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Reports: Bruins legend Milt Schmidt dies at 98 01.04.17 at 3:50 pm ET
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Milt Schmidt passed away Wednesday at the age of 98. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Milt Schmidt passed away Wednesday at the age of 98. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Days after his inclusion in the NHL’s ‘First 33,’ a list of the league’s best players from the first 50 years of the NHL’s existence, Bruins legend Milt Schmidt has passed away at the age of 98, according to reports.

Considered the Ultimate Bruin for his decades of service to the organization, Schmidt’s on-ice hockey career with the Bruins was an illustrious one that ran from 1936 to 1955, and included Stanley Cup victories in 1939 and 1941, along with a Hart Trophy in 1951. In between those highlights, Schmidt (along with his linemates on the Kraut Line — Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart) missed multiple NHL seasons in his prime to serve in World War II.

His on-ice persona and presence in Boston even led Bobby Orr to call Schmidt the greatest Bruins player to lace ’em up for the organization.

“I didn’t see Milty play, but I’ve seen him on video. Heard a lot about it,” Orr, who was scouted by Schmidt when he was just 12 years old, said of Schmidt earlier this season. “He wasn’t very big but his heart was this big (gestured with hands) on the ice, and that’s how he played. He was a great player and he’s a wonderful individual.

“He’s a great man and a great friend to all of us.”

Schmidt would add another two Stanley Cups to his name in 1970 and 1972 as the team’s general manager, and pulled off the historic trade that brought Phil Esposito to the Bruins.

A native of Kitchener, Ontario, Schmidt is 12th on the B’s all-time scoring list, and finished his career with 229 goals and 575 points in 776 games. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.

At the time of his passing, Schmidt was the oldest living former NHL player.

David Backes (concussion) returns to Bruins practice 01.04.17 at 2:00 pm ET
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David Backes

David Backes

If David Backes, concussed on a late hit from the Sabres’ William Carrier in the first period of last week’s comeback win over the Sabres, had his way, he would have been out there for some retribution against the Sabres in the second leg of the home-and-home last Saturday at TD Garden.

That said, the 32-year-old will settle for a Wednesday practice back with the team.

“On the ice with the guys, it felt good to be back in some sort of normal routine,” Backes, who was cleared for full contact and participation after being told to stay away from the arena last Saturday and after missing Monday’s 3-0 loss to the Devils, admitted after practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

But the Bruins have wisely not penciled Backes in for a return tomorrow night just yet.

“Still undetermined,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of Backes’ status against the Oilers. “He practiced with us because he has medical clearance to have full contact and everything else so we’ll see how that transpires here today and how he feels tomorrow morning. He feels good [now]. Things can change.”

Battling through what he believed to be the fourth diagnosed concussion of his 10-year NHL career, Backes understands the importance of his own patience when it comes to his return back to the Black and Gold’s lineup.

“There’s a difference between your head and your heart,” Backes said. “You have one brain.”

Signed to a five-year, $30 million contract last summer, Backes has already dealt with an elbow injury this year, and had to exercise caution upon his return given the risk of an infection that could have put him on the shelf even longer. And though it’s a different injury entirely when you talk about an elbow versus a brain, the recoveries do come with a similar mindset.

“In both cases I don’t know if it’s caution, I think it’s listening to the smart people around you and answering their questions honestly,” Backes said of his recovery. “It’s about making an educated decision. Could you rush potentially any injury back in short order? But then you’re risking further injury to that which takes you out even longer term and where’s that kind of gray area or that line to step over to make sure you’re not causing more harm than you are doing well by rushing back.

“Those factors all go into the decision and we try to be smart about that.”

The Bruins are 4-3-0 with Backes out of the lineup this season, but have been outscored 18-to-11 in those games.

Backes has recorded nine goals and 19 points, along with 89 shots on goal and 98 hits, in 33 games this year.

Bruins place goalie Anton Khudobin on waivers 01.04.17 at 12:50 pm ET
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Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin has been placed on waivers. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin has been placed on waivers. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

It was a happy reunion between the Bruins and former backup goaltender Anton Khudobin until the games started.

With just one win and an .885 save percentage in eight games this season — and after a 20-of-23 effort in which he blew a two-goal lead in his last start, a Dec. 23 overtime loss to the Hurricanes — the Bruins have seen enough and have placed the veteran netminder on waivers.

Signed by the Bruins to a two-year, $2.4 million contract on July 1 to help shore up a two-year black hole of bad backup goaltending, the 30-year-old was all smiles as he returned to what he considered home.

Though the extra year seemed to serve as expansion draft protection, a return to Boston — where Khudobin was arguably at his best in his NHL career — presented a chance for him to put himself back on the NHL map as a capable goaltender after an up-and-down year, both literally and figuratively, with the Ducks organization.

Instead, Khudobin struggled and failed to provide the Bruins with much of anything in regards to the trust factor the team needs in their backup if they’re to avoid burning the all-world Tuukka Rask out for the third straight season.

“I don’t think he’s played to the level that we know he can and that we’ve seen him in the past,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Khudobin. “Certainly very capable of being a better goaltender than what we’ve seen.”

Bound for Providence (or elsewhere in the NHL if claimed), Khudobin’s departure likely opens the door for Zane McIntyre to step up into another NHL recall. The 24-year-old McIntyre has been lights out in the AHL this year, with 10 wins, zero losses, and a league-leading .951 save percentage and 1.41 goals against average. McIntyre was also named the AHL goaltender of the month for his perfect December performance with two goals or fewer in all but one of his nine starts last month.

McIntyre has skated in three NHL games to date, with two losses and an .859 save percentage.

Video: Frank Vatrano talks pizza, playing with David Krejci, more 01.04.17 at 12:38 pm ET
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Bruins forward Frank Vatrano joined WEEI’s Josh Dolan for a live Facebook chat Wednesday. They discussed his return to the ice, playing with David Krejci, and making pizza. Watch below and like WEEI on Facebook so you don’t miss our next live chat.

Lack of high-end forward depth exposed yet again in latest Bruins loss 01.04.17 at 1:31 am ET
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The Bruins have struggled when down a top six forward this year. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins have struggled to score goals when down a top six forward this year. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

Injuries are an inevitability in hockey on a game-to-game basis, never mind the 82-game marathon-esque grind of an NHL schedule. That’s especially true given the almost impossibly condensed schedule most teams have been dealt this season thanks to the World Cup of Hockey and NHL/NHLPA mandated bye-week later this season.

That’s not an excuse, but a statement of fact.

The Bruins are a team that’s already had their share of battered bodies watching from the press box (0r not watching at all depending on the injury), too, especially to their top six forward group.

The latest injury to the group? 32-year-old David Backes, who is out for the second stretch this season, this time by way of a concussion sustained on a late hit from the Sabres’ William Carrier last week. And though the pieces have shuffled in and out at different points this season (I’m looking at you, left side of the David Krejci line), the most common top six dressed by the Bruins has featured a first line with Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and a second unit with center-turned-winger Ryan Spooner and Backes on either side of Krejci.

The Bruins handled Backes’ absence in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over the Sabres, but felt it with a 3-0 loss to the Devils the other night. And in total, the Black and Gold have now skated in at least 16 games down at least one of their top six forwards. They’re still above .500 in those games by way of their 9-7-0 record, but the results have varied depending on the player out of action.

But the grind of an in-again, out-again might finally be catching up to the Bruins. So, about that 9-7 record…

Read the rest of this entry »

Bruins leave more points on table with loss to hapless Devils 01.02.17 at 9:45 pm ET
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The Bruins lost to the Devils. (Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins lost to the Devils by a 3-0 final Monday night at the Prudential Center. (Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports)

Every single time you’ve thought you had a solid read on this Bruins team, they’ve laid an egg against a mediocre-at-best team. Without fail.

The hot-and-cold nature of this team has undoubtedly plagued the first half of the B’s season, and that tradition has now carried on into the 2017 calendar year, as their two-game winning streak came to a halt with Monday’s 3-0 no-show of a loss against the Devils.

The B’s were by now accustomed to the desperate nature that the Devils would come into this game with (the Devils were 10 points out of the last wild card spot and 18 points away from third place in the Metropolitan Division entering play), but Monday’s display was proof that this team just can’t get out of its own way.

Instead of imposing their will against a back-against-the-wall Devils group, the Bruins let the opposition control the tempo (the Devils slowed this game to a crawl) and rarely pushed back with anything of substance, and were in an 0-1 deficit 4:12 into the first period. The one-goal deficit between two early in the third period, and three by the end of the game. They didn’t even have an answer for what the Devils were doing, either, as the Bruins very rarely made Cory Schneider sweat en route to a 22-save effort for his second shutout of the season and first win over the B’s since coming to New Jersey from the Canucks in 2013.

The Bruins appeared to be on a team running on fumes. And it’s a ‘eye test’ critique, I know, but was there any moment in this game where you looked at what the Bruins were doing and said wow they really know they can bury this team? Probably not.

You understand the overall grind of the NHL schedule. It’s an obvious one. and some bad losses to bad teams are going to happen. But after back-to-back wins against the Sabres last week, a road head-to-head with the Devils — a team with just two wins in their last 10 games overall and four of their last five games at the Prudential Center — and with Tuukka Rask in net against the struggling Schneider, this was a game that the Black and Gold should have won. At this time in the year, it’s as simple as that.

The Bruins have already dropped their share of stinkers to bad teams, too.

They’ve lost twice to the Maple Leafs (who, while improving, are still not a team that should blow you out of the water two times in as many games this season), they fallen apart against the Avalanche, Islanders, and most recently (before tonight) the ‘Canes. Factor tonight’s loss to the Devils into these struggles and the Bruins have nabbed just seven of a possible 18 points against that group of middling opponents.

Their ability to leave points on the table has been incredible in the worst possible way. And it’s not good enough now, as the playoff race truly seems to begin around the new year, and it won’t be good enough come April.

Three Bruins featured on first list of NHL’s 100 Greatest Players list 01.02.17 at 4:24 pm ET
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Milt Schmidt was one of three Bruins featured on the NHL's first list of 100 Greatest Players list. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Milt Schmidt was one of three Bruins featured on the NHL’s first list of 100 Greatest Players list. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

As the league kicked off their 100-year birthday party with yesterday’s Centennial Classic meeting between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs at Toronto’s BMO Field, three Bruins legends found themselves in the spotlight of an Original Six showdown with an inclusion in the first batch of names in the league’s new 100 Greatest Players list.

Dubbed ‘the First 33′, the list (which for the record does not have a true numbering format of any sort) focused on the stars of the league’s first 50 years of existence, and included old time hockey legend Eddie Shore, Johnny Bucyk, and the ultimate Bruin, Milt Schmidt.

The iconic Shore’s resume was as long as it was straight-up terrifying.

A four-time Hart Trophy winner, two-time Stanley Cup winner, and perennial all-star during his NHL career, Shore was the league’s first elite defenseman, and had an undeniable aura to his name. Whether it was because of his toughness (there’s a legendary story about Shore having to find a doctor on his own to sew his ear back together because no other doctor was willing to do it — they wanted to amputate it) or his perseverance (there’s another story about Shore trekking up to Montreal on his own after missing the team’s train to Canada).

Shore finished his career with 103 goals and 279 points in 540 NHL games and was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947.

Schmidt, who turned 98 earlier this season, has an equally impressive resume from his 16-year career in Boston. The leader of the Kraut Line with Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart, Schmidt ranks 12th on the franchise’s all-time scoring list with 575 points in 776 games with the Bruins, and would have tallied even more had he (along with his linemates) not lost three years of his career to his enlistment of the armed services during World War II. A two-time Cup winner with the Bruins, Schmidt would continue to win with the Bruins even after his retirement, as both a coach and general manager, and won another two Cups as the team’s GM, in 1970 and ’72. Schmidt, a Hockey Hall of Famer since 1961, is currently the oldest living former NHL player.

Then there’s The Chief. A staple of Bruins hockey since 1957, Bucyk ranks second on the club’s all-time games played list (his 1,436 games in Boston are second only to Ray Bourque’s 1,518) and points (Bucyk has 1,339 compared to Bourque’s 1,506), and retired as the league’s top scoring left-winger, although that record has since been broken. Bucyk recorded 16 seasons of 20 goals or more during his career, twice won the Lady Byng, was a seven-time all-star, and won Stanley Cups in 1970 and ’72.

Bucyk currently ranks 24th on the NHL’s all-time scoring list.

The 67 other players on the list will be revealed during the league’s All-Star weekend in Los Angeles at the end of the month.

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