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Bruins are still in contract talks with Notre Dame’s Anders Bjork 04.10.17 at 3:57 pm ET
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(Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward and Bruins prospect Anders Bjork could be close to a deal with the Bruins. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins have a Big Three of their own.

It doesn’t have anything close to the star power of the city’s other Big Three groups from yesteryear — people probably wouldn’t be able to pick any member of this big three out of a lineup, even if they were in full uniform and wearing nametags — but the strength of the club’s NCAA prospect pipeline has long been headlined by Boston University’s Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and capped by Notre Dame’s Anders Bjork.

And two thirds of that group now have stalls in the B’s locker room.

The Bruins signed Forsbacka Karlsson to his entry-level deal a week ago, and today inked McAvoy to his three-year pact. But Bjork, the third piece and the farthest away in comparison to ‘JFK’ and McAvoy’s former residence on Comm. Ave, and fresh off a Frozen Four run with the Fighting Irish that came up just short, remains behind.

But not for long, at least from the tone of Bruins general manager Don Sweeney’s latest media availability. Rumored to be in talks with the Bruins since the start of this past weekend, Sweeney subtly confirmed that the Bruins and Bjork are in the room.

“Only our own college kids at this point in time,” Sweeney said when asked if he was negotiating with any college prospects and their advisors-turned-eventual-agents. “We’re just going through it like we did with JFK and Charlie.”

A fifth-round pick of the Bruins back in 2014 (146th overall), the 20-year-old Bjork was a scoring dynamo for the Irish as a junior this year long before he was named a Second Team East CCM/AHCA All-American this year, becoming the 13th All-American in Irish hockey history, with 21 goals and 52 points in just 39 games played. That mark gave him the 17th-most goals in the NCAA, and his 52 points were the ninth-most in the college ranks. A left-shot wing, it’s believed that the Bruins would have brought him before the end of the regular season a la Forsbacka Karlsson had the Irish not advanced to the Frozen Four in Chicago.

Bjork has recorded 40 goals and 109 points in 115 games with the Irish over the last three years.

Sweeney did confirm that the club could still sign Bjork and have him play in the playoffs if they so choose.

Bruins defensemen Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo unavailable for start of series vs. Senators 04.10.17 at 1:28 pm ET
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Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo will not be available for the start of the B's series with the Senators. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo will not be available for the start of the B’s series with the Senators. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins will be two defenders short of their year-long top-four defense corps when the playoffs begin on Wednesday.

Without Brandon Carlo (upper-body) and Torey Krug (lower-body) for Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has confirmed that their absences will extend beyond just today’s penultimate practice before Game 1 against the Senators.

“Torey will be unlikely to play, to start the series for sure,” Sweeney said when asked if Krug would be available for this series. “And Brandon definitely won’t play in Game 1.”

Well, what about later in the series?

“I don’t have that answer as of today,” Sweeney said.

It’s anything but an ideal situation for the Bruins, given both the production of Krug, who recorded a career-high 51 points this season, and steadiness of Carlo as the team’s No. 2 defensemen to Zdeno Chara’s right. There’s also a consistency element to each player, too, as the Bruins had Krug and Carlo in action for all but one game this season (Krug missed the season finale and Carlo was knocked out of it just four minutes into his afternoon). It has has by all means forced the club into burning the first year of Charlie McAvoy’s contract inked earlier today, too, while also throwing their defensive pairings in a blender.

In a practice that saw almost everybody play with one another, the B’s top pairing became Zdeno Chara on the left and Adam McQuaid to the right. That created a reunion on the club’s de facto middle pairing, with Colin Miller and Kevan Miller together, and left Charlie McAvoy as the right-side partner to John-Michael Liles, a veteran of over 800 NHL games and 40 playoff tilts.

But the pairings are not even close to set in stone, especially not with a couple more skates ’til puck drop.

“Charlie’s gonna play on the right side if he gets into the lineup,” Cassidy confirmed. “There’s a chance tomorrow I might throw him up with Z, or a Kevan Miller that’s played left. I think Charlie, to have a more veteran guy, will help.”

Cassidy also noted that they have not made a decision to bring either Carlo or Krug on the road with the team for Games 1 and 2.

Bruins sign Charlie McAvoy to three-year, entry-level deal 04.10.17 at 10:53 am ET
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Charlie McAvoy has signed his entry-level deal with the Bruins. (Timothy Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

Charlie McAvoy has signed his entry-level deal with the Bruins. (Timothy Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

Not only did Charlie McAvoy walk through that door at Warrior Ice Arena today, but he did so wearing a Bruins uniform and with his three-year, entry-level contract signed and official.

Donning No. 73, it was just moments before the club took the ice for Monday’s practice that the team confirmed that the 19-year-old defender, drafted 14th overall last summer, has indeed signed his first pro contract and will join the B’s for the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

On Providence on an amateur tryout agreement, McAvoy has two assists and a plus-three rating in four games with the P-Bruins of the this season. He was selected to the Hockey East First All-Star Team in his sophomore season with the Boston University Terriers in 2016-17, posting five goals and 21 assists for 26 points with 51 penalty minutes and a plus-nine rating. The 19-year-old defenseman appeared in 37 games as a freshman in 2015-16, earning Hockey East All-Rookie Team honors after tallying three goals and 22 assists for 25 points with 56 penalty minutes and a plus-10 rating. McAvoy led all Terrier defenseman in scoring both seasons.

The signing comes jon the heels of the Bruins losing both Brandon Carlo (upper-body) and Torey Krug (lower-body) to injury in the final two games of the regular season and just two days before the start of their series with the Senators.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney will speak to the media at 11:15 a.m.

NHL announces schedule for Bruins-Senators playoff series 04.10.17 at 1:02 am ET
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The Bruins and Senators will begin their series on Wednesday night in Ottawa. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins and Senators will begin their series on Wednesday night in Ottawa. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The 16 teams are set and so is the round one schedule.

In a battle of the Atlantic two-seed Senators and three-seed Bruins, and as reported by WEEI.com earlier tonight, the series between the two division foes will begin this Wednesday in Ottawa at 7 p.m., and Game 2 will be played on the following Saturday at 3 p.m. Game 1 can be seen on the NHL Network while Game 2 will be aired on NBC.

The teams will then come to Boston for a Game 3 showdown on Patriots’ Day in a 7 p.m. game at TD Garden, while Game 4 will be played two nights later at 7:30 p.m.

Game 5 (if necessary) would shift back to Ottawa for a Friday night affair on Apr. 21, Game 6 would be played in Boston on Sunday the 23rd, and a potential Game 7 would be Apr. 26 in Ottawa.

For a complete schedule of every playoff series in round one, click here.

Bruins will play Senators in first round of 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs 04.09.17 at 8:44 pm ET
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The Bruins will play the Senators in the first round. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins will play the Senators in the first round. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

It took until the final game of the season to figure it out, but the Bruins are officially going to Ottawa to start their 2017 postseason run.

Stuck at 95 points thanks to Saturday’s regulation loss to the Capitals, the Bruins were forced to play the waiting game on Sunday, as the 95-point Leafs entered play with the ability to jump the Bruins with a single point, which would have bumped the Black and Gold down into the East’s second wild card spot for a round one date with the Caps.

And after the Bruins failed to get help from the Penguins last night in a 5-3 loss to the Maple Leafs, you almost expected that to be the case.

But it was the Blue Jackets,who entered play with a six-game losing streak and resting some players, that came through with some (unexpected) help for the Bruins on Sunday. The Leafs jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the middle frame thanks to two goals from James van Riemsdyk, but with the Leafs down two defensemen as both Nikita Zaitsev and Roman Polak departed with injuries, Columbus rallied for a 3-2 victory.

With that final, the B’s will avoid the Capitals in round one, and instead skate as the three seed in the Atlantic bracket.

This is really the best case possible for the Bruins.

The obvious reason, of course, is because they’re avoiding the Presidents’ Trophy winning Capitals and the Metropolitan bracket as a whole. But taking on the Senators is an extremely winnable series if you’re the Bruins. Sure, they didn’t win a single game in the season series (they finished the year 0-3-1 in the season series), but they were never truly blown out by the Sens, nor do the Senators have the offensive depth to truly blow the Black and Gold out in a seven-game series. These are the close games that the Bruins have a legitimate chance at winning, especially if Tuukka Rask continues to play at the level he has for the last three weeks.

And the Bruins themselves were not necessarily hung up on the sweep at the hands of the Sens.

“Our record of 0-4 doesn’t really tell the real story, I think,” Bruins center David Krejci said of a potential playoff meeting with Ottawa. “Other than the first game in their building, I think we could have gotten at least two games for sure, especially at home. So, if it happens that we play them, I feel confident in this team that we can get the job done.”

Still, the Bruins will have to be considered the underdogs for this series, as Sens netminder Craig Anderson has been a monster this year, and the Bruins have dropped eight of their last nine head-to-heads with Ottawa dating back to last season.

“Playoffs is just a new scene, a new season series essentially, so we start over,” B’s defenseman John-Michael Liles said of any in-their-head talk that can come with the Senators. “I don’t think there’s any mental hurdles with that.”

This will be the first ever playoff meeting between the Bruins and Senators.

Bruins still do not know playoff opponent and do not have a preference 04.08.17 at 10:08 pm ET
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The Maple Leafs win on Saturday means that the B's will have to wait until Sunday night to know their playoff opponent. (John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports)

The Maple Leafs win on Saturday means that the B’s will have to wait until Sunday night to know their playoff opponent. (John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins were about 13 minutes from a date with the Senators.

Tied at 2-2, it was a shot that went off the skate of Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner and into the back of his net that gave the Penguins a 3-2 edge. But Kasperi Kapanen, Connor Brown, and Auston Matthews had their say, as the Maple Leafs punched their playoff ticket with a 5-3 comeback win over the Pens, and made the Bruins wait another day to make their round one travel arrangements in the process.

And now the picture becomes even easier for the Bruins.

Toronto’s win coupled with the B’s loss earlier today means that a point for the Leafs tomorrow in their regular season finale against the Blue Jackets bumps the Bruins down into the East’s second wild card for a first-round date with the Capitals. A regulation loss, however, and the Bruins remain where they are as the Atlantic’s No. 3 seed and take on the Senators in the opening round of postseason play.

The Bruins went 0-3-1 against the Senators this year, and were 0-2-1 against the Capitals. Dating back to last year, the Bruins have dropped six in a row against the Senators and have won just one of their last nine head-to-head meetings. It’s not much better when you talk about the Caps, though, as the Capitals have won nine straight games against the Bruins.

So — though it may be like asking if you wanna drink rat poison or razor blades — is there any preference, guys?

Read the rest of this entry »

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson makes NHL debut in loss to Capitals 04.08.17 at 9:32 pm ET
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Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson made his NHL debut on Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins forward Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson finally made his NHL debut on Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy has by all means admitted that he doesn’t know too much about Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson.

That’s probably still the case after Forsbacka Karlsson’s NHL debut against the Capitals today, too, as the 20-year-old finished the 3-1 loss with just 8:25 of time on ice in 13 shifts on the ice. The Bruins deployed the first-week pro on a somewhat regular basis in the first period, with six shifts, but he skated just three times in the middle frame, and another four times in a relatively garbage time kind of third period.

But that was almost to be expected, as the Bruins were still playing in a meaningful game and trailing early in this one.

“It’s not ideal no matter when, coming in this time of year in meaningful games,” Cassidy said of plugging Forsbacka Karlsson into this situation. “You know, if you’re eliminated or in those situations and there are teaching moments. I mean, there are teaching moments no matter what, but that’s kind of where we’re at and it’s a good thing.

“But, really the only thing we talked to him about was, ‘Listen, you’re playing against men. They’re going to be hard on pucks, hard around the pucks, so that will be the biggest difference maker for you.” So, and I think he probably found that out today because, you know, he was positionally solid and he didn’t hurt us.”

“They’re bigger, they’re stronger, they make better decisions, go faster. You have less time with the puck, it’s everything like that,” Forsbacka Karlsson said after the debut when asked about going from college right to the pros. “I felt better and better as the game went on. Obviously, it’s a little bit of an adjustment, but once you warm up a little bit it feels better.”

With Tim Schaller skating in game action for the first time since Mar. 8 (15 games ago), and Brad Marchand’s suspension over for Game 1 of the club’s first round series, it’s unlikely that the Bruins will play Forsbacka Karlsson right out of the gate come playoff time, but with the first NHL dip out of the way, the Black and Gold know that it’s only up from here.

“[Forsbacka Karlsson]’s just going to be harder around the battles and every young player learns that and the quicker you can adapt to that, probably the better, the easier the transition is going to be for you,” Cassidy said.

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