|Ryan Spooner for Chris Stewart the best trade Bruins never made||01.26.16 at 1:00 pm ET|
Chris Stewart’s job seemed simple enough last season: Play and try to put up points until you get traded to the Bruins.
With Boston missing a big, tough right wing following the departure of Jarome Iginla, it became common knowledge that then-Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was keen on Stewart, a young former first-round pick of the Avalanche who was playing on a Sabres team that was sure to sell. Stewart expressed an interest in such a scenario unfolding, telling WEEI.com in December of last season that he felt he would be a good fit on the Bruins.
“You try not to buy into stuff, but usually when there’s smoke there’s fire,” the now-Ducks forward said Tuesday of being linked to the Bruins. “That was probably the most predominant team that I was hearing about all year. I’m not too sure what happened [that I didn’t get traded to Boston].”
Here’s what happened: Despite the Bruins and Sabres discussing Stewart throughout the season, no deal was ever struck and the Bruins eventually moved on to then-Lightning forward Brett Connolly.
The Bruins not acquiring Stewart was certainly not for lack of trying, however. According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Chiarelli offered the Sabres a second-round pick and center Ryan Spooner for Stewart in October of last season, only to have the offer rejected.
In hindsight, that would have gone down as one of the worst deals of Chiarelli’s tenure as Bruins general manager. Stewart had a modest campaign (11 goals, 14 assists) with the Sabres and was made a healthy scratch at points of a 61-game stretch, diminishing his value and eventually leading the Sabres to send him to the Wild for a 2017 second-round pick at the trade deadline. Buffalo had to retain half of Stewart’s $4.15 million cap hit in order to secure a future second-rounder, far less than what Chiarelli had offered months earlier.
While the Bruins used the second-rounder towards acquiring Connolly, who has struggled with goal-scoring but has as many goals as Stewart (seven) this season at a smaller price tag, the most obvious reason why that trade would have been a disaster is Spooner.
Both last season and this season, Spooner has been far more of an impact player than Stewart, who is five years older than Spooner and had unrestricted free agent status awaiting last season. In 24 games following his Feb. 22 midseason debut, Spooner had eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points. Stewart performed well between Buffalo and Minnesota during that stretch, though his five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 24 games fell short of Spooner’s totals.
This season, Spooner’s taken a major leap forward, as he has 10 goals and a team-leading 26 assists for 36 points. Even better for the Bruins is the fact that because he’s on just his second contract and didn’t have enough of an NHL track record to warrant bigger money at the time of signing, he carries a cap hit of $950,000 for the next two seasons, after which the Bruins will still hold his rights as a restricted free agent.
After playing 20 regular-season games and eight playoff games for the Wild, Stewart took a one-year, $1.7 million deal with the Ducks. Playing mostly as a third-liner, Stewart has seven goals and six assists for 13 points in 40 games for Anaheim. Given that the Ducks are his fourth team in as many seasons, he hopes that he can stay with the team for a long time.
At the very least, he has better job security on a team pushing for a playoff spot than he did last season with the Sabres. Because Buffalo was in full-tank mode for Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, the latter of whom they eventually got, Stewart knew all along that he had a better chance of finishing the season in Boston — or anywhere else — than in Buffalo.
“The biggest part of it was they were so open about the rebuild, that everyone who was on the last year of their contract knew they were getting traded,” Stewart said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before. There were probably about a good seven or eight guys who were all in the same boat.”
In the end, the Spooner-and-a-second-for-Stewart deal not happening has been a win for everyone but the Sabres. Stewart has been able to move on with his career, while the Bruins avoided giving away a big piece of their future for a rental.
|Bruins can move up in standings entering All-Star break||01.26.16 at 11:57 am ET|
The Bruins can enter the All-Star break in second place in the Atlantic Division with a win over the Ducks Tuesday night at TD Garden. After jumping past the Lightning for the third place on Monday, the B’s now sit a point behind the Red Wings, who are idle on Tuesday.
Detroit has 58 points in 49 games, while the Bruins have 57 in 48. Both teams will sit at 49 games at the break, with Tuesday determining the order.
“It’s very important for us; we want to move up in the standings,” David Pastrnak said Tuesday morning. “This is a big opportunity for us tonight. We’re going to have to finish strong and be ready for tonight.”
The Ducks currently sit outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference, though they have multiple games in hand on the two teams directly in front of them in the Pacific Division. In 46 games, Anaheim has 49 points to Vancouver’s 51 in 49 and Arizona’s 53 in 48. The Ducks currently sit fifth in the Pacific and trail the Wild (55 points in 49 games), Avalanche (55 points in 50 games) and Canucks in the Wild Card race.
The Bruins did not have a morning skate on Tuesday, leaving their potential lineup for the game ambiguous.
In injury news, Claude Julien offered no update on Adam McQuaid, who has yet to begin skating since suffering an upper-body injury on Jan. 5.
|5 things we learned as Brett Connolly’s game-winner helps Bruins past Flyers||01.25.16 at 9:46 pm ET|
Brett Connolly’s luck finally came back when the Bruins needed it most.
After blowing a third-period lead to the Flyers for the second time in less than two weeks, the Bruins found themselves tied with minutes to play. Connolly changed that by redirecting a Zdeno Chara point shot past Michal Neuvirth with just under two minutes remaining in regulation to give the Bruins a 3-2 win. The goal marked the first time Connolly had scored on a goaltender in 35 games, as he had just one empty-net goal dating back to the start of December.
Chara had a pair of assists for the Bruins. He also drew a high stick from Simmonds with 1:38 remaining in the game, which appeared to sew up the victory until Torey Krug was called for a trip 35 seconds later to set up 4-on-4 play for the remainder of regulation.
Prior to Connolly’s game-winner, the Flyers tied the game on something of a controversial play that led to Wayne Simmonds’ second goal of the night. Claude Julien challenged the play to see if Michael Del Zotto was offsides as the Flyers entered the offensive zone. Though the play sure looked to be offsides, the officials confirmed the on-ice goal call.
The B’s will host the Ducks Tuesday at TD Garden in their final game before the All-Star break. With a win, they will leapfrog the Red Wings and head to the break sitting second in the Atlantic Division.
Here are four more things we learned Monday:
ALL IS WELL WITH RASK, SCRATCHED YOUNGSTERS RETURN
Monday’s lineup featured quite a few changes from Saturday’s, the most encouraging of which was that Tuukka Rask played after being held out of Saturday’s game with an undisclosed ailment.
Rask had a strong showing for the B’s, making 34 saves on 36 shots and weathering a barrage of opportunities from the Flyers over the final two periods.
In addition to Rask returning, Brett Connolly and Colin Miller returned to the lineup after healthy scratch stints of one and four games, respectively. Connolly’s return came at the expense of Landon Ferraro, who has been battling an upper-body injury, while Joe Morrow was made a healthy scratch to accommodate Miller’s return.
With Monday’s changes, the lineup looked as such:
The Bruins gave the Flyers every opportunity to tie the game in the second period, as Boston took four penalties in the first 10:57 of the second.
Rask and the Bruins’ surging penalty kill ‘ which had not allowed a power play goal in nine games entering Monday ‘ limited the damage by allowing only a Wayne Simmonds power play tally.
As for Boston’s power play, the B’s returned to producing on the man advantage after entering Monday’s game with no goals over 11 power plays in five games. Power play goals from Bergeron and Marchand gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead, albeit one they would ultimately relinquish.
MARCHAND HITS 20
With his first-period goal, Brad Marchand now has a five-game goal streak. Monday’s tally also brought him to a team-leading 20 goals.
With another strong season, Marchand has reached the 20-goal mark in all five non-shortened seasons since becoming an NHL regular in the 2010-11 season. He nearly reached that total in the lockout-shortened season, when he led the B’s with 18 goals in 45 games.
The 27-year-old has never reached the 30-goal plateau, though that seems likely as long as he stays healthy and in the Department of Player Safety’s good graces. He’s currently on pace for 36 goals, which would make him the Bruins’ highest-scoring player since Phil Kessel scored 36 in 70 games back in the 2008-09 season.
SPOONER TAKES ASSISTS LEAD
File this under Things Nobody Saw Coming: Thanks his recent torrid stretch of production, Ryan Spooner overtook Patrice Bergeron for the Bruins’ lead in assist with 26 when he picked up the primary helper on Bergeron’s first-period power play goal.
Spooner has registered 12 assists over his last 13 games dating back to Dec. 29, which was the Bruins’ first game after David Krejci‘s injury. With 36 points on the season, Spooner is on pace for 62 points this season. Should he reach that mark, it would be the most points by a Bruin in their first full NHL season since Krejci put up 73 in 2008-09.
|5 things we learned as Bruins beat Blue Jackets in shootout||01.23.16 at 9:52 pm ET|
As the expression goes, a win is a win even if it takes a shootout to get the win against the worst team in the NHL.
That was the story for the Bruins Saturday night, as they managed only two regulation goals against a Blue Jackets squad that entered the night not only the worst team in the standings, but also the league’s worst defensive team. After skating to a scoreless overtime, the B’s earned the 3-2 victory on shootout goals from Ryan Spooner and Torey Krug, while Jonas Gustavsson stopped Cam Atkinson and Brandon Dubinsky.
Special teams proved to be the story of the overtime session. They first managed to kill off a Dennis Seidenberg penalty late in regulation that left the B’s shorthanded for the first 1:55 of overtime. Shortly after, a Columbus bench minor for too many men on the ice gave the Bruins a power play of their own. The B’s were unable to score, however, finishing the night 0-for-5 on the man advantage.
The Bruins will face the Flyers Monday in Philadelphia. Here are four more things we learned Saturday:
SPOONER MOVED UP AND OVER
After tinkering with his lines throughout Thursday’s game, Claude Julien pressed the zany button before Saturday’s warmups, resulting in configurations that saw Ryan Spooner go from third-line center to first-line right wing:
Though Spooner isn’t exactly known for being tough along the walls, he ended up being a decent fit on the line. The trio connected on some nice passing that resulted in a Brad Marchand goal assisted by Spooner and Bergeron.
With the assist on Marchand’s goal, Spooner now has 13 assists over his last 12 games.
Spooner’s promotion to the Bergeron line and Joonas Kemppainen’s return from being a healthy scratch meant that Brett Connolly was banished to the press box.
Known for his shot, Connolly has only one goal (which was an empty-netter) in his last 23 games and has only scored once on a goalie in 35 games dating back to the beginning of November.
PASTRNAK BOUNCES BACK
David Pastrnak had a night to forget on Thursday, as his several turnovers got him demoted to the fourth line by the end of the team’s loss to the Canucks. He snapped out of it Saturday, however, scoring a second-period goal by going hard to the net and knocking in a rebound of a David Krejci shot and drawing a penalty later in the period.
The Seidenberg-Morrow pairing was not good. After allowing goals on back-to-back shifts midway through the second period, Morrow was benched until Claude Julien let him take the ice for the last four seconds of the period.
Saturday marked Morrow’s fourth straight game in the lineup and Colin Miller’s fourth straight game in the press box as a healthy scratch. While Claude Julien is wise to not let players like Morrow sit for too long, perhaps Miller is due for his return to the lineup.
|Matt Beleskey’s status unclear for Saturday’s game vs. Blue Jackets||01.23.16 at 11:36 am ET|
Matt Beleskey was among those on the ice as the Bruins held a well-attended optional skate Saturday morning.
Beleskey, who missed Friday’s practice due to illness, is a possibility for Saturday’s game against the Blue Jackets. He said after skating that he was feeling better, though Claude Julien would not confirm the player’s status.
Jonas Gustavsson was the only goaltender on the ice for the morning skate, an indication that Tuukka Rask will get the start.
|Bruins happy to see Daniel Paille sign with Rangers||01.22.16 at 1:29 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Patrice Bergeron spent this past summer skating with Daniel Paille. He spent the previous six seasons with Paille as his teammate. At the end of the summer, Bergeron went to Bruins training camp as usual, while Paille’s routine changed rather drastically.
Unsigned over the summer as a free agent, the 31-year-old Paille went to the Blackhawks’ training camp, where he was cut before eventually signing an AHL contract with the Rockford IceHogs, Chicago’s minor-league squad. Thirty-one AHL games and a Spengler Cup appearance with Team Canada later, Paille finally returned to the NHL this week when he signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Rangers worth $575,000 in the NHL and $100,000 in the AHL.
“I’ll be honest. I’m surprised that it took so long, but I’m happy,” Bergeron said Friday. “He was in Rockford for most of the time, he went to the Spengler Cup and did well there and won. I’m happy for him. Hopefully he gets a good shot at it and he can show what he can do.”
Paille’s inability to find work was a product of teams opting to give chances to players on entry-level deals rather than signing veterans, even if the veterans’ immediate impact might have been higher. Other players who spent the summer unsigned included Lee Stempniak, David Schlemko and Marek Zidlicky. It’s a trend that might hurt current Bruins Chris Kelly and Max Talbot once their contracts expire at season’s end.
“To me, it seems like the cap situation for most of the teams and the fact that they want to see their young players and see how they react to the league kind of pushed the older guys away a little bit, and it was unfortunate,” Bergeron said. “It was definitely the worst I’ve seen in the summer, with older guys not getting jobs and stuff like that.”
Paille is best-known in Boston for rounding out the Bruins’ Merlot Line in their Stanley Cup-winning 2010-11 season after Brad Marchand moved up to Patrice Bergeron‘s line. He also scored in overtime of Game 2 of the 2013 Cup Final to tie the series in Chicago.
“He brought us some good years,” Claude Julien said. “He was part of that Stanley Cup run that we had, so absolutely. When you see a player like that get an opportunity somewhere, you’re happy for him.”
After scoring 10 goals as a fourth-liner and penalty killer in the aforementioned lockout-shortened 2013 season, the performance of both Paille and the Bruins’ fourth line trended downward. The Bruins notified Paille at the end of last season, which saw him spend time as a healthy scratch, that they would not be retaining him.
“I skated with him all summer, or most of the summer anyways, and he still looks like the Piesy we all know,” Bergeron said. “He skates well and is very good on the penalty kill. He’s a smart player, so I’m sure he can still do the job.”
|Matt Beleskey ill, misses Friday’s practice||01.22.16 at 12:47 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins were without Matt Beleskey for Friday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena, with Claude Julien saying after the skate that the left wing was ill and sent home.
Beleskey’s absence contributed to some wonky practice lines, which were as follows:
All seven defensemen were on the ice. The Bruins will host the Blue Jackets Saturday at TD Garden.