|Bruins preview: Players to watch, guys who could be traded and dumb takes to avoid||10.12.16 at 2:00 pm ET|
The NHL season is upon us, leaving Bruins fans wondering whether they’re in for a return to the playoffs or just another frustrating regular season.
Heading into Thursday night’s season opener against the Blue Jackets, B’s fans are probably leaning toward the latter, but an influx of youth into the lineup makes this a potentially exciting team to watch this season, even if expectations aren’t set particularly high.
We’ve done basically every type of season preview imaginable over the years, but Ben Rohrbach did one like this a while back and I want to copy that style, so here’s a bunch of lists to get you ready for the Bruins’ season:
Three questions you probably have:
Will they make the playoffs?
Maybe. Detroit is the only Eastern Conference playoff team from last season that looks like a safe bet to fall out of the playoff picture, and the Canadiens will fare better than they did a season ago. The third Atlantic spot would be a good goal for the Bruins, but their roster isn’t any better than it was when they missed the postseason a year ago.
Will Claude Julien get fired?
I’m not gaga about this team, but the schedule is pretty light early on (see below), so it’s hard to envision them stumbling so much out of the gate that they’d have to pull the plug. If they do struggle, however, he’s an easy scapegoat.
How will the defense be?
You know the answer to that.
Four rookies who are getting a shot:
Austin Czarnik: Of the Bruins’ four rookies, he’s the only who isn’t a first-year pro. Czarnik recently suffered a concussion, but returned to practice Wednesday. The speedy center was all but penciled in to be the team’s third-line center leading up to his injury, and should still get that spot.
Brandon Carlo: The 6-foot-5 righty is eligible for Providence, and while he’ll start the season in Boston, the team is high enough on him that he might have made the team otherwise. Still, he’s just 19, so if he gets squeezed out of the lineup he’ll be better off in the AHL.
Danton Heinen: After two years at the University of Denver, Heinen went pro with an outside shot of making the B’s. That became a reality when Frank Vatrano needed foot surgery and Heinen tied for the team lead with three preseason goals.
Rob O’Gara: Carlo isn’t the only tall rookie defenseman on the roster. The 6-foot-4 Yale grad’s best bet at getting into games early on would be if the team opted to sit Joe Morrow despite the injuries on the blue line.
Three new guys and one kind of new guy:
David Backes: He’s 32 and he’s on a five-year deal. The best-case scenario is that he’s the guy he was last postseason (seven goals and seven assists for 14 points) and sustains that for a few years.
Dominic Moore: Tied with old friend Lee Stempniak for most teams, the journeyman center is a logical fit centering the fourth line.
Riley Nash: When guys are healthy he’s a fourth-line wing. He can also play center if needed.
Anton Khudobin: If Tuukka Rask’s numbers aren’t the same with a lesser defense, banking on Khudobin to experience smooth sailing his second time in Boston might be an overestimation.
Two guys they’ll miss:
Loui Eriksson: The B’s chose David Backes’ mid-30s over Eriksson’s. We’ll see if that was the right decision, but the guess here is that it wasn’t.
Frank Vatrano: Well at least he’ll be back. After scoring 36 goals in 36 AHL games last season, Vatrano might end up scoring no goals in the first 36 NHL games this season due to foot surgery. He’s expected back sometime around late December.
Two guys who could be traded:
Adam McQuaid: The 30-year-old is a good third-pairing right defenseman, but the B’s already have one of those in the younger and cheaper Kevan Miller. McQuaid has three years left on his deal with an annual cap hit of $2.75 million. Moving him would allow the B’s to give a full-time job to Carlo should they feel he’s ready.
Ryan Spooner: This goes against the whole “developing young talent” thing, but the fact is they need a sure thing on defense and Spooner is rightfully one of their best chips because he’s a good young player. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
One guy they’ll have to bury in the AHL:
Zac Rinaldo: I’ll be maybe the first person to ever say “the poor guy” when referring to Rinaldo, but it’s true. He didn’t trade a third-round pick for himself.
One smart re-signing:
John-Michael Liles: They’ve got too many bodies on D (seven defenders are on one-way deals), but if the B’s do make moves, Liles has the flexibility to serve as a left or right defenseman on the second or third pairing. He also provides time for guys like Carlo to develop in the AHL if need be.
One happy stat:
– The Bruins are going to score because they pretty much always do. They finished fifth in goals last season and have finished in the top five in four of the last five 82-game seasons.
One sad stat:
– The Bruins had three 30-goal-scorers last year. They replaced one of them (Eriksson) with a guy (Backes) who has seen his goal total decline in each of the past two seasons, from 27 in 2013-14 to 21 last season.
One guy who will have better luck than last year:
Torey Krug: His four goals last season were surprising, but he had a career-high 244 shots on goal with an unbelievably unfortunate 1.6 shooting percentage. If that percentage bumps up to even 5 (it was 7.7 and 5.9 his other two seasons), he would have had 12 goals. Krug still managed to rack up 40 assists and a career-high 44 points. Between his performance and his health throughout his career (he’s missed a total of eight regular-season games in his three full seasons), there isn’t much to worry about with Krug.
Speaking of Krug, three guys who could get Chris Kelly’s ‘A’:
Torey Krug: The top choice here. Young guy who’s got his act together and, most importantly, hasn’t won. You won’t find complacency there.
David Backes: The longtime captain of the Blues has made himself comfortable in Boston.
Brad Marchand: Often times, you just give the letter to the best player. Marchand cares more than anybody, but it’s safe to assume he’s got at least three or four more suspensions ahead of him in his career.
Three dumb takes you might hear during the season:
Brad Marchand’s on pace for fewer than 37 goals. Did they sign him too early?
– No. He took a team-friendly deal. Even with something of a statistical regression, he still could have gotten that deal at the end of the season. It just wouldn’t be as team-friendly.
(After month) They’re in first place. Are they Cup contenders?
– Seriously, watch out for mid-November, because the B’s might be sitting pretty standings-wise at that point. Only six of their first 16 games are against teams that made the playoffs last season, including five straight against non-playoff teams to begin the season. By Nov. 13 (the end of another such five-game stretch), high standing would be encouraging, but not a sign that their problems are fixed.
(Probably at a lot of points when they lose) Julien’s the problem.
– He probably won’t be the problem that often.
|Report: Bruins place Zac Rinaldo on waivers||10.07.16 at 2:07 pm ET|
BRIGHTON — Bruins forward Zac Rinaldo was placed on waivers, Friday according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnson. The move was certainly an expected one, as the forward was not expected to make Boston’s roster out of training camp.
Rinaldo has one more year remaining on his contract, but if he is to end up on an NHL roster, he’ll serve a five-game suspension carried over from last season. It’s unlikely he’ll be claimed, however, so he’ll probably be assigned to Providence, where he finished last season.
The Bruins were criticized for trading a 2017 third-round pick to the Flyers for Rinaldo, a fourth-line player who’s made minimal impact at the NHL level outside of suspensions. He played in 52 games for the B’s last season, getting suspended for a hit on Cedric Paquette on the same day he was waived. Upon getting to Providence, he earned a suspension in his first game with the Baby B’s.
Rinaldo would not speak to the media during training camp, but his agent expressed optimism that his situation could be better this season.
“I guess ultimately you could speculate to what might happen — there’s a number of different scenarios that could unfold — but any time that I’ve spoken to B’s management, it’s been, ‘We expect him to be here. Have a good summer, come back in here and be an important part of this club,’” Rinaldo’s agent, Todd Reynolds, told WEEI.com late in the summer. “That’s why they acquired him, for those reasons. It didn’t end great last year, obviously, but their hope is that that’s just a moment in time.”
|Kevan Miller returns to Bruins practice, Adam McQuaid day-to-day||10.07.16 at 12:31 pm ET|
BRIGHTON — Kevan Miller was back on the ice for the Bruins for Friday’s practice, another positive step for the defenseman after the team learned that Tuesday’s lower-body injury was just a bruise.
While Miller was on the ice, there were several absences in Seth Griffith, Jake DeBrusk, Tim Schaller, Tyler Randell, Sean Kuraly, Zac Rinaldo, Joe Morrow and Adam McQuaid.
Following practice, Claude Julien said that McQuaid is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
The lines and D pairs in practice were as follows, with all three goalies on the ice:
The Bruins will play their final preseason game Saturday against the Blue Jackets.
|Bruins pick up exhibition win over Blue Jackets||10.06.16 at 11:54 pm ET|
Matt Beleskey and Seth Griffith scored their first goals of the preseason as the Bruins picked up a 2-1 exhibition over the Blue Jackets Thursday night.
Anton Khudobin got the start for the Bruins, stopping all 11 shots he saw over a period and a half before giving way to Malcolm Subban midway through the second period. Subban made 16 saves on 17 shots, allowing just a third-period goal to Brandon Saad.
The B’s are now 3-2-1 in the preseason heading into Saturday’s finale against the Flyers. The regular season will begin next Thursday in Columbus.
|Video: Anton Khudobin has a color-changing goalie mask||10.06.16 at 11:45 am ET|
BRIGHTON — Anton Khudobin didn’t recycle his old mask from 2013 when he came back to the Bruins this offseason. That’s good, because I’m 99 percent sure the last one didn’t change color depending on temperature.
Anton Khudobin getting scientific and whatnot pic.twitter.com/Mwm0Qqv5h6
— DJ Bean (@DJ_Bean) October 6, 2016
|Kevan Miller being evaluated for lower-body injury||10.05.16 at 1:42 pm ET|
BRIGHTON — Kevan Miller is being evaluated by team doctors after exiting Tuesday night’s preseason game with a lower-body injury.
Miller appeared to get hit in the knee with a shot in the first period Tuesday night against the Canadiens and limped down the tunnel after exiting the ice.
looks like Kevan Miller takes this off the knee pic.twitter.com/XaIztDpUER
— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 4, 2016
The B’s kept him off the ice for Wednesday’s practice. Claude Julien stressed that the Bruins aren’t concerned that it’s a major injury, but that the team is being careful.
“Right now I would say there’s no reason to think it’s bad,” Julien said, “but again, who knows nowadays? We’re just being sure he’s evaluated. Probably by [Thursday] we’ll have a better indication on that. We’re hoping it’s minor and we’re just being extremely cautious.”
|Canadiens beat Bruins in Quebec City exhibition||10.04.16 at 10:58 pm ET|
Zdeno Chara’s preseason debut did not end well.
One of four Bruins playing in their first game since returning from the World Cup of Hockey, Chara turned the puck over to lead to the game-winning goal in a 4-3 Canadiens win in Quebec City. A pass from Chara late in the third period was intercepted by Daniel Carr, with the Montreal forward then beating Adam McQuaid and Tuukka Rask.
Christian Ehroff, making his Bruins debut, scored one of Boston’s three goals. Also scoring for the B’s were Ryan Spooner and Austin Czarnik, the latter of whom scored shorthanded.
Spooner skated on a line with David Krejci and David Backes, a trio of centers that the team might consider in the regular season. David Pastrnak filled out Boston’s top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
The Bruins have two preseason games remaining before they open the season next Thursday.