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B’s and Habs reignite rivalry for first time since pandemic

It had been 641 days since the Boston Bruins last met the Montréal Canadiens in the regular season on Feb. 12, 2020. Less than a month after the Bruins beat the Habs, 4-1, that night at TD Garden, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that COVID-19 was a global pandemic.

The rest of the 2019-20 regular season was canceled after before the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs were held in a bubble about five months later. The entire 2020-21 season was shortened to 56 games and temporarily realigned to create an all-Canadian division to comply with COVID-19 public health accommodations across Canada.

The Bruins were eliminated in the 2021 Second Round by the New York Islanders and watched as Montréal went all the way to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– only to lose in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sunday night in Boston, the B’s met the Canadiens for the first time during the ongoing pandemic and came from behind to beat their longest, most storied rival, 5-2, on home ice.

17,850 fans in attendance packed TD Garden with proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test and masks required for entry.

The “Olé Olé Olé” chant was sung sarcastically in the third period as the Bruins pulled ahead and a Massachusetts native had a pair of goals in the victory.

A few things look different than in 2020.

Carey Price is on a personal leave of absence, while Tuukka Rask is currently unsigned and just started skating last week in an attempt to return from major hip surgery in the offseason.

Both goaltenders in Sunday night’s matchup made their Boston vs. Montréal debuts.

Jeremy Swayman (5-2-0, 2.16 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in seven games played) came out on top with the win for the B’s and made 27 saves on 29 shots faced in the effort.

Canadiens goaltender, Sam Montembeault (0-3-1, 3.78 goals-against average, .890 save percentage in five games played), turned aside 36 out of 40 shots against in the loss.

Boston improved to 8-5-0 (16 points) overall and remained in command of 5th place in the Atlantic Division, while Montréal dropped to 4-11-2 (10 points) on the season and stuck in 7th place in the Atlantic.

The Bruins were once again without the services of Trent Frederic (upper body) on Sunday, while head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a couple of minor changes to his lineup from Saturday afternoon’s, 5-2, victory in New Jersey to Sunday night’s matchup with Montréal.

Karson Kuhlman was placed on the right side of Erik Haula with Anton Blidh at left wing, while Oskar Steen entered the lineup on the “fourth” line with Tomáš Nosek at center and Jake DeBrusk at left wing.

Steen replaced Curtis Lazar, who joined Mike Reilly and Craig Smith on Boston’s short list of healthy scratches against the Canadiens.

Josh Anderson kicked the night off with a cross checking infraction against Brad Marchand at 3:20 of the first period, but the Bruins weren’t able to convert on the ensuing power play.

Moments later, after controlling possession in the attacking zone, Boston was caught with a defender pinching in as Connor Clifton raced to get back to his spot as Montréal started a rush the other way leading to a 2-on-1.

Instead of passing the puck, however, Joel Armia (1) ripped a shot over Swayman’s glove on the short side to give the Canadiens the night’s first lead, 1-0, at 8:09 of the first period.

Artturi Lehkonen (5) had the only assist on Armia’s first goal of the season as the Habs struck first.

The two teams had a little string of penalties as the first intermission drew near.

Late in the opening frame, Jake Evans tripped Marchand at 15:35, but Boston couldn’t capitalize on the ensuing skater advantage– nor could they do much on the power play at 18:23, when Brendan Gallagher went to the box for slashing Blidh, though that was more so due to the fact that the advantage was cut short when Marchand tripped Lehkonen at 18:59.

For the next 1:24, the two teams skated at 4-on-4, prior to yielding an abbreviated power play to Montréal that extended into the middle frame.

After one period, the Canadiens led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 12-11.

The B’s held the advantage in blocked shots (4-3), while the Habs led in takeaways (2-1) and hits (12-10).

Both teams had one giveaway each and split faceoff win percentage, 50-50, heading into the first intermission.

Montréal was 0/1 and Boston was 0/3 on the power play through 20 minutes.

Jakub Zboril snaked his way through the neutral zone while working a pass to lead Taylor Hall into the attacking zone on his 30th birthday almost midway through the second period.

Hall sent a shot on goal that rebounded off Montembeault and almost landed in the right spot for Nick Foligno to get his stick on the loose puck, but not before Charlie McAvoy (2) pinched in from the point, crashed the slot and sent the rubber biscuit past the Canadiens netminder on the low blocker side– tying the game, 1-1, in the process at 8:27 of the second period.

Hall (5) and Zboril (1) tallied the assists on McAvoy’s first goal of the night.

Late in the period, however, Zboril missed an open ice hit fresh from the bench off of a line change, leading to an overabundance of Montréal skaters getting into their attacking zone before Boston could catch up.

A shot from the Canadiens pinballed off of Swayman, might have hit a Bruin and slipped through to the back of the twine– giving Montréal a, 2-1, lead and Michael Pezzetta (1) his first career National Hockey League goal in the process.

Adam Brooks (1) and Anderson (4) had the assists on Pezzetta’s goal at 16:25 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Canadiens led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite Boston controlling shots on goal, 31-22, including a, 20-10, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (8-6) and giveaways (6-5), while Montréal led in takeaways (3-2), as well as faceoff win% (55-45).

Both teams had 23 hits each, while the Habs were 0/1 and the B’s were 0/3 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Jeff Petry was assessed a holding infraction at 1:25 of the third period and presented the Bruins with a power play as a result.

It didn’t take long for Boston to be successful on their fourth skater advantage of the night as Marchand setup McAvoy (3) for the wrist shot from the high slot over Montembeault’s glove through traffic– tying the game, 2-2, in the process.

Marchand (11) had the only assist on McAvoy’s power-play goal as the B’s tied things up, 2-2, on the scoreboard and McAvoy earned his first career two-goal game in the process at 2:14 of the third period.

A few minutes later– with a surge in momentum– Charlie Coyle sent a pass back to David Pastrnak for a shot that rebounded off of Montembeault prior to Petry getting a stick on it and attempting to clear it from the slot.

Petry, instead, inadvertently sent the puck off of Coyle’s (4) head and into Montréal’s own net, giving the Bruins their first lead of the night, 3-2, on Coyle’s unintentional individual effort at 5:58.

Right place, right time (depending on how you look at it).

Between McAvoy’s second goal and Coyle’s first of the night, Boston rallied for two goals in a span of 3:34.

It wasn’t that much longer before the Bruins scored again as Coyle (5) won a race off the boards into the attacking zone on a chip-in indirect pass from DeBrusk and crashed the net before roofing the rubber biscuit on the short side.

DeBrusk (1) and Steen (2) tallied the assists on Coyle’s second goal of the game and the Bruins pulled ahead, 4-2, at 9:05 of the third period.

Coyle’s pair of goals were scored almost three minutes apart from one another in a span of 3:07 before things settled down until late in the final frame.

With his team trailing by two goals, Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, pulled Montembeault for an extra attacker with about 2:30 remaining on the clock.

Things didn’t go as planned for Montréal, however.

An errant attempt to get the puck out of his own zone from Brandon Carlo hit a linesman before Pastrnak scooped it up, brought it into the attacking zone and sent it over to Hall (4) for the empty net goal at 18:02.

Pastrmak (9) and Carlo (1) were credited with the assists as Hall’s birthday goal sealed the deal on a, 5-2, win for Boston.

Canadiens defender, Chris Wideman, was given a misconduct after the goal at 18:02 and got an early ticket out of the rink to the dressing room as a result.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 5-2, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 41-29, including a, 10-7, advantage in the third period alone.

The B’s wrapped up Sunday night leading in blocked shots (10-7) and hits (31-29), while Montréal left TD Garden with the advantage in giveaways (7-6) and faceoff win% (55-45).

The Habs finished Sunday’s effort 0/1 on the power play, while Boston went 1/4 on the skater advantage.

Boston also improved to 2-2-0 (2-0-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 2-2-0 (2-0-0 at home) when trailing after the first period and 1-3-0 (1-0-0 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

The Canadiens dropped to 2-4-2 (1-3-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 3-3-2 (1-2-1 on the road) when leading after the first period and 3-1-0 (1-1-0 on the road) when leading after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins have five days off before hitting the road to face the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday (Nov. 20th).

The B’s return home next Sunday to host the Calgary Flames.

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NHL Nick's Net

Bruins open 2021-22 season with, 3-1, victory over Dallas

Brad Marchand kicked things off with a rare feat in the National Hockey League– opening a season with a penalty shot goal– before adding a late empty net goal for insurance in the Boston Bruins’, 3-1, win against the Dallas Stars at TD Garden on Saturday.

For the first time in nine years, a goaltender other than Tuukka Rask served as the starter for Boston on Opening Night, while Jeremy Swayman also became the first Bruins rookie to earn the start since Blaine Lacher did just that on Jan. 22, 1995, in the lockout shortened 48-game 1994-95 season.

Swayman (1-0-0, 1.00 goals-against average, .964 save percentage in one game played) turned aside 27 out of 28 shots faced in the win for Boston.

Meanwhile, Stars netminder, Braden Holtby (0-1-0, 2.26 goals-against average, .939 save percentage in two games played), made 37 saves on 39 shots against for a .949 save percentage in the loss.

With the win, the Bruins kicked off their season 1-0-0 (2 points) and moved into a tie for sixth place in the Atlantic Division with the Ottawa Senators, while Dallas fell to 1-1-0 (4 points) and tied for third in the Central Division with the Colorado Avalanche.

Curtis Lazar (upper body) missed the Opening Night action as he remains week-to-week since sustaining an injury during the preseason.

Boston captain, Patrice Bergeron, centered the first line in his usual role between Marchand and David Pastrnak on his wings, while Taylor Hall and Craig Smith surrounded Charlie Coyle on the second line.

Bruins newcomers, Erik Haula and Nick Foligno were slotted on the third line at center and right wing, respectively, while Jake DeBrusk suited up at left wing.

Tomas Nosek centered the fourth line in his Boston debut with Trent Frederic on his left and Karson Kuhlman on his right side.

Derek Forbort made his Bruins debut on the first defensive pairing alongside the newly extended, $76 million richer, Charlie McAvoy, while Mike Reilly was paired with Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk suited up alongside Connor Clifton.

In the crease, Linus Ullmark served as Swayman’s backup.

John Moore, Jakub Zboril and Anton Blidh joined Lazar on the short list of healthy scratches and injured players for Boston.

Not much was happening until about midway through the opening frame as the Bruins dominated in shots on goal, while end-to-end play ensued.

Then, at 9:35 of the first period, former Minnesota Wild turned Stars defender, Ryan Suter, hooked DeBrusk and was assessed a minor infraction.

Boston’s ensuing power play was cut short, however, as Smith tripped up Andrej Sekera along the endboards at 10:58.

The two teams skated at 4-on-4 for about 37 seconds before Dallas earned an abbreviated power play that went by the wayside.

Late in the period, Marchand skated towards Holtby on a breakaway with Suter hot on his tail, whereby Suter promptly held Marchand’s stick denying No. 63 in black and gold of a scoring opportunity while on the breakaway– yielding a penalty shot for Boston at 17:38.

Marchand (1) skated towards the crease with speed and beat Holtby with a clean shot above the pad, but under the blocker to give the Bruins the, 1-0, lead on a penalty shot goal.

It was the first penalty shot goal in a season opener for Boston since now current assistant coach, Chris Kelly, scored on a penalty shot goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 3, 2013.

Marchand’s penalty shot goal in a season opener was also just the third instance of such an Opening Night goal in league history as Mats Sundin had done so first with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 4, 2006, prior to Kelly’s penalty shot goal in 2013, and Marchand’s on Saturday night.

About a minute later, Roope Hintz caught a skate to the face and bled profusely as he skated off the ice and went down the tunnel. Hintz later returned to the game after the first intermission.

The Bruins presented the Stars with another power play opportunity to close out the opening frame as McAvoy smothered the puck with his hand, yielding a delay of game infraction at 19:08.

Once more, however, Dallas’ power play unit couldn’t get anything going as the horn sounded to signal the end of the first period with Boston ahead on the scoreboard, 1-0, and in shots on goal, 17-4.

The Bruins also held the advantage in hits (15-14), while the Stars led in blocked shots (3-2), takeaways (3-2), giveaways (5-2) and faceoff win percentage (54-46).

Dallas was 0/2 on the power play while the B’s were 0/1 heading into the middle frame.

Jacob Peterson caught Pastrnak away from the puck and was sent to the penalty box with an interference minor to kick things off at 4:51 of the second period, but Boston’s power play– like Dallas’ special teams– couldn’t get anything past Holtby on the skater advantage.

Shortly thereafter, Luke Glendening (1) capitalized on some open space in the slot where he received a pass from Tanner Kero before wiring a shot past Swayman to tie the game, 1-1, after the Bruins botched a clearing attempt in their own zone.

Kero (1) had the only assist on Glendening’s first goal in a Stars uniform at 9:15 of the second period.

Almost two minutes later, Jamie Benn cross checked Smith and cut a rut to the sin bin at 11:29, but Boston’s resulting power play was cut short by a hook when McAvoy tugged his stick around Glendening at 12:40.

Once more, the two teams skated at 4-on-4 before a brief power play for the Stars– which later turned into a short 5-on-3 advantage for Dallas as Marchand tripped Esa Lindell behind the Stars’ own net at 14:30.

Dallas couldn’t send another puck behind Swayman, however.

Through 40 minutes of action at TD Garden on Saturday night, the Bruins and Stars were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard despite Boston leading in shots on goal, 28-14, including an, 11-9, advantage in the second period alone.

Dallas led in blocked shots (9-7), takeaways (4-3), hits (25-19) and faceoff win% (51-49), while Boston led in giveaways (7-6) after two periods.

The Stars were 0/4 and the Bruins were 0/3 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Early in the final frame, Haula rushed into the attacking zone before dropping a pass for Foligno, whereby the Bruins winger flung the rubber biscuit towards the net as DeBrusk cycled down low.

Foligno’s initial attempt couldn’t get through, but DeBrusk (1) collected the loose puck and slipped it through Holtby to give Boston a, 2-1, lead at 4:43 of the third period, as well as Foligno (1) and Haula (1) their first points in a Bruins uniform with the primary and secondary assists, respectively.

Midway through the period, Foligno interfered with Alexander Radulov, but the Stars couldn’t muster anything on the ensuing power play opportunity at 11:12.

Hintz hooked Forbort at 14:25, but Boston’s bench miscalculated the number of skaters on the ice and was assessed a bench minor for too many men at the whistle, resulting in two minutes of 4-on-4 action.

With 2:05 remaining in the game, Stars head coach, Rick Bowness, pulled Holtby for an extra attacker, but it wasn’t enough to keep the puck in Dallas’ possession for a late comeback as Marchand (2) emerged from the neutral zone with plenty of space and time to assure the Bruins of the victory with an empty net goal at 18:23 of the third period.

Pastrnak (1) had the only assist on the goal as Marchand made it, 3-1, Boston.

Holtby vacated his crease for an extra skater with about 1:14 remaining and then again with about 38.3 seconds left in the game as Reilly sent the puck out of play for an automatic delay of game penalty at 19:21.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 3-1, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 40-28, despite Dallas leading a valiant effort in the third period with a, 14-12, advantage in shots on goal in the final frame alone.

The Stars left Boston leading in blocked shots (11-8), giveaways (11-7), hits (33-25) and faceoff win% (53-47).

Dallas went 0/6, while the Bruins went 0/3 on the power play in their season opener.

The B’s improved to 1-0-0 (1-0-0 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal, 1-0-0 (1-0-0 at home) when leading after the first period and 1-0-0 (1-0-0 at home) when tied after two periods in 2021-22.

The Stars, meanwhile, fell to 0-1-0 (0-1-0 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 0-1-0 (0-1-0 on the road) when trailing after one period and 1-1-0 (1-1-0 on the road) when tied after two periods this season.

The Bruins hit the road for their first road trip of the 2021-22 season with a pair of games next week.

Boston heads to Wells Fargo Center next Wednesday to take on the Philadelphia Flyers before venturing up to KeyBank Center to square off with the Buffalo Sabres next Friday.

The B’s return home to TD Garden on Oct. 24th against the San Jose Sharks.

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Boston Bruins 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 33-16-7, 73 points

3rd in the MassMutual NHL East Division

Eliminated in the Second Round by N.Y. Islanders

Additions: F Samuel Asselin, F Steven Fogarty, F Nick Foligno, F Jesper Frödén, F Erik Haula, F Tomas Nosek, D Derek Forbort, D James Greenway (acquired from TOR), D Tyler Lewington, G Troy Grosenick, G Linus Ullmark

Subtractions: F Paul Carey (SHL), F Sean Kuraly (signed with CBJ), F David Krejci (ELH), F Robert Lantosi (SHL), F Greg McKegg (signed with NYR), F Ondrej Kase (signed with TOR), F Nick Ritchie (signed with TOR), D Steven Kampfer (KHL), D Jeremy Lauzon (expansion, SEA), D Kevan Miller (retired), D Jarred Tinordi (signed with NYR), G Jaroslav Halak (signed with VAN), G Dan Vladar (traded to CGY)

Still Unsigned: F Alex Khokhlachev (KHL, BOS reserve list), G Tuukka Rask

Re-signed: F Anton Blidh, F Trent Frederic, F Taylor Hall, F Cameron Hughes, F Joona Koppanen, F Zach Senyshyn, D Brandon Carlo, D Mike Reilly, D Nick Wolff, G Callum Booth

Offseason Analysis: The Bruins are in a period of transition. Stop calling them favorites.

They might still be playoff contenders, but they’ll have to focus on even making the postseason first to begin with shortly– if not already– this upcoming season.

Boston’s General Manager, Don Sweeney, had his work cut out for him this summer and managed it pretty well– all things considered.

Sure, the B’s don’t have David Krejci and we’ll get into that, but instead of signing one or two free agents and calling it a day, then talking about needing to fill a hole that he’s left empty for years or created going into the new season, Sweeney signed five key players and then some for depth.

It’s a transition, not a purposeful tank to rebuild– yet, anyway.

As long as Patrice Bergeron is under contract, Boston has assured him they’ll do whatever he and Brad Marchand say the dressing room needs.

Speaking of Bergeron, though, he’s put off contract extension talks until the 2021-22 season is over, so for any Bruins fans that have gone through the pain of watching Zdeno Chara play in a different uniform last season with the Washington Capitals and again this upcoming season with the New York Islanders, as well as watching Krejci return to Czechia this year, well… …it happens. Time waits for no one.

All good things must come to an end and a new era dawns. Just hope it’s a good one.

Oh, and, Tuukka Rask is currently unsigned after offseason hip surgery, though the 34-year-old goaltender has expressed a desire to only play for the Bruins if he’s healthy enough to go for the 2021-22 season by the time December rolls around.

He’ll even sign for league minimum and “tons of Bud Lights”, which a certain podcast would love, even if it isn’t their preferred light beer (shameless plug for some Twitter pals).

Anyway, Sweeney’s saved about $1.089 million in cap space to sign Rask to a low, one-year, deal if he’s good enough to return to action, which wouldn’t complicate matters in the crease with the arrival of Linus Ullmark via free agency and the development of Jeremy Swayman.

Rask and Swayman were always going to share the spotlight as Swayman comes into his own. Rask’s injury, however, slightly changes matters in the handoff.

Ullmark joins the Bruins on a four-year contract worth $5.000 million per season through 2024-25. He was the winningest goaltender for the Buffalo Sabres last season with a 9-6-3 record in 20 games, a 2.63 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in that span.

Given the workload that he faced in Buffalo compared to Boston’s more structured defense, Ullmark’s numbers should improve as he’s had moments of brilliance in his short spurts thus far– only really coming into the league as a starter or backup goaltender in the last two seasons.

At 28-years-old, he’s right on track for goaltender development and if things head south, the Bruins can use 2021-22 as a write off, plus 2022-23 as a means of giving Swayman full-time starter duties at the earliest.

Swayman, at 22-years-old, has already played 10 National Hockey League games and amassed a 7-3-0 record with a 1.50 goals-against average, a .945 save percentage and two shutouts, but that kind of luck is unheard of for a goaltender.

Eventually, given his unconventional style, his stats will come back to Earth and you don’t want to let reality cut down a goaltender’s confidence so soon while they’re young (see, Philadelphia Flyers goaltender, Carter Hart’s 2020-21 season, for example).

It’s nice to have Swayman as a future ace, but that’s just it– the future. Though the future is now in transition, it’s not quite the time to make the jump in the crease– especially while there’s more pressing matters like replacing Krejci.

Charlie Coyle is, ideally, Boston’s second line center entering this season, but if things go south with Coyle centering Taylor Hall and Craig Smith, then that’s where Nick Foligno or Erik Haula come in handy, if Jack Studnicka can’t make the jump from the Providence Bruins (AHL) to Boston.

Krejci finally could’ve had wingers in Hall and Smith for a full season, but the 35-year-old has always wanted to play in front of his parents and brother in the Czech Republic– especially after leaving for North America in his teens to play hockey for a living.

It’ll also help introduce his kids to his Czech native tongue, so they’ll be able to communicate with their grandparents.

Having spent his entire career with Boston through 962 regular season games since breaking into the league in the 2006-07 season, he’s earned every right to do as he pleases.

He might be back for the 2022-23 season, but absolutely do not hold him to it.

Hall, meanwhile, signed a four-year extension worth $6.000 million per season in the offseason, so Boston at least still only has one hole to fill on the second line if Coyle can’t return to form.

Foligno signed a two-year deal with a $3.800 million cap hit and Haula signed a two-year deal worth $2.375 million per season.

In 957 career NHL games, Foligno’s had 203-283–486 totals for the Ottawa Senators, Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs. He had been Columbus’ captain until the deadline when he was dealt to Toronto to add some punch to their lineup, only to blow a 3-1 series lead over the Montréal Canadiens in the 2021 First Round.

Foligno had 7-13–20 totals in 49 games with the Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs in 2020-21.

If nothing else, Foligno adds valuable leadership in the absence of Krejci and should hold things over as someone that gives it their all on a night-to-night basis. Bruins fans should warm up to him quickly if they haven’t already.

Haula, on the other hand, spent last season with the Nashville Predators, where he had 9-12–21 totals in 51 games last season, which was about the same production he had with the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers in 2019-20.

He hasn’t been able to find his breakout scoring touch that he had with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18, when he had 55 points (29 goals, 26 assists) in 76 games, but he should be fine as a third liner flanked by Jake DeBrusk and Foligno.

Boston needs to get a consistent offense going and they at least seem to have the right level of talent for each line this season.

As long as everyone stays healthy it’s a good thing with an overhauled defense due to the Seattle Kraken taking Jeremy Lauzon in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, Kevan Miller retiring and the uneasiness of delegating more time to Jakub Zboril after his– at times– lackluster 2020-21 season.

Speaking of the revamped bottom-six, however, Tomas Nosek is new in town on a two-year deal worth $1.750 million per season, joining Trent Frederic– fresh off of an extension this offseason for two years and a $1.050 million cap hit– and Chris Wagner on the fourth line.

He’s been a fun player to watch come into his own with the Golden Knights since Vegas took him from the Detroit Red Wings in their expansion draft in 2017, and just had a career-year with 8-10–18 totals in 38 games last season.

Anything at or above 15 points from a fourth line center is a job well done for less than a $2.000 million cap hit.

Sean Kuraly’s gone home to Columbus, but after dropping from 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) in 69 games in 2019-20, to just nine points (four goals, five assists) in 47 games last season, needing a change of scenery was a welcome excuse for Boston to let him go.

Meanwhile, Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie also departed in the offseason for Toronto, though Kase’s future is shrouded by the ever-looming cloud of concussions and Ritchie outperformed expectations last season in the first half of the season before regressing to his ways.

Jaroslav Halak also left for the Vancouver Canucks, though that was inevitable with the long line for Boston’s backup goaltender being cut by Swayman’s emergence.

Even Dan Vladar was traded to the Calgary Flames for a 2022 3rd round pick as a result.

A couple of days prior, on July 26th, Boston acquired the rights to James Greenway from the Maple Leafs for future considerations. He’ll need a little more time in the system, for now.

With Miller retired, Steven Kampfer off to the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia and Jarred Tinordi gone to the New York Rangers in free agency, Sweeney signed Derek Forbort to a three-year contract worth $3.000 million per season.

Mike Reilly also played well enough after being acquired at the trade deadline to earn a three-year extension with a $3.000 million cap hit as well.

Additionally, Brandon Carlo signed a six-year extension worth $4.100 million per season, so the Bruins have a defensive core with Carlo, Forbort, Matt Grzelcyk and Reilly under contract after 2021-22.

Charlie McAvoy, meanwhile is a pending-restricted free agent by the time July 1, 2022, rolls around (unless he’s signed to an extension before then).

Forbort, meanwhile, joins Boston after spending last season with the Winnipeg Jets where he had 2-10–12 totals in 56 games from the blue line. At 6-foot-4, 219-pounds, he adds much needed size to Boston’s defense.

In the meantime, John Moore, remains under contract and likely on the long term injured reserve to start the season, leaving his $2.750 million cap hit mostly off the books until the Bruins come to some sort of a resolution on that one.

Time will tell if the B’s will sink or swim, but you can’t say they didn’t try to put something together on paper this offseason.

Offseason Grade: B

In Boston, you either like or hate Sweeney. There’s no such thing as love unless you win championship rings these days.

While Sweeney’s made some blunders along the way, his overall approach as the Bruins’ GM has established a foundation of being in the room– being in consideration and among the conversation from year-to-year for attracting talent and making trades.

Sometimes it’s panned out, like the acquisition of Hall. Sometimes it’s fallen short, like when Sweeney paid a hefty price for Rick Nash (though only Ryan Lindgren remains a threat on the Rangers and Nash’s career-ending concussion couldn’t have been accounted for at the time of the trade).

Boston was stuck in the mud when he replaced Peter Chiarelli and Sweeney’s hands were tied in 2015, but he’s always been an active general manager and is tactical in his approach of replacing expendable assets.

At the same time, that very process irks Bruins fans because it comes across as overthinking or not trying hard enough to sign the player instead of a (better fit be damned) player.

Well, that and every guy these days isn’t Tim Thomas or Bobby Orr.

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Calgary Flames 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 26-27-3, 55 points

5th in the Scotia NHL North Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

Additions: F Blake Coleman, F Alex Gallant (signed to a PTO), F Trevor Lewis, F Tyler Pitlick (acquired from SEA), F Brad Richardson, D Nick DeSimone, D Erik Gudbranson, D Kevin Gravel, D Andy Welinski, D Nikita Zadorov (acquired from CHI), G Adam Werner, G Dan Vladar (acquired from BOS)

Subtractions: F Spencer Foo (KHL), F Josh Leivo (signed with CAR), F Joakim Nordström (KHL), F Zac Rinaldo (signed with CBJ), F Buddy Robinson (signed with ANA), F Derek Ryan (signed with EDM), F Dominik Simon (signed with PIT), D Mark Giordano (expansion, SEA), D Carl-Johan Lerby (SHL), D Nikita Nesterov (KHL), D Alexander Petrovic (signed with DAL), D Alexander Yelesin (KHL), G Louis Domingue (signed with PIT)

Still Unsigned: G Artyom Zagidulin

Re-signed: F Dillon Dubé, F Glenn Gawdin, F Justin Kirkland, F Matthew Phillips, F Luke Philp, F Brett Ritchie, D Oliver Kylington, D Connor Mackey, D Colton Poolman, D Michael Stone, D Juuso Välimäki, G Tyler Parsons

Offseason Analysis: Calgary is facing an existential crisis.

They can either trust in their core players that they just might get it done if they’ve become frustrated by years of falling short (or not even making the playoffs at all, as they missed the postseason in 2021) or they can begin to move forward by hitting the “reset” button.

This offseason, Flames General Manager, Brad Treliving, chose to add without subtracting– to overhaul, rather than to rebuild (at least for now).

Joakim Nordström, Derek Ryan, Zac Rinaldo and more are gone. They’ve left for other professional leagues around the world, Edmonton and Columbus, respectively.

Mark Giordano was claimed by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft after breaking into the league with the Flames in the 2005-06 season. He spent 15 years in Calgary and amassed 143-366–509 totals in 949 games in a Flames uniform and had been captain in the “C of Red” since the 2013-14 season.

Though many fans in Calgary would like to belive the 37-year-old will spend one season in Seattle and return to the Flames, there are no guarantees.

Calgary’s already worked on developing a good-standing relationship with their new Pacific Division rivals as they got traded a 2022 4th round pick to the Kraken for forward, Tyler Pitlick, on July 22nd– a day after the expansion draft.

Pitlick slides in as a quality top-nine forward for the Flames and had 6-5–11 totals in 38 games for the Arizona Coyotes last season while battling injury.

He’s reached the 20-point plateau twice in his career in 2017-18 with Dallas (27 points in 80 games) and 2019-20 with Philadelphia (20 points in 63 games) and should be a low-risk high-reward depth move.

Treliving made a splash when free agency opened on July 28th, signing two-time defending Stanley Cup champion, Blake Coleman, to a six-year contract worth $4.900 million per season.

Coleman’s speed and skill solidifies Calgary’s middle-six as he should be on the second or third line at all times.

He’s had three consecutive seasons with at least 30 points since the 2018-19 season and notched 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 55 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020-21.

Coleman on a line with Andrew Mangiapane is a game-changer for Calgary’s offense– especially as they’ve re-signed Dillon Dubé and still have Sean Monahan down the middle to fill out the top-nine with Mikael Backlund, Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk on the roster.

The same day that free agency began, Treliving also made a pair of trades–first acquiring defender, Nikita Zadorov, from Chicago for a 2022 3rd round pick (originally belonging to the Toronto Maple Leafs) and later acquiring goaltender, Dan Vladar, from the Boston Bruins for Calgary’s own 2022 3rd round pick.

Zadorov, 26, signed a one-year deal worth $3.750 million with the Flames and had 1-7–8 totals in 55 games with Chicago last season, as well as 23-60–83 totals in 411 career NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche and Chicago.

The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Russian native isn’t an offensive powerhouse from the blue line, but rather a top-four shutdown defensive defender. At his best, Zadorov can make hit after hit and pummel an opposing team’s offense into submission in his own zone, though the occasional bad penalty may result.

Vladar, 24, made his regular season debut last season for the Bruins and went 2-2-1 in five games played with a 3.40 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage in that span.

Don’t let the stats fool you, though, as Boston allowed eight goals against in Vladar’s last start against the Washington Capitals on April 11th before the emergence of Jeremy Swayman and return from injury for Tuukka Rask forced B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy’s, hand down the stretch and through the postseason.

Vladar is capable of holding his own in the NHL and should be a decent backup behind Jacob Markström in net for Calgary.

In 2019-20, Vladar had a 1.79 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage in 25 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL). He followed that effort up with a 2.19 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in 10 games with Providence last season.

Treliving signed unrestricted free agents, Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis and Erik Gudbranson, to one-year contracts over the summer– adding Richardson on an $800,000 cap hit for depth, Lewis as a fourth liner with an $800,000 cap hit and Gudbranson ($1.950 million cap hit) as a defender that just might push Oliver Kylington or Juuso Välimäki out of regular ice time.

Richardson, 36, was limited to 17 games with the Nashville Predators last season and had 1-3–4 totals after spending 16 prior seasons with the Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, Coyotes and Predators.

He won a Stanley Cup ring with then Los Angeles head coach, Darryl Sutter, in 2012, while Lewis won two Cups in his Kings tenure in 2012 and 2014.

Lewis joins the Flames after spending last season with the Winnipeg Jets– notching 5-5–10 totals in 56 games after spending 674 games in a Los Angeles uniform from parts of the 2008-09 season through 2019-20.

Gudbranson bounced from the Ottawa Senators to the Predators at the 2021 deadline after amassing 1-2–3 totals in 36 games with the Sens before contributing one assist in nine games with Nashville afterward.

With only four points in 45 games, Gudbranson isn’t much competition for Välimäki, who had 2-9–11 totals in 49 games for Calgary last season, but the clock is ticking on Kylington’s tenure in the “C of Red”.

Ranked 24th by TSN in the final draft rankings ahead of the 2015 NHL Draft, Kylington fell to the Flames in the 2nd round at 60th overall and has only appeared in 95 career games approaching seven years out of his draft year.

He had one assist in eight games last season and re-signed with Calgary on a one-year, two-way contract and has 16 points in his career, while Välimäki already has 14 points in 73 games in parts of two seasons since breaking into the NHL with the Flames in 2018-19.

Just like with Calgary’s core, time might be running out for a serious chance.

Offseason Grade: A-

If you were hoping for the Flames to tear things down this offseason, then they failed this summer.

If you’re looking at things from the perspective that adding without subtracting while still having enough of a core to make something happen, well, then signing Coleman alone is enough to laud Treliving praise for making a move instead of sticking to the script.

Of course, now the pressure is on for Calgary to succeed or risk fraying their relationship with Gaudreau and other Flames veterans, which would mean that Treliving would be forced to make some big trades by the deadline or next summer.

That said, the biggest detractor from the Flames this offseason might just be the Flames themselves as Sutter’s coaching style hasn’t adapted to the NHL in 2021.

If you don’t let your best players play their games and try to box them into a mold they don’t fit, then you’re only bringing yourself down in the league currently.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Vancouver Canucks 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 23-29-4, 50 points

7th in the Scotia NHL North Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

Additions: F Justin Dowling, F Jason Dickinson (acquired from DAL), F Phil Di Giuseppe, F Sheldon Dries, F Conor Garland (acquired from ARI), F Nic Petan, F Sheldon Rempal, F John Stevens, D Kyle Burroughs, D Oliver Ekman-Larsson (acquired from ARI), D Brad Hunt, D Brady Keeper, D Tucker Poolman, D Luke Schenn, D Devante Stephens, G Jaroslav Halak, G Spencer Martin (acquired from TBL)

Subtractions: F Sven Baertschi (signed with VGK), F Jay Beagle (traded to ARI), F Travis Boyd (signed with ARI), F Loui Eriksson (traded to ARI), F Tyler Graovac (KHL), F Jayce Hawryluk (SHL), F Kole Lind (expansion, SEA), F Lukas Jasek (Liiga), F Marc Michaelis (signed with Toronto Marlies, AHL), F Petrus Palmu (Liiga), F Antoine Roussel (traded to ARI), F Jake Virtanen (buyout, KHL), D Jalen Chatfield (signed with Chicago Wolves, AHL), D Alexander Edler (signed with LAK), D Mitch Eliot (signed with Rochester Americans, AHL), D Brogan Rafferty (signed with ANA), D Nate Schmidt (traded to WPG), D Ashton Sautner (signed with Abbotsford Canucks, AHL), D Josh Teves (signed with Rochester Americans, AHL), G Braden Holtby (buyout)

Still Unsigned: F Elias Pettersson (RFA), F Jimmy Vesey, D Quinn Hughes (RFA), G Jake Kielly

Re-signed: F Justin Bailey, F Brandon Sutter, D Guillaume Brisebois, D Travis Hamonic, D Olli Juolevi

Offseason Analysis: Canucks General Manager, Jim Benning, has been busy this offseason undoing past misjudgments and moving Vancouver forward in other areas (however small they may be).

At least he didn’t sign anyone to a head-scratching long-term contract the day that free agency began on July 28th this year.

With about $10.664 million in cap space currently and Elias Pettersson as a restricted-free agent alongside Quinn Hughes, the Canucks still have some work to get done before the season begins or else they risk falling behind even further in the standings.

While Pettersson would probably love to make about $9.000 or $10 million per season, he hasn’t exactly reached that status yet as a 22-year-old center with 153 points in 165 career games.

A solid bridge contract is more likely in his future than, say, a long-term seven or eight-year deal.

It may be kicking the can down the road to pay him later, but with 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in 26 games last season, there’s always the risk that his wrist injury might quite literally hurt his skilled hands in the near to long-term future.

A bridge deal insures the Canucks of avoiding prolonging the salary cap hell that they’ve been through until Benning was able to dump most of it in Arizona via the trade with the Coyotes for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland.

That said, Pettersson is worth paying a premium for to build off of Vancouver’s young core. He had 28-38–66 totals in 71 games in his first season in the league in 2018-19 and amassed 27-39–66 totals in 68 games prior to the COVID-19 pandemic being declared in the 2019-20 season.

Hughes, on the other hand, is important to Vancouver’s future, but had a dip in production from 53 points (eight goals, 45 assists) in 68 games in his first full season in 2019-20 to 41 points (three goals, 38 assists) in 56 games last season.

Nevertheless, for a defender to wrack up 40 or more points in a season is pretty good all things considered.

Especially since Hughes is only 21-years-old and has plenty of track left on route to his potential.

It should be easier to get a deal done with Hughes than Pettersson if the sticking point is that one sees themselves more valuable to the team than the other.

If, for some reason, things went south between the Canucks and Pettersson, the Canucks could survive– albeit reminiscent of the last days of Pavel Bure with the franchise.

In other words, you probably don’t want that to happen again.

All right, what about what Vancouver has already taken care of this offseason, shall we?

Jaroslav Halak left the Boston Bruins for the Canucks via free agency this summer and signed a one-year deal worth $1.500 million with another $1.500 million in performance bonuses to become the backup to Thatcher Demko, though Vancouver may prefer to utilize Halak and Demko as some sort of a 1A/1B tandem.

Despite Halak’s 9-6-4 record in 19 games last season, he maintained a quality 2.53 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage with two shutouts in that span as Boston’s backup until Jeremy Swayman entered the conversation.

In 2019-20, Halak and Tuukka Rask captured the William M. Jennings Trophy as the goaltender(s) with 25 or more games played that allowed the fewest goals against in that season.

Halak went 18-6-6 in 31 games and had a 2.39 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and three shutouts in that remarkable regular season run.

It served as a reminder that Halak was once a surefire starting goaltender and could very well, in the event that was necessary, command a team from the crease as a starter once more.

This after a 22-11-4 record in 40 games played with Boston in 2018-19, in which he had a 2.34 goals-against average, a .922 save percentage and five shutouts.

But at 36-years-old, Halak’s time in the league is dwindling as he continues about the twilight of his career.

At the very least, he brings in more stability in the crease than Braden Holtby did for Demko– and that’s precisely why the Canucks felt is was O.K. to buyout the remaining year of Holtby’s contract.

The bulk of Benning’s work this offseason came via making trades.

He most recently acquired goaltender, Spencer Martin, from the Tampa Bay Lightning on July 31st for future considerations to solidify depth in the event of injury or to at least provide the Abbotsford Canucks (AHL) with a quality starter.

But earlier this summer, Benning kicked things off with a small grab for top-nine depth by sending the Dallas Stars a 2021 3rd round pick (73rd overall, Ayrton Martino) for forward, Jason Dickinson, on July 17th.

Six days later, Benning phoned Bill Armstrong in Arizona and executed a trade that saved the Canucks almost $5.000 million in valuable cap space after sending Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson, a 2021 1st round pick (9th overall, Dylan Guenther), a 2022 2nd round pick and a 2023 7th round pick to the Coyotes for Ekman-Larsson and Garland’s signing rights before re-signing the latter to a five-year extension worth $4.950 million per season.

Arizona retained 12% of Ekman-Larsson’s salary, thus shaving $990,000 off of his cap hit for Vancouver, who is assessed a cap hit of $7.260 million per season for Ekman-Larsson through 2026-27.

With change coming to the blue line in Vancouver, Nate Schmidt reconsidered a trade he had initially rejected and informed Benning he would be fine being moved after all in a deal where the Canucks sent Schmidt to the Winnipeg Jets for a 2022 3rd round pick on July 27th.

If Ekman-Larsson’s able to rebound from his decline– reaching 55 points in 75 games in 2015-16, then 39 points in 79 games the following season before rebounding with 42 points in 82 games in 2017-18 and 44 points in 81 games in 2018-19 prior to his dropoff again in 2019-20, where he had 30 points in 66 games and 2020-21, where he had 24 points in 46 games– then Benning might just be a mastermind after all.

At the very least, Ekman-Larsson’s 24 points last season with Arizona was more than Schmidt had in 54 games with Vancouver, as Schmidt dropped from 31 points in 59 games with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2019-20 to 15 points in 54 games with the Canucks.

Offseason Grade: B

If the Canucks had signed Pettersson and Hughes to extensions already– and assuming they weren’t overpaying them– then Vancouver probably would get an “A” overall for their willingness to free themselves from past mistakes and try something new.

Will they be as bad as they were last season? Probably not.

Will they be “blow other teams out of the water” good this season? Also probably not.

But at the very least, they’ve given themselves enough to work with in the next year or two to fill out the rest of their core and supplement their best players with better pieces of the puzzle.

If, however, everything falls on their face, then I guess Vancouver is just cursed like that then, huh.

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NHL Nick's Net

Where do the 2020-21 Boston Bruins go from here?

To some, the 2020-21 Boston Bruins season ended in disappointment. To others, it made sense. Not for the reasons that you’re probably thinking.

No, there’s no arguments to be made around here regarding the departures of Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug from 2019-20 to 2020-21, though there certainly is something to be said about what moves were made (or not made) since then.

Chara made his own decision to leave and pursue a challenge that was unique to his own career, while Krug and the Bruins just… …never really saw eye-to-eye in the end.

Boston’s General Manager, Don Sweeney, has a long offseason ahead with some tough decisions regarding his roster composition— the draft, free agency, possible trades and the looming Seattle Kraken expansion draft (not necessarily in that order).

For starters, it’d be unwise for the Bruins to trade their 2021 1st round pick unless it’s one of those “home run” deals where you’ve all but assured yourself of a slam dunk that’ll take you all the way to the 2022 Stanley Cup Final.

Then again, the Colorado Avalanche were built to be a super team and they were eliminated in the same Second Round that Boston was ousted from this year. Hockey is weird.

Let’s not focus on Seattle too much just yet and sort through just about every player that hit the ice in a Bruins uniform this season instead.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Control” or “Command” “F”, then type your favorite player’s name is your best friend here. It’s a long read, folks.

Forward Line 1

BRAD MARCHAND (29-40—69 totals in 53 games)

Marchand remains under contract through the 2024-25 season and is currently 33-years-old which means he’s only just entering the other side of his prime.

That said, he’s still in his prime and he’s expressed his desire to remain a Bruin for a long time (that was a given when he signed his current contract as an eight-year extension on Sept. 26, 2016, well ahead of when he would’ve reached free agency on July 1, 2017).

PATRICE BERGERON (23-25—48 totals in 54 games)

Along with Marchand, the Bruins captain has expressed to B’s President, Cam Neely, that he would like to go for another Cup with his current team. That doesn’t necessarily rule out whether or not Bergeron would stick around for a rebuild, but it also means that Boston can’t rebuild until Bergeron says so, basically.

He’s earned that right since being drafted by the team in the 2nd round (45th overall) in 2003, and making the roster out of training camp as an 18-year-old for the 2003-04 season— going on to spend the last 17 NHL seasons with Boston.

Bergeron’s entering the final year of his current contract, which means he’ll be a pending-unrestricted free agent after the 2021-22 season. He’ll also be 36-years-old, so if Jack Studnicka and/or John Beecher aren’t already being trained to become the next first line center sooner rather than later, then that’s going to be something Sweeney will need to fix.

Bergeron has the makeup of a lifetime Bruin, but even Bobby Orr left via free agency (though Alan Eagleson had more to do with that) and Boston was forced to trade Ray Bourque after not being able to win the Cup with him over a 20-year span (regardless of your views on Harry Sinden and penny-pinching).

At least Bergeron already has a 2011 Stanley Cup ring with the Bruins to his name, but it wouldn’t be crazy to see him take one or two more chances elsewhere if things head south.

DAVID PASTRNAK (20-28—48 totals in 48 games)

Pastrnak had a late start to the already months behind 2020-21 league calendar as he recovered from offseason surgery. At times he appeared at the top of his game, but there were a few cold streaks here and there— whether it was injury related or not, sometimes a season just goes like that.

Though he was on pace for 29 goals in a regular 82-game schedule—down from 48 goals in 70 games in a pandemic shortened 2019-20 season, well, again none of that really matters. He was on pace for 56 goals last season at the time the league shut down due to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 pandemic declaration and he’s probably on pace for almost 1,000,000 goals in his career.

Pastrnak is one of two or three biggest components in Boston’s new core (the others being Charlie McAvoy and, if you will, Jeremy Swayman) and has two more years left on his current contract with a $6.667 million cap hit through 2022-23.

Forward Line 2

TAYLOR HALL (10-23—33 totals in 53 games)

Hall arrived via a trade with the Buffalo Sabres with Curtis Lazar in tow in exchange for Anders Bjork and a 2021 2nd round pick, which is one of the best ways to get good value in a deal involving a 1st overall pick (Hall in 2010).

The fact that Hall only had two goals in 37 games with the Sabres is certainly a wild one, but at least he had 17 assists to make up for things, right?

With the exception of his Hart Memorial Trophy winning 93-point performance in 2017-18, Hall has never reached the 30-goal plateau (he had 39 in 2017-18) and plays with a little bit more of a playmaker style to what some might consider a power forward frame or whatever.

He’s got speed, hands and great vision, but he won’t score 50 goals. That’s fine.

He’s still one of the league’s best top-six forwards and pairing him on a line with David Krejci is almost certainly a no brainer. Give him the best fit to excel and it’s no wonder why Hall had 8-6—14 totals in 16 games with the Bruins after the trade.

Buffalo retained 50% of Hall’s salary in the deal, which was great for Boston as he only had a one-year, $8.000 million contract in the first place, so it was much easier to fit $4.000 million under the cap than the full value the Sabres paid for his services back in last October during free agency.

Boston hasn’t had a suitable winger on their second line since the days of, well, Milan Lucic basically.

Bringing Hall back is a top priority for Sweeney this offseason and should get done on a three or four-year deal worth about $6.000 million per season.

DAVID KREJCI (8-36—44 totals in 51 games)

Krejci has previously indicated a desire to finish his professional playing days back home in Czechia and was asked again at the end of season press conference about his desires to return Czech Republic and couldn’t provide a response— citing that he hasn’t even been able to answer his own parents on that question.

Would he like to get another Cup ring? Probably.

Would he also like to play back in his native country for at least a couple of seasons so his children can learn Czech and be able to communicate with their grandparents? Also, probably.

Krejci’s $7.250 million cap hit is expiring this offseason as the 35-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.

In 962 career NHL games— all with Boston— since making his league debut in the 2006-07 season, he’s amassed 215-515—730 totals, while spending five out of the last six seasons without a winger that best fits his “pass first” playmaking abilities.

Taylor Hall is destined to re-sign with the Bruins as they have about $27 million in cap space this summer.

If the B’s find a solution on the right wing of the second line or simply continue to operate with Craig Smith as such, then Krejci should want to get a full season out of it just to say that he tried.

Realistically, Krejci could be one of those players that retires from the game at 38 or 39, which might sound early for some, but let’s remember that he’s already been part of 15 NHL seasons— he’s played a lot longer than the average NHL career (about three times longer, in fact).

The best solution for Boston as they transition from Patrice Bergeron and Krejci down the middle in the top-six to Jack Studnicka, Charlie Coyle, John Beecher or whoever else is in the fold— might be to sign Krejci to a one-year deal and give him time for at least two seasons afterwards back in the Czech Republic.

CRAIG SMITH (13-19—32 totals in 54 games)

Smith was highly touted as a decent signing in free agency last offseason and performed as expected for Boston in 2020-21. Though he might’ve made the roster deeper as a whole spending more time on the third line, Smith elevated his game with Ondrej Kase out for most of the season.

He was on pace for 47 points in a regular 82-game schedule, which would’ve been his best performance since he had 51 points in 79 games with the Nashville Predators in 2017-18.

With two years left on his contract at $3.100 million per season, Smith is well worth every penny thus far.

Forward Line 3

JAKE DeBRUSK (5-9—14 totals in 41 games)

There’s no way around it, but DeBrusk had a disappointing season in 2020-21.

Whether you’re on the fence about criticizing his performance given the ongoing pandemic and league protocol related restrictions in relation to how that affects a player’s mindset or one of those people that calls in to a show to complain about nonsense someone made up, DeBrusk was demoted to the fourth line and spent some nights as a healthy scratch.

He established a career-high 27 goals in his second season over 68 games in 2018-19, despite missing some games due to injuries that season and has more offsensive skill to his game and a speed component that his father, Louie, perhaps didn’t have in his NHL playing days.

Where Jake might lack in physicality, he makes up for in his scoring prowess, ability to move the puck and line chemistry.

Yes, there are times when it would seem that he needs to be reminded of forechecking and staying on an opponent, but he’s also provided a versatility along the left side or rarely on his opposite wing when the Bruins have struggled with bottom-six depth over the season.

Things may be coming to a crescendo with Boston, however, given the opportunity to sell before things continue on a downward spiral, even though his $3.675 million cap hit through next season is pretty affordable for what— in the best of times— is a top-nine forward.

The chance to avoid retaining salary is now, rather than later as the 2022 trade deadline approaches and if there’s a team out there that wants to prioritize DeBrusk in their plans, they may very well like that fact that he’s only 24-years-old and will be a pending-restricted free agent at season’s end in 2021-22.

For Boston, he’s a cheaper alternative to the one-dimensional style of Mike Hoffman when he’s on his game and producing goals.

But he’s also trade bait this offseason for the B’s, since a change of scenery might just help him find solid ground in things that bigger than just the game and net the Bruins the depth they badly needed in the playoffs.

NICK RITCHIE (15-11—26 totals in 56 games)

Ritchie amassed a career-high 15 goals in his first full season with the Bruins. That would’ve been phenomenal if he did all from the fourth line, but also highly unrealistic even for the new-age “roll four lines” style of the contemporary NHL.

He looked a lot better overall, though, than when Boston traded Danton Heinen for him on Feb. 24, 2020.

It’s going to be hard to try to finagle a fair contract, though, given his offensive outburst and pending-RFA status coming off of a previous deal where he had a cap hit of about $1.499 million.

Paying Ritchie $3.000 million a year and expecting him to reach almost 20 goals would be very unwise and should earn comparisons to the previous GM in Boston.

If he stays or goes, he’s earned another look in a Bruins uniform— just for the right price, in the right role and as long as he doesn’t stray too far from whatever worked this season (again, namely playing well beyond his expectations alongside David Krejci out of necessity until Taylor Hall was acquired, so that’s unrealistic if Hall and Krejci are re-signed).

If nothing else can be done in free agency regarding the third line (Blake Coleman would be great) and the fourth line is gutted, then Ritchie deserves another “prove it” contract in Boston.

CHARLIE COYLE (6-10—16 totals in 51 games)

In 2015-16, Coyle broke the 40-point plateau with 21-21—42 totals in 82 games with the Minnesota Wild. The following season, Coyle set career-highs in assists (38) and points (56) in 82 games with the Wild.

He’s averaged about 33 points per season over 621 games in his nine-year NHL career between Minnesota and Boston.

Had 2020-21 been a regular 82-game schedule, Coyle would’ve been on pace for 23 points. Instead, he notched 16 points in 51 games— missing some time due to a stint on the league’s COVID protocol list and due to injury— over the course of the league’s 56-game season in light of the ongoing pandemic.

Like most people, Coyle would probably like to forget the last year.

Especially if you were hoping for him to start making the transition from being the third line center to a possible short-term replacement for David Krejci if Krejci doesn’t return.

One season is not worth overreacting to, but it also might not be considered an overreaction if you find the right way to be proactive. Just don’t mess up either way.

That said, Coyle usually bounces back from a “down” (in reality, just average) year. His $5.250 million cap hit through 2025-26 is the least of Boston’s worries.

Sure, you’d like to see more from him in goal production, but the Bruins had bigger problems than just one player having an off year. He’s fine, but doesn’t have as much of a leash as he might have had coming into 2020-21.

It’s also possible that fans and media members alike are overvaluing someone that’s always been on the cusp of reaching top-six status, but otherwise has only been good in a third line role.

As always, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to be proven wrong.

ONDREJ KASE (0-0—0 totals in 3 games)

Kase sustained an upper body injury (concussion) in the second game of the season on Jan. 16th and played in part of one more game after that in the last week of the regular season on May 10th.

In nine games with the Bruins, he’s had one point and missed 55 games during his Boston tenure— though the majority of that lost time was in this season alone.

That said, Kase’s got bigger things to think about— like the rest of his life, for example. Given his concussion history, it might mean shutting things down for a while, if not possibly for good.

Boston could bring him back on a cheap contract and place him on long term injured reserve if necessary. At best, Kase recovers and is signed—by the Bruins or not— and goes on to have a lengthy career in the NHL.

Only Kase will be able to tell when his body is ready, if it’s ever ready again. In any case, it’s an unfortunate situation for everyone involved in the hard decisions that are to be made.

KARSON KUHLMAN (2-0—2 totals in 20 games)

In 56 career NHL games, Kuhlman’s had 6-7—13 totals so far. He made his league debut in the 2018-19 season and put up five points (three goals, two assists) in 11 games in what looked like it was going to be a fast start for the prolific college scorer.

He then had 1-5—6 totals in 25 games in the 2019-20 season while bouncing around and getting some work with the Providence Bruins (AHL) before recording two goals in 20 games with Boston after a late start to the 2020-21 season due to being in COVID protocol as the short training camp in January got underway.

Kuhlman’s been able to hold his own with his speed among the bottom-six forwards, though with Blake Coleman potentially being available in free agency, the Bruins would have better options to pursue moving forward for the time being.

While Boston remains in “win now” mode, they can gently guide Kuhlman’s NHL career into… …whatever it may be at this point. Sure, defenders and goaltenders take a little bit longer to develop, but whether you think Kuhlman’s gotten enough ice time or too little at the NHL level it seems there’s been a stalling point.

Either his role will evolve as a third or fourth line regular for 2021-22 or he’ll be the next young player out of college on his way out a la Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork in recent years, which means something’s not clicking among the B’s scouting department.

All of them still have potential and could become better players, but they’d be doing so after moving on from your club. If your deals don’t land a Cup, then that’s just poor asset management as a result of bad player scouting and development.

Forward Line 4

SEAN KURALY (4-5—9 totals in 47 games)

Kuraly was on pace for 13 points in a regular 82-game season, which would’ve been his worst performance out of his four full seasons at the NHL level. That’s a down year for sure— even for nine points in 47 games in a 56-game schedule— but is it really that bad?

While he’s expected to be a 20-point scorer as an effective fourth line center and penalty killer (with the chance that he might crack the top-nine forward lineup), scoring primarily from the fourth line isn’t a good strategy to win hockey games in 2021.

That’s not to say that the Bruins didn’t have scoring problems as a whole in a league where rolling four lines is vital, though.

Yes, Kuraly’s 2020-21 season was not great— especially in a contract year, do you think he’ll make another $1.275 million cap hit in Boston? But, he’s still a durable 28-year-old NHLer that should bounce back with a regular schedule.

It might be time to move on, though it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s kept inhouse as an affordable utility player.

Maybe he’s the next Austin Czarnik and simply has to move on elsewhere.

Nothing would be surprising at this point. The Bruins need to reevaluate their bottom-six and they know it’ll mean letting go of some guys that have been around for at least a few seasons.

If you’re going to hold Kuraly to Jake DeBrusk or Charlie Coyle-levels of expectations, well, it might be time to reevaluate your own opinion really quick. At least two of those players should be solid top-nine forward options for any NHL club and scoring at least 15 goals and 30-40 points a season in a third line role.

Kuraly, on the other hand, should be closer to 20 points (at best) no matter how it comes.

TRENT FREDERIC (4-1—5 totals in 42 games)

It’s fine to think that Frederic should’ve been given more games.

It’s crazy, however, to think that Frederic was going to be the determining factor— especially if that was your only lineup change down the stretch.

He’s a young player with an edge, so he’s susceptible to taking unnecessary penalties, plus it’s always easier to have a learning experience conversation with a younger player craving to become an NHL regular than an older veteran that might not take being forced to sit out too well.

“But they’re professional players! They should know it’s for the common good— the benefit of the team!”

Yes, but how would you like it if a younger replacement was slotted into your job at your office and you were forced to watch and couldn’t help whoever you enjoyed working with from about nine floors above?

Doesn’t sound as enticing now, doesn’t it?

That’s not to say you shouldn’t play younger players in a youth driven league, but Boston’s bottom-six wasn’t filled with old players as the season came to an end.

It was filled with players that couldn’t score and struggled to get the puck out of their own zone.

Frederic has the makings of a power forward, but he was on pace for about six goals in a regular 82-game schedule. It’s hard to argue whether his 4-1—5 totals in 42 games look better or worse than Chris Wagner’s 2-3—5 totals in 41 games— after all, they each had five points.

If you like Frederic because he fights, makes hits and puts the puck in the net occasionally like what Milan Lucic used to do in a Bruins uniform, that’s fine, but don’t overvalue the reality that’s in front of you.

Frederic is young, though, so he’s developing and some mistakes are bound to be overlooked by the fanbase for a year or two— at least until someone in the balcony demands he be placed on the first line, then wonders why he doesn’t have, like, 50 goals out of nowhere by that point.

His two-year extension at $1.050 million per season through the 2022-23 league calendar is just fine. He’ll be an NHL regular in 2021-22, which means he’s in control of his own destiny at this point.

ANTON BLIDH (1-0—1 totals in 10 games)

Blidh’s sticking around with the organization on a one-year, two-way contract worth the league minimum $750,000. That guy really likes I-95, huh?

At 26-years-old, there’s not much more to the ceiling for Blidh’s potential, but it is nice to have someone that’s as dedicated as Trent Whitfield was as a player to the club (and still is as a coach in Providence).

As a utility guy in Boston, Blidh fits the role well. In a season where taxi squads were a thing, there really wasn’t anyone better as a durable “emergency use only” player. Here’s hoping things continue to go up for him with the team in whatever role he’s in for 2021-22.

CAMERON HUGHES (0-0—0 totals in 1 game)

In parts of four seasons with the Providence Bruins since making his professional debut at the tail end of the 2017-18 season, Hughes has been getting better each year in one way or another.

In 25 games with Providence in 2020-21, he had 21 points (five goals, 16 assists). He’ll be someone to watch in training camp in September as a potential option for the fourth line in some capacity.

Hughes is sure to get more than just the honorary treatment as a fill-in for the last game of the regular season with the Boston regulars having already clinched a playoff spot and earning a night off to rest for the playoffs.

This coming season is a contract year for him and could be his big step up to the major league as the Bruins deal with building the foundation for eventual first and second line centers.

CURTIS LAZAR (7-6—13 totals in 50 games)

Acquired ahead of the trade deadline with Taylor Hall for Anders Bjork and a 2nd round pick in 2021, Lazar had four points (two goals, two assists) in 17 games with Boston after he departed the Buffalo Sabres.

The 26-year-old provides speed and an influx of determination to the fourth line as someone that’s fought for just about every second of his NHL career.

No, not necessarily speaking with the fisticuffs here, but since his first two seasons in the league with the Ottawa Senators in 2014-15 and 2015-16, he’s never really been given a fair shake at a full season until he played in 50 games with the Sabres and Bruins this season.

He’s bounced from the Sens to the Calgary Flames, Buffalo and now Boston, but it looks like the B’s just might have a home for Lazar.

His numbers reflect that of a true fourth liner, so don’t expect too much, but he was on pace for 19 points in 2020-21 if it had been a regular 82-game season.

Lazar’s entering a contract year in 2021-22 with an $800,000 cap hit and there’s reason to believe he’ll do everything he can to prove his worth to Boston.

Assembling a roster isn’t so much about having all the best players and young, enticing prospects, so much as it is about having the right players.

The 2011 Stanley Cup champion Bruins had Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton on the fourth line and— though the league was different 10 years ago— remember what it was like going into the 2010-11 season wondering who the hell this Campbell guy from the Florida Panthers was as an almost afterthought in the Dennis Wideman for Nathan Horton and Campbell trade.

Now come back to reality and remind yourself that the 2021-22 Bruins are not going to be Stanley Cup contenders, but anything can happen if you make the playoffs and play a Conference Finals round that lasts longer than the other one.

JACK STUDNICKA (1-2—3 totals in 20 games)

Well, Studnicka didn’t really pan out this season like some had hoped, but the 21-year-old is only entering his fifth professional season after being drafted in the 2nd round (53rd overall) by Boston in 2017.

Three points in 20 games just seems like a case of bad luck given the way Studnicka plays with control in his game. Seven points in 11 games with Providence this season— despite all of them coming in the form of assists— is promising considering what he had to go through being in and out of Boston’s lineup, being on the taxi squad and dealing with the exceptionally condense AHL season in both division travel and the varying schedule itself from team to team.

The pandemic has been detrimental to the development of young players across the board, but it doesn’t mean that some of these players won’t go on to be stars in their own right.

Studnicka may have his name penciled on the roster for 2021-22, but don’t be surprised if he needs a little fine tuning in Providence for another year.

GREG McKEGG (1-0—1 totals in 5 games)

McKegg is probably gone in the offseason, but he served well as a utility player for Boston and even had a pair of assists in two games with Providence at one point in the 2020-21 season. His five appearances for the B’s this season were the fewest games he played in a season since his early days with the Toronto Maple Leafs when he played in three games as a 22-year-old in 2014-15.

Now 29, McKegg finds himself in the difficult position of being an NHL journeyman doomed to a fourth line role if he can find one, being a top AHL forward on the verge of either sticking  to it or retiring or he could just sign overseas for more money, probably.

CHRIS WAGNER (2-3—5 totals in 41 games)

Wagner was on pace for seven points if the 2020-21 season was a regular 82-game schedule.

That’s right. Seven.

He had a career-high 19 points in 76 games with Boston in 2018-19, when the Bruins went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final on the backs of tremendous bottom-six scoring depth—considering Wagner was responsible for 12 goals that season.

Since then he had 10 points in 67 games in 2019-20 and, well, the five points that he had in 41 games for Boston in 2020-21.

Injuries and the insurmountable expectations placed upon a local kid playing for the local team (as the unofficial mayor of Walpole), well, this season left much to be desired— especially considering it was the first year of his three-year extension worth $1.350 million per season. Oops.

If he bounces back, great! If he doesn’t, then the writing is on the wall and you already have to rework the fourth line anyway, so…

That said, Wagner admitted to suffering from some previously unexperienced anxiety related to the pandemic and the league’s COVID-19 protocols that limited teammate interaction with the cities they traveled to, as well as with each other, to try to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Hopefully the 2021-22 season provides a sense of normalcy that’ll allow him to get back on his game— even if he is limited in the number of games played, which he probably should be at this point.

OSKAR STEEN (0-0—0 totals in 3 games)

One of the bright spots for the Bruins this season was Steen’s NHL debut. Though he didn’t register anything on the scoresheet and hasn’t in his first three career NHL games, Steen’s provided a spark and some physicality despite his 5-foot-9, 188-pound frame.

Brad Marchand once went 20 games without scoring a goal in a season back when he made his league debut in the 2009-10 season. He’s also 5-foot-9 and about seven pounds lighter than Steen.

Not trying to make comparisons here that might otherwise set unrealistic expectations, but Steen certainly could see more ice time in the 2021-22 season among Boston’s bottom-six if they’re trying to make any kinds of repairs to the team’s depth from within.

ZACH SENYSHYN (0-0—0 totals in 8 games)

Look, Senyshyn only played in eight games this season, but in 14 career NHL games spanning parts of three seasons, he has 1-2—3 totals. Zach Hamill had four points (all assists) in 20 games from when he made his league debut in the 2009-10 season through the 2011-12 season with Boston.

That’s what we’re looking at here.

The pending-RFA could be tendered a qualifying offer, could have his negotiating rights traded or could just be off into the unknown.

In 42 games with Providence in 2019-20, he had 7-9—16 totals (or about .381 points per game). In 18 games with the P-Bruins in 2020-21, he wore an “A” on the front of his sweater and had 7-6—13 totals (about .722 points per game).

He had a career-high 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 66 games with Providence in his first full professional season in 2017-18.

Whether he’s back among the Bruins organization next season depends on how patient both the club and the player are with each other.

At 24-years-old, he could just be a late bloomer. He could also just need a change of scenery. Or he could be like Hamill. Those are the possibilities at this point.

Can his hot hands in Providence last season continue moving forward?

Defensive Pairing 1

MATT GRZELCYK (5-15—20 totals in 37 games)

Despite injuries limiting Grzelcyk to 37 games in 2020-21, he was on pace for 29 points if the season had been a regular 82-game schedule, so 20 points in 37 games in an already condensed 56-game season is actually not that bad, considering the Bruins were looking for someone to step up and replace Torey Krug’s stature as an offensive defender from the point.

Grzelcyk had five goals, while Krug had two this season. Grzelcyk had 20 points in 37 games (.541 points per game), while Krug had 32 points in 51 games (.627 points per game).

One player is just a little bit better on the power play and it’s Krug, which is to be expected given his 10 years in the NHL at this point to Grzelcyk’s five-year career thus far.

Sure, Grzelcyk’s defensive lapses are noticeable at times, but then again, what defender isn’t going to standout when a goal against is scored.

That’s not to say that Boston can’t do better with the addition of a solidified left shot blue liner for the first pairing, but Grzelcyk gets a lot blame for something that is largely mismanagement.

Again, not to go too deep into the “should’ve kept the band together” argument, but the Bruins at least should’ve had a backup plan that wasn’t just “play the kids and hope for the best”— not while they’re trying to win one more Cup with their old core, at least.

More on that in a minute.

CHARLIE McAVOY (5-25—30 totals in 51 games)

McAvoy is a stud. He’s the new core to build around on the back end and he had a great season all things considered.

He’s also on the verge of a breakout it seems, but when remains to be seen. That said, you want him on your team for the ride. Imagine if the Bruins dealt Ray Bourque, like, 20 years before they actually traded Bourque to the Colorado Avalanche in 2000. Yeah, see, that would’ve been one of the franchise’s worst mistakes in this hypothetical situation.

When McAvoy breaks out, he’ll get Norris Trophy attention. Until then, he’s considered to be a star in Boston, but otherwise just a really good defender that’s young— even as a 23-year-old with four seasons under his belt— and has time to learn to become a master.

Enough said.

Defensive Pairing 2

MIKE REILLY (0-27—27 totals in 55 games)

If Alec Martinez is too costly and Jamie Oleksiak or Ryan Suter aren’t options, then it’s fine to stick with Reilly on Boston’s defense.

No, he probably shouldn’t be on the second pairing, but a career-year and the way he moves the puck up through the neutral zone will draw some attention to giving him more ice time and seeing what he can handle.

In a perfect world, nobody gets injured and the Bruins sign a guy like Suter or whoever to cement the left side with Grzelcyk, some guy and Reilly.

It wouldn’t be like, say, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s defense, but it would be more competitive than when all of your defenders are injured and you’re left reaching for Jack Ahcan or Urho Vaakanainen a bit too soon (not that they’re bad players, for the record).

BRANDON CARLO (3-1—4 totals in 27 games)

Carlo was limited to 27 games due to multiple injuries and had four points this season before his postseason run was cut short by yet another concussion. His new six-year extension with Boston carries a $4.100 million cap hit which is both 1) a steal if he’s healthy and remains a solid shutdown defender on the second pairing and 2) a bit of an overpay if he can’t play.

The good news, however, is that long term injured reserve exists for a reason, so, you know, just legally circumvent the salary cap if you have to.

Here’s hoping his traumatic brain injury days are behind him.

Defensive Pairing 3

JEREMY LAUZON (1-7—8 totals in 41 games)

It’s honestly kind of surprising that Lauzon only had a goal this season. He’s managed to hit the back of the net in each of the parts of three seasons that he’s played for Boston, but he’s yet to record two goals in one league calendar year.

At 24-years-old, he’s the same age as Brandon Carlo, though Carlo is a late 1996 birthday, whereas Lauzon is an early 1997 Gen-Zer or whatever.

If he’s not taken by the Seattle Kraken at the 2021 Expansion Draft, then that’s a good thing. One mistake alone by Lauzon didn’t cost Boston their Second Round series against the New York Islanders and he seems to be the kind of player that will learn quickly and correct things in-game just by continuing to play.

Lauzon doesn’t get disgruntled and he doesn’t give up. Sure, he might be battling his own youth and inexperience at times, but he likes to hit and play a bit of a physical game, which is in demand for Boston’s defense.

The Bruins should try to coerce Seattle to take someone that might otherwise be hoping for a fresh change of scenery in Jakub Zboril.

KEVAN MILLER (1-3—4 totals in 28 games)

After numerous knee injuries, surgeries, rehab and more, a concussion in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs was the final blow for the 33-year-old Miller as he announced his retirement on Wednesday.

Though he was signed to a one-year, $1.250 million contract last offseason, the Bruins could’ve used that money elsewhere on, say, a different defender.

Instead, Brandon Carlo now gets Miller’s cap hit added on to his freshly expired $2.850 million AAV contract for Carlo’s new six-year, $24.6 million deal.

Whereas last season anyone else could’ve been signed for that price or less and not have missed half of the season, this season with the flat cap and everything, Boston is destined to make a trade if they’re able to re-sign some of their pending-UFAs in Taylor Hall, David Krejci and others before assessing what else needs to be done.

CONNOR CLIFTON (1-6—7 totals in 44 games)

Clifton set career-highs in assists (six) and points (seven), while playing in a career-high 44 games in the 2020-21 season. As he came into the league, Clifton was a bit more of a run of the mill seventh defender, but he’s played well enough to earn a shot at being on the last pairing full-time.

At 5-foot-11, 175-pounds, Clifton still plays hard and bangs bodies with ease.

With a $1.000 million cap hit through the 2022-23 season, he’s the perfect low-cost, high-reward player to have in the toolbox as Boston continues to overhaul their blue line.

JARRED TINORDI (0-1—1 totals in 21 games)

Claimed off waivers during the season, Tinordi had one assist in 14 games with Boston as a depth defender. He’s got a big frame at 6-foot-6, 205-pounds and can fight when necessary, so he’ll pack an extra punch when the team needs a physical boost or someone to provide a spark.

He’ll be a pending-UFA though and with Steven Kampfer heading off to the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), it’d make sense to keep Tinordi around on another league minimum contract as the new seventh defender.

JAKUB ZBORIL (0-9—9 totals in 44 games)

Zboril can move the puck. How well can he do that? Depends on who you ask.

He’s been frustrated by the fact that he’s not yet set in stone on Boston’s roster full-time, was given that chance in the 2020-21 season and really didn’t live up to expectations.

Nine assists are fine for defender that was projected to be on the bottom pairing for most of the year, but Zboril couldn’t play up the lineup when teammates went down with injuries and was exposed as a young, inexperienced, blue liner time and time again.

It’d probably take a lot of convincing for Seattle to see something in him rather than a couple other potential options from the Bruins at the expansion draft, but if Boston somehow lost Zboril for nothing to the Kraken, they wouldn’t be losing too much.

Sure, Zboril could go on to develop into a fine defender for Seattle, but that’s just it. Maybe it’s time for a change of scenery.

Defenders take a few extra years to develop sometimes, but unless everyone understands that rushing things right now is unwise or that there’s a lot of work to be done, then it’s time to do yourself a favor and stop the bleeding.

JOHN MOORE (0-2—2 totals in 5 games)

Moore has two more years remaining on his five-year contract worth $2.750 million per season and appeared in five games in 2020-21 in between some pretty major season ending injuries.

Is he the new Kevan Miller, you ask? Probably.

Moore’s latest surgery back in March was a hip arthroscopy and labral repair and will keep him out until about time for training camp in September at the earliest, but if he’s not ready to go then at least there’s the long-term injured reserve.

Unless you find a trading partner to take on his cap hit.

The Moore experiment wasn’t necessarily a failure, but it also hasn’t really worked out so far.

Was it a long contract to sign at the time? Yes, but the cap hit is low enough to be manageable in the event that, well, this happens.

Now on the wrong side of 30, Moore will be turning 31 in November and if his body can’t take what’s being thrown at him, he’ll be on his way out of the league sooner rather than later.

If the Bruins don’t do anything substantial to their defense and Moore can return to full health, he’s not a bad bottom-pairing solution to rotate among the youth, but that’s also the problem facing Boston.

They have too many bottom-pairing defenders with little to no upside and not enough jobs for each of them.

STEVEN KAMPFER (2-3—5 totals in 20 games)

Kampfer contributed a lot this season in a limited role as a seventh defender that ended up playing almost half the season and bounced back and forth between Providence and Boston on a few occasions.

Despite making his league debut in his first stint with the Bruins during the 2010-11 season, Kampfer never really made a full-time impact anywhere he went in the NHL, whether it was with the B’s, Minnesota Wild, Florida Panthers, New York Rangers and Bruins again.

Now, he’s got a chance to make more money playing in the KHL and could flourish given his NHL development over his nine-year NHL career.

JACK AHCAN (0-0—0 totals in 3 games)

Ahcan made his NHL debut this season with Boston and looked fine. Probably not ready for a full-time role, but just fine. That’s about it on that.

URHO VAAKANAINEN (0-2—2 totals in 9 games)

Vaakanainen is only 22, so if you’re going to freak out about development of a defender taking a normal length of time that it should take, then there’s not much else to say, I guess.

He recorded his first pair of points in the NHL in nine games this season and did fine, but probably will spend more time in Providence this season.

Starting Goaltender

TUUKKA RASK (15-5-2 in 24 GP, 24 GS, 2.28 GAA, .913 SV%, 2 SO)

Rask is a pending-UFA that won’t be able to play until January at the earliest while he recovers from offseason hip surgery. As one of the greatest goaltenders in league history— statistically speaking— as well as one of the best Finnish-born netminders, there will certainly be a lot of teams interested in his services regardless of when he can get back into the crease for the 2021-22 season.

But for Rask, there’s only one option— playing for Boston.

He’s been a Bruin ever since the Rask-for-Raycroft trade on June 24, 2006, that sent 2003-04 Calder Memorial Trophy winner, Andrew Raycroft, to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a then considered expendable goaltending prospect in Rask.

Talk about one of the best deals for Boston since the Phil Esposito trade, which also landed the Bruins Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield for Jack Norris, Pit Martin and Gilles Marotte in return to Chicago on May 15, 1967.

Though some would consider that to be a “hockey trade”.

Rask’s indicated that he would like to be part of the transition in the crease as the B’s are expected to make Jeremy Swayman their full-time starter within the next two to three seasons (though out of necessity to start 2021-22) and he’s earned every right to wind down his career as he sees fit.

It’s Boston or bust and Rask is sure to come back for at least one more season before ultimately retiring.

Bruins GM, Don Sweeney, can take his time with a new deal for Rask— both with expansion in mind and as it relates to either starting the season on long term injured reserve or just signing No. 40 almost midway through the year.

Backup Goaltender

JEREMY SWAYMAN (7-3-0 in 10 GP, 10 GS, 1.50 GAA, .945 SV%, 2 SO)

With Tuukka Rask out until January (if he sticks around for another year in Boston), there’s good news and bad news for the Bruins in the crease.

The good news is that it looks like Swayman’s ready to start taking on a prominent role as a goaltender in the NHL.

The bad news is that it comes without Rask able to guide him as much in the first half of the season and because of the fact that Swayman’s developed into at least a surefire backup goaltender for the B’s, Jaroslav Halak is leaving in free agency to find a stable job elsewhere with another team.

Oh, plus if the defense doesn’t improve— from within or due to external influences, well…

At the very least, Boston should probably sign another goaltender to take some of the stress off of Swayman and Dan Vladar so they don’t try to rush the young phenom into too big of a role too quickly.

Philadelphia Flyers goaltender, Carter Hart’s 2020-21 season is the last thing you want to happen to Swayman, ultimately.

Third String Goaltender

JAROSLAV HALAK (9-6-4 in 19 GP, 17 GS, 2.53 GAA, .905 SV%, 2 SO)

Despite putting up a solid goals-against average for a backup goaltender in the NHL, two shutouts and winning almost ten games in a 56-game condensed season due to the ongoing pandemic, Halak was relegated to the third string goaltender role as Jeremy Swayman emerged and Tuukka Rask returned to the lineup at the end of the 2020-21 season.

Halak’s .905 save percentage was a bit low for the average backup (usually around .910) and a few of his outings didn’t do him any favors in the eyes of those that are tasked with assessing his game and figuring out whether he’s ready to go take the load off of the starter for a night.

Whether Halak ended up on Bruce Cassidy or Don Sweeney’s bad side doesn’t really matter here, though. His play was average to below-average while Swayman played lights out down the stretch.

Generally speaking, you go with the hotter goaltender more often than you don’t.

Halak’s short Bruins tenure has run its course after three seasons and though the 36-year-old didn’t win a Cup ring with Boston, he did exactly what he needed to for the organization and went above and beyond at times— winning the William M. Jennings Trophy for his second time with Rask in 2019-20.

Fourth String Goaltender

DAN VLADAR (2-2-1 in 5 GP, 5 GS, 3.40 GAA, .886 SV%, 0 SO)

Vladar and the B’s were blown out by the Washington Capitals, 8-1, in his last start of the season in his 2020-21 campaign, but otherwise looked great in his regular season debut and subsequent minutes.

Though he’s likely projected as Boston’s backup goaltender in both the immediate sense with Jeremy Swayman as the projected starter for 2021-22 while Tuukka Rask is out due to offseason surgery, Vladar has the chance to solidify himself as a capable contender for the long-term starting job in a Bruins uniform or perhaps elsewhere if it comes down to that.

Right now, though, he’ll be Boston’s protected goaltender in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft since Rask and Jaroslav Halak are pending-UFAs and Swayman isn’t eligible to be exposed.

The Bruins will have tendered a qualifying offer to Callum Booth— the long-time taxi squad practice goaltender during the 2020-21 season, though the Kraken will likely pry a defender or a forward away from the organization instead.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Islanders will face Tampa in the Stanley Cup Semifinal

For the first time since 1979-84, the New York Islanders are heading to consecutive third round appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In “normal” years, the Islanders would be advancing to the Eastern Conference Final, however this season, in light of the ongoing global pandemic and subsequent temporary league realignment, New York is heading to the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinal as result of their, 6-2, win over the Boston Bruins on home ice on Wednesday.

Brock Nelson scored his second career series-clinching goal in the Game 6 victory at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, trailing only Mike Bossy (six series-clinching goals) and Clark Gillies (four series-clinching goals) for the most in an Islanders uniform in franchise history.

A raucous Long Island crowd cheered as their “New York Saints” goaltender, Semyon Varlamov (4-3, 2.63 goals-against average, .925 save percentage in seven games played), made 23 saves on 25 shots against to win the series 4-2 and eliminate the Bruins as a result.

At the other end of the rink, 34-year-old pending-unrestricted free agent goaltender, Tuukka Rask (6-4, 2.45 goals-against average, .919 save percentage in 11 games played), turned aside 23 out of 27 shots faced in the loss.

Boston’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, fell to 33-33 in his postseason tenure behind the bench for the B’s (parts of five seasons) and dropped to 36-36 in his career as an NHL head coach in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Washington Capitals and the Bruins.

Isles head coach, Barry Trotz, improved to 25-17 overall in the postseason with New York, as well as 80-75 in his 22-year career as a head coach in the NHL, including 14 postseason appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Nashville Predators, Capitals and Islanders.

The Bruins were without Kevan Miller (upper body), Brandon Carlo (undisclosed) and Curtis Lazar (lower body) on Wednesday, while Ondrej Kase (upper body) and John Moore (hip) remained shelved for the season.

As a result of Lazar’s injury, Jake DeBrusk was re-inserted into the lineup on the left side of the third line with Charlie Coyle at center and Karson Kuhlman on right wing.

Nick Ritchie was demoted to the fourth line with Sean Kuraly at center and Chris Wagner on right wing.

Cassidy made no other changes to his lineup for Game 6.

The Bruins had a long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players that included Nick Wolff, Trent Frederic, Greg McKegg, Zach Senyshyn, Lazar, Jack Studnicka, Carlo, Kase, Jaroslav Halak, Steven Kampfer, Cameron Hughes, Jack Ahcan, Urho Vaakanainen, Oskar Steen, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Dan Vladar, Anton Blidh and Miller.

Midway through the opening frame, Noah Dobson sent a shot on goal that generated a rebound right to Travis Zajac (1) who buried the puck from point blank as Rask had yet to find the puck.

Dobson (7) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (9) tallied the assists on the goal as the Islanders jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 8:52 of the first period.

Moments later, Anthony Beauvillier tripped up Charlie McAvoy and cut a rut to the penalty box as a result with a minor infraction at 14:13– presenting Boston with the game’s first power play, but the Bruins couldn’t score on the ensuing advantage.

Instead, as Casey Cizikas tripped Taylor Hall, the B’s ended up on a 5-on-3 skater advantage at 16:00 of the first period.

It didn’t take long for Boston to convert on the two-skater advantage as the Bruins whipped the puck around the attacking zone, first from Matt Grzelcyk along the point to David Krejci as Grzelcyk kept the play onside, then Krejci to David Pastrnak for the fake-shot pass to Brad Marchand (7) for a catch-and-release goal while Varlamov was caught behind the play.

Marchand’s power-play goal tied the game, 1-1, at 17:36 and was assisted by Pastrnak (8) and Krejci (6).

The two clubs entered the first intermission even on the scoreboard, 1-1, despite New York leading in shots on goal, 12-10.

The Isles also held the advantage in takeaways (2-1), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (9-8), hits (15-13) and faceoff win percentage (65-35).

Both teams managed to have three giveaways each in the opening frame, while only Boston had experienced any time on the power play and went 1/2 on the advantage heading into the middle period.

Kyle Palmieri shouldered McAvoy in the face after a stoppage in play early in the second period, sending the B’s defender to the ice and down the tunnel, though no penalty was called on the play.

McAvoy would later return in the period after a few shifts.

Kuhlman tripped up Mathew Barzal and presented the Islanders with their first and only power play of the night at 2:18 of the second period, but New York couldn’t muster anything in the resulting special teams action.

The Isles did, however, catch the B’s in the vulnerable minute after an advantage, as Nelson (5) emerged with a short breakaway after New York stole the puck in the neutral zone and beat Rask low on the glove side.

Josh Bailey (5) and Nick Leddy (5) tallied the assists on Nelson’s goal as the Islanders went ahead, 2-1, at 5:20 of the second period.

Nelson (6) scored his second of the night– back-to-back– moments later as Rask sent an errant pass to Mike Reilly that was too hot to handle for the Bruins defender, which Bailey quickly took and dished to Nelson on the doorstep.

Bailey (6) had the only assist on Nelson’s would be eventual game-winning goal as the Islanders extended their lead to two-goals, 3-1, at 12:39.

In the ensuing surge in momentum, Palmieri (7) managed to crash the net on a rebound and poke the loose puck through the Bruins goaltender to give New York a, 4-1, lead on an unassisted goal at 16:07.

Entering the second intermission, the Islanders led, 4-1, on the scoreboard and, 22-20, in shots on goal, despite both teams managing ten shots apiece in the second period alone.

New York held the advantage in blocked shots (16-15), takeaways (4-2) and giveaways (7-5), while Boston led in hits (26-23) and faceoff win% (61-40).

The Islanders were 0/1 and the Bruins were 1/2 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Matt Martin tripped Jarred Tinordi at 5:20 of the third period and presented the Bruins with their final power play of the night.

It didn’t take Boston long as they won the resulting faceoff in the attacking zone before McAvoy sent it to Krejci as Marchand (8) wound up corralling Krejci’s quick dish in front and scored on a backhand shot while falling for his second goal of the night.

Krejci (7) and McAvoy (11) notched the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal at 5:38 and the Bruins trailed, 4-2.

Unlike in Game 5, though, Boston wouldn’t get enough going thereafter to attempt a comeback.

With 1:22 remaining in the game, Cassidy pulled Rask for an extra attacker, but it quickly backfired for the Bruins as Cal Clutterbuck (3) was the benefactor of an open goal frame and added some insurance with an empty net goal to make it, 5-2, New York.

Pageau (10) and Cizikas (2) had the assists on Clutterbuck’s goal at 19:01 of the third period.

The B’s pulled Rask again for an extra skater with about 53 seconds left, but Ryan Pulock (3) used the power of geometry to angle the puck off the boards, clear it down the ice and watch as it trickled over the goal line into Boston’s empty net to extend New York’s lead, 6-2.

Pulock’s goal was unassisted at 19:12 of the third period as the final horn sounded shortly thereafter to give the Islanders the, 6-2, victory in Game 6 and a 4-2 series win.

The B’s had previously lost to the Islanders in five games in the 1980 Quarterfinal and in six games in the 1983 Wales Conference Final. They fell to 0-3 all-time in a best-of-seven series versus New York.

Though Marchand’s pair of goals was enough to tie Milan Lucic, Cam Neely and Rick Middleton for the second most goals (8) in an elimination game in a Bruins uniform in franchise history in Boston’s all-time postseason stats, it wasn’t enough to outpace the lack of a defense all night for Boston.

New York finished Wednesday night’s effort leading in shots on goal, 29-25, including a, 7-5, advantage in the third period alone and held the advantage in blocked shots (23-21), while Boston exited Long Island leading in giveaways (13-9), hits (33-28) and faceoff win% (57-43) in Game 6.

The Isles finished the game 0/1 and the Bruins went 2/3 on the power play, despite losing, 6-2, on the final scoreboard.

The Islanders advanced to the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinal round where they will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in a rematch of their 2020 Eastern Conference Final series, in which the Bolts beat the Isles in six games before going on to defeat the Dallas Stars in another six games in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

No information has been provided yet as to when the next round of the playoffs will begin (likely this weekend) as the Colorado Avalanche look to stave off elimination on Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena against the Vegas Golden Knights, who lead their Second Round series 3-2.

The winner of Colorado/Vegas will face the Montréal Canadiens in the other Stanley Cup Semifinal matchup.

Tampa and the winner of the Avalanche vs. Golden Knights series will have home ice in the next round.

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Chance to advance: Isles road victory in Game 5 means New York can win series on home ice

The New York Islanders failed to register a shot on goal after Brock Nelson scored in the third period as they outlasted an onslaught of offense and an attempted comeback in a, 5-4, victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 5 at TD Garden on Monday.

Semyon Varlamov (3-3, 2.73 goals-against average, .925 save percentage in six games played) made 40 saves on 44 shots against in the win for the Islanders.

Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask (6-3, 2.29 goals-against average, .925 save percentage in 10 games played) made 12 saves on 16 shots for no decision before he was replaced prior to the third period after 40:00 time on ice.

Jeremy Swayman (0-1, 3.33 goals-against average, .667 save percentage in one game played) stopped two out of three shots faced in the loss for Boston in relief of Rask.

The Bruins were without Kevan Miller (upper body) and Brandon Carlo (undisclosed) on Monday, though Miller continues to skate on his own and Carlo took part in morning skate prior to Game 5.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, would not comment one way or another whether or not Carlo will be ready for Game 6 on Wednesday night.

Cassidy did not adjust his defensive pairings, but made one change to his forward group, replacing Jake DeBrusk with Karson Kuhlman on the right side of the third line.

The long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players for the B’s on Monday included Nick Wolff, Trent Frederic, Greg McKegg, Zach Senyshyn, Jack Studnicka, Carlo, Ondrej Kase, Jaroslav Halak, Steven Kampfer, Cameron Hughes, Jack Ahcan, Urho Vaakanainen, Oskar Steen, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, DeBrusk, Dan Vladar, Anton Blidh and Miller.

David Pastrnak (6) rocketed a one-timer over Varlamov’s glove side with traffic in front from his usual spot at the top of the faceoff circle to give the Bruins the first lead of the night, 1-0, at 1:25 of the first period.

Charlie McAvoy (8) and Brad Marchand (4) tallied the assists as Boston went ahead early and looked to be in complete control of the game flow for most of the opening frame.

Once more, Varlamov allowed the game’s first goal for the fifth time in six starts this postseason, but his Islanders teammates have rendered that little fun fact mostly useless at this point.

Late in the period, despite an earlier non-call of similar nature, Sean Kuraly just tapped Noah Dobson with an errant slash and was assessed a minor penalty at 18:17.

New York’s resulting power play was rather efficient as the Isles won the faceoff, worked the puck back to the point, then across the ice to Mathew Barzal, whereby Barzal (3) skated forward ever so slightly before unloading a snap shot from the dot over Rask’s glove and under the bar to tie the game, 1-1.

Dobson (5) and Jordan Eberle (5) had the assists on Barzal’s power-play goal at 18:49.

Entering the first intermission, the Bruins and Islanders were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard, while Boston led in shots on goal, 11-7.

The B’s also held the advantage in takeaways (9-4), while New York led in blocked shots (5-3), giveaways (4-3), hits (19-17) and faceoff win percentage (65-35).

The Islanders were 1/1 on the power play, while the Bruins had yet to see time on the skater advantage after one period of play.

Matt Grzelcyk cross checked Leo Komarov early in the middle frame, presenting another power play to the Isles at 2:56 of the second period.

Late in the resulting advantage, New York’s power play benefitted off of a lucky bounce off of Connor Clifton’s skate right to where Kyle Palmieri (6) was waiting to score from the doorstep– giving the Islanders their first lead of the night, 2-1, at 4:49.

Josh Bailey (4) and Nick Leddy (4) tallied the assists on Palmieri’s power-play goal.

Moments later, Marchand (6) entered the attacking zone with a nifty deke around Ryan Pulock before dragging the puck around Varlamov to tie the game, 2-2, at 7:27 of the second period.

Pastrnak (7) and McAvoy (9) had the helpers on Marchand’s goal.

Midway through the middle frame, Bailey (5) buried the rubber biscuit top-shelf from point blank over the blocker on a close range give-and-go play for the Islanders.

New York jumped ahead, 3-2, as Jean-Gabriel Pageau (8) and Anthony Beauvillier (6) pocketed the assists on Bailey’s goal at 14:30.

The hits just kept coming for Boston as Chris Wagner cut a rut to the sin bin for high sticking at 15:18, then the Isles notched another power-play goal at 16:38.

This time, Eberle (3) tallied the power-play goal over the far glove side as New York made quick work of sending the puck around the attacking zone before hitting the twine.

Barzal (6) and Dobson (6) had the assists on Eberle’s power-play goal as the Islanders extended their lead to two-goals, 4-2.

For the first time Monday night, Boston went on the power play as Eberle caught Clifton with a quick slash at 18:50, but the B’s couldn’t capitalized on the skater advantage as it was split between the late second period and final frame of regulation.

Through 40 minutes of action in Game 5, the Islanders led, 4-2, on the scoreboard, despite Boston being in command of shots on goal, 26-16, including a, 15-9, advantage in the second period alone.

The Isles led in blocked shots (11-5) and hits (29-28), while the Bruins held the advantage in takeaways (12-8) and faceoff win% (53-47).

Both teams had six giveaways each, while New York was 3/3 on the power play and Boston was 0/1.

Cassidy switched out Rask for Swayman to start the third period, but Boston’s nightmare only continued early in the frame as Nelson (4) wired a puck from the slot under Swayman’s glove to give New York a, 5-2, lead at 1:59.

Beauvillier (7) and Adam Pelech (1) notched the assists as the Islanders capitalized on another failed defensive zone exit for the Bruins.

Less than a couple of minutes later, Pelech was penalized for hooking Pastrnak at 3:24.

Boston didn’t waste time on the ensuing power play as Pastrnak (7) scored his second goal of the game on another one-timer.

McAvoy (10) and Patrice Bergeron (5) were credited with the assists on Pastrnak’s power-play goal as the B’s trailed, 5-3, at 3:48 of the third period.

Just as it looked like the Bruins might be able to get momentum going, they were hit with an automatic infraction as Bergeron sent an errant puck over the glass (minutes after the Islanders avoided a missed call for the same thing) at 7:41.

Though the Bruins managed to kill off Bergeron’s minor, it set their inevitable comeback attempt back more than a few minutes.

Finally, David Krejci (2) tapped in a rebound through Varlamov– just under the glove while the Isles netminder tried to desperately make a save as the puck trickled over the goal line.

Craig Smith (3) and Mike Reilly (4) had the assists on Krejci’s goal as the Bruins pulled to within one– trailing, 5-4, at 14:43 of the third period.

As a result of Krejci’s goal, Islanders head coach, Barry Trotz, used his timeout with 5:17 remaining to ease the nerves of New York’s skaters as the Bruins were outshooting the Isles, 16-3, at the time of Krejci’s tally.

New York had not recorded a shot on goal since Nelson’s eventual game-winner.

With 1:47 left on the clock, Swayman vacated the crease for an extra attacker.

Less than a minute later, after a stoppage in play, Boston used their timeout to draw up one last masterplan with 1:06 remaining.

Once more, Swayman sprinted for the bench with about 45 seconds left in the action, but the Bruins botched a play in the attacking zone, were forced to regroup with about 15 seconds left and barely got off one more attempt as the final horn sounded.

The Islanders had won, 5-4, and stolen Game 5 on road ice– securing a 3-2 series lead as a result.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 44-19, including an, 18-3, advantage in the third period alone, while New York led in blocked shots (15-6) and hits (38-37).

The Bruins wrapped up Monday’s action leading in giveaways (9-7) and faceoff win% (51-49) and went 1/2 on the power play, while the Isles went 3/4 on the skater advantage.

The Islanders take a 3-2 series lead heading back to New York for Game 6 on Wednesday night.

Puck drop at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is set for 7:30 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for coverage, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

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Islanders breakthrough with, 4-1, win & tie series 2-2 heading back to Boston for Game 5

The New York Islanders managed to pull ahead midway through the third period before adding a pair of empty net goals to defeat the Boston Bruins, 4-1, in Game 4 of their 2021 Second Round series at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night.

Semyon Varlamov (2-3, 2.48 goals-against average, .929 save percentage in five games played) made 28 saves on 29 shots against in the win for New York.

Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask (6-3, 2.04 goals-against average, .934 save percentage in nine games played) stopped 30 out of 32 shots faced in the loss.

The Bruins were without Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (upper body), Brandon Carlo (undisclosed) and John Moore (hip) on Saturday.

B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, informed reporters after Saturday’s morning skate that Miller continues to skate back in Boston and that Carlo is “feeling better” and rode the bike on Saturday, so he’s not yet ruled in or out of the lineup for Game 5.

As a result of Carlo being out of the lineup for Game 4, Jarred Tinordi drew into Cassidy’s plans on the third pairing alongside Connor Clifton, while Jeremy Lauzon was promoted to the right side of Mike Reilly on the second defensive pair.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players on Saturday included Nick Wolff, Trent Frederic, Greg McKegg, Zach Senyshyn, Jack Studnicka, Carlo, Kase, Jaroslav Halak, Steven Kampfer, Cameron Hughes, Jack Ahcan, Urho Vaakanainen, Oskar Steen, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Dan Vladar, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman and Miller.

Tensions boiled midway through the opening frame as Taylor Hall and Scott Mayfield exchanged fisticuffs at 7:28 of the first period.

Each player received a fighting major, while it was just the second fight ever for Hall (and his first postseason fight), who last fought Derek Dorsett– then of the Columbus Blue Jackets– back in the days when Hall was on the Edmonton Oilers on March 3, 2011.

It was also the first fight of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs for Boston.

About a couple minutes later, Tinordi and Matt Martin dropped the gloves and exchanged punches before Tinordi wrestled Martin to the ice after a scrum ensued following Mathew Barzal’s cross check on Curtis Lazar at 9:23 of the opening period.

Barzal was assessed a minor infraction, while Tinordi and Martin went to the box with five-minute majors for fighting.

The Bruins weren’t able to convert on the ensuing power play.

With about three minutes left in the first period, David Pastrnak sent a one-timer off the iron behind Varlamov, whereby the puck bounced off the post and struck the Isles netminder’s skate before Varlamov fell back onto the loose puck.

Pastrnak’s missed shot on net came back to haunt Boston on the scoreboard as the two teams entered the first intermission still tied, 0-0, despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal (so, excluding Pastrnak’s shot off the post), 11-7.

The B’s also led in takeaways (1-0), giveaways (3-1) and hits (17-12), while the two clubs each recorded eight blocked shots and went, 50-50, in faceoff win percentage in the first 20 minutes of action.

New York had yet to see time on the power play, while Boston was 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

Martin went to the box for holding at 2:46 of the second period as the action resumed after the first intermission.

The Bruins didn’t waste too much time on the resulting power play as David Krejci (1) buried a loose puck for the game’s first goal as Brad Marchand (3) picked up the primary assist– surpassing Phil Esposito for sole possession of the fourth-most postseason points as a Bruin in franchise history in the process– while Pastrnak (6) was charged with the secondary helper.

Krejci’s power-play goal gave Boston a, 1-0, lead at 3:57 of the second period.

It would be the first and last time that the Bruins led all night and it didn’t last long, despite Islanders head coach, Barry Trotz, challenging the call on the ice on the grounds that he believed there had been incidental goaltender interference that would otherwise negate the goal.

Upon review, however, the call on the ice was upheld– Krejci’s goal would count, while New York’s bench was assessed a minor for delay of game, served by Jordan Eberle at 3:57 of the second period.

Upon leaving the box Eberle had a couple of quick chances denied by Rask, but within the vulnerable minute after special teams action, the Bruins were caught lagging as Barzal worked a quick pass to Kyle Palmieri (5) for the one-timer goal from point blank.

Both Boston defenders were below the goal line, while Charlie Coyle shattered his stick while trying to disrupt Palmieri’s reach in front of the crease (instead of just going for a stick lift or, you know, shoving Palmieri out of the way).

Barzal (5) and Eberle (4) tallied the assists on Palmieri’s goal as the Isles tied the game, 1-1, at 6:38 of the second period.

Moments later, Barzal delivered a few cross checks on Krejci, leading to No. 46 in black and gold retaliating with a swift spear, later determined to be a slash to Barzal.

The ref at the other end of the rink with full sight of all of the events that transpired leading to the outcome determined that only the retaliation was worthy enough of a penalty– at first handing out a five-minute major, only to be reviewed and downgraded to a minor.

Not only was it not the on-ice official closest to the play making the call, but the one at the other end with a clear line of sight for the multitude of infractions committed and yet… …at least there wasn’t another traumatic brain injury on full display.

Anyway, Krejci went to the box at 11:16 and the Bruins killed off the minor penalty.

Late in the middle frame, Charlie McAvoy caught Anthony Beauvillier with a high stick and was sent to the box at 19:06, yielding a power play to the Islanders that would extend into the final frame.

Through 40 minutes of action, the score was tied, 1-1, and shots on goal were even, 21-21, despite New York leading in shots on goal in the second period alone, 14-10.

Boston led in blocked shots (14-10), takeaways (2-1) and giveaways (8-5), while the Islanders lead in faceoff win% (55-45).

Both teams managed to amass 20 hits apiece, while the Isles were 0/2 and the B’s were 1/3 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Barzal (2) batted a loose puck out of mid-air on an odd bounce past Rask to give the Islanders a, 2-1, lead at 13:03 of the third period and New York never looked back from that moment on.

Mayfield (4) and Noah Dobson (4) had the assists on Barzal’s eventual game-winning goal.

No penalties were called in the third period as the Bruins pulled Rask for an extra attacker with about 1:11 remaining in the game.

A forced turnover led to a chance for Casey Cizikas (2) to put the icing on the cake with an empty net goal to make it, 3-1, Isles with an assist for Cal Clutterbuck (1) at 18:57.

Rask vacated the crease once more as the Bruins were desperate to score a pair of goals in the final 63 seconds, but couldn’t muster anything as once more New York hit the back of the empty net– this time from Jean-Gabriel Pageau (3) with an assist by Leo Komarov (3) to make it, 4-1, for the Islanders at 19:57.

At the final horn, the Isles had won, 4-1, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 34-29, including a, 13-8, advantage in the thrid period alone.

New York wrapped up Saturday night’s effort leading in giveaways (11-9) and hits (30-27), while Boston led in blocked shots (20-13). The two teams split faceoff win%, 50-50, while the Isles went 0/2 and the Bruins went 1/3 on the power play.

The series is tied 2-2 as a result of the Islanders’ victory in Game 4 on Saturday, which means there will be a Game 6 after Game 5 on Monday in Boston.

Puck drop at TD Garden is scheduled to be at 6:30 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for the action, while those in Canada can choose between SN1 and TVAS.

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Marchand lifts Bruins to 2-1 series lead in, 2-1, OT victory on the road

Brad Marchand scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the Boston Bruins beat the New York Islanders, 2-1, in Game 3 of their 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round matchup at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Thursday night.

Tuukka Rask (6-2, 2.04 goals-against average, .934 save percentage in eight games played) made 28 saves on 29 shots against in the win for Boston.

Meanwhile, New York netminder, Semyon Varlamov (1-3, 2.83 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in four games played) stopped 39 out of 41 shots faced in the loss.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, surpassed Art Ross for the second-most postseason wins behind the bench with Boston, earning his 33rd career Stanley Cup Playoffs win as the B’s head coach. Cassidy trails Claude Julien (57 postseason wins with Boston) for the most in franchise history.

The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (upper body) and John Moore (hip) on Thursday.

Though Kase and Moore are shutdown for the year, Cassidy provided reporters with an update on Miller’s progress ahead of Game 3 and indicated that the earliest the Boston defender might return to the lineup is for Game 5.

Craig Smith returned to the lineup after missing Game 2 with a lower body injury.

Smith was slotted into his usual role on the right wing on the second line, while Jake DeBrusk was bumped back to the third line and Karson Kuhlman returned to being one of many on the list of healthy scratches at this time of year.

Cassidy made no other changes to his lineup for Thursday night’s action in New York.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players included Nick Wolff, Trent Frederic, Greg McKegg, Zach Senyshyn, Jack Studnicka, Moore, Kase, Jaroslav Halak, Steven Kampfer, Cameron Hughes, Jack Ahcan, Urho Vaakanainen, Oskar Steen, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Dan Vladar, Anton Blidh, Kuhlman, Jarred Tinordi and Miller.

Taylor Hall forced a turnover on a great backcheck that led to Matt Grzelcyk feeding Hall with a pass as the Bruins worked their way into the attacking zone.

Hall hit Smith (2) with a pass through the high slot for a catch and release goal on Varlamov’s glove side to put Boston up, 1-0, at 5:52 of the first period, while Hall (2) and Grzelcyk (3) tallied the assists.

Moments later, Rask made a big stop with his blocker on a breakaway by Anthony Beauvillier as the B’s held the lead.

Midway through the opening frame, Marchand caught Travis Zajac with a high stick and was assessed a minor penalty at 11:08, presenting the Islanders with the first power play of the night.

New York couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Heading into the first intermission, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing, 7-5, in shots on goal to the Isles.

The Islanders also held the advantage in blocked shots (8-3), giveaways (6-3) and faceoff win percentage (63-38), while the Bruins led in takeaways (3-1) and hits (13-11).

New York was the only beneficiary of a power play opportunity in the first period, though the Isles went 0/1 in the process. Boston had yet to see any action on the skater advantage after one period.

Neither team managed to score a goal in the middle frame, but David Pastrnak managed to slash Ryan Pulock at 8:12 of the second period– presenting the Islanders with their second power play of the night.

New York failed to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Bruins remained in control of the scoreboard, 1-0, and led in shots on goal, 18-15, including a, 13-8, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston held the advantage in takeaways (3-1), but New York dominated in just about everything else, including, blocked shots (14-9), giveaways (9-6), hits (28-22) and faceoff win% (57-43).

The Islanders were 0/2 on the power play, while the Bruins still had yet to see any action on the skater advantage after two periods.

Andy Greene caught Charlie Coyle with a high stick and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the night at 1:38 of the third period.

Boston did not score on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Moments later, Cal Clutterbuck checked Brandon Carlo into the boards as Carlo’s head bounced off the glass and left the B’s defender dazed and visibly confused as he was helped off his knees by the athletic training staff and escorted down the tunnel.

There was no penalty on the play and Carlo would not return for the rest of the night.

Cassidy told reporters after the game that Carlo was feeling “pretty good” and that the Bruins would have a better read on the extent of his injury in the morning on Friday.

Josh Bailey tripped Charlie McAvoy at 11:04 and the B’s went on the power play for the second time as a result, but once more Boston was unsuccessful on the skater advantage.

Moments later, while on a long shift and struggling to get the puck out of their own zone, the Bruins gave up a goal as Mathew Barzal (1) poked around enough to slip a puck through Rask and tie the game, 1-1, in the process.

Kyle Palmieri (2) and Pulock (2) had the assists on Barzal’s eighth career Stanley Cup Playoff goal at 14:34 of the third period.

With about 3:16 remaining in regulation, Rask denied Beauvillier on yet another breakaway– this time with Rask turning aside a backhand shot to prevent the Islanders from taking their first lead of the night.

Shortly thereafter, Sean Kuraly delivered a quick cross check that brought Palmieri to his knees and presented New York with one final power play at 17:45 of the third period.

Boston killed off Kuraly’s minor as the two teams were tied, 1-1, after 60 minutes of play on Thursday.

The Bruins led in shots on goal, 39-24, and had a, 21-9, advantage in shots in the third period alone.

Boston also held the advantage in takeaways (4-1), while the Isles led in blocked shots (22-13), giveaways (12-9), hits (37-33) and faceoff win% (55-45).

As there were no penalties called in the overtime period, the Islanders finished the night 0/3 on the power play, while the B’s went 0/2 on the skater advantage.

Rask kept Boston in the game early in the extra frame before McAvoy brought the puck from his own zone into the attacking zone, dropping a short pass to Marchand in the process while Marchand skated up along the wall deep into the zone.

Marchand (5) fired a shot from almost the goal line past Varlamov on the short side to the opposite corner on the far end of the net behind the New York netminder and into the twine, 3:36 into overtime.

McAvoy (7) and Patrice Bergeron (4) were credited with the assists on the game-winning goal as Marchand put the Bruins ahead of the Islanders, 2-1, in Game 3 as well as in the series by the same margin (2-1).

The goal gave Marchand his 102nd career playoff point (42-60–102 totals in 129 postseason games)– tying Phil Esposito (46-56–102 totals in 71 Stanley Cup Playoff games) for fourth place on Boston’s all time postseason scoring list.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 41-29, despite trailing New York, 5-2, in shots in overtime alone.

The Isles dominated in blocked shots (22-14), giveaways (13-10), hits (38-35) and faceoff win% (56-44).

The Bruins lead the series 2-1 heading into Game 4 Saturday night at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in New York.

Puck drop is scheduled for about 7:15 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBC, while those in Canada can tune to CBC, SN or TVAS.