Bruins

Hagg Bag: Plenty of offseason questions facing Bruins

Hagg Bag: Plenty of offseason questions facing Bruins

With summer just a few weeks away and NHL free agency just a month away, things are starting to come into place for the offseason. Decisions are being made about impending free agents, trade scenarios are being played out and improvement plans are already in motion for the 29 teams watching the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights duke it out in the Stanley Cup Final.

With that in mind, here’s a late-spring Hagg Bag, where we take on some of those offseason questions, kick things off for the summer season and even maybe answer a few questions about “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and “Avengers: Infinity War” with the summer movie blockbuster season just about upon us.

As always these are real tweets to my Twitter account using the #HaggBag hashtag, real emails sent to my JHaggerty@nbcuni.com email account and real messages sent to my NBC Sports Boston Facebook page. Now, on to the bag:

#haggbag Moving Krug and his cap # seems like a risky, but potentially high reward, move; we need another solid D-man or wing and I feel we have McAvoy and Gryz to play PP...like to hear ur thoughts, Joe. Thanks

Allmanator (@dbiscardi78)

JH: Thanks. My thoughts are pretty much there depending on how serious the Bruins are about improving the left side of their defense. I don’t view a Torey Krug trade as dumping him or getting rid of him at all. Far from it. Did you know that Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson and John Klingberg are the only D-men with more points (110) than Krug the past two seasons? It’s more a function of Krug’s value sitting pretty high at the moment, his cap hit is also fairly high for a player that probably should be a bottom pairing/power play specialist and the Bruins having some good, young and cheap options for an offensive defenseman in Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy.

Would the Bruins power play miss much of a beat if they switched Krug for McAvoy as their trigger man at the point position? I’m not sure they would. Could Grzelcyk handle the five-on-five duties that Krug has manned the past couple of years? Would the Bruins be better off with a bigger, sturdier left side D-men in their top four considering Zdeno Chara is going to be 42 next season and that Krug has been banged up at the end of the past two seasons? I think they probably would despite the massive production that Krug provides.

Still, you don’t move Krug unless there’s real benefit behind it. If it gets you a package that includes an established top-six right wing who can play with David Krejci, then you certainly have to think long and hard about it. If it gets you assets that you can then use to help go out and get that frontline, left-shot defenseman, then I think you have to do that. Krug has a ton of value to a team that needs help on their power play or is looking for more offensive pop from their back end. In the short term, it’s going to make the Bruins offense a little less explosive, but one has to assume that McAvoy is going to fill those shows for next season and beyond as he improves. I would do it cautiously and only for a quality return, but I think Don Sweeney and the B’s have to think seriously about seeing what’s out there for Krug this spring and summer.  

Ilya Kovalchuk. Give him a shot. Nash sucked

--Chip O’Brien @chipobrien

JH: I’ll pass on Kovalchuk. Massive talent. Older guy now at 35. He’s going to cost high-end, bonus-laden money because many teams will be chasing after him, but I’m willing to bet he’s not the player he was when we last saw him in the Stanley Cup Final with the New Jersey Devils. I think there are cheaper, younger and better fits that can be found for the second line rather than jumping into the Kovalchuk Sweepstakes full bore.  

Hey Joe

Truly admire all the great work you do covering the Bruins and movie reviews!

I’m totally on board with bringing in Ryan Reaves, who is good friends with David Backes to bring some much needed sandpaper. What are the chances Sweeney brings in a Reaves or perhaps Matt Martin over the summer?

--Brian Cain

JH: Thanks, Brian. Much appreciated. I think the chances are very much predicated on the cost to sign them. Reaves, 31, had a cap hit and salary of $1.25 million this past season and could be looking at a bit of a bump this summer after playing the playoff hero for the Golden Knights. So, would the Bruins be willing to go for a two-year, $3 million contract for Reaves that would probably come at the expense of re-signing fourth-line winger Tim Schaller?

I would hope so, with the expectation that Reaves would provide intimidation, toughness, and the kind of swaggering attitude that the Bruins haven’t really had among their forward group since Shawn Thornton left for the Florida Panthers. It’s something that would really assist Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller as well. They wouldn’t have to constantly be the players dropping the gloves to protect teammates and thereby costing the Bruins valuable minutes with their better penalty-killers and stay-at-home defenseman while they’re in the penalty box.

The fancy stats pocket protector crew like to poo-poo the importance of tough guys such as Reaves, who can drop the gloves, but his contributing role in these playoffs for the Golden Knights isn’t something that can really be truly evaluated in a bar graph or a pie chart. As many nice things as we wrote about the young fourth line of Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari in the regular season, they were a bit of a bust and very much outplayed by Tampa Bay fourth-liners Ryan Callahan and Chris Kunitz in the playoffs.

I think the B’s fourth line could use a little more brute strength and toughness, a little more veteran savvy and a little more swagger and Reaves would bring all of those to the table. He isn’t going to be an offensive production or puck possession machine, but I still think there is very much some good value there for a perfect Bruins-type player that would be a nice deterrent to some of the cheap shots that Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have taken the past few seasons.      

I'm looking to buy a Bruins jersey, already have a Bergeron one that's close to my heart. Whose jersey should I pick up that will be a good investment for the future years to come?

--TechnoCop (@jon_landry192)

JH: I’d go either No. 88 with David Pastrnak or No. 73 with Charlie McAvoy. You can’t go wrong with either one of those guys as I think they’ll be in Black and Gold for a long, long time. Maybe you should just get a No. 33 Chara jersey because he’ll probably just keep playing like he is now until he’s ready for an NHL pension plan.

Kessel might be on the move. A fit with Krejci and Debrusk? Would be quite the story.

--Stefan Sveinsson (@stefangier32)

JH: Hard pass. There’s a reason he’s left three different organizations in acrimony and is perhaps most well-known for befriending hot dog vendors in Toronto. He’s way too high-maintenance and, at 30, the skills are going to start declining for Phil the Thrill despite the 34 goals and 92 points he posted for the Penguins this season. Kessel is signed for the next four seasons at $6.8 million per year as he begins the decline portion of his career after admittedly piling up offensive numbers with 330 goals and 741 points in his 914 games. The fact that the Penguins essentially needed an assistant coach in Rick Tochett who could be the Phil Whisperer is ridiculous to me. Now, if Pittsburgh was willing to eat half the money owed to Kessel over the duration of his contract? I might be willing to listen if I were Sweeney, but it still feels like a problem that you really don’t need to enter into a team equation that’s going pretty well. Not to mention, Kessel is a headache that Bruce Cassidy definitely doesn’t need either.   

Hey Joe,

Love the work you do.  Please keep it coming.  My question.....

Do the B's take a run at Kovalchuk? With the projected cap expected to go up, they'd theoretically have more flexibility money wise.  He'd be a real finisher to put next to David Krejci and a huge asset on the power play.  I also think they have the core leadership to deal with his "eccentric" personality.

And a Star Wars question.....if you could only pick one spin off...boba Fett or obi wan Kenobi?

Thanks

Tim

JH: Thanks, Tim! The Bruins really don’t need any help on the power play at this point. I still think they need a big body that can finish around the net and bring some brute strength able to fight through big D-men groups like they had in Tampa Bay. Kovalchuk really isn’t that guy. I’d be more interested in the right-wing version of James van Riemsdyk, a big body that’s willing to camp in front of the net and mix it up for blue-collar offense. Or perhaps they just bring in JVR and then swing young left wing Jake DeBrusk into a right winger and see if it’s possible. Or move DeBrusk to the third line and swing Danton Heinen into a second-line right-winger with David Krejci. There are plenty of possibilities there if they want to open up the purse strings for JVR, who is five years younger than Kovalchuk.

Give me the Obi-Wan Kenobi spinoff movie, and have it connect some of the dots from the ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story” movie that I saw this week, that I liked very much and that is opening things up for a few more movies beyond it. Don’t listen to the naysayers or all of the reports about turmoil on the set of this movie, it’s actually pretty good.  

Hi Joe,

What will the B's have to give up to get Wayne Simmonds from Philly?

--Matt Latsis, via Facebook message 

JH: Hi Matt. What if it was going to cost you Krug and a second-round pick? How about Danton Heinen and Jakob Zboril? Would you do it? I’m not even certain either one of those things would get it done for Simmonds, but it would cost plenty given that there’s a full season left under contract before the Flyers power forward would get to free agency. It would take quite a bit to get him, but he’s exactly the kind of player the Bruins could use on that second line. I say all that despite the fact that he was a disappointment for the Flyers in the playoffs this season after putting up a minus-16 with 24 goals in the regular season. He’s also 29 and entering that stage where big-bodied players sometimes tend to break down, so there’s that to think about if you planned on giving up a lot for him and then wanted to sign him to a long-term contract. All that being said, if I had a chance to get Simmonds for the next few years, I would be very tempted to do it.   

I don't want PK @PKSubban1 in a Bruins uniform. I NEED him in a Bruins uniform. #beaut

--Richie Murray (@Richie_Murray)

JH: Duly noted, Richie. He has been spending a lot of time in the Boston area lately, so all they would have to do is give up a boatload to Nashville to make it happen. It would be fun to see him on the Bruins, but you also have to wonder why you’re seeing rumblings of the Predators moving on from him after Montreal shipped him out a couple of years ago. There are some warning signs there with a high-profile player being dealt twice, even if by all accounts, Subban is the model modern professional athlete. He’s also a right shot D-man, and the Bruins have their top pairing right-shot D-man for the next decade in  McAvoy, who they will have to pay after next season. So, I’d probably have to pass on a guy making $9 million a year for the next four seasons. Can you imagine if the Bruins traded for Subban and he immediately became the highest-paid guys on the Bruins roster? I wonder how that would go over with guys that battled against him for years when he was a member of the Canadiens. My guess is not too well.  

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Canadiens in the playoffs? Tony Marinaro calls that 'the stupidest thing I've ever heard'

Canadiens in the playoffs? Tony Marinaro calls that 'the stupidest thing I've ever heard'

The one clear benefit of the play-in round for this summer’s Stanley Cup playoff conclusion to the 2019-20 campaign is it gives new life to hockey clubs otherwise out of it with a month to go in the regular season.

The biggest beneficiary of that new postseason life is undoubtedly the Montreal Canadiens, who had the lowest point total (71) of any of the 24 teams that will qualify for the play-in round. The Habs were a bad team playing out the string that’s now been thrown a life preserver due to the unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Montreal is scheduled to play the fifth-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins once the postseason format begins and will face an uphill battle against a healthy, rested group that still features Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and is just a few seasons removed from back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. One would expect that Canadiens fans, media and anyone interested in the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge would be looking for reasons to justify their newfangled postseason presence.

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But TSN 690 radio host Tony Marinaro wasn’t having any of that sunshine Habs talk during a recent NBC Sports Boston Zoom call with myself and Boston Sports Now’s James Murphy when asked about Montreal’s new life.

“The station I work for TSN 690 is the official partner of the Montreal Canadiens. We air Montreal Canadiens on our radio station. This is great for the Montreal Canadiens. It’s great for the fans. It’s great for the radio station that I work for. It’s great for me and it’s great for my show,” said an animated Marinaro. “Now, personally how do I feel about it? I think it’s stupid. [This is] a team that lost eight in a row at one point, and on another occasion lost another eight in a row. On another occasion lost five in a row.

“On another occasion lost three in a row and finished with 31 wins and 40 losses. [They] have a chance at a play-in to get into the actual playoffs? I think it’s the stupidest thing that I’ve ever heard in my life. These are exceptional times that call for exceptional measures. There are a lot of things that I don’t agree with. I think I speak for all of us that we all want hockey back and that the National Hockey League would want to have as many markets involved, in the mix, as possible to try and generate as much interest as possible, and to try and generate as much of the lost revenue as possible. I’m at a point where I just want sports back. As I much as I think it’s stupid, I want sports back more than I think it’s stupid if that makes sense.”

It certainly should make sense to anybody and everybody that loves, and right now misses, the NHL.

The hapless Canadiens were 10 points out of a playoff spot when the NHL regular season went on pause, haven’t made the postseason in back-to-back years, and will have not won a playoff series in five years when they eventually suit up against the Penguins this summer. Despite all of this, they might have a fighting chance with a rested, healthy Carey Price in a short series against a Penguins group coming off a long break.

A win by the Habs in the play-in could even eventually set up a playoff series between the Bruins and the Canadiens. Selfishly, who wouldn’t want to see Claude Julien and his Canadiens match up with the Black and Gold in a playoff series that could help rekindle a rivalry that’s been on life support over the last few seasons?

All that being said, it’s going to be tough to feel like low-seeded play-in teams like the Canadiens actually deserve a regular Stanley Cup playoff berth given so many critical voices viewing skepticism at the 24-team postseason format set up by the NHL.

This Week in Bruins Playoff History: The best B's game I've ever covered

This Week in Bruins Playoff History: The best B's game I've ever covered

After covering almost 20 years’ worth of NHL games with the Bruins and hundreds of Stanley Cup Playoff games, the Game 7 between the Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2011 Eastern Conference Final goes down as the single best game I’ve ever covered.

The 1-0 win for the Black and Gold that vaulted them to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final was played this week nine years ago -- May 27, 2011 -- at TD Garden with everything on the line for a Bruins core group at the height of its powers.

It was a perfectly-executed game between the Bruins and Lightning fine-tuned by a pair of long postseason runs. There wasn’t a single penalty called in the entire game by the referring crew of Dan O’Halloran and Stephen Walkom and just a miniscule 57 whistle stoppages. Both teams were locked into playing mistake-free hockey and did just that for the first two and a half periods of the do-or-die game with everything on the line. 

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“I have nothing really intelligent to say right now,” said legendary NBC play-by-play man Doc Emrick on the telecast at the beginning of the third period, “other than to say, ‘It’s been terrific.’ ”

The Bruins had the better of the chances with Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson forced to make 37 saves, while Tim Thomas had to stop just 24 shutouts in the eventual shutout performance. 

The Bruins had the better of the chances whether it was a Milan Lucic breakaway in the first period, or the 22 shots on net peppered by the top two forward lines of Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Mark Recchi throughout the game. 

But it was all about the entire Bruins team with top shutdown pair Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg both topping 26 minutes of ice time for the game and the B’s defense holding both Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos to just single shots on net.

It was the mild-mannered, powerful Seidenberg who drilled St. Louis with a big open ice hit in the first two minutes of the game and summarily made the announcement to the finesse Lightning bunch that that they were in for a tough night. 

For the Bruins it was about cracking the 1-3-1 trap employed by Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, and that opening finally presented itself midway through the third period. It took the perfectly-executed play to break their system and win the game, and that’s exactly what the Bruins pulled off. 

Andrew Ference carried the puck out of the defensive zone before hitting Krejci in a perfect spot in the neutral zone between two defenders. Krejci skated it quickly into the offensive zone and created a 2-on-1 with Horton moving without the puck to the net, and it was a perfect, slick dish from the playmaking center to Game 7 hero Horton that produced the game-winner.

 

Horton scored the Game 7 game-winner against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round as well, and those two goals cemented his massive status in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final run before a dirty Aaron Rome hit in the Stanley Cup Final took him out of that series. 

The game was finished off by Seidenberg blocking his eighth shot of the game in a warrior performance from the German defenseman, and featured Stamkos playing with his nose all stitched up and repaired after taking a heavy, deflected Johnny Boychuk slap shot right to his face. 

The game had toughness, playmaking and the ultimate compete level with none of the nonsense that can sometimes mar postseason affairs. 

There certainly have been Bruins playoff games with more nastiness and times when it took an amazing, iconic play to win a clinching game in a series. But from beginning-to-end there has never been anything quite as tense and well-played as a 0-0 game through the first 50 plus minutes of the game where it became clear that the first hockey team to crack was going to lose the game. 

It took a perfectly designed and executed play from the Black and Gold to put the finishing move on the Lightning, and that was only appropriate given the tenor of the game. Anybody who was at TD Garden on May 27, 2011, remembers the exact emotion in the aftermath as they left the building saying to themselves, “Damn, that was a good hockey game."