selfishly wish he was still on Coach’s Corner because I enjoyed watching him talk hockey. Hopefully Grapes sticks around the game as a personality who's still very much needed, but also does exactly what he wants to do rather than feel the need to come up with what’s next following his firing.

I think the Bruins are probably happy to not be involved in the controversy on any level because the league’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative flies in the face of Cherry’s comments from last weekend. Nobody has any issue with Cherry supporting the troops. Everybody in this day and age should have an issue with him singling out immigrants in his comments.

How do you see the salary cap situation sorting itself out with the return of Miller and Moore?

--RN

JH: This is difficult to predict since we can’t see what kind of injuries await them over the next month. Do we even know what’s going on with David Backes and whether he’s anywhere close to playing anytime soon? If he becomes a candidate for LTIR, then that opens up a lot of additional cap space for the Bruins even after Moore and Miller are healthy enough to return.

Right now Moore and Miller make up $5.25 million in cap space off the books on injured reserve and Backes’ cap hit is $6 million. So that’s an almost even trade if that’s what ends up happening, but the Bruins will also have to clear out a couple of defensemen contracts at the NHL level as well, so it’s tough to tell exactly how it will happen.

I’d guess Moore is still a couple of weeks away from a return at this point, so there isn’t a real rush to figure this out currently. We shall see.

What would the Bruins need to give up for Taylor Hall. Would it be worth it?

--Mike Wasyluk (@michaelwasyluk)

JH: A first-round pick. A solid prospect at left wing or defense. I’m just not sure it’s going to happen based on the cap gymnastics and whether or not the Bruins have the kind of prospects that would get something like this done. They’d be better off waiting until the offseason and signing him as a free agent if Hall is truly who they targeted as their top-6 improvement plan moving forward.

Haggs,

No doubt, David Pastrnak is a great player, but his biggest problem is losing the puck.  He often loses the puck coming into the zone, and along the boards he almost never comes up with it.

My suggestion is to have [Patrice] Bergeron, [Brad] Marchand and [David] Krejci work with him along the boards...just over and over. [Just] have them go to the boards with Pasta and fight for the puck.  Those would be three great mentors and Pasta would certainly learn something.

Thanks, Rick Stark

JH: David Pastrnak was on a pace to score 50 goals last season before he got hurt. He’s on pace to score 70 goals and 140 points this season. He leads the NHL in goals scored. I don’t need him to be the Ultimate Warrior along the boards. Maybe he can teach guys like Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk how to score goals like him instead? Just a thought.

Could be better in puck battles and more staunch along the boards? He certainly could, but I also think he’s come a long way in these departments from where he was as the youngest guy in the NHL at 18 years old. Don’t you? He’s still only 23 and just tapping into his highest ceiling as a player, so perhaps this will happen without the remedial lessons from 37, 63 and 46.

With the dearth of immediate NHL forward prospects, should the B's kick the tires on bringing back Koko from the KHL?

--Rich Coveney (@coves121)

JH: The guy has never scored 20 goals in the KHL, and has six goals and 15 points in 25 games for Moscow Spartak this season. Can we stop pretending that players over in Russia are some secret weapon that are going to come here and address all of Boston’s needs? He had some chances while he was here to establish himself and always appeared to me to be a guy that wasn’t strong enough — or fast enough — to get it done at the NHL level.

The merely okay numbers in the NHL would seem to back that up. There are better options for the Bruins within their own organization and there certainly will be better options at the trade deadline for another Marcus Johansson-type acquisition at this year’s deadline.

Where do B's rank in Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings?>>>>>

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Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panhters

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Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panhters

Here are my talking points from tonight's 4-2 Bruins win in South Florida . . .

GOLD STAR: David Krejci didn’t have a single point during the five-game losing streak. But on Saturday night he stepped up and, lo and behold, the Bruins took home two points. It was Krejci helped kick-start the transition game for Jake DeBrusk’s goal in the first period, and then scored one of his own in the second on a strike from the top of the faceoff circle. Krejci finished with a goal and two points and a plus-2 rating in 16:20 of ice time. He also had five shot attempts and won 9-of-14 faceoffs in a game where the second line providence plenty of offense and pressure. Bruce Cassidy slipped Charlie Coyle up to second-line right wing with Krejci and DeBrusk at the outset of the game, and it seemed to work well for the Black and Gold.

See the highlights from Boston's 4-2 win>>>

BLACK EYE: Jonathan Huberdeau is having a very good season for the Panthers, but he wasn’t able to bring out his “A” game for Florida against the Bruins. Huberdeau didn’t get a single shot on net in the 21:25 of ice time that he played. He finished with three giveaways and a minus-1 against the Bruins. He was part of the line set to contain the Krejci line, but instead allowed them to march right up the ice on DeBrusk’s first period scoring play. Huberdeau was also on ice in the third, when Florida coach Joel Quenneville pulled the goalie with more than two minutes to go, only for David Pastrnak to quickly notch an empty-netter that sealed the game. Not a good night for a very good player.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins weathered the storm in the third when the Panthers came hard after them and carved out a couple of goals to cut the lead to 3-2. Considering that the Bruins blew a 4-0 third period lead against the Panthers at home just a month ago, there was certainly some nervous, anxious moments, with the Bruins looking like they’d blow a three-goal lead in the third period this time. But the B’s stiffened after Jaro Halak gave up a soft goal on a Keith Yandle point shot to make it a one-goal game. They didn’t allow Florida to take advantage of any other breakdowns. Instead the B’s hung in there, patiently waiting until the Florida net opened up the winning scoring chance for them.

A NJ Devil be heading to Boston. It might not be Taylor Hall>>>

HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk was at the heart of some of the criticism from Bruce Cassidy after the loss in Tampa when the second and third lines weren’t getting much of anything done. DeBrusk was also one of the players that responded in a big way this weekend by scoring the game’s first goal, a pretty nifty dangle through Florida defenders before beating Sergei Bobrovsky in tight close to the net. DeBrusk also fed David Krejci for his second period goal, finishing with five shot attempts and a couple blocked shots in 15:38 of ice time while posting a plus-2 rating. Perhaps just as important, DeBrusk was winning 50/50 battles for the puck and playing a competitive brand of hockey rather than doing fly-bys in a lot of areas while hunting the puck. If DeBrusk played with the same kind of speed, skill and tenacity on more nights, he’d be a difference-maker for the Bruins more often.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28 – The number of goals for David Pastrnak after collecting two scores against the Panthers, and putting himself in a position where he’s easily going to have 30 goals before the Christmas break.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I thought we did a really good job. Every line played well. We moved some guys around, but right up and down the lineup all 12 forwards, 6 [defensemen] and Jaroslav Halak were all really good.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN when asked his assessment of the win that snapped the longest B’s losing streak (five games) since he took over as head coach.  

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Highlights: B's snap losing skid vs. Panthers

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Highlights: B's snap losing skid vs. Panthers

FINAL SCORE: Bruins 4, Panthers 2

IN BRIEF: Oh not, not this again? After the Bruins’ epic third-period collapse in their last meeting with Florida, they nearly repeated themselves after going up 3-0 after two periods. Keith Yandle’s goal with 11 minutes left made it 3-2, Boston fought off the Panthers long enough for David Pastrnak to get an empty-netter that sealed it. And so, after coach Bruce Cassidy called out their attention to details earlier in the week, the Bruins snapped their losing skid with a solid all-around effort.

BOX SCORE

BRUINS RECORD: 21-7-6 (48 points, 1st in Atlantic Division)

HIGHLIGHTS

DEBRUSK’S 100TH CAREER POINT IS A BEAUTY

KREJCI MAKES IT 2-0

PERFECTION LINE MAKES IT LOOK EASY

UP NEXT:

vs. Los Angeles, Tuesday, 7 p.m., NESN

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