Joe Morrow is one of two players assigned to the P-Bruins. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

Joe Morrow is one of two players assigned to the P-Bruins. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

The second week of vacation is over for two B’s, and it’s Los Angeles to Providence for forward Austin Czarnik and defenseman Joe Morrow, who were reassigned to the Providence Bruins today.

The assignment for Czarnik is to get the 5-foot-9 forward back into game-shape after having missed the last five games with a lower-body injury. Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy noted that Czarnik, who was practicing with the club, was getting closer to a return. And with the P-Bruins having a weekend slate of games on deck Friday through Sunday, it can get Czarnik back into the mix without the pressure of meaningful NHL games through the stretch run.

The 24-year-old Czarnik has scored five goals and 13 points in 47 games for the Big B’s this season, and one goal and two helpers in three AHL games this season. And though the Michigan native had roles for the B’s this year on both the power play and fill-in winger, you have to wonder if the development of Peter Cehlarik and seemingly solidified revolving door of more natural-fitting bottom-six forwards have taken him out of an NHL job for the time being.

On a one-way contract, the assignment for Morrow has been labeled a conditioning one.

Morrow has not played in a game since Jan. 22, and has played just eight times since Dec. 1.

It’s unlikely that you will see Morrow draw back into NHL action any time soon, either, as he’s behind Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, and even John-Michael Liles on the club’s left-side defensive depth chart.

Morrow has one assist and a minus-4 rating in 17 games for the Bruins this season.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins lost another game late on Wednesday. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins lost another game late on Wednesday. It was their ninth loss in such a fashion this season. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins can’t afford, nor do they really want to lose games.

But if they are going to lose, which is inevitable despite what the first four games of the Bruce Cassidy era told us, they’re going to have to figure out how to lose the right way. And just what is considered the right way? Taking advantage of the league’s ridiculous ‘loser points’ handed out like candy this time of year, which is something they haven’t done this year. Or any year of recent recollection, anyway.

Just take a look at Wednesday night’s disaster at the Honda Center.

After the Bruins fought so hard to tie things back up, and did with Frank Vatrano’s goal scored just over the halfway mark of the third period, the Bruins were hemmed in their own zone and allowed the Ducks’ Rickard Rakell to score what would be the game-winning goal with just 2:34 left in the third period.

If there’s any consolation for the Black and Gold, it was the gutpunch that the B’s have been tagged with repeatedly in what’s become a rope-a-dope season. Flip-side: There’s no consolation to be had given what was at stake for the club in that game.

With a victory, the Bruins would have leapfrogged both the Panthers and Maple Leafs — each of whom still have one game in hand over the Bruins — and finished the night back in a playoff position. The Leafs have not made the most of their games in hand advantage over the Bruins, but it’s the Panthers, who have been just on fire of late, that gave the Bruins a break with a loss to the Oilers. They were off the hook and back in the mix thanks to help from the league’s hottest team having an off night. And they did nothing with it. Four-game winning streak or not, the B’s are still very much engaged in a mad dash finish, and leaving points on the table is just inexcusable at this time of year, let alone doing it against a struggling Ducks team and their backup goaltender.

The Bruins should have been better. Or good enough to earn at least one point out of this game. But they weren’t.

And at some point, you just expect the Bruins to leave these breakdowns behind them.

Rakell’s game-winning goal finished as the B’s ninth regulation loss where the Bruins allowed the winning team to score the game-winning goal in the final five minutes of a period this season. It was the fifth time that it’s happened in the third period of a game, too, and there’s a grand total of 7:23 that’s kept the Bruins from at least five extra points in the standings.

Collect those five points and you’re just one point out of first place in the Atlantic Division. Fail to collect those points and you will once again be where you begin Thursday morning when it’s all said and done — and that’s on the outside looking in. Again.

It’s impossible to imagine that the Bruins have squandered five, maybe even 10 points, by an average of a 1:16 in the third period.

 

Especially given what the club went through a season ago. (Or maybe that makes it all the more plausible?)

This exact thing happened to the Bruins eight times last year, and happened in the third period on four different occasions. So, in essence, the Bruins lost out on at least four points. Oh, and they missed the playoffs by one regulation/overtime win to the Red Wings (who had 11 overtime losses but were tied with the Bruins with 93 points) for third place in the Atlantic Division, and they also lost out on the second wild card to the Flyers by just three points. Do the math.

Fail to frequently collapse and you’re in the dance.

If you go back one year further, it happened to the Bruins five times, including two times in the third period (once with less than a second left if you recall that Columbus Day loss to the Avs from Danny Briere), and the Bruins missed the playoffs by two points.

And naturally, where does this bring the Bruins this season? To 10th place in the Eastern Conference, for the time being, and in a spot all too familiar to where they’ve been for the last two seasons.

The Leafs, with a one-point lead over the Bruins, find themselves in third place in the division, and their lead is over the Bruins is solely due to their number of loser points compared to the Bruins, as the Leafs have dropped 11 contests in overtime or the shootout while the B’s have just six of those. The same can be said for the Panthers, who have three fewer regulation/overtime wins than the Black and Gold, but are saved by 10 overtime losses.

In essence, these teams are better than the Bruins in the standings because they’re better at losing than they are, and will continue to be if the Bruins continue to choke away games before the extra frame.

What a world.

 

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Bruce Cassidy was tested in a way that he has not through the first four game of his tenure as the Bruins’ interim head coach on Wednesday night. And it came with the first loss under his watch, as the Bruins fell to the Ducks by a late 5-3 final at the Honda Center.

The Bruins stole a point in Anaheim. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins were 2:34 away from earning at least one point in their 5-3 loss to the Ducks on Wednesday night. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

Bruce Cassidy was tested in a way that he has not through the first four game of his tenure as the Bruins’ interim head coach on Wednesday night. And it came with the first loss under his watch, as the Bruins fell to the Ducks by a late 5-3 final at the Honda Center.

In a building in which they had not won in in almost five calendar years, the Bruins opened the game up with Brandon Carlo’s goal in the first period, and carried a 1-0 lead through 20 minutes of action.

But it was in the middle period, as has often been the case this season, that the Black and Gold seemed to run into trouble at every turn.

The Ducks scored 2:03 into the second period behind Ondrej Kase’s fifth goal of the season and his first in 19 games. And the Bruins appeared to answer right away when David Pastrnak rifled a top-shelf shot upstairs on the Ducks’ Jonathan Bernier on the power play. But the goal was called off thanks to contact from B’s winger Brad Marchand at the front of the net, and after a Bruins challenge, that call was upheld and the Bruins lost their timeout.

Zdeno Chara scored a goal that counted just moments later, however, and it seemed like a bullet dodged, even down a timeout.

(Nope!)

Rickard Rakell led the Ducks back the other way and just 47 seconds later, it was back to a tied game.

5:30 after that, Josh Manson scored to make it 3-2 for the Ducks. Here’s the catch: the Ducks were offsides by a country mile. But the Bruins, down a timeout after a failed challenge, couldn’t do a thing to protest the celebration before their eyes. It was a botched call — right or wrong, it seems as if you never see a goaltender interference call overturned, partly because of the refs’ pride and the fact that they’re reviewing these scoring plays on a Gameboy Color — and Cassidy acknowledged it after the loss.

“In hindsight, I messed up,” Cassidy admitted to the NESN when asked about his challenge. “It’s disappointing because clearly that was a good foot offside. It’s a tough way to give up a goal, but that was a decision I made, and it was the wrong one.”

Trailing after two periods of play for the first time since making their coaching change over two weeks ago, the Bruins mixed up their lines and responded with a Frank Vatrano breakaway goal scored midway through the third period. Vatrano, reunited back with David Krejci at center and with David Backes on the right side, was an obvious beneficiary of the switch-up. But the Bruins noticeably struggled to get much of anything from their bottom-six with the jumbles, and it showed on the Ducks’ fourth goal.

With Colin Miller and Kevan Miller the defensemen out there — two defenders that seemed to fight the puck for much of the night — and a mix-and-match third line of Ryan Spooner, Riley Nash, and Dominic Moore up front, chaos in front of Tuukka Rask ensued as the 29-year-old challenged the shot outside of his crease. It was a chaotic pinball bounce that ended with Rakell’s second goal of the night, scored with a helpful deflection from Corey Perry at the front of the net.

When teams like the Ducks stack their lineups like the Penguins do (Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler were each on different lines), the Bruins are unable to shelter their at times suspect defensive pairings or forward groupings. But in that situation against the Ducks, you can’t help but feel as if there was a better five-man unit that the Black and Gold could have deployed, right?

One name that stuck out to me in that regard was Backes. When the newly designed Moore line went out there with 3:12 left in the third period, Backes’ had 1:14 of rest to his name and the shift before that was actually just two seconds long. Krejci had 45 seconds of rest for his 25-second shift, and Adam McQuaid logged a 30-second shift before he left the ice. Those are two players that I just feel like could have been better fits out there, especially when the initially intentions of that line was to create offense (which may have happened had Nash not been tackled right over the attacking blue line just seconds prior). Things only got worse for the Bruins after the Nash non-call when Kevan Miller’s clearing attempt failed and pinned the B’s into their own zone.

With the game — or the very least, a point — on the line, it would have been better for Cassidy to die with his best players out there. Not a line that had been together for all of one juggle-heavy third period. Instead, it’s a point that the Bruins ended up leaving on the table with a goal scored on them just 154 seconds after from overtime.

But it’s a lesson that the Bruins and Cassidy almost needed to learn given the near perfect situations that the club has lucked themselves into through the first four games of Cassidy’s run with the club. It’s a reminder that this race is far from over, and is actually complicated with the B’s inability to leapfrog both the Panthers and Maple Leafs, which they could have done with a win.

The Bruins are back at it tomorrow night against the Kings.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Bruins winger Matt Beleskey will be in the lineup tonight vs. Anaheim. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins winger Matt Beleskey will be in the lineup tonight vs. Anaheim. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Matt Beleskey will be more than a spectator tonight when he visits his old stomping grounds for a pivotal tilt between the Bruins and Ducks.

A healthy scratch in two of the club’s last three games, Beleskey was confirmed as a go and subbed in for Tim Schaller by Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy following the club’s well-attended optional skate at the Honda Center, and is expected to skate in Schaller’s spot on the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Riley Nash.

After a career-high 37 points with the Bruins a year ago, year two in Boston as a whole has been a challenging one for Beleskey, who has struggled to duplicate his success, with just two goals and five assists in 33 games played along with 23 games missed with a right knee injury.

But the 28-year-old hasn’t sulked or moaned about his situation.

“I think that’s really all you can do when you don’t play, is just work hard, and try and get better,” Beleskey said. “I’ve been working with the coaches, trying to work on the foot speed, get back from missing a lot of games – it’s taken me a bit to get going, but hopefully tonight I can make some strides and hopefully stay in the lineup.”

And the Bruins have to hope that a head-to-head against his former team could provide a lift, too.

A member of the Ducks for seven seasons, with 57 goals and 112 points in 329 games for Anaheim, Beleskey is trying to keep his eyes on the task at hand for his (somewhat) new club versus enjoying the memories made back then.

“We had a lot of fun here,” Beleskey, who left the Ducks for the Bruins two summers ago, admitted. “But I’m looking forward to getting two points tonight, hopefully coming back in the lineup and being able to contribute and play my game.”

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins are 4-0-0 under Bruce Cassidy. (Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins are 4-0-0 under Bruce Cassidy. (Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports)

Here’s something weird: According to MoneyPuck.com, there are 15 teams that have a better chance to make the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs than the Bruins, who are currently given a 72.14 percent chance of making the 16-team dance. But that’s not the weird part. Of the 30 teams and their chances at lifting the Stanley Cup this June, only the Caps, currently given a 10.9 percent chance, have a higher number than the 8.7 percent given to the Bruins by MoneyPuck.com’s scale.

It’s worth noting that the Bruins, who have not made the playoffs since 2014, would not make the playoffs if the season ended today, too.

It’s just the latest model that speaks to how the Bruins are viewed in the community as a team that’s been better than their luck and win-loss record has indicated through the first three legs of their season.

 

The ‘fancy stats’ back the Bruins up as one of the league’s most dominant puck-possession clubs at even-strength play (which has been a common factor for Cup-winning teams), with an NHL-best 55.4 Corsi-For percentage, but it’s their heinous shooting percentage (6.21 percent, the second-worst in the NHL) that has seemingly held them back for stretches throughout the year.

You could make the case that their shooting problems ultimately cost Claude Julien his job after 10 years on the job, too, but the early results under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy seem to speak for themselves at this point — be it that their luck has turned and/or that the team is creating better offensive chances under Cassidy — even after considering the small sample size.

Under Julien, the Bruins scored 141 goals on 1,899 shots (7.4 shooting percentage overall). The Bruins have scored 16 goals on 144 shots under Cassidy (12.6 shooting percentage). At that pace, or a goal every nine shots, the Bruins would need just 1,125 more shots to match their production in 55 games under Julien this season when they scored a goal every 13 shots.

And the Cassidy pace, which is noticeably better, along with an easier schedule for the stretch run (three remaining head-to-heads with the Senators could determine the B’s playoff fate) would be more than enough to push the Bruins back into postseason play.

From there, the Bruins would have an actual shot at the Stanley Cup beyond the hypotheticals of these graphs.

But it may come back down to matchups for the Black and Gold, too. You’d have to believe that the path of least resistance for the Bruins would come with either the second or third seed in the Atlantic Division for a first-round head-to-head with the Canadiens, Sens, Panthers, or Maple Leafs opposed to a first-round showdown with the top wild card Rangers or whatever other Metropolitan Division team is bumped out of their top three and into that spot like the Islanders were last year.

As the team’s run in 2013 proved, it’s about getting hot at the right time along with experiencing an uptick in your team’s luck.

Two things that have happened under Cassidy.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins and Avalanche seem unlikely to make a major trade. (Roy Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins and Avalanche seem unlikely to make a major trade happen before the league’s Mar. 1 trade deadline. (Roy Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

Those of you still waiting for the blockbuster trade between the Bruins and Avalanche to go down can probably find something else to do.

In what’s been nearly two months of rumors linking the Bruins and Avs in talks for a major swap (with the Bruins targeting Colorado captain and former No. 2 overall pick Gabriel Landeskog), all has gone quiet on the trade front. That’s because each party seems fed up with the other’s unwillingness to either come up or down on their desired prices.

By now, it’s obvious what the Avalanche want from the Bruins, and it’s centered around first-year pro defenseman Brandon Carlo and more.

A 20-year-old native of Colorado Springs, Colo., the Avs’ interest in Carlo is obvious given the fact that the team is in dire need of a defensive upgrade and Carlo’s ability to compete at a top-pairing level as a rookie.

But a 6-foot-5 defenseman that can defend and skate as well as Carlo has in just his first season in the greatest league in the world do not grow on trees. And at less than $800,000 per year for two more years after this one thanks to his affordable entry-level contract, there’s no rush from Bruins general manager Don Sweeney to move that out of Boston.

Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic is not the first general manager to try, either.

Carlo seems to be near “untouchable” status for the Bruins right now according to one league source. They also noted that Sweeney already said no to one deal involving Carlo earlier this year, and that was for a somewhat established young defender in the Jets’ Jacob Trouba during Trouba’s holdout with the Jets. And if the Bruins were not moving Carlo for Trouba, which would have been a strength for strength swap, it should almost go without saying that they won’t move him for Landeskog.

That’s not to suggest that the Bruins did not covet Landeskog, however, as it’s believed they offered up 2015 first-rounder Jakub Zboril as a potential centerpiece of a Landeskog deal, but were turned down by Sakic and the Avalanche.

And the B’s decision not to go any higher sort of makes sense from their scope.

Although the 24-year-old Landeskog is a captain and a former Calder Trophy winner, the numbers show that he is on the way to his third straight statistical dip, with just 11 goals and 12 assists through 47 games played this season. And with 25 games left in their season, that would align Landeskog for a 17-goal, 35-point finish to his season. That would be an 18-point dip from the year before, a 24-point dip from the year before that, and a 30-point slide back from three years ago. Bad team or not, that’s ugly.

It’s not as if Landeskog has played with subpar linemates, either, as most of his season has been spent with Nathan MacKinnon or Matt Duchene as his center. Both Duchene and MacKinnon, by the way, are producing close to their career norms. So while a ‘fresh start’ is the go-to answer when it comes to the rationale for any trade involving Landeskog, his three-year slide has hinted that this may be closer to a reclamation project, and at $5.571 million ’til 2021, that’s one that the Bruins cannot afford.

Not at the expense of Carlo and further cap complications, anyways. And especially not with a significant raise due to come David Pastrnak’s way this summer, and with $11.5 million in projected cap space to sign Pastrnak and address six other free agents.

But just because the Bruins are unwilling to pay the price for Landeskog — which appears to focus on Carlo, an NHL player, and a first-round pick as the starting point — it doesn’t mean that the Bruins are not still searching for help now and down the road.

“I’d prefer to err on the side of a player that will integrate into us on the longer-term,” Sweeney said of his deadline plans. “Last year, we gave up draft picks. I wasn’t prepared to move players that I felt in the same regard that teams had asked for in order to get a higher-level rental or a different kind of rental. I’m not going to deviate from what I said. Are there players and we have a surplus? That’s what I want to try and evaluate and find out whether or not we can deal from a position of strength.”

Their desperation to make a deal has seemingly gone down, too, thanks to four straight wins under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, and the placement of some mismanaged parts back into positions to succeed within the club’s forward ranks.

The Bruins have four more games before the Mar. 1 trade deadline.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Matt Beleskey has been a scratch in two of the last three games. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Matt Beleskey has been a scratch in two of the last three games. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Bruins winger Matt Beleskey has hit the proverbial reset button too many times to count this season. And rarely has it actually worked.

A scratch in two of the last three games (or half of the games coached by interim B’s coach Bruce Cassidy), Beleskey has missed time to a knee injury and has struggled to the tune of just two goals and five assists in 33 games this season. It seems tough to find the perfect fit to work the hardworking winger back into the mix too, especially before Beleskey’s return to Anaheim, where he played for the first seven years of his NHL career, on Wednesday night at the Honda Center.

The Bruins tried to find a different role for Beleskey last week when he stepped in for Tim Schaller. But Beleskey struggled to play his game in a fourth line role with Dominic Moore and Riley Nash, with just one shot in goal and a season-low 7:37 of time on ice (unless you count that injury-shortened night which ended after just six shifts and 5:27 of time on ice against Buffalo back on Dec. 3) in a 4-0 win over the Habs.

Schaller responded to the scratch with an impact in his next game out, with three hits and three blocked shots in just over 13 minutes of time on ice while often matched up against the Sharks’ Brent Burns. In other words, he doesn’t seem like a fit for the press box in the Black and Gold’s next contest, not after an effort like Sunday’s, anyhow.

So just what becomes the team’s go-to route to salvage Beleskey’s second year in town?

The spot initially believed to be Beleskey’s — on the left side of a second line combination with David Krejci and David Pastrnak, which was one of his most common lines a year ago — has been seized by first-year North American pro Peter Cehlarik.

While these fill-in situations tend to work themselves out as a player fizzles out (Austin Czarnik, Anton Blidh, and an entire roster of puck-moving defensemen saviors that came before Torey Krug), Cehlarik has looked damn impressive with Krejci and Pastrnak, and the line’s chemistry has seemingly led to magnet-like possession skills in the attacking zone and countless opportunities (and in different fashions). Ready for the ultimate compliment to Cehlarik, too? It’s been increasingly difficult to tell the difference between he and Marchand when on the ice, which is something that was originally because of Cehlarik wearing No. 83 and Marchand sporting No. 63, but it’s Cehlarik’s undeniable creativity along the walls once over the attacking blue line that has helped make that more than a numbers game. Carrying out a hypothetical that throws Cehlarik back to the press box (or back to the AHL) despite his budding chemistry with Krejci would only further complicate a year that’s been rife with chemistry issues and (or because of) a revolving door of linemates to the veteran Czech’s left. And his right, actually, for that matter.

Elsewhere, Marchand, the team’s top winger, is not coming out of the lineup. Nor is Frank Vatrano, who missed the first 34 games of the season due to a training camp foot injury that required surgery, coming off that third line or second power-play unit.

So, again, where’s the fit for No. 39? It’s hard to find a legitimate answer. But maybe that’s the wrong question, though, as for the 28-year-old Beleskey it may not be a where he fits back into the mix, but rather a when he’s fit for a jump back into action.

On the shelf for 23 games because of that aforementioned injury against the Sabres in December, which affected his right knee but did not require surgery (not to our knowledge, anyways), Beleskey’s skating game has been noticeably dull since his return. The numbers back that up, too, with just two assists, a minus-4 rating, and 13 shots in nine games played. It’s also been subtly hinted as that Beleskey is still not at 100 percent, healthwise or game-speed wise. And Beleskey has worked with the club’s skating coach at recent practices, which would indicate that it’s something that’s been acknowledged by both the player and the team.

But at some point this season, the Bruins will need the Beleskey that registered a career-best 37 points last year to show up.

Beleskey simply means too much to the Bruins in the ‘little areas’ of the game as a physical tone-setter to sit as a scratch when the games matter the most. I understand the unquantifiable nature of the buzzwords thrown out there in that last sentence, but it’s honestly hard for me to remember a player that’s loved a city and team as quickly as Beleskey has taken to Boston in just one and a half years here, so motivation or efforts, especially on a shift to shift basis, should never be in question. And in the second year of a five-year deal featuring a $3.8 million cap hit, he’s too expensive to become dead weight in the press box. (You thought people were mad when Jimmy Hayes’ $2.3 million sat as a scratch again and again?) One of the things that impressed the Bruins the most about Beleskey too was his monstrous postseason run with the Ducks in 2015, which featured eight goals — three of which held as game-winning goals — in 16 playoff games. Those are goals and results that the B’s will need, be it in the stretch run or in the actual playoffs, if this climb back from the near-dead under Claude Julien leads to a legitimate playoff run under Cassidy.

Production that can only come when Beleskey is back on the ice for the Black and Gold, not where.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Don Sweeney's biggest move will be the firing of Claude Julien.</p>
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The sample size is entirely too small to make any definitive statements one way or the other.