John-Michael Liles played for the first time since Feb. 9 on Sunday. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

John-Michael Liles played for the first time since Feb. 9 on Sunday. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

On Sunday, the Bruins scratched Colin Miller for John-Michael Liles.

It was definitely a peculiar move from B’s interim coach Bruce Cassidy, and maybe one of his first what-the-hell-are-you-doing moves from Cassidy since taking over for the fired Claude Julien earlier this month.

That’s not to suggest that Liles is not a fit to play in games (he’s fine in his role), either, but rather a commentary on the idea that this organization is at a point where the 24-year-old defender whose long-term ceiling is still unknown to this organization should play over the 36-year-old pending unrestricted free agent. If you care to dig into B’s general manager Don Sweeney’s words on the day he fired Julien, they would seem to indicate that decisions like that are among the litany of reasons as to why Cassidy has replaced Julien in the first place, too.

Liles, for the record, was perfectly fine in his first game since Feb. 9, with one shot on goal in 16:21 of time on ice in a 6-3 win.

But the decision was still a weird one, and it got my mind thinking, even for just a little bit: Was the decision to play Liles a mere showcase of a potential (minor) trade Sweeney and the Black and Gold could make before Wednesday’s 3 p.m. deadline?

I know, I know.

It’s hard to imagine the Bruins receiving anything close to a king’s ransom for a veteran bottom-pairing defender whose season has been derailed by concussion problems. And even when healthy, it’s been a painfully so-so year for the veteran Liles, who has just five assists (three power-play helpers) and 26 shots on net in 31 games for the Bruins this season.

A one-year veteran stopgap re-signed to help replace any versatility that departed with the Dennis Seidenberg buyout, Liles has been outplayed by Colin Miller on a night-to-night basis (and Miller is more of a fit for what the B’s want their defense to do in terms of generating offensive chances the other way), and even lost out on a spot on his natural left side by a right-shot moving to the left in Kevan Miller. Hanging onto him and letting him waste away in the press box in the hopes that you have a sufficient backup option in the event of an injury does little for the B’s. And it does even less for Liles’ potential final NHL rodeo.

You’re still not close to winning a Stanley Cup this season, either, so having Liles at your disposal versus Joe Morrow or a P-Bruins call-up such as Robbie O’Gara doesn’t make much of a difference for this club or the player in the grand scheme of things.

So, it makes little sense to keep him, even if the return isn’t going to blow your mind. If the trade deadline has taught us anything, too, it’s that general managers can get a little silly. And Sweeney, in his second year on the job, would be wise to take advantage of that as best he can and with any asset he can possibly move without changing the long-term view of the team.

Of course, Sweeney did come out and basically say that he expects the Bruins to stand pat between now and the deadline. But it’s entirely possible that Sweeney feels that way when it comes to adding pieces to his roster, but not necessarily subtracting.

But the Bruins are also in a situation where it would be wise to recoup some lost assets between now and the trade deadline.

This is the Zac Rinaldo year, so the club’s third-round draft pick? Yeah, that belongs to Philadelphia. They have just one second, and it’s the one they received from the Oilers in exchange for Peter Chiarelli, as they moved their natural second-round pick for Lee Stempniak last season. The Bruins are also down a fifth-round choice because of that Liles trade a year ago (the B’s moved a 2016 third-rounder and this year’s fifth rounder, along with prospect Anthony Camara to make that deal happen).

And weak draft or not, you can’t help but like the draft picks made under Sweeney, so nabbing a pick for a player that simply hasn’t played for your team all that much (and will do little to impact your playoff fate), makes all the sense in the world.

More sense than playing him over Miller, anyways.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

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