Cup-hungry Bruins shrug off shot at NHL records

Bruins' blueliners needed surgeries, including McAvoy
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BOSTON – In a season full of extreme numbers, the Boston Bruins know exactly what value they put on winning the most games in NHL history.

“Zero,” defenseman Charlie McAvoy said last week, a day before Boston became the fastest team in history to 50 wins. “Bottom of anything I care about.”

The Bruins have been cruising through the regular season, and racking up milestones along the way. But even though they could amass the most wins ever – and most points, too — the players and brass insist they don’t have any interest in the biggest regular-season records of all.

“We play for the Stanley Cup,” Bruins President Cam Neely said flatly. “I tell everybody, ‘Enjoy the ride, but it’s all about the Stanley Cup.’”

The Bruins were coming off back-to-back 100-point seasons – and three straight early playoff exits – when they fired coach Bruce Cassidy last summer and hired Jim Montgomery to replace him. Key players like McAvoy, a Norris Trophy contender, and Brad Marchand, the team’s No. 2 scorer, were recovering from surgery, but the Bruins didn’t wait until they were at full strength.

They won six of seven games before Marchand got back on the ice, moving to the top of the Eastern Conference in the second week of the season; McAvoy’s return helped boost them to the league’s No. 1 overall seed, where they have remained since Veteran’s Day. They didn’t lose at home in regulation until January.

They were the fastest team in NHL history to 100 points and 50 wins, and the first one to clinch a playoff berth this year. Still, after winning their 50th game, which also turned out to be the playoff clincher, goalie Linus Ullmark couldn’t be less enthusiastic.

“Congrats to us, then,” he said. “I guess.”

Boston has a chance to post the most wins in NHL history, surpassing the 62 by the 1995-96 Red Wings and tied by the 2018-19 Lightning. It also has a chance to surpass the record 132 points amassed by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens.

But for a team that has already won the Presidents’ Trophy twice since 2004 – and failed to win the Cup both times – a league-leading third top finish doesn’t hold much allure.

“To me, the regular season (record), it is nice,” captain Patrice Bergeron said. “But you’re working hard to get into the playoffs. And that’s where the main focus is.”

Montgomery said the team hasn’t talked about the records, instead concentrating on getting in shape for the playoffs. If the Bruins have only the records to play for in the final days or weeks, he said, they will instead try to make sure everyone is rested and healthy for what they hope will be a two-month postseason slog.

“Us preparing for the Stanley Cup playoffs is more important than anything in the regular season,” he said.

Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk allowed that the regular-season record “would be quite an accomplishment,” but one that is “pretty low on the list.” It hasn’t escaped his notice that neither the ’96 Red Wings nor the ’19 Lightning won the Cup.

“We’ve seen that it’s kind of bit teams in the past,” Grzelcyk said. “We’ll just go out there and compete and let the chips fall where they may.”

Similar fates befell the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who won 116 games but didn’t even make the World Series; the ’16 Golden State Warriors, who broke the NBA record with 73 wins but lost in the finals; and the ’07 New England Patriots, who won all 18 games in the regular season and playoffs before losing in the Super Bowl.

“It was an unbelievable season, ’18-19, but I think it was almost too easy for us to play great,” said former Lightning winger Ondrej Palat, whose team was swept by Columbus in the first playoff round.

“It was very frustrating after a year like that,” Palat said. “But I’m not saying it’s like the Bruins. The Bruins are playing unbelievable hockey, and they have a big chance in the playoffs.”

Of course, Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in each of the next two seasons.

Neely never played his way to the trophy, losing in the finals to the Edmonton Oilers in 1988 and again two years later; he did get his name on the Cup when he helped build the Bruins team that won it all in 2011. That was their last championship, a drought this year’s team is looking to end.

“It’s been a pleasure to watch this team, there’s no question,” the Hockey Hall of Famer said. “Records are great, they’re nice to have — and especially team records. But it’s really about who wins the last game of the year.”

Oilers escape McDavid scare, win 3-2 to snap Bruins’ streak

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BOSTON – The Boston Bruins shut down NHL scoring leader Connor McDavid. They kept Leon Draisaitl off the scoresheet, too. It still wasn’t enough to beat the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.

The Oilers escaped a scare when McDavid limped off the ice late in their 3-2 win over the Bruins – minutes after Darnell Nurse scored the tiebreaking goal with 4:49 remaining.

McDavid returned, but was held without a point for just the seventh time all season. It was the first time since New Year’s Eve, when McDavid was scoreless and Draisaitl didn’t play, that neither registered a point.

“I can’t believe they didn’t get a point. I mean, they should get a point every night, right?” said goalie Stuart Skinner, who made 26 saves to snap Boston’s 10-game winning streak and deprive the Bruins of a chance to become the first team in the league to clinch a playoff berth this season.

“Our top dogs here, I think they did a unbelievable job defensively,” Skinner said. “They’ve been doing such a good job in our end lately and, obviously they’re still a massive threat offensively.”

McDavid struggled to the bench after a knee-on-knee collision with teammate Derek Ryan. But the two-time league MVP returned to help the Oilers hold on when Boston pulled goalie Jeremy Swayman for an extra skater in the final minutes.

Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said he didn’t see the collision, but was glad McDavid was able to return.

“My mind was on the play,” he said. “But he felt good enough to finish the game, so I felt good about that.”

Boston led 2-0 after one, but Evan Bouchard scored in the second and Ryan McLeod tied it six minutes into the third. Nurse scored the game-winner on a wrist shot past a screened Swayman to give the Oilers their fourth win in five tries.

“I just said to myself, ‘I’ve got to lock it down for the next 40 (minutes). And if I do that, it will at least give the guys a chance to win,’” Skinner said. “If I’m going to be honest, I was very excited after the game. … This one, this one feels really good.”

Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak scored, and Swayman stopped 19 shots for the Bruins (49-9-5), who could have set an NHL record as the fastest-ever to 50 wins.

McDavid leads the NHL with 54 goals – nine more than Pastrnak, who is second – as well as 70 assists and 124 points. Draisaitl is fifth in the league with 41 goals and second with 96 points.

It was the first time all season the Oilers won a game without either of them recording a point.

“It felt like a playoff game,” Woodcroft said. “In playoff games sometimes there’s a ‘saw-off’ between the best players on both teams and other people have to find ways to to contribute. If you look up and down our roster, we have numerous people that can find the back of the net and that’s what you need as you come down the stretch here.”


Oilers: Visit Toronto on Saturday.

Bruins: Host Detroit on Saturday.

Bruins rout Sabres 7-1, become fastest team to 100 points

Boston Bruins David Pastrnak Contract Trade Rumors
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BOSTON – David Pastrnak had a goal and two assists just a few hours after signing a new contract and the surging Boston Bruins became the fastest team in NHL history to reach 100 points by beating the Buffalo Sabres 7-1 on Thursday night.

Jakub Lauko scored twice, Dmitry Orlov added a goal and two assists and Jeremy Swayman stopped 26 shots as the Bruins overcame the loss of Brad Marchand to a lower body injury to win their ninth straight.

Boston improved to 48-8-5 in its 61st game, besting the Montreal team from 1976-77 that reached 100 points in 62 games when there were regulation ties and no extra points for overtime or shootout victories. The Bruins have seven points for overtime and shootout victories in their 101 points.

Pavel Zacha, Patrice Bergeron and Connor Clifton added goals for Boston.

“It’s been really amazing to watch them want to be great,” coach Jim Montgomery said.

Casey Mittelstadt scored for Buffalo and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 35 shots But his unusual tripping penalty led to Orlov’s power-play goal and turned the game as the Sabres dropped their second straight.

The victory capped an eventful day for the Bruins. They acquired Tyler Bertuzzi from Detroit and inked Pastrnak to an eight-year, $90 million extension.

“Probably took a little longer than we hoped for, but we finally got across the finish line,” Boston president Cam Neely said. “We’re thrilled to have him for another eight years.”

Pastrnak drew the odd penalty against Luukkonen in the second period and then assisted on the ensuing goal. He scored his 43rd goal into an empty net in Boston’s five-goal third period that also saw him earn his 40th assist.

Bertuzzi, called a good “sandpaper” guy by Montgomery, will help fill the roles of fellow wingers Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno. Hall was placed on long-term injured reserve and Foligno regular IR.

Last week, GM Don Sweeney picked up Orlov and Garnet Hathaway in a deal with Washington. Orlov has three goals and five assists in four games since the trade.

A lengthy absence by Marchand would hurt Boston, however. He took a big hit in the second period and didn’t return for the third.

“We think he’s going to be all right,” Montgomery said.

The Sabres, who lost top-line forward Alex Tuch (lower body) last week, again played without banged-up top defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. He was was placed on injured reserve, retroactive to Friday, opening a roster spot for defenseman Riley Stillman, acquired Monday from Vancouver.

Stillman made an immediate impression, recording five hits in a scoreless first period.

And it remained deadlocked until Luukkonen was called for tripping as Pastrnak tried to beat him while skating in alone.

“It was an unfortunate call,” coach Dan Granato said. “Obviously, the referees thought it was a trip. Luukky came out and played the puck, but that’s what happens. You’re going to have challenges like that, but obviously it was a momentum swing.”

Orlov scored on a one-timer on the ensuing 4-on-3 and Lauko knocked in a fat rebound 1:26 later to make it 2-0.

Buffalo, in a scramble for one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, couldn’t recover.

NOTES: Sweeney said Hall and Foligno are unlikely to return before the end of the regular season. … Bertuzzi was expected to arrive in Boston late Thursday. … Sweeney doesn’t anticipate making another deal before Friday’s trade deadline. … The Sabres sent F Anders Bjork to Chicago for future considerations. … The Bruins recognized Buffalo firefighter Jason Arno during a first period timeout. Arno died in a fire Wednesday.


Sabres: Host Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Bruins: Host the New York Rangers on Saturday.

Bruins lock up David Pastrnak with 8-year, $90M deal through 2031

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BOSTON — The Bruins were already on pace for the best record in NHL history when they added toughness and depth for what they hope will be a long playoff run this spring.

Now general manager Don Sweeney has helped secure the team’s future, too.

Boston signed All-Star forward David Pastrnak to an eight-year contract extension that will pay $90 million – the sixth-richest deal in NHL history. The deal locks up one of the league’s MVP candidates through the 2030-31 season for $11.25 million per year.

“Our goal was all along to make him a lifelong Bruin,” Sweeney said. “We’re very happy to have David be a part of our team now and for the foreseeable future.”

Pastrnak, 26, is second to Edmonton’s Connor McDavid this season with 42 goals, adding 38 assists while leading Boston to the best record in the NHL. Entering Thursday night’s game against Buffalo, the Bruins (47-8-5) had 99 points in 60 games – a 135-point pace that would surpass the 132 of the 1977 Montreal Canadiens.

Sweeney has also bolstered the roster heading into Friday’s trade deadline, acquiring forward Tyler Bertuzzi on Thursday in a deal that will send a top-10 protected first-round pick in 2024 and a fourth-rounder in 2025 to Detroit. (The Red Wings are retaining half of Bertuzzi’s salary for the rest of the season.) Last week, Sweeney acquired defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forward Garnet Hathaway from Washington.

That might have helped Pastrnak commit long-term.

“We’re confident in what our organization offers to David,” Sweeney said. “The success we’ve had – and hopefully going to continue to have – is a big part of that.”

Pastrnak, who was eligible to become a free agent after this season, has spent all of his nine NHL seasons with the Bruins, totaling 282 goals and 302 assists. With fellow forwards Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand, he helped the team finish with at least 100 points in the last four full NHL seasons and reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2019.

“These are the guys I grew up with, pretty much my NHL career,” Pastrnak said. “I’ve been learning from them every day. It’s an amazing accomplishment to play your career in one team. That’s definitely what was stuck stuck in my head going into this negotiation.”

Bertuzzi, 28, helps fill a gap left by an injury to Taylor Hall, who was placed on long-term injured reserve on Thursday. The 2010 No. 1 overall draft pick, who has 16 goals and 20 assists this season, won’t be available until late March – if at all.

By placing him on injured reserve, the team saves $6 million against the salary cap, making room for Bertuzzi. The ex-Red Wing has 14 points in 29 games this season and 88 goals and 114 assists in a career in which he has never made the playoffs. Forward Nick Foligno was also placed on injured reserve. He has 10 goals and 16 assists this season.

Bruins acquire Tyler Bertuzzi in trade with Red Wings

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Tyler Bertuzzi is going to the NHL-best Boston Bruins in the latest move by a Stanley Cup contender to keep pace in the loaded Eastern Conference.

The Bruins acquired Bertuzzi from the Detroit Red Wings for a top-10 protected first-round pick in 2024 and a fourth-rounder in 2025. Detroit is retaining half of Bertuzzi’s salary for the rest of the season.

Bertuzzi is a 28-year-old pending free agent winger who gives Boston depth up front and insurance for injured winger Taylor Hall. The team put Hall on long-term injured reserve, ruling him out until late March.

Enter Bertuzzi, who has himself been limited by injuries this season. He has 14 points in 29 games.

Bertuzzi has 88 goals and 114 assists in 305 regular-season games. He has yet to reach the playoffs in the NHL.

That will almost certainly change next month. The Bruins are on pace for 64 wins and 135 points, which would be the best regular season in hockey history with records in each of those categories.

Four years since the Lightning tied the league record for wins and got swept in the first round of the playoffs, the Bruins aren’t standing pat. They got defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forward Garnet Hathaway from Washington last week – a move that made them bigger and tougher in advance of a rough road through the East.

It got rougher in recent days.

Metropolitan Division-leading Carolina acquired defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and winger Jesse Puljujarvi, the New York Rangers traded for three-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Kane, the Islanders got depth forward Pierre Engvall, Tampa Bay gave up five picks for 25-year-old forward Tanner Jeannot, Pittsburgh shuffled its roster to bring in Mikael Gralund and Toronto continued a roster makeover that has added up to six new players joining the Maple Leafs. Even Ottawa, five points out of a playoff spot, made a big splash by getting Jakob Chychrun from Arizona.

Entering Thursday, the Red Wings are tied in the standings with the Senators, but general manager Steve Yzerman is opting to sell rather than buy. Before moving on from Bertuzzi, he traded defenseman Filip Hronek to Vancouver in a deal that got his team a first-round pick.

Detroit also took care of some internal business Wednesday, signing captain Dylan Larkin to a $69.6 million, eight-year extension to keep the three-time All-Star center in the fold through 2031. Boston did the same Thursday with MVP candidate David Pastrnak, inking him to an eight-year deal worth $90 million – the sixth-most lucrative contract in NHL history.

There was little concern about Larkin going anywhere and none with Pastrnak. Among the players still expected to be traded before the deadline Friday at 3 p.m. EST are Philadelphia winger James van Riemsdyk, Anaheim defenseman John Klingberg and three-time Cup-winning goaltender Jonathan Quick, who was sent from Los Angeles to Columbus this week but is expected to be flipped to a contender.

Arizona could also part with any number of pending free agents and players signed beyond this season after acquiring Jakub Voracek‘s contract from the Blue Jackets along with a 2023 sixth-round pick for minor-league goalie Jon Gillies. The Coyotes can use the $8.25 million cap hit through next season for Voracek – whose career is likely over because of concussions – to avoid dipping below the salary floor, while Columbus gets some financial flexibility.

Among other moves Thursday, St. Louis re-signed Sammy Blais to a $1 million, one-year extension. The Blues reacquired Blais in the trade that sent Vladimir Tarasenko to the Rangers, who now have a lineup with the prolific scoring winger and Kane.