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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NHL Power Rankings: Supposed Atlantic Division powers struggling early

NHL Power Rankings: Supposed Atlantic Division powers struggling early

A season ago, the Atlantic Division featured three of the best teams in hockey, at least during the regular season: the Lightning, Bruins, and Maple Leafs.

But while the Bruins have shaken off a potential Stanley Cup Final hangover to pace the division this season, Tampa and Toronto have struggled out of the gate.

Neither team is above .500, and both find themselves out of the playoff picture through a quarter of the season.

While it's way too soon to tell if their struggles will continue, it's opened the door for some unexpected teams to make some waves in the standings.

Click here for Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings.>>>>

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Injured Bruins star Patrice Bergeron 'progressing well' with Sabres looming

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USA TODAY Sports

Injured Bruins star Patrice Bergeron 'progressing well' with Sabres looming

Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron has missed the last couple of games with a lower body injury, but he continues to track for a return very soon.

The 34-year-old center isn’t confirmed to suit up for Thursday night’s big divisional game against the Buffalo Sabres, but he skated during a lightly attended practice on Wednesday at Warrior Ice Arena with all signs pointing toward him playing.

But he’s “pretty close” according to Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, which he also was on Tuesday before ultimately sitting out a second straight game after tweaking a lower body issue in the weekend win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Both Bergeron and Torey Krug skated the morning after Boston pulled out a 5-1 road win over the New Jersey Devils, but Krug isn’t expected to return from his injury until the weekend. Bergeron was scratched from Tuesday night’s game in Jersey after he didn’t suit up for warm-ups, but he’s skated two days in a row.

“I’m feeling better. It’s progressing well. Today was a pretty good skate, so I’m feeling good,” said Bergeron, who has eight goals and 19 points in 19 games played this season after a slow ramp-up in training camp following groin issues that dogged him for most of the summer. “It’s a minor issue, but we want to make sure it doesn’t linger for too long. So, we’re being cautious and making sure it’s 100 percent before I get back out there.”

The Bruins did well in Bergeron’s absence on Tuesday with David Krejci racking up two assists and a plus-3 rating while centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and Charlie Coyle ably stepping in for Bergeron at the bumper position on the top power play unit.

HAGGERTY: Ranking the NHL's Top 10 right wings>>>>>

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