What is there to worry about with this Bruins team?
They are tops in the NHL while in the midst of a 13-game point streak and have been doing it with a lineup that’s pretty consistently been less than 100 percent health-wise. The point streak is the perfect example of that with Patrice Bergeron in and out of the lineup and the Bruins still collecting points and stretching out their lead in the Atlantic Division.
Going into games Saturday, the Bruins hold a 14-point lead over the second-place Canadiens in the division as they run away with the Atlantic. Still, all of this coincides with the B’s having not reached their top level of play as of yet this season, either. They are getting elite goaltending from Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak and David Pastrnak is having an offensive season for the ages and that’s played into much of what’s going right.
That leaves plenty of room for improvement for players on the roster and any that arrive between now and the end of the trade deadline.
As always these are real questions from real fans using the #HaggBag hashtag on Twitter, messages to my NBCS Facebook fan page and emails to my @email@example.com email account. Now, on to the bag:
Was watching the Ottawa game and after Big Z scored I was thinking why is he not getting more attention. The man is off to his best offensive start (5G 7A) in several years he is plus 17 along with his excellent PK skills and leadership qualities. A lot of ink goes to the Perfection line and the goalies but he is the pillar of strength. I say keep signing him to 1-year deals until his skates fall off. Plus he scares the crap out of everyone. Not enough written about this man and what he still brings to the table soon to be 43.
JH: I’m with you in that Chara can sometimes be overlooked despite his 6-foot-9 size and Hall of Fame credentials. Some of it is about being a shutdown D-man, which is the ultimate anti-glamour position in the hockey world.
It’s true that Chara is on pace for his best offensive season in years where he projects to finish with 14 goals and 38 points. His plus-17 is excellent to go along with a strong 21:34 of ice time for a 42-year-old. He’s been efficient moving the puck and great on the penalty kill, and any mistakes due to decreased skating speed or schedule fatigue are outweighed by what he brings to the table.
Is everybody scared of Chara, though? Obviously nobody wants to fight him given his size, strength and insane reach advantage when he does decide to throw down. Still, are opponents scared to take runs at David Pastrnak right now because they are afraid Chara is going make them pay for it? It sure doesn’t seem that way to me.
Chara is a surefire Hall of Famer and the best shutdown D-man of his generation, but I also think he could stand to pick his spots a little more frequently to stick up for his teammates given that Kevan Miller and Brett Ritchie have been missing with injuries. There aren’t a lot of tough guys on the Bruins anymore and that means Chara might have to pick up the slack on the team toughness thing if the B’s are still going to be “hard to play against” as they have traditionally been in the past.
Back to your original point, Chara will probably be known as the greatest captain/leader in Bruins franchise history when it’s all said and done. That should make him held in high esteem here in Boston and give him much of the credit for the Bruins still being among the NHL’s best defensive units despite being an explosive offensive group as well.
#HaggBag With the Coyle and Wagner extensions do the Bruins trade Torey Krug at the deadline or let him walk on July 1? The Bruins could really use him in the playoffs, but on the other hand if they trade Krug a team will pay a king's ransom to acquire him at the deadline.
--Alissa Boops You (@CurvyMermaid617)
JH: I think if the Bruins are going to lose Krug, it’s going to be letting him walk away in free agency or trading his negotiating rights for a draft pick ahead of the opening of free agency. Nothing is set in stone when it comes to Krug’s future in Boston, but normally an NHL general manager takes care of the most important players first when it comes to contract extensions. The fact Don Sweeney chose to wrap up extensions with Coyle and Wagner while leaving Krug unsigned was telling to me. It means the Bruins know negotiations with Krug aren’t going to be easy given the amount of money waiting for him if he hits the open market, and it also depends on how Matt Grzelcyk, Urho Vaakanainen and Charlie McAvoy develop this season for the Bruins, too.
They probably won’t be able to make an informed decision Krug until they see how things play out the rest of the regular season and playoffs. It certainly made it a little more complicated, though, that Grzelcyk stepped up his offense in the absence of Krug a couple of weeks ago and is on pace for a career-high six goals and 25 points this season.
I don’t see the Bruins viewing it as a good idea to go into the playoffs without Krug if they truly have Stanley Cup aspirations. He’s too important to their power play, their leadership group and to their ability to generate offense in even-strength situations. He’s on a pace for 13 goals and 61 points this season if he can remain healthy. That’s a monster year for him.
It was the worst losing streak for the Habs in 80 years. So Haggs, will firing Julien be enough for Habs fans or will the front office engage in more drastic measures?
--Andrew E. Thompson (@Godwentwhoops)
JH: I think Marc Bergevin is probably in bigger trouble than Claude Julien given the talent level on that Montreal roster. They have far less top-tier talent than the Bruins did at the end of the Julien Era in Boston. They don’t have a No. 1 center. They don’t really have a bonafide sniper on the wing. They don’t have a quality defensemen crew behind the aging Shea Weber. So, it’s certainly not all Claude’s fault. I did find it interesting that he was grousing about a perfectly legit penalty call as the reason the Canadiens lost in Boston last week. That’s classic Claude from the end of his era with the Bruins; blaming losses on bad calls, injuries and an inferior roster rather than himself accepting blame for anything that was going on. I think he’s trying to use it to protect a team he feels is in a fragile state at this point, but too much excuse-making leads to players believing it’s okay to make those kinds of excuses, in my humble opinion.
Why doesn’t Chara shoot like he used to — are you aware of an underlying injury that’s preventing him from using his cannon?
--Matthew Lariviere (@Matt_Rivs)
JH: No injury. The problem is that it takes Chara so long to load the gun and unload the shot, it allows it to almost always get blocked when it’s coming from the point. It resulted in far too many blocked shots and breakaways going the other direction, so it’s something that the 6-foot-9 does far less often despite having the hardest clapper in the league.
When Chara has time, space and support around him in case the shot does get blocked, you do see him occasionally still step into one and show the hard, heavy shot that’s made him legendary around the league. He’s basically Paul Bunyan with skates and the NHL’s biggest stick at this point.
What’s Karson Kuhlman’s status and have you heard anything with Bruins inquiring on any right wings to play on the second line?
Seems like when Miller and Moore come back there will be a logjam at D. Think they will hang on to them and expose them in the expansion draft or move ‘em?
Garr from NB
JH: Karson Kuhlman isn’t close to returning. I’ve seen him walking around the Bruins practice facility and he still has some kind of brace on his leg. So, it may still be a couple of weeks until he’s nearing a return to the lineup. I’m not really sure there’s any rush on that given how good Anders Bjork has been since his recall and the fact that David Backes has also been pretty solid since returning the past few games as well. I think Kuhlman is a useful player, but I’m not sure he’s more than a 13th forward on the Bruins if everybody is healthy.
If you’re looking for a winger that the Bruins might bring in to help the team, I’d keep an eye on Tyler Toffoli out in Los Angeles. The 27-year-old is on pace for 17 goals and 36 points, but was very good for the Stanley Cup Kings teams of the past and could have a renaissance of sorts if he’s traded to Boston.
There is definitely interest there from the Bruins. He’s a 6-foot, 200-pound right winger who could be a nice match with David Krejci as a rental player.
Kevan Miller has had a couple of setbacks coming back from his kneecap injuries and hasn’t been able to stay healthy for what seems like a long time now. The Bruins have said there is no update with him, but he’s not skating and it seems as if he’s nowhere close to returning. So, it might be a legitimate question to start asking if he’s going to be able to return at all in the final year of his contract. If Miller can’t get healthy then there is no need to move anybody.
As we’ve all seen when it comes to NHL defensemen, there is no such thing as a logjam given how frequently players get injured on the back end. The first move would be to send Steve Kampfer down to the AHL and that hasn’t even happened yet. So, any talk about moving Moore or Miller feels pretty premature.
Let [Jack Studnicka] develop in the AHL. Don’t want to rush him. Develop him the right way...when healthy I can imagine either a trade or 44 being out on waivers to open a roster spot
--Will Zaccardi (@WillZaccardi)
JH: Yes. I think the first domino to drop would be Kampfer sent to the AHL and they would need him to clear waivers in order to do that. I don’t think anybody would claim him. Certainly, there’s a much greater chance of a team claiming Connor Clifton rather than Kampfer if given a choice between the two on waivers, so that’s undoubtedly the direction that the B’s would go in if they were forced to make a roster move. They are not there yet, however.
As far as Studnicka goes, I agree with you. He’s dominating the AHL right now with 10 goals and 21 points in 23 games, and he looked solid in his two games in Boston as well while shuttling around between center and wing. He still needs to get stronger and the experience of playing in all roles in the AHL is exactly what he needs while readying for his call. Instead of a big pick-up at the trade deadline, I could see a late-season promotion for Studnicka as the infusion of talent, youth and offense that the Bruins could benefit from greatly.
Obviously, the big question after the Coyle and Wagner signings is Krug. Can they make any moves by the end of the year that would allow them to offer Krug $7 or 8 mil a season? People are estimating he could get 7, 8 or even 9 (!!!) if he hits the open market.
JH: I think $7 million per season is reasonable for Krug. That’s the neighborhood he’d need to settle in if he wanted to stay in Boston. If he wanted to break the bank and go for the $8 million to $9 million it’s probably going to be somewhere else in free agency, and I think Krug and his camp are well aware of that. It’s part of the reason why he’s been pretty vocal about taking something of a hometown discount to remain with the Black and Gold.
The problem isn’t necessarily Krug. It’s that they also need to sign Jake DeBrusk, Grzelcyk, Chara potentially and Halak among others this summer along with figuring out a new deal for Krug. That’s a lot of work to be done still, and part of the season that Sweeney took care of Coyle and Wagner ahead of time.
Gone are the days when you couldn’t lay a finger on the team’s star without everyone coming after you. The Flyers treated Bobby Clarke that way and he was one of the dirtiest players in the league.
JH: I miss the old days, sometimes. Not everything about it was as rosy as it seems when looking back in the rearview mirror, obviously, but a team should be able to stick up for one of their players without landing in the penalty box and suspension trouble. We’re seeing it right now with David Pastrnak. He’s gone scoreless in the last two games and has gone into a bit of an offensive shell while looking around for hits that are coming at him from all directions. They whistled him for a penalty defending himself the other night against the Blackhawks and they throw the book at players stepping in to defend those kinds of plays. It feels completely nonsensical to me. But I guess I am considered “old school” these days.
It just feels to me like all of this nonsense would stop if Chara grabbed the next player taking a run at Pastrnak, and made an example out of him. That has yet to happen, so we won’t know if that would be a deterrent until the captain opts to give it a try.
The Bruins have 4 fights this season. That would’ve been the total in the first period with an old Adams division opponent. I miss hockey.
--Jeff Gold (@jgold2004)
JH: Yup. I hear you, bud. I don’t necessarily need a return to the old Adams Division, but the Bruins could use at least one forward that isn’t hesitant about throwing down to stand up for his teammates when liberties get taken. Given Ritchie’s injury issues and Backes’ concussion history, they don’t really have that right now. Maybe they will when Ritchie comes back and gets healthy.
I lobbied heavily for the Bruins to get a Ryan Reaves-type player in the offseason and I still think they could use that kind of presence on their fourth line.
As mentioned in your post-game write up after recent win over Habs, physical play ramped up on Pasta. As season moves forward the same will happen on Marchand, Bjork, CMac and smaller players to get them off their game. It’s past time to look for a heavyweight to insert in lineup! Edmonton has Kassian for McDavid, Caps have Wilson, Islanders have Robertson, Martin, & Boychuk. A “look over the shoulder“ guy wearing the Spoked- B is missing!
Remember the toll from last June against a heavier Blues team. Best prepare now for the last 60 plus games in regular season and hopefully, that second season known as 16W!
JH: The fans are speaking. I wonder if the Bruins are listening. They have a lot of the same types of players on their NHL roster right now. What they don’t have, besides Chara, is a player that strikes fear into opponents. And Chara understandably picks his spots when it comes to truly unleashing the fury. The standard line from the Bruins is that there aren’t many of those kinds of players around anymore, but I’m sure there are a few available if you are actively looking for them.
Can we all agree that Kevan Miller is simply too injury prone to risk any losses of younger players in order to protect him? Colin Miller who we lost in the Vegas expansion is not a great D Man but at least he can suit up.
JH: Miller has enjoyed an excellent career for an undrafted defenseman, and he plays the game the way Bruins fans expect a player to play. But he and Adam McQuaid were both tough, hard-nosed D-men who consistently had difficulty remaining healthy and that is going to be part of their legacies with the Black and Gold.
History has shown that the Bruins weren’t necessarily wrong in opting not to protect Colin Miller as he’s been wildly inconsistent and hasn’t really lived up to his potential. Still, I don’t foresee the Bruins losing a valuable young player in an expansion draft this time because they’d choose to protect a player that can’t stay on the ice.
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