David Pastrnak

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Bruins go from Nash trade rumors to loss, Bergeron injury

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

There are times when the Boston Bruins have looked downright unstoppable. Saturday serves as a harsh reminder that things can change in a heartbeat, or at least that the threat is basically always hovering.

Consider this: earlier today, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the Bruins were becoming frontrunners to trade for Rick Nash. Such a deal is still plausible, although John Shannon (also of Sportsnet) reports that Nash’s $7.8 million cap hit could cause some challenges, even this late in the season.

Either way, the Bruins’ outlook seemed shiny: they’re already a tough team to deal with thanks to an absolutely bear (sorry) of a top line in Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. The B’s have been so impressive, they even seem to be a threat to win the Atlantic.

(UPDATE: Nash has been dealt to the Bruins.)

Things went sour in multiple categories hours later.

The Bruins lost to their hated rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 4-3. That game ended in regulation, and the decisive goal brought about everyone’s favorite hockey thing: a goalie interference review. This didn’t go in Boston’s favor, and while some shrugged their shoulders, Tuukka Rask wasn’t thrilled:

With that, the Atlantic Division thing seems far less promising. To start, the Lightning managed a 4-3 shootout win. Even worse, the Maple Leafs took second place in the Atlantic by beating Boston.

If that wasn’t enough, the most integral part of the Bruins’ dominance is in danger. Reporters including NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty noted that Patrice Bergeron was seen in a walking boot:

On the bright side, all three situations could still turn out nicely for the Bruins.

  • The Bruins might actually be more justified in going after Nash if Bergeron’s a little banged up. Granted, a more severe injury might leave them more conservative at the deadline.
  • Games in hand make optimism easier to come by in the Atlantic positioning races. The Lightning have 87 points in 62 games played while the Maple Leafs are at 83 in 64. The Bruins are at 82, yet with only 59 games played, there’s plenty of time for the B’s to either regain home-ice advantage over Toronto or even push for the top spot in the division.
  • As you can see from Haggerty’s tweet, Bergeron’s issue might not be too bad, either.

So, this isn’t a doom and gloom situation for the Bruins, but it still stands to mention how bumpy things became for at least a while there. The B’s have to hope that most of this stuff sorts itself out, Nash or not.

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: A winning day for Hockey Canada; reaction to Benning extension

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Now that the Canadian women have taken top spot in their group, they await the winner of O.A.R./Switzerland, while the U.S. will play the winner of Finland/Sweden in the Olympic semifinals. [NBC Olympics]

• Canada’s men’s side won their opening game with a 5-1 victory over Switzerland. [Hockey Canada]

• Matt Dalton and the Jim Paek’s South Korean squad played inspiring hockey, but ultimately fell 2-1 to the Czech Republic. [IIHF]

• The first goal scored by the unified Korean women’s team was by North Carolina native Randi Griffin. [NBC Olympics]

• Likely top pick in June’s NHL draft, Rasmus Dahlin, was a healthy scratch for Sweden’s opening game win over Norway. [NBC Olympics]

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

• The 17-year-old Dahlin could change the way we look at defensemen going forward. [Sporting News]

• A demotion to the third line doesn’t mean David Pastrnak is in Bruce Cassidy’s doghouse. It’s just a simple reminder. [Bruins Daily]

• It’s now Jim Benning’s job to see through to the finish of the Vancouver Canucks’ rebuild. [Sportsnet]

• Now that he has a contract extension, the next move for Benning to make it to re-sign the Sedins. [Canucks Army]

• A look back at Dion Phaneuf‘s time with the Ottawa Senators. [TSN]

• It’s time for the Calgary Flames to hand Matthew Tkachuk an extension. [Flames Nation]

• Wednesday was a pretty fun day for the Vegas Golden Knights. They spent the afternoon training with Cirque du Soleil. [Review-Journal]

• One player helping to power the Pittsburgh Penguins of late? That would be Jake Guentzel. [Tribune-Review]

Justin Williams a.k.a. ‘team grandpa,’ has eyes on bringing the Carolina Hurricanes back to the playoffs. [Sports Illustrated]

• A look at quite an “atrocious” season for Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik. [Japers’ Rink]

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Patrice Bergeron keeps driving the Bruins; Does he have an MVP argument?

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The Boston Bruins continued to roll on Wednesday night by pretty much embarrassing the New York Rangers in their building by a 6-1 margin.

It was a laughably one-sided affair that saw Henrik Lundqvist get benched midway through the second period and several Rangers defenseman get completely embarrassed. Sometimes on the same play. Keep in mind this was a Bruins team that played on Tuesday night and a Rangers team that, well, had the night off and came in rested. It was just a poor, poor showing by the blue shirts.

The win helps the Bruins gain some additional ground on the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the Atlantic Division — and the NHL — and brings them to within one point while still having a game in hand.

After Wednesday’s win Boston is now 27-4-4 in its past 35 games, which is just an absolutely ridiculous run.

Leading the way on Wednesday night, once again, was the Bruins’ dominant duo of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

They were reunited after Marchand served his recent five-game suspension and wasted no time picking up where they left off.

Bergeron scored a pair of goals in the win (one of them a shorthanded goal that was set up by Marchand) to give him 24 on the season and continue what has been a mostly wonderful season. Given how well he has played all over the ice he is starting to get a little bit of a push in the MVP discussion. Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said this week that Bergeron has been the best player in the NHL this season.

Is it something to take seriously?

Since this game was not even close to being competitive and was over from the middle of the second period, let us take a little bit of a dive into this.

It is not hard to see why Bergeron’s name would be entering into that discussion.

He centers the best line in hockey between Marchand and David Pastrnak and is the heartbeat behind one of the best teams in the league, a true Stanley Cup contender. He is a point-per-game player, one of the absolute best defensive forwards, and one of the top possession-driving players in the entire NHL.

There is nothing he does not do well.

But if Bergeron were to win the MVP award, or even end up as a finalist, history suggests it would require one of two things to happen over the second half of the season — either Bergeron would have to go on a torrid scoring binge that brought him among the league’s top scorers, or the voters would have to change the way they vote for the MVP award.

Does either of those things seem likely?

After Wednesday’s game Bergeron has 46 points in 47 games, placing him 37th among the league’s scorers. Obviously missing seven games earlier in the season has put him behind the rest of the pack a little bit, but even if you look at him on a point-per-game level he is 25th in the league. Still great, especially when you combine his all-around play and the impact he makes all over the ice, but still not what we see from a typical MVP contender.

I went back over the past 20 years and looked at all of the forwards that either won the MVP award or were in the top-three of the voting.

Only five of them finished the season lower than fifth in the scoring race and only three were outside o the top-10.

Two of them finished tied for the league lead in goals, while another led the NHL in points per game. Another one finished in the top-three in the goal-scoring race. Here is that list.

  • Teemu Selanne, a finalist in 1997-98, finished eighth in the points race … but finished tied for the league lead in goals with 52.
  • Alexei Yashin, a finalist in 1998-99, finished sixth in the scoring race
  • Mario Lemieux, the runner up in 2000-01, finished 29th in the scoring race … in a season where he only played in 43 games (this was his comeback season) and still finished with 76 points. He was the top point-per-game player in the NHL.
  • Jarome Iginla, a finalist in 2003-04, finished 16th in the scoring race but also finished in a three-way tie for the NHL goal-scoring lead
  • John Tavares, a finalist in 2012-13, finished 17th in the scoring race. He finished third in the goal-scoring race.

That is all pretty telling. Only three of them were outside of the top-eight, and one of those three was Mario Lemieux in one of the most baffling and mind-blowing seasons in NHL history.

In the eyes of the NHL awards voters (worth noting: I am one) you clearly have to be some sort of an elite scorer, whether it be as a goal-scorer or just a total point producer, to really get serious MVP consideration, and there is nothing to suggest otherwise. Just think of how many times people tried to call Jonathan Toews, a player whose skillset and production virtually mirrors Bergeron’s, the best player in the world because of his two-way play, and leadership, and intangibles, and whatever else you wanted to throw in there. Even at the peak of his popularity when his team was a Stanley Cup winning powerhouse he only finished in the top-five of the MVP voting once, and was never a finalist.

It’s just the way the voting goes.

As a voter, I can the see argument for Bergeron, and I would at least entertain it simply because of how good his line is, how good he is, and how I think he is probably the guy driving the bus for that trio (that is not to say Marchand and Pastrnak are not great players on their own — Marchand is a top-tier player in the NHL).

But there is still something to be said for being an elite scorer and having that ability. So for as great as Bergeron is, and as great as his season has been, history is not terribly kind for him when it comes to his MVP chances.

He might just have to settle for being the No. 1 center on a team that has a legitimate chance of winning the Stanley Cup.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Boston Bruins at New York Rangers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with Wednesday Night Rivalry as the New York Rangers play host to the Boston Bruins at 8 p.m. ET.

[Click here for the Live Stream]

Projected Lineups and starting goalies

Boston Bruins
Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak
Jake DeBruskDavid KrejciRyan Spooner
Danton HeinenRiley NashDavid Backes
Tim SchallerSean Kuraly – Austin Czarnik

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
Matt GrzelcykAdam McQuaid

Starting goalie: Anton Khudobin

[NHL on NBCSN: Bruins, Rangers heading in opposite directions]

New York Rangers
Rick NashMika ZibanejadMats Zuccarello
J.T. MillerDavid DesharnaisVinni Lettieri
Michael GrabnerKevin HayesJesper Fast
Cody McLeod – Peter HollandPaul Carey

Ryan McDonaghTony DeAngelo
Brady SkjeiNick Holden
Brendan SmithSteve Kampfer

Starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins, Rangers heading in opposite directions

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with Wednesday Night Rivalry as the New York Rangers play host to the Boston Bruins at 8 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here.

As we inch closer to the Feb. 26 NHL trade deadline, the Bruins and Rangers are two teams heading in very different directions.

The Bruins have been one of the league’s hottest teams with a 17-1-4 record in their last 22 games, which has helped them rocket up the Eastern Conference standings. Heading into Wednesday’s matchup, Bruce Cassidy’s charges sit three points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for tops in the conference and have two games in-hand.

It’s been quite a turnaround from one year ago today when the Bruins decided to fire Claude Julien and replaced him with Cassidy, who hadn’t been an NHL head coach since 2004. A commitment to youth coupled with the influence of several Stanley Cup winning veterans has resulted in a new beginning in Beantown. The likes of Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy have made an impact to complement the contributions of Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, who returns from a five-game suspension Wednesday night.

“For younger guys he’s [in] more of a teaching role and he’ll let you know when you make a mistake, but he’s trying to show you how you can improve on that,” forward Noel Acciari told Amalie Benjamin of NHL.com. “Being able to play for him down in Providence and just knowing how he coaches and playing for him up here, nothing much has changed with him. If you give him everything you have, he’s not going to complain. You might make your mistakes — he knows everyone’s not perfect, and he’s just looking to correct some stuff here and there. But I enjoy playing for him and I know a lot of guys do too.”

Meanwhile, the Rangers may be still in the playoff mix — three points out of a wild card spot — but all signs are pointing to a big upheaval should general manager Jeff Gorton have a successful trade deadline. Rick Nash, Michael Grabner and captain Ryan McDonagh have all found themselves in the rumor mill, with Nash already submitting his no-trade list to management.

New York has 10 games before the deadline, and while that could give them time to grab a seat in the East playoff dance, it’s probably better that they attempt a re-tool on the fly to make the most out of what’s left of Henrik Lundqvist, who has three more seasons on his deal after this one.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.