Zdeno Chara

Boston Bruins
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What is the long-term outlook for the Bruins?

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Boston Bruins.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

The Bruins have two big things going for them to maintain a pretty big window for Stanley Cup contention.

The most important is that they have a great core of talent to build around in David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, David Krejci, and Brandon Carlo.

Along with that is the fact they have a significant portion of their team signed long-term on deals that not only have term, but are also below market value. Nobody on the team carries a salary cap hit of greater than $7.25 million (Krejci) while only two players (Krejci and starting goalie Tuukka Rask) count for more than $7 million against the cap in a single season.

The quartet of Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak, and McAvoy, for example, takes up less than $25 million in salary cap space per season through the end of the 2021-22 season. That not only keeps a tremendous group of players together, it gives the team the type of salary cap flexibility it needs to build a powerhouse team around them. The Bruins have done exactly that.

Their big challenges this offseason are going to be re-signing UFA defenseman Torey Krug — one of their top blue-liners — and securing a new contract for restricted free agent forward Jake DeBrust, currently one of their top complementary players. Because they are getting such bargains at the top of their lineup they should have the salary cap space to make it work.

Krug will definitely be the biggest challenge (especially if there is pressure to keep him around the $6.5 million mark that everyone else in their core currently makes) but there is room.

Long-term needs

It might seem like an outrageous thing to say right now given the way the team is built, but it is really tempting to put goaltending as a long-term question.

Right now the duo of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak is as good as it gets in the NHL. They are both outstanding and capable of being No. 1 starters in the league, while Rask has been one of the league’s elites for most of his career. But there is some uncertainty beyond this season. For one, Halak is one of the Bruins’ biggest unrestricted free agents after this season so there is no guarantee that he returns. But there is also the fact that Rask recently hinted at the possibility of potentially retiring after next season (via the Boston Globe). Still a lot of unknowns there and a situation to keep an eye on in the future.

Beyond that, depth might be the other big long-term issue.

If they are unable to re-sign Krug that would love a pretty massive hole on their blue line, and there is going to come a point where Zdeno Chara is no longer part of this team. That is half of your top-four and would be an awful lot to replace at one time if neither one is there beyond this season.

Long-term strengths

It kind of relates to everything mentioned in the core part, but they have some of the league’s best players at forward signed for multiple seasons at below market contracts.

The trio of Pastrnak-Bergeron-Marchand is one of the best lines in the entire league. Individually, they are all among the top-20 players in the league. Together, they are almost unstoppable.

On the blue line, McAvoy and Carlo are both already outstanding defensemen and are just now starting to hit their prime years in the NHL.

Basically, the Bruins have the most important pieces for sustained success already in place (superstar forwards and young top-pairing defensemen), have them all signed long-term, and they are mostly at points in their career where they should still have several elite seasons ahead of them. The Bruins have been one of the league’s top-four teams for three years in a row now and there is no sign that they are going to drop off from that level anytime soon.

 

MORE:
• Looking at the 2019-20 Boston Bruins
Bruins surprises and disappointments

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.

Looking at the 2019-20 Boston Bruins

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Boston Bruins.

Boston Bruins

Record: 44-14-12 (70 games), first in the Atlantic Division, first in the Eastern Conference
Leading scorer: David Pastrnak — 95 points (48 goals and 47 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves:

• Acquired Ondrej Kase from the Anaheim Ducks for David Backes, Axel Andersson, 2020 first-round pick
• Traded Danton Heinen to the Anaheim Ducks for Nick Ritchie

Season Overview: 

There isn’t much to complain about this season if you’re a fan of the Bruins. Not only did they have the best record in the Atlantic Division, they were also the top team in the Eastern Conference and they were the only squad to hit the 100-point mark at the COVID-19 pause.

After losing in the Stanley Cup Final last year, it appeared as though they’d be back there in 2020. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but this edition of the Bruins was impressive.

It’s easy to see why Boston was so good this year. Sure, most fans feel like they’re still missing a second-line forward to complete their team, but you know you’re in good shape when that’s all you’re really missing on your roster.

In goal, they arguably have the best one-two punch in the league with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Is that a luxury they’ll be able to afford next year? Probably not. But they were both rock-solid throughout the season. Rask went into the pause with a 26-8-6 record, a 2.12 goals-against-average and a .929 save percentage. As for Halak, he had an 18-6-6 record, a 2.39 goals-against-average and a .919 save percentage. Impressive.

The defence is balanced. They have Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk. Each one of those five has played at least 61 of the team’s 70 games this season. The group might not be together next year, as Krug is scheduled to become a free agent, but they were impressive heading into the pause.

And, of course, up front they had some of the elite offensive talent in the NHL. Pastrnak finds himself in third in league scoring with 95 points. He’s also tied for first in goals, with 48. He’s emerged as one of the premiere forwards in the NHL and he’s signed to a very reasonable contract of $6.6666 million per year for three more years.

Pastrnak was a big part of the Bruins’ success, but he had help. Brad Marchand has 87 points in 70 games at the pause and Patrice Bergeron is up to 31 goals and 56 points in 61 contests.

How far can the Bruins go? Maybe we’ll find out, maybe we won’t. But there’s no denying this was an elite team in 2019-20.

Highlight of the Season So Far:

There were many highlights for the Bruins this season, but putting up eight goals on your biggest rivals’ rink has to be right up there.

On Nov. 26, Boston beat Montreal, 8-1, at the Bell Center. Pastrnak had a hat trick, Marchand had three points and Bergeron didn’t even play.

MORE:
Bruins’ biggest surprises, disappointments
What is the Bruins’ long-term outlook?

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.

WATCH LIVE: Flyers host Bruins on NBCSN

Flyers Bruins Livestream
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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins have been the NHL’s two best teams over the past 25 games and they meet on Tuesday night on NBCSN.

The Flyers enter the game riding a league-best nine-game winning streak and are looking to take over first place in the Metropolitan Division. Starting goalie Carter Hart also looks to continue his nearly unbeatable play on home ice.

Boston, meanwhile, is starting to run away with the top spot in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference playoff races. Winger David Pastrnak is also not only emerging as a potential MVP candidate, he is closing in on the 50-goal mark and is in a back-and-forth race with Alex Ovechkin for the goal scoring title.

Pre-game coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN while puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET from Philadelphia.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

 

WHAT: Boston Bruins at Philadelphia Flyers
WHERE: Wells Fargo Center
WHEN: Tuesday, March 10, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Bruins-Flyers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BRUINS

Brad MarchandPatrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Nick RitchieDavid KrejciOndrej Kase
Sean KuralyCharlie CoyleJake DeBrusk
Joakim NordstromPar LindholmChris Wagner

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk – Jeremy Lauzon
John MooreConnor Clifton

Starting goalie: Tuukka Rask

FLYERS

Claude GirouxSean CouturierJakub Voracek
Joel FarabeeKevin HayesTravis Konecny
Scott LaughtonDerek GrantTyler Pitlick
Michael RafflNate Thompson – Aube-Kubel

Nate Provorov – Matt Niskanen
Travis SanheimJustin Braun
Robert HaggShayne Gostisbehere

Starting goalie: Carter Hart

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.

Chaos breaks out in Bruins-Lightning game (Video)

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The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning teamed up for what might have been the wildest sequence of the 2019-20 NHL season on Saturday night.

It all unfolded late in the second period of Tampa Bay’s 5-3 win and it featured, well, everything.

You can see the entire sequence in the video above.

But a quick breakdown of everything that happened.

With just under two minutes to play in the period and the Lightning leading 3-1, Tampa Bay’s Mikhail Sergachev checked Zdeno Chara from behind into the boards. It was a play that angered Chara. The two continued to tussle in the corner, and Chara eventually executed a stick-lift on Sergahev that sent his stick into orbit.

You can see that part of the sequence here.

From there, the Bruins maintained possession in the offensive zone and eventually poked the puck through Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy only to have it swept away as it slowly slid toward the line.

The Bruins thought it was a goal, but play continued.

Eventually, though, the horn of doom sounded in TD Garden to stop play, signaling the fact that the situation room in Toronto had already reviewed the play and determined that the puck crossed the line.

But before we could get to that official announcement, a line brawl broke out out at center ice that resulted in fighting majors and misconduct penalties. One player that did not get penalized, though, was Lightning Anthony Cirelli even though he skated behind Zdeno Chara and cross-checked him while he was already engaged with Patrick Maroon.

Seven games of this in the Stanley Cup Playoffs would certainly be a sight to see.

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.

NHL on NBCSN: Hurricanes begin mammoth March vs. Flyers

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Thursday’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

For all of the EBUG love the Hurricanes received following David Ayres’ unlikely win, the uncomfortable postscript is that the magic wore off almost immediately for Carolina.

The Hurricanes ended February on a three-game losing streak (0-2-1), and that Ayres-aided win was their only victory in their past five contests. They’re a mediocre 3-4-2 in their last nine. Not exactly the sort of run you hope for when you want to return to the postseason.

If they want to turn things around in March, the Hurricanes must do it the hard way. From the look of the way their Thursday opponent the Flyers have been playing, Carolina won’t be getting many favors.

The Hurricanes need to start making up ground, and fast.

[Push for the Playoffs: Where the Hurricanes and other teams fit right now]

A difficult March begins for the Hurricanes with this Flyers test

The Hurricanes received a moment to breathe, as they haven’t played since a 4-3 overtime loss to the Habs on Saturday.

A month from now, the Hurricanes might wish that they could have spread this past break out over the full month of March.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

Consider these facts and figures:

  • The Hurricanes play 16 games over 27 days.
  • Every full weekend of March includes a back-to-back set. Overall, Carolina faces five back-to-back sets. They have the most remaining back-to-backs along with the Flyers and Anaheim Ducks.
  • Thursday’s game in Philly begins a five-game road trip for the Hurricanes.
  • Will it be good or bad luck that Carolina’s clashes with the Penguins are all consolidated in a short span? They play the Penguins four times, so Carolina must hope that Pittsburgh remains relatively rudderless.
  • Looking further, there’s some hope the Hurricanes might get a few contextual bits of luck. It’s possible that the Hurricanes’ two games against the Bruins (home on March  31, at Boston on April 4) won’t mean much to the B’s. If the Bruins exercise “load management” with the Presidents’ Trophy/at least the top spot in the East in the bag, that could mean easier games for Carolina than what appears on paper. Frankly, the Bruins would do this if they’re smart, especially considering the mileage on veterans like Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, and even Brad Marchand. It’s also possible that the Blue Jackets might be out of the race by April 3. Obviously, those three games would be treacherous if that luck doesn’t go Carolina’s way.

Take a look at this chart to really drive the point home:

Chart for Hurricanes March

Brind’Amour, others are aware of the challenge

You likely won’t hear many Hurricanes gripe about their tough haul, at least not publicly.

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour says all the right things, with a touch of terminology that might make you think that he’s trying to catch all of the Pokemon/pogs/commemorative stamps.

“You can group them all into the same category for me – you’ve got to have them,” Brind’Amour said, via the team website. “Whether they’re on the road, whether they’re divisional … it kind of all goes out the window. You’re at a point where you’ve got to have them.”

Unfortunately, the Flyers are also hunting to gather wins for their own aims, so Carolina will need to work to collect them all.

John Forslund and Pierre McGuire will call the contest from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa. Thursday’s studio coverage will be hosted by Paul Burmeister alongside analysts Mike Milbury and Scott Hartnell.

***

NBC Sports will utilize an all-female crew to broadcast and produce game coverage of Sunday’s Blues-Blackhawks game, coinciding with International Women’s Day and marking the first NHL game broadcast and produced solely by women in the U.S.

Kate Scott (play-by-play) will call the action alongside U.S. Olympic gold medalists Kendall Coyne-Schofield (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) and AJ Mleczko (analyst) from United Center in Chicago, Ill. Game production will be led by producer Rene Hatlelid and director Lisa Seltzer.

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.