Rask & Halak Combination Biggest Advantage For Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Boston Globe)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

In the sport of ice hockey, goaltending is one of the most important aspects of the game. Quite often, in the National Hockey League, games are won specifically because of a solid performance in net by the goalie. This season, we have seen that numerous times throughout the league for many different teams.

In Boston, Tuukka Rask has been the number one goalie for the majority of the past decade and he has, for the most part, been a solid goalie, earning that spot over many solid seasons. Following the Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup run that resulted in them winning the prestigious trophy, Tuukka Rask took over from Tim Thomas – the Conn Smythe winner.

Rask has played in 494 games in the Boston Bruins sweater after being traded to Boston in 2006 in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs that sent Andrew Raycroft to the capital city of Ontario. Rask made his NHL debut against the franchise that drafted him in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, stopping 30 of the 32 shots he faced that night.

Since that initial taste of NHL experience, the 32-year-old Finnish goaltender now has 265 wins, 150 losses, 58 ties/shootout/overtime losses, and 45 shutouts. Among that, Rask holds numerous franchise records including most career wins (265), most career saves (12,591), and save percentage (.922). Tuukka is also in the top ten for the majority of the major statistical categories that are being tracked.

In the 2018-19 season, Rask has a 27-13-5 record with a .912 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against-average in 46 games started. Tuukka has only one game played against the Maple Leafs this season – stopping 30 of the 32 shots against him in a 3-2 win over Toronto on January 12th. While Rask has had a solid season, he has had a few games, like every goaltender, that are below average.

On five occasions, Rask allowed five goals in a single game and was pulled from the net in two of them. On the flip side, Rask has four shutouts and an impressive eleven games allowing only one goal. In each of those games, the Bruins won or lost in overtime or a shootout.

Early on, Rask failed to find his consistent game that we are used to seeing, but thankfully, the Bruins had some serious help behind him – Jaroslav Halak.

Halak joined the Bruins on the first day of free agency in this past offseason, signing a two-year deal worth $2.75 million annually. It confirmed that Halak will play in his 13th NHL season – the first in Boston. Within the 40 games he’s played in, Jaroslav has helped the Bruins earn 46 points in his 22 wins and four post-regulation losses in addition to his 11 regulation losses that he amounted to this year.

At 33 years of age, Halak is having his best season in the net since the 2009-10 season when he finished the year with a 26-13-5 record, a .924 save percentage and a 2.40 GAA with the Montreal Canadiens. The Bratislava, Czechoslovakia native is top ten in both of the main goalie stats in the entire league and he is continuing to play at that level, picking up his fifth shutout of the season in Thursday’s 3-0 win over the Wild.

With a quick trip over to Toronto, their goaltending situation right now is not nearly as sturdy as the Bruins appear to be. That fact only got more interesting on Friday when news that backup goaltender Garret Sparks’ equipment is no longer in the Leafs’ dressing room and Toronto Marlies goalie, Michael Hutchinson was recalled by the organization to play in the big leagues.

Put all of that into the same idea that starting netminder Frederik Andersen has not been consistently good for the past couple months and the worry can begin to form for the Maple Leafs with the playoffs only about a week away. Frederik Andersen is expected to get every single one of the starts in-goal if it goes seven games, that could be an issue if say, injuries or poor play take control.

Andersen started in sixty games in 2018-19, the eight most of all goaltenders in the National Hockey League. Andersen did win 36 games this season with 16 regulation losses and seven shootout or overtime losses. The Herning, Denmark native played in the least amount of games in a single season for the Leafs after two consecutive seasons with 66 games in the crease.

With that, Andersen finished the year with the worst save percentage (.917) of his three-year career in Toronto along with a 2.77 GAA and only one shutout on the campaign. In the last ten games, however, has been where Maple Leafs fans have been in a little doubt. Andersen has a 3-3-3 record with a .881 save percentage and allowed 35 goals, an average of 3.50 goals against per game. In three of those games, ‘Freddy’ allowed five or more goals and only allowed two or less goals four times in those ten games.

Andersen has had some rough games in the postseason as well, but still has a winning 22-16-0 record combined over five seasons with the Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs. In the Blue and White, Andersen has lost eight games, winning four. Three of those wins came against the Bruins last year, the other against Washington in the 2016-17 first round.

On five different occasions, Andersen allowed five or more goals against in the playoffs, three of which coming with the Maple Leafs – two against Boston. Andersen can be very hot too as he remains one of the better goaltenders overall in the NHL, but his consistency causes some concern for management and the fans alike. The Bruins cannot take him lightly as he can very well steal a few games at any point in the series.

In the past, Tuukka Rask has had some questionable games and has needed to be better in times as well. All goalies in the NHL must deal with having a rough outing, but need to have the adversity to bounce back the very next game and win it for the himself and more importantly, the team.

In Boston, however, if Rask fails to meet the standards that will need to bet met against Toronto, then the hope is that Halak can come in and “save the day”. While it would be preferred that Rask does not falter, it is always great to have a Plan B. There could also be the reality that Rask plays all seven games (if needed), even if he does have a few stinkers. That was the case last season, but it seems like Bruce Cassidy has higher trust in Halak than he did with Anton Khudobin last season.

The Maple Leafs are solely relying on Frederik Andersen. With the not-so-distant memories somewhere in his head, the pressure is clearly on him. He needs to be on his very best game and then some and everyone knows it. The same goes for Tuukka and Jaroslav. The two, three, or even four goaltenders in this series need to have the right frame of mind to come out victorious and get into the second round against either the Tampa Bay Lightning or Columbus Blue Jackets. Whoever is on the winning side of the handshake line, will have won because of the man in between the posts.

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Bruins Look Good For Contract Negotiations Thanks To Bergeron, Others

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( Photo Credit: Robert Mayer/ USA TODAY Sports )

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter @CSthinks

Professional hockey is absolutely a business. Money is connected to every move that is made, and labor laws stipulate that each player must be compensated for their work for each organization. The balance between spending money and maintaining a deep, effective roster, is a very delicate one.

Such is the reason that often times, teams that sign multiple superstars to lucrative contracts are often left vulnerable to weaknesses in other areas. You know, the areas that they’re not rapidly throwing dollar bills at (or for Canadian teams, the areas that they’re not rapidly throwing dollar bills at, eh).

In this area, General Manager Don Sweeney is at a pretty significant advantage when it comes to negotiating chips in contract discussions with players entertaining the idea of playing in Boston. These negotiating chips are the team-friendly contracts of his three most prolific point scorers in Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand. And, in light of the most recent contract extension reached by the Bruins front office, Zdeno Chara’s contract might be one to point to as well.

If the Bruins’ four most valuable (debatable in a couple cases) players are willingly getting paid less than what they would make if they hit the open market, then any future contract negotiations essentially boil down to whether or not the players in question value playing and winning in Boston more than money.   If I’m Don Sweeney, and any player attempts to negotiate for a contract north of $7 million per year, then I’m asking one question.

“Okay, so how much better do you think you are than Patrice Bergeron? You know, Patrice Bergeron? Our point-per-game first line center who has won four Selke Trophies and brought this team a Stanley Cup? The guy who has consistently been regarded as a top-5 player in the entire league? Yeah. He makes a little over $6 million per year. How much better than him do you think you are again?”

Okay, a few questions.

Now, is that an oversimplification? Absolutely. Did I get a little carried away? Maybe. Do I have great hair? You’re damn right I do.

But that’s neither hair nor there.

The point is that any player that requests more money out of an organization whose top players have already proven that they care more about succeeding and winning in Boston than a few (million) extra bucks… well, they might not be a great fit. If the culture is built around winning and paying players fairly provided that they all buy into a winning philosophy and style of play, then there simply is no room for prima donnas, who are out to make more money than they will ever need at the expense of the team’s success.

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( Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/ Getty Images )

Patrice Bergeron is the Bruins’ best hockey player and has been for quite some time now. He might be as highly regarded as any one player in the National Hockey League. And year after year, he affirms through his contract that he does not presume to be better, or more important than the Bruins’ organization or the success that they strive for.

So how would any player on the Bruins feel entitled to more than Bergeron? David Pastrnak, the Bruins leading goal scorer for much of the year and most lethal powerplay threat is attached to a similar contract, despite being much more valuable on the open market. When asked if he was disappointed about his contract and having potentially left money on the table, Pastrnak responded without a moment’s hesitation that he was not. He’s just living his dream.

When Torey Krug’s contract is up, there is certainly a possibility that he heads elsewhere to make as much cash as he can. If he does, then good for him. But it would be a mistake for all parties involved for him to stay and out-earn the Bruins most valuable players. Krug is exceptionally gifted offensively, and as such is a valuable member of the Bruins. But he is, by no standard, more valuable than any of the aforementioned players who have attached themselves to contracts that make the Bruins a better team.

Fair play, fair pay.

The contracts of the B’s first line, in addition to Zdeno Chara’s contract extension, set the bar for the young talent that are approaching their next contract negotiations. If each decides to get paid for what they are worth to the team, then the next man in line will get paid fairly as well. But my guess is that anyone that tries to squeeze the Bruins for as many pennies as possible might not get what they’re hoping for. And we might not see too much of them in the future.

If you’re looking for proof that this type of business model can be successful for a professional sports team, then may I interest you in a serving of the New England Patriots? Every year, they pay players fairly to do a good job, they have immense success, and then the same players leave to get paid more than they are worth to never win another Super Bowl. Or something to that effect.

Either way, if I’m Don Sweeney, then I’m feeling pretty good about contract negotiations, thanks to my top dogs.

Playing for Boston might not make any one player the richest in the league, but it will certainly give them a chance to be part of a winning culture.

And after all, it’s very seldom that you hear of a child beginning to play hockey due to his burning desire for money. You play hockey for the love of the game, and the desire to compete and win alongside like-mind teammates.

That sounds better, anyway.

 

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Bruins Re-Sign Zdeno Chara To One-Year Contract

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( Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports Images )

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @lucaspearson_

The big man isn’t retiring anytime soon.

The Bruins have announced that they have re-signed defenseman Zdeno Chara to a one-year deal worth $2 million with another $1.75 million in performance incentives. He will receive $1.25 million at ten games, $250  thousand for making the playoffs and another $250 thousand for winning the Stanley Cup.

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( Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports Photo )

Even at age 42, the future Hall-of-Famer is still having a very productive season. In 55 games this season predominantly featured on the top pair with Charlie Mcavoy, Chara has scored four goals and tallied seven assists to go along with a plus 16 rating. He continues to be great in the possession metrics as well with a 53.7 CF% and 54.7 FF%. He’s a huge asset to Boston’s 10th-ranked penalty kill and continues to be an incredible leader on, and off the ice.

Chara was originally drafted by the New York Islanders in the 3rd round of the 1996 NHL Draft. Crazily enough, there’s actually another active player from that draft in fellow 42-year-old Matt Cullen (the only other player older than Chara). In 2001, Chara was apart of a massive trade with the Ottawa Senators that sent Bill Muckalt, the 2nd overall pick in the NHL draft (which was used to draft Jason Spezza) and Chara for Alexei Yashin. In 2006, the Bruins signed then UFA Chara to a massive deal for five years at $7.5 million per year.

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Chara continues to amaze after 21 seasons in the NHL. He is immensely important to this Bruins team. He’s proven to be an incredible role model to the entire Bruins organization, but especially to the growth of the crop of young d-men, the Bruins have, namely Charly Mcavoy.

There’s no questioning if the Slovakia-native will be Hall of Fame bound. Chara has been in the top five in Norris Trophy voting eight times, capturing the award in the 2008-2009 season. He set a career high of 19 goals that season and was a plus 23 in 80 games.

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(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

He, of course, doesn’t just have regular season success. He led the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in almost 40 years in 2011 where he was a league-leading plus 16 and was on the ice for almost half the game, averaging 27:39 minutes of ice-time a game. He was a hug factor in the Bruins 2013 cup appearance where he actually averaged even more ice-time than the previous cup run at 29:32 a game and tacked on 15 points in 22 games.

While his legs have slowed down, this deal is still a bargain for the captain. He continues to be the heart-and-soul of this Boston team, and it shows how much he values the team in this deal. While the thought of Chara leaving is unfathomable, he certainly could’ve gotten a bigger deal due to his importance to the roster. His small cap hit allows the Bruins to allocate more of their cap to their upcoming RFAs with Danton Heinen, Brandon Carlo, and Charlie Mcavoy all looking for significant raises next season.

The man just never ceases to amaze and will stay the “C” of the black and gold for at least one more run.

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Bruins Reportedly Among Suitors For Undrafted Free Agent Justin Brazeau

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(Photo Credit: Tom Martineau / BayToday.ca)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Reports surfaced yesterday about several teams around the National Hockey League that are interested in Justin Brazeau, an undrafted free agent currently with the North Bay Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League. Among those teams? The Boston Bruins and general manager Don Sweeney. TSN’s Darren Dreger had the scoop during TSN’s “Insider Trading” in addition to a tweet from Bruins Network earlier yesterday:

Dreger mentioned that the other teams aside from Boston included: the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Vegas Golden Knights, the St. Louis Blues, and the Nashville Predators. It is no wonder so many teams are interested; North Bay’s captain has been absolutely dominant, to say the least, this season as a fourth-year OHLer with 61 goals and 52 assists for 113 points through 68 regular season games played this season (yes, you read that right).

His 61 goals led the entire OHL in the regular season while his 113 points were the second-most among OHL skaters. Additionally, Brazeau registered 314 shots on goal, third-highest in the league.

Brazeau has seemingly been building towards a career season like this throughout his time in the OHL, too. In his rookie season as an 18-year-old, Brazeau had totals of 6/7/13 through 65 games played. In 67 games during his sophomore campaign, the then 19-year-old bested his previous marks with totals of 22/15/37. Just last season at age 20, the New Liskeard, Ontario native posted point per game numbers with 39/36/75 in 68 games played. For those of you keeping score at home, Brazeau has 128 goals and 238 points in 268 OHL contests on his career.

Production aside, take a look at the size of this kid: 6-foot-6, 225 pounds. Safe to say that Brazeau, 21, is an absolute moose on the ice. The power forward plays a heavy game and has obviously produced a ton in the last two seasons. With so many teams worried about having to deal with players like Tom Wilson, it is quite obvious why there is a good amount of interest in the right-shot right-winger.

The one knock on Brazeau’s game seems to be that he is not necessarily the strongest skater. However, the forward has been able to use his size to his advantage wonderfully between his reach and physicality.

While the number of teams reportedly interested in Brazeau certainly is not shocking by any stretch of the imagination, the Bruins’ competition in the sweepstakes could be even stiffer. This is due to the fact that Brazeau had participated in the Blue Jackets’ development camp back in 2017, as well as the San Jose Sharks’ 2018 development camp; although, the Sharks were not among the teams mentioned by Dreger.

Dreger also noted that in a perfect world, these teams would ink Brazeau to an AHL deal; however, considering his production and the positions these teams are in (all headed to the playoffs in all probability), the winger is looking for an entry-level NHL contract.

“There will be five to seven teams at Thursday’s game when they [North Bay] open the playoffs against Niagra,” Dreger said. As fans may know, one of the Bruins’ prized prospects, Jack Studnicka, who has also had himself a fine season in the OHL, plays for the Niagra Ice Dogs, North Bay’s first-round opponent. So the matchup between Studnicka and Brazeau will certainly be an interesting one to watch.

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Bruins Prospects Cehlarik And Kuhlman Sent To Providence

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

The National Hockey Leagues Boston Bruins have made a few additions to the roster via trades in the last week to beat today’s 3pm EST. trade deadline and with those moves come sacrifices to facilitate roster availability. Today after making a trade with the New Jersey Devils which brought veteran forward Marcus Johansson the Bruins announced that prospect forwards Peter Cehlarik and Kardon Kuhlman have been returned to the Providence Bruins the clubs top minor-pro affiliate in the American Hockey League.

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Peter Cehlarik

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

The 6′-2″ 203-pound Slovakian native has certainly racked up the miles this season traveling from Providence, Rhode Island to the Massachusetts State Capitol when recalled. Well, the former 2013 third-round selection of the B’s (90th Overall) is back on his way down south to join his AHL team where he’s spent a majority of this hockey season.  Cehlarik has played in 14 games for his parent NHL club and has chipped in offensively with 4-2-6 numbers in that timeframe and has 10-19-39 totals with Providence in 39 appearances.

Cehlarik is one of my favorite prospects lately for his versatility as a big rangy forward, but the way he’s developed in the AHL and always at the highest priority when emergency recalls or loan assignments happen. Peter has seen this type of up and down movement on the regular and should report to Providence with his head high and ready to get to work.  Although today was most likely an off-day because of the three games Providence played this past weekend, he should be involved in practice for the rest of the week and be ready before the team plays the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in downtown PVD on Friday night.

If Peter actually remains with Providence for the remainder of the season, he will be a huge upgrade with 20 games to play as the B’s look for their seventh straight Calder Cup Playoff appearance, and they would certainly welcome back his hard work and leadership capabilities. He’s had a decent career in the AHL obviously producing more when it comes to points at the lower level.  He has 90 points in 123 career games in the AHL and 5-5-10 in 31 games for the NHL Bruins.

Karson Kuhlman

( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images )

Bruins NCAA scouting staff quickly took notice of Kuhlman’s speed and creativity with rumors of B’s having eyes going back to his Junior year at the University of Minnesota-Duluth possibly earlier as he posted 80 points in 166 career games. His best year by far of his collegiate career in the land of ten thousand lakes and growing up in nearby Esko, Minnesota was his senior year when he captained his Bulldog team to an NCAA Men’s Division 1 National Championship. After his final season which brought him his highest career goal total of 13, the Boston Bruins came down quickly from circling above like a hungry predator up in the air and signed him as an undrafted free agent to a two-year entry-level contract worth $140K in the AHL and $750K at the NHL level.

In his first season with the Providence club the 5′-11″ 185-pound forward has appeared in 50 games and has 12-13-25 numbers in that timeframe. Before his first-ever NHL recall, the 23-year-old went through a slight struggle only producing 2 points in six games. What I believe got the attention of head coach Jay Leach and ultimately a message to higher members in the Bruins management was his fantastic play through his career-high point streak where he produced 7-7-14 numbers in the previous 14 games before the aforementioned struggle before his recall and NHL debut.

In his first four NHL games, I thought the speedy forward played well and certainly caught the eye of Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy who put him in multiple situations and earning more confidence from the bench boss with increased minutes. His second career NHL game will be one he’ll never forget as the young forward got his first NHL goal against the Los Angeles Kings. When talking about his minutes, it was really good to see that he went from under ten in his NHL debut to a little over 14 minutes in his final game against St. Louis before leaving for Providence.

Kuhlman’s addition moving forward with Providence is going to be important for both sides as he’ll continue to develop and be a key member in coach Jay Leach’s offensive arsenal with 20 games remaining to help seal a playoff spot. His speed and hockey IQ are something to watch when he possesses the puck, but he does a lot of great things off the puck that I was very surprised at with his transition from the NCAA to the AHL in his rookie season.

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Opinion: Boston Bruins Will Not Make A Big Trade At 2019 Trade Deadline

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The 2019 NHL Trade Deadline is less than two weeks away and the anticipation of every fan in the National Hockey League is growing by the hour. Similar to every season, in the weeks and days leading up to the February 25th deadline, the trade rumors are through the roof. NHL insiders and analysts alike are scrambling to find the latest, most in-depth scoop on any team involving trade.

For the past couple of seasons, especially this one, the Boston Bruins are one of the main teams in the mix to make a deal at or around the deadline. It is well known that the core of the Bruins – Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, etc. – are not getting any younger and it would be a good send off for some of these players to get another Stanley Cup ring under their belts.

In addition to that, the Bruins have some holes on their roster that need to be filled. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy has had an issue with the depth scoring since Opening Day back in October. In the two wins last weekend against the Los Angeles Kings and the Colorado Avalanche, Cassidy had star forward David Pastrnak on the second-line with Krejci and Cehlarik while Danton Heinen joined Bergeron and Marchand in an attempt to spread out the offence and spark offence on other lines than the top one.

Heading into the Trade Deadline, Boston is quite clearly going to push for a top-six winger, most likely to play with David Krejci, so Pastrnak can be reunited with Bergeron and Marchand, if they do end up making that push. With a quote coming from an article published on NHL.com by Amalie Benjamin (@AmalieBenjamin on Twitter), General Manager Don Sweeney does indeed recognize that need.

“My feeling is that we would like to try and add without necessarily giving up what we know is a big part of our future,” Sweeney said in comments provided to NHL.com by the Bruins. “We committed assets last year to take a swing where we felt we needed to address an area of need and we will try and do a similar thing this year. I can’t guarantee that’ll happen. This time of the year, prices are generally pretty high, but we’re going to try. We’re going to try because I think we still need it.”

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

If the Boston Bruins want to be considered a Stanley Cup Contender this season or even just a really solid team coming out of the Eastern Conference, then Sweeney needs to pull the trigger and in my eyes – that is the move to make. Make a trade for a top-six winger who can score. However, even though I’d like to see a move made, I think for a few reasons that Boston will not make a big trade this Trade Deadline.

High Risk – High Reward, Maybe.

To make a trade, you have to send someone the other way – simple equation to all trades in every sport. The Boston Bruins appear to have a large pool of prospects in not only the AHL with the Providence Bruins, but across many different hockey leagues all throughout the world. With that said, the performance of these young players in the NHL this season may be a cause for concern for other General Managers on the other end of the phone call.

Ryan Donato and Jakub Forsbacka Karlsson were arguably the best prospects in the system as we closed in on the 2018-19 season, but with their lackluster performance in the NHL, resulting in their demotion back to Providence, it is a very good chance that the GMs across the league are worried that these prospects are “flops”, which could be completely false, but it is most definitely something they are discussing.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (CHARLES KRUPA / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO)

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin is without a doubt, the number one player on the market. Boston Globe’s Matt Porter discussed what the idea of what Columbus may be wanting for the pending unrestricted free agent.

“The market for (Panarin) is reportedly a first-round pick, a player, and a prospect. It is a high price, especially for someone who could leave a team empty-handed on July 1. But the Bruins are interested, and they’re not alone,” Porter reported.

If I were a betting man, (I am not), I would imagine Jake DeBrusk having to go to Columbus as well as a Ryan Donato or Trent Frederic and the 2019 1st Round Pick. All that with the added dilemma on what happens to Panarin after the season ends, does he test free agency, or does he sign an extension in Boston? That is a high price for a rental player and it does not guarantee a Stanley Cup for Boston.

Even if it isn’t Artemi, players such as Mark Stone, Wayne Simmonds, Michael Ferland, or Kevin Hayes – the Bruins will have to give up assets that may or may not appeal to the future of this franchise. It has been mentioned that it is a buyer’s market right now, but teams with valued assets will most likely charge an arm and a leg for that player because they can most likely get those same assets back from one of the other 30 NHL teams.

Are the assets going out worth it? That is to be determined, but nothing is official.

Sweeney’s Trade History

Even though GM Don Sweeney expressed his interest in trading, he also said in the same quote that he wants to avoid moving a large part of their future for a possible rental player. When saying that, he wants to avoid a repeat of last year’s deadline acquisition with the New York Rangers.

Put in the same position as this year, the Bruins needed help on the top-six forward core. In what looks like now like a panic move, the Bruins sent forward Ryan Spooner, defenceman Ryan Lindgren, and Boston’s 2018 1st Round Pick (traded to Ottawa for D Jacob Bernard-Docker) to the New York Rangers for forward Rick Nash who played in eleven regular season games (3-3-6 totals) and another twelve playoff games (3-2-5 totals, -7 rating) and then retired this year.

Sweeney moved a lot of youth – mainly Lindgren and that 1st Round Pick for a player that played in a combined twenty-three games in a Spoked-B sweater. Don Sweeney has stated in the past that he does not want to move another first-rounder and if it is for a player that may decide on hitting the free-agent market come July 1st, the chances of him giving in are quite slim.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (USA Today Sports)

When considering that, there are teams, such as Toronto, Tampa Bay, Winnipeg, or Nashville that would gladly trade their first-round selection because they believe that they can be a serious Cup contender and that their pick will be a late round pick and in that regard, would not be that hard of a price to pay. Sweeney does not want to make a mistake on a trade nor make a move just for the idea of making a move, leaving some bargaining power off the table.

Free Agency Class – UFAs and RFAs

One thing that a lot of the hypothetical trade targets have in common, is that their current contract expires on July 1st. If the Bruins management decides to make a move for one of these players, it does not guarantee that they will remain on the team for the 2019-20 season. That plus the fact that the B’s will have to trade some pieces, like I have already mentioned, that may not be in the plans of the future.

Here are 10 unrestricted free agent players that could fill the Bruins holes in the free agent market IF they do not re-sign with their current organization and they decide to sign with Boston:

  • CBJ LW Artemi Panarin – 52GP – 21-42-63 in 2018-19
  • OTT RW Mark Stone – 55GP 25-31-56 in 2018-19
  • OTT C Matt Duchene – 46GP – 25-28-53 in 2018-19
  • NYI RW Jordan Eberle – 51GP 13-13-26 in 2018-19
  • OTT C/RW/LW – Ryan Dzingel 54GP 21-20-41 in 2018-19
  • NYR C/W Kevin Hayes – 46GP – 13-25-38 in 2018-19
  • DET RW/LW Gustav Nyquist – 56GP – 14-33-47 in 2018-19
  • NYR RW Mats Zuccarello – 41GP – 9-23-32 in 2018-19
  • ANA LW/RW Jakub Silfverberg – 47GP – 12-8-20 in 2018-19
  • CAR LW/RW Micheal Ferland – 48GP – 15-16-31 in 2018-19

Of course, there is no guarantee that any of these players make it to free agency and if they do decline offers from their respective teams, then there is no guarantee that they are swayed enough by the Bruins management members to come to Massachusetts and join the Bruins. However, the same can be true if the Bruins trade an arm and a leg for these players for them to just leave at the beginning of July. If Boston fails to win the Cup with them, then it is another bad move.

In the same breath, the 2018-19 free agent class has one of the most-skilled RFA class of any year’s past. When sending an offer to an RFA that makes it past July 1st, you must not only get acceptance from the player, but from the team, who has the option to match your contract offer. If the Bruins can land a player that is under a restricted free agent status, then compensation picks that vary on annual salary amount will have to be paid to the team. Under every option, the Bruins right now, are able to offer any amount. It is important to know that all picks are for the nearest Entry Draft so in this case, 2020 NHL Draft unless the compensation is multiple picks from the same round, then it can be from numerous years. Check it out below via CapFriendly Offer Sheet Calculator:

  • $0 – $1,339,575 – No Compensation
  • $1,339,576 – $2,029,659 – One 3rd Round Pick
  • $2,029,660 – $4,059,322 – One 2nd Round Pick
  • $4,059,323 – $6,088,980 – One 1st Round Pick and One 3rd Round Pick
  • $6,088,981 – $8,118,641 – One 1st Round, One 2nd Round, One 3rd Round Pick
  • $8,118,642 – $10,148,302 – Two 1st Rounds, One 2nd Round, One 3rd Round
  • $10,148,303 – ∞ – Four 1st Round Picks

If Sweeney and the Bruins make a move that will most likely have to require that first rounder, it makes a RFA offer less likely because Boston will be without a pick in the first round for three years in a row. The options for Sweeney are a lot, but the questions that are being asked often are the following.

Can the Bruins afford to move the youth and prospects that they have built up for a rental? Will a trade for a longer-term player work out? Will the lack of 1st Round Pick(s) impact the team in a negative manner for the long-term? Should Boston make a real push with Chara, Bergeron, etc., getting older and their time for another Cup running slim?

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

The questions continue from there but with the weeks and days counting down, only the B’s management know what they can get and what they want. We as fans just have to bite the fingernails off as we anticipate the breaking news, or lack thereof.

In one final conclusion, I do not think that the Boston Bruins will make a big, franchise-altering trade at the Trade Deadline this season. If there will ever be a big trade, it will be at the NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver or on the opening day of NHL Free Agency. Don Sweeney’s track record has not been pleasant nor will the assets going the other way for a player that may or may not stay with Boston next season all combined together with the simple fact that nothing guarantees a Stanley Cup. What do you think about the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline?

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Bruins Cassidy Is Here To Stay As He Nears Two Full Seasons

Boston Bruins vs New Jersey Devils

PHOTO CREDITS: (Matt Stone/ Boston Herald)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

On Saturday, February 9th, Boston Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will be the main man on the B’s bench for his 164th game – exactly two full 82-game seasons. Recently, individuals around the fan base have been questioning the work of Cassidy and whether or not he is the right head coach for the team moving forward in the years and seasons to come. In the shootout loss to the New York Rangers, Cassidy chose not to put forward Patrice Bergeron in the player-vs-goalie period, once again bringing up the judgement on his decisions.

Then there is the David Pastrnak situation. The Bruins are very much a front-loaded roster when it comes to the offence. Aside from the first line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak, the Bruins do not have much to fall back on when we are talking bottom-nine scoring forwards. David Krejci can put up numbers but always seems to be lacking good wingers at all times. Jake DeBrusk has more recently brought some life to the second line, but a hole remains on the right wing.

During the fast-paced action of a game, Cassidy may put Pastrnak with his fellow countryman, David Krejci and Canadian Jake DeBrusk to “spread out” the offensive firepower. However, not before long, the trio that is a true threat to any team in the NHL is back together and a large pool of centres and wingers are placed alongside Krejci to try and find that seemingly-rare chemistry.

We have yet to see multiple games of consistent Krejci-Pastrnak action unless it is on the power-play which, coincidence or not, is one of Boston’s strongest weapons of scoring opportunities. Krejci and Pastrnak have proven in the past that they can find that chemistry that has been discussed before on many occasions and build some good chances to put the puck past the goal line and into the back of the net.

Although, once they are on together, it brings along a weaker first line, where Marchand and Bergeron lose a highly-skilled scoring player who can make things happen on the ice. Recently in an interview prior to the Kings game on Saturday, Cassidy said that they are going to try out Danton Heinen on that top line. Heinen is not Pastrnak by any stretch of the imagination and has struggled this season after a strong rookie campaign in 2017-18. Cassidy did go on to say that Heinen is more a defensive player and the three of them will not have to worry too much about the top lines of other teams because all of them, especially Patrice Bergeron, are for the most part, responsible defensively.

The lack of depth scoring on the Boston Bruins in February 2019 can also be attributed to the lack of trades by General Manager Don Sweeney and with only a few more weeks until the NHL Trade Deadline at the end of the month, the clock is ticking to make that deal for another scoring player to play on the front end and bring some help to the top-six.

Either way, Bruce Cassidy has done well and continues to do well. In the past few games, the only line that has been reliable offensively has been that first line. In the three games of February so far, Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak have a combined eleven points. After them, David Krejci has two points, Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk, and Peter Cehlarik have one, and the rest of the forwards are yet to score a single point in three games.

Dating back to January 1st, the dangerous first line has fifty-three points combined (22 Goals, 31 Assists) with Brad Marchand (7-13-20) leading the way in those 15 games. Only David Krejci has double-digits in points for 2019 and Jake DeBrusk is the next highest with only five points in fifteen games. It does not make the job of Cassidy any easier when they do not have a high quantity of quality players.

Look at the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Tampa Bay Lightning for examples. Both teams have many interchangeable parts on all four lines. Almost every forward on the roster can play on the first line with success and the team will most likely still win games. Do goaltending and defence play a large factor in that as well? One-hundred percent. But the flexibility of those four forward lines makes the job of Mike Babcock on Toronto or Jon Cooper on Tampa Bay a lot easier.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

 

Just like the blame cannot be placed on individuals for a team effort, the blame cannot be solely placed on Cassidy for the position the Bruins are in. On April 26th, 2017, the Bruins named Cassidy head coach of the team – replacing long-time coach, Claude Julien who was fired earlier in the year.

Cassidy coached twenty-seven games for the Bruins, finishing with an 18-8-1 record and leading them to a first-round playoff matchup with the Ottawa Senators in the 2016-17 season, a series that they lost in six games. This led into last season, where Cassidy implemented his faith and passion for the young players of this league, helping lead the B’s to a 50-win season. Bruce was right behind the team for their first-round win over Toronto and stuck by them in the five-game loss to the Lightning. The year for Bruce led to him being one of the three nominees for the Jack Adams Award – awarding the best coach in the NHL for that season. While he didn’t take the award home, the honour of being nominated for it is a great accomplishment.

Again this year, Cassidy has done a great job. It has been a difficult road to manage the struggling youth that once succeeded for him not only in Providence but in Boston during 2017-18 as well, the goaltending challenges of Rask and Halak, and the whole offensive situation that I’ve discussed over.

With the older players such as Chara, Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand, and Backes, being surrounded by the younger players such as Pastrnak, DeBrusk, McAvoy, Carlo, and Heinen, Cassidy has had a challenge of who to play with who at what time and when. For a team that seems to have rough nights, still battles back and is able to fight their way to earn a point or at the very least, remain competitive in the ever-so-difficult Eastern Conference.

Bruce Cassidy has a 97-45-21 record with the Boston Bruins since 2016-17. According to BostonGlobe.com’s Kevin Paul Dupont (@GlobeKPD on Twitter), Claude Julien, the man who won the Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011, had a 94-48-22 in his first 164 career games with the Black N’ Gold.

Julien and Cassidy are almost identical in their wins/losses and they have started almost a decade apart from each other (’07/’08 debut for CJ, ’16/’17 debut for BC). Bruce Cassidy is not only a good coach, but he should remain a coach for the Boston Bruins. He has had success and will continue to have success if the right players are on his lineup. Does he make mistakes time in and time out? Of course, not many coaches in any sport are perfect, (unless you’re Bill Belichick on New England) and it is how he can rally behind the team after a loss and turn it into a win. Bruce Cassidy can do that with the best of them.

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Bruins Trade D Goloubef To Senators For F Paul Carey

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PHOTO CREDITS: (bellevillesens.com)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

On Friday, January 11th, 2019, the Boston Bruins have traded defenceman Cody Goloubef to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for forward Paul Carey, one-for-one.

Paul Carey is a 30-year-old center from Boston, Massachusetts who is coming into the Bruins organization in the midst of a fairly solid AHL season. Carey was drafted 135th overall (5th round) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by the Colorado Avalanche, but only played a combined twenty-two games with the Avalanche in the National Hockey League.

The four-year Boston College veteran already played for the Providence Bruins for a brief time in 2014-15, scoring two goals and five assists for seven points in seventeen games. He also scored one goal in the playoffs with Providence that year. With little National Hockey League experience under his belt, Carey played in sixty games during the 2017-18 season with the New York Rangers, scoring 7-7-14 totals and a -13 rating with twenty penalty minutes.

This season, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound forward has spent the majority of the time with the Belleville Senators of the American Hockey League, scoring 5-22-27 totals in twenty-nine games. Carey went pointless in five NHL games with the Ottawa Senators with an even rating as well. It is most likely that Carey joins the Boston Bruins AHL affiliate team, the Providence Bruins.

So, who exactly is Boston trading away and why? Cody Goloubef is a 129-game NHL veteran, amassing a total of twenty-three points in that time. Goloubef has just joined the Providence Bruins after spending time with the Stockton Heat, the Calgary Flames AHL affiliate team for only one season.

General Manager Don Sweeney signed the 6-foot-1, 201-pound Goloubef to a two-way, one-year contract to add depth to the P-Bruins blueline. The Bruins did use his services well, as he scored twelve points (3 goals, 9 assists), in sixteen games this season. The main reason for the trade is because of the return of Urho Vaakanainen from both the 2019 World Junior Championships from Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada – where he took home a gold medal with the Finland hockey team, as well as a concussion that sidelined him for numerous months.

The Bruins would rather get a scoring asset in return for Goloubef instead of just scratching him for the rest of the idea so Vaakanainen could play. Urho is one of the best prospects on the defensive core for the Bruins organization and it is without a doubt that he should play when given a chance.

Above all else, this is just a simple AHL transaction – no massive implements will come from it. Here is some insight from Providence Journal’s own, Mark Divver.

“Assuming he’s sent to Providence, Paul Carey should give P-Bruins a boost up front. With everyone healthy, they could afford to move a D.” – Mark Divver

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World Juniors 2019: Bruins Prospects Heading Into Quarter-Finals

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PHOTO CREDITS: (saultsports.com)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj

The 2019 World Junior Championships have truly been entertaining so far this year. From dominating performances such as the 14-0 by Canada over Denmark and Slovakia’s 11-2 win over Kazakhstan. Valiant comeback efforts such as the United States scoring four unanswered goals in the final ten minutes to force overtime versus Sweden. And of course, the feel-good stories like the support of the underdogs – Team Kazakhstan as every shot, save, and goal were met with loud, roaring cheers.

The Boston Bruins, like many NHL teams, are well represented in the tournament. Jakub Lauko and Daniel Bukac on the Czech Republic, Jack Studnicka on Canada, Kyle Keyser on the States, Pavel Shen on Team Russia, and the addition of Urho Vaakanainen just before the tournament to Team Finland. Not only are these players playing in the tournament, but they are playing a crucial role for their respective countries.

G Kyle Keyser – United States

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PHOTO CREDITS: (JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

As one of the favourites to win the gold medal when the under-20 tournament concludes, the United States used the four preliminary games to judge who gets the starting role in between the pipes because once the team makes it into the Quarter-Finals, it is not too common to switch goaltenders as you would see in the National Hockey League regular season.

Keyser’s teammate, Cayden Primeau, is the other goaltender that is looking to grab that starting role. The Montreal Canadiens’ 2017 seventh-round selection played two games and so did Bruins’ goalie prospect Keyser. Keyser played two games – the 5-4 OT loss to the Swedes and the 2-1 win over Slovakia on Boxing Day.

Keyser’s 1-1-0 record alongside his 0.87 save percentage and 2.95 goals-against-average is ranked as the second-worst for goaltenders heading into the Quarter-Finals. Only Switzerland goalie, Akira Schmid has worse statistics so far in the World Juniors. It is fair to note that the five goals he allowed versus Sweden drastically impacted those numbers.

Against the Swedes, Keyser made many solid saves off of poor plays by his defensemen. The Swedish players had numerous 2-on-1s that were stopped by Keyser and his saves arguably gave the team the drive to come back and tie the game.

With that said, Team USA announced that Cayden Primeau, the other American goaltender, will get the start in the crease for the United States in their Quarter-Final game against the Czech Republic. Yesterday, Head Coach Mike Hastings said it was a coin toss as to who will get the starting role as both goalies earned it, but clearly, he decided to go with the Canadiens prospect due to his strong 4-to-1 win over Finland.

F Jakub Lauko – Czech Republic

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PHOTO CREDITS: (nhl.com)

Drafted 77th overall (3rd Round) by the Boston Bruins in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, forward Jakub Lauko has had a successful season with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), scoring 12-14-26 totals in 26 games this season before being called to the World Juniors.

While at the U20 World Junior Championships, Lauko has one goal and one assist in four preliminary games. The 18-year-old forward scored his lone goal of the tournament in the 4-0 win over Denmark on New Year’s Eve. The tally ended up being the game-winning goal for the Czechs. Lauko also helped out in the opening game of the tournament, recording his only assist thus far on the overtime-winning goal against Switzerland.

Lauko has been good on the other end of the ice too. In the same game as his assist versus the Swiss, Lauko made a great defensive block on a 2-on-1 that kept the game tied around the midway point through the third period of play. Without that Lauko block, the Swiss may take a 2-1 lead and may end up winning the hockey game.

D Daniel Bukac – Czech Republic

Only one team in the World Juniors this year has two Bruins prospects on its roster – the Czech Republic and it seems more and more that the Bruins like having Czech players when you look at David Pastrnak and David Krejci on the full-time Boston roster up in the NHL.

As with the already-mentioned Jakub Lauko on the forward core, the Czechs have 6-foot-5, 209-pound defenceman Daniel Bukac on their blueline as well. The Bruins drafted Bukac with their seventh-round selection in the 2017 NHL Draft. The former player in the Western Hockey League joined the Niagara Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League in the 2018 CHL Import Draft.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Doug Westcott)

Bukac is not known as an offensive defenceman by a stretch of the imagination. With his big frame, he is a solid shutdown defender on the back end and that was mentioned by the Ice Dogs General Manager, Joey Burke, when they added Bukac to their roster.

“Daniel is a big addition for our club. He provides help in an area we needed to improve in. A proven player at this level who brings size, defensive prowess as well as strength, adds a special dynamic to our group. Anytime you can add an NHL drafted player,  it always makes an impact. We look forward to the pedigree Daniel will bring. This is yet another exciting signing for us this offseason, and Daniel will be fun to watch in Niagara.”

Bukac has six points (two goals, four assists), in twenty-four games with the Ice Dogs before going to the WJC. Bukac has one assist in the World Juniors, against Denmark, when he assisted on the fourth and final Czech goal in the 4-0 win. Bukac has also been one of the top penalty-killers for the Czech Republic, who has a third-best 85.71% success rate on the penalty-kill.

Bukac, Lauko, and the Czech Republic battle Kyle Keyser and the United States in today’s quarterfinal.

D Urho Vaakanainen – Finland

Coming off a concussion that he suffered during his brief tenure in the National Hockey League, the eighteenth-overall draft pick in 2017 by the Boston Bruins joined his national country of Finland for the World Juniors.

Due to his NHL experience earlier in the year, Finland knew that they had to play Vaakanainen in a top role on the defensive core due to the lack of experience on the rest of the team. For the majority of the preliminary games, Vaakanainen played in the most minutes over all of the other Finnish players.

Dawning the “A” on his sweater, Vaakanainen also added two assists in the four games – in a 5-1 win over Slovakia on December 29th and assisted on the only goal by Finland in the 4-1 loss to the United States. Below are some scouting reports on the Finnish defenseman.

“An intelligent, two-way defender…reads the play really well, has his head up all the time and makes quick decisions with the puck.” – Futureconsiderations.ca 2017

“He has good puck moving ability and strong offensive upside. He is also a good skater and can rush the puck up ice with confidence.” – Hockeyprospect.com 2017

Urho Vaakanainen and Team Finland will play Jack Studnicka and the Canadians in the second quarterfinal of the day.

F Jack Studnicka – Canada

Before the tournament started, many analysts covering the competition said that Jack Studnicka was the best player in the pre-tournament events including the multiple games that Canada played in.

While Studnicka did not play at the high-scoring level that say, a Maxime Comtois on Team Canada has, but he has been key on the Canadian power-play, even though it has struggled. Studnicka played right in front of the opposing net on that man-advantage, in a position called the “bumper spot”. Someone else who is great in that spot on the ice on the Bruins, a guy by the name of Patrice Bergeron.

Studnicka is currently on a point-per-game status, scoring four points in four games. Three of those points are assists, but he did add a goal back on December 26th in the 14-0 Boxing Day shutout over Denmark. Jack continues to be one of the better players on Canada’s bottom-nine forward core.

The Bruins drafted Studnicka in the second-round, fifty-third overall in the 2017 NHL Draft. He is currently playing in the Ontario Hockey League with the Oshawa Generals, where he had 12-21-33 totals in 29 games before being sent to Vancouver/Victoria for the World Juniors.

F Pavel Shen – Russia

The final prospect of the Bruins to be listed and he just happens to be on the team who took the first place in Group A, after a narrow victory over Canada on New Year’s Eve. Shen has played a big part in Russia’s success in the tournament so far. Shen is currently tied for second on the team in points with four points in four games.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (nhl.com)

In the December 31st game against Canada, a game between two undefeated countries and that would decide who wins Group A, Pavel Shen had a game that put himself on the hockey map. The Russian drafted in the 7th Round back in this past draft scored the game-winning goal late in regulation off of a nice zone entry, drive to the net and a goal past DiPietro of Canada.

Shen’s goal-scoring talent has been shown in the past, such as when he scored three goals and one assist in six games during the CIBC Canada/Russia Series, where the top Russian prospects play the best CHL players in the three different leagues (WHL, OHL, QMJHL). Shen has the ability to score and he can do it well.

Many have said that Shen is a sleeper player in the tournament and one of the underrated prospects in the Bruins system. If his development continues the way it has, he very well could make the Providence Bruins and maybe even the Boston Bruins in the near future. Pavel Shen and Russia play Slovakia in the Quarterfinals tonight.

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Boston Bruins: Let’s Talk David Backes

PHOTO CREDIT: Charles Krupa / Sportsnet

By: Michael DeRosa | Check me out on Twitter @michael_derosa4

When the Boston Bruins signed David Backes to a five-year, $30 million deal during the 2016 NHL Offseason, it was met with mixed reviews. There is no question that the former Blues’ captain was expected to be a top-six forward for the team. He had been one of the best power forwards in the league for a number of years at that time. However, many analysts felt that the term on the deal would end up hurting the Bruins. As we are now in the 2018-19 season, it is now time for us to be a bit worried that this may end up being the case.

It is absolutely clear that the veteran has struggled this season so far. He has been held pointless in 12 games and already had another concussion scare this season. Injuries have definitely been hitting him frequently since he began his tenure with the team, but none more so than with his head. This could likely be what is behind his significant drop in production this season, as he received another concussion during the postseason last year.

It is also clear that last season he had a decent amount of success playing on the third line. With 33 points in 57 games, it is fair to state that he was providing the team with some very solid secondary scoring. Although the numbers did not necessarily replicate the $6 million cap hit he possesses, it did show that he was a valuable part of this lineup. So with that being said, it is pretty concerning seeing the extremely cold start he has had this season. One has to wonder if he could turn it around.

However, for that to occur, he has to fight his way back up the depth chart. With the promotion given to Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Backes now finds himself on the fourth line right wing. This definitely is not ideal for the veteran, as his chances to provide offense are significantly lower playing on this defense-first line. JFK has also noticeably given the third-line better speed up the middle, so Backes is in a pretty rough spot if it translates to more offensive production from that line.

Another significant reason behind his drop in production is the loss of Riley Nash. There is absolutely no question that the two worked exceptionally well together. However, with Nash signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Danton Heinen occasionally being promoted to the second-line, Backes has been given an array of different linemates all season. In fact, he has been forced to be back at center, a position that he just does fit well in anymore.

Playing on the fourth line is just not the best situation for him to be in. Now, with his struggling play, it is justifiable that he is there. Yet, as soon as he finds his game again, he should be given more chances. In fact, with the looming questions in the top-six, perhaps the team should give him a go on the second-line if the lack of scoring continues. Although his speed has clearly gotten slower over the years, David Krejci has had a lot of success playing with power forwards.

It is fair to state that everyone in the lineup is rooting for the veteran to improve. Although it may seem unlikely to some, it is possible for him to find his game again. Twelve games without a point is very concerning, but that does not mean that he can never turn it into a hot streak. However, for him to see results, he does need to be given more opportunities to shine.  Now is not the time to close the door on Backes completely. He has had a fantastic career up to this point and could easily become a factor in the lineup again under the right circumstances.