Kevan Miller averaged 25:12 of time on ice during the playoffs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller averaged 25:12 of time on ice during the playoffs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Somebody on the Bruins will take a contract-long vacation to Las Vegas as part of the league’s upcoming expansion draft this June.

By now, the names floated out there as most likely to venture out to Nevada as an original member of the Vegas Golden Knights are well known. It’s a mix of guys eventually due for raises that the B’s may not want to pay (Ryan Spooner, Colin Miller), experienced veterans (Adam McQuaid), or potentially cap-crushing contracts, which could actually help Vegas reach the cap floor, such as Matt Beleskey or Jimmy Hayes.

On the other side, the people you want to see the Bruins protect likely remained the same from start to finish this season. But at the same time, it should have changed if you watched the B’s first-round series loss to the Senators with a close eye.

Specifically in regards to one person: Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has already hinted that the Bruins are leaning towards the 7-3-1 protection plan, which allows the Bruins to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie. Again, the names up front are rather obvious and there’s no way that the Bruins do not protect Tuukka Rask, but it’s on the point where things become interesting.

The Bruins have two redundant contracts in McQuaid and Miller (Miller makes $2.5 million per year, McQuaid at $2.75 million per year, they’re almost the same age, and both are best as the right-side complement to a puck-moving defenseman like Torey Krug). McQuaid, for what it’s worth, has already expressed his interest in staying with the Bruins. The other Miller d-man, Colin, is also a player that the Bruins could consider protecting from the Golden Knights. It’s also obvious that Krug, who recorded a career-high 51 points this past season, will be the club’s second protected defender behind Zdeno Chara, who will have to be protected because of his no-movement clause (and should be protected) anyways. So, it’s that third and final spot on the club’s point that will come back to McQuaid, the Miller defensemen, or the previously unmentioned Joe Morrow.

And that coveted third spot, as a six-game playoff run told you, should probably go to No. 86.

Say this to me a year ago — or even six months ago, actually — and I would have laughed at you. But when the stakes were at their highest, Miller upped his game and became one of the club’s most dependable defensemen. He was the No. 3 in a close-game rotation that saw the Bruins give heavy minutes to Zdeno Chara’s and their second-defenseman-by-necessity Charlie McAvoy. But he also proved that he can be more than a No. 5 defenseman on a good team. There were times where Miller had strong plays with the puck to begin a rush the other way, or made the right pinch or offensive-zone read to lead to more offensive chances for the Bruins. Miller also remained true to what put him in this spot to begin with, with 20 hits and 17 blocked shots, and ranked third among Boston defensemen in time on ice during the postseason (25:14) and second among penalty-killing time on ice (3:56).

But it’s the former points that were interesting for the Black and Gold.

Miller, for all of his struggles for goals against — I prefer to call it the 2009-10 Dennis Wideman Effect, where everything that could go wrong did go wrong and appeared beyond glaring — recorded career-highs in goals (five), assists (13), and points (18) in 71 games in 2015-16. He followed that up with three goals and 13 points in 58 games during this past regular season. It’s the point-per-game pace that indicates that the career-high from two seasons ago would have been reached for the second year in a row had it not been for a 13-game dropoff due to injury (Miller missed a total of 24 games to injury this season, the most coming with a 19-game absence because of a hand injury suffered at the end of the preseason).

A student of Adam Oates’ skills coaching, Miller has made the necessary adjustments to become an impact talent for the B’s.

“I think, as a player, if you’re not trying to get better, you’re getting worse, especially in this league now,” the 29-year-old Miller said. “I think guys are getting faster, they’re getting bigger, getting better with the puck, I think, so it’s something that, every summer, you have to go out there and try and better yourself, not just for yourself, but for your team.”

The Bruins have seen that change on the club’s right side in the past season alone, too, with the emergence of both Brandon Carlo and McAvoy during this past season. That has, believe it or not, made Miller’s presence all the more valuable for the Bruins. A right-side defender for most of his Bruins career, Miller played significant time on the club’s left side this past season, where Chara and Krug remain the first and second pairing presences, and was just as effective there. A righty going to the left is not easy for most defensemen, and that versatility gives Miller some extra value to the B’s beyond everything already mentioned.

With improvements from year to year while refusing to stray from the physical brand your defense still needs even in today’s skilled-beyond-belief game (Miller finished the year with 121 hits and 77 blocked shots, along with the fourth-best Corsi-for percentage among Boston defensemen), the Bruins simply can’t let Miller and his affordable $2.5 million cap hit go for nothing, which is exactly what would happen if he’s exposed to the Golden Knights.

“I have aspirations of winning the Stanley Cup. That’s why I’m here,” Miller, an undrafted talent who has spent his entire career with the Bruins, said. “That’s why I wanted to sign here, and if you’re not getting yourself better, you’re not helping your team.”

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
David Pastrnak will play for the Czech Republic at the World Championships. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

David Pastrnak will play for the Czech Republic at the World Championships. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

Defenseman Charlie McAvoy and prospect Anders Bjork, both of whom will suit up for the United States, are not the only Bruins heading overseas to the 2017 World Championships next week, as David Pastrnak will join them as he plays for the Czech Republic.

Given the fact that Pastrnak is healthy (unlike many of his teammates and fellow Czech, David Krejci, who is suffering from a knee injury), the jump to the Czech national was pretty much expected.

The invite also comes on the heels of Pastrnak’s best NHL season to date, with a career-high 34 goals and 70 points in 75 games this year.

This will be the second time that Pastrnak has played for the Czechs in the World Championships. He recorded one goal and six points in eight games for the Czech Republic at last year’s games. Pastrnak also skated in three games in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey back in September.

The 20-year-old Pastrnak, a restricted free agent this summer, will report to the national club next week.

But not before he heads off to Scottsdale, Ariz. for one more road trip with his teammates.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask won a career-high 37 games this season. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask won a career-high 37 games this season. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask’s season had its peaks and valleys.

Rask would be the first to tell you that.

“Pretty steady,” Rask said of his season. “I had ups and downs but for the most part I did my job and just tried to give us a chance to win every night, and for the most part I accomplished it.”

But it was the Bruins, out of necessity for the most part, that created those valleys when they overworked the all-world Rask. And Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has finally admitted such as a truth.

“A tremendous start to the season for us,” Sweeney said on Thursday when asked to assess Rask’s season as a whole. “We needed it, our backup goalie got hurt, Anton [Khudobin] was off to a slow start, Zane [McIntyre] was coming in as a young player, Malcolm [Subban] played a game. We needed him. Middle of the season I thought we rode him maybe a little too hard. He broke down a little bit.”

The numbers backed up that claim, too, as Rask began his season with 12 wins and a .938 save percentage in 17 games. He did that while also nursing an injured groin that put him on the shelf for three games back in October. Rask took a slight dip from those Vezina-pacing numbers in December though, with seven wins and a .915 save percentage. But it was in January where Rask hit a definite wall that nearly derailed the B’s season, and it was one that lasted a lot longer than the Bruins would have liked, as Rask won just 14 of 30 starts from Jan. 1 to Mar. 23’s ugly loss to the Lightning. Rask’s .888 save percentage over that span also ranked as the worst in the league among goalies with at least 24 games played.

Rask then missed a must-win game in Brooklyn (it was later revealed that Rask had a back injury), but after a weekend of rest-and-recovery, Rask returned to those October numbers to close out his season, with a 4-0-1 record and just four goals allowed on 140 shots thrown his way (a .971 save percentage). He then followed that up with a first-round showing that saw Rask steal two games (a.k.a all the wins that the Bruins had in their series loss to the Senators) and finish with a .920 save percentage.

It was the strong finish the B’s needed to reinforce the obvious: Rask is still a great goalie in this league when managed properly.

“He finished on such a high note, the player that we all know Tuukka is, and the competitor he is. He had some injury troubles that he was battling through the course of the season and really came back, after getting a little bit of rest, a better player,” Sweeney said. “He’s a big part of if we’re going to have success that we expect to have, that he has to be the go-to guy and I think he proved that down the stretch and in the playoffs that he can be that goaltender.”

It’s opened the door for the Bruins to find a solution to the backup goaltending spot, as a capable backup will give No. 40 the rest he’ll need to be closer to the goalie he was in the beginning and end of the season versus the worn out goalie you saw in February. Sweeney by all means said that Khudobin remains in line to be the club’s backup next season, but did not rule out the idea of one of McIntyre or Subban — both of whom are restricted free agents this summer — stealing the spot next season.

“If somebody passes Anton, be it Zane or Malcolm, then we move in that direction as well,” Sweeney admitted. “But we’ve been patient from the development standpoint of trying to look internally, and it’s a position that we’ve sort of been chasing our tail a little bit for a couple of seasons now and very aware of it, do not run from it, and I’d like it to be resolved.”

Sweeney also noted that the 30-year-old Rask, like teammate Patrice Bergeron, is going to wait and see if things ‘calm down’ before seeing if he will require groin surgery this offseason.

Rask won a career-high 37 games and eight shutouts this year, along with a 2.23 goals against average and .915 save percentage.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Anders Bjork is still undecided on his future plans. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports)

Anders Bjork is still undecided on his future plans. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports)

Anders Bjork is a wanted man and it’s not hard to see why.

Bjork was a breakout sensation in his junior season with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, with 21 goals and 52 points in 39 games. That production made Bjork an All-American, and led to his nomination as one of the 10 finalists for the 2017 Hobey Baker Award, and helped guide Notre Dame to a Frozen Four appearance. He will also skate for Team USA at the 2017 World Championships beginning next week.

And the Bruins, the team that drafted Bjork with the 146th overall pick at the 2014 NHL Draft, remain in contact with the 20-year-old.

“We’ve had discussions and we will continue to have discussions,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said at his year-end press conference at TD Garden on Thursday morning.

But the ball remains in Bjork’s court.

“[Bjork] hasn’t made a firm decision whether or not he’s leaving school, so it would be his decision,” Sweeney, who has already signed three of his highly-touted NCAA prospects (Charlie McAvoy, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Ryan Fitzgerald) in the last month-plus, noted. “The opportunity is there for him to join us and we’d like him to. But that’s his own decision to make.”

The belief is that while Bjork would like to go pro, there is an undeniably strong connection to Notre Dame and that he truly believes that the Irish can win a National Championship next season, which is something that they have never done in the school’s history (the closest they came was back in 2008 when they lost to Boston College in the finals). That would obviously mean a lot to Bjork, whose father, Kirt, also played for the Irish and was an All-American for the school back in 1983, and whose mother, Patricia, is an alum of the school as well. There’s also worthwhile speculation that mentions the fact that Bjork could be an Olympian for the United States next year if the NHL stands firm and does not permit their players to go to next year’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang, which has a great amount of appeal in its own right given what an honor that is for anybody selected.

But there is a natural sense of worry that can come with letting a talent like Bjork go unsigned into his senior season, as the collective bargaining loophole puts the player in the driver’s seat for his own NHL future. Worked by players like Jimmy Vesey, who used his success with Harvard to opt out of signing with Nashville (the team that drafted him) and instead go for an all out entry-level bidding war where he could simply pick his own landing spot (the Rangers), that possibility is very much there.

The Bruins believe that they have worked to build a strong relationship with the player since drafting him, however, and that this is truly a matter of Bjork weighing the importance of finishing school for one last chance at their first championship versus jumping right into the NHL, where he would likely slot in as an immediate fix somewhere on the B’s hot-and-cold middle lines.

Bjork has 40 goals and 109 points in 115 games for Notre Dame.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Jarome Iginla has bought a house in Boston. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Jarome Iginla has bought a house in Boston. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Any and every hockey fan knows Jarome Iginla’s story by now.

The future Hall of Famer is still searching for the first Stanley Cup of his illustrious career. Iginla, who had an awakening of sorts with six goals and nine points in a 19-game trade deadline run with the Kings to close out an otherwise forgettable season split between Colorado and Los Angeles and without postseason play, is also a free agent this summer and has expressed some interest in possibly returning for another shot at winning it all.

And according to the Boston Business Journal, the 39-year-old has just shelled out $4.5 million for a newly-built home in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Brookline.

Like C+C Music Factory once said, Things That Make You Go Hmmm…

Iginla, as you can recall, skated for the Bruins back in 2013-14, and scored 30 goals and 61 points in 78 games on a one-year contract that was loaded with games played and performance bonuses that made the Bruins straight-up incapable of re-signing him the following season (the base salary was under $2 million and he made nearly double that in bonus money).

It’s also worth noting that Iginla absolutely wanted to return to the Bruins, too, but with the Bruins unable to give him long-term security without paying him peanuts, the 6-foot-1 sniper packed his bags to Colorado, where he spent the last three seasons before that aforementioned trade to the Kings last deadline.

Iginla also played some of the best hockey of his career with David Krejci, who has at times publicly bellyached about how the Bruins also move on from linemates he’s familiar with or has consistency with, as his pivot.

With all that in mind, it would be foolish to consider buying a home to be the surefire way of assuming that Iginla is going to return for one last go with the Black and Gold. Loui Eriksson once bought a house and then left as a free agent six months later.

And the Bruins are not exactly considered Cup favorites heading into next year, or at least not to the level that the soon-to-be 40-year-old Iginla would probably prefer if next year would truly be considered his final run at winning a Stanley Cup.

But at least he doesn’t have to shop for a new house if he does indeed return to the Bruins, right?

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Charlie McAvoy has played a ton of hockey this year.

Charlie McAvoy will play for Team USA at the 2017 World Championships. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Charlie McAvoy will play for Team USA at the 2017 World Championships. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Charlie McAvoy has played a ton of hockey this year. And although the Bruins were eliminated last Sunday, the 19-year-old is not done yet, as he will reportedly join Team USA for the 2017 World Championships.

It’s an invite that comes on the heels of an impressive NHL debut, as McAvoy seamlessly transitioned into the pro game and stepped into the playoffs as the B’s No. 2 defenseman, with three assists in six games.

“I had a quiet confidence in myself, but before you experience something like that you really don’t know how you’re going to fare and I think it was a credit to my teammates,” McAvoy said when asked of his NHL debut. “When you play with someone like Zdeno Chara, he puts you in a position every shift you’re out there to look good and be successful and I was out there with a lot of great players playing hockey and they made that transition as seamless as possible for myself, and like I said I’m just very thankful to have had that opportunity.

“It was definitely a whirlwind. Played in a couple different jerseys this year and been so very fortunate in every one of those experiences and I’m so thankful for all of them. And each particular thing had its own lesson and its own experience that I can use to help my hockey career and to help me grow and become a better player.”

He will be joined on Team USA by Bruins prospect Anders Bjork.

McAvoy’s jump to the Worlds will make Team USA the fifth team that he’s played for this season between Boston University, Team USA at the World Junior Championships, the P-Bruins, and the Big B’s.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Adam McQuaid has spent his entire career with the Bruins. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Adam McQuaid has spent his entire career with the Bruins. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins, along with every other team in the league, are going to lose somebody to the Vegas Golden Knights come June’s expansion draft.

Unable to protect everybody (and expected to go with the seven forward-three defensemen-one goaltender protection plan), it’s likely that the Bruins will lose one of Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Ryan Spooner, or Riley Nash up front or one of Kevan Miller, Colin Miller, Joe Morrow, or Adam McQuaid from their point. They’re not the only options for the Golden Knights to take, but they’re the most likely, especially when you look at the guys the B’s have on that backend.

With Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug set to make up two-thirds of the protected defensemen for the B’s, the last spot will come down to one of those four defenders, and you can’t help but feel that the unprotected one of Kevan Miller or McQuaid will be picked by Vegas.

“Well, I hope not,” McQuaid, who played in a career-high 77 games this year, said when asked about the potential of leaving the Bruins via the expansion draft. “I never thought of it that way, to be honest with you.

“The reality of the situation is they’re picking somebody from every team, so, I hope that’s not the case for me. I’ve won back here and I’ve always said how much I love it back here and I can’t imagine playing for another team.”

A career-long Bruin — McQuaid’s 424 career games rank as the 57th-most in franchise history — McQuaid has experienced almost everything one can during his eight-year run in Boston. He’s been to two Stanley Cup Finals, including a victory in 2011, and has grown from Providence to Boston and into a bonafide leader for a B’s blue line that’s changed an awful lot over that span. He’s also set to enter the third year of a five-year deal that comes with an affordable $2.75 million cap hit.

But those exact reasons are why a team like Vegas might want the 30-year-old McQuaid in the first place.

“It’s totally out of my control, but hopefully, it’s not the case,” McQuaid said.

The expansion draft will be held June 18 to 20, and the team will be announced on June 21.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Bruce Cassidy went 18-8-1 as the interim head coach of the Bruins. (Greg M.</p>
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After his late season run following Claude Julien getting fired, Bruce Cassidy impressed the Bruins enough to named the 28th coach of the team.

On Wednesday morning, the team announced Cassidy is now the full-time coach of the team.