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Bruins trade Frank Vatrano to Panthers

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After acquiring Nick Holden from the New York Rangers earlier this week the Boston Bruins were busy again on Thursday by completing their second trade of the week.

Let’s take a look at the deal.

The trade: Bruins trade forward Frank Vatrano to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a 2018 third-round draft pick.

Why the Bruins are making this trade: There was a time when Vatrano seemed like he was going to be a big deal for the Bruins but it simply has not worked out. They have had a wave of young talent come through the organization in recent years and Vatrano has kind of gotten lost in the shuffle. He was not getting regular playing time, his production has not been great when he has played, and it just seems like he might need a fresh start in a new situation. The Bruins were able to pick up a pick for him that they can maybe use as trade bait in another move or to help replenish the cupboard after making other moves leading up to the trade deadline (such as the one where they traded a pick for Holden).

Why the Panthers are making this trade: It is a good low-risk, potentially high-reward move. Even though things did not work out for Vatrano in Boston he is still a player that has some talent and has shown flashes of ability in the past. During the 2015-16 season he scored 36 goals in 36 AHL games and scored another eight in his first taste of NHL action that season in 39 games. He came back last season and scored 10 goals and eight assists in 44 games with the Bruins. So there is some ability there. The Panthers probably are not going to make the playoffs this season, even after their recent surge, but it never hurts to add a young player with some potential for a small price. That is exactly what they did here.

Who won the trade? It was pretty clear Vatrano was not going to work out in Boston any longer so they were able to get something back in return, but there is a good chance that Vatrano will contribute more to the Panthers than whoever they would have selected with that third-round pick, and he is still young enough to potentially be a player for them going forward. Maybe a slight edge to the Panthers?

[Related: Bruins acquire Nick Holden from New York Rangers]

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.

Trade: Rangers trade Nick Holden to Bruins

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The New York Rangers and Boston Bruins have been rumored to be possible trade partners for a defenseman, and on Tuesday afternoon it happened.

It just wasn’t the defenseman — Ryan McDonagh — that people were talking about.

Instead it is Nick Holden heading to Boston.

The Trade: The New York Rangers send Nick Holden to the Boston Bruins for defenseman Rob O'Gara and a 2018 third-round draft pick.

Why the Rangers make this trade: They told their fans changes were coming. The team is falling out of the playoff race, it needs to hit the reset button, and Holden is an unrestricted free agent after this season that probably did not fit in with the new direction of the team.

At 24 and with only 11 games of NHL experience under his belt O’Gara probably isn’t much in the way of a prospect, while the third-round pick is probably the key to the deal for the Rangers.

Why the Bruins make this trade: They get a veteran defenseman to add some depth to their blue line for a potential Stanley Cup run. It’s not the blockbuster move that acquiring a player like McDonagh would have been, but given the low cost it could prove to be a pretty solid depth move.

Holden, 30, has been with the Rangers since the start of the 2016-17 season and has 14 goals and 32 assists in 135 games with the team over the past two years. He had a really strong year offensively a season ago (setting career highs across the board) but has seen a bit of a regression this season. He won’t need to play the 20 minutes a night he was playing in New York and could fit in nicely as a depth defenseman in Boston.

Who won the trade: Both teams get what they’re looking for. The Bruins get a depth defender for a Stanley Cup and don’t have to pay a steep price, while the Rangers cash in an asset that probably wasn’t going to re-sign with them after the season.

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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.

The Buzzer: Mike Smith suffers last-second injury; Bruins road dominance continues

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Players of the Night:

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins: Crosby scored a pair of goals in Pittsburgh’s matinee win over the St. Louis Blues. Sure, one was an empty-netter, but the first one was the 400th tally of his career. He also out an end to his 10-game goal drought in the process.

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers: Rebuild? What Rebuild? Since sending that letter to their fans on Thursday, the Rangers have won back-to-back games. Lundqvist turned aside 37 of 38 shots in Sunday’s win over the Jets. He was a huge reason why the Rangers were able to shut down a high-powered offense like Winnipeg’s.

Tomas Tatar, Detroit Red Wings: Tatar netted a pair of goals against the Capitals, including the game-winner in overtime. Coming into Sunday’s action, the Red Wings forward hadn’t scored since Jan. 20.

Ryan O'Reilly, Buffalo Sabres: O’Reilly had a solid night at the office against his former team, the Colorado Avalanche. He finished the game with a goal and two assists, but it wasn’t enough to get the Sabres the victory.

Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames: Not only did Tkachuk score two goals in the Flames’ comeback win over the Islanders on Sunday night, he also helped his team by drawing three penalties. Calgary managed to score on one of those ensuing power plays.

Sean Couturier, Philadephia Flyers: Like O’Reilly, Couturier posted a goal and two assists in his team’s win over the Vegas Golden Knights. The Flyers forward has an impressive 27 goals and 27 assists in 55 games this season. He’s already obliterated his career-highs in both categories.

Highlights of the Night:

Taylor Hall says buh-bye to Brad Marchand right before scoring:

Casey Cizikas went all Super Man on the Calgary Flames:

As we mentioned before, Lundqvist made the difference on Sunday. This is just robbery:

Ahhhh there’s nothing like a good ol’ game-winning goal in OT:

Another milestone for Sid the Kid:

Joe Pavelski has some pretty sweet hands:

Lowlights of the Night:

The Calgary Flames were able to defeat the Islanders on Sunday, but starting goalie Mike Smith suffered what appears be to a groin injury with one second left in the game:

Factoids of the Night: 

The Boston Bruins are rolling:

The Canucks haven’t had a goalie shut out the Stars in quite some time:

This is the last time we mention Crosby’s 400th goal:

Scores:

Penguins 4, Blues 1

Rangers 3, Jets 1

Red Wings 5, Capitals 4 (OT)

Canucks 6, Stars 0

Avalanche 5, Sabres 4

Bruins 5, Devils 3

Flames 3, Islanders 2

Flyers 4, Golden Knights 1

Sharks 3, Ducks 2 (SO)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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