Bruins

Taking a look at the Bruins lineup for the playoffs

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File Photo

Taking a look at the Bruins lineup for the playoffs

With nine games remaining in the regular season, the Bruins still have plenty left to accomplish ahead of the playoffs.

For one thing they have the priority of getting as healthy as possible with seven regulars out of the lineup due to injuries in Friday night’s come-from-behind win over the Dallas Stars, and that may happen as soon as this weekend with Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug at least closing in on returns to Boston’s lineup. Beyond that the Bruins still have the potential to catch up to the Tampa Bay Lightning sitting just four points behind them with two games in hand, and still two more games against each other over the final few weeks.

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But the playoffs are closing in and the Bruins have already clinched a spot that’s yet to be specifically determined within the Eastern Conference structure. So some of the thoughts go toward the B’s lineup for the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and what Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will do with the expected depth provided all of the walking wounded are ready to go for the postseason.

    So here’s a first pass at the Game One lineup for the Black and Gold assuming everybody is healthy, and without the players being specifically tailored for an opponent as they will most assuredly be during any playoff series.

    Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak
    Donato-Krejci-Nash
    Heinen-Nash-Backes
    DeBrusk-Acciari-Gionta

    Chara-McAvoy

    Krug-Miller

    Grzelcyk-Carlo

    Rask

    Observation on the lineup: It’s still very early in the Ryan Donato era, so this could very well change depending on how the 21-year-old looks over the next few weeks. Right now he looks like a natural goal-scorer willing to mix it up in the danger areas, and he looks advanced beyond his years in terms of hockey IQ in the offensive zone. That being said he also got a little quiet in the St. Louis game after getting pounded into the side boards by Dmitri Jaskin about half-way through the game, and there will be greater challenges to come defensively for a youngster with very little experience. All that being said, there’s going to be a playoff spot for him in a few weeks if Donato keeps scoring goals at a healthy clip. On defense it’s going to come down to a choice between Brandon Carlo, Adam McQuaid or Nick Holden in the top-6 as the other five players should be locked in as long as they’re healthy. I like the way Carlo is playing right now as he’s shown a little mean and nasty around the net in the defensive zone, and he’s really playing to his size and strength capabilities. It’s certainly not perfect right now as Carlo is getting whistled for penalties and is still on ice for some goals against, but that’s exactly how he needs to play in order to be effective in the postseason, and really at any time of year. If Carlo falters and doesn’t make the cut, then it would probably come down to first round match-ups when determining whether to go with the puck-moving Holden or the stay-at-home McQuaid.

    Toughest omission: Barring injuries it’s expected that Tommy Wingels might start as a healthy scratch, so that one wouldn’t be too difficult for a trade deadline newcomer. Certainly Sean Kuraly would be a tough one to leave as a healthy scratch after a solid season as the fourth line center, and it could very easily become a situation where Kuraly stays in because Bruce Cassidy doesn’t want to mess with his fourth line chemistry. Tim Schaller would be the toughest omission from the Bruins lineup if it came down to that with Jake DeBrusk moving to a bottom-6 role based on the emergence of Ryan Donato. He’s scored a career-high 11 goals this season for the Bruins, has killed penalties and has been an offensive catalyst on a fourth line that’s been excellent for the Bruins. He’s gone above and beyond expectations this season, and plays with the kind of grit and toughness that will be needed in the playoffs. But if everybody is healthy, I’m not sure Cassidy could bench one of Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk or Ryan Donato for the postseason and feel good about it after the way they’ve all played as rookies. Chances are it won’t come to that as the Bruins very well could be missing at least one forward due to injury when the postseason gets rolling, but the Black and Gold will be sure to have a workable plan either way.    

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    Bruins bring back Chris Kelly as player development coordinator

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Bruins bring back Chris Kelly as player development coordinator

    Chris Kelly is back on the Boston Bruins, but he's trading in his hockey gear for a suit.

    The Bruins announced Thursday they have hired Kelly as player development coordinator, while also adding Andrew Dickson as an amateur scout.

    Kelly came to the B's as a player in 2011 and won a Stanley Cup during his first season in Boston. He went on to play 288 games for the Bruins over six seasons, tallying a total of 43 goals and 58 assists as a third-line forward.

    The 38-year-old last played for the Anaheim Ducks during the 2017-18 season and spent last season as a development coach for the Ottawa Senators -- his first NHL team as a player -- before coming to Boston.

    Dickson spent the last seven seasons as an amateur scout for the Detroit Red Wings.

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    Is McAvoy really in line for 'a huge contract' with Bruins? Maybe not

    Is McAvoy really in line for 'a huge contract' with Bruins? Maybe not

    There’s quite the interesting debate going on these days about just how much Bruins RFA defenseman Charlie McAvoy should get on his second contract.

    NBC’s Pro Hockey Talk tweeted out a story proclaiming that both McAvoy and Columbus Blue Jackets D-man Zach Werenski should be in line for “huge contracts” and conjured up some numbers that put those two young defenseman in a class with Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson at the same stage of their careers.

    Certainly the 21-year-old McAvoy and 21-year-old Werenski have shown promise as excellent puck-movers and developing two-way D-men in their short NHL careers. But to lump the two of them together into the same class is not something I’m sure the Bruins would do at this point in their separate negotiations.

    First off, both Doughty and Karlsson were Norris Trophy finalists before they got their massive contracts. Secondly, do you know how many games Doughty missed with injuries before he signed his eight-year, $56 million contract?

    He missed seven NHL games with injuries in his first three seasons with the Kings, including just one in his first two seasons in Los Angeles. Doughty also put together a 16-goal, 59-point masterpiece sophomore season, all while averaging 24 plus minutes of ice time per game over those first three NHL seasons in L.A.

    All due respect to a special talent in McAvoy who idolizes Doughty, but he hasn’t even been close to that kind of dominance yet in his very promising, young NHL career. He was brilliant in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and he's shown big time flashes for the B's, but he's also missed almost 50 games with injuries over the last two years. 

    Werenski has averaged 13 goals and 40 points in his three NHL seasons with Columbus and missed a total of nine NHL games in his first two seasons before playing the full 82-game schedule this past season for the Blue Jackets. He’s a lot closer to Doughty in terms of a comparable situation at this point in his young NHL career.

    Werenski has the ability to be offer-sheeted by other prospective NHL teams, and has all the makings of an RFA who could cash in on something similar to the massive eight-year, $60 million deal signed by Florida’s Aaron Ekblad a couple of seasons ago.

    McAvoy, on the other hand, has topped out at seven goals and 32 points in the better of his two NHL seasons (his rookie campaign) and has missed a whopping 47 games due to injuries in his first two seasons. McAvoy also can’t be tendered with an offer sheet by other NHL teams because he has fewer than three full years of NHL service based on the 40-game rule adopted by the league when it comes to restricted free agents.

    So really there are very few parallels between Werenski’s negotiating leverage right now and McAvoy’s situation headed into his third NHL season with Boston.

    If McAvoy wants to get the “huge contract” with the B’s then he’s going to have to earn it with a dominant, healthy season that he has yet to put together at the NHL level. It’s really as simple as that, regardless of his Corsi numbers when he has been healthy over the last two seasons.

    The best course of action for both the Bruins and McAvoy?

    It would be sign a bridge contract for a couple of years where the young D-man gets the $5-6 million per season based on his closest comparable players (Esa Lindell, for one), and puts together the kind of years that would put him closer to the Doughty/Karlsson/Ekblad max contract neighborhood that he’s clearly aspiring to at this point.

    Basically, McAvoy at this point will need to sign the qualifying offer given to him by the Bruins or sit out until he agrees to a long-term second deal with the Boston. The reality is this: The Bruins young D-man has zero leverage this time around in negotiations aside from being a key player for the B's in both their present and future plans. Then again, the Bruins did pretty well in the first half last season when McAvoy was barely a presence while battling through concussion-related issues, and before he put together a very strong second half and postseason during their run to Game 7 of the Cup Final.

    There’s no reason to think they can’t do the same this season with a Stanley Cup Final-worthy group if McAvoy’s camp plays hardball and holds out ahead of NHL training camp.

    All signs point to McAvoy getting a big raise and eventually getting the cap-busting contract that he’s clearly going to be looking for, and he could get it as soon as a year from now at this time. But the 21-year-old needs to earn it first, and shame on Don Sweeney and the Bruins if they shell out tens of millions of dollars on an admittedly talented, highly-gifted player before he’s done the kind of things that earn players that type of money at the NHL level.

    Why Heinen signing left B's with cap questions>>>>

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