Bruins see Canucks showdown as just another game

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Bruins see Canucks showdown as just another game

WILMINGTON -- Here we go.

The Bruins and Canucks, a rematch of last year's Stanley Cup Final. It's all or nothing on Saturday afternoon at the TD Garden.

Right?

Well, maybe not exactly. Vancouver may very well have something to prove. But the Bruins? They know this isn't the Stanley Cup Final.

Sure, they want the two points. The B's realize they're one point behind the New York Rangers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They understand that the Canucks are the top team in the West.

But as far as the build-up leading into Saturday afternoon's game, it's not what some outside the dressing room may make of it.

"I don't think it's as much as people think it is," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after Friday's practice at Ristuccia Arena. "The Finals was last year, and we did what we had to do, and we succeeded in that. We had to come back this year, and it's a league game. I'm not going to stand here and say it means absolutely nothing. There was a rivalry that was built there, that I'm sure both teams are going to go into tomorrow's game knowing that.

"But I don't think it's any different than the rivalry we have with Philadelphia or other teams that we've played, Montreal. It's just going to be one of those intense games. But certainly, I wouldn't read more into it than that. There's no Stanley Cup at the end of tomorrow's game, but certainly, it's a battle of two teams that feel they're good teams, and certainly will want to measure themselves to each other.

"I don't think we're putting all our eggs in one basket, as far as saying this is a must-win or a do-or-die situation," added Julien. "It's a league game, and we'd like to get the two points for the right reasons, and nothing more than that."

Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton agreed.

"It's a good challenge for us," said Thornton on Friday. "As far as extra build-up and stuff, I guess because we played them in the Finals, it was a pretty emotional Final. And the Final should be emotional. You're in the wrong place if you don't have emotion at that time of year. But as for this one, it's game, whatever it is, 38 for us. It'll be a good test. I think there's more build-up to it than there needs to be."

Milan Lucic expects to have a physical presence on Saturday. And he said on Friday that he's enjoying the hype.

"I think it's great that there's a build-up towards it," said Lucic. "Both teams I think are excited going into this game, as we should be. Both didn't really have the starts that we wanted, and both teams picked up their game and are on top of the league. So it makes it more interesting that there's a lot that we're playing for.

"It's a big two points for us. In the Eastern Conference, the Rangers are playing well. They're still ahead of us, and it's a chance for us to be first in the whole league, if we win this game. So it's definitely a big game for us, and we're looking forward to the challenge."

The Bruins watched the Canucks play the San Jose Sharks on television, Monday. They see the same type of Vancouver team that they saw in last year's Cup Final: a speedy, skilled, puck-possession team that enjoys getting their defensemen involved because of their solid goaltending.

"Their game hasn't changed," said Julien. "They had a great year last year, and had a lot of success with the way they play, and they believe in the way they play. And we believe in the way we play. So I don't think much has changed, as far as what we should be looking for. We should be looking for the same things we did last year when we played them."

When asked if he was concerned that the Canucks would use Saturday as a "statement" game and play more physical, Julien said that's not something the Bruins are concerned about.

"We're built to handle that if that comes, we'll deal with it then," he said. "But we're certainly not preparing ourselves for that. That's not what our main focus is on. It's about playing a solid game the way we've been playing all year. Whatever build-up people want to make of it, we're going out there and playing the game that we know we can."

Pastrnak on looming RFA status: 'I obviously love it here'

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Pastrnak on looming RFA status: 'I obviously love it here'

David Pastrnak will be a better player for some of his struggles in his first Stanley Cup playoff experience over the last couple of weeks.

The 20-year-old right winger might even be a better player from the experience for Team Czech Republic when he joins them next month for the world championships in Europe. Pastrnak did have a couple of goals in the six game series against the Ottawa Senators and it wasn’t a complete disaster for the youngster the first time around, but he also wasn’t quite up to the lofty standards he set this season when he posted 34 goals and 70 points.

“It was different, but to be honest I loved it. It hurt [to lose] but every win felt unbelievable,” said Pastrnak. “It was a great experience for me, and hopefully in the coming years I get to taste that feeling a lot more times. You always want to be the player that makes a difference, but at the NHL level it’s a good feeling no matter who the hero is.  

“Every year is a learning lesson especially for a young player like me. I’m pretty sure I’m going to come back stronger and get better every year. Obviously the year ended sooner than we wanted, but I did get that first taste of the playoffs after missing out in the first couple of years. It’s another experience and hopefully I get better every year.”

He had just a combined five shots on net in five of the six postseason games, and really only let loose with a big performance in the Game 5 double-overtime win. Otherwise it was sloppy turnovers with the puck against the 1-3-1 trap, a passive role in the offense where he missed the net far too often with the shots he did take and then an ill-timed penalty in overtime in Game 5 that led to the goal that ended their season.

The Bruins didn't shy away from the fact that Pastrnak looked like a first timer in his playoff experience, and expect the third year pro to be better for it the next time around. Clearly the banged-up status of David Krejci throughout the first round also had an impact on Pastrnak’s production and effectiveness as well.

“I think our playoffs, several players went through [the playoffs] for the first time and no matter what you say, until you have experience you don’t get it anywhere else, you’ve got to go through it. Hopefully we’ll be better off as a result of it,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney. “Sitting with David Pastrnak [on Wednesday], that’s the first time he’s played an NHL playoff game. He’ll hopefully be a better player as a result of it. He had a tremendous regular season, but it’s the next level, it’s a new challenge. I thought the vast majority of our players really did a nice job.”

There’s the other situation facing Pastrnak and the Bruins with his entry level contract up after this season, and negotiations set to get underway between his agent and GM Don Sweeney on a second contract. A complete breakdown of the looming negotiations will be a different story for a different day with Pastrnak, but suffice it say that a 20-year-old is going to get paid after dropping 34 goals and 70 points in just his third NHL season.

On the short end of the spectrum one could have a comparable like Chicago’s Artemi Panarin with his two-year, $12 million deal if the two sides come together on a bridge deal, and a contract like Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau (six-year, $40.5 million for a $6.75 million cap hit) if both sides are amenable to a longer deal that buys out some of the young Pastrnak’s unrestricted free agent years.

That leaves a lot of room in between to negotiate and a lot of time before the two sides would have to start worrying about offer sheets around July 1, or about a potential holdout next fall if things don’t go smoothly. Either way, pending restricted free agent Pastrnak left no doubt that he wants to remain a member of the Bruins and continue developing as one of the most exciting young offensive players in the NHL.

“100 percent. I obviously love it here. This is where they gave me the opportunity to be in the NHL. It’s not something I was focusing on all season, so I’m not really going to think about it now,” said Pastrnak, when asked about a deal getting done with the Bruins. “It’s not in my hands. It’s in the hands of management and my agent. Both sides have seen these situations a million times, so I’ll let them handle it.”

Pure skill players don’t come along all that often for the Bruins and now they’ve got one starting to become battle-hardened following his less-than-perfect playoff experience this spring. Now all they’ve got to do is find a way to sign him, and that’s a lot easier said than done as they continue to also try and improve the current NHL roster at the same time. 

McQuaid on going in the NHL expansion draft: ‘I hope that’s not the case for me’

McQuaid on going in the NHL expansion draft: ‘I hope that’s not the case for me’

BOSTON – With the NHL expansion draft looming a couple of months in the future, it became much more of a reality for the Bruins this week now that the 2016-17 season is in the books.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney said on Thursday that he expects the Bruins to go the 7 (forwards) 3 (defensemen) 1 (goaltender) route protecting their roster from the June 21 expansion draft. That will still leave some useful roster players unprotected.

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Atop that available expansion list for the Bruins will be potential names Malcolm Subban, Riley Nash, Jimmy Hayes and Adam McQuaid, who could be headed to Vegas. Asked about the topic at this week’s breakup day for the players, McQuaid expressed his hopes that he isn’t the one selected by the Vegas Golden Knights. The 30-year-old McQuaid stayed healthy enough to play in 77 games this season, and posted two goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 while serving in a top-four role pretty much all season as Torey Krug’s defensive partner.

McQuaid also brought the toughness and quiet leadership element with his willingness to always stand up for his teammates and go toe-to-toe with the toughest guys in the league when it was called for. His midseason heavyweight bout with Matt Martin was one of the most memorable moments of the season. It’s an element the Bruins would miss if he was taken in the expansion draft.  

“Well, I hope not. I never thought of it that way, to be honest with you. Obviously, the reality of the situation is they’re picking somebody from every team,” said McQuaid. “So, I hope that’s not the case for me. I’ve won here and I’ve always said how much I love it back here. I can’t imagine playing for another team. It’s totally out of my control, but hopefully that’s not the case.”

McQuaid is signed for $2.75 million for the next seasons and it was clear he was missed on the penalty kill once he went down injured in the first-round series against the Ottawa Senators. As for the entire expansion process, Sweeney said they are currently whittling down the protected list while required to protect Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and David Backes to start by virtue of the no-movement language in their contracts.

Other young players, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Frank Vatrano among others, don’t need to be protected either after completing this season with two years or less of pro hockey experience. One of the most difficult decisions will come down to protecting either 25-year-old Colin Miller or 28-year-old Kevan Miller as the third defensemen. 

Whichever one of those D-men is left unprotected would join McQuaid as the most likely player to be selected by Vegas GM George McPhee after he spent a decent amount of time scouting the Black and Gold this season to get an idea of which player he wanted.

Here’s our best guess at which players will end up being protected by the Bruins:

Forwards (7): Bergeron, Krejci, Backes, Pastrnak, Marchand, Beleskey and Spooner

Defensemen (3): Chara, Krug and Colin Miller

Goaltender (1): Rask