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Bruins proud of themselves despite first-round exit, as they should be 04.23.17 at 10:28 pm ET
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The Bruins' season ended with a Game 6 overtime loss Sunday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins’ season ended with a Game 6 overtime loss Sunday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

On the surface, squeezing into the playoffs and losing a first-round series against a mediocre Ottawa Senators team doesn’t look like much to be proud of. But head coach Bruce Cassidy is proud of his team and Bruins players are proud of themselves, and they should be.

We’ll never know what a healthy Bruins team could’ve done this postseason (the guess here is beat the Senators and maybe beat the Rangers in the next round), because we didn’t get to see it.

They didn’t have Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo, two of their top three defensemen, all series. They lost Adam McQuaid, another regular defenseman and regular penalty-killer, early in Game 2.

A fourth regular defenseman, Colin Miller, missed two games due to injury. Second-line center David Krejci missed the first two games, didn’t look like himself when he returned, then got hurt again early in Game 5 and missed the rest of the series.

Those aren’t excuses for losing the series; they’re legitimate reasons (among others) for losing it. We can debate just how much those injuries hurt the Bruins, but there’s no question they did hurt.

“I think it was apparent to everybody that we weren’t at full strength, and guys had to step up, and we talked about it,” Cassidy said. “Other guys got an opportunity. I thought they did very well. So yeah, I’m proud of the guys’ effort from Feb. 9 on. We put ourselves in a position to be here in the first place. I think we played well enough to have the opportunity to advance, but they made a few more plays than us. Every game could have went either way. So, I’m proud of the players.”

What the Bruins should be proud of is how guys stepped up and made this a competitive series despite the injuries. Guys made mistakes (seriously, stop shooting the puck over the glass) and the team as a whole hit some tough stretches, but it really never looked like the Bruins were lacking effort.

Obviously the biggest positive in terms of guys stepping up was defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who made his NHL debut in Game 1, played huge minutes throughout the series and more than held his own as a top-pairing defenseman.

But there was also Kevan Miller and Joe Morrow, who stepped into top-four roles, played far more minutes than they did in the regular season and helped the Bruins’ defense perform better than anyone probably expected. Read the rest of this entry »

David Krejci out for Bruins-Senators Game 6; Matt Beleskey gets call over Ryan Spooner 04.23.17 at 2:21 pm ET
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The Bruins will be without David Krejci as they face elimination Sunday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins will be without David Krejci as they face elimination Sunday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Unsurprisingly, the Bruins will be without David Krejci for Sunday’s Game 6 against the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden. Boston coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed before the game that his second-line center will miss the game due to injury.

Krejci suffered a lower-body injury in Friday night’s Game 5 in Ottawa when Senators defenseman Chris Wideman caught him with a leg check that went unpenalized. Krejci did not return to the game.

Matt Beleskey will get into the lineup in Krejci’s place. Beleskey played two games earlier in the series and had three shots on goal, no points and four penalty minutes while averaging 8:42 time on ice.

Had Cassidy wanted to plug in another center, Ryan Spooner would’ve been a natural choice, but instead Spooner will remain on the sidelines after losing his spot in the lineup to Sean Kuraly in Game 5.

“It’s become, as we all suspected, much more of a down low, grind game, offensively for us, and that’s his strength,” Cassidy said of the decision to go with Beleskey. “He can get on people, get on pucks, win battles, get to the net. He should be afforded an opportunity to play to his strengths. It’s less of a line rush game, so now the people going in are suited to that.”

Cassidy said there could be some shuffling in terms of lines, and a couple guys who have been playing wing could be moved to center.

“We’ll move some people around in the lines,” Cassidy said. “Nothing new there. Obviously we changed things up and had to deal with it on Friday for whatever it was, four periods. Kuraly can certainly play center. He did a good job for us there the other day. [Noel] Acciari’s moved from right wing to center. [Riley] Nash and [Dominic] Moore can play center. I’m not going to be able to pinpoint exactly who will play center every shift, but that’s what we’re looking at.”

Cassidy did say that the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak line will remain intact. He also mentioned that he liked how Kuraly and David Backes played together Friday night, so expect those two to be together, probably with Kuraly as the center. Cassidy likes keeping Moore and Nash together as well.

In other Bruins injury news, Cassidy said that while defenseman Torey Krug won’t play Sunday, he’s making progress and is closer to a return than either Brandon Carlo or Adam McQuaid.

On the Ottawa side, head coach Guy Boucher said he’ll be making a couple minor moves for Sunday’s game. Fredrik Claesson will be going in on defense in place of Wideman, so the Bruins won’t have to worry about the guy who injured Krejci.

Boucher also said Tommy Wingels will get into the lineup up front and that forward Viktor Stalberg is a game-time decision. If Stalberg is able to play, another forward would come out of the lineup.

Patrice Bergeron named Selke Trophy finalist for 6th straight season 04.19.17 at 7:33 pm ET
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Patrice Bergeron is once a Selke Trophy finalist. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports)

Patrice Bergeron is once again a Selke Trophy finalist. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports)

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Bruins center Patrice Bergeron is once again a finalist for the Selke Trophy, which is given to the top defensive forward in the NHL. The other finalists are Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler and Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu.

It’s the sixth straight year Bergeron has been one of the three finalists, and he’ll be looking for his fourth win. He last won it in 2015 and probably should’ve won last year as well, but voters apparently got bored of giving it to him and went for Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar instead.

Kesler is also a former Selke winner, as he took home the hardware back in 2011 as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. Koivu is a first-time finalist, although he did finish tied for fourth in voting back in 2009.

The case for Bergeron is pretty straightforward: He led the NHL in both Corsi-for percentage (61.8 percent) and relative Corsi-for percentage (plus-9.7 percent). He tilted the ice in his team’s favor more than any other player in the NHL and therefore kept the puck out of his own zone better than anyone else.

That should be enough to win it, but if you wanted to make the case for Kesler or Koivu, it would be that they dealt with tougher usage in terms of zone starts and still had a positive impact on their team’s possession numbers.

Whereas Bergeron had an offensive zone start percentage of 54.7 percent, Kesler and Koivu were at 33.4 percent and 36.2 percent, respectively. They had a relative Corsi of plus-2.0 percent and plus-0.8 percent, respectively.

The most notable omissions are probably Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund and Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri, who similarly got tough usage and still managed to swing positive numbers. Backlund clocks in at 36.3 percent offensive zone starts and a very impressive plus-6.2 percent relative Corsi, while Kadri’s at 37.4 percent and plus-1.4 percent.

Personally, I think Backlund had the best case against Bergeron this year. But as it is, Bergeron looks like a pretty easy favorite.

(Courtesy corsica.hockey)

(Courtesy corsica.hockey)

It’s not only reason Bruins lost, but that overtime penalty call was really awful 04.18.17 at 12:00 am ET
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Bobby Ryan scored the game-winning goal after getting away with an obvious elbow. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bobby Ryan scored the game-winning goal after getting away with an obvious elbow. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

No one play or call ever singlehandedly decides a game. We know that. In the case of the Bruins’ Game 3 loss to the Senators Monday night, you could point to the Bruins’ brutal first period, which saw them register just three shots on goal and fall behind 2-0. You could also point to injuries that continue to deplete their lineup, especially on defense, or a struggling penalty kill that surrendered two power-play goals.

But let’s not pretend that penalty call against Riley Nash in overtime, which sent the Senators to a power play on which they’d win the game, was anything other than horrendous.

Yes, Nash threw a quick job to Bobby Ryan’s face in retaliation. But somehow the officials missed Ryan’s blatant elbow to Nash’s head a split second before that. At worst, it should’ve been matching penalties, something the refs had already called twice earlier in the game. In fact, one of those previous matchings also included a punch — Marc Methot threw a jab at Tim Schaller during a confrontation, but both players were still sent to the box.

Refs sometimes call only the retaliation in an effort to send the message that they’re not going to put up with it and players aren’t going to get bailed out by matching calls. But on Monday, Tim Peel and Eric Furlatt had already set the tone and made it clear they were perfectly fine making matching calls. Overtime was certainly not the time to go in a different direction.

So, the only other possibility is that they really did somehow miss Ryan’s elbow, which would be pretty astounding considering that’s where the puck was.

Generally no one other than fans really wants to blame the refs. Coaches and players can get fined for doing it, so they generally take the high road. Unsurprisingly, Nash did just that after the game, putting the blame on himself instead of the officials.

“I think it was pretty selfish of me,” Nash said. “You can’t make that play, can’t put the refs in that position regardless of what happened before that. … It’s pretty tough for the boys.”

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy showed his true feelings a little more, agreeing with reporters’ assessments of the call in his press conference and calling it a “terrible call” in his postgame interview with NESN.

“Demoralizing and disappointing. I think you guys summed it up,” Cassidy said in his press conference. “There’s probably a lot more words, but they called it. So once they call it, it’s our job to kill it.”

Media members also tend to avoid being too critical of officiating because they sometimes worry about looking like whiny homers. But there’s really no getting around this one — it was an awful call and it directly contributed to the game-winning goal, which was of course scored by Ryan, that put the Bruins in a 2-1 hole in the series.

Bruins sign BU’s Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson to 3-year entry-level deal 04.02.17 at 5:51 pm ET
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Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson has signed with the Bruins. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson has signed with the Bruins. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Charlie McAvoy isn’t the only Boston University Terrier joining the Bruins organization. The B’s announced on Sunday that they have signed 2015 second-round pick Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson to a three-year entry-level contract.

According to the Bruins, Forsbacka Karlsson, whose name is often shortened to “JFK” by fans, is expected to join the B’s this week, suggesting he will not start in Providence like McAvoy.

The 20-year-old Forsbacka Karlsson served as an alternate captain for BU as a sophomore this season and posted 14 goals and 19 assists in 39 games. His best game came back on Jan. 5 when he registered a hat trick, including the overtime winner, in a 5-4 win over Union, a game in which BU was missing seven players due to the World Junior Championships.

Forsbacka Karlsson followed that up with two more goals in the next game, a win over UMass, then scored in each end of a weekend sweep over Boston College. The Sweden native cooled off a bit offensively following that four-game stretch, scoring four goals over BU’s final 18 games.

However, Forsbacka Karlsson’s all-around game remained strong, which is a big reason he’s now a Bruin. He’s been touted as a very good two-way center since before he was drafted, and it was easy to see why if you watched him at BU. He’s a smart player who seems to always be in good position and always making the right play. He’s not what you’d call flashy, but he also rarely makes mistakes.

That two-way play should give him a chance to stick on the Bruins’ third or fourth line even if his offense isn’t quite there yet.

 

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:

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