Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks - Game Two

Bruins hope to cut down their mistakes, improve their neutral zone play in Game 3

It’s natural to blame the goalie and praise the goal-scorer when a game-breaking tally takes place. That was the case when Vancouver Canucks forward Alex Burrows foiled two Boston Bruins stalwarts (Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas) on his way to that thrilling overtime game-winner.

Thomas definitely deserved blame for being overly aggressive on that play while many complained that Chara simply wasn’t aggressive enough. While people tend to focus on the end results, the genesis of these moments keep coaches like Claude Julien up at night.

It’s easy to throw Chara and Thomas under the bus, and again, they do shoulder some of the blame as Boston’s normally effective last line of defense. Still, the Bruins spoke of the “little things” that allowed that play to happen in the first place when they discussed their areas of improvement going into Game 3. Simply put, they cannot afford to make the same mistakes, with neutral zone gaffes often being the culprits considering Vancouver’s lightning-fast transition game.

Had Mark Recchi been able to corral Andrew Ference’s errant pass along the right wall at the start of overtime in Game 2 — or at least chip it into the Vancouver end — Sami Salo wouldn’t have been able to open up the defense with a quick outlet to Alexandre Burrows at the Boston blue line.

“It was a turnover in the neutral zone,” Patrice Bergeron said Saturday night. “I’m not sure how he got alone, but obviously he made the good fake to fake that shot and come around [Tim Thomas], but we got caught. We won the draw but we have to make sure we do a better job in the neutral zone.”

Added Ference: “We’re going for a quick transition. I think it was Recchi on my side, and instead of getting the right angle on his stick, I think their D-man was playing it tight and kind of one-touched it right back up the ice.”

Feel free to pick apart that goal in the video below, if you feel like it.

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If you ask some Bruins players, Game 1 ended in much the same way as Game 2: a transitional blunder bit Boston hard in the game’s waning seconds. This time around, it was defenseman Johnny Boychuk’s failure to get the puck to the neutral zone that made bad things happen. Yet once again, Corey Masisak points out that the situation could have been avoided if a better play was made earlier in the final minute.

The last-minute winner in each of the games so far has come when Boston was unable to put the puck behind the Canucks’ defensemen.

Had the puck gone below the Vancouver goal line in the final 30 seconds of Game 1, the Vancouver defensemen would not have been able to send a long diagonal pass to Ryan Kesler at the far blue line that started the ensuing scramble that led to Raffi Torres’ goal with 18.5 seconds left.

Watch that last-minute Torres goal in the video below.

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Obviously, the Bruins want to make crisper and wiser decisions. Of course, we would venture to guess that every defensive group that ever lost a game feels the same way. Little mistakes (and unlucky bounces) tend to pile up; Boston just needs to limit them as much as possible. For two straight games, they made errors at the worst possible times. We’ll see if they can correct some of their problems in Game 3, whether the mistakes come in their zone, Vancouver’s end or the neutral zone.

Is Rickard Rakell worth $4M per season to the Ducks?

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Rickard Rakell #67 of the Anaheim Ducks skates during a game against the Vancouver Canucks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The Anaheim Ducks have two significant restricted free agents they still need to take care of, and Hampus Lindholm is easily the most important name to cross off the list.

(Seriously, the analytics community pegs him as a budding star, so the Ducks should probably lock him up for as long and cheap as possible.)

While Lindholm is a must-sign, Rickard Rakell‘s situation is more interesting since it presents a murkier risk-reward debate.

Elevated ground

Rakell broke through in 2015-16, scoring 20 goals and 43 points. He blew away all of his previous numbers while logging more than 16 minutes per game.

His agent Peter Wallen told the OC Register that the team and his RFA client “I think we will find common ground for a solid agreement,” yet one must wonder if Ducks management is trembling at the gamble ahead.

That report ponders a long-term deal that would net Rakell around a $4 million cap hit, something that the Hockey News backs up.

Kadri’s six-year, $27-million deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, which pays an average of $4.5 million per season, is probably the upper limit of what Rakell is set to earn, while Coyle’s five-year, $16-million deal with the Minnesota Wild, an average of $3.2 million per season, is likely the low end. The most likely comparisons boil down to two players, then, with Rask and Backlund each having signed their current deals over the course of the past 13 months.

For a budget-conscious team like the Ducks, betting big on Rakell could be especially risky.

Cushy gig

If the 23-year-old does land a generous deal, he should send Bruce Boudreau a “Thank You” note or three. Rakell began a whopping 60 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone in 2015-16, putting him in a great position to maximize his chances.

His most common skating partners were Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Sami Vatanen and Lindholm to boot.

One shouldn’t penalize Rakell for seizing his opportunities, but with a limited sample size of the young forward being a difference-maker, you have to wonder how much his value has been inflated.

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The OC Register explains the advantages of locking him up for a longer term (avoiding arbitration years, not having to risk an even bigger deal if Rakell pans out), yet a “bridge deal” might be the better way to go here.

Replacing Boudreau with Randy Carlyle was a polarizing decision, yet that the Ducks face some other tough calls this off-season.

Report: Blue Jackets on the verge of signing Sam Gagner

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Sam Gagner #89 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on before a face off against the New York Rangers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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It sounds like Sam Gagner may determine his destination for 2015-16 in the near future.

The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports that the Columbus Blue Jackets are close to signing Gagner to a one-year, one-way deal. Such an agreement might not be made official until Monday, according to Portzline.

After a bumpy season with the Philadelphia Flyers in which he spent some time in the AHL, Gagner must especially appreciate the one-way nature of his next contract.

The Blue Jackets aren’t the only team interested in the 26-year-old, as his name was also connected to the Vancouver Canucks:

It looks like the still-quite-young scorer will get a clean slate after bouncing around and being defined by a bloated contract originally signed with the Edmonton Oilers.

Remember when he broke one of Wayne Gretzky’s records during an eight-point night?

Gagner’s presence could make life easier for the likes of Boone Jenner:

It’s conceivable that Gagner could enjoy a nice rebound season if used in a specialized, protected role. The Blue Jackets may very well be the right fit.

… And on the other hand, the deficits in Gagner’s all-around game could at least provide some John Tortorella rage and entertainment.

Everyone wins.

Former Sabres forward Jochen Hecht calls it a career

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 01:  Jochen Hecht #55 of the Buffalo Sabres against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 1, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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The Mannheim Eagles announced that German forward Jochen Hecht is retiring from hockey.

(It’s OK to be a little bewildered that he was still playing, just don’t be too mean about it.)

Hecht played 833 regular season games and 59 playoff contests at the NHL level, making his greatest mark as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

His last bit of NHL action came in 2012-13, when he scored 14 points in 47 games for Buffalo.

Since then, he wrapped up his career with the Mannheim Eagles, a team he’s sporadically played for since 1994-95.

Honestly, it’s weird to see Hecht in any sweater not related to German’s national teams, the Eagles or Sabres, even though the Blues actually drafted him:

Then again, he could also look odd in a certain Sabres sweater.

Apparently he got the NHL 16 Hockey Ultimate Card treatment:

Plenty of Sabres fans and reporters fondly remember Hecht, so here’s to a nice career.

Yes, it’s really happening: Vegas NHL team installs ice for first time

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Sometimes you just need a reminder that a remarkable thing actually is happening.

Saturday presented the latest evidence that the NHL coming to Las Vegas isn’t just a collective fever dream, as the still-nameless franchise noted that they’ve begun the process to install ice at T-Mobile Arena for the first time.

It’s not the prettiest picture, but it means a lot:

While setting up the first sheet of ice is a physical sign that things are coming together, the front office side will dictate the sort of team that eventually plays on it.

For more insight into that process, Puck Daddy takes a look at Murray Craven, who appears to be a key part of bringing things together … even if it’s difficult to nail down a specific title.