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Bruins continue to tinker under Bruce Cassidy, and that’s perfectly fine for now 03.11.17 at 6:36 pm ET
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A new third line formed in-game wound up scoring the winning goal Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

A new third line formed in-game wound up scoring the winning goal Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Teams that shuffle lines a lot are generally teams that aren’t playing well. They shuffle lines because nothing’s really clicking, because they can’t score goals, because they’re losing. Teams that are winning and scoring generally just stick with what’s working — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The Bruins have been winning and scoring since Bruce Cassidy took over from Claude Julien, but they’ve also been changing up their lines quite a bit, both on a game-to-game basis as well as in-game. Part of that has been out of necessity. Ryan Spooner (concussion) and Tim Schaller (lower body) are both currently unavailable, and trade deadline pickup Drew Stafford was naturally going to get some looks in a couple different spots.

But part of it has also been the fact that Cassidy simply doesn’t feel the need to settle on anything definitive, at least not yet.

“It happened to work out (Saturday), and I think you’ll see more of that, and you have since day one, moving people around in game,” Cassidy said. “And listen, when we find the best formula, we’ll keep it that way, but we’re still tinkering.”

As he has a handful of times in his 13 games as head coach, Cassidy shuffled his lines mid-game Saturday. After a bad second period (the Bruins mustered just four shots on goal in the frame), he moved Frank Vatrano up to the second line with David Krejci and David Pastrnak, moved Stafford from left wing over to his natural right wing, and bumped Matt Beleskey (who had been a healthy scratch in five of the previous six games) up to a newfound third line with Stafford and Riley Nash.

Cassidy also bumped Kevan Miller up to the top defense pairing with Zdeno Chara for the third period, and he experimented with using the same power-play unit for a full two minutes a couple times. Read the rest of this entry »

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Connecticut governor makes pitch for Islanders to move to Hartford 02.03.17 at 3:52 pm ET
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The Islanders could be looking for a new home. (Andy Marlin/USA Today Sports)

The Islanders could be looking for a new home. (Andy Marlin/USA Today Sports)

Cue up “Brass Bonanza” because we’ve got ourselves some good old-fashioned Hartford hockey talk.

According to Hartford’s WFSB, Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy has sent a letter to Islanders ownership offering up the XL Center as a temporary, and perhaps long-term, home for the franchise.

The Islanders could be looking for a new home after the 2017-18 or 2018-19 season following reports that their current home, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (which also hosts the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets), could make more money without them there and is looking to dump them.

The XL Center was home to the Whalers from 1975 until the team left for Carolina in 1997. It has undergone a number of renovations in recent years, and Malloy notes in his letter (you can read the full letter here) that there are plans for more to come.

It’s all a long shot since the Islanders’ first choice is presumably to stay in the New York City area, but hey, it’s worth a try, right? At the very least, it gives us all an excuse to listen to this:

Bruins prospects, local college players shine in wild World Junior final as USA beats Canada in shootout 01.05.17 at 11:30 pm ET
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The World Junior championship game between the United States and rival Canada somehow exceeded expectations, as the U.S. beat Canada in a shootout after twice coming back from two goals down.

Hockey fans in general had plenty to be excited about, but Bruins fans in particular had to like what they saw. Defenseman Charlie McAvoy, the Bruins’ first-round pick last summer and a current sophomore at Boston University, was one of the best players on the ice, as he registered a pretty goal and an even better-looking assist.

His goal came 3:04 into the second period and cut Canada’s lead to 2-1. McAvoy took a pass in the high slot, walked in and fired a shot glove-side past Canada goalie Carter Hart.

McAvoy jumpstarted another comeback early in the third when he faked out a Canadian defenseman and made a beautiful backhand pass through the slot to set up BU teammate Kieffer Bellows for a one-time goal that made it 4-3 Canada.

On the other side of the ice, another Bruins defense prospect also scored. Jeremy Lauzon, a B’s second-round pick in 2015, scored Canada’s second goal of the game when he collected a loose puck in the slot and ripped a shot high blocker.

In addition to the goal McAvoy assisted on, Bellows (an Islanders first-round pick) also scored the Americans’ second goal of the game when he deflected in a point shot from Harvard defenseman Adam Fox (Flames third-round pick), who had three assists in the game after notching just one point in the first six games of the tournament.

Boston College’s Colin White (Senators first-round pick) joined in on the fun, as he scored the US goal that tied the game at 4-4 midway through the third when he tapped in a nice pass to the doorstep from Fox. The goal was White’s seventh in seven games this tournament, putting him second behind Russia’s Kirill Kaprizov.

BU’s Clayton Keller (Coyotes first-round pick) also assisted on that White goal and finished the tournament with a team-high 11 points. Fellow Terrier Jordan Greenway (Wild second-round pick) had an assist as well and finished with eight points total.

Ducks prospect Troy Terry was the shootout hero, just as he was in the semifinals against Russia. After each side’s first three shooters failed to score, Terry beat Hart to put the US ahead. Flames prospect Tyler Parsons, who made 46 saves in the game, then came up with two more stops to seal the win.

The gold was the United States’ fourth overall and first since 2013.

The BU and BC stars are expected to return to their college teams in time for Saturday’s Frozen Fenway games. BU takes on UMass at 1:30 p.m., while BC faces Providence at 5.

And while we’re talking about Bruins prospects and college hockey, 2015 second-round pick Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson scored three goals, including the overtime winner, to lead BU to a 5-4 win over Union Thursday night while several of his teammates were battling for gold.

Homophobic Twitter troll deletes account after getting called out by Brad Marchand 12.30.16 at 9:59 am ET
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In case anyone needed a reminder, insulting people with homophobic slurs is gross. Anyone who does it deserves to be called out and have their shameful behavior laid bare for all to see.

Twitter user @DJ_Redd_Baron (who lists his name as James Hand-son) learned that lesson the hard way after tweeting said homophobic slurs at Bruins forward Brad Marchand. Marchand, to his credit, didn’t just let it slide and decided to take the opportunity to call out this idiot and make a statement.

Mr. Hand-son then deleted the tweet, but Marchand didn’t let him off the hook, retweeting another user’s screenshot of the tweet. @DJ_Redd_Baron then deleted his entire account, something he should’ve done a long time ago.

This was such good work by Marchand that we’ll even forgive the your/you’re mixups.

Claude Julien, Bruins not happy about Patrice Bergeron’s goal getting called back 11.25.16 at 11:34 pm ET
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Patrice Bergeron is a game-time decision for the Bruins.

Patrice Bergeron is a game-time decision for the Bruins.

In real time, it looked like it may have just been a big collision that left Patrice Bergeron with a wide-open net early in the second period Saturday night.

With Flames goalie Chad Johnson out of his crease to play the puck, Brad Marchand and Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano collided, sending Giordano crashing into his goalie. The puck ended up on Bergeron’s stick, and he fired it into the vacant cage to apparently tie the game at 1-1.

The play was ruled a goal on the ice, but then it went to review. Replays made clear the source of the collision — Marchand had knocked Giordano into Johnson with a pretty solid shove to the back.

The call was overturned and the goal was taken off the board. Reading Rule 69.1, it seems like the officials made the right call.

“If a defending player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by an attacking player so as to cause the defending player to come into contact with his own goalkeeper, such contact shall be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, and if necessary a penalty assessed to the attacking player and if a goal is scored it would be disallowed.”

Claude Julien and the Bruins did not agree. Julien had some choice words for the refs at the time, and reiterated his frustration after the game.

“You obviously saw that I wasn’t happy with it,” Julien said. “When you dump the puck in and you forecheck and all night long they kept skating in front of our forecheck, and that’s exactly what they did to Marchy. Marchy gives him a shove, which he’s allowed to do. Just because your goaltender’s out of the net and he happens to be in the way, I don’t think that should’ve been called back. We never know anymore what they think, so we just have to sit back and accept what they decide. It’s a frustrating thing, because it’s never the same thing twice.”

Marchand, who had clearly been briefed before talking to the media, did not comment on the no-goal when asked about it. He was also asked about the idea of the Flames obstructing the forecheck, but said he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. Read the rest of this entry »

Bruins’ struggling power play hits new low with minus-2 performance in loss to Rangers 11.06.16 at 1:04 am ET
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Kevin Hayes scores one of the Rangers' two shorthanded goals Saturday night (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Kevin Hayes scores one of the Rangers’ two shorthanded goals Saturday night (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins’ power play has struggled to score all season. On Saturday, it also struggled to prevent the Rangers from scoring, as Boston went 0-for-3 on the man advantage and surrendered two shorthanded goals in a 5-2 loss.

With Saturday night surely marking a season low point, it’s worth examining just how bad the Bruins’ power play has been, and whether there’s hope for a turnaround.

First, the basics. The Bruins rank dead last on the power play, converting on just 7.9 percent of their chances. On top of that, they’ve now given up three shorthanded goals, which is tied for the most in the NHL. They’ve allowed as many goals as they’ve scored while on the man advantage, which is obviously terrible.

Digging a little deeper, it becomes apparent that the Bruins’ power-play struggles aren’t just a matter of bad luck, either. In fairness, there was a little luck involved in each shorthanded goal Saturday. Tuukka Rask made the initial save on Derek Stepan’s, only to have the rebound bounce off Stepan’s leg and in. Then the rush leading to Kevin Hayes’ started with a weird bounce off the glass behind the Rangers’ net. But in both cases, the Bruins also got caught with too many guys up ice, allowing the odd-man rushes to happen.

When it comes to the not-scoring part of the power play, though, the biggest problem is that the Bruins aren’t creating enough chances. According to corsica.hockey, going into Saturday the Bruins had the fourth-fewest shot attempts per 60 minutes on the power play and fourth-fewest shots on goal per 60. Their five shots on goal in six minutes of power-play time Saturday night will help lift those numbers a little, but the point remains that the B’s aren’t getting the puck to the net enough.

All of that can be the result of any number of things, whether it’s poor zone entries, a lack of movement in the zone, not getting to rebounds and blocked shots to create second chances, or simply not taking shots when they’re there. In the Bruins’ case, we’ve seen a little bit of all of that this season.

Despite the numbers and despite Saturday’s abysmal effort, some Bruins insist there are reasons to be optimistic.

“I mean, we know we have a great power play — proved that last year — but it’s got to click,” Brad Marchand said. “I thought the last couple games, tonight even early — they get a couple goals — we were moving around really well. We had a few good opportunities that we easily could have scored on. So, if we keep going like that then the pucks are going to go in the net.”

Marchand is right that the power play looked better Thursday in Tampa, and you can understand him looking for a silver lining in Saturday’s performance as well, but it also needs to be pointed out that the Bruins were 0-for-11 in the four games before that Lightning game.

Marchand is also right that the Bruins’ power play was very good last season, when it ranked seventh in the NHL at 20.5 percent. The only major change on the top power-play unit is Marchand replacing Loui Eriksson. Eriksson was terrific in front of the net, but his departure shouldn’t single-handedly sink a unit that includes talented players like Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Ryan Spooner and Torey Krug. There’s some talent on the second unit, too, particularly in David Pastrnak and Colin Miller.

The Bruins should be capable of generating clean entries and creating better looks on the power play, but they have yet to show that on any sort of consistent basis this season. Until they do, the man advantage will remain not just an area of weakness, but a legitimate detriment to the team.

“The Tampa game was a lot better, but we’re back to square one,” Bergeron said. “We’ve just got to do the job. We’re good enough players. It’s about believing and having more confidence right now and being desperate on the power play. We’re hurting the team and you can’t do that.”

5 Things We Learned as Tuukka Rask returns, shuts out Red Wings 10.29.16 at 10:00 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask made 24 saves in a shutout win over Detroit Saturday night. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

Tuukka Rask made 24 saves in a shutout win over Detroit Saturday night. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

To say the Bruins missed Tuukka Rask would be a massive understatement. They got poor goaltending from three different netminders in his absence and have lost all four games he’s missed this season.

It only took one game to be reminded of what Rask can do. He made 24 saves Saturday night and shut out the Red Wings as the Bruins won 1-0 and snapped a three-game losing streak. While Rask didn’t face a ton of shots, he did have to come up with some quality stops.

His best moment came midway through the second period after a brutal turnover by Zdeno Chara that set up Justin Abdelkader mere feet from Rask. The B’s goalie made two big saves on the initial chance, then came up with another on a Tomas Tatar redirect a few seconds later as the Red Wings maintained possession. Rask made another big save on Tatar early in the third off a nice setup from Henrik Zetterberg.

Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35 saves) was also stellar for most of the night, but he made one key mistake, and on a night when Rask was perfect, that was one too many. After Dominic Moore forced a turnover in the Detroit zone, Howard got caught out of position and Tim Schaller beat him from a tough angle for the game’s lone goal, and Schaller’s first goal as a Bruin.

The Red Wings got a late shot to tie the game on a power play with 1:13 to go, but as it was all night, the Bruins’ penalty kill was up to the challenge. For the game, the B’s held Detroit to three shots on goal on four man advantages.

Here are four other things we learned: Read the rest of this entry »

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