It’s been one hell of a two-year ride for Bruins winger Brad Marchand.

And it’s far from finished.

Brad Marchand had three points in a 6-3 Bruins win over the Stars. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

Brad Marchand had three points in a 6-3 Bruins win over the Stars. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

It’s been one hell of a two-year ride for Bruins winger Brad Marchand.

And it’s far from finished.

In what’s become an undeniable jump from top-six winger to bonafide NHL superstar, another multi-point effort in a 6-3 Bruins win over the Stars on Sunday came with the results that were simply inevitable given the pace the 28-year-old has clicked at this season.

With a goal and two helpers in the victory in Dallas, the B’s third of a possible four on this daunting road trip, Marchand now has 27 goals and 37 helpers in 62 games, good for a new career-high 64 points, beating his previous career-best of 61 set last season.

And as he has so often this year, the 5-foot-9 winger struck early.

Marchand scored the game’s first goal just 5:56 off some great passing sequences from David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron. This line has been on-again, off-again under B’s interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, but when they are together, they’re a combo that simply has too much firepower to keep at bay, which is what allowed Marchand to create space for his shot in the first place.

In the middle frame, Marchand came through with the shot through traffic that was tipped by Patrice Bergeron to re-establish the B’s two-goal lead, which allowed the Bruins to carry a 4-2 edge through 40 minutes of play.

In case that wasn’t enough, No. 63 came through with the assist on Bergeron’s second goal of the afternoon, 7:48 into the third.

It was the third goal that really showed off what makes Marchand — and the Bruins as a team, really — just so dangerous when he’s playing his game. Immediately following by a huge stop on John Klingberg by Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask, Torey Krug found Marchand blowing through the neutral zone for a one-on-one chance against Stars defenseman Esa Lindell, but Marchand pulled Lindell far enough from the play to find Bergeron coming into the attacking zone while David Backes set the screen on Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen for Bergeron’s 15th goal of the season, and sixth point of this road trip.

It was an equally impressive four-game stretch for Marchand, who will return to Boston with three goals and six points in four games on the road, and fittingly enough, Marchand’s lone pointless game of the trip was the club’s only loss.

Marchand has become the test for the Bruins in a lot of ways. When he scores, they’re almost untouchable, with a 14-2-4 record. When he records a point, they’re 25-11-6. And I know it’s fairly obvious to point out that when a team’s top player succeeds the team generally seems to succeed, but this run put forth by the Nova Scotia native has been something to behold.

Not only does Marchand (64 points) now trail just two forwards for the most points in the NHL — them being Sidney Crosby (67 points) and Connor McDavid (69), the two best players in the whole world — but since the start of last year, only 11 forwards have totaled more points than the 125 in 139 games from the Bruins’ Marchand. Only Crosby, Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Alex Ovechkin have scored more goals than the 64 tallied by Marchand, too.

And in the midst of the best stretch ever, with 16 goals and 29 points in his last 20 games, it’s clear that nobody is stopping him.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins have four of a possible six points on this road trip. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins have four of a possible six points on this road trip. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

In a trip of late starts, a four-game Western Conference road swing will end with a bizarre morning start in Dallas, as the Bruins and Stars will square off for an 11:30 a.m. local start this afternoon.

It’s been a strong trip for the Black and Gold through three games, with four of a possible six points to their name, and a strong bounceback game in a 4-1 win over the Kings on Thursday night. But in their penultimate trade deadline contest, Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy will make some lineup tweaks to the club’s on-ice group.

The most noticeable switch comes with defenseman John-Michael Liles expected to slide in for Colin Miller for what will be Liles’ first game action since Feb. 9 against the Sharks when he was a late substitution for the ill Zdeno Chara. The 36-year-old Liles, who has been limited by concussion problems this year has played just nine times since Jan. 8, and has five assists in 30 games to date, while Miller has tallied four goals and nine points in 45 games on the season.

The decision to scratch Miller is a curious one given his offensive impact and ability to join the rush — which as we all know is something Cassidy wants and expects from his defenders — and the B’s 4-9-3 record with Miller out of action seems to indicate that he plays a rather important role as the club’s secondary scoring option behind Torey Krug on the team’s backend.

Up front, Matt Beleskey will return to the press box as a healthy scratch for the second time on this trip, and Riley Nash will rejoin the lineup and likely skate on a fourth line with Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller.

There’s no morning skate to confirm anything one way or the other, but after getting the night off against the Kings, expect Tuukka Rask in the B’s crease. Rask took a loss in his last outing, a 5-3 loss in which he surrendered four goals on 24 shots against, and enters play with three wins and a .914 save percentage in five career starts against the Stars. The 29-year-old Rask has 28 wins and a .912 save percentage in 48 games to date overall.

The Stars should counter with Kari Lehtonen.

It’s been another rough year for the Stars’ goaltending corps of Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, but Lehtonen was good enough in their last game, with 25 saves in a 5-2 win over the Coyotes. Lehtonen has nine wins and a .913 save percentage in 17 career head-to-heads with the Bruins, but took a loss with six goals allowed on 41 shots in his last start against the Bruins.

This is the first of two matchups between the B’s and Stars this season.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes

Peter Cehlarik – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes

Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Riley Nash

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

John-Michael Liles – Kevan Miller

Tuukka Rask

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins have four of a possible six points on this road trip. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins have four of a possible six points on this road trip. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

In a trip of late starts, a four-game Western Conference road swing will end with a bizarre morning start in Dallas, as the Bruins and Stars will square off for an 11:30 a.m. local start this afternoon.

It’s been a strong trip for the Black and Gold through three games, with four of a possible six points to their name, and a strong bounceback game in a 4-1 win over the Kings on Thursday night. But in their penultimate trade deadline contest, Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy will make some lineup tweaks to the club’s on-ice group.

The most noticeable switch comes with defenseman John-Michael Liles expected to slide in for Colin Miller for what will be Liles’ first game action since Feb. 9 against the Sharks when he was a late substitution for the ill Zdeno Chara. The 36-year-old Liles, who has been limited by concussion problems this year has played just nine times since Jan. 8, and has five assists in 30 games to date, while Miller has tallied four goals and nine points in 45 games on the season.

The decision to scratch Miller is a curious one given his offensive impact and ability to join the rush — which as we all know is something Cassidy wants and expects from his defenders — and the B’s 4-9-3 record with Miller out of action seems to indicate that he plays a rather important role as the club’s secondary scoring option behind Torey Krug on the team’s backend.

Up front, Matt Beleskey will return to the press box as a healthy scratch for the second time on this trip, and Riley Nash will rejoin the lineup and likely skate on a fourth line with Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller.

There’s no morning skate to confirm anything one way or the other, but after getting the night off against the Kings, expect Tuukka Rask in the B’s crease. Rask took a loss in his last outing, a 5-3 loss in which he surrendered four goals on 24 shots against, and enters play with three wins and a .914 save percentage in five career starts against the Stars. The 29-year-old Rask has 28 wins and a .912 save percentage in 48 games to date overall.

The Stars should counter with Kari Lehtonen.

It’s been another rough year for the Stars’ goaltending corps of Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, but Lehtonen was good enough in their last game, with 25 saves in a 5-2 win over the Coyotes. Lehtonen has nine wins and a .913 save percentage in 17 career head-to-heads with the Bruins, but took a loss with six goals allowed on 41 shots in his last start against the Bruins.

This is the first of two matchups between the B’s and Stars this season.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes

Peter Cehlarik – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes

Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Riley Nash

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

John-Michael Liles – Kevan Miller

Tuukka Rask

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Things have changed drastically and somehow stayed the same all at once for the Bruins under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.

The Bruins are not expected to make a big trade before the Mar. 1 deadline. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are not expected to make a big trade before the Mar. 1 deadline. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Things have changed drastically and somehow stayed the same all at once for the Bruins under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.

The Bruins have wins in five of their last six games, and although they are also just four points out of first place in the Atlantic Division, they are currently still on the outside looking in of the playoff picture.

But there is a noticeable jump to the B’s game under Cassidy, who has focused his energy on creating a more balanced four-line attack than the Bruins had under Claude Julien at any point this season. And their defense — and I include the stingiest defense-first defenders like Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller, who have frequently jumped into rushes in the attacking zone in this group — has activated on a consistent basis and their production is at a season high. It’s a small sample, sure, but there’s no doubt this is the spark the club hoped for when they first made this switch less than three weeks ago.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney wanted to see the pace in their game. He’s seen that. He wanted to see energy. They have it, although some actual rest for the first time all year has probably helped that area of their game quite a bit. And most importantly, Sweeney wanted to see something that would help guide him the right way before the league’s Mar. 1 trade deadline.

And on Friday, the second-year GM gave the media an insight as to his deadline day plans.

Speaking with the media on a team off day following last night’s finale of a back-to-back with the Ducks and Kings, Sweeney confirmed that the club is unlikely to pay some of the exorbitant asking prices on the many available talents on the trade market.

This, in theory, makes sense for the Bruins.

At some point, the Bruins need to figure out where players like Colin Miller and Frank Vatrano fit into their future. The best way to figure that out is by putting them in scenarios where they’re playing meaningful minutes when the stakes at their highest for this club, which is what they robbed each player of by acquiring veteran pickups John-Michael Liles and Lee Stempniak last year.

Players like Miller and Vatrano still logged minutes and played games after those deals, of course, but they were utilized in complementary roles that did little to show the B’s brass whether or not they’re two of the building blocks that the club would need to take this next step. And it would likely happen again if the Bruins acquire a No. 5 defenseman or third line scoring wing.

It also speaks to the reality of the Black and Gold’s situation, which has been denied by the front office’s actions at times.

The Bruins are a team in transition in the sense that they’re no longer a Stanley Cup contender… but they want to make the playoffs. They’re not a finished product… but they’re not willing to trade young players to finish it sooner than expected.

It’s a rather fancy and/or roundabout way of saying that the Bruins are what they are this year. It also speaks to the process that confirms that they’re in no rush to make a massive deal because having a slightly better chance to make it to the second round this spring doesn’t necessarily benefit the long-term future of the team given the cost of that trade.

If the Bruins indeed do nothing, it will be the first time since 2008 that the club does not make a deadline addition to their team.

But it’s worth noting that the Bruins have two more games until 3 p.m. next Wednesday to see if their minds change on that front.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

For the first time in over two calendar years, and thanks to a 4-1 final in Los Angeles tonight, Bruins netminder Anton Khudobin has won consecutive games.

Burned by countless free agents that walked for nothing during their Stanley Cup window, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong wants to trade defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk before the Mar. 1 trade deadline.

But Shattenkirk isn’t exactly making his GM’s job any easier.

Kevin Shattenkirk denied a sign-and-trade to an Eastern Conference team, according to a report. (Billy Hurst/USA Today Sports)

Kevin Shattenkirk denied a sign-and-trade to an Eastern Conference team, according to a report. (Billy Hurst/USA Today Sports)

Burned by countless free agents that walked for nothing during their Stanley Cup window, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong wants to trade defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk before the Mar. 1 trade deadline.

But Shattenkirk isn’t exactly making his GM’s job any easier.

According to a report from the St. Louis Dispatch, the 28-year-old pending unrestricted free agent recently nixed a sign-and-trade that would have sent him to an Eastern Conference team. The extension that Shattenkirk would have signed as part of the deal was believed to have been for around $42 million over seven years ($6 million per season), and that the deal would have been with the Lightning.

The mutual interest between the Bolts and Blues in a Shattenkirk deal is well documented at this point, as it was more than common to see the Blues’ director of player personnel (former Bruin Rob DiMaio) at Lightning games last year and this year, with the Blues having interest in the (since untradeable) Jonathan Drouin, then Tyler Johnson, and now maybe even hometown kid Ben Bishop.

It is allegedly the second time that Shattenkirk has refused a sign-and-trade in the last year alone, according to the Dispatch.

And this latest report by all means confirms the belief that Shattenkirk is intent on skating as a ‘rental’ for any team that acquires him and that he is zeroed in on hitting the free agent market this summer as a marquee talent.

Even so, Armstrong’s desired return in a Shattenkirk deal remains astronomically high.

The Blues, who are still five points clear of ninth place in the Western Conference and therefore still a contender, are currently seeking a top prospect, first-round draft pick, and more from teams in a Shattenkirk deal, according to sources.

Both the Bruins and Rangers have already made calls to Armstrong about Shattenkirk this season, and both teams viewed him as a rental for a springtime run versus a sign-and-trade, which has been the failed route of both the Oilers and Lightning.

A right-shot puck-mover with four straight 40-point seasons, the New Rochelle, N.Y. native has tallied 11 goals and 31 assists in 60 games for the Blues this season, and ranks second on the team in points. Only Victor Hedman (49), Erik Karlsson (52), and Brent Burns (64) have been more productive than Shattenkirk in terms of overall point production among defenders this season, and only 11 defensemen have scored more points than Shattenkirk’s 175 over the last four seasons.

If the Bruins do indeed make a deal for former Boston University standout, they would likely try to move one of their defensemaen with extensive term left on their current contract off their roster (think Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller) in order to help clear the long-term logjam the Black and Gold have on their right side between those two, Brandon Carlo, and Colin Miller.

In addition to the Bruins, Rangers and Bolts, it’s believed that the Maple Leafs are a candidate set to make a play for Shattenkirk.

The teams have less than a week to strike a deal before next Wednesday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Anton Khudobin has won consecutive games for the first time all season. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Anton Khudobin has won consecutive games for the first time all season and for the first time since Jan. 2015. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

For the first time in over two calendar years, and thanks to a 4-1 final in Los Angeles tonight, Bruins netminder Anton Khudobin has won consecutive games. And for everything thrown his way in the first 40 minutes of tonight’s game, there’s little doubt that he earned it.

In net for a pivotal start that would have allowed the Bruins to leave their daunting California swing with either two, three, or four of a possible six points, the 30-year-old Khudobin was not exactly put in the greatest of situations when it came to this start.

Not only was Khudobin tasked with the aforementioned fate of the road trip’s success being in his glove and blocker, but this game was to be played in a building that’s been short on luck for the Black and Gold, with losses in three straight games at Staples Center. The Bruins were also on the second leg of a back-to-back — they entered with the second-worst record in the NHL in those situations — and the club was in need of a statement game to prove that Bruce Cassidy’s first loss behind the bench was a mere blip on the radar and not a sign of a comedown the team can’t afford.

None of those things mattered, though, as Khudobin was every bit the goaltender the Bruins needed in this game.

The Bruins jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Brad Marchand finished off a solo effort upstairs against the Kings’ Peter Budaj for his 26th goal of the season, scored at the 3:16 mark of the first period. It was the quick start (with results) that the Black and Gold needed in a back-to-back, and proved to be an important strike in what was a back-and-forth opening 20 minutes.

But with the Kings on the man advantage, Kevin Gravel scored the first goal of his NHL career with a great net-front deflection out from Adrian Kempe, and the Bruins and Kings skated to a 1-1 draw when what would have been Peter Cehlarik’s first NHL goal was called back after the Kings’ successful challenge that proved David Pastrnak was offsides on the goal.

Pastrnak made up for it in the second period, though, on a stick-exploding one-time goal at the 4:43 mark of the second period. It was a goal that allowed Pastrnak to keep pace with Marchand — both entered and left the game tied for the team lead in goals — and was the necessary punch back in a period heavily dominated by attacking zone chances for the Kings.

Penalized twice in the period — and both times to two of their bigger penalty-killing defenders in Adam McQuaid and Zdeno Chara — Khudobin stood on his head for 15 saves on 15 shots in the middle period. But none were better than a Jeff Carter partial breakaway opportunity stoned by Khudobin, and a beautiful stop on Drew Doughty with just 1:53 left in the period.

It was probably one of the most controlled periods of Khudobin, who has never been a stranger to adventuring with high-risk saves (I’ve always said that Khudobin plays like the Kazakh version of Tim Thomas), and it kept the Bruins in this game.

And had Carter or Doughty scored there, the complexion of the game would have undoubtedly changed for both the B’s and Khudobin given the fatigue in the B’s skates nearing the end of this trip and having played against a heavy team in the Ducks last night, and for Khudobin, whose season has had way more downs than ups this season (and by a healthy margin, too).

Also: Giving up goals in the final five minutes of periods has been a massive issue for this team, as you know.

It also helped break the Kings, who put just three shots on goal in the third period, which was dominated by the Bruins and finished with empty-net goals from Dominic Moore and David Krejci for the club’s first win in L.A. since Mar. 2012.

But more importantly, the 27-of-28 performance from Khudobin should help settle any urge B’s general manager Don Sweeney has to waste a valuable asset on a backup goalie fix before next week’s trade deadline. So long as performances like this one and the Feb. 9 game against the Canucks, which again gave Khudobin back-to-back wins for the first time since Jan. 2015, continue.

The Bruins will finish this four-game road trip with a Sunday afternoon head-to-head against the Stars.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson