Bruins

Now's the perfect time for Bruins to get aggressive to solve top-heavy offense

Now's the perfect time for Bruins to get aggressive to solve top-heavy offense

TORONTO – Outside of the Bruins top trio of prolific, perfect forwards (Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak), the Bruins have exactly one other forward on the roster who has scored more than one point this season.

That would be fourth-line center Sean Kuraly, who has two points in seven games played for the Black and Gold.

“Right now we haven’t gotten the results and it’s obviously a small sample size. We’ve addressed it and we’re trying to work on it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “With David Krejci out, he’s a driver of a line. He got hurt late in camp and he really hasn’t been himself, and I think he helps [Jake] DeBrusk a lot. So that’s been an issue for us. But I think they’re going to get it going. I think they have a lot of pride, those guys.

“I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey by any stretch. Our record is probably a product of really good special teams, some timely scoring and really good goaltending. We’ve some areas we need to address and I think that’s normal whether you’re the last place team, or the Cup finalist, or the winner. There are always going to be holes.”

Clearly, there are some industrial-sized holes on this Bruins roster, however, when you look at the right side of the ice behind scoring machine David Pastrnak. Karson Kuhlman is a minus-2 with zero points in his seven games played alternating between the second and third lines, and Brett Ritchie has gone scoreless in five games since potting a goal opening night against his former Dallas Stars team.

Given a chance to bring up AHL reinforcements ahead of Saturday night’s tilt with the Toronto Maple Leafs with Kuhlman, Ritchie, Danton Heinen and Par Lindholm essentially playing a zero-sum offensive game, Cassidy said the Bruins are going to instead patiently stick with the guys already on the Boston roster instead of giving red-hot Anders Bjork another NHL shot.

“Our guys are healthy so we’re going to go with what we got,” said Cassidy. “It’s two reasons. We want to reward the guys that are here and we’re not disappointed with anybody. I just said that about [David] Backes, who we wanted to get back into the lineup. Providence has three or four guys playing well, but we’re going to go with the guys here first and see where that leads us.”

So, where will it lead them?

Maybe it’s time for the Bruins to get out ahead of the NHL curve and take advantage of a couple of situations brewing in other NHL destinations. With so many second and third line-types shooting blanks right now, why not kick the tires on Josh Ho-Sang with the Islanders, or with Jesse Puljujarvi in Edmonton?

Ho-Sang, 23 was a first-round pick, plays right wing and is being held out by the Islanders right now after demanding a trade from the organization. Ho-Sang has seven goals and 24 points in 53 games for the Islanders the past three seasons and clearly has offensive skill based on the flashes he’s shown.

Still, he’s also never scored more than 10 goals or 43 points in an AHL season for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and clearly has never realized his potential while becoming something of a problem child for the Islanders. Ho-Sang also cleared through waivers without any teams, including the Bruins, making a claim on him, so it wouldn’t cost much at all to bring in a player that might give them some offensive pop in the top-six.

At this point, he can’t be any more ineffective than what Kuhlman and Ritchie have been over the first few weeks of the season.

Then there is Jesse Puljujarvi, 21, who was a No. 4 overall pick and is playing for Karpat in Finland right now because he similarly wants to be dealt away from the Oilers organization. Puljujarvi has six goals and 12 points in 12 games, and the 6-foot-4, 201-pound right winger checks plenty of boxes for Boston’s top-six needs with skill, size and youth on his side.

He also has a contract in Finland that would allow him to return to North America if/when he’s dealt away from Edmonton to another NHL team.

Puljujarvi has 17 goals and 37 points in 139 games the past few seasons, but it’s difficult to judge his numbers based on the dumpster fire that the Oil organization was until cleaning house ahead of this season.

Similar to Ho-Sang, Puljujarvi has never really put up big numbers in the minors with 12 goals and 28 points as his AHL career-highs with the Bakersfield Condors, but both are classic “change of scenery” talents that could blossom in the structured, leadership-laden and offense-friendly system running in Boston.

The Oilers are reportedly looking for a top-nine forward prospect and a draft pick in exchange for Puljujarvi, and that is something the Bruins have an abundance of whether it’s Danton Heinen in the NHL or Bjork, Oskar Steen, Peter Cehlarik and Trent Frederic at the AHL level.

Some fans may instead daydream about the Bruins pulling off a deal for an established NHL talent such as Taylor Hall, Alex Tuch or Mike Hoffman that would immediately add pizzazz to their top-six group and make them much tougher to defend in the long run.

But the Bruins would be wise to take a page out of the Patriots book, buy low on projects Ho-Sang or Puljujarvi who could turn into big-time offensive talents with the players around them in Boston and start really doing something to address the top-heavy offense problem that’s been going on for two years running.

 

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It's absurd people are worried about Bruins after losing glorified exhibition games

It's absurd people are worried about Bruins after losing glorified exhibition games

The panic level for Bruins fans entering this week’s playoff round after an admittedly limp performance in the round-robin games is bordering on the absurd.

There’s no doubting the B’s put pretty much zero import into the results during the three round-robin games against the Flyers, Lightning and Capitals, but instead focused on two things:

A) Building their game over the two weeks leading into the real Stanley Cup Playoffs.

B) Staying healthy headed into the games that actually matter after watching Victor Hedman potentially go down with an injury for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Bruins averaged a paltry 1.33 goals per game in the round robins and went a putrid 0-for-9 power play, and the Perfection Line managed just a single point between Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak in the three round-robin games. But they accomplished the two main goals they had in round-robin games they comically viewed as “preseason games” rather than playoff games that count as such in the NHL record books.

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Brad Marchand said as much when asked about the round-robin games following Monday’s practice in the Toronto bubble.

“Collectively, we just have to improve with each game. With the way it was set up, it’s not like it was the playoffs and it was do-or-die. Obviously, each game [moving forward] means a lot more. The pride and the willingness to do the extra things that maybe we weren’t doing during preseason [will be there],” said Marchand.

“What we’ve gone through the last four games doesn’t mean anything. Those were preseason games. Let’s call it what it is, those [round robin] games were exhibition games for the playoffs. We were in the same position as other teams and it was hard to have the same mentality as a playoff series.”

Full disclosure, this humble hockey writer is getting a kick out of panicked fans going all Chicken Little about the Bruins pretty much sucking in the round robin. They may feel pretty silly once the President’s Trophy-winning B’s show up for the real playoffs starting Tuesday night against the Hurricanes.

The bottom line: Absolutely nobody is going to be talking about the round-robin results a couple of weeks from now in a scenario where seeding doesn’t even really matter.

The B's clearly didn’t care about the round-robin games and said as much publicly and privately as a veteran hockey club that knows they had nothing to prove aside from getting ready for what’s next. The Blues did the same thing in the West, so it’s pretty instructive the two teams that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final last summer had absolutely no use for these glorified exhibition games.

Conversely, it makes sense that a team like the young, eager Flyers dominated the round robin. They have something to prove after getting back into the postseason this year, and their young, skilled group will ultimately be tested in the real playoff games.

Now the Bruins have a path in the Eastern Conference where they’ll face Carolina in the first round, potentially see the Flyers in the second round and might put off a difficult playoff series with Washington or Tampa until the Eastern Conference Finals based on being the No. 4 seed.

That’s actually as good as it could have worked out for the Black and Gold.

They stayed healthy, worked on what they needed to in practice and steadily improved their play as they went along. Their best performance was the Sunday loss to the Capitals in the round-robin finale where Braden Holtby stood on his head. That was their goal.

Getting mad about them treating round-robin games like the preseason is kind of missing the point when they’ve got much bigger fish to fry with a Stanley Cup window that’s quickly closing.

The other absurd fallacy is that a team like the Bruins can’t “flip a switch” and just turn it on once the actual Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.

How about just last season when the B's lost four of their last seven games, got whacked by the Lightning twice and the Perfection Line was playing awful hockey at the very end of the regular season?

Everybody assumed the Bruins were doomed to lose to the Lightning in the second round of the playoffs and instead they pushed all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. It certainly felt like they “flipped the switch” with a veteran group when it was put up or shut up time in the postseason, didn’t it?

The Bruins might even struggle a bit in the first period of Game 1 on Tuesday night as they acclimatize to the win-or-go-home intensity Carolina played with in the qualifying round series against the Rangers. There was no way to replicate that in the round robin.  

But anybody who thinks the real Bruins aren’t going to show up in the real playoffs after coasting through the round robin hasn’t really watched how this proven, grizzled Bruins team operates over the last 10 years. It’s too bad because you’re missing a pretty good hockey team that’s got a full tank of gas headed into another Stanley Cup playoff run.

Rangers win 2020 NHL Draft lottery, chance to select Alexis Lafreniere

Rangers win 2020 NHL Draft lottery, chance to select Alexis Lafreniere

The New York Rangers will have the No. 1 overall selection in this year's NHL Draft.

They were the winners of Monday night's draft lottery, which means they'll have the chance to select highly touted prospect Alexis Lafreniere.


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The Rangers finished the regular season with 79 points and were swept by the Carolina Hurricanes -- the Boston Bruins' first-round playoff opponent -- in their qualifying round series.

Lafrenière, 18, is almost unanimously considered the obvious pick at No. 1. While the Rangers are already in pretty good shape at left wing, it'll be hard to pass up the opportunity to draft a generational talent.

The NHL Draft is scheduled to take place Oct. 9.