Bruins

Haggerty: Crank up the Hart Trophy talk again for Marchand

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Haggerty: Crank up the Hart Trophy talk again for Marchand

Here’s what we learned in the Bruins' 3-2 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Wednesday night:

1) Brad Marchand is putting together a Hart Trophy resume for the second consecutive season. 
Clearly, the numbers are impressive with 12 goals, 25 points and a plus-12 rating in just 20 games. He’s on pace for 44 goals and 93 points in an era when you just don’t see that kind of production much anymore. Still, it’s the time and the place where Marchand exerts his dominance that makes him an MVP-type force. That’s exactly what happened in the come-from-behind win. The Bruins hadn’t played well for the first 40 minutes and it looked like they were going to lose after Dylan Larkin struck for a shorthanded goal in the third period. That’s when Marchand got to work snapping a slick, cross-ice pass through three Detroit defenders to set up David Pastrnak’s tying goal with the goalie pulled. Then Marchand scored on a backhanded breakaway less than a minute into OT to steal two points for the B's. Of course, there were others to credit: Pastrnak was able to put a great finish on the one-timer, David Backes attracted attention in front of the net to create the passing seam and Torey Krug freed up Marchand for the breakaway winner. But it was No. 63 again at the center of everything who practically willed the Black and Gold to victory. That’s the kind of thing that MVP-type players do throughout the season when it’s badly needed.

2) Bruins found a way to get two points in a game where really they didn't deserve it. 
The Bruins didn’t play well at all, didn’t react very adeptly to Detroit's trapping them and had a difficult time generating anything consistently in the offensive zone until the third period. Tuukka Rask kept them in the game and the Bruins finally began paying the price to get closer to the net in the third and overtime. Good teams find a way to win, and that’s what the Bruins did against a Red Wings team that’s not going anywhere this season. So, with their ninth victory in the past 11 tries, the Bruins are now firmly in a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and have a four-point lead over the Montreal Canadiens with a whopping four games in hand against the Habs right now. If the Bruins can avoid monumentally stubbing their toe here, they are in a very good position to keep it in cruise control after the holidays for a postseason spot.

3)  I didn’t think people from Detroit were afraid of anything.
Apparently, I’ve given them way too much credit. Apparently, they’re afraid of a little snow. The downtown Detroit area got six inches of snow on Wednesday and that was enough to keep Red Wings fans away from the new Little Caesars Arena. When you’re from New England, six inches of snow is considered a dusting and isn’t something that would keep any self-respecting hardcore hockey fan away. But anybody who watched the "Wednesday Night Rivalry Game" on NBCSN got an eyeful of empty red seats in the lower bowl at LCA that made Detroit look like anything but HockeyTown. Skipping the game would be understandable if the Motor City was truly in the thrall of a nasty blizzard, but instead Wings fans looked like a player turtling in a hockey fight with the sad attendance. Weak sauce, in my opinion. Next time just shut down the entire city and cancel everything when an inch or two is in the forecast. 

PLUS
*Marchand was the money player. He set up the tying goal in the third period with a slick cross-ice, threaded pass through three defenders, and then scoring the winner. In all, he had two points, a plus-1 and a couple of gigantic plays in his 22-plus minutes of ice time.

*Torey Krug finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating in a whopping 23:39 of ice time. It was No. 47 who threaded the needle on a pass that freed up Marchand for the winner. Krug and Marchand were the only two multi-point performers for the Black and Gold.

*Noel Acciari didn’t pile up the hits and he only played 10:50 of ice time, but he made a huge play in the third period when he disrupted the Detroit breakout on a Wings face-off win in the D-zone. He was rewarded with a loose puck goal in front of the net right after causing the turnover. That shift from the fourth line really started shifting the game in Boston’s direction.

MINUS
*The Bruins had two shots on net in the first period and had just one decent scoring chance in the first 40 minutes (a Pastrnak breakaway in the second period) while playing right into the hands of the trap-happy Wings. The Bruins deserved to lose this game based on the way they played early, but a few individuals ended up saving their bacon.

*One shot on net and a minus-3 rating for Henrik Zetterberg, who was mostly invisible aside from a PP assist to Tomas Tatar early in the game. Zetterberg was on the ice for every goal scored by the Bruins and was grossly negligent on at least one of them.

*The refs bungled a call on Patrice Bergeron that directly set up the Wings first goal. Bergeron was clearly tripped by Frans Nielsen in the second period and Nielsen then stumbled over Bergeron’s stick as No. 37 was trying to lift himself up off the ice after falling due to the original tripping infraction. Instead, the refs merely saw the end of the play, called Bergeron for a bogus tripping call and that turned into a PP score for Tomas Tatar that broke the game open. You’d really expect a player such as Bergeron to get the benefit of the doubt on plays like that, wouldn’t you? 
 

Countdown to Bruins training camp: Chris Wagner

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Countdown to Bruins training camp: Chris Wagner

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Chris Wagner.

One of the offseason aims for the Boston Bruins was bringing a little more experience and a little more physical thump to their fourth line, and the Bruins did that by signing Chris Wagner to a two-year contract on the opening day of free agency. The addition of Wagner adds a hard-hitting, versatile element to the bottom-six up front for the Bruins, and also gives the Bruins yet another local success story as a Walpole, Mass., native coming home to play for his hometown team. The fact that Wagner plays with the blue collar, physical style favored by Bruins fans will make it all the better for him in his home state.   

What Happened Last Year: The 27-year-old Wagner had a strong season with the Anaheim Ducks/New York Islanders going into free agency with seven goals and 16 points in 79 games while finishing among the NHL’s top-5 in registered hits. It was the most games that Wagner has ever played in the NHL and the most production he’s ever posted as well. Based on his track record and how hard he plays the game, it shouldn’t be all that difficult for Wagner to at least play at least season’s level for the next few seasons while under contract with Boston. 

Questions To Be Answered This Season: The big question for the rugged, high-energy Wagner is where the ceiling will be for him over the next few seasons after cementing himself as an NHL player last season. Is he going to be good for something in the neighborhood of five goals/15 points as a third/fourth line forward, or can Wagner hit double-digit goals once he settles into with a role and linemates for the Black and Gold. The other part of that question is whether Wagner can continue with the desperation and maximum energy output that he played with for Anaheim/New York last season. Will the security of a multi-year deal in Boston allow Wagner to relax a little bit and potentially not play with the kind of fire required to hit, play physical and get in the other team’s face? Only time will tell on this one, but it’s tough to get against a player like Wagner that’s had to scrap for everything he’s got.  

In Their Words: “I just wanted to find the best situation, obviously. It seemed that they had success recently and definitely had a chance to make a run for the Stanley Cup. That was huge for me. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the character of the guys in the room with the Bruins. I’ve always wanted to play here and be close to home and be close to my family. My parent, my grandparents, and my brother and all that so it’s just a win-win and a dream come true.” –Chris Wagner, on the process behind signing with his hometown Bruins on the July 1 open of free agency. 

Overall Outlook: The Bruins let Tim Schaller walk away in free agency, so they had to go after another physical, energy player for their fourth line. They found that in Wagner for a similar level of pay at $1.25 million per season, and are once again betting on the player to come into his own during his time with the Black and Gold. It’s a bonus that he’s a local kid just like Schaller, and the hope is that he’ll have the same level of success on and off the ice that Schaller did before parlaying it into a contract with the Vancouver Canucks. If Wagner plays the same way he did last season with Anaheim and New York, both the player and the team should be happy with the level of performance over the next couple of seasons. Bruins fans love players that are willing to take the body and work hard, and that is Chris Wagner several times over.

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Morning Skate: Who ya got in draft of hockey movie characters?

Morning Skate: Who ya got in draft of hockey movie characters?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading as training camp skates a little closer and summer winds down.

*Fun little exercise from Barstool Sports where the NHL has an expansion draft to pick up hockey movie characters. I was, however, a little disappointed to see that the Bruins got somebody from Mystery, Alaska (not one of my fav hockey movies) instead of Ross “The Boss” Rhea, who has Black and Gold written all over him.

*A Q&A with Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn where he talks about anything and everything ahead of an important season for the Stars organization.

*Tim Benz doesn’t want to see anybody else ever wear No. 71 or No. 68 for the Pittsburgh Penguins. I think it’s a safe bet we won’t see that.  

*Pro Hockey Talk says to expect a huge year from Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty no matter where he plays. Count me as a little skeptical on that one.

*So how good is Colton Parayko? Varying NHL talent evaluators offer variations on a “Ummm, pretty good” theme.

*For something completely different: RIP to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who I will forever remember for crushing her scene in the Blues Brothers. She was the real deal.

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