Bruins

Tough to watch McQuaid go, but trade was smart move for Bruins

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Tough to watch McQuaid go, but trade was smart move for Bruins

BRIGHTON -- Adam McQuaid is a great teammate. He's an intimidating and fierce fighter who inspires fear in opponents, and conversely is one of the nicest hockey players you’d ever want to meet. He blocks shots fearlessly and stands up without hesitation for his teammates against the biggest, toughest NHL foes. 

So it was understandable that emotions were a little raw in the Bruins dressing room today when, on the first day of training camp at Warrior Ice Arena, the Bruins traded McQuaid to the New York Rangers on the eve of their trip to China.

“It’s a tough day,” said Brad Marchand, who played with McQuaid in both Providence and Boston. “It’s difficult losing Quaider, who has been an incredible teammate for a long time.

"When you look around the room, you want guys like him. He’s just an incredible guy off the ice, and in the room. He’s a great friend, and as a teammate he’d do anything for the team and for each individual player.

"So it sucks. It’s unfortunately part of the business. This is the game that we play and these are the things that happen, but we’ll never forget him as a teammate or as a friend after everything we’ve been through together. It’s hard losing him."

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McQuaid, 31, was one of the last links to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship; only Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask now are left. He was tirelessly working his way back from a wide swath of injuries that resulted from his physical style of play.

But let’s put this into cold, hard hockey perspective.

Getting a fourth-round pick, a conditional seventh-round pick and defenseman Steven Kampfer for McQuaid was a slam dunk for general manager Don Sweeney and the Bruins.

They’ll absolutely miss his toughness, his selflessness and his sledgehammer right-handed punch, but McQuaid -- one of eight NHL defensemen in the B's camp -- probably wasn’t going to play much at all this season. Last year he only got into 38 games and was a healthy scratch for long stretches in the middle of the season when the rest of the blue line was healthy, productive and playing at a high level. McQuaid and Kevan Miller are essentially two sides of the same coin as big, rugged and physical right-shot D-men, with Miller a little faster and more skilled and McQuaid a little more of a fearsome fighter.

The Bruins essentially gained at least one mid-round draft pick and a decent AHL/NHL depth D-man in Kampfer while clearing $2.75 million in cap space. With both Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo up for new contracts after this season, there was zero chance McQuaid was coming back to Boston in 2019. So Boston got a little value for a player on the back end of his NHL career.

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The Bruins still have seven high-caliber NHL D-men, and that means a quality player is going to be a healthy scratch every night, but at least the logjam of blueliners has been eased a little. Perhaps the most difficult part of the transaction will be the first time one of the Bruins has to drop the gloves and tangle with McQuaid.

Sweeney was respectful in his comments about McQuaid. He said he was hopeful the B's could maintain a “team toughness” approach without McQuaid.

“I think [hockey fighting] is still a factor and it still exists, and it just comes in smaller doses." said Sweeney. "Adam always found the right time to do those things, but it still exists and it’s still part of the game. It’s become less prevalent on a nightly basis. I think it’s about team toughness . . . [I] firmly [believe] that you do that through a team aspect.”

So that means Chara, Miller and David Backes, or maybe even somebody new like Carlo, are going to expected to answer the bell when it’s called for on the ice, especially with the Bruins getting smaller and more skill-oriented with each passing season.

Still, it's absolutely the right hockey move, and it made sense from a talent and business perspective. Players, coaches and executives around the NHL are wont to say that “it’s a business," and shipping out an aging, good soldier for the betterment of the team was just that: Strictly business.

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Tuukka Rask concussion another example of teams taking liberties with Bruins

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AP Photo

Tuukka Rask concussion another example of teams taking liberties with Bruins

BOSTON – Once again a Bruins player was laid out on the ice, and then helped off wobbly-legged after clearing suffering a concussion during the in-game proceedings.

This time it was Tuukka Rask knocked out of the first period of Boston’s 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday night in their final game ahead of their week-long bye and All-Star weekend. The long break will give the Bruins netminder a lot of time to potentially recover from the head injury, but there was no denying the violence of a collision where 6-foot-2 Filip Chytil smashed into Rask after getting shoved from behind by D-man Charlie McAvoy.

“I had two hands on my stick, I didn’t feel like I shoved him at all, just unfortunate, it sucks, you hate to see it,” said McAvoy. “Obviously Tuukka’s a huge part of our team, he’s been playing great for us so you don’t want to see that. We’ll be hoping the best for him, praying for him.

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“It was scary, he went down and he seemed down and out. I saw firsthand the force that that guy went right into him with, and it didn’t look good right away. I just wanted to make sure he was okay and he came back to, got him off the ice. Hopefully he’s feeling alright right now.”

It looked like Chytil caught Rask right in the jaw with an elbow as he went airborne, and the Bruins goalie was seeing the cartoon birds dancing around his head as he was gingerly helped off the ice by his teammates and the Bruins medical staff. Certainly it felt more like an accident than a purposeful, malicious attempt to hurt the goalie, but there was also no denying that Chytil didn’t hesitate to go as hard as possible toward the Boston net.

There certainly wasn’t any fear in the young forward’s head about charging into the crease at maximum velocity.

Rask marks another concussion for the Bruins after David Backes, Charlie McAvoy, Urho Vaakanainen and Jake DeBrusk have all missed significant time with concussions this season, and the Bruins have had close calls with big, heavy and high hits thrown at David Krejci among others. Some will say this happens to every team across the NHL now, and that players simply don’t have the same tacit respect for each other on the ice as they once did in the old time hockey days.

But it was interesting to watch the Bruins carefully use Lady Byng-level manners when skating around the New York Rangers net with Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes. There was never even a hint of the Bruins rushing King Henrik with the same ferocity even though the Bruins never trailed by more than a goal during the loss.

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It was even more interesting to watch old friend Adam McQuaid get a first period video tribute for heavy hits, blocked shots and plenty of rollicking hockey fights along with being one of Boston’s Stanley Cup champions in 2011. Then later on in the game he tangled with Brad Marchand along the end boards in the second period, and then jumped Chris Wagner in the final minutes of the third period after he’d thrown a thunderous hit on Jesper Fast. It certainly wasn’t ideal timing for McQuaid to get involved as it gave the Bruins a power play down a goal in the third period, but it also showed what the former Bruins defenseman was all about.

McQuaid wasn’t thinking about the circumstances, he was merely reacting as a player trained to have the back of his teammates whenever opponents take a run at them. Couple that with the sequence from Philly earlier this week when Jori Lehtera drilled Ryan Donato from behind into the boards, and then the Bruins took long moments before reacting. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson grabbed Lehtera by the shoulder and held on for a couple of seconds, and Zdeno Chara argued with the referees for a penalty call before joining the fray to belatedly jump to the defense of his teammate.

If McQuaid were on the ice he would have made a B-line for Lehtera and let him know in no uncertain terms that you can’t mess with Bruins players on his watch. That’s something that’s absolutely missing from this Bruins team as small players like Brad Marchand, Torey Krug and Noel Acciari have been left to defend their teammates most often this season.

So what can be done about this?

Certainly the Bruins need a top-6 winger or a third line center much more desperately than they need a fourth line brawler, and their biggest need is scoring power up front to offset some of the pressure on Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. But there’s a very real danger that some of those players won’t be healthy and in one piece if the Bruins continue on their current path, and opponents don’t have the same respect they once did for the Black and Gold when Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton and others like McQuaid patrolled the ice ready to defend their teammates no matter the cost.

The Rask concussion is just the latest example that opposing teams are skating around and taking liberties with the Bruins this season, and that isn’t going to change unless the Bruins decide they’re going to do something about it.  

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Bruins hope Tuukka Rask concussion 'settles itself quickly' after nasty hit

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Bruins hope Tuukka Rask concussion 'settles itself quickly' after nasty hit

BOSTON – Things turned quickly for Tuukka Rask in Saturday’s loss to the New York Rangers where it went from going for a historic win to not even being able to get out of the first period in one piece. Rask was knocked out of Boston’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers with a concussion after getting crushed by Rangers winger Filip Chytil on a power rush to the net that resulted in New York’s first goal.

Chytil was headed to the net with a head of steam, and went airborne when shoved by Charlie McAvoy in what ended with a violent collision at the net. Rask was spaghetti-legged as he left the ice with a concussion and Jaroslav Halak absorbed his fourth loss in his last five appearances while allowing two goals on 13 shots.

Now the Bruins are hoping that more than a week of rest time – thanks to the bye week and NHL All-Star weekend – will be enough to find Rask healthy and ready to resume his duties when the regular season resumes.

“He’s concussed. That’s all I know, so he’ll go into protocol. The best-case scenario for those is usually the next day if he’s doing well,” said Bruce Cassidy of Rask, who went into Saturday night with a 2.43 goals against average and a .920 save percentage while playing some of his best hockey of the season. “Then he’s up and running and it shouldn’t be too badly affected by it other than the immediate, today’s kind of pain and symptoms. If he’s not, then it’s one of those where you just keep your fingers crossed and hope it settles itself out quickly.

“I don’t want this to come out of context, but the timing is probably the best it’s ever going to be, right? If you’re going to have this injury because you do have nine days before you play again, so for any player. But there is no good timing, having said that, because who knows how it’ll play out for him. So it’s unfortunate.”

Cassidy was also quick to point that he didn’t think the collision was intentional on the part of Chytil, who definitely appeared to lose his balance once he made contact with McAvoy while going full speed at the Bruins net.

“I don’t think there’s intent to hit the goalie. I think that’s rare. There’s probably a player or two that tries not to get out of the way, for sure. I don’t think this kid tried to hit him. I think he did hit him. How much Charlie [McAvoy] affected that? The reaction is did the goal go in because he hit him or the puck went in first clearly, so it’s a good goal? I thought there are nights where it would’ve been called goalie interference after the goal and we would’ve been on the power play, not that tonight would’ve been the best night for that,” said Cassidy. “At the end of day, I’ve seen that call. He didn’t make it. He felt Charlie had something to do with the contact, and you move on.”

It’s the second documented concussion for Rask after he suffered one in Bruins practice a couple of years ago when Anders Bjork ran over him during a particularly lively practice drill, and ended up missing more than a week of action in his recovery. 

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