Sports Spot 3/5/18: Episode 11

By Mike Cratty |Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

On Episode 11 of Sports Spot, we have Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, and a little bit of Oscars discussion.

Bruins segment: 5:53-36:05

Please follow the Sports Spot co-hosts on Twitter:

@Mike_Cratty

@ryan_salvaggio

As well as the Sports Spot Twitter and SoundCloud account for all the latest updates from the world of sports including news, reports, signings, and trades. Including, of course, the Boston Bruins:

@SportsSpotWMCK

Bruins’ Rookie Charlie McAvoy Exits Game With Apparent Injury

Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY

By Thomas Nyström | Follow on twitter @nahstrom

Defenseman Charlie McAvoy exited the game Saturday in the first period with a ‘lower body injury’ on a blade trip to the right skate from the Montreal Canadians’ Brendan Gallagher, although He was almost immediately ruled out for the game. After the slash McAvoy went straight into the tunnel and to the locker room. Defensive linemate, Zdeno Chara was paired with Brandon Carlo on the next shift.

Until we know more on the injury the assumed pair for Chara would be Carlo, or perhaps Adam McQuaid. We will have more insight on this as the story developes.

Thomas Nyström, Contributor.
Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom

Bergeron Out With Fractured Foot

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Photo Credit: Justin Tang (CP)

By: KG                   Follow me on Twitter: @kgbngblog and on FanCred at K G

Patrice Bergeron will be out for at least the next two weeks following a blocked shot in the game on Saturday 24th in Toronto. He played Sunday because the X-rays had come back negative, but was given a CT scan after the Buffalo game where team medical staff discovered the hairline fracture in his foot. He is set to be re-evaluated in two weeks, giving him a potential return date of Tuesday, March 13th against the Hurricanes in Carolina.

This is a huge blow to the Bruins lineup and may also explain why Don Sweeney went out and got Tommy Wingels yesterday at the deadline. This way, Coach Cassidy can move guys like David Backes into the center position and still have solid wingers to put throughout the lineup. Bergeron currently has 27 goals and 27 assists in 55 games played this season.

 

Follow KG on Twitter @KGbngblog and on FanCred at K G Like, share and comment your takes on the article

Sports Spot 2/20/18: Episode 9

By Mike Cratty                                  Twitter: @Mike_Cratty

On Episode 9 of Sports Spot, we talk about the current state of the Boston Bruins plus the Nick Holden trade, as well as the Boston Red Sox as a whole with the addition of J.D. Martinez. Bonus topic: Fergie’s interesting rendition of the National Anthem at the NBA All-Star Game. Hosted by myself, Mike Cratty, as well as my co-host and good friend Ryan Salvaggio.

Link: https://soundcloud.com/user-65308757/sports-spot-feb-20-mixdown

For Bruins talk, listen to the following segments (minutes):

Beginning-3:30

27:45-41:15

Please follow the Sports Spot co-hosts on Twitter:

@Mike_Cratty

@ryan_salvaggio

As well as the Sports Spot Twitter and SoundCloud account for all the latest updates from the world of sports including news, reports, signings, and trades. Including, of course, the Boston Bruins:

@SportsSpotWMCK

We hope you enjoy Sports Spot and listen in the future!

Boston Bruins Deadline: Why They Do Not Need ‘The Next Chara’ Right Now

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Photo Credit: nbcsports

By: Thomas Nystrom           Follow Me On Twitter @nahstrom 

There appears to be a difference in opinion prevailing amongst Bruins fans. Do you go out and get the big name at the deadline? Do you stand pat? The fact that Boston is even in this situation is nothing short of incredible based on preseason expectations. The chemistry and production has been lauded in big media outlets across North America. The question has become: Do they have enough to win a cup? Regardless of which crowd you belong to, the Boston Bruins have some critical decisions to make in the next ten days regarding acquiring a big piece or depth pieces.

While there are still valid arguments being made to the contrary, the idea of getting the ‘superstar’ has appeared to dim over the last week in and around the media coverage surrounding the Bruins. I would like to discuss one particular sticking point; the idea that getting a big name defensemen now could help Boston in both the immediate and future seasons. Absolutely, that goes without question. However, be wary of such a simplistic analysis. I take issue with the idea that a move like that will result in a guy who’d become Zdeno Chara’s future replacement. Take this into account: Chara will undoubtedly resign after this season. There is no debate. He has stated he wishes to keep playing and doing so in a Boston uniform. The assumption is that he will be here two more seasons and within the next two years there are numerous opportunities to address his eventual replacement. Drafting a successor and/or developing current or future prospects is vital to the organizational process both while we have Chara, and after he retires. This is not even taking into account that his replacement very well could be playing next to him night after night right now. Charlie McAvoy’s contract extension has to be the priority of the offseason and it’s not even close. Resigning McAvoy to a long-term deal would cement this blue line for the next decade. At that point, drafting and developing his line-mate can be brought into the discussion. Something to consider is whether Brandon Carlo may or may not be here at that point, and his detractors would obviously prefer the later. I will state for the record: there is not a team in the NHL that wouldn’t play Carlo 17-20 minutes a night right now. Whether or not the Bruins view him as expendable remains to be seen, but for the moment Carlo is lined up to be a defensive fixture for the foreseeable future.

  Zdeno Chara On Patrice Bergeron’s Play, NHL Trade Deadline, Courtesy of NESN

The direction in which this team will go at the deadline is entirely speculation. The front office has redeemed themselves from initial mixed reviews just a year ago when they fire Claude Julien and did little to make waves in the offseason. We must now take a step back and put our trust in Don Sweeney and his staff. Trust includes that the Boston Bruins will ultimately take their best option at the deadline while understanding what put them in the position of being ‘buyers’ in the first place: patience, depth, and chemistry. Should the team decide to stay the course with what they have, and perhaps add depth for the playoff run, the fans have little to complain about. Things look positive for the present and future of the franchise, deadline splash or not.

 

Thomas Nyström, Contributor.
Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom

Boston Bruins: Patrice Bergeron And The Triple Fifty Line

 

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Patrice Bergeron #37 and Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins react in the first period against the New York Rangers during their game at Madison Square Garden on February 7, 2018, in New York City.
(Feb. 7, 2018 – Source: Abbie Parr/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                                        Twitter: @godwentwhoops

 

The Boston Bruins earned themselves another two points with a solid 5-2 drubbing of the Calgary Flames Tuesday night.  Overall it was a great night for Bruins fans. The TD Garden hosted the legendary Don Cherry and members of the Bruins 1977-78 squad (the only team in NHL history to have 11 20-goal scorers).

The Bruins got on the board early, and they got on the board often. Once again, the Black and Gold came from behind to make life difficult for the opposing goalie. Riley Nash put in the first two goals of the night for the B’s, and B’s captain Zdeno Chara put in the empty-netter to seal the deal late for Boston.

But once again, the player of the game was B’s alternate captain Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron scored the third and fourth goals of the game, putting the game out of reach and stealing the heat from the Flames.

Patrice Bergeron has been on fire these last few weeks. Since the start of 2018, the four-time Selke winner (and obvious first ballot into the Hockey Hall of Fame) has made NHL goalies his playthings by putting in 16 goals for the Black and Gold (including two hat tricks). Four of those goals were game-winners and he tallied an obscene 65 shots on goal.

So what does one of the hottest players currently in the National Hockey League think about being a one-man shooting gallery?

“I’m trying not to think about it,” said Bergeron with his usual honest humility. “I’m trying just to go out there, play, and stay focused…push myself to be better from one night to another and learn and watch video. Whenever it’s on the power play, [studying] my positioning and trying to find openings and things like that. To be honest with you, I’m trying to stay focused and be in the moment.”

Bergeron’s two goals helped him eclipse the 50-point plateau this season. Bergeron has hit this mark or higher every year for the last five seasons.  He’s the last of the Bruins top line to hit that mark. David Pastrnak crossed that line last week against the New York Rangers. Boston’s Little Ball of Hate Brad Marchand passed that mark in late January against the New Jersey Devils.

The Bruins top line has been one of the strongest lines in the entire league this season. It’s impossible to find a line in the league that has let in as few goals as they have. In his long career, Bergeron has been a remarkable leader and teacher to the rest of his line. He’s helped turn Marchand from a fourth-line grinder to an All-Star, and Pastrnak from a raw rookie to a future All-Star.

There’s also that small matter of putting Bergy’s name in the conversation for the Hart Trophy.

Look at the numbers Marchand and Bergeron have put up in their respective careers in Boston.  43 goals in 2010-11. 50 in 2011-12. 28 in 2012-13(but that’s because the owners wanted to stick it to the players and thus gave up half the season). The numbers are high and they stay high.

Now add in David Pastrnak and the numbers just get silly. 69 goals (10 of them game-winners) between the three of them. 156 points. 440 shots on goal and nobody on that line hits less than 14% of the time.  It’s as close to Bruins hockey perfection without mentioning the name ‘Orr’.

Patrice Bergeron is only 32. He still has five-plus years in the league. Marchand’s just 29. This power trio will be one of the dominant lines in the NHL until the mid-2020s.  Guess Bruins Nation owes a big debt of gratitude for Claude Julien for putting them together.

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Hit: Bruins Fall In Trap Game

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Photo credit: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

By: Thomas Nystrom           Follow Me On Twitter @nahstrom 

Saturday night we saw a much different Bruins team take the ice. Not in terms of personnel, but certainly in the way of effort and execution. Boston looked disjointed in every aspect of the game. The stick handling left much to be desired, the passing was lazy, and the shots didn’t find their mark with any level of consistency in comparison to what we’ve seen over the better part of the last two months. Tuukka Rask had a few misreads and blown saves, although the highlights will also show that he kept them in this game until the very end with a handful of unbelievable stops. Unfortunately his effort wasn’t enough to continue his outstanding point streak which ends at 21 games.

This game appears to be less about Rask’s off night and more about the overall lack of compete from a Boston squad fresh off a few days rest after an absolutely commanding road performance in their 6-1 victory over the New York Rangers.

The flip side of this article is undoubtedly being written in Buffalo as we speak, but here, the great things that the Sabres did tonight shouldn’t go without praise. The Buffalo Sabres entered TD Garden with purpose despite having very little to play for at this stage of their mostly disappointing 2017-2018 campaign. They were strong on the forecheck, broke up a number of high-probability scoring chances, and backup Goaltender Chad Johnson put together an outstanding if not unexpected 60 minute effort in net. Ryan O’Reilly centered a Buffalo line that tonight played Bergeron/Marchand/Pastrnak with intensity and fearlessness arguably more-so than any other offensive pairing since November. Mind you, Buffalo’s best weapon and Massachusetts’ own Jack Eichel was knocked out of the game with under 7 minutes left in the first on an ugly looking collision where he came down awkwardly with his leg pinned beneath him.

Positive spin: I would like to state for the record that in no way do I believe the Sabres just laid out the blueprint for how to contain the monster that has been the Boston Bruins over the better part of the season. This was a ‘trap game’ if there ever was one. The seemingly easier contest of the back to back this weekend didn’t go as planned, but in many ways was half-heartedly forecasted. The ‘trap’ is not a myth folks and tonight was exhibit A.

The Boston Bruins travel to Newark, New Jersey tomorrow to take on the (27-19-8) Devils, whom are coming off their own 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Columbus on Sunday. I foresee a physical, perhaps desperate level of effort from both teams looking to quickly right the ship. Face off at 7:00pm. See you then.

Thomas Nyström, Contributor.
Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom

Boston Bruins: Is This Frank Vatrano’s Last Season With The B’s?

 

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Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins directs Frank Vatrano #72 of the Boston Bruins during the second period against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on November 16, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
(Nov. 15, 2017 – Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                                      Twitter: @Godwentwhoops

 

Frank Vatrano is currently the odd man out with the Boston Bruins. Vatrano hasn’t seen much action with the Black and Gold this season. He’s only played in 22 games, and he’s spent most of that time as a fourth line grinder for the B’s. In his last five appearances, he cracked the ten-minute ice time mark only once.

Vatrano’s limited action is due to the strength of the Bruins rookies. The B’s youth movement have earned themselves positions on the roster, and that forced players like Matt Beleskey (currently playing in Providence) and Vatrano on the sidelines. Vatrano is only seeing action due to the B’s injuries and the suspension of forward Brad Marchand.

Vatrano’s never really been a full time player for Boston. He’s played in 83 games in the last two seasons. He’s been moving up and down the lines as the situation (or the injuries) required. For his part, the 23-year old Mass native is trying to stay positive. He’s doing his best to be ready for whenever he gets to see action on the ice.

“It’s always difficult when you’re not playing, you’re always trying to get back into the lineup,” Vatrano said. “But when the team is as hot as it is right now you’ve got to tip your cap to everyone in the room, even if you’re not in the lineup you’re rooting for the guys.

“You want them to win, you always want to win. You’ve got to be a good teammate, whether you’re in the lineup or out of the lineup. For me, I just have to have the same mindset night in and night out.”

Vatrano was a point-a-game player during his AHL time. (A situation he may find himself in again come next season.) Now he’s a penalty minute a game player.  He’s now in the situation that Ryan Spooner found himself in last year.  It’s not that he’s a terrible player, but the current roster have been firing on all cylinders.

For Vatrano, it’s about staying positive and waiting for the next opportunity to show he can still be an effective player in the Boston organization.

“I actually felt pretty good,” offered Vatrano on his current condition. “I’ve been trying to stay on top of my conditioning, on and off the ice. I felt good, felt like I really didn’t miss a beat out there. My timing was good, so hopefully I can add some more finishing to it. Obviously in a different role right now, so trying to be reliable.”

Boston Bruins bench boss Bruce Cassidy has been satisfied with Vatrano’s reliability. Cassidy has been trying to find a use for Vatrano in the wake of the B’s youth movement. So far, Vatrano has adapted to his current role.

“With Frank, we’re going to continue to make sure that in those close games he does his part away from the puck, keep getting better defensively and hopefully the puck falls a little bit and he creates a little more on his own on that line,” said Cassidy of Vatrano’s current performance.

“He’s been good, he’s worked hard the last six weeks without playing. I give him credit for that, it’s not easy when you’re young.”

While Vatrano is trying hard to make a difference with Boston, it may be a case of too little, too late for him. The Bruins have too many prospects coming up. The B’s current roster is (for the most part) injury free, and it’s a case of too many players and not enough spots on the roster.

This will likely be the last season for Vatrano in the spoked ‘B’. Vatrano may end up back in Providence, but its more than likely that’ll end up in another organization.

Injuries And Depth A Concern, And Here’s How It Can Be Fixed

david-backesAbove Photo Credit: intelfeeds

By: Thomas Nystrom           Follow Me On Twitter @nahstrom 

The story of the 2017-2018 Boston Bruins has now reached a critical point in ‘act two’ of the the season. At this juncture it can be classified as an obstacle while being mindful that there is a thin line between that and a full blown crisis in any story arc. The obstacle Boston currently faces is a test of organizational depth, and fans are already looking for answers.

During Tuesday nights return to post-all-star action we saw two immediate tests come in the form of a cross-check to Anders Bjork, and an unreasonably late hit high on David Backes. Neither player would return in this contest and Coach Bruce Cassidy has already stated that Bjork will be missing some time. The true extent of the Backes injury is still undetermined but it appears right now that he avoided a set-back on the hit from Anaheim’s Nick Ritchie. He indicated today that he ‘feels fine’ to NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty.

This makes the last week and a half’s injuries and issues compile into something not only worth monitoring, but addressing before it becomes the narrative of the second half. Bjork is out, and if it’s a shoulder as reported.. it may be a bit before he’s back to 100%. Charlie McAvoy hopefully will return sooner than later but coming off a heart procedure there is zero pressure to rush back from anyone in the organization. Backes narrowly avoided another stint on the IR. Noel Acciari has missed time with a lower body injury and is not expected to return to action Thursday against the Blues. And lastly, Brad Marchand still has another three games to serve on his suspension for a hit that did not need to happen.

Depth is going to be a major plot point for the remainder of the season, and one that will likely be addressed at the trade deadline on February 26th. Names like Evander Kane have been tossed out there, though the general consensus is that the persistent drama surrounding him is a chemistry risk and may outweigh the upside a player like that would present. Max Pacioretty is rumored to be available but I highly doubt Montreal and Boston would come to any reasonable terms for him. Michael Grabner, James Neal, Patrick Maroon, Rick Nash, and so on — all left wingers who will come with a high asking price from their respective organizations. Besides, to me I see a higher need to perhaps add a right winger and not a left, and a player like Jordan Kyrou would be safer, and more reasonably priced at the deadline.

All options will no doubt be considered and explored accordingly, just looking at the injury report as it stands today only accentuates the need for help on the wing for the final stretch to the post-season. Should the Bruins choose to primarily work within the system, their options at the AHL level include players like Peter Cehlarik who was called up this morning to fill the void left by Accairi and Bjork, both considered day-to-day per Bruce Cassidy. If Backes winds up missing any time this season (or any center for that matter) there is the impending call-ups of Providence’s Ryan Fitzgerald and Jakob Forbacka Karlsson. Both would be exciting promotions for Bruins fans in the know, but not a move considered ‘sexy’ by the casual fan that will start jumping on board with the team for the next few months as they push for a high seed in the conference heading into the playoffs.

Simply stated, Bruins appear to be deep but could/should add to that if the goal is to be raising hardware by the end of spring. This season started with a dense unavoidable haze of melancholy but has suddenly swung to an heir of confidence and hope for a deep playoff run. How proactive the orginization is in the coming weeks with regards to putting the pieces together for Cassidy to mold into a championship team — that is the new narritive.


Thomas Nyström, Contributor.

Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom

McIntyre Entering Career Defining Stretch

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( Above Photo Credit:  Bridgeport Soundtigers)

By: Thomas Nyström            Follow Me On Twitter @nahstrom 

The ups and downs of professional hockey can sometimes be destructive to a developing player. Particularly so for a goaltender, a position that either takes the blame or praise for the results on any given night. The sixty-minute spotlight comes with an undeniable amount of pressure, more-so than anyone outside of the game could truly quantify.

Providence’s 25 year old netminder, Zane McIntyre’s professional career started during the 2015-2016 season where he played 31 games for Providence going 14-8-7 with an .898 save percentage, and one playoff appearance where he allowed 4 goals before being pulled at the end of two periods. Expectations had been higher due to his three years with the University of North Dakota where he amassed a 58-24-9 record with an .925 save percentage for his college career. McIntyre rebounded in his second professional year (2016/2017) winning 21 games in 31 appearances and a stingy .203 GAA. McIntyre additionally played another 933 minutes of playoff hockey to close out the season going in his appearances to the tune of going 8-7 with a .906 save percentage. While these numbers improved from year one to year two, McIntyre’s prospect status was hampered by what transpired during his ‘cup of tea’ in Boston when he was called upon. In 8 games he posted an 0-4-1 record and just a hair below a 4.00 GAA.

Now in his third professional season, calling Zane McIntyre a ‘prospect’ can be taken with a grain of salt. Have we seen the best out of him already? That’s perhaps an unfair question to ask, but one he quite possibly has asked himself this year. Thus far for the 2017-2018 P-Bruins, Zane has played nearly 1600 minutes in 27 games and has won just 13 of them, with his .903 save percentage being bested by Jordan Binnington whose on loan from St. Louis.

But let’s look at his last few games: last week McIntyre was perfect in his two starts stopping every last one of the 55 shots sent his way. This was Zane’s first time in his professional career where he put together back-to-back shutouts. A stat line deemed worthy of Player of the Week honors for the AHL. Then his start on Wednesday he allowed 2 goals in a losing effort to Lehigh Valley on the road but made a number of big saves to hold the comeback within reach.

Zane McIntyre may not be considered an ‘elite prospect’ at this point (if technically a prospect at all), and perhaps may be losing his place in the hierarchy of Boston goaltenders. Many fans aren’t quite comfortable with the idea of Zane stepping in as Tuukka Rask’s backup next season, let alone if an injury should arise this season with Boston riding one of their greatest hot streaks in franchise history. Current backup, Anton Khudobin, is playing the roll exceptionally and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If Khudobin looks for more money than the front office is looking to spend, does this force McIntyre into a roll he may not be ready for? One would hope not. Two scenarios: 1. Khudobin’s asking price is reasonable and the Bruins resign him for another year. The second, and perhaps the best case scenario from an organizational standpoint: McIntyre stays hot past the all-star break and into the AHL post-season. That would just be another chapter in the spoil of riches that has become Boston’s narrative this season, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Boston fans can debate this for months to come, but it’s completely up to Zane McIntyre to decide.

Thomas Nyström, Contributor.
Follow me on Twitter @nahstrom