Bruins

Pastrnak's sloppy third-period play 'an area of concern'

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Pastrnak's sloppy third-period play 'an area of concern'

BOSTON – While the Bruins once again showed a gutsy effort Monday night with a rag-tag group in a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild despite all the injuries, there were also some lessons to be learned from the game.

Perhaps none was bigger than the way the Bruins played in the third period with a big lead, and specifically, the way David Pastrnak was managing the puck with the Bruins rolling and the Wild teetering on the edge of waving the white flag. The 21-year-old made some high-risk choices with the puck that allowed the Wild to gather confidence, hope and draw a little closer in the final 20 minutes with a couple of goals.

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One was a pass back through the middle of the ice in the defensive zone when he was already at the blue line in the D-zone, and the other was an inability to make a play to hold onto the puck at the offensive blue line that led to Eric Staal’s shorthanded goal. The Staal goal was also on Danton Heinen for throwing a pass back to him that kind of handcuffed Pastrnak while under some pressure. It was something Bruce Cassidy was thinking about postgame.

“We have to manage the puck on an entry on the power play. I think we made a poor decision. We didn’t manage it well in the offensive zone and all of a sudden they are coming back at us. But again, as a coach, I’ll look at who was on the ice, the time and score situation, have to examine that from my end,” said Cassidy. “From the players' end, they have to understand time and score as well, manage the puck. You want to score obviously when you’re on the power play, but not at all costs.

“You have to understand where you’re at in the game. That’s essentially what happened. We had a turnover, ended up in our net. We had three of those the other night against Washington, so that’s obviously an area of concern. But a lot of teams do have turnovers. We just have to make sure we minimize ours and that that’s what happened in the third I think to lead to their chances.”

The negative plays late in the game were in stark contrast to some really nice plays that Pastrnak made in the first 40 minutes to help the Bruins build a big lead, and he did finish with an assist in 18:27 of ice time. The Bruins outshot Minnesota. 15-4 in the second period in perhaps their most dominant stretch this season, but it led the way to some sloppiness and unnecessary fanciness in the final 20 minutes.

But there was a lot of truth in a Pastrnak box score that finished with him at a minus-1, and with as many giveaways (three) as shots on net (three) while getting careless at a time when the Bruins should have kept it simple. It’s all part of the learning process for a still-young player, of course, and it’s a conversation that Cassidy was planning on having with his young star winger.

“It’s a tough job right there. It’s a good question,” said Cassidy, when asked how he’d handle that kind of situation with Pastrnak. “Sometimes you’re going to give him some rope. Hopefully, he doesn’t hang himself with it. Other times you are going to pull back. That’s just a feel...sometimes it matters how the rest of the group is going. Who else is in the lineup? Are you putting a better player out there in that position? Sometimes you just send a hard message and it doesn’t matter who's there. Hey, [sometimes] enough is enough.

“There’s different ways to do it in game. [The next day], there are conversations. Hey, do you want to be a leader? You’re getting into that phase of your career. Is that how leaders play? Kind of see what he thinks of the whole situation. He might have a different answer, so those are the challenges that coach’s face trying to grow his game without shutting him right off. So that’s what we’ll do [at the next day’s practice].”

The good news is that the Bruins won and Pastrnak has rebounded nicely before from previously adventurous games with the puck, so the upcoming two-game trip through New York and Toronto should feature renewed efforts to manage the puck situationally. 
 

Torey Krug hopes he hasn't already played last game for Boston Bruins

Torey Krug hopes he hasn't already played last game for Boston Bruins

Bruins defenseman Torey Krug mentioned several times he has “no clarity” on his future after sitting down for a Boston Bruins-organized Zoom conference call with B’s media members on Tuesday afternoon.

After all, pretty much nobody has any kind of clarity about what’s going to happen over the next few months as regions of the United States are attempting to slow down a global coronavirus outbreak with hot spots in places like Boston.

But there’s another level to the uncertainty for Krug as a looming unrestricted free agent once this 2019-20 season has been finished, one way or the other. Krug hopes that there is some manner of resumption of the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs over the next few months, and just as passionately hopes he hasn’t played his last game as a member of the Bruins.

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“For me personally, I really hope I did not play my last game as a Boston Bruin. It’s been a special place for me and my family to grow. My love for the game and playing in front of these fans has been very special to me. But [this situation] hasn’t given me any clarity,” said Krug, who also mentioned there have been no contract discussions with the Bruins since the season went on pause in early March. “It makes you wonder about this process a little more because I was just in the moment thinking only about helping my team win games and hopefully push our team toward winning a championship.

But now the season is on pause and I’m definitely wondering what’s going to happen. But in terms of clarity, there pretty much has been none. I can’t put any assumptions on it, but I can only guess that things are going to look different from a salary cap perspective next season. Team structures as well are going to be affected by it, but I have no clarity about it. I wish I had a better answer for that, but it’s just the reality of the situation.

Krug had nine goals and 49 points in 61 games this season for the Bruins and was moving toward a big payday this summer — whether it was in Boston or somewhere else.

Based on comparable deals for other elite NHL defensemen across the NHL, a long-term teal in the range of $6-8 million per season was pretty much an automatic no matter where he was going to sign. It remains to be seen how much a lowered salary cap ceiling would impact player contracts for guys like Krug, but he’s clearly going into the situation with his eyes wide open.

There’s also very little clarity on when the NHL season will resume, or even if it can resume as the league explores options like summer Stanley Cup playoff hockey and neutral site locations for playoff hockey without any fans in the stands.

Krug has consistently said he wants to remain with the Bruins and might even take less to do exactly that when it’s all said and done, but there also hadn’t been a lot of documented progress in contract talks between the player and team to this point either.

It remains to be seen how Krug’s situation will play out, or if the player will get his wish to at the very least finish out the rest of what’s become a long, strange year with the Bruins.

Top Bruins prospect Jack Studnicka draws positive review from Bruce Cassidy

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USA TODAY Sports

Top Bruins prospect Jack Studnicka draws positive review from Bruce Cassidy

The Boston Bruins don't have a robust prospect pool filled with elite talent. This is not unusual for a franchise that's been a perennial playoff contender, and one that often looks to move draft picks and/or prospects to make roster upgrades at the NHL trade deadline.

This also doesn't mean the Bruins lack exciting talent throughout the organization, though. For example, Maine goaltender Jeremy Swayman, who Boston selected in the fourth round of the 2017 draft, was recently named as a finalist for the Hobey Baker Trophy.

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The top prospect in Boston's system is center Jack Studnicka -- a second-round pick by the Bruins in 2017. Studnicka had played the entire 2019-20 campaign with the AHL's Providence Bruins before the outbreak of the coronavirus halted the season. He's tallied 49 points (23 goals, 26 assists) in 60 games for Providence.

Studnicka's performance has drawn positive reviews from Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy.

“How he scores goals is interesting,” Cassidy told Joe McDonald of The Athletic. “He gets inside and works to the good ice a lot, which is important in the NHL. It’s hard to be a perimeter player and have success. That was one thing I noticed about him. … He’s a very aggressive guy on the puck, and for a centerman that’s unique because usually you want your wingers in there on puck pursuit more than a centerman because he has a long way to go (to get back into the defensive zone).”

Studnicka's chance to make a real impact in the NHL could come as early as next season. He'd be an excellent addition to the bottom-six, a group that could use more speed and offensive skill.

The goal for Studnicka is becoming a top-six center, and his play in Providence this season should give Bruins fans plenty of optimism that he'll eventually reach that level.