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Bruins make postseason life interesting with Game 82 loss to Capitals

04.08.17 at 6:02 pm ET
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The Capitals defeated the Bruins by a 3-1 final on Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Capitals defeated the Bruins by a 3-1 final on Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Given the way the last two years played out, it almost felt unnatural to wake up for today’s regular season finale and realize that the Bruins, who clinched the playoffs for the first time since 2014 with last Tuesday’s win over Tampa Bay, were not in a do-or-die situation.

That’s not to say that they couldn’t make life interesting, or that there was nothing for the Bruins to play for in Saturday’s midday visit from a anything-but-resting Presidents’ Trophy winning Capitals group.

With the Senators taking care of business against the Rangers in a matinee affair, a win against the Caps and the Bruins would have locked themselves in the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic for a first-round showdown with those Senators. A loss, however, and the Bruins would have to wait to know their fate (a throwback to last year) thanks to the Maple Leafs’ remaining games, and whether it would involve a series in Ottawa, or a drop down into the second wild card to take on the Capitals in the opening round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Naturally, the Bruins opted for the second choice, as a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Capitals has put them back in a waiting game.

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Making sense of a very Bruins-free NHL awards conversation

04.08.17 at 9:48 am ET
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Bard Marchand. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Bard Marchand. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

The NHL Awards have more resembled the Academy Awards in recent years due to the predictability of the winners and general lack of suspense for the most part. But this year has real potential for a neck-and-neck finish between “superstar grinder” Sidney Crosby and sophomore sensation Connor McDavid. It’s basically “LA LA LAND” vs. “MOONLIGHT.”

As for the Nose Face Killah (Brad Marchand), a strong showing in the last two games of the season could have solidified his case to be one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy (MVP voted on by PHWA). Alas, the two-game suspension for his crudely executed vasectomy attempt on Tampa Bay’s Jake Dotchin ensures he will finish the season with a still quite impressive 39-46—85 in 80 games played but he can finish no higher than fourth in NHL scoring.

Pat Kane won the award last year so, much like Meryl Streep, he’ll be in the running this year. The question is whether he gets bumped as a finalist for San Jose’s hirsute, dynamic D-man Brent Burns or Sergei Bobrovsky, the brilliant Blue Jackets goalie. But it won’t matter either because there’s a new sheriff in town. And his name is Connor McDavid. Ample points lead. Most points per game. Resurrected a dead franchise into a possible contender. He’s your Hart winner this year and quite possibly half of the next 16 seasons or so.

However, Burns won’t be shut out. Because the Norris Trophy has become the de facto award for highest scoring defenseman award rather than best D, he’s the favorite with 29-46—75 totals. But take into account his overall play and he feels like a shoe-in. Simply, Burns has been a beast for San Jose this season and will beat out the two phenomenal Swedes in Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman for the Norris.

If it wasn’t for Winnipeg’s teenage sniper Patrik Laine, who will eventually replace Alex Ovechkin as the game’s premier scorer, it’s possible (likely?) that all three finalists for the Calder Trophy would wear the blue and white Maple Leaf on their chest. Despite impressive rookie campaigns from Mitch Marner and William Nylander, their teammate Auston Matthews will waltz away with the ROY. He has two more games to crack 40 goals and already has the most ever goals by an American rookie, which is nuts. Laine will get some votes, and deservedly so, but Matthews is going to the playoffs. Add in the fact he plays in Toronto and it’s a no-brainer.

Even though he became just the third goalie in league history to win at least 40 games in three straight years, Braden Holtby will have his work cut out for him in order to win back to back Vezina Trophies. Sergei Bobrovsky has one fewer win and two fewer shutouts than Holtby but beats him in save percentage and goals against. Devan Dubnyk tailed off after a torrid start but should still be a finalist. This is a two horse race but Bob saw 155 more shots and gave up three fewer goals in addition to leading in the two major goalie stats so he’ll win his second Vezina in five years.

The Ted Lindsay Award is the most outstanding player as voted on by the NHLPA so it just carries a different set of biases than the media-selected Hart. Regardless, it’ll carry the same result—-Connor McDavid.

The most wide-open award is for the Jack Adams for Coach of the Year which is selected by the broadcasters. It typically goes to a young upstart or an established coach reviving a moribund team. There’s a dearth of the usual obvious candidates this year so it’ll be interesting to see who the finalists are (and thus, the criteria used to decide). But Minnesota’s Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim’s Randy Carlyle, Toronto’s Mike Babcock, and Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper should all warrant serious consideration. However, East Coast Bias is very real and Toronto, even if not quite the East Coast, will see Babcock rewarded with his first Jack Adams for leading a pack of kids to the playoffs.

As for the Lady Byng? Uhh, wut?

Bruins forward Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson could play Saturday vs. Capitals

04.07.17 at 2:49 pm ET
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Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson's immigration issues have been cleared up. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson’s immigration issues have been cleared up. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson’s work visa issues were solved about 30 minutes too late on Thursday night, as the highly-touted prospect had to sit and watch as a spectator for the second game in a row since officially signing his entry-level deal with the Bruins last Sunday.

But finally cleared to join the roster, and with one game left in the regular season, the moment for ‘JFK’ to make his NHL debut has seemingly presented itself with Saturday’s visit from the Capitals.

“He’s a possibility for sure,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Forsbacka Karlsson playing tomorrow. “With some of our injured guys getting much closer to playing we’ll have some decisions to make tomorrow morning, but he could certainly get in.”

A two-year standout with Boston University, with 24 goals and 63 points in 78 games for the Terriers over the course of his NCAA career, the 20-year-old has played the part of student on into his NHL career, as a quiet, back-of-the-room presence that’s simply watching how many Bruins go about their business.

“He’s quiet, I’ll tell you that. He’s like a lot of young guys, just going about his business trying to fit in, so to speak, right now,” Cassidy said. “I understand he’s a very solid 200-foot player and if he gets in the lineup we’ll expect him to play to his strengths and see what he’s got, but he’s a bit of an unknown obviously. Most guys are [in] their first pro game.

“A Nice kid, seems very cerebral. Understands when you’re talking systems and will interact with you in that area.”

(Forsbacka Karlsson, by the way, said that he feels ‘up to speed’ on the B’s system and their desired style of play.)

Able to participate in last night’s warmup, Forsbacka Karlsson seems done with NHL teasers and is raring to go for his first game.

“I’m ready to go, absolutely,” Forsbacka Karlsson, who played center in his college career, said following Friday’s practice.

If given the call tomorrow, Forsbacka Karlsson would become the 10th Bruins player to have made his NHL debut for the club this season, which would be the most first-year talents to suit up for the Bruins since 2005-06.

Bruins defenseman Torey Krug (lower-body), forward Noel Acciari (upper-body) considered day-to-day

04.07.17 at 2:00 pm ET
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Torey Krug will be out for Saturday's game with a lower-body injury. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Torey Krug will be out for Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins had near perfect attendance at their final practice before the conclusion of their regular season slate. But the absences of those not on the ice — 51-point top-four defenseman Torey Krug and fourth-line energy winger Noel Acciari — were certainly noticeable, and should continue to be when the B’s take on the Capitals tomorrow.

“Lower-body. He’ll be out tomorrow, that much we know” Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed of Krug, who was reportedly seen leaving TD Garden on crutches last night, and his status for tomorrow’s season finale. “And then from there, day-to-day.”

Cassidy and the B’s medical team made the same decision on Acciari, who had one shot on goal and five hits in 12:55 of time on ice last night against the Senators, but because of an upper-body injury.

The loss of Krug, who has put together the most consistent season of his pro career this season, with eight goals and 51 points (the sixth-most among NHL defenders this season), is a gigantic one for the Bruins. Next to losing Zdeno Chara, it might just be the most devastating loss that the B’s blue line could take on this season.

Cassidy actually straight-up admitted that there’s no way for the B’s to replace what he brings to the ice, too.

“He’s a special talent; Power play, first pass on the breakout, neutral zone transition, all those things,” Cassidy said of Krug following Friday’s practice in Brighton. “We’re gonna miss his ability to get going on offense in a hurry. Having said that, we have good puck-movers back there. It’s the way it is this time of year. You get injuries, next man up’s gotta get in there and get the job done. Play to his strengths without being something he’s not, so that’s what we’ll ask of them.”

The Bruins rolled through practice with John-Michael Liles, who took Krug’s spot on the first power play unit and as the de facto No. 2 left-shot defender behind Chara last night, in Krug’s usual spot to Adam McQuaid’s left, which put Colin Miller back in the rotation on the left side of the B’s third pairing opposite Kevan Miller.

With the exception of the injured, and goaltender Tuukka Rask (rest), Cassidy is not expected to rest any of his star players for tomorrow’s finale, as the Bruins are still playing to avoid falling into the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

David Pastrnak’s 7th Player Award win proves that we no longer understand the award

04.07.17 at 2:59 am ET
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David Pastrnak won the second 7th Player Award of his NHL career. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

David Pastrnak won the second 7th Player Award of his NHL career. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

David Pastrnak is amazing. He’s fun. He’s multidimensional. He’s an elite talent. What he is not, however, and regardless of what the end results of the fan vote conducted by visitors tell me, is the proper recipient 7th Player Award for the 2016-17 season.

In case you’re unaware, NESN’s 7th Player Award is an annual award presented to the Bruin who exceeded the expectations of Bruins fans for that season. And this is the second time Pastrnak has received NESN’s 7th Player Award, as he also won the award in 2015.

See, that alone I have a problem with.

If Pastrnak surpassed your expectations as an 18-year-old in 2015 — when he scored 10 goals and 27 points in 46 points — then you should have seen the natural trajectory leading him to 30-goal status by year three. His sophomore season, with 15 goals and 26 points in an injury-shortened 51-game year, showed more of that potential. And you should have known that Pastrnak was entering this season as the club’s top right winger — be it with Patrice Bergeron on the B’s first line or with David Krejci on the second line — which meant that goals and opportunities were going to be there. (It’s the same logic that should have been applied to Brad Marchand a year ago, too, when he won it for the second time in his career.)

So if you didn’t see this Pastrnak production coming, it’s because you simply weren’t paying attention.

In other words, somebody else was robbed. But who?

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Bruins lose Torey Krug to injury early in loss to Senators

04.07.17 at 2:12 am ET
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Torey Krug left Thursday's game with a lower-body injury. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Torey Krug left Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

In a battle for playoff positioning against the Senators at TD Garden on Thursday night, Bruins defenseman Torey Krug’s night came to an end after just three shifts and 2:32 of time on ice. It was probably the absolute last thing the Bruins wanted to hear against an Ottawa team that loves to stifle teams into bad passes from their point, too.

It’s bad enough that Krug went down the tunnel. But it was even worse when Krug was almost immediately ruled out for the rest of the night.

For the Bruins to determine that Krug’s night was over that quickly means that whatever it was, was pretty bad for the B’s best puckmover.

“All I got is lower body,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Krug’s status. “Obviously he couldn’t return, so you know, that’s never good. But, I imagine it will be released at some point but I don’t have any information for you, sorry. We missed him.”

Down Krug, the Bruins deployed their five defensemen on a mix and match basis, and no defender logged less than 21 minutes in the shootout loss to the Senators. John-Michael Liles, who finished the night with three shots on goal in 21:12 of time on ice, took on Krug’s role as the club’s No. 2 left side defender behind Zdeno Chara and skated in Krug’s spot on the B’s top power-play unit.

But the Bruins missed Krug’s vision on the first pass out of their end, which was a 65-minute nightmare for the Bruins.

“These are the games where he sees the ice very well in the neutral zone and it only takes a few seams when all the sudden you’re in, and even on the forecheck spring a guy,” Cassidy said of Krug’s loss in this game. “He – listen, he does it once or twice a game; he gives us opportunities to attack with numbers, keeps pucks live, even the offensive blueline play, he’ll find a play or two.”

“I mean, anytime you lose someone like Torey, it’s never easy. He’s just so dynamic and sees plays that other people don’t see,” Liles admitted. “It was more just everybody trying to step up and kind of fill that void a little bit, and beyond that, it was just a matter of trying to keep shifts short and having forwards help us out because we were a little bit undermanned, and, it just takes a toll on the defense as a whole going down to five, and, anytime the bench is short like that, it’s not easy.”

According to CSNNE, Krug was seen leaving the Garden with a brace on his right knee and on crutches.

One of four Bruins to have played in all 81 games this season, Krug is in the midst of a career-year with the Bruins, with eight goals and 51 points, which has made him the first 50-point B’s d-man since 2008-09 (Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman).

Bruins fall into neutral zone traps, drop shootout to Senators

04.06.17 at 9:50 pm ET
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The Bruins and Sens skated in their fourth and final meeting of the season tonight. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins and Sens skated in their fourth and final meeting of the season tonight. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

If you ever want to suck the life out of a game, just invite the Senators to your town, and tell them to leave Erik Karlsson behind.

One of the game’s most electrifying talents with the way he creates offense from the point with an upbeat transition game and otherworldly passing game, the Senators came into tonight’s season series finale down their captain, who is back to day-to-day status with a lower-body ailment, according to Sens coach Guy Boucher. The Bruins, meanwhile, were without their most dynamic offensive talent, winger Brad Marchand, thanks to his two-game suspension handed down earlier today for Tuesday’s spear to the Lightning’s Jake Dotchin.

The absence of both Marchand and Karlsson undoubtedly put a damper in what many logically considered to be a potential first-round matchup, with the Sens entering play in second in the Atlantic and the Bruins in third. The Bruins also lost defenseman Torey Krug early in the first period of a head-to-head that lacked any sort of a sizzle from that point on, as the Bruins and Senators mucked it up to a 2-1 shootout final for the Senators at TD Garden.

And if this was a playoff preview of what’s to be in the first round, get your blankets and pillows ready for a snoozefest.

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