Bruins

Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panthers

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Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panthers

Here are my talking points from tonight's 4-2 Bruins win in South Florida . . .

GOLD STAR: David Krejci didn’t have a single point during the five-game losing streak. But on Saturday night he stepped up and, lo and behold, the Bruins took home two points. It was Krejci helped kick-start the transition game for Jake DeBrusk’s goal in the first period, and then scored one of his own in the second on a strike from the top of the faceoff circle. Krejci finished with a goal and two points and a plus-2 rating in 16:20 of ice time. He also had five shot attempts and won 9-of-14 faceoffs in a game where the second line providence plenty of offense and pressure. Bruce Cassidy slipped Charlie Coyle up to second-line right wing with Krejci and DeBrusk at the outset of the game, and it seemed to work well for the Black and Gold.

BLACK EYE: Jonathan Huberdeau is having a very good season for the Panthers, but he wasn’t able to bring out his “A” game for Florida against the Bruins. Huberdeau didn’t get a single shot on net in the 21:25 of ice time that he played. He finished with three giveaways and a minus-1 against the Bruins. He was part of the line set to contain the Krejci line, but instead allowed them to march right up the ice on DeBrusk’s first period scoring play. Huberdeau was also on ice in the third, when Florida coach Joel Quenneville pulled the goalie with more than two minutes to go, only for David Pastrnak to quickly notch an empty-netter that sealed the game. Not a good night for a very good player.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins weathered the storm in the third when the Panthers came hard after them and carved out a couple of goals to cut the lead to 3-2. Considering that the Bruins blew a 4-0 third period lead against the Panthers at home just a month ago, there was certainly some nervous, anxious moments, with the Bruins looking like they’d blow a three-goal lead in the third period this time. But the B’s stiffened after Jaro Halak gave up a soft goal on a Keith Yandle point shot to make it a one-goal game. They didn’t allow Florida to take advantage of any other breakdowns. Instead the B’s hung in there, patiently waiting until the Florida net opened up the winning scoring chance for them.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk was at the heart of some of the criticism from Bruce Cassidy after the loss in Tampa when the second and third lines weren’t getting much of anything done. DeBrusk was also one of the players that responded in a big way this weekend by scoring the game’s first goal, a pretty nifty dangle through Florida defenders before beating Sergei Bobrovsky in tight close to the net. DeBrusk also fed David Krejci for his second period goal, finishing with five shot attempts and a couple blocked shots in 15:38 of ice time while posting a plus-2 rating. Perhaps just as important, DeBrusk was winning 50/50 battles for the puck and playing a competitive brand of hockey rather than doing fly-bys in a lot of areas while hunting the puck. If DeBrusk played with the same kind of speed, skill and tenacity on more nights, he’d be a difference-maker for the Bruins more often.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28 – The number of goals for David Pastrnak after collecting two scores against the Panthers, and putting himself in a position where he’s easily going to have 30 goals before the Christmas break.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I thought we did a really good job. Every line played well. We moved some guys around, but right up and down the lineup all 12 forwards, 6 [defensemen] and Jaroslav Halak were all really good.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN when asked his assessment of the win that snapped the longest B’s losing streak (five games) since he took over as head coach.  

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Bruins prospect Jeremy Swayman named Hobey Baker finalist

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Bruins prospect Jeremy Swayman named Hobey Baker finalist

Bruins prospect Jeremy Swayman will begin his professional career once the NHL regular season pause is over, but the goaltending prospect has already ended his college career in style.

The University of Maine goaltender was named one of three Hobey Baker finalists as the top player in all of NCAA hockey this past season after a tremendous year with the Black Bears.

Swayman, a fourth round draft pick of the Boston Bruins in 2017, finished up his junior season in Orono by playing over 2,000 minutes and leading the nation in saves (a school-record 1,099) with a 2.07 goals against average and a .939 save percentage (second in the country).  

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Swayman earned Hockey East Player of the Year and Mike Richter Finalist honors in addition to being named a Hobey Baker finalist and leaves the Black Bears in the same rarified air as fellow Maine alums like Ben Bishop and Jimmy Howard.

The 21-year-old Swayman signed an entry level contract with the Bruins last month and will embark on his professional career once hockey has resumed. Swayman obviously will be in need of some development at the pro level before he’s considered NHL material in Boston, but he’ll be in the pipeline to be the heir apparent to the No. 1 gig in Boston along with fellow prospects Daniel Vladar and Kyle Keyser.

Swayman joins University of Minnesota Duluth defenseman Scott Perunovich and University of North Dakota forward Jordan Kawaguchi as the three finalists up for college hockey’s top honor, which will be announced on April 11.  

Hindsight 2020: David Backes' Bruins contract costly in too many ways

Hindsight 2020: David Backes' Bruins contract costly in too many ways

If there’s one move that Don Sweeney can be fairly and vigorously quaestioned for from the semi-recent past, it’s the signing of David Backes to a costly albatross of a five-year, $30 million contract during the summer of 2016.

It’s not the only second-guess opportunity when it comes to Sweeney running the Bruins, of course, but that’s the same story with every other general NHL manager in the 31 organizations.

It should be noted the B’s general manager has also led the franchise to an impressive run as one of the best teams in the NHL over the last four seasons and has done it while focusing largely on the draft-and-development component.

But there are some well-worn blemishes to be sure.

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There’s the 2015 NHL Draft, obviously, when the Bruins missed on two out of three picks in the first round by taking Jakob Zboril and Zach Senyshyn in a loaded draft class. That decision continues to sting. Or the initial moves later in the summer of 2015 to acquire Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes and Zach Rinaldo in a futile attempt to bring physicality to a Bruins team that had dealt Milan Lucic at the draft.

We’ll give Sweeney a mulligan for that entire first year, though, as he navigated the first season on the job, asserted himself as the final decision-maker on hockey operations decisions and attempted to transition a once-great-but-aging hockey club weighed down by some ill-advised contracts.

As of late, it’s been much more difficult to pinpoint obvious Bruins mistakes as they have developed young star players like Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk and pushed all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last season.

But one could make an easy argument the Bruins might have won Game 7 last summer against the St. Louis Blues if they’d utilized that $6 million in cap space for a more effective player than the 35-year-old Backes.

The aging Backes went through his worst NHL season last year with seven goals and 20 points in 70 games while showing consistent difficulties in keeping up with the NHL pace. Then he was in and out of the lineup in the playoffs before serving as a healthy scratch for the final three games of the Cup Final in favor of a player in Karson Kuhlman who's managed just four goals and 11 points in 36 career NHL games.

Clearly the summer of 2016 wasn’t a good one for the NHL free agent market when the Bruins were tossing around their big money.

Backes was a beyond-his-prime bust. Loui Eriksson has been consistently terrible for the Vancouver Canucks. Milan Lucic hasn’t been the same as he was in his best years with the Bruins and has switched teams from Edmonton to Calgary in that time period. Andrew Ladd and Troy Brouwer were respective free agents busts for their new NHL teams as well.

In hindsight, the Bruins would have been better off simply holding off on spending the money that summer, and instead waiting until the right fit came along for them rather than wasting valuable cap space on an aging power forward incapable of posting the hard-hitting 20-goal/50-point seasons that he did in his best years with the Blues.

A more effective top-6 winger than Backes or Kuhlman certainly would have made a bigger impact in the seven-game series against the Blues last postseason, and would have left the Bruins without a massive top-6 winger void over the last few seasons. It’s a roster imperfection that, to this point, still hasn’t been properly addressed by the Bruins front office after a massive swing-and-miss on Backes.

Insult was added to the salary cap injury just a couple of months ago when the Bruins needed to part with their 2020 first round pick, sending it to Anaheim, in order to free themselves of the odious Backes contract for next season. On top of it all, the Bruins were forced to still eat a portion of the Backes deal ($1.5 million) for next year even after coughing up a valuable first round pick in the Backes/Ondrej Kase swap with the Ducks.

The Bruins assumed they would get at least a couple of good seasons from Backes at the beginning of the $30 million deal where he would be a big, strong, versatile top-6 winger — or third line center — who would take weight off the shoulders of guys like Patrice Bergeron.

Instead they spent premium dollars on a good man who may have been a consummate pro and an excellent leader within the Bruins dressing room, but on the ice was a hockey player already breaking down on the back nine of his NHL career.

The Bruins will still be paying that price for years to come with a 2020 first round pick they no longer own and nothing to show for the big money they spent hoping Backes would hang onto his effectiveness in his mid-30s.

Sweeney and the B’s will probably know better the next time they are tempted with the same kind of quick-fix solution to their needs because, after all, hindsight is 20/20.