Bruins-Rangers preview: Solving King Henrik

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Bruins-Rangers preview: Solving King Henrik

NEW YORK The Bruins have tried to beat the Rangers three times, and failed all three times this season.

Thats nothing new for the Black and Gold as theyve lost nine of the last 11 games to the New York Rangers, and are regularly mesmerized by Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes for the Blueshirts. Now with four games remaining in the season this is the final big game on Bostons schedule before they can begin resting players and getting ready for the postseason.

Any combination of an Ottawa loss and a Boston win clinches the Northeast Division title, and a Bruins victory combined with a Florida defeat would also lock them in as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. So theres motivation for finishing off their regular season business, and theres also the act of finally landing a few punches against a Blueshirted bunch thats represented Bostons kryptonite over the years.

I think its a great test for both the team and for me as were getting ready for the playoffs. These are the kinds of games we need to play to make sure were ready, said Tyler Seguin. We havent done the greatest against them. Hopefully we can show them what we can bring just in case we meet them a couple of weeks from now in the playoffs as well.

It will be interesting to see if the Bruins take the same tact they did the last time out in Madison Square Garden when three Bs players dropped the gloves in a convincing show of emotion. Milan Lucic completely obliterated Brandon Prust in front of the Boston bench with a series of strong right-handed punches, but the Bruins still fell behind by a pair of goals before and eventually lost, 4-3.

That was in the middle of Boston's two month funk, however. Now the Bruins are 6-1-1 in their last eight games, and seemed to have found the range offensively and defensively just as the postseason is about to begin. Sunday nights tilt against a Rangers team thats owned them should be the last playoff-style contest until the postseason actually arrives two weeks from now.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Tim Thomas was outplayed by Henrik Lundqvist in the last game at Madison Square Garden and then passive-aggressively blamed the theater lighting in the postgame locker room. Thomas is 2-6-1 with a 2.86 goals against average and a .903 save percentage in his career at Madison Square Garden, so it appears the 37-year-old goaltender is certainly uncomfortable there. But both Thomas and the Bruins need a good performance there before the regular season is over, so they can draw on that for confidence in a potential Eastern Conference final match somewhere down the line.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Theres no doubting hes an excellent goaltender and hes had some very good games against us. There is a challenge there for us to go out and have success against him and the Rangers. But it always comes back to the same things against good goaltender -- making them move around and getting plenty of good traffic moving in front of them. Even the best goalies cant stop what they cant see. Chris Kelly on what the Bruins need to do to solve Henrik Lundqvist and actually beat the Rangers.

KEY MATCHUP: For the Bruins, its all about beating Henrik Lundqvist. The Swedish goaltender was has dominated the Bruins throughout his career, and the line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin have combined for one assist in the three previous games against New York. Theyre also a combined minus-9 this season against the Blueshirts, so that lines shifts against the Rangers and King Henrik could provide the difference in the game. If they can build on the third period against the Islanders that saw them explode for three goals en route to victory then perhaps the results can be different this time around against the Blueshirts.

STAT TO WATCH: .5 That's the number of Eastern Conference clashes in a row the Rangers have bested the Bruins dating back to the middle of last season.

INJURIES: Tuukka Rask (groin strainabdomen strain) and Nathan Horton (mild concussion) are long term injuries for the Bruins, but Rask may be hitting the ice next week with an eye toward returning for the playoffs. Dennis Seidenberg is a question mark with an infected cut on his left leg and Adam McQuaid is out with a cut over his left eye. The Rangers will be without forward Mats Zuccarello and defensemen Steve Eminger (ankle) and Michael Sauer (concussion).

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tim Thomas is 2-6-1 lifetime at Madison Square Garden with extremely middling statistics, but hes also 3-1-1 with a 1.60 goals against average and a .935 save percentage in his last five outings. Thomas could use the confidence that would go along with a positive, winning performance against the Rangers on their home ice prior to a potential matchup in the playoffs. Meanwhile Henrik Lundqvist is simply dominating the Bruins like no other goaltender in the league, and is now 19-5-2 with a 1.51 goals against average, a .948 save percentage and six shutouts in 26 games against the Bruins.

Bruins may be getting cold feet on Trouba offer sheet

Bruins may be getting cold feet on Trouba offer sheet

The Bruins are still mulling the idea of a massive offer sheet for Winnipeg Jets restricted free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba, but they’re having second, and third thoughts about the bold move according to a league source.

While a seven year, $49 million offer sheet could net them the 22-year-old Trouba with a high ceiling as a possible No. 1 defenseman, there would also be massive costs in assets, and in the kind of major stink it would cause around the league. The Bruins would have a manageable $7 million cap hit for Trouba if they did indeed fire off seven year, $49 million offer sheet to the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder on Friday morning, and they would potentially fill in a big piece of their blue line puzzle for years to come.

But the Black and Gold would also surrender four first round picks given that they don’t have the draft picks to offer anything less than a contract with an AAV (Average Annual Value) of $9.3 million after shortsighted trades sent their 2017 second round pick (for Lee Stempniak) and 2017 third round pick (for Zac Rinaldo) to other teams. Wrinkles within the offer sheet language in the CBA would turn a seven year, $49 million contract into a $9.8 AAV for draft pick compensation purposes, but that doesn’t make it any easier for the Black and Gold.

Perhaps the one thing Bruins GM Don Sweeney didn’t anticipate, however, is the bad blood that poaching an RFA would create across a league where all 30 GMs apparently play by the unwritten NHL Commandment that “thou dost not offer sheet to anybody.”

If the Bruins indeed followed through with the massive offer sheet for a player that finished with six goals and 21 points last season, then the Bruins would live in fear that it could be open season on their own restricted free agents for the foreseeable future. There’s little doubt Winnipeg, and perhaps others, would come sniffing around 20-year-old right wing David Pastrnak when his contract is up next summer, and so on down the line with Boston’s next wave of talented young players coming through the pipeline.

There’s also the simple fact that opinions are very mixed on the ultimate NHL ceiling for Trouba given the possible investment involved. One Western Conference scout thought he was on track to become a No. 1 defenseman, and could be worth all of the assets involved in preparing an offer for a player like Trouba.

“He has elite skating, and has the shot to go with it. He’s built for the new age of mobile defenders that dominate through the neutral zone,” said the scout. “[The physicality] is there, but guys don’t punish anymore because you can push and pin. They defend with their sticks and feet. Upon zone entry is when they lay the body, and he checks all those boxes.”

One other NHL executive wasn’t so sure, and harbored some doubts about whether Trouba could be “The Man” for a blueline crew that had Stanley Cup aspirations.

“The physical tools alone allow him to be big minute guy, but his overall hockey sense could prevent him from being a top D-man,” said the exec.

That seems to be the knock on Trouba: he turns the puck over under pressure, and his decision-making while moving the puck hasn’t really improved from a rookie year as a 19-year-old where he posted 10 goals and 29 points. But the tools, the impressive body of work since entering the NHL as a teenager and the cachet of being a lottery pick keep all NHL observers ever-optimistic that a young player like Trouba will eventually figure it out.

There’s also the very real scenario that the Bruins don’t have the trade assets to get a young defenseman like Trouba given that the Edmonton Oilers had to surrender Taylor Hall in a one-for-one deal to get Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils. They have to hope they can build up some kind of trade package that could net them Kevin Shattenkirk or Cam Fowler, or hope that Jason Demers somehow picks Boston as his free agent destination.

That’s barring the offer sheet from the Bruins for Trouba, which is still being discussed by the Bruins even as it becomes less of a possibility for Don Sweeney heading into the July 1 opening of the free agent market. That’s because throwing an offer sheet at Trouba might be the only way the Bruins can land a young, potential No. 1 defenseman this summer that can give them the building block to compete for the next decade, and that’s something for Sweeney, Neely and everybody else on Causeway Street to seriously debate over the next two days. 

What we learned in Red Sox' 4-0 loss to Rays

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What we learned in Red Sox' 4-0 loss to Rays

David Price is embarrassed and the offense is embarrassing, Those are some of the takeaways from Wednesday's loss.

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