Sources: Bruins have trade interest in Oil winger Maroon

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Sources: Bruins have trade interest in Oil winger Maroon

BOSTON – The wheels are beginning to be set in motion for the conversations, negotiations and game-playing that will lead up to the NHL trade deadline that’s little more than two weeks away, and the Bruins are absolutely in the mix.

The Bruins are eyeing a number of options on the wing with a real deep pool of talent expected to be available leading up to Feb. 26, and have had a longstanding desire to acquire a frontline left shot defenseman as well. The B’s have keen interest in Edmonton Oilers power forward Patrick Maroon, per multiple hockey sources, and it’s clear at this point the Oil are going to be a seller leading up to the deadline with their power forward as one of the big trade pieces.

Edmonton VP of hockey operations Craig MacTavish was in Boston last night at the Bruins/Sabres game to get a look at Boston’s NHL group, and word is that Bruins executive director of player personnel John Ferguson has been scouting Edmonton for each of the last couple of games. Add all of that up and it sounds like a deal may be brewing between the Bruins and the Oilers, a notion that might not have seemed possible three years ago when the Bruins President Cam Neely fired current Edmonton general manager Peter Chiarelli.

It would appear things have thawed to the point now where Edmonton and Boston would do a deal if it makes sense for both sides. In this case Maroon would be a good fit for a Bruins team looking for some veteran help on the wing, and the Oilers looking to stock up on young forwards and draft picks during a frustrating, lost season.   

The 29-year-old Maroon has 13 goals and 27 points in 52 games this season, and would be a straight rental for the Black and Gold as he’s set to hit unrestricted free agency at the end of the season. For a Bruins team that’s pretty young and fairly small on the wing this season, the 6-foot-3, 227-pounder has the ability to put the puck in the net and also play the kind of snarling, strong that the B’s could always use a little more of up front.

Certainly David Backes has brought some of that as well as a third line power forward on the right side, but he’s really the only B’s player among the top-3 forward lines that’s ever going to protect his teammates or throw any board-rattling hits. Maroon would be a guy that could do that as well and has been a prime time Bruins killer potting six goals against the Black and Gold in his last three games played against them.  

Maroon is coming off a career-high 27 goals and 42 points last season with the Oilers, and should be in line to get a pretty good contract this summer if he once again reaches the 20-goal plateau that he’s currently on pace for. While Maroon would be a solid rental acquisition for the Bruins, the expectation is that it wouldn’t cost the Bruins any of their top young players or even a first round pick in order to land the player.

The Bruins are taking a pretty open-minded approach to the deadline. They’re more than willing to improve their team, but they also rightfully don’t want to mess too much with a hockey club that’s been the best team in the NHL over the last three months.

“We can always get better. That’s essentially up to Donnie [Sweeney] to decide what’s available and what’s not, but there’s always going to be areas of improvement,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “I’m happy with our club. I love our guys’ togetherness and the fact that they pull for one another. We’ve won a lot of hockey games with some different guys in and out of the lineup.

“We’ll probably get a little bit more of a test as the degree of difficulty goes up on the schedule. We can better assess [potential trade needs]. The long and short of it is ‘I love my team. I love the way they compete. And you can always get better.”

In that regard, Bruins GM Don Sweeney is in a pretty good spot with a B’s team looking dominant this season before they even consider any trade upgrades, and with a plethora of trade options on the wing that includes Rick Nash, Michael Grabner and Evander Kane. That should keep the acquisition costs down for any of these players, including a guy like Maroon that the Bruins are clearly keeping tabs on right now.


Tuukka Rask's 'save of the year' bails out Bruins against Sabres

Tuukka Rask's 'save of the year' bails out Bruins against Sabres

BOSTON – All proper credit was going to the right places for the Bruins pulling out a victory against the Buffalo Sabres when they clearly hadn’t been at their best.

The Bruins produced an excruciatingly slow start Thursday night and hung for dear life at the end while getting outshot 31-13 in the first and third periods, but it was Tuukka Rask more than anything else that played a big factor in the 3-2 win over their divisional rival.

Rask was strong throughout with 36 saves, but it was the rare, highlight-reel save he executed in the third period on Evan Rodrigues that made everybody stand up and take notice. Marc-Andre Fleury had a similar flying save late in a game for the Vegas Golden Knights earlier this week, but the talk of the Bruins dressing room following the win was all about Rask’s big stop.

The Bruins were holding a 3-1 lead, but the Sabres mounted a desperate attack in the third period and it appeared they were going to get within a goal little more than halfway through the final 20 minutes. Rodrigues stepped into a loose puck in the face-off circle and got a good forehand bid at a vacant net as Rask attempted to extricate himself from a pileup at the far post.

Out of desperation, Rask dropped his stick and made a leaping glove save with his blocker at what looked like a sure-fire goal and saved the game for the Bruins after the Sabres eventually did make it a one-goal game a few minutes later.

The Bruins were that close to having another third-period meltdown a week after the embarrassing loss to the Florida Panthers, but instead, they now have wins in three of their past four games along with a lot of compliments for their No. 1 goaltender.

“Save of the year. That’s why he’s making the big bucks. We’ve got him back there to save our butts, so we’re lucky to have him” proclaimed Brad Marchand, who helped power the offense with a pair of goals. “Sometimes has to do that a few times a game. He had to do that the whole first period and a couple more times during the game. But again, that’s what he’s paid for, so he better keep doing it.”

Some were reminded of the Superman saves that Tim Thomas used to make semi-regularly when he was between the pipes for the Black and Gold. It certainly wasn’t vintage Rask because he’s normally an efficient, economical position goaltender that’s always in the right spot to stop the puck rather than scrambling to make a spectacular save. Rask admitted as much after the game while

“I don’t make the highlights too often like that because I always try to be in good position to make the saves,” said Rask, who has come back from a dreadful start to November to improve to a 4-2-1 record with a 2.69 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage this month after back-to-back wins against the Devils and Sabres. “It’s fun to make a save like that, but it’s one of those instinct-type saves. Whenever the goalie makes the highlights like that it’s great, you know? So keep it coming.”

Still, the biggest part of the save wasn’t somehow getting a piece of it with the palm of his blocker, though. It was instead about the timing given the situation in the game. David Pastrnak had scored his 20th of the season early in the third o give the Bruins some breathing room, so a goal allowed at that time could have had dire consequences for Rask and the Bruins.

Instead, Rask throws a gut punch at the Sabres by robbing them of a sure goal and buys a few more minutes for the Bruins to operate with a two-goal cushion.

Given the timeliness of the save and the sprawling nature of the stop from a battling goaltender unwilling to give in, the save actually reminded B’s coach Bruce Cassidy of a goalie a little further back in the way-back machine.

“That was a Dominik Hasek save. For you guys, young people out there, he was an old goalie in the league, very acrobatic. That’s what it was. I think everyone does get up and realize that we should have been scored on, really, I mean, we should have. It does give you a boost. Big plays give you a boost, right? Saves are a part of that, and it sure did for us,” said Cassidy. “[Rask was] superb. He was our best player, we needed every save, obviously. Not much else to say other than we didn’t do a very good job right in front of him.

“You can dissect the game, you can go back and look at it and some things stick out more than others. But to me, I’m sure that it’ll back it up that we were not hard enough in front of our net.”

Don’t expect Rask to all of a sudden turn into some high-flying, acrobatic goaltender based on one desperate, last-ditch save that memorably helped the B’s pull out a win. That's just not the kind of goaltender he’s ever been. But be certain to file away this show-stopping save the next time anybody tells you that the B’s No. 1 goaltender never steals any games.

It was grand-theft larceny of a certain goal and, without it, the Bruins would have been answering a lot tougher questions afterward.

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Bruce Cassidy on Bruins' win over Sabres: 'We've got a ways to go'

Bruce Cassidy on Bruins' win over Sabres: 'We've got a ways to go'

BOSTON – The Bruins are now a few games removed from their four-game losing streak of a couple of weeks ago and they are still very comfortably in first place in the Atlantic Division with a four-point lead over their closest competitors.

So, one would think they are completely out of that mini-funk after a 3-2 win over a hungry Sabres team in a Thursday night divisional showdown at TD Garden, right? It’s two wins in a row for the Bruins and three wins in the past four games, with the only loss a shootout defeat to the Capitals, so the Bruins are happy with their game right now, correct?

Well, not exactly.

The Bruins were outshot 17-4 in the first period in what Bruce Cassidy called Boston’s “worst start of the year” and needed Herculean performances from Tuukka Rask (36 saves) and Brad Marchand (two goals) to take the two points after the dreadful start. Basically they had a pretty strong second period, but the Bruins were otherwise outshot 31-13 by the Sabres while showing even-strength offensive issues and some really soft play around their own net.

It was in some ways reminiscent of their four-game losing stretch, but the difference was that Rask was back on his “A” game while bailing the Black and Gold.  

“We didn’t play our game tonight; we won with our B game. We won with goaltending, timely scoring on special teams and power plays. There’s a lot of areas of our game that were not good enough [against the Sabres], and we got away with it,” said Cassidy. “I thought pretty much all facets of our game were strong [against New Jersey], so sometimes it’s just, ‘hey what’s the opposition bringing’

“But I just thought for us, [there was] no urgency early on where you need to have that every night in this league. I don’t think where we want to be. I don’t think any team is; maybe the Islanders with their streaks, but we’re not. We’re still building our game and able to win in the process is a good thing; it’s a sign of a good team. But we’ve got a ways to go.”

Certainly, there will be plenty of material for the Bruins coaching staff to use as ammunition in video work with the players. The complete underestimating of the Sabres team early on and the soft-shell defense that relied far too much on Rask’s brilliance throughout the game could have been Boston’s undoing.

It didn't happen this time around against a Buffalo team outclassed by Boston’s wattage with star performances from Rask, Marchand and David Pastrnak, but the Bruins might not be so lucky next time around if they don’t get things together. It really doesn’t appear the B’s have their overall game together as they did a month ago in a torrid start. That needs to change if the Bruins are going to hit their full potential. 

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