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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Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panhters

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Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panhters

Here are my talking points from tonight's 4-2 Bruins win in South Florida . . .

GOLD STAR: David Krejci didn’t have a single point during the five-game losing streak. But on Saturday night he stepped up and, lo and behold, the Bruins took home two points. It was Krejci helped kick-start the transition game for Jake DeBrusk’s goal in the first period, and then scored one of his own in the second on a strike from the top of the faceoff circle. Krejci finished with a goal and two points and a plus-2 rating in 16:20 of ice time. He also had five shot attempts and won 9-of-14 faceoffs in a game where the second line providence plenty of offense and pressure. Bruce Cassidy slipped Charlie Coyle up to second-line right wing with Krejci and DeBrusk at the outset of the game, and it seemed to work well for the Black and Gold.

See the highlights from Boston's 4-2 win>>>

BLACK EYE: Jonathan Huberdeau is having a very good season for the Panthers, but he wasn’t able to bring out his “A” game for Florida against the Bruins. Huberdeau didn’t get a single shot on net in the 21:25 of ice time that he played. He finished with three giveaways and a minus-1 against the Bruins. He was part of the line set to contain the Krejci line, but instead allowed them to march right up the ice on DeBrusk’s first period scoring play. Huberdeau was also on ice in the third, when Florida coach Joel Quenneville pulled the goalie with more than two minutes to go, only for David Pastrnak to quickly notch an empty-netter that sealed the game. Not a good night for a very good player.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins weathered the storm in the third when the Panthers came hard after them and carved out a couple of goals to cut the lead to 3-2. Considering that the Bruins blew a 4-0 third period lead against the Panthers at home just a month ago, there was certainly some nervous, anxious moments, with the Bruins looking like they’d blow a three-goal lead in the third period this time. But the B’s stiffened after Jaro Halak gave up a soft goal on a Keith Yandle point shot to make it a one-goal game. They didn’t allow Florida to take advantage of any other breakdowns. Instead the B’s hung in there, patiently waiting until the Florida net opened up the winning scoring chance for them.

A NJ Devil be heading to Boston. It might not be Taylor Hall>>>

HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk was at the heart of some of the criticism from Bruce Cassidy after the loss in Tampa when the second and third lines weren’t getting much of anything done. DeBrusk was also one of the players that responded in a big way this weekend by scoring the game’s first goal, a pretty nifty dangle through Florida defenders before beating Sergei Bobrovsky in tight close to the net. DeBrusk also fed David Krejci for his second period goal, finishing with five shot attempts and a couple blocked shots in 15:38 of ice time while posting a plus-2 rating. Perhaps just as important, DeBrusk was winning 50/50 battles for the puck and playing a competitive brand of hockey rather than doing fly-bys in a lot of areas while hunting the puck. If DeBrusk played with the same kind of speed, skill and tenacity on more nights, he’d be a difference-maker for the Bruins more often.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28 – The number of goals for David Pastrnak after collecting two scores against the Panthers, and putting himself in a position where he’s easily going to have 30 goals before the Christmas break.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I thought we did a really good job. Every line played well. We moved some guys around, but right up and down the lineup all 12 forwards, 6 [defensemen] and Jaroslav Halak were all really good.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN when asked his assessment of the win that snapped the longest B’s losing streak (five games) since he took over as head coach.  

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Highlights: B's snap losing skid vs. Panthers

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Highlights: B's snap losing skid vs. Panthers

FINAL SCORE: Bruins 4, Panthers 2

IN BRIEF: Oh not, not this again? After the Bruins’ epic third-period collapse in their last meeting with Florida, they nearly repeated themselves after going up 3-0 after two periods. Keith Yandle’s goal with 11 minutes left made it 3-2, Boston fought off the Panthers long enough for David Pastrnak to get an empty-netter that sealed it. And so, after coach Bruce Cassidy called out their attention to details earlier in the week, the Bruins snapped their losing skid with a solid all-around effort.

BOX SCORE

BRUINS RECORD: 21-7-6 (48 points, 1st in Atlantic Division)

HIGHLIGHTS

DEBRUSK’S 100TH CAREER POINT IS A BEAUTY

KREJCI MAKES IT 2-0

PERFECTION LINE MAKES IT LOOK EASY

UP NEXT:

vs. Los Angeles, Tuesday, 7 p.m., NESN

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