It would appear that Charlie McAvoy Watch has taken a turn down the highway and towards Providence.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Bruins and their 2016 first-round draft pick are currently trying to hammer out an amateur tryout agreement that would put the highly skilled defender, whose Boston University Terriers were eliminated by Minnesota-Duluth last weekend, down with the organization’s AHL affiliate for the rest of the season.

In layman’s terms, an amateur tryout agreement would basically mean that McAvoy would simply finish his hockey season with the P-Bruins and in the AHL, and start his entry-level deal beginning in the 2017-18 season. Such a move would obviously mean that McAvoy would not join the Big B’s for their stretch run or a potential playoff run.

Given the fact that the Bruins have eight defensemen on their NHL roster, and with their playoff fate likely the same with or without the 19-year-old McAvoy, it makes sense for the Bruins to use some patience and maximize McAvoy’s entry-level deal.

McAvoy, the 14th overall pick last year, has eight goals and 51 points in 75 NCAA games, and won Gold with Team USA as the club’s alternate captain — with two goals and six points in seven games — at the 2017 World Junior Championships.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

After what’s felt like an eternity of radio-driven drama and controversy after Rask tapped out of playing in last Saturday’s must-win game against the Islanders (he did not even travel with the team), Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is ready to return to his crease.

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask will start tonight against the Predators. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask will start tonight against the Predators. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

After what’s felt like an eternity of radio-driven drama and controversy after Rask tapped out of playing in last Saturday’s must-win game against the Islanders (he did not even travel with the team), Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is ready to return to his crease.

“Tuukka is healthy. That’s what he indicated to me, and that’s all I need to hear,” Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy said after the optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “He’ll be our starter tonight.”

The 30-year-old Rask was saddled with the loss in his last outing after he allowed five goals on 28 shots against, including a really, really soft goal surrendered to Jonathan Drouin in the third period, and was by all means called out by Cassidy after his poor showing.

Almost a week later, Cassidy revisited those comments.

“I try not to go back in time too often,” Cassidy began. “I didn’t think we were great in front of him at times and when we weren’t great in front of him I thought he could’ve done a better job on a few of those goals, doing his part: making saves.”

Rask, for the record, said that his lower-body injury occurred in the middle of that 6-3 loss, too.

“Was I critical of Tuukka? Clearly on a couple of goals he needed to back us up and we weren’t good in front of him,” said Cassidy. “I just thought as a group we weren’t good enough. From Player 1 to 20. And I put myself in that category, too.”

“When you let in one or two goals, I know it, he knows it, everybody knows it,” Rask, who had a weekend of treatments, said of the criticism from his coach for bad goals against. “You try to avoid those as much as possible, but sometimes you let in a bad goal. Hopefully more often than not, you don’t. I have no problem with [being criticized].”

For many in the Hub, the criticism isn’t just from one rough outing, but a significant number of them.

Since Jan. 1, Rask has posted a 14-13-1 record, and his .888 save percentage since then ranks as the worst in the NHL among goaltenders with at least 25 games played. It’s probably worth noting, however, that Rask has twice left games due to an injury over that span, and has also logged the fourth-most games among NHL goaltenders in total this season (59 games played). The flipside to those struggles is Rask’s excellence in the first leg of the season, with 18 wins and a .927 save percentage (the fifth-best mark in the NHL) in 28 games played from October through the end of December.

But no matter the argument you care to make, Rask simply isn’t listening.

“I don’t listen, I don’t read. You know where you stand, how good you play and when you don’t play good. That’s all you need,” Rask said of the criticism from fans and media alike. “You don’t need to listen to the outside voices because it’s just going to distract you. People have their opinions, and they can say whatever they want. It doesn’t faze me.”

If you’re looking for a positive to see the Finnish netminder rebound tonight, consider this: Rask comes into this game with five days of rest, and has nine wins and a .931 save percentage in 13 games with at least three-plus days of rest this season.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
John-Michael Liles will be in the lineup tonight. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

John-Michael Liles will be in the lineup tonight. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

For the first time in over a month, veteran defenseman John-Michael Liles will find himself back in game action tonight.

Confirmed as a go for tonight’s game by Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy following Tuesday’s optional morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena, the veteran Liles will suit up over Colin Miller.

It’s a somewhat expected shuffle for a B’s group that’s dropped four of their last five games, and one that prevents the 36-year-old Liles from accumulating more rink rust in the TD Garden press box.

“Being a veteran player will help him, obviously he’s been through some of this,” Cassidy said of Liles’ long layoff. “He went in earlier in Dallas and he hadn’t played in a stretch and did a good job for us.

“We’ve stayed consistent on the backend,” Cassidy, whose defensive rotations have changed at times, but basically remained the same six-man group, said. “We’re making a change.. this time of year we just feel John is a good fit and we’ll get him in tonight.”

Liles has played just twice under Cassidy, without a point and just two shots on goal in over 33 minutes of combined ice time between the two games, and enters play with just five assists in 31 games this year, including a 10-game pointless skid.

Liles’ insertion into the lineup also, as mentioned early, comes at the cost of Miller.

The 24-year-old Miller logged a Cassidy-led low of just 11:50 of time on ice in the club’s 2-1 win over the Isles (two penalties assessed to Miller obviously kept that number in that area), and will return to the press box as the club’s seventh defender.

“Colin going upstairs to watch a game… I don’t think will hurt him,” Cassidy admitted. “He’s a young guy. We gotta be careful with his confidence. [We’re] generally happy with Colin’s play. We just want to reset a bit.”

Now, this is sort of the problem that the Bruins had last year during their stretch run. When they committed to the three-man rotation of Miller, Joe Morrow, and Zach Trotman, they really failed to develop any of the three young defenders, and that was only amplified when the club spent assets on Liles at the trade deadline and made their defense an eight-man rotation with the younger talents bumped for the fallacy of ‘experience’ making a true difference down the stretch.

At some point, and as I’ve said dozens of times now, you’d like to see the Black and Gold simply unleash Miller and see what his ceiling could be, especially with this new, up-tempo style of play that Cassidy has encouraged from his defenders.

The Bruins are 5-9-3 when Miller out of the lineup this season.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins are expected to sign Charlie McAvoy this week. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are expected to sign Charlie McAvoy this week. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney may have been the happiest person in Boston when the Boston University Terriers were bounced from the NCAA tournament by Minnesota-Duluth last Saturday.

With the Terriers eliminated, the Bruins are now free — or expected, rather — to sign top prospects Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Charlie McAvoy to their entry-level contracts and potentially have at least one of them join the organization for their stretch run to finish the season.

There was already an interest from Forsbacka Karlsson to go pro after this season according to a report published less than two weeks ago, and McAvoy doesn’t seem too far behind in regards to his interest.

According to a source close to both camps, along with the Red Line Report’s Kirk Luedeke, the Bruins are expected to sign McAvoy as soon as they can. But according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, that will not happen before the 19-year-old McAvoy finishes his exams with the university located just minutes from TD Garden.

McAvoy tallied five goals and 26 points in 38 games for the Terriers this past season, and will likely wrap up his college career with eight goals and 51 points in 75 games for Boston University, and even scored the game-winning, double-overtime goal in his last win with the Terriers, which came on Friday night. He was also a standout for the United States during their Gold run at the 2017 World Junior Championships, where he served as their top defenseman, alternate captain, and scored two goals and six points in seven games en route to the country’s fourth Gold medal in the tournament’s history.

A Long Beach, N.Y. native, McAvoy was drafted by the Bruins with the 14th overall pick in 2016.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
David Krejci left Monday's practice early. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

David Krejci left Monday’s practice early. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bruins practice began with David Krejci in his usual spot in the middle of the club’s second line. But Krejci departed off the ice and back to the inner workings of the maze known as Warrior Ice Arena long before practice came to a close, and Ryan Spooner finished practice in Krejci’s spot with Drew Stafford and David Pastrnak on his wings.

That’s certainly not how Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy, whose team snapped their four-game losing streak with last Saturday’s 2-1 final over the Islanders, drew up his Monday morning plans, either.

“He’s got a bit of an upper-body issue,” Cassidy said of Krejci’s early exit. “A little discomfort, he got treatment. I believe he’ll be fine tomorrow, I don’t think it’s anything major, but I can’t speculate.”

With Krejci out and Spooner bumped up a line, the B’s third line became Frank Vatrano with Riley Nash in the middle and Jimmy Hayes to the right, while the fourth line featured Matt Beleskey and Noel Acciari between Dominic Moore.

Like many of the Bruins’ best players, Krejci had a rough go of it last week, with one goal and a minus-4 rating in four games, and his production is a definite must for this team to go anywhere close to beyond the regular 82-game slate this season. But even with a slump to his name, Krejci still ranks third among Bruins skaters in both goals (21) and points (50) this season.

The 30-year-old Krejci, who had offseason hip surgery last spring, is one five B’s skaters to have suited up for all 75 games this season, but has missed 45 games since the start of the 2014 season due to various injuries.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Tuukka Rask believes he'll be ready to play tomorrow. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Tuukka Rask believes he’ll be ready to play tomorrow. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins were forced to roll without No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask in last Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Islanders, but with Zane McIntyre returned to Providence late last night, and Rask back on the ice today, it’s clear how the 30-year-old Rask feels heading into the week.

“Good day back on the ice,” Rask said after Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “See what the decision is [tomorrow], but I felt good today. Got another morning skate tomorrow and go from there.”

The optics of Rask bailing out of the closest thing to a must-win game that the Black and Gold have had this season against are obviously quite terrible for the oft-criticized netminder, and that basically goes without saying, especially after he missed last year’s win-and-you’re-in finale against the Senators, but it was a decision that made sense.

“You gotta put the best lineup out possible and I wasn’t in shape to play,” Rask said of the call to miss the last game. “Never an easy decision this time of year, but [I’ve] played a lot of hockey and you know injuries happen. [I] talked with the training staff and managers and we came to the decision that I wasn’t gonna play the game and that’s it, so.”

Deemed a lower-body injury (the same tag that kept Rask out of action for three games earlier this season), Rask noted that this injury was not the same one that bothered him earlier in the season, also admitted that it flared up in the middle of last Thursday’s loss to the Lightning (where Rask allowed five goals on just 28 shots thrown his way from a shorthanded Lightning group) and that a weekend of treatments off the ice helped get him back on the ice.

“No, it just popped up suddenly,” Rask said of the injury. “But lucky we got ahead of it and did some treatments there.”

“Thought he had a good practice today, I spoke with him, so we’ll see how he wakes up tomorrow and make our decision,” Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy said of Rask’s availability for tomorrow’s game against the Predators. “He’s our No. 1 goalie and his health is very important, and if he’s physically ready to go, and he tells me that then we’ll make our decision.”

After three days off the ice before Monday’s practice, it appears as if Rask himself believes he’ll be ready.

“Oh yeah,” Rask said when asked if he’s 100 percent ready to play. “I’ll be OK.”

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
B's captain Zdeno Chara has been selected as the Bruins' nominee for the Masterton Trophy. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

B’s captain Zdeno Chara has been selected as the Bruins’ nominee for the Masterton Trophy. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Boston chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association has selected Zdeno Chara as the Bruins’ nominee for the 2017 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, the award annually awarded to the NHL player that best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.

In his 11th season with the Bruins, the now 40-year-old captain has remained a fixture on the B’s top-pairing, with eight goals and 24 points in 68 games this season, along with 23:11 of time on ice per game (the 31st-most in the NHL), and a league-leading 258:45 of total shorthanded time on ice and 3:48 of shorthanded time on ice per night for a B’s penalty kill that begins the week as the third-best in the NHL.

Chara also ranks 19th among for Corsi-For percentage among NHL defensemen with at least 1,000 minutes of time on ice this year, at 53.4 percent, and has been the Black and Gold’s best defender.

On top of being the anchor of the B’s point, Chara also has taken on a mentoring role for first-year pro Brandon Carlo.

Off the ice, Chara annually takes part in the Bruins’ Cuts for Cause to benefit the Boston Bruins Foundation and Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, as well as the Bruins Holiday Toy Delivery to local children’s hospitals. For the second straight year, Chara teamed with Cradles to Crayons, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and Department of Children and Families throughout the month of February to present the annual “PJ Drive” presented by Freihofer’s and Roche Brothers to benefit Massachusetts’ underprivileged youth. The PJ Drive provides new, unused pajamas to children in need across Massachusetts. Over 75,000 Massachusetts children have received PJ’s through the Bruins PJ drive over the past nine years.

He is also the fourth-oldest player in the NHL behind Jaromir Jagr, Shane Doan, and Matt Cullen.

The Bruins have had four Masterton winners in their franchise history — Charlie Simmer in 1986, Gord Kluzak in 1990, Cam Neely in 1994, and Phil Kessel in 2006 — and have one Masterton winner on their current roster (Dominic Moore in 2014).

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Anton Khudobin stopped 18-of-19 shots in a win over the Isles. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

Anton Khudobin stopped 18-of-19 shots in a win over the Isles. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports)

Let’s all take a deep breath and not lose our heads over one solid start from Bruins backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, OK?

(Proceeds to hyperventilate and immediately lose head.)

The Bruins were in a near must-win situation — much like they have been all week, and with zero wins before Saturday — but with Tuukka Rask back in Boston with a lower-body injury that flared up and kept him out of Friday’s practice, the Bruins were forced to turn to the hot-and-cold Khudobin on in Brooklyn. Khudobin has been in some pressure spots of late, sure, but nothing quite like this.

And in need of a win, Khudobin delivered just that, with stops on 18 of 19 shots thrown his way, including a perfect eight for eight mark on Islander power-play shots fired on net. It was hardly Khudobin’s hardest night in the crease from a shot volume standpoint, of course, but for the number of times it crumbled to pure chaos in front of Khudobin, letting in just one goal spoke to what has to be considered Khudobin’s best game of the year.

It’s also prompted some talk of riding the ‘hot hand’ and sitting Rask for Khudobin.

It’s actually not the worst idea, but not for the reasons you’d think.

I already know what you’re saying: Khudobin has won more big games than Rask this season, by a count of one to zero.

You would have to know that would be a lazy narrative to push though, right? Rask has not been at his best this week. I can’t deny that. Not even the biggest Rask apologist can deny that. But I’m also not blind to the fact that his numbers and the eye-test on Rask got significantly worse as the week went on (he played three games in four nights in late March, which is an almost impossibly dumb idea). But to pick and choose the ‘big games’ that Rask has either won or lost is subjective and can conveniently fit any narrative that you so choose to craft, and the counter would be that every game of the Bruce Cassidy Era has been a big game for the club given the hole they had dug themselves before Claude Julien was relieved of his duties.

I’m also not blind to the fact that the lower-body injury he’s dealt with all year crept back into the mix at the worst time possible.

And I know what you’re saying again: This is the second year in a row that Rask has tapped out of a must-win situation with an injury. First it was a sickness in 2016 and now a vague lower-body injury you didn’t hear about for the last two months that has seemingly out of nowhere. (Sidenote: You did hear about it early in the year, and Rask did say he ‘popped’ his groin just a few months back.) If you care to go back even farther, Rask could not skate for Finland in their semifinal game against Sweden in 2014, so there’s an unfortunate history against No. 40. But unlike Saturday Skate co-host Ken Laird, I don’t need to, nor do I want to see Rask poop and puke all over the ice to know that he cares about his team’s situation. The same logic applies to watching Rask try to battle through a pulled groin or twisted knee. It would do very little to actually help the Bruins, and to hell with your idea of toughness in that situation. It doesn’t apply to a position as important as an NHL goaltender.

For a third time, I know what you’re saying: Rask is being a baby because of Cassidy ‘calling’ him out after Thursday. Nope. Hurt feelings or not, Rask is an adult and a professional hockey player, and is not petty enough to actually put his teammates in such a position. This isn’t NHL17 and the player did not lose morale because of a recent conversation with the coach. Be real.

So, if he’s fatigued, if he’s injured, if he needs a break, ride Khudobin.

This is why you signed Khudobin in the first place.

After late-season collapses exposed gigantic holes in the B’s crease — be it because of Rask’s insane workload by the year’s end or failure to have a trustworthy backup in Niklas Svedberg or Jonas Gustavsson — the decision to bring Khudobin back was almost entirely based on the fact that he was somebody the then-coach had trust in going back to their time together from 2011 to 2013.

Khudobin has actually responded to the Cassidy switch quite well, too, with five wins and a .920 save percentage in five starts.

There’s little to gain in dressing Rask if he’s not going to be Rask. With seven games left in the season, the stakes are too high, even with the club back in a playoff position after Saturday’s Khudobin-led win, for the Bruins to do that, too. The Bruins are 73 games into the season, and it’s far too late (nor would it make sense) to abandon their plans of making the postseason. And if that does indeed happen, the goal then becomes making noise in the playoffs. Those latter plans simply cannot become a reality without a capable Rask in the crease and with at least some measure of energy left in his body.

Then, and evidently not now, for the B’s.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Win or lose, the Bruins could not have been eliminated from postseason contention on Saturday night in Brooklyn.