Bruins address Marchand licking, future plans

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The Boston Bruins’ brass addressed the media on a wide range of issues Wednesday. If you want to keep your humor Brad Marchand-topical, you might call it an appetizer for the offseason.

After at least one lick/personal bubble-bursting moment in each round of their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs run (Leo Komarov and Ryan Callahan ranking among his … run-ins), Marchand eventually got a talking-to. Management addressed as much today, and they generally kept it from getting too salty.

“Brad should be contrite,” Cam Neely said (see around the minute mark). “ … He’s gotten to the point now where his game on the ice – without the antics – should speak for itself.”

You know it’s a serious headache – not just a punchline and strange routine – when Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs needs to weigh in. His comments give the impression that Marchand doesn’t have much of a margin of error.

More teaching, less licking

As refreshing as it is to discuss “Zen and the Art of Licking,” some might view it as empty calorie content.

Luckily, the Bruins also shed some light on how they view the 2017-18 season (mostly positive, especially when it comes to integrating young talent, while the ending was bittersweet) and how they might approach free agency and the summer. If you’re the type who shuddered at the idea of targeting a Rick Nash upgrade in free agency – and the comments indicate that quite a few people did – then you’d probably be glad to hear some of the reactions.

Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs spoke highly of players who could make a future impact on the B’s (“from Providence and Europe”), so Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy might be tasked with much of the “teaching” Cam Neely spoke of today.

Backup plan

Curiously, as NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty points out, the Bruins might make the backup goalie position an area they’re aiming for improvement with.

There are a few factors to consider in that regard.

For one thing, Anton Khudobin‘s $1.2 million contract expires. The 32-year-old played well enough at times – finishing with a nice-for-backup .913 save percentage – to drum up some minor goalie controversies (depending upon who you asked during 2017-18) when Tuukka Rask struggled. The Bruins are committed to Rask at $7M through 2020-21, yet they might want to at least attempt to get a No. 2 who could moonlight as a No. 1.

Beyond perusing trade opportunities, free agency, or even bringing back Khudobin, you wonder how long of a look the Bruins might give Zane McIntyre as Rask’s backup in 2018-19. After all, McIntyre’s already 25, and could be feeling a little restless (after a dominant AHL season in 2016-17, his numbers were solid but a bit more modest last season).

Other considerations, and a warning

There were discussions of other possible tweaks, such as possibly adding more size at the left D position behind Zdeno Chara. Even then, you wonder how deeply they’ll probe in that area; after all, Torey Krug had a strong season and Matt Grzelcyk came along nicely.

Broadly speaking, it sounds like the Bruins will lean more toward “improving from within” instead of pursuing more established players. Considering the way GM Don Sweeney’s been drafting and the team’s been developing lately, that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

Then again, perhaps some bolder opportunities might surface? As promising as some of the future pieces in Boston seem to be, the B’s must also realize that the window could start to close on their core. Zdeno Chara’s in the clearest battle with Father Time at 41, but sometimes the aging curve can dilute the dominance of guys like Patrice Bergeron (32) and Brad Marchand (30) with troubling speed. Considering how frightening Bergeron and Marchand were on most nights alongside young stud David Pastrnak, a slip – even from “elite” to merely “quite good” – could alter Boston’s trajectory, or force them to lean on younger talent even more.

***

So, there are some factors to juggle, but can you really blame management for feeling so optimistic compared to the mixed feelings that were likely on display during last year’s pressers regarding the team’s outlook?

Jacobs himself spoke of the Bruins being spry in keeping up with league trends, and justifiably so. If the NHL’s smartest teams continue this rapid evolution, then Boston must remain just as nimble this summer. At least if they want to maintain their status as a revitalized heavy-hitter in the NHL.

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Conference Finals schedule, TV info
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NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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: Longest game in AHL history; 5 huge matchups in Game 7

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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.

• Former NHLer Rich Clune shares his story. Clune was an alcoholic and a drug user, but he’s now been totally sober for five years. This is a great story. (Players’ Tribune)

• Larry Brooks of the New York Post takes a look at the Rangers’ future regarding analytics, Ilya Kovalchuk and more. Brooks says if they don’t go after Kovalchuk, it would be a huge mistake. (New York Post)

• The Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Charlotte Checkers played the longest game in AHL history. Phantoms goalie Alex Lyon stopped 94 shots in the victory. (ESPN)

• Former Avalanche star Milan Hejduk is selling his Parker, Colorado mansion, which comes with an indoor ice rink and custom Zamboni. It can all be yours for a cool $5.2 million. (Denver Post)

• There’s a lot of similarities between this year’s Vegas Golden Knights and Scotty Bowman’s 1967-68 expansion St. Louis Blues. For starters, both teams selected Stanley Cup winning goaltenders in the expansion draft. (NHL.com)

• What should the Bruins do with free agents like Anton Khudobin, Brian Gionta, Nick Holden and Rick Nash? (Stanley Cup of Chowder)

• One of the reasons the Tampa Bay Lightning are so good is because general manager Steve Yzerman is a sharp hockey mind. (Raw Charge)

• How far should the Edmonton Oilers go to acquire Erik Karlson? Pretty far. Pretty, pretty far. (Oilers Nation)

• The Hockey News provides update on a number of different draft-eligible prospects, including Noah Dobson, who will likely be a top 10 pick in the NHL Entry Draft. (The Hockey News)

• TSN’s Frank Seravalli breaks down five critical matchups ahead of Game 7 between the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets. (TSN.ca)

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.

Leafs chase Rask, hold on to win Game 5

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The Toronto Maple Leafs came into Saturday’s game facing elimination, but they managed to force a sixth game, thanks to a 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins.

The Maple Leafs built up a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission with goals from Connor Brown and Andreas Johnsson. They would increase it to a 4-1 lead in the second period. That’s when the Bruins pulled Tuukka Rask in favor of backup Anton Khudobin.

After the goalie swap, Sean Kuraly managed to cut the deficit to 4-2 before the end of the frame.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Toronto did their best to blow their lead, as they took penalty after penalty in the second half of the game. The Leafs took the final four penalties, but the Bruins failed to convert on their opportunities on the man-advantage. They even gave the Bruins a 5-on-3 power play for over 1:30 before Kuraly scored moments later.

Goalie Frederik Andersen turned aside 42 of 45 shots. This was the third time in five games that he faced at least 40 shots in this series.

The Leafs will now return home for Game 6 on Monday night. They’ll need to perform more like they did in the first half of Saturday’s game if they want to force Game 7 in Boston.

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.

Flyers survive Bruins third-period rally in 4-3 overtime win

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Give credit to the Boston Bruins — the word ‘quit’ isn’t one that computes with the Atlantic Division leaders — but the Philadelphia Flyers had no intentions of giving up either on Easter Sunday.

That isn’t to say they’d be blamed if they did. Game-tying goals with 3.8 seconds left in the third period can be deflating, to say the least.

But after Patrice Bergeron tied the game up with mere seconds left on the game clock, Claude Giroux, who had already scored in regulation, added another highlight-reel marker to his repertoire in a 4-3 overtime win for the Flyers — their 40th — on the NHL on NBC.

Giroux’s marker was his 29th, setting a new career-high in goals after previously setting a new career-high in points with 94 earlier in the game after his first goal.

Boston trailed 3-1 after Nolan Patrick scored on a breakaway 25 seconds into the third period, but found the strength to mount a comeback, finding it through David Pastrnak at 6:54 and then Bergeron’s 30th of the season at 19:56.

The Bruins, who played to a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers 24 hours earlier could have just rolled over for the rest of the period after Patrick’s goal, but found a way to eek out a point to extend their lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning (who play later on Sunday) to two points in the race for top spot in the Atlantic.

The win was big for the Flyers, who moved level with the Columbus Blue Jackets for third place in the Metropolitan Division on 94 points. Perhaps most importantly, the win moved Philly three points ahead of the New Jersey Devils who sit a spot behind the Flyers in the second wildcard in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey is set to play later on Sunday.

The Flyers took a 1-0 lead after a nasty save from Petr Mrazek, who finished with 35 saves in the contest, kept the games nil-nil in the first period.

After winning the ensuing faceoff, the Flyers produced a nice breakout and created an odd-man situation that was capped off by Giroux, who fired home the one-timer for his 28th of the season.

The goal also pushed the 30-year-old’s point streak to seven games.

The Flyers doubled their advantage on a spectacular goal that is sure to be in the running for goal of the season.

Travis Konecny picked up a loose puck just inside the Bruins zone, split both David Pastrnak and Adam McQuaid and then beat Patrice Bergeron before tucking the puck past Anton Khudobin.

Khudobin allowed four goals on 20 shots in the loss.

Boston moved to 110 points with the win, one back of the Nashville Predators in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy. Nashville can do Boston a favor with a win over the Lightning later on Sunday.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Boston Bruins at Philadelphia Flyers

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NBC’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Sunday, as the Philadelphia Flyers will host the Boston Bruins at 12:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here.

[CLICK HERE TO WATCH AT 12:30 P.M. ET]

PROJECTED LINES

Bruins: 

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak

Jake DeBruskDavid KrejciRyan Donato

Danton HeinenTommy WingelsDavid Backes

Tim SchallerNoel AcciariBrian Gionta

Zdeno CharaNick Holden

Torey KrugAdam McQuaid

Matt GrzelcykKevan Miller

Starting goalie: Anton Khudobin

 [The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Flyers: 

Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny

Oskar LindblomNolan PatrickJakub Voracek

Jordan WealValtteri FilppulaWayne Simmonds

Jori LehteraScott LaughtonMatt Read

Ivan ProvorovShayne Gostisbehere

Travis SanheimAndrew MacDonald

Brandon ManningRadko Gudas

Starting goalie: Petr Mrazek