Bruins

Sharks-Blues Game 3 ends in controversy ... that Tuukka Rask predicted

Sharks-Blues Game 3 ends in controversy ... that Tuukka Rask predicted

If it's any solace to the St. Louis Blues, the Boston Bruins feel (some of) their pain.

The Blues fell to the San Jose Sharks in Game 3 of the Western Conference final Wednesday night on Erik Karlsson's game-winner in overtime. 

But the replay showed Karlsson scored after a pretty obvious hand pass from teammate Timo Meier.

So, why didn't the officials on the ice (or the situation room in Toronto) review the goal to check for a hand pass? Here are the postgame explanations from NHL series director Kay Whitmore and the league office:

Feeling some déjà vu, Bruins fans? The B's were victimized by the NHL's apparently arbitrary review process in Game 4 of their second-round series with the Blue Jackets, when Columbus' Artemi Panarin scored just seconds after the puck deflected into the protective netting for what should have been a stoppage in play.

The missed call and non-review didn't cost Boston, which went on to win 2-1 en route to a series victory. But goaltender Tuukka Rask said something after the game that make him look like Nostradamus after Wednesday night.

“In this day and age I think it’s crazy that, you know, if the refs don’t see it, why the league can’t call … I mean, they’re watching the game, right?” Rask said at the time.

"I mean, what if that’s in overtime, you know? It didn’t cost us, but I think it’s just funny that they can look at a lot of other goals going back and calling back, so why not that?"

Rask's nightmare scenario became a reality for the Blues, who like Rask were left wondering why the heck the NHL can review a potential offsides 30 seconds before a goal but not an obvious hand pass that leads directly to a game-winning score in the Western Conference final.

After two controversies in the Stanley Cup Playoffs about reviewable plays, expect the NHL to take a look at its rulebook this offseason.

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Bruins plan to address Bruce Cassidy's contract as he enters final year of the deal

Bruins plan to address Bruce Cassidy's contract as he enters final year of the deal

As Bruce Cassidy enters the final year of his contract as head coach of the Boston Bruins, it probably goes without saying that he deserves an extension. 

The good news for B's fans, according to Joe McDonald of The Athletic, Boston is pleased with Cassidy's performance and plans to address his contract. 

'He’s under contract, so we have decisions that we’re going to progress with, and he’ll be part of that,' general manager Don Sweeney said. 'He’s under contract, so it’s not a concern right now, but we will address it.'

After a 107-point 2018-19 campaign, good for the second-best mark in the NHL, Cassidy led the Bruins to the brink of a Stanley Cup only to fall in Game 7 at TD Garden to the St. Louis Blues.

One of the major themes of this year's Bruins team was their resiliency under Cassidy. Boston fought back from a 3-2 deficit in the first round of the playoffs against Toronto and a 2-1 deficit against Columbus to win those series, and then won another Game 6 on the road down 3-2 to the Blues. 

The Bruins have made the playoffs in each of their first three seasons with Cassidy leading the charge, improving their finish in the postseason each year. 

BRUINS UNDER CASSIDY

2016-17: 44-31-7 (95 points), lost in the first round (4-2)
2017-18: 50-20-12 (112 points), lost in the second round (4-1)
2018-19 49-24-9 (107 points), lost in Stanley Cup Final (4-3)

Cassidy is the second-fastest Bruins coach to reach 100 wins as he has cemented himself as one of the best coaches in the league. And team President Cam Neely certainly thinks highly of him. 

'He’s done a very good job for us, obviously,' Neely said. 'Coming in when he did and getting us to the playoffs and then almost having two, back-to-back 50-win seasons — pretty impressive. He learned from our playoff losses and how to maybe coach a little bit differently in the playoffs.'

We'll see if the Bruins extend Cassidy before the 2019-20 season starts, but it definitely seems like they view him as their long term answer on the Black and Gold's bench. 

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Bruins analysis: The pros and cons of another year of David Backes in Boston

Bruins analysis: The pros and cons of another year of David Backes in Boston

Clearly it hasn’t gone as either David Backes or the Boston Bruins planned during his first three years with his free-agent team.

The regular season was nothing to write home about for the 35-year-old with seven goals and 20 points in 70 games while bouncing between different lines, different roles, and spending unfamiliar time as a healthy scratch toward the end of the season. It was the first time it had devolved to that point with the B’s for the former captain of the St. Louis Blues.

Then Backes was again a healthy scratch for the final three games of the Stanley Cup Final and clearly felt like the confidence within him organizationally had taken a hit while being left out of the most important games of the season.

“It was a culmination of uncertainty, feelings of possibilities, potential opportunities with all sorts of things and missed opportunities,” said Backes. “It’s a swirl and a whirlwind of emotions that I haven’t fully gripped and I don’t know that I will in the near future. I don’t know if my situation and all of the extra layers helps or hurts. That’s my jumble of random thoughts.”

What does Backes mean by extra layers?

“Who our opponent was. Sitting out the last three games. Yeah, all of those sorts of things,” said Backes. “I had my exit meeting. They’re smart guys and they know that things are pretty raw. To dive too deep, we didn’t get there in our meetings. I probably had a better answer for you when I was in control of my future. I’m kind of in flux at the moment. I’ve got to trust in a bigger plan and that’s where I’m at.”

It all raises questions about Backes’ future with the team moving forward, and whether or not his long-term future will be in Boston. Even Backes himself seemed curious as to how it’s all going to play out this summer, but Don Sweeney sounded fairly certain this week that the veteran power forward is still a part of the team.

That would mean that a buyout of the final two years of Backes’ contract isn’t currently in the Black and Gold's gameplan.

“I don’t think any of our seasons ended the way we liked, to be honest with you. I think that we had a tremendous run. [Backes] was a big part of that, reinserted back in in Game 2 against Toronto where he elevated our physical play. You know, was a big part of our hockey club, on and off the ice. So where it fits going forward, he’s a part of our hockey club,” said Don Sweeney. “I have [trade] discussions on different players. He may or may not be a part of that, but for the most part, he’s a part of our hockey club.

“His impact is again up to Bruce [Cassidy] and up to David in terms of, from a production standpoint, he might be referencing that or from a leadership standpoint we know what he brings. I think there’s value there.”

It all makes sense given that there wouldn’t be much cap savings for the Bruins if they were to buy out Backes this summer. He also remains important in terms of a big-bodied, strong power forward who can intimidate from time to time, and as a veteran vocal leader who brings a different personality inside the Bruins' leadership structure.

That won’t preclude the Bruins from discussing potential trade scenarios if Boston could get out from under a contract that’s never been favorable. But it feels like it’s going to be a longshot for any team willing to take on the final two seasons of Backes in his mid-30’s unless the Bruins are likewise looking to take on another unwieldy contract in return.

That really isn’t going to put the Bruins in a better cap situation, and there’s no guarantee the replacement player will be the same kind of solid pro that Backes has been over the last three seasons.  

The Bruins are running under the premise that Backes is going to be back once again next season and will be filling out a role in the bottom-6 as a third- or fourth-line winger. He could most definitely add some toughness to that role and be that veteran, hard-nosed player willing to stick up for his teammates in time of need.

It was something he embraced toward the end of the regular season and something the Bruins needed out of their forward group.

“I thought he best fit in with [Sean] Kuraly / [Noel] Acciari / [Joakim] Nordstrom, in that type of role. At the end of the day, when [Chris] Wagner, Acciari were all healthy, there was competition for those spots, so sometimes he was in there, sometimes he wasn’t,” said Sweeney. “That’s where I see his best contribution to the team. At times he can move up in the lineup and give you some grit, a net-front presence, but in general, that’s where he played his best hockey for us. So, we’ll have to see how it all shakes out.”

Clearly the offense isn’t what it once was for Backes, and expecting him to ever get back to the 20-goal, 50-point season he reached with the Blues isn’t going to happen again in his NHL career. But it sounds like there is still going to be a role for Backes on the Bruins for at least next season, and the Bruins will need to find a way to work around the $6 million cap hit for next year while trying to squeeze the most out of his current ability level.

That will be a challenge, but the B’s also were able to get to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final this season even with Backes, while still bringing some positive value, clearly not able to live up to the contract he signed three years ago. 

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