Bruins 'extremely frustrated' by inevitable NHL lockout

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Bruins 'extremely frustrated' by inevitable NHL lockout

WILMINGTON, Mass. The Bruins had the largest contingent of players at the NHLPA meetings in New York City this week. The team felt as a group it was important to be fully educated on everything concerning the CBA labor battle taking place between the league and the players association.

With over 10 hours of meetings behind them during Tyler Seguin proudly proclaimed that he took notes and brought them home to study the Bruins are fully educated and properly aggravated about the situation. All members of the Black and Gold remained hopeful that the season wont get interrupted even if a lockout is imposed at midnight on Sept. 15.

But the Bruins players were also frustrated that the game they love is being taken away from them a fact they faced after participating at another informal practice session at Ristuccia Arena on Friday morning.

Its something nobody really wants to deal with. As players we want to play, but it is what it is. Well have to deal with it, said Gregory Campbell. Its a game that everybody loves. Everybody plays hockey because they love it. The players want to play and the fans want to watch us play.

There are a lot of people not just players that are involved in this business that dont want to see it go away. Its an unfortunate thing that we have to deal with. Its extremely frustrating. This is what we do for a living, but this is also something you enjoy doing.

Put yourself in the players shoes while mulling the issues: the business you work for is raking in record-breaking amounts of revenue and then gives you a choice between taking a 10-20 percent pay cut or getting booted from your job.

Seems like a pretty crappy situation, doesnt it?

That kind of Sophies Choice wasnt exactly giving the Bs skaters warm and fuzzies after realizing over the last few days theres roughly a 1 billion gap between current offers from the NHL and NHLPA. The two sides cant agree on the importance of principles like revenue sharing, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was decrying the cost of jet fuel and massage therapists as reasons why the NHL needs a greater slice of the revenue pie.

Clearly the league is entitled to something much closer to a 5050 split agreed upon by the NBA and the NFL in their most recent CBA negotiations, but the pace of discussions amid seasonal urgency has frustrated the players.

Its unfortunate were in the position that we are right now. More things need to be resolved and settled, said Milan Lucic. Im sure conversations and negotiations will heat up after tomorrow. None of us were really expecting it to get this far. But now its more of a reality. As players were united and were going to stick together and keep going on the course we believe is right.

Theres a sense among the players that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the league owners want the lockout, and theyll attempt to bust up the players union once the game checks begin to disappear. Its always worked in the past, but the 283 players that showed up en masse in New York City for NHLPA meetings would seem to speak to their resolve.

We all want to play. We all love hockey. Its our job," said Bs Captain Zdeno Chara. "But we also have to play under certain rules and it has to make sense for us. Well continue to train and skate while keeping ourselves in shape.

The Bruins will take the weekend off from the ice, but will reconvene elsewhere in the Boston area starting next week when they get together for informal practices. Thats because theyll be officially locked out and barred from the ice and locker rooms at their Ristuccia Arena practice facility until Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr can hammer out an agreement.

With the NHL offering something in the neighborhood of a 47 percent share of Hockey Related Revenue and the NHLPA seeking something closer to the 5152 percent neighborhood and each percentage point representing roughly 33 million per season it could still be some time before both sides agree on something close to a 5050 split of the hockey spoils.

In the meantime the Bruins will stick around at least until the end of September, bide their time hoping for a resolution and begin to make alternate plans if the NHL is indeed headed for another nuclear winter. Todays frustration should be nothing compared to what it will be a month from new when the owners, league, fans, players, arena employees and local barsrestaurants begin to feel the sting of the second NHL work stoppage in the last eight years.

Reports: Blues trade Kevin Shattenkirk to Capitals

Reports: Blues trade Kevin Shattenkirk to Capitals

The Kevin Shattenkirk-to-Bruins rumblings are done for the remainder of the season.

Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Dispatch is reporting that the Blues have traded defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals.

According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, the “main parts” the Blues will receive in the deal are 2017 first-rounder, a second-rounder in 2018 and Zach Sanford 

More to come. . . 

Haggerty: Mark it down -- the Bruins WILL make the playoffs

Haggerty: Mark it down -- the Bruins WILL make the playoffs

The Bruins are going to snap their two-year drought and get into the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring. 

Sure, it’s going to be a tight race. And it'll come down to the last few games, befitting a team that's lived on the Atlantic Division bubble over the last three years. But in the seven games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins have shown they have the goods to get into the postseason. There's every reason to believe they’ll sustain their winning ways over the final two months of the regular season. 

There's a long way to go, of course, but a third-place (or higher) finish would ensure the B's a berth in the Atlantic Division playoff bracket, and they could conceivably advance a round or two based solely on the poor quality of clubs in their division. With 20 games to play, the Bruins are now third in the division and have a one-point cushion (70-69) over fourth-place Toronto, though the Leafs have a game in hand. If Toronto passes them, they currently have a two-point lead over the Islanders (70-68) for the eighth and final spot in the conference playoffs, though the Isles also have a game in hand. 

And that's not to say Boston couldn't climb higher. The B's are only four points behind the first-place but spinning-their-wheels Canadiens (20-20-7 since their 13-1-1 start), and they're even with the Habs in games played. They trail second-place Ottawa by two points, but the Senators have two games in hand.

All that, however, is another story for another day (even if it is a reason for Boston adding, rather than subtracting, at Wednesday's NHL trade deadline),

So how can we so stridently state that the Bruins are going to make the playoffs, and assure that this seven-game run isn’t just a flash in the pan?

Clearly they're playing with more urgency, higher compete levels, and a consistent focus that wasn’t there in the first 55 games under Claude Julien. They've now scored first-period goals in nine straight games and scored first in each of the four games on the highly successful Western swing through San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Dallas over the last week. 

To put that in perspective, the B's had gone 1-8 in California over the previous three seasons, when those late-in-the-year road trips spelled the beginning of the end for Boston.

But even more convincing is a simple look at the numbers, the production and the reasons behind the surge forward. 

The Bruins have long needed their two franchise centers operating at a high level at both ends of the ice, and consistently playing the 200-foot game that can cause major problems against teams not blessed with frontline talent in the middle. That wasn’t the case under Julien this year, but things have changed. 

David Krejci has three goals and eight points along with an even plus/minus rating in seven games under Cassidy. Patrice Bergeron posted three goals and nine points along with a plus-7 over that same span of games. With those two big-money, big-ceiling players operating at their highest levels, the rest of the team has shown its true potential . . . and the talent level is considerably higher than many thought.

It wasn’t long ago that many Bruins fans, and some major Julien apologists in the media, would have had you believe that Claude was keeping together a substandard NHL roster with a MacGyver-like combination of duct tape, chewing gum and an offensive system that only a dump-and-chase, trappist wonk could love. Now we’re seeing there's offensive talent on a group that’s been given the green light to create and produce. 

To wit, the Bruins' third line is now winning games for them after serving as a liability for the first half of the season. Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes and Frank Vatrano have combined for 6 goals, 15 points and a plus-11 in the seven games under Cassidy after never getting a chance to work together under Julien because they weren’t in his defensive circle of trust.

There's also the elevated level of production -- across the board -- from Boston’s defensemen. Not to mention Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak continuing to produce offense at elite levels. Marchand just set a career-high with his 64th point on Sunday afternoon, and still has another 20 games left in attempting to become the B's first point-per-game player since Marc Savard (88 points in 82 games in  2008-09).

All of it amounts to a Bruins offense that’s now choosing quality shots over quantity: Boston is scoring 1.5 more goals per game under Cassidy while averaging a significant 4.5 fewer shots per game. The Bruins have finally ditched the weak perimeter attack that so entralled the Corsi crowd -- it was putting up 40-plus shots per game, yet only about 2.5 goals -- and are instead honing in their offensive chances between the dots and in closer to the net .

Should people still be wondering if this current B’s run of entertaining, winning hockey is sustainable? They certainly can if they want to wait until the season is over to decide, but the jury is in for this humble hockey writer.

Bruins fans should take the cue and start lining up for their postseason tickets. 

Because there is going to be playoff hockey in Boston this spring. Remember, you heard it here first.