The Bruins did not agree with the late goaltender interference penalty drawn by Henrik Lundqvist. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins did not agree with the late goaltender interference penalty drawn by Henrik Lundqvist. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who celebrated his 35th birthday in Boston behind a 32-of-33 performance against the Bruins on Thursday, should not expect a gift from the Black and Gold.

He can’t lose any sleep over that, though, as the New York star of over a decade received the perfect gift from referee Tim Peel late in the third period of a 2-1 Rangers win over the B’s at TD Garden.

With the Bruins down by one and the pressure cranked on Lundqvist’s net in search of the game-tying goal with 2:22 left in the third period, Bruins forward David Backes cut across the front of the net, where he was met by Lundqvist’s extended arm. Upon contact, Lundqvist flung himself down to the ice, and a penalty was whistled against Backes.

The penalty put the Bruins on a two-minute kill, which was made, but effectively left the club with just 22 five-on-five seconds to score.

After the loss, a frustrated Backes assessed the incident with the raw emotion of a player that knew the B’s let this game slip.

“I obviously don’t agree with it,” Backes said of the call, which effectively crushed any chance the B’s had at forcing overtime in this game. “I think we can watch the replay, I think I’m going to the net, trying to avoid contact. He comes up to initiate it, and I look and the ref’s arm is in the air, and I sit for the next two minutes in a game where we had tons of momentum and we’re making a push at the end, and instead, they get a power play and kill most of the last two and a half minutes.”

“I don’t think we really agreed with it,” Bruins winger Brad Marchand, who has a history with Lundqvist and the Rangers, admitted after the game. “You could see he puts his arm up to block Backes. That’s pretty frustrating. He gets so far out of the net there and interferes with Backes and they get the call, you know, that kind of ended the game for us, so that’s pretty frustrating.”

“I don’t think he ran over him by the look of it,” B’s goalie Tuukka Rask said. “The call was made and you have to live with it.”

It’s not the first time that the Bruins have seen this kind of things happen in key moments of games, either.

“Obviously you want to protect your goalie, but goalies nowadays — they know that they can’t be touched and they flop around and they interfere with guys knowing that they’re going to get to call for them,” Marchand continued. “So, it can be frustrating at times, but at times it works for you, but in a situation like that where he tries to get in front of Backes, and we get the penalty, you know, and we’re down 2-1 with a couple minutes left. That’s pretty frustrating.”

The perceived flop can’t completely sully all the stellar stops Lundqvist, who was straight-up excellent, made on the night, but it did leave a more than bitter taste in the mouths of a Bruins group that felt as if this was a game that they should have won.

“You know, we had that chance to take the lead and extend the lead in the first period. We were the better team, we had the better chances, gave up nothing,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy lamented. “But Lundqvist was good. He’s a good goalie – a very good goalie – and he showed it tonight and he gave them the chance to win.”

With more than just saves, according to the Bruins, too.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins did not agree with the late goaltender interference penalty drawn by Henrik Lundqvist. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins did not agree with the late goaltender interference penalty drawn by Henrik Lundqvist. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who celebrated his 35th birthday in Boston behind a 32-of-33 performance against the Bruins on Thursday, should not expect a gift from the Black and Gold.

He can’t lose any sleep over that, though, as the New York star of over a decade received the perfect gift from referee Tim Peel late in the third period of a 2-1 Rangers win over the B’s at TD Garden.

With the Bruins down by one and the pressure cranked on Lundqvist’s net in search of the game-tying goal with 2:22 left in the third period, Bruins forward David Backes cut across the front of the net, where he was met by Lundqvist’s extended arm. Upon contact, Lundqvist flung himself down to the ice, and a penalty was whistled against Backes.

The penalty put the Bruins on a two-minute kill, which was made, but effectively left the club with just 22 five-on-five seconds to score.

After the loss, a frustrated Backes assessed the incident with the raw emotion of a player that knew the B’s let this game slip.

“I obviously don’t agree with it,” Backes said of the call, which effectively crushed any chance the B’s had at forcing overtime in this game. “I think we can watch the replay, I think I’m going to the net, trying to avoid contact. He comes up to initiate it, and I look and the ref’s arm is in the air, and I sit for the next two minutes in a game where we had tons of momentum and we’re making a push at the end, and instead, they get a power play and kill most of the last two and a half minutes.”

“I don’t think we really agreed with it,” Bruins winger Brad Marchand, who has a history with Lundqvist and the Rangers, admitted after the game. “You could see he puts his arm up to block Backes. That’s pretty frustrating. He gets so far out of the net there and interferes with Backes and they get the call, you know, that kind of ended the game for us, so that’s pretty frustrating.”

“I don’t think he ran over him by the look of it,” B’s goalie Tuukka Rask said. “The call was made and you have to live with it.”

It’s not the first time that the Bruins have seen this kind of things happen in key moments of games, either.

“Obviously you want to protect your goalie, but goalies nowadays — they know that they can’t be touched and they flop around and they interfere with guys knowing that they’re going to get to call for them,” Marchand continued. “So, it can be frustrating at times, but at times it works for you, but in a situation like that where he tries to get in front of Backes, and we get the penalty, you know, and we’re down 2-1 with a couple minutes left. That’s pretty frustrating.”

The perceived flop can’t completely sully all the stellar stops Lundqvist, who was straight-up excellent, made on the night, but it did leave a more than bitter taste in the mouths of a Bruins group that felt as if this was a game that they should have won.

“You know, we had that chance to take the lead and extend the lead in the first period. We were the better team, we had the better chances, gave up nothing,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy lamented. “But Lundqvist was good. He’s a good goalie – a very good goalie – and he showed it tonight and he gave them the chance to win.”

With more than just saves, according to the Bruins, too.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

What the Bruins have done since general manager Don Sweeney replaced Claude Julien with Bruce Cassidy has been great.

The Bruins limited the Rangers in a close game at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins limited the Rangers, but still lost, in a close game at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

What the Bruins have done since general manager Don Sweeney replaced Claude Julien with Bruce Cassidy has been great.

It’s propelled the Bruins back into legitimate playoff positioning thanks to wins in seven of eight Cassidy-led games, but collapses in back-to-back stretch runs won’t sell this fanbase on anything just yet. Everybody knows that the B’s mission is far from accomplished, and a Thursday night showdown with a Rangers club that’s straight-up smacked you around in two prior head-to-heads this season was just another test to truly see where this team is now versus then.

But the end result remained the same as it did in the Julien-led matchups against the Rangers this season, as the Bruins fell to the Rangers by a 2-1 final at TD Garden.

On a three-game winning streak entering action, the Bruins continued their trend of strong starts carried the pace of the opening 20 minutes, as they peppered the first six shots of the game on Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist, including a great chance from David Pastrnak that was snuffed out by No. 30.

But in what would become the theme of the night, Lundqvist, who was celebrating his 35th birthday, stood tall for the Rangers.

The Bruins had plenty of positives to hang their hats on in that first period, though, including some phenomenal chances from their second line with Pastrnak, David Krejci and Peter Cehlarik working the puck to one another for high-quality looks.

The Rangers escaped the period knotted up at 0-0 in spite of a 9-to-3 shot advantage that favored the Black and Gold, and though the second period brought about more of the same score-wise, the Rangers came at the B’s with a significant pushback.

In a period that epitomized everything that made the first two meetings between these two teams blowouts that favored the Blueshirts, the speedy Rangers frequently pinned the Bruins in their own end and gassed Boston’s top defensive unit. In a 5:33 stretch in the middle of the period, some with the Rangers on a power play and some back at five-on-five, the long change and pressure from New York kept B’s captain Zdeno Chara on the ice for a total of 3:30 of time on ice in just two shifts.

Through 40 minutes, and with the teams still scoreless, the 39-year-old Chara was already at over 15 minutes.

The Rangers exposed that in the third period, too, as Pavel Buchnevich drew Chara in on a one-on-one battle near the faceoff dot to the left of Rask before he rocketed his seventh goal of the season at 5:10 of the third period to break the draw.

But the Bruins continued to test Lundqvist. Pastrnak, who bounced around lines due to long changes and double shifts at times as Cassidy tinkered with some things in the third period, whiffed on a attempted corral on an empty cage, and was ultimately left to stuff the puck into a sprawled Lundqvist for an easy stop. The Rangers countered that Boston chance with a goal, however, as it was Oscar Lindberg that danced through Brandon Carlo and went upstairs for the Rangers’ second goal of the night.

Instead of the letting the goal become a dagger, the Bruins answered on a Brad Marchand goal at 12:56 of the third.

By then the hole was too deep, though, as Lundqvist stood on his head for 32 saves — and a nice flop to crush any hope of a B’s comeback when he suckered the referees into a goaltender interference call on David Backes with less than three minutes to go — and a final Torey Krug flubbed shot with 2.2 seconds left in the third finalized the season sweep courtesy of the Rangers.

The end result is a painful one for the Bruins, who will undoubtedly walk away from this game feeling like they deserved better, but it’s one that shows that this team is still trending in the right direction under Cassidy.

They just got stoned by the birthday boy.

The Bruins return to action Saturday against the Devils.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

When some of his newest teammates took to the ice for an optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena early this morning, new Bruins trade deadline addition Drew Stafford was likely catching his connecting flight somewhere between Winnipeg and Boston.

Drew Stafford will not play tonight against the Rangers. (John Hefti/USA Today Sports)

Drew Stafford will not play tonight against the Rangers. (John Hefti/USA Today Sports)

When some of his newest teammates took to the ice for an optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena early this morning, new Bruins trade deadline addition Drew Stafford was likely catching his connecting flight somewhere between Winnipeg and Boston.

Expected to arrive in town and check into his hotel, er, home for the next few months, sometime before puck drop at TD Garden between the Bruins and Rangers, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed the obvious and said that Stafford will not be available for tonight’s game.

“He won’t play tonight,” Cassidy said.

As for where the B’s boss envisions the 31-year-old slotting into his club’s lineup, Cassidy knows that the Bruins have options.

“We’ll get a look at him tomorrow in practice,” Cassidy, whose team has won seven of eight games, said. “We know about him. He’s a veteran player, a skill guy. Right now I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”

An expected solution somewhere on the B’s right side — and maybe as the complement to a third line with Frank Vatrano on the left wing and Ryan Spooner in the middle — Stafford’s wealth of NHL experience makes him a welcomed add to the club, but not before the Black and Gold’s interim bench boss figures out just where he’s at his best.

“He’s experienced, can add offense and still play a 200-foot game,” Cassidy noted of Stafford, who comes to Boston with four goals and 13 points in 40 games for the Jets this season. “We gotta talk to him first, he may be a guy that’s comfortable on his off-side. Those are things we gotta find out as well, so until we do, I think it’s not fair to say where he’ll play.”

As for his absence tonight, it was probably expected.

It’s not necessarily easy to pack your life into a two-month suitcase overnight, and traveling from Winnipeg to Boston is not as simple as a four-hour drive — nor is it a direct flight — so the probability of him finding a way to the Hub in time for game action was always slim. It is also worth noting that Stafford’s wife is ‘very pregnant’ with twins, so making sure there’s proper accommodations for his family had to have been high on his list before boarding. Adding a game against one of the fastest teams in the NHL on top of all of that for a Thursday sounds like something that benefits absolutely nobody in a B’s sweater.

In 707 career games, the Wisconsin-born Stafford has scored 179 goals and totaled 392 points.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Frank Vatrano is the second Bruins player to talk about a strained relationship with Claude Julien. ( Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Frank Vatrano is the second Bruins player to talk about a strained relationship with Claude Julien. ( Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

It’s taken almost a month to come to the light, but some honest thoughts about the old regime under former head coach Claude Julien have started to trickle out from some of the B’s youngsters.

It started with Ryan Spooner’s honest assessment on Tuesday. Spooner noted that while Julien pushed him at times, he felt that the B’s all-time winningest coach, who was fired on Feb. 7, didn’t like him as a player. Now, two days later, Spooner’s linemate, Frank Vatrano, has dished on his own relationship with the club’s coach of 10 years.

“For me, it’s hard to say what goes on in that kind of situation,” Vatrano said to CBS Boston in regard to Spooner’s comments. “For me, I didn’t have the best relationship with Claude, but that comes with time. Obviously now, [Bruce Cassidy] is our coach. I have a real good relationship with him, having had him last year for a year.

“Obviously Claude had his guys and he trusted his guys that he’s had for a while, which is something that you can understand, especially … he’s got a good relationship with them. At the end of the day, I didn’t have the best relationship with him, but I think he liked me as a player and I liked playing for him while he was here.”

In 60 games under Julien since the start of last season, the 22-year-old Vatrano scored 14 goals and six assists. And since the coaching switch, Vatrano has recorded four goals and three assists in eight games under Cassidy. As Vatrano mentioned, too, there’s an obvious connection with Cassidy, who was his first professional coach when he joined the P-Bruins.

“[Cassidy] coached me in Providence and he was great to me and put me in a spot to do what I do best, and put me in a spot to succeed,” Vatrano, a native of East Longmeadow, Mass., said. “Now that he’s here in Boston, I think it’s been better for me. … He knows where to use me and the way I’m going to be successful in this league.”

Vatrano has 10 goals and six assists in 29 games for the Bruins this season.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Drew Stafford was the perfect gamble for B's GM Don Sweeney.</p>
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The Bruins have spots open to sign one of their NCAA prospects if they choose to go pro. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins have space to sign one of their NCAA prospects if they choose to go pro before the season ends. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

Don Sweeney’s Bruins bought at the deadline, but they bought low.

Part of the reasoning behind that was because the market simply didn’t call for the Bruins to do anything but. Part of it came back down to where the B’s are right now as a franchise as a team in transition.

“[We’ve] laid out a plan and been pretty committed to it,” Sweeney said of his deadline moves and non-moves. “Even last year, we felt the team had done a good job up until that point. We wanted to add to it, and we’re in a similar situation and hopefully, we have a different result.

“I think our team has played well and I want to see them continue to play well and not necessarily reacting. We’ve approached the game with what we’re bringing to the table as opposed to what other teams are. We’re preparing for what other teams have, but not going to react.”

For Sweeney, that meant not mortgaging future potential cornerstones for quick fixes.

Especially when those pieces are as close to the NHL as he believes them to be.

The list of prospects the Bruins expect to jump (and soon) to the pros is headlined by Boston University standout and 2016 first-round pick Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy’s teammate, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, a 2015 second-round choice (45th overall) should also be considered among that group. Same goes for Notre Dame scorer Anders Bjork, a 2014 fifth-rounder with 19 goals and 44 points in just 33 games for the Irish, and 2013 draft pick and Boston College senior Ryan Fitzgerald.

The Black and Gold have room to make deals with any of those players work between now and the end of the season if they so choose, too, with five spots open on their 50-man contract list. Which sounds like a legitimate possibility for the club.

“We have college kids that may decide [to go pro] and make that decision a little easier,” Sweeney said when asked if he expects the Bruins to test the waters with one of those players after a quiet deadline. “Those are case by case situations.”

Again, the big name to watch there is McAvoy. But given the steadiness of the B’s right side this year, perhaps a Bjork (who may or may not return for his senior year with the Fighting Irish) or Forsbacka-Karlsson becomes a more likely target to make the jump before the season is through, if any do indeed fit a potential in-season need for the Black and Gold.

The Bruins may have an eye on the college free agent market, but will need to settle things with their drafted NCAA talents first.

“From a college free agent standpoint, that’s an ongoing process and we’re always involved in that. But we do have some players that we’re going to make decisions on or they’re gonna make decisions in the coming weeks,” Sweeney noted. “And we have flexibility to be able to do that — to add those players contractually and bring them into the fold if that’s what we decide to do and that’s what they decide to do. And we’re excited about it.”

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Drew Stafford is on his way to Boston. (David Banks/USA Today Sports)

Drew Stafford is on his way to Boston. (David Banks/USA Today Sports)

It’s Winnipeg to Boston and not a moment too soon for Drew Stafford.

Acquired by the Bruins for a conditional sixth-round draft choice in 2018, the 31-year-old Stafford is expected to touch down in Boston tomorrow morning, but will not be present for the morning skate ahead of the team’s head-to-head with the Rangers. That would lead you to believe that he would be unavailable for the Bruins in the game, of course, but that is a ‘coach’s decision’, according to GM Don Sweeney.

But no matter when he gets in, the Bruins are eager to see what the veteran shooter can bring to the club’s right side.

“We’re fortunate that we are able to add Drew to our lineup,” said Sweeney. “Excited that the player has the ability to play up and down the lineup, has scoring attributes, has some size and strength, and can hopefully be a good complement to our group.”

The 6-foot-2 winger is a four-time 20-goal scorer, and is familiar with the Eastern Conference thanks to a nine-year run with the Sabres, but has struggled with just four goals and 13 points in 40 games for the Jets this season. Some of that has been health related, as Stafford has missed 15 games with an upper-body injury, six games with a lower-body ailment, and three games due to an illness this season. Some of it has been a loss of opportunity with players like Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers grabbing hold of larger roles with the Jets. And some of it has been bad luck, as Stafford has posted his worst shooting percentage in five years.

Still, the Bruins like the potential of Stafford’s game as a fill-in presence down the stretch.

“I think he has some versatility,” Sweeney noted of Stafford, who has played most recently on the Jets’ fourth line. “I think he can play probably anywhere on the right side. Good shot, strength, can get to the net, has power play acumen and has a good shot.”

The most likely fit for Stafford out of the gate could be on the right side of the B’s third line with Frank Vatrano to the left and Ryan Spooner at center. It’s a spot currently occupied by Jimmy Hayes, who has totaled two assists and eight shots on goal in eight games with the speedy duo, and just two goals and five points in 48 games for the club this season.

As for the conditions of the pick sent to Winnipeg? If the Bruins make the postseason, the pick then becomes a fifth-round draft choice. If the Bruins advance to the second round of the playoffs and Stafford plays in 50 percent of their games, the pick becomes a fourth-round selection. But that fourth-round selection is as high as it could go for the Bruins and Jets, no matter their advancements or Stafford’s participation in any potential playoff run.

Stafford has 179 goals and 392 points in 707 NHL games, and has four goals and nine points in 24 career playoff games.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson