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

The trade deadline seemingly came and went without a move for the Bruins. But then, nearly 15 minutes after the deadline had passed, ESPN reported that the Bruins successfully made a deal for a forward.<

The Bruins have acquired Drew Stafford from the Jets. ( Bruce Fedyck/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins have acquired Drew Stafford from the Jets. ( Bruce Fedyck/USA Today Sports)

The trade deadline seemingly came and went without a move for the Bruins. But then, nearly 15 minutes after the deadline had passed, ESPN reported that the Bruins successfully made a deal for a forward.

That forward, as it turns out, is Jets winger Drew Stafford.

Acquired by the Bruins in exchange for a conditional sixth-round draft pick, the 31-year-old Stafford, a pending free agent, comes to Boston with four goals and 13 points in 40 games for the Jets this season.

A bottom-sixer with the ability to move up and down the lineup, Stafford’s acquisition helps address a right side that’s become a revolving door of sorts once you get beyond the top six group of David Pastrnak and David Backes. For a team that’s received extremely limited production from Jimmy Hayes and Riley Nash, the two most common bottom-six right side options, the 6-foot-2 Stafford can bring another option to that mix and doesn’t rush an AHL player to the NHL or put a different skater out of their natural position.

For the Bruins, it’s a low-risk gamble with the hope that Stafford could potentially channel his old scoring touch.

It was just a year ago that Stafford tallied 21 goals for the Jets, and he comes to Boston as a four-time 20-goal scorer.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney will meet with the media at 4:30 p.m. at Warrior Ice Arena.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

The Bruins seem unlikely to make a move by today's deadline. (Stan Szeto/USA Today Sports)Anticipation has a habit to set you up for disappointment in evening entertainment. 

The Bruins may or may not make a move by Wednesday's 3 p.m. trade deadline. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins may or may not make a move by Wednesday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The trade deadline can change a team’s expectations, but it can’t change how they go about their day-to-day business. That would actually be a bad thing to happen to the Bruins, too, who have wins in seven of eight games under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.

“I’m going to go to practice in the morning, have a good breakfast, do a little video, and see what happens,” Cassidy said of his deadline day plans, which begin with an 11:30 a.m. practice. “That’s out of my control. I think that’s a question better served for management.”

But the Bruins remain in a rather tricky position ahead of Wednesday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. They are six points out of first place in the Atlantic Division (and have played one less game the division-leading Canadiens), and just four points from being on the outside looking in.

The Bruins have just as many reasons to buy as they do to sell.

That’s not to say anybody in that room knows just what second-year general manager Don Sweeney will do on Wednesday.

“They’re going to do what they think is best for the team,” B’s winger Brad Marchand said of the team’s front office. “Regardless of if we get someone or not, we’re going to keep working. We’re going to push here to get into the playoffs. That’s all we care about. Whether we do something or not, we have the same goal at the end of the day. We’ll see what happens, but we believe in this group in here. We can do some damage when we’re playing the way we are. That’s all that matters.”

Led by a balanced four-line attack and defense that’s ‘activated’ in the offensive zone at an incredible rate, the B’s hot streak has come with the club shooting almost double under Cassidy than what they did under Claude Julien. The club has also seen some solid goaltending from Tuukka Rask and a revitalized Anton Khudobin (who has two wins in two games under Cassidy).

The team also appears to be playing to one another’s strengths versus bogging themselves down into a uniformed style.

“I think, you know, there’s –almost every game there’s one or two [‘wow’ kind of plays],” Rask said after Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the Coyotes at TD Garden, the club’s third straight victory. “But it’s a fine line as we always talk about, you know, you try to make those extra passes and if it works it’s great but if it doesn’t it’s going to come back to your own end. But lately it’s been working out and a lot of that has to do with the confidence part, but a lot of times you’re kind of like, ‘Wow, nice plays.'”

“We’re playing well. But, there’s still just under 20 games left here and a lot can happen. We can’t get too comfortable,” Marchand continued. “We have to realize the situation we’re in. Teams that are right around us are continuing to win and get points. All that matters right now is that we do that same. Again, regardless of what happens, we have a great group in here. We get along really well off the ice and lately, that’s been transferring over on the ice. So, we have to continue that.”

In other words, things have gone well for the Black and Gold for the first time all year, and a decision to mess with the potential lightning that Sweeney has caught in this eight-game bottle could backfire if the wrong button is pressed and the wrong player is moved out of the Hub, which is something he’s seemingly cognizant of heading into the last day of trade possibilities.

“There is always a balance,” Sweeney said on Tuesday. “You recognize what the team needs and how well they’re playing. Do you have enough depth? But it’s always been with an eye towards the commitment to what we’ve put in place and moving forward.”

The Bruins are not expected to be much of a buyer or a seller between now and the 3 p.m. deadline, but until the deadline officially closes, there’s nothing that seems completely off limits. Remember, it was almost after 3 p.m. last year that the Bruins made moves for the Devils’ Lee Stempniak for two draft picks and Hurricanes d-man John-Michael Liles for picks and a prospect.

So until then, all the Bruins can do is wait.

“We’ll go from there and see what we’ve got,” said Cassidy.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Over the last two seasons, TD Garden has been an undeniable source of frustration for the Bruins. It’s shown in the standings in back-to-back seasons, and it was one of the first things that interim head coach Bruce Cassidy wanted to address when he replaced Claude Julien.

Bruins defenseman Colin Miller brought the TD Garden to their feet with his fifth goal of the season scored just 3:06 into the first period of a 4-1 win over the Coyotes. He brought them to their feet a period later, and maybe even louder than when he scored a goal, when he delivered a massive attacking blue line hit on Coyotes forward Alexander Burmistrov.

But it cost him.

Hit with a five-minute charging major and tossed from the game, the 24-year-old Miller’s night came to an end after just 10 shifts and 6:27 of time on ice. Already in the locker room in a suit and tie, Miller reflected on the hit following the club’s victory.

“I was just trying to step up in the neutral zone and make a play on him, but you never like to see that with him going off on the stretcher,” Miller, who was a healthy scratch in Dallas on Sunday, admitted of the incident. “I definitely kind of let up there but like I said, things like that happen in a game, hopefully he’s feeling better.”

It was an awkward hit that came with Burmistrov in an awkward position. The recipient of a total ‘buddy pass’ from Jacob Chychrun, Burmistrov put himself in additional trouble when he reached forward in an attempt to corral the pass. That ultimately led to an ugly looking collision that required a stretcher for the 25-year-old Russian forward.

“It looked like [Colin] – it was a clean hit, even though [Alexander] Burmistrov’s in a vulnerable position,” B’s coach Bruce Cassidy assessed. “Again, we want to see him – his health is first and foremost. But, I thought it was a clean hit from my vantage point. We had a quick discussion with the officials. It’s a bang-bang call, so we’re not going to beat it up. That’s what I saw, and I guess down the road, they’ll look at it or they won’t, I don’t know what will happen there. But, like I said, we’re glad he’s okay.”

Sentiments echoed by his counterpart behind the Arizona bench, too.

“It was in a vulnerable position, but it’s a hockey hit,” Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett noted after the game. “Burmistrov’s head is down, and it’s a hard hit, I mean, it’s a hit that happens in hockey all the time. You never like to see anybody get hurt, but I don’t think it was an intentional hit to hurt somebody. It was just a guy stepping up on a guy that was in a vulnerable position and kind of caught him with his side. Sounds like he’s going to be alright, so we’re okay.”

(Sidenote: How rare is it to see coaches from opposing teams agree on a hit as scary as that?)

It was not malicious, nor was he really targeting Burmistrov’s head. It seemed to be quite a reactionary call from the referees, too, which is to be somewhat expected given the near-lifeless way that Burmistrov crumbled down to the ice.

“Listen, they’re human beings, the officials. They see a guy down like that, one of their first reactions is that, maybe it was a five-minute major just by how the whole thing played out. They may still feel that way,” Cassidy said. “Like I said, it’s a split-second decision. So, I just thought Colin was trying to be aggressive and finish a check in the neutral zone. And, unfortunately, the injury occurred. But, again, I don’t think he did anything. He didn’t leave his feet; he didn’t look like he targeted the head.”

Miller noted that he did reach out to Burmistrov after the game.

“I reached out, said hope you’re feeling better. He said he understands it’s a hockey play. Sounds like he’s doing better, we’ll see.”

It is unlikely that Miller will face further discipline from the NHL Department of Player Safety, according to a source.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins chased Arizona goaltender Mike Smith after two periods in a 4-1 win. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins chased Arizona goaltender Mike Smith after two periods in a 4-1 win. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Over the last two seasons, TD Garden has been an undeniable source of frustration for the Bruins. It’s shown in the standings in back-to-back seasons, and it was one of the first things that interim head coach Bruce Cassidy wanted to address when he replaced Claude Julien.

Not just because he wanted to, of course, but because the majority of the B’s games down the stretch were to be played in town.

That’s a fancy way of telling you that the Bruins were not going to do much of anything in terms of competing for a postseason berth if they continued to chug along at their 12-13-0 under Julien mark at home.

Back in Boston after a bye week and a four-game road trip, that remained a focus for the Cassidy-led Bruins on Tuesday night, and the Bruins have rattled off four consecutive wins on home ice for the first time since Nov. 2014, the latest behind a 4-1 pounding of the Coyotes.

With active sticks in the neutral zone, the Bruins opened the game’s scoring up just 3:06 into play, as David Krejci went to David Pastrnak before Pastrnak dropped it back to Colin Miller for a bullet and a half pounded through Mike Smith. And while the Bruins showed some signs of this becoming a ‘trap game’ with the Coyotes’ chances against Tuukka Rask — led by Grade-A looks from Brendan Perlini and Radim Vrbata — late in the first period, it held as the 1-0 edge for the B’s through one period.

But even when the Coyotes evened things up 3:27 into the second behind a Peter Holland power-play goal, the Black and Gold came right back when Riley Nash scored a thunderous shorthanded goal during the B’s five-minute penalty kill.

It was the perfect picture of this team’s home-ice fortune under Cassidy. In a situation where the Coyotes — dreadful sellers with a terrible power play or not — could have broken the game open for themselves, the Bruins stepped up to the challenge at hand and not only killed the five-minute penalty off, but made the Coyotes pay at the other end of the rink. There’s nothing to back this up, of course, but it’s a situation and a time in a game where everything would probably go to hell under Julien.

This is not the first time that the B’s have rebounded from home-ice blows against under Cassidy, either. The team answered a late-game, game-tying power-play goal from the Canucks with a game-winner from Pastrnak just minutes later a few weeks back. They killed a massive 3-on-5 for nearly a full two minutes against the Canadiens. When challenged, they’ve countered.

And the Bruins were not done yet.

David Backes finished off a dominant offensive zone sequence from the Patrice Bergeron line at 18:05 for his 13th goal of the season, and Brad Marchand finished a one-man, unassisted effort at 19:49 of the period for his 28th goal of the campaign.

It was the dagger ended Smith’s night after four goals allowed on just 14 shots, and allowed the Bruins to straight-up cruise in the third period, led by six stops from Rask en route to a 21-of-22 winning performance.

A relaxing final 20 was never the norm under Julien, but it’s become one in three of four home games under Cassidy, which in my estimation, has come back to their willingness to answer bells and challenges early and often.

The Bruins return to the rink Thursday night against the Rangers.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson