Bruins

With the Pats officially done, the Bruins are well worth your attention

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With the Pats officially done, the Bruins are well worth your attention

BRIGHTON, Mass – After dutifully playing the second or third fiddle for most of this winter with little fanfare or hype surrounding their hockey club, it’s high time for the Boston Bruins to seize control of the Boston sports spotlight.

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Certainly they’ll need to share some of it with a Boston Celtics team that looks ready for prime time as well even without Gordon Hayward, but the painful sight of watching the New England Patriots fall short in Sunday’s Super Bowl just opens the door for the real hockey season starting right now.

Clearly the backstage drama of tension, real or perceived, between the Krafts, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will be a topic of conversation long after the vision of a thrown ball slipping through Tom Brady’s hands has dissipated.

But it becomes much more about the games at this point, and both the Bruins and Celtics are putting out one heck of a product.  

The Bruins are one of the biggest, best stories in the NHL this season with their intriguing mixture of established veteran Cup winners like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and their seemingly endless wave of talented young guys like Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk and Danton Heinen. But if you don’t believe this humble hockey writer, just look at some of the stupefying numbers they’re in the middle of producing. 

This is a Bruins team that’s gone 25-4-4 since benching Tuukka Rask for four games in mid-November. This is a Bruins team that’s gone a ridiculous 49-19-9 over the last year under Bruce Cassidy since memorably sacking Claude Julien on the morning of the Patriots Super Bowl celebration through Boston.

This is a hockey team well worth your attention while looking for the next winning lottery ticket in Boston’s pro sports landscape. They’re not the Big Bad Bruins of old or even the rough and tumble crew that hoisted the Cup back in 2011, but they have the most dominant forward trio in all of hockey with the Perfection Line of Brad Marchand (when he’s keeping his prominent nose out of trouble), Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.

All three forwards are on pace to top 35 goals this season, and are a combined plus-55 on the season while looking like hockey’s version of the Harlem Globetrotters against defenders with no prayer of stopping them.

They are fourth in the league averaging 3.2 goals per game, and tops in the NHL allowing a piddling 2.4 goals per game. They do pretty much everything well, and even showed the kind of backbone and hardnosed approach in wins last week vs. St. Louis and Toronto that could be a harbinger of some very good things in April and May.

In other words, this Bruins team is for real and people aren’t going to want to be too much tardier hopping on the Black and Gold bandwagon. Or they might miss the next thing to come along after Brady and Co. came up short on Sunday.    

“Guys are obviously very competitive, we want to win every game and there were a lot of battles. You can see the guys were really stepping out of their comfort zone, skill guys making some big plays and determined to win the battles along the wall,” said Zdeno Chara. “Guys were physical, but also making plays…that is what you need from a [good hockey] team.”  

The Bruins are in prime position comfortably rooted in second place in the Atlantic Division, they just vanquished their closest competitor last weekend with a dominant 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs and they have a legit chance to overtake the struggling for Tampa Bay Lightning atop the Atlantic Division.

With just 32 games remaining in the regular season, this is when the regular season will be at its height and this is when the attention traditionally starting picking up for the Black and Gold anyway. If any borderline Bruins fans needed a true palate cleanser after the way Claude Julien’s last few groups disappointed in most every way, then this is it going on right now nightly on the TD Garden ice. 

“I think the intensity is only going to ramp up from here. The points – they’re important all year – but you start really seeing the teams, the numbers get crunched a little bit when you get into the latter part of the season,” said Adam McQuaid. “Everyone is playing and competing hard…it’s a fun time to be playing.”

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It’s also a fun time to be a fan of the Boston Bruins, and a fan of the Boston sports scene in general. Did you get your heart broken by the Patriots falling short in a highly entertaining Super Bowl shootout against Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles?

Well, just turn your attention to the Boston Bruins as the unquestioned best sports story of these winter months, and a hockey club fully worthy of your attention and admiration for the best still to come in this hockey season.

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Haggerty: Bruins should pass on trading for Wayne Simmonds

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Haggerty: Bruins should pass on trading for Wayne Simmonds

DALLAS -- Interesting times for the Bruins as they head into NHL Draft weekend here, as a number of names have been bandied about as possibilities,. Things are fluid right now as far as targets and potential strategies go, what with the draft being held this weekend and free agency opening on July 1. 

One name that has popped up in recent days is Flyers power forward Wayne Simmonds, who is entering the final year of his contract at age 29. Simmonds was mentioned as a possible target by NBC Sports Boston way back in May, and has been kicked up in the last few days with The Athletic’s Michael Russo mentioning him as possible trade bait for the Minnesota Wild. 

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In a vacuum, Simmonds would be a terrific second-line fit for Boston. Despite battling injuries that culminated with him undergoing hip surgery, Simmonds scored 24 goals and 46 points last year. Just a couple of seasons ago he put up 32 goals and 60 points. At his best, the 6-foot-2, 183-pounder is a prototypical power forward capable of scoring goals around the net, throwing big hits and dropping the gloves with a ferocious level of intimidation when the situation calls for it. 

He’s very much in the mold of Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Jarome Iginla as the kind of power winger that’s been very good with David Krejci in the past, and would make the Bruins a little tougher and much harder to play against. 

So, clearly, as a player Simmonds would be “a great addition” for the Bruins, as Bruce Cassidy said about Ilya Kovalchuk, with all things being equal. 

Here’s the rub: The cost is going to be considerable for Simmonds. The Bruins will have to give up significant assets to get a full year of Simmonds ahead of his free-agent walk year, and then they’d need to pay up again to sign him to a big contract extension at some point next season.

Certainly the B’s would feel beholden to sign Simmonds if they gave up blue-chip prospects and draft picks to land him.

As with most trade discussions over the last year, Jake DeBrusk is a name that's been an ask from other team. Even if it's Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork involved in the discussions instead, the Bruins would need to give up a valued young winger in order to get the more established Simmonds. 

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They’d be doing all this for a big-bodied, 29-year-old player who's probably going to start slowing down, and breaking down, over the next few seasons.

A couple of years ago landing Simmonds would have been a master stroke move for the Bruins as they sought to replace Lucic’s hulking presence in the lineup. Certainly they could have used the offensive punch on their second line, where Rick Nash disappointed after arriving at the trade deadline last spring. 

But in this humble hockey writer’s opinion, the window should probably be closed at this point on acquiring Simmonds, given the cost in terms of both assets and future dollars.

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Morning Skate: One man's NHL awards ballot (sorry, Patrice)

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Morning Skate: One man's NHL awards ballot (sorry, Patrice)

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while giving full credit to the NHL for an excellent awards show that adeptly highlighted very emotional hockey stories involving Las Vegas and the Humboldt Broncos. Seeing all those Humboldt kids together while the Broncos head coach’s widow made an awards speech was very moving.

-- Speaking of the awards, here’s my full PHWA ballot submitted at the end of the season. I’ll admit that I had a very different line of thinking than most with my Hart Trophy vote, as I didn’t have Taylor Hall in my top five. I wasn’t going to penalize players like Evgeni Malkin and Nikita Kucherov for having outstanding seasons on good teams, as it seemed like this season’s voting was all about players, like Hall and Nathan MacKinnon, who essentially carried middling teams to the playoffs. I’d also stick with Patrice Bergeron as the best defensive forward in the NHL even if he missed 22 percent of the season (18 games) due to injuries. I know that many voters ended up dinging Bergeron for the time missed to injuries, and that opened the door for another very viable candidate in Anze Kopitar to win the Selke for the second time.

Victor Hedman for Norris and Mathew Barzal for Calder were both no-brainers, and the Lady Byng is always a toss-up as I didn’t have winner William Karlsson on my ballot either. Anyway, here’s my ballot:

Hart Trophy

1. Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Claude Giroux Philadelphia Flyers
3. Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
4. Nikita Kucherov Tampa Bay Lightning
5. Blake Wheeler Winnipeg Jets

Norris Trophy

1. Victor Hedman Tampa Bay Lightning
2. PK Subban Nashville Predators
3. John Carlson Washington Capitals
4. Drew Doughty Los Angeles Kings
5. Shayne Gostisbehere Philadelphia Flyers

Calder Trophy

1. Mathew Barzal New York Islanders
2. Brock Boeser Vancouver Canucks
3. Yanni Gourde Tampa Bay Lightning
4. Charlie McAvoy Boston Bruins
5. Clayton Keller Arizona Coyotes

Lady Byng Trophy

1. Ryan O'Reilly Buffalo Sabres
2. Alex DeBrincat Chicago Blackhawks
3. Ryan Spooner New York Rangers
4. Mark Stone Ottawa Senators
5. Evgenii Dadonov Florida Panthers

Selke Trophy

1. Patrice Bergeron Boston Bruins
2. Anze Kopitar Los Angeles Kings
3. Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks
4. Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins
5. Aleksander Barkov Florida Panthers

-- Think there might be some angry Edmonton Oilers fans who want a refund on the Hall-for-Adam Larsson trade that Peter Chiarelli engineered a couple of seasons ago? Yeah, I think there probably might be.

-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Darren Dreger says his gut feeling is that Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson is going to get traded.

-- Which teams might be interested in Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly? Well, there should be plenty, given what kind of player he is. This is part of the problem with the B’s trying to deal David Krejci or David Backes this offseason. There are going to be much better, younger players available out there on the trade market like O’Reilly.  

-- Now that the foundation is in place for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the job becomes taking that next step with the Leafs.

-- It sounds like it’s going to be a busy weekend for Jeff Gorton and the New York Rangers as they have a slew of first-round picks to make on Friday night.

-- It sounds like Dallas isn’t all that pumped about hosting the NHL Draft this weekend. Or maybe they just don’t know it’s going on.

-- For something completely different: Boy, Kevin McHale sure gained some attention this morning after being a very noticeable audience member during yesterday’s Trump speech in Minnesota.