Hagg Bag

Bruins Mailbag: Things are getting desperate in B's losing streak

Bruins Mailbag: Things are getting desperate in B's losing streak

The Bruins have hit the rough patch in their season that’s been predicted from the very start. They have four wins in the last 15 games spanning the months of December and January, and both the Maple Leafs (six points) and Lightning (seven points) have closed to within 10 points of the Black and Gold in the Atlantic Division.

The Bruins aren’t getting much scoring out of players beyond the Perfection Line, and they aren’t closing out teams with leads in the third period. They also can’t win an overtime or shootout game to save their lives either with 11 shootout/overtime losses, most of them coming over the last month where they’ve posted the 4-6-5 record.

Undoubtedly Bruins fans are freaking out and losing their minds, so now seems like a great time for a Hagg Bag mailbag. Here are real questions from real fans using the #HaggBag hash tag on twitter, messages sent to my NBCS Facebook fan page and emails sent to my jhaggerty@nbcuni.com email account.

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Now on to the bag:

I've seen enough. This team needs a wake-up call. I think at this point, you need to trade one of the underachievers. They should go out and get some grit. This team needs help now. I don't know who they should (or could) trade or who it would be for. But watching this team through this losing patch of hockey, it's clear they need something.

Ben

JH: I agree, Ben. I would really like to see a hard-hitting bruiser on the fourth line that can drop the gloves, intimidate and get the team engaged in some of these games against non-playoff teams that they seem to be sleepwalking through.

Sean Kuraly was excellent as a fourth-line center last season, but it feels to me like he doesn’t want to play that role anymore. Joakim Nordstrom is a nice depth player on an NHL roster and he does little things well, and Chris Wagner is a hustler and a hard-hitting, physical player even though he’s not the biggest guy in the world.

They’re all nice players. But I think the Bruins need more than nice, at this point. They need a tough, mean SOB on their roster and they don’t have it right now.

Kyle Clifford could certainly be that guy in the last year of his contract with the Kings. He’s 28 years old, on track for 10 goals and 20 points this season and is a tough guy at 6-foot-2, 205-pounds. Maybe you could even get a package of Clifford and Toffoli if you were willing to wait until a little later in the season, or you could make in-roads with the Kings by making a deal for Clifford now and setting things up for Toffoli later.

Either way, the Bruins sorely need a guy like Clifford to make other teams fear them again and to step up and protect their superstar players with Kevan Miller not looking like he’s anywhere close to returning, and both David Backes or Brett Ritchie not really filling that role right now either.

It seems to me that Zdeno Chara has become incredibly immobile on D. He loses every race to a puck, often doesn't come out of the corners with the puck. He still clears the net-front well, but I think he has become a liability on D. Are we looking at his final year?

--Big Wally (@BostonWest80111)

JH: I don’t think so. We’re still talking about a 42-year-old defenseman that’s averaging 21:21 of ice time, is second on the Bruins with a plus-17 and is still arguably the best penalty killer in the entire NHL.

Is he a speed skater that’s going to win races? No. That’s not his game. It’s about breaking up plays, using his long stick and reach along with his size and strength and blocking shots while clearing bodies in front. He still does that very effectively on most nights while setting a tone for work ethic, professionalism and he still stands as the biggest, baddest Bruins player on the roster. Teams take even more liberties against the B’s when Chara is out of the lineup.

Are there nights these days where he looks like a 42-year-old playing in an incredibly fast, skilled NHL full of 20-year-olds? Certainly, it happens from time to time, but that doesn’t mean Chara isn’t very effective most of the time, and now he’s playing on a reduced cap hit as well. So I don’t agree at all.

The Bruins are lacking character players. If Marchand and Pasta get injured, look out. We will drop even further in the standings and will be fighting for a wild card spot. Perhaps an early exit is what is needed. We can't be putting a bandage on fundamental issues: An aging core group, lack of character players, and lack of skill players (Pasta being the exception). Time for Sweeney to swing a successful trade that will have long term benefits. $7.25M for Krejci, $6M for Backes....time to trade ‘em both and package Heinen and DeBrusk with them!

Art

JH: I agree that it’s time for guys like Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen to step up into complete, consistent players.

It’s also time for Charlie McAvoy to become the dominant No. 1 defenseman that he’s capable of being rather than the guy that still doesn’t have a goal after the halfway mark of the regular season. I’ll give McAvoy credit for embracing the important parts of being a defensemen, things like blocking shots and holding the other team’s best players in check.

But McAvoy will only be paid big bucks if he can also put up points and kick start offense as well. I think the lack of top drawer offensive production and playmaking by McAvoy this season has also played a role in the B’s struggling to generate offense as of late.

But Heinen is on pace for 12 goals and 29 points this season, and DeBrusk is pacing to fall short of last season’s 27 goals scored. Both have to be looked at as disappointing in the first half of the year, and that should be clear by Bruce Cassidy benching each of them in the last few weeks.

The Bruins aren’t going to trade David Krejci this season, though, with a team that’s leading the Atlantic Division and coming off a berth in the Stanley Cup Final. I know they could definitely use some help for this year’s team, but I also think a little perspective for everybody in Bruins National wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

Who is your favorite character in the new Star Wars movies?

--Daniel McHoliday Cheer (@McGarrMentions)

JH: Definitely Babu Frik. How could you not like that character? But I thought all of the new characters introduced in The Rise of Skywalker were really interesting, good choices. That’s another one of the differences, in my opinion, with this movie and the The Last Jedi.

Holdo? Rose Tico? Whatever the heck Benicio Del Toro was doing? I didn’t find any one of them particularly interesting from what was on the page, or what happened in the performance. The way Holdo went out was pretty cool, I suppose. But other than that I thought they were earnestly bland, or too esoteric, in a way that all the new characters in the latest movie were not.

Backes is a 6 million cap hit wasting upstairs most nights now. Bruins short on Top 6 players. Why would Sweeney waste more cap on Ritchie and Lindholm knowing this?

--Michael Reel (@MichaelReel8)

JH: Both Lindholm and Ritchie are veteran minimum kind of players. They combined for $1.85 million in cap space for this season. That is next to nothing, so it’s really not a cap consideration for either.

In fact, you could make the argument Sweeney was forced to bring in cheap players like Ritchie and Lindholm because he’s paying the price for overpaying for an aging Backes that’s clearly no longer able to produce to the level he’s being paid.

If you think about it, if the Bruins had signed a younger, better player to the contract they signed Backes to four years ago, they probably wouldn’t even have a top-6 problem right now. The big reason they haven’t had anybody to permanently fill the spot on Krejci’s right side is because they had planned on Backes being that guy when they signed him to a big free-agent deal.

All of their top-6 woes right now amount to Backes being a dud of a free agent signing, and the Bruins whiffing on the first round of the NHL Draft when they should have come away with Mat Barzal, Kyle Connor, Travis Konecny or Brock Boeser. The combination of those two things continues to haunt the Bruins.

We should package up Kevan Miller so we can get something in return, Gotta free up some caps space somewhere.

--David Bond (via Facebook message)

JH: Kevan Miller has played a grand total of two games since the beginning of last April and he continues to not even be able to skate after experiencing a setback that required “a procedure” to address his kneecap situation. The hope is that he can get on the ice and contribute for a Bruins team that could use his toughness and tough-guy mentality on the ice. 

But it sure feels like his career might be in jeopardy after twice injuring the same kneecap over the last calendar year.

In other words, there is no way anybody is trading for a player like Miller that might not even be able to get back onto the ice. With the player on the wrong side of 30 years old and in the last year of his contract with the Bruins, Miller could be facing his hockey mortality.

Read your piece today; [Chris] Kreider or [Kyle] Palmieri would be brilliant. Time for Heinen to go somewhere else; it's just not working here anymore. That said, it looks bad right now.

--Greg PDX

JH: It looks bad right now, but I don’t think this will last. They are coming off their busiest month of the season in December, and they have been exposed as a team that’s really struggling in overtime and the shootout. They also look very one-dimensional offensively with too much reliance on the Perfection Line and their power play.

They will start playing better and even after everything that’s happened, they still have a six-point lead in the division. What Don Sweeney needs to do is make a Marcus Johansson-type deal again this season to bring more offense and playmaking to the mix.

Ideally, it would be Kreider because the Bruins could use his size and finishing ability around the net (on pace for 24 goals and 52 points), and his willingness to play a little nasty from time to time as well. Everybody that I’ve spoken with around the B’s organization likes Kreider’s game and he checks many of the boxes for B’s brass (local kid, college hockey player etc.), and Sweeney has a budding trade history with the Rangers in recent years as well. So I’d keep an eye on him when it comes to the Black and Gold.

Think it's time for a reset with the B’s? First, before getting hosed in desperation moves via trades, send a message to team and call up a number of younger Providence Bruins kids. I’d rather lose with longer looks at future Bruins— Frederic, Senyshyn, Studnicka, Lauzon, and Zboril in the mix before giving them away— than most of the team being iced now!

Ron

JH: I love the old school mentality, Ron, but that’s not really the way things are handled at the NHL level these days.

I’m not against Jack Studnicka being brought up again at some point to bring a spark to the team. He’s got 14 goals and 26 points in 38 games for the P-Bruins in his first pro season. But he’s also a minus-2 as well, and that might speak to a 20-year-old that still needs a little more seasoning at being a two-way player before he’s ready to handle the NHL.

Aside from Studnicka, though, the rest of the guys you mentioned aren’t doing enough to be difference-makers at the NHL level. They need guys like Heinen and DeBrusk to be better, or they should start featuring Anders Bjork in a bigger role to see if he can provide elevated play. I think Bjork has been better than both of those other guys for the balance of this season with his speed, his competitiveness from shift-to-shift and his overall efforts at consistency.

That might be someplace where the Bruins can send a message to the young veterans that are underperforming, and reward a player in Bjork that’s clearly taken to the coaching advice he’s been getting.

Here is a proposed solution to address B's needs for toughness and scoring. Heinen, Lauzon (or Zboril), Moore, and Ritchie $6.5 million in salary and a 3rd to LA for Toffoli and Clifford (who by all accounts is a great teammate) $6.2 million in salary. May even be a bit of an overpay but most if not all of the players leaving would not be protected in the expansion draft in 2021.

DJ 

JH: I think the salary cap numbers might work, DJ, and I even like the combination of Toffoli and Clifford to address most of Boston’s needs with one shot.

But why am I making this trade if I’m Los Angeles? There isn’t a ton of value to Lauzon, Zboril or Ritchie, and Heinen or Moore as your main trade piece isn’t going to move the needle very much. I would guess you’d need to give up a first or a second round pick along with a third rounder, and you’d probably need to include a mid-level prospect like Trent Frederic as well.

If the Bruins don't do something now the 1st place Bruins will not make the playoffs. Also, their core elite players are getting older so it’s all or nothing now.

Don Sweeney & Cam Neely -- make a few moves and get some elite available scorers before the trade deadline like Kyle Palmieri and Chris Kreider etc. Whatever u have to do like trade Heinen, prospects or draft picks do it because last year it’s a shame they fell one game short.

--Eric Americo (via Facebook message)

JH: The natives are getting restless. It sure sounds like a lot of Bruins fans want Danton Heinen gone. Who knows? They may get their wish.

My hunch would be that it might be DeBrusk that gets moved in a big trade if any of the young veterans were to be moved, though, because he’s got value, he’s going to be a lot more experienced starting next season and many are wonder if he’s ever going to be more of a dimensional player than simply a goal-scorer.

I always felt like DeBrusk was more of a third line talent at the NHL level and maybe that’s what we’re beginning to see from a player that doesn’t have the all-around game or consistency he probably needs to have at this point. DeBrusk would also bring back a good, quality return in trade, but dealing him would also simply, and unfortunately, create another hole upfront that the B’s have to fill. It might be more about the contract he’s going to be able to demand in the offseason after scoring 27 goals last season.

What I've seen out of the Bruins the last month is a lot of games they are getting outworked, this is why they're giving away points against lousy teams. With their lack of secondary scoring the Bruins have to be the hardest-working team each night or they will continue to struggle.

Terry Carpenter

JH: I agree, Terry, The Bruins are not deep enough in the talent department to coast and I think we’ve seen that over the last month. They built up a huge lead in the division and have basically assured themselves of a playoff spot at this early point in the season. My prediction is we’ll start seeing that urgency come back now for the B’s with Toronto and Tampa Bay both closing the gap on the B’s and finally playing to their top level.

It’s also about playing a very busy schedule in December that sapped their legs and energy levels. I think you will see them start to get the energy and work ethic back now that they have the bye week and NHL All-Star weekend coming up this month. If not, then they will be passed by the Maple Leafs and the Lightning and they will have plenty to answer for in the second half of the season.

I’m not ready to go there yet because I think they needed a kick in the pants, and this surge by the Maple Leafs since firing Mike Babcock might be the best thing for them.

Is Marchand playing too tame right now? It seems like the Bruins play better when he’s irritating opponents and getting under their skin. #HaggBag

--Bruins Cup Quest 2020 (@richg6567)

JH: Marchand’s issue is that he has two goals in his last 18 games and is a minus-2 over that span as well. He needs to kick it up a notch just like everybody else, but I don’t think he needs to do it by spearing guys in the groin or slew-footing anybody. I think the agitating level goes down when a player’s energy level isn’t there and that was the way it was for everybody over the last month.

I’d expect to see a spirited Marchand in the rest of January. He should have a chip on his shoulder after getting snubbed for the All-Star team. Why not take it out on the rest of the NHL?

Bruins Mailbag: B's fans have trade fever, but what's realistic?

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Bruins Mailbag: B's fans have trade fever, but what's realistic?

The sky is no longer falling after the Bruins snapped their five-game losing streak with last weekend’s very necessary win over the Florida Panthers.

The B’s are still one of the best teams in the NHL and they still lead the Atlantic Division by a wide margin with only the Sabres able to get within single digits in the divisional standings, and there probably won’t be another losing streak like this one for the rest of the regular season. But the losing streak — and in particular the losses to Colorado, Washington and Tampa — raise the concerns that the Bruins will succumb to the same old issues in the postseason once again.

That means it’s incumbent upon Don Sweeney to improve this team if he wants them to make another extended run like last season, and have the answers needed for a Cup team rather than falling short, like they did last spring. It remains to be seen if they’re going to be able to do that.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

As always, these are real questions from real Bruins fans using the #HaggBag hash tag on Twitter, sending messages on the NBCS Facebook fan page and sending emails to my jhaggerty@nbcuni.com email address. Now on to the bag:

Hi Joe,

It's tough to be critical of a very good Bruins team leading their division by [nine] points, and coming off tough losses to Washington and Tampa Bay, games that could have went either way. Is this Bruins roster capable of beating Washington, Tampa Bay or Colorado in a 7-game series? The Bruins missed a golden opportunity last year to win the Cup when Washington and Tampa Bay got upset.

Losing the Cup final to St. Louis still stings. You will never convince me that St. Louis had a better team than Boston. But I guess when you lose the final 3 games of that series on home ice you deserve to lose. The Bruins continue to have an ongoing problem: no secondary scoring. Jake DeBrusk is a good player but would not be a top 6 forward on Washington, Tampa Bay, Colorado or the Leafs. Charlie Coyle should probably be in the top 6, but if he plays the wing on the second line, then you do not have a third line center. The GM must address these problems, or a very good Bruins team probably doesn't have a shot at the Cup.

Terry Carpenter, Cambridge, Ontario

JH: Good stuff, Terry. It’s pretty much all true, though I think the Bruins would beat Colorado in a seven-game series based on the Avs very average goaltending. Tampa Bay or Washington? I’m not sure I love the Bruins chances if they get matched up with either one, and their respective first-round eliminations absolutely played into Boston getting all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

I’m beginning to come around to your assessment of Jake DeBrusk as well. He’s a fine left winger and a streaky good goal-scorer, but I’m beginning to think that he’s far too one-dimensional to be a top-6 left winger. He can score in bunches and he certainly is a pretty good skater, but he doesn’t really bring much else to the table and plays far too passive of a game for a player whom the Bruins rely on pretty heavily at this point. And he doesn’t seem to be getting any better either.

If I were the Bruins, I would move Charlie Coyle up to the right wing on one of the top two lines and call up either Trent Frederic or Jack Studnicka to be the third-line center with Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen on either side of them. And then eventually either trade for a legit goal-scoring left wing or deal for a right wing like Tyler Toffoli who could allow Coyle to eventually slot back down to the third line.

But once again, the Bruins are short a top-6 winger on this roster, and they ideally need to find one who can score goals often enough to make David Krejci's second line a consistently dangerous one.

But then again, I’m pessimistic of the Bruins getting back to the Cup Final this season no matter what they do based on the recent history of Cup Final teams in the following season. In the past 10 years, only the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to get back to the Stanley Cup Final the season after playing into June, and they obviously won it in each of those two Cup Final appearances.

Bruins need to go after Josh Anderson. His price has decreased this year and he has a high ceiling.

--Tim Ahern (@bruins8988)

JH: I certainly don’t hate this. He’s 25 years old, he’s 6-foot-3, 220-pounds and he’s coming off 27 goals and 47 points last season. Anderson was a handful and highly effective during the playoffs for Columbus and has the strength and willingness to play a tough game. He’s got one goal and is a minus-8 in 26 games thus far this year for the Blue Jackets, so his value is definitely down after averaging 18 goals and 30 points a season prior to last year’s breakout. Certainly he may not be as good as he was last year, but he’s also entering restricted free agency with arbitration rights after this season with a good raise from his current $1.875 million salary coming his way.

Would the Blue Jackets be interested in a package that included perhaps a second-round pick and Ohio-born Sean Kuraly going back to the Columbus Blue Jackets? It may take more than that given his young age, his RFA status and the 27 goals last season, but I’d put him in the same “good fit for the Bruins” category as Tyler Toffoli.  

I don't understand why L.A. would just scratch [Ilya Kovalchuk]? Is he so bad that it's worth putting $6M+ on a shelf? I mean...that's the answer to whether he'd be a good signing. It seems like he's probably in the same boat as Backes.

--Ian Crossman (@thehunkfunk)

JH: He’d be a lot cheaper than Backes if the Bruins were going to sign him to a new contract after getting released from his deal with L.A. He also has some more high-end offensive ability than Backes even at his advanced age of 36, so he could help on the second PP unit which doesn’t like to shoot the puck. He could also be a really interesting finisher for the second line with David Krejci. Backes and Krejci have never really meshed in any of the instances that the Bruins have tried to put them together.

Bobrovsky's [expletive] mental when it comes to the Bruins, you understand? He has Bruinsitis.

--Kendall Littlejohn (@ThisKendall)

JH: I do understand. Should Bob be talking antibiotics for his raging case of Bruinsitis?

Offense or defense, talented or not, the Bruins have to be the worst team ever to go on penalty shots and/or shootouts.

--Billy (@umass00)

JH: Yeah, I don’t really get it. They have arguably the best goaltending duo in the NHL and they have arguably the best, most prolific forward line in the NHL as well with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, but they really aren’t very good at all in shootouts. And this isn’t a new thing either. There’s a reason that Riley Nash got some reps on the shootout when he was with the Bruins. It’s because players like Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak aren’t as consistently good in them as you’d expect them to be.

The good news is that there aren’t as many shootouts as there used to be prior to the advent of 3-on-3 overtime, and it’s not as big of an issue as it might have been even five years ago. The Bruins are usually a pretty good overtime team, so that’s more important than any potential issues in the shootout. Shootouts also don’t matter a whit once you get to the playoff season, so that’s also something important to keep in mind when aggravation sets in about the B’s losing another one.

Any worries about the Bruins? Let's hear from the fans in the #HaggBag

Any worries about the Bruins? Let's hear from the fans in the #HaggBag

What is there to worry about with this Bruins team?

They are tops in the NHL while in the midst of a 13-game point streak and have been doing it with a lineup that’s pretty consistently been less than 100 percent health-wise. The point streak is the perfect example of that with Patrice Bergeron in and out of the lineup and the Bruins still collecting points and stretching out their lead in the Atlantic Division.

Going into games Saturday, the Bruins hold a 14-point lead over the second-place Canadiens in the division as they run away with the Atlantic. Still, all of this coincides with the B’s having not reached their top level of play as of yet this season, either. They are getting elite goaltending from Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak and David Pastrnak is having an offensive season for the ages and that’s played into much of what’s going right.

That leaves plenty of room for improvement for players on the roster and any that arrive between now and the end of the trade deadline.

As always these are real questions from real fans using the #HaggBag hashtag on Twitter, messages to my NBCS Facebook fan page and emails to my @jhaggerty@nbcuni.com email account. Now, on to the bag:

Hey Joe

Was watching the Ottawa game and after Big Z scored I was thinking why is he not getting more attention. The man is off to his best offensive start (5G 7A) in several years he is plus 17 along with his excellent PK skills and leadership qualities. A lot of ink goes to the Perfection line and the goalies but he is the pillar of strength. I say keep signing him to 1-year deals until his skates fall off. Plus he scares the crap out of everyone. Not enough written about this man and what he still brings to the table soon to be 43.

Cheers

DJ

London Ontario

JH: I’m with you in that Chara can sometimes be overlooked despite his 6-foot-9 size and Hall of Fame credentials. Some of it is about being a shutdown D-man, which is the ultimate anti-glamour position in the hockey world.

It’s true that Chara is on pace for his best offensive season in years where he projects to finish with 14 goals and 38 points. His plus-17 is excellent to go along with a strong 21:34 of ice time for a 42-year-old. He’s been efficient moving the puck and great on the penalty kill, and any mistakes due to decreased skating speed or schedule fatigue are outweighed by what he brings to the table.

Is everybody scared of Chara, though? Obviously nobody wants to fight him given his size, strength and insane reach advantage when he does decide to throw down. Still, are opponents scared to take runs at David Pastrnak right now because they are afraid Chara is going make them pay for it? It sure doesn’t seem that way to me.

Chara is a surefire Hall of Famer and the best shutdown D-man of his generation, but I also think he could stand to pick his spots a little more frequently to stick up for his teammates given that Kevan Miller and Brett Ritchie have been missing with injuries. There aren’t a lot of tough guys on the Bruins anymore and that means Chara might have to pick up the slack on the team toughness thing if the B’s are still going to be “hard to play against” as they have traditionally been in the past.

Back to your original point, Chara will probably be known as the greatest captain/leader in Bruins franchise history when it’s all said and done. That should make him held in high esteem here in Boston and give him much of the credit for the Bruins still being among the NHL’s best defensive units despite being an explosive offensive group as well.

 
#HaggBag With the Coyle and Wagner extensions do the Bruins trade Torey Krug at the deadline or let him walk on July 1? The Bruins could really use him in the playoffs, but on the other hand if they trade Krug a team will pay a king's ransom to acquire him at the deadline.

--Alissa Boops You (@CurvyMermaid617)

JH: I think if the Bruins are going to lose Krug, it’s going to be letting him walk away in free agency or trading his negotiating rights for a draft pick ahead of the opening of free agency. Nothing is set in stone when it comes to Krug’s future in Boston, but normally an NHL general manager takes care of the most important players first when it comes to contract extensions. The fact Don Sweeney chose to wrap up extensions with Coyle and Wagner while leaving Krug unsigned was telling to me. It means the Bruins know negotiations with Krug aren’t going to be easy given the amount of money waiting for him if he hits the open market, and it also depends on how Matt Grzelcyk, Urho Vaakanainen and Charlie McAvoy develop this season for the Bruins, too. 

They probably won’t be able to make an informed decision Krug until they see how things play out the rest of the regular season and playoffs. It certainly made it a little more complicated, though, that Grzelcyk stepped up his offense in the absence of Krug a couple of weeks ago and is on pace for a career-high six goals and 25 points this season.

I don’t see the Bruins viewing it as a good idea to go into the playoffs without Krug if they truly have Stanley Cup aspirations. He’s too important to their power play, their leadership group and to their ability to generate offense in even-strength situations. He’s on a pace for 13 goals and 61 points this season if he can remain healthy. That’s a monster year for him.

It was the worst losing streak for the Habs in 80 years. So Haggs, will firing Julien be enough for Habs fans or will the front office engage in more drastic measures?

--Andrew E. Thompson (@Godwentwhoops)

JH: I think Marc Bergevin is probably in bigger trouble than Claude Julien given the talent level on that Montreal roster. They have far less top-tier talent than the Bruins did at the end of the Julien Era in Boston. They don’t have a No. 1 center. They don’t really have a bonafide sniper on the wing. They don’t have a quality defensemen crew behind the aging Shea Weber. So, it’s certainly not all Claude’s fault. I did find it interesting that he was grousing about a perfectly legit penalty call as the reason the Canadiens lost in Boston last week. That’s classic Claude from the end of his era with the Bruins; blaming losses on bad calls, injuries and an inferior roster rather than himself accepting blame for anything that was going on. I think he’s trying to use it to protect a team he feels is in a fragile state at this point, but too much excuse-making leads to players believing it’s okay to make those kinds of excuses, in my humble opinion.

Why doesn’t Chara shoot like he used to — are you aware of an underlying injury that’s preventing him from using his cannon?

--Matthew Lariviere (@Matt_Rivs)

JH: No injury. The problem is that it takes Chara so long to load the gun and unload the shot, it allows it to almost always get blocked when it’s coming from the point. It resulted in far too many blocked shots and breakaways going the other direction, so it’s something that the 6-foot-9 does far less often despite having the hardest clapper in the league.

When Chara has time, space and support around him in case the shot does get blocked, you do see him occasionally still step into one and show the hard, heavy shot that’s made him legendary around the league. He’s basically Paul Bunyan with skates and the NHL’s biggest stick at this point.

Hi Joe
What’s Karson Kuhlman’s status and have you heard anything with Bruins inquiring on any right wings to play on the second line?   

Seems like when Miller and Moore come back there will be a logjam at D. Think they will hang on to them and expose them in the expansion draft or move ‘em?   

Thx
Garr from NB

JH: Karson Kuhlman isn’t close to returning. I’ve seen him walking around the Bruins practice facility and he still has some kind of brace on his leg. So, it may still be a couple of weeks until he’s nearing a return to the lineup. I’m not really sure there’s any rush on that given how good Anders Bjork has been since his recall and the fact that David Backes has also been pretty solid since returning the past few games as well. I think Kuhlman is a useful player, but I’m not sure he’s more than a 13th forward on the Bruins if everybody is healthy.

If you’re looking for a winger that the Bruins might bring in to help the team, I’d keep an eye on Tyler Toffoli out in Los Angeles. The 27-year-old is on pace for 17 goals and 36 points, but was very good for the Stanley Cup Kings teams of the past and could have a renaissance of sorts if he’s traded to Boston.

There is definitely interest there from the Bruins. He’s a 6-foot, 200-pound right winger who could be a nice match with David Krejci as a rental player.

Kevan Miller has had a couple of setbacks coming back from his kneecap injuries and hasn’t been able to stay healthy for what seems like a long time now. The Bruins have said there is no update with him, but he’s not skating and it seems as if he’s nowhere close to returning. So, it might be a legitimate question to start asking if he’s going to be able to return at all in the final year of his contract. If Miller can’t get healthy then there is no need to move anybody.

As we’ve all seen when it comes to NHL defensemen, there is no such thing as a logjam given how frequently players get injured on the back end. The first move would be to send Steve Kampfer down to the AHL and that hasn’t even happened yet. So, any talk about moving Moore or Miller feels pretty premature.

Let [Jack Studnicka] develop in the AHL. Don’t want to rush him. Develop him the right way...when healthy I can imagine either a trade or 44 being out on waivers to open a roster spot

--Will Zaccardi (@WillZaccardi)

JH: Yes. I think the first domino to drop would be Kampfer sent to the AHL and they would need him to clear waivers in order to do that. I don’t think anybody would claim him. Certainly, there’s a much greater chance of a team claiming Connor Clifton rather than Kampfer if given a choice between the two on waivers, so that’s undoubtedly the direction that the B’s would go in if they were forced to make a roster move. They are not there yet, however.

As far as Studnicka goes, I agree with you. He’s dominating the AHL right now with 10 goals and 21 points in 23 games, and he looked solid in his two games in Boston as well while shuttling around between center and wing. He still needs to get stronger and the experience of playing in all roles in the AHL is exactly what he needs while readying for his call. Instead of a big pick-up at the trade deadline, I could see a late-season promotion for Studnicka as the infusion of talent, youth and offense that the Bruins could benefit from greatly.

Hi Joe,

Obviously, the big question after the Coyle and Wagner signings is Krug. Can they make any moves by the end of the year that would allow them to offer Krug $7 or 8 mil a season?  People are estimating he could get 7, 8 or even 9 (!!!) if he hits the open market. 

Thanks 

Matt. 

JH: I think $7 million per season is reasonable for Krug. That’s the neighborhood he’d need to settle in if he wanted to stay in Boston. If he wanted to break the bank and go for the $8 million to $9 million it’s probably going to be somewhere else in free agency, and I think Krug and his camp are well aware of that. It’s part of the reason why he’s been pretty vocal about taking something of a hometown discount to remain with the Black and Gold.

The problem isn’t necessarily Krug. It’s that they also need to sign Jake DeBrusk, Grzelcyk, Chara potentially and  Halak among others this summer along with figuring out a new deal for Krug. That’s a lot of work to be done still, and part of the season that Sweeney took care of Coyle and Wagner ahead of time.

Gone are the days when you couldn’t lay a finger on the team’s star without everyone coming after you. The Flyers treated Bobby Clarke that way and he was one of the dirtiest players in the league.

--Mike (@mikeoh20)

JH: I miss the old days, sometimes. Not everything about it was as rosy as it seems when looking back in the rearview mirror, obviously, but a team should be able to stick up for one of their players without landing in the penalty box and suspension trouble. We’re seeing it right now with David Pastrnak. He’s gone scoreless in the last two games and has gone into a bit of an offensive shell while looking around for hits that are coming at him from all directions. They whistled him for a penalty defending himself the other night against the Blackhawks and they throw the book at players stepping in to defend those kinds of plays. It feels completely nonsensical to me. But I guess I am considered “old school” these days.

It just feels to me like all of this nonsense would stop if Chara grabbed the next player taking a run at Pastrnak, and made an example out of him. That has yet to happen, so we won’t know if that would be a deterrent until the captain opts to give it a try.

The Bruins have 4 fights this season. That would’ve been the total in the first period with an old Adams division opponent. I miss hockey.


--Jeff Gold (@jgold2004)

JH: Yup. I hear you, bud. I don’t necessarily need a return to the old Adams Division, but the Bruins could use at least one forward that isn’t hesitant about throwing down to stand up for his teammates when liberties get taken. Given Ritchie’s injury issues and Backes’ concussion history,  they don’t really have that right now. Maybe they will when Ritchie comes back and gets healthy.

I lobbied heavily for the Bruins to get a Ryan Reaves-type player in the offseason and I still think they could use that kind of presence on their fourth line.

Hi Joe,

As mentioned in your post-game write up after recent win over Habs, physical play ramped up on Pasta. As season moves forward the same will happen on Marchand, Bjork, CMac and smaller players to get them off their game. It’s past time to look for a heavyweight to insert in lineup! Edmonton has Kassian for McDavid, Caps have Wilson, Islanders have Robertson, Martin, & Boychuk. A “look over the shoulder“ guy wearing the Spoked- B is missing!
Remember the toll from last June against a heavier Blues team. Best prepare now for the last 60 plus games in regular season and hopefully, that second season known as 16W!

Ron
Saitama, Japan

JH: The fans are speaking. I wonder if the Bruins are listening. They have a lot of the same types of players on their NHL roster right now. What they don’t have, besides Chara, is a player that strikes fear into opponents. And Chara understandably picks his spots when it comes to truly unleashing the fury. The standard line from the Bruins is that there aren’t many of those kinds of players around anymore, but I’m sure there are a few available if you are actively looking for them.

 
Can we all agree that Kevan Miller is simply too injury prone to risk any losses of younger players in order to protect him? Colin Miller who we lost in the Vegas expansion is not a great D Man but at least he can suit up.

--PDub (@eringobragh18)

JH: Miller has enjoyed an excellent career for an undrafted defenseman, and he plays the game the way Bruins fans expect a player to play. But he and Adam McQuaid were both tough, hard-nosed D-men who consistently had difficulty remaining healthy and that is going to be part of their legacies with the Black and Gold.

History has shown that the Bruins weren’t necessarily wrong in opting not to protect Colin Miller as he’s been wildly inconsistent and hasn’t really lived up to his potential. Still, I don’t foresee the Bruins losing a valuable young player in an expansion draft this time because they’d choose to protect a player that can’t stay on the ice.

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