Bruce Cassidy has helped turn around the Bruins' fortunes. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Bruce Cassidy has helped turn around the Bruins’ fortunes. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The deadline’s done and the Bruins are winning. Perfect time for a mailbag …

Who is this team in black and gold on my TV? Ricky, Cambridge, MA

The difference between the Bruins in the last days of Claude Julien and under nine games of Bruce Cassidy has been night and day. Even Claude’s bum-kissers in the media have to concede that canning the NHL’s longest-tenured head coach was the correct and overdue call. Ryan Spooner, David Krejci, and Colin Miller have each noticeably stepped up their play under Cassidy and simply loosening the reins has worked wonders for the Bs. In three weeks, they went from a bubble team that might become sellers to a squad that controls its own fate and holds a sizable tie-breaker lead over Toronto in the Atlantic. The bet here is they stay in the top three in division.

What’s the deal with Drew Stafford? Good pick-up or no? Brian, Canton, MA

Yes, Drew Stafford is a nice deadline pick-up for the Bs. Despite subpar numbers this season, due in part to injuries, the right wing has cracked 20 goals four times in 10 seasons with a high of 31 in 2010-11. He can play up and down the line-up, kill penalties, log power play time, and score. For a conditional sixth-rounder (that could become a 4th), it was an easy call for GM Don Sweeney. Regardless of where he gets plugged in, the ripple effect will make the forward group that much better.

Who made out the best at the deadline? Jerry, Manchester, NH

Considering they landed the biggest fish in pending UFA Kevin Shattenkirk, it’s the Washington Capitals. Their already high expectations got even loftier by acquiring the most-sought after D-man on the market. He’ll make a solid D.C. back end that much better. Add in the Caps top flight goalie and regular season success, if they don’t make the Stanley Cup Final this season, then it’ll be considered the latest spectacular failure for Caps hockey.
The Bs division rivals each made adds.The Ottawa Senators added notorious biter Alex Burrows and Viktor Stalberg to solidify their forwards (though they lost Curtis Lazar in a trade with Calgary). Toronto landed local guy Brian Boyle and Eric Fehr to bring in some much needed veteran leadership for a young squad. The Habs picked up agitator Steve Ott, Dwight King, Nikita Nesterov, and Jordie Benn. But if they continue to struggle on offense, their run could be a quick one.

Why have the last few trade deadlines been duds compared to prior years?  Tommy, Dennis, MA

This year’s Deadline Day was like watching “The English Patient” – general boredom with the occasional eyebrow raise. After Twitter’s rumor mill produced its annual BS, not much transpired per usual. The draft and the weeks surrounding it have become the Moroccan street market for blockbuster deals in recent years. GMs don’t set aside deadline day like fans do. If a deal becomes available well before then, a front office obviously isn’t going to wait to just provide a deadline buzz. It seems like the market has become artificially inflated in February because of some GM demands that seem to come down by the time the draft rolls around. Also, teams needed to be properly stocked for an expansion draft and that no doubt had an effect on the lack of moves.

Blog Author: 
Rear Admiral
Drew Stafford joined the Bruins on Thursday night and skated on Friday. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Drew Stafford joined the Bruins on Thursday night and skated in a practice with the club on Friday. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Trade deadlines are rarely fun for the actual participants.

Drew Stafford, acquired from the Jets in exchange for a conditional sixth-round draft pick in 2018 by the Bruins on Wednesday, knows it.

“It’s crazy, I mean, anybody you talk to that goes through it, it’s the same kind of thing. You find out, nowadays, with social media,” Stafford said of the trade process that landed him in Boston. “The TSN guys are sitting in the room there for however long, looking at their phones, and you find out on Twitter or whatever.”

The 31-year-old Stafford was spared the trouble of finding out his fate on his Twitter, though, as it was his agent that broke the news to him.

Nevertheless, you’ve been traded. No big deal. Now imagine having to immediately pack your life in Winnipeg up into a suitcase, catch a connecting flight in Minnesota, saying hi and then bye to your wife, and arrive in Boston just before a game starts. Oh, and your wife, who is back home in Minnesota — which is an hour-plus flight from Winnipeg but much more Boston —  is 33 weeks pregnant and thus unable to actually fly with you and join you here.

Welcome to Stafford’s journey to the Hub.

“Yeah, so it’s been a circus. Calling the family and making sure everything’s okay back home, packing up out of Winnipeg,” admitted Stafford, “There’s a lot of moving parts, but, like I said, I’m just excited to be here, excited to get going.”

Picked up by B’s general manager Don Sweeney as an expected boost to the middle lines, and as a likely solution on the B’s third line to the right of Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano, Stafford is excited about the prospect of playing in Boston, a city he’s more than familiar thanks to a near decade-long run with the Sabres.

“To play in some of the games we had and the rivalries we had there, I’ll never forget that,” Stafford recalled of the Bruins-Sabres rivalry, which Stafford was apart of during their 2010 playoff series and the unforgettable incident with Ryan Miller and Milan Lucic. “It’s one of those things where you play against a guy for so long, you almost kind of know them a little bit and you kind of feel that way a little bit. Like Chara, Bergeron, Marchand, those guys that have been there forever. Even though I might not know them on a personal level, I know them well enough from playing against them.

“Very familiar with the city, obviously, playing here so much. I can tell you all about Boston Common, that’s pretty much the only area that I’ve stayed. When we came in here, we stayed at the Ritz. I’m just excited here. It’s one of my most favorite cities and to be able to play for a franchise like this with the history and the original team, I could go on and on about that.”

It’s been a struggle of a season for Stafford — he has just four goals and 13 points in 40 games this season, and with a total of 24 games missed to three different injuries — but the Black and Gold view his versatility as a much needed boost to the club.

“I think he can play, probably, anywhere on the right side,” Sweeney said of Stafford, who comes to the Hub with 179 goals and 392 points in 707 NHL games. “Good shot, strength, can get to the net, and has a power play acumen, and has a good shot.”

The Bruins hope for an easy immersion into a B’s sweater for Stafford, too, who was thrilled to land back in a playoff race.

“Unfortunately, the way the season went in Winnipeg, I knew there was a realistic chance that I could get shipped out of there,” said Stafford. “But to be in a place like this with an organization like this, it’s just incredible and I can’t wait to get going.”

Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy has already confirmed that Stafford will play on Saturday night against the Devils.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Patrice Bergeron blocked a shot with his hand but returned to action. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Patrice Bergeron blocked a shot with his hand but returned to action in a 2-1 loss to the Rangers. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The list of significant injuries Bruins center Patrice Bergeron has played through in his NHL career is probably as long as his list of professional accomplishments. That’s saying something, both about Bergeron’s on-ice value to the Black and Gold and his pain tolerance.

So when Bergeron grimaced and made his way down the runway and back to the dressing room after a blocked shot in the second period of Thursday’s loss to the Rangers, you couldn’t help but hold your breath.

But after a quick absence — with Ryan Spooner moved to the middle of the first line in his place — Bergeron returned and finished the night with five shots on goal and two hits in 18:58 of time on ice.

After the game, the 31-year-old, who missed the first three games of the season, talked about the run-in with what would have been major trouble for the Black and Gold’s stretch run.

“It didn’t feel good. I don’t know if it scared me, but it didn’t feel good at all,” Bergeron said of the block. “It’s one of those things where you’re trying to put your body in there and find a way to – you’re hoping it’s going to hit you, but at the same times, you’re hoping it’s going to hit you on the padding. It wasn’t the case.”

Bergeron was back in no time, too, which did not go unnoticed by his coach.

“You’re always concerned but the game goes on and he was back fairly quickly – I think he only missed a shift or two. And obviously it’s relief,” B’s interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of the injury scare with Bergeron. “The guy is one of our best players, no one wants to lose one of their best players, a valuable player like that, for any length of time.”

The 6-foot-1 Bergeron, with 16 goals and 40 points in 60 games this season, expects to be ready to go for Saturday night’s game.

“I’ll be alright,” Bergeron said.

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
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