Bruins

Here's where Bruins stand on NHL Network's top centers, wings rankings

Here's where Bruins stand on NHL Network's top centers, wings rankings

August isn't the most robust time for NHL news, so what better way to create some excitement than some good old fashioned debate?

The NHL Network has been releasing its rankings of the top players at each position this month, and the lists for centers and wings were the first to be revealed.

Bruins fans likely won't have too many issues with the top 20 wingers ranking. Bruins left winger Brad Marchand is at No. 4, while right winger David Pastrnak is at No. 10. Sure, Pastrnak could be higher after scoring 38 goals in just 66 games last season, but the competition here was quite strong.

Here's a look at the top 20 wingers in the league, according to NHL Network:

The ranking where Bruins fans might take issue with is centers. Patrice Bergeron, despite being the top two-way player in the league (sorry Ryan O'Reilly), comes in at No. 7. For what it's worth, the fans voted Bergeron at No. 3 among all centers.

Here's the full list of NHL Network's top 20 centers.

Bergeron tallied 79 points (32 goals, 47 assists) in 65 games last season, in addition to his excellent work defensively and on special teams. His nine goals tied for the team lead in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. Aleksander Barkov and Nathan MacKinnon are really good players, but are they both better than Bergeron right now? Probably not. 

The Bruins star was voted the league's third-best all-around player in The Athletic's player poll released in February, so we know Bergeron's peers understand his immense value to the B's and how he impacts the game in so many ways at a high level.

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Report: Bruins, Bruce Cassidy are discussing contract extension

Report: Bruins, Bruce Cassidy are discussing contract extension

"I don’t anticipate us having any problems with Butch."

That's what Bruins president Cam Neely had to say about Bruce Cassidy's contract situation when he sat down for an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Boston's Joe Haggerty earlier this month.

Now the team is reportedly doing something about it. According to The Athletic's Joe McDonald, the Bruins have begun contract negotations with their head coach, who is entering the final year of his contract.

Locking Cassidy up is a no-brainer for the Bruins, as the 54-year-old has led the team to a 117-52-22 record in two-plus seasons behind the bench. He needed just 166 games to win 100 games with the Bruins, the second-fastest coach in team history to reach that mark, behind only Tom Johnson's 138 games.

Cassidy has also taken the Bruins deeper into the postseason in each successive year, losing in the first round in 2017, the second round in 2018, and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final this past season. And despite coming within one game of hoisting the Cup in June, Neely has said that the playoffs are a growth opportunity for Cassidy.

"Coming in when he did and getting us to the playoffs and then almost having two back-to-back, 50-win seasons is pretty impressive," Neely said in June. "You know, learn from our playoff losses and how to maybe coach a little bit differently in the playoffs. You know, it’s kind of a tale of two seasons, to get into the playoffs, and then once you’re in the playoffs, how do you adjust for a seven-game series. I think Butch [Cassidy] has done a really good job in managing the regular season and learning from playoff hockey."

The Bruins' roster hasn't changed much since last season, so Cassidy will once again be very familiar with his players this coming season. While Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari departed in free agency, the team added other lower-impact free agents like Brett Ritchie and Par Lindholm.

The biggest item on Boston's to-do list before the season begins (outside of Cassidy's contract) is locking down defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, both of whom are restricted free agents. If the team can figure out deals for McAvoy, Carlo, and Cassidy, it would be a good first step in trying to get back to the Stanley Cup Final and winning one more game this time around.

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Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask 'still getting flashbacks' to Game 7 Stanley Cup loss

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask 'still getting flashbacks' to Game 7 Stanley Cup loss

Losing in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final to the St. Louis Blues will forever be a painful memory for the Boston Bruins, and goaltender Tuukka Rask still hasn't stopped thinking about it.

“I don’t think you ever get over that, still getting flashbacks," Rask said on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" on Tuesday. "But you know, you got to realize it’s only sports, and it is what it is."

Rask was brilliant in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, posting a .934 save percentage and a 2.02 goals against average over 24 games. Unfortunately for Rask and the Bruins, Game 7 against the Blues at TD Garden was not one of his better performances of the spring. Rask allowed four goals on 20 shots as the Blues secured their first ever Stanley Cup championship.

One challenge Rask and the rest of the Bruins have dealt with this offseason is a shorter period of recovery time. Obviously, you'd rather have a shorter offseason because it means your team made a deep playoff run, but it does make preparing for the next season a bit tougher.

“I think the mental aspect is the biggest thing, especially if it’s a disappointing loss like that," Rask said. "You have to just kind of unwind and try to forget about hockey as much as you can. But then again, you only have 2-and-a-half, three months until the next season starts, so you’ve got to take a month for your body to recover. It’s a really small window to kind of recover and then try to get back in shape. I think if you can just kind of do something and stay somewhat in shape and keep skating, that’ll help you start the new season because you only have a couple months between the games. But I think mentally, it’s just such a grind, hockey season, you know you play 82 games plus 25, possibly, so mentally it’s very draining. And the fresher mentally you can be, the better off you are, I think.”

The Bruins did a nice job keeping Rask fresh last season. A huge part of that was signing veteran goalie Jaroslav Halak to serve as the backup. Rask played 46 games and started 45 of them -- his lowest totals for a non-lockout season since 2012. It paid off, too, because he looked fresh and ready to go come playoff time.

Employing a similar strategy during the 2019-20 season will be crucial in allowing Rask to recover from a long playoff run. Halak proved last season that he's more than capable of shouldering the load, evidenced by his 22-11-4 record with a .922 save percentage in 40 appearances.

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