Danton Heinen

Bruins trade rumors, contract talk and more in this week's Hagg Bag

Bruins trade rumors, contract talk and more in this week's Hagg Bag

The Bruins showed the best and worst of themselves over a four day period as they lost to Vancouver while giving up eight goals, and then swept the Maple Leafs and Golden Knights in a couple of back-to-back weekend games with Tuukka Rask on a leave of absence. Just another day in the life of the Black and Gold, so with that in mind let’s crack open the Hagg Bag mailbag. As always these are real tweets from real fans sent to my twitter account using the #HaggBag mailbag, real messages sent to NBCS Facebook fan page and emails sent to my JHaggerty@nbcuni.com email account. Now on to the bag:

Haggs,

No one expected the Bruins to get as far as they did last year. They squeaked past Toronto and were no match for Tampa. The playoffs showed they pretty much sank and swam by the production of the first line. Tampa stayed the same and Toronto upgraded big time and with the start of the season it’s pretty much the same thing thing with points coming from first line. I feel if they don’t make a move to help with the scoring they might not even make the playoffs, let alone go far in them no matter who is in net. If they don’t make a move and start to drop do you see them unloading any of the veterans? 
Thanks,

Chris

JH: Your analysis is pretty spot on, Chris. The Bruins biggest addition in the offseason was most definitely Jaroslav Halak as we’re seeing right now with him second in the NHL in goals against average and save percentage more than a month into the season. But they were too top heavy in the postseason last year and they didn’t make any significant outside improvements to change that while relying on kids like Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork to step up and fill the void. Instead they’ve been filling it with Joakim Nordstrom on the second line, which will do for right now but isn’t going to be a permanent top-6 solution on David Krejci’s line.

The good news is that it looks like Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson may be ready to handle the third line center duties. At least it looks good after a couple of games, and it’s brought the best out of both Bjork and Heinen too. But that leaves the Bruins one top-6 forward short of a team that could do some damage in the playoffs, and leaves them with a need to make a deal at some point soon. It remains to be seen how they’re going to accomplish that, but they were in a similar spot last season and landed Rick Nash at the trade deadline. They were good enough to get 112 points, good enough to advance a round in the playoffs and would have been a deeper forward group if Nash had lived up to expectations. I think this is a playoff team as currently constituted right now mostly because that top line will allow them to beat most of the mediocre-to-bad teams out there. But they’ll need another established goal-scorer, and preferably somebody with some size and nasty to their game, if they’re going to be a real threat this season. They’re not there yet and Don Sweeney has some work to do.

All that being said, I don’t see the Bruins becoming sellers this season. No way they do that with the current talent level on the team, and no way they should based on where they are in the Atlantic Division pecking order. We’re talking about a team that’s 10-5-2 in their first 17 games and has the assets to make a deal to improve the team. All things considered, they’re not in a bad spot at all.   

Hey Haggs, 

Just wondering what you think about Charlie McAvoy seemingly always being hurt.  I love him as a player and think he has a great future ahead of him, but could this possibly affect how much he’ll make on his next contract.  Hopefully the Bruins can get him at a reasonable number this summer.  He’s a great player, but he’s not worth the 7-7.5 million I’ve been hearing so far.  He will be sooner or later, but I just don’t think he’s there yet.  I’m also wondering if Sweeney is regretting not bringing a veteran forward in over the summer to help the second line.  I wanted them to go after Skinner.  What do they do now that they sent Donato back to Providence?  It’s kinda earlier to start trading, but I’m not opposed to that at all.

Nick

JH: It’s too early to put any labels on McAvoy given his talent level and his youthful age. He was going to need a monster season to haul in that kind of a second contract, and it doesn’t appear that it’s going that way at this point. So perhaps a little bit of a silver lining to the McAvoy injuries is that it will cut down on his price tag coming out of his entry level contract, but that’s little reassurance to the Bruins. They want McAvoy on the ice where he can help them, and it looks like he’s headed in that direction now that he’s back on the ice again.

The Bruins are going to be okay for the time being riding the top line and plugging somebody into the David Krejci line. It’s a temporary fix, though, and it clearly paves the way for Sweeney to need to make an in-season deal for a top-6 winger. It is early to start trading, but we’ve also seen plenty of Anaheim and LA Kings execs/scouts at Bruins games over the last few weeks to think it’s completely dead. The Bruins are talking to other teams and know they could use more scoring punch and some more size up front, and perhaps can make a deal to address both of those before the burden becomes too heavy on Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.

Hi Joe!

First, all Bruins fans should hope Tuukka will be fine as a person after his requested leave from team. 
Second, hopefully he comes back stronger as the ‘elite’ goalie that he has been......again, on his time.  We forget these guys are under the ‘spotlight’ and have other daily matters to deal with same as fans. Hockey players are the least attention grabbing of all other major sports athletes including college and amateur levels and yet, are the most professional and generous with their time!
Kanpai (cheers) to Tuukka and the Bruins!


Ron Saitama, Japan

JH: Well said, Ron. All you can hope for is that Tuukka Rask comes back stronger, more centered and all-around better after getting some time to deal with his personal affairs. I may take issue with his consistency on the ice and how much he’s being paid based on the performance, but I’ve always liked Rask off the ice. He’s funny, he’s pretty honest about things and he’s an interesting guy that has a lot of interests outside of hockey.

Joe,

Will the Bruins trade for a center or a winger?

--Michael Boldiga (via NBCSN Facebook fan page)

JH: Yes. I think they will. If I had to guess, I think they’ll eventually trade for a winger. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to give up assets for a third line center when they have both JFK and Trent Frederic in the minors as players that will be ready sooner rather than later. You look at Joakim Nordstrom’s spot on the second line as the place where the Bruins badly need to upgrade, and give Krejci another weapon on his line now that it looks like Jake DeBrusk is starting to get going.

I have faith in Heinen and DeBrusk to chip in more and more as the season continues. Not sold on Bjork or JFK. Need more sample size. But at least Backes has been moved. Next step is to buy him out.

--Matias Halluchuck (@mhall3333)

JH: Interesting to see the Bruins scratch Noel Acciari for the last few games, and install Backes on the fourth line where he’s actually been pretty good with Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly. It’s tough to see a player taking up a $6 million cap space on the fourth line, but it would be eased a bit if Backes could chip in some offense to that line and make some things happen by causing some havoc in front of the net. Do I see them buying out Backes and paying a portion of his contract for the next handful of years? No, I don’t see them doing that. But it’s also just simple reality that the number of concussions that Backes has suffered could begin to take their toll as he becomes a bit more of a slow-moving target on the ice at 34 years old. The Bruins made the right call moving him off the center position after trying him out on the third line, and now they need to let him find his game with a little consistency in both his linemates and his role. 

That’s all for the Bag this week. See you next week. 

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Looks like the Bruins have found a third-line answer with the kids

Looks like the Bruins have found a third-line answer with the kids

BOSTON – Don’t look now, but it seems like the Bruins are starting to find some answers for a third line that’s confounded them all season.

It’s too easy to call them the Kid Line and probably too on the nose to come up with some moniker centered around 22-year-old Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson’s “JFK” nickname, but it sure looks like 23-year-old Danton Heinen, JFK and 22-year-old Anders Bjork are finally gelling as a young, fast and aggressive third line. They kicked in a 5-on-5 goal and had some really promising, energetic shifts in Boston’s 4-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday night, and showed how good the Bruins can be if they can start to get a little more consistency from all of their forward lines.

The caveat is clearly that it’s only been two games and JFK still has a long way to go as a bona fide NHL center, but in an important development the last few games are probably the best that both Heinen and Bjork have looked all season.

“I thought [Heinen, JFK and Bjork] had a good weekend. Obviously, they got a goal. It helps when you’re young. Before here you’re used to getting on the score sheet, so you get frustrated if you don’t. They got rewarded [and] it was a good goal,” said Bruce Cassidy. “They did it the right way, started in D-zone, they played it, they won a puck, got it behind their D, won a foot race and got it to the front of the net. So it wasn’t lucky. It wasn’t a fluke. It was the right way to do things, and they got rewarded for it.

“Hopefully that reminds them how they need to play. Then after that a few more pucks find them. They win some pucks down low. They’re attacking the net. I thought our fourth line was outstanding too, the [Sean] Kuraly line, so you get your bottom-6 really chipping in and that’s what it’s going to take for us to win on a consistent basis. I think we’re aware of that. Our top line is good. Our second line’s coming around. The power play generally produces, but at the end of the day you need balanced scoring to do it every night and we’re starting to see that the last three games. I think we’ve been much better in that area.”

In the last few minutes of the first period in a scoreless game, Heinen got the puck out of the defensive zone and kick started a give-and-go play with Bjork where a lead chip pass to space took full advantage of the right winger’s blinding speed. Bjork got behind the Vegas ‘D’ and then slipped a pass to a wide open Heinen in front of the net for the easy goal to get Boston on the board. It was Heinen’s second goal in the last three games, and the first real tangible signs that one of the B’s best rookies from last season was starting to get his game on track.

Really, it showed exactly what the kids are capable of when the confidence, skill, and youthful exuberance are all working together properly in tandem.

“I think it starts with us playing hard and especially attacking on the fore-check. I think JFK plays so well defensively and so does Heino [Danton Heinen] too. I think we have been solid there and, obviously we can improve a little bit,” said Bjork. “But that’s helped our transition game, which has helped us get in on the forecheck. That’s where we’ve created opportunities just by attacking and screening hard. Yeah, it’s been good. Hopefully we can continue that.”

The real key to unlocking the third line’s potential might just be Forsbacka Karlsson, who brings more speed, more skill and an ability to be the responsible two-way defender when Heinen and Bjork speed out in the transition game. JFK didn’t get on the board in his first two games, but he nearly set up Heinen for a goal on a beautiful wheeling cross-ice pass in his season debut and has adopted more of an attack mentality himself after being a little too passive in past experiences with the big club.

It’s even an improvement on training camp when both JFK and Trent Frederic weren’t quite ready to win the third line center gig, and that left the Bruins juggling David Backes, Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and others as ill-fitting stopgap options until one of the kids was ready.

Well, it looks like JFK is finally ready to run the third line administration for the Black and Gold.

“Maybe [it’s] just time. Maybe [it’s] just expectations for us were high. I would guess that six weeks or whatever it is that he’s been down there after a full year, I would guess he’s hungry to be here and stay,” said Cassidy. “It’s kind of, what does the second go-around say? He had a quick indoctrination here against Washington a couple years ago, one game, and then goes down there and doesn’t play a lot with the big club and then preseason doesn’t work out.

“I think at some point the switch has to go off, okay this is what I need to do. I think he’s doing what we’re asking him to do, and he’s playing to his strengths. He’s still got a ways to go [and the] puck battles could be better, but I like the progress I’ve seen out of him. He seems to be a much more engaged player and that’s all we’re asking: be engaged every night. We’ll walk you through the rest, and hopefully you’re good enough to stay here.”

For now it looks more than good enough on the new-look third line, and that’s a great development for the Bruins. Now it’s up to the three kids to keep the energy and production up consistently, and provide the B’s with something they’ve been missing all season. 

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Talking Points: Halak & Rask embarrassed in Bruins' 8-5 loss to Canucks

Talking Points: Halak & Rask embarrassed in Bruins' 8-5 loss to Canucks

The Bruins held the Vancouver Canucks to eight goals over seven games of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, only to concede eight goals to the Canucks over 60 minutes in a sloppy affair at TD Garden Thursday night. Here are the talking points from Vancouver's 8-5 rout.

GOLD STAR: Bo Horvat was the best player on the ice when the Canucks beat the Bruins in Vancouver, and he did the same thing against the B’s again this time in Boston. Horvat scored a pair of goals and had four points in 19:03 of ice time along with a plus-2 rating, and got the Canucks on the board early with a nice play at the B’s blue line. Horvat caused David Backes to hear footsteps as he was receiving a pass, creating a turnover where Horvat was able to cruise right in and snap one past Jaroslav Halak to get the Canucks going. Horvat finished with five shots on net, a hit and won 16-of-30 face-offs in a really good all-around effort, continuing to show why he’s leading the talented group of Canucks youngsters to bigger and better things.

BLACK EYE: The goaltenders were both bad for the Bruins as they gave up eight goals on 33 shots between Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask. Halak was the one stumbling out of the gate as he allowed five goals before getting pulled in the second, and then Rask couldn’t do anything to stop the bleeding while giving up another three goals on 14 shots. Some of it was about turnovers and shoddy penalty killing, some of it was about soft defense around the front of the net and some of it was about pucks squeezing through the goalies a little too easily. There was also the terrible Rask play on the PK where Horvat intercepted the puck on a Rask clear attempt, and then easily fired it into the vacated net to pad Vancouver’s lead. It will be interesting to see what Bruce Cassidy will do for goaltending this weekend after both netminders struggled on Thursday night.

TURNING POINT: It was a one-goal game in the second period when the Bruins were threatening and David Krejci rocked a shot off the crossbar that just missed being a goal. It was late in the second when this happened, and a Bruins goal at that juncture could have pushed the B’s and Canucks into the second intermission tied at 5-5 with a lot of Boston life in the final 20 minutes. Instead Krejci zinged it off the bar, and the Canucks managed to score on an Erik Gudbranson shot from the point that found a hole against Rask. That made it 6-4 headed into the third period and pretty much made it impossible for the Bruins to dig all the way back against a high-octane Vancouver group.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk was one of the few good stories for the Bruins in this game as he finished with a pair of goals and three points in 15:27 minutes of ice time that might have marked his best game of the season. DeBrusk finished with the three points and the plus-1 rating, had seven shot attempts and even threw a couple of hits and blocked a few shots in one of his best all-around games. DeBrusk was camped in front of the net redirecting pucks and paying the price, and showing the way to some offense for the rest of the young guys on the B’s roster. It’s probably no coincidence that Danton Heinen scored his first goal of the season later in third period doing the same thing: paying the price in front of the net. The B’s could use a hot streak from DeBrusk offensively, and maybe that starts right now.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the first goal of the season for Danton Heinen scored against the Canucks in his 13th game of the year for the Bruins.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I was just trying to keep it under 10 [goals allowed]. That’s what I was worried about. But yeah, like I said, a loss is a loss, it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. It was kind of a crazy game both ways. You know, a lot of goals scored and there was – at the end it looked like everyone was napping in the crowd. It was just one of those games where there wasn’t a whole lot of action on either end and all of a sudden it’s 5-3, 8-5 whatever. So yeah, weird game but that’s entertainment and we’re just providing it.” –Tuukka Rask, trying to describe what happened in the 8-5 loss to the Canucks.