Boston Bruins

Hagg Bag mailbag: Down the stretch they come

Hagg Bag mailbag: Down the stretch they come

With the Stanley Cup playoff sprint upon us and a weekend of rest now over for the Bruins, it felt like the proper time to again crack open the Hagg Bag mailbag. Things are looking good for the Bruins getting into the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, but they still need to finish up strong in their final 11 games of the season with a whopping eight of them taking place at TD Garden.  

As always these are real questions from real Bruins fans and followers sent to my twitter account using the #HaggBag hash tag, emails sent to my jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com email account and messages sent to my CSN Facebook fan page. Now on to the bag:

Joe, 

I must admit, I was tired of your constant calls for Claude to be fired. I mocked them. I was wrong. They seem to be a different team now, and I don't think they're ready to grab another Cup, they're at least going to make a playoff run. Sorry I doubted you! It'll be good fun when my wife gets to see the B's for the first ever time in person two weeks from now in Vancouver!

--Greg Hopper (Message via CSN Facebook page)

JH: I must admit, I don’t ever get tired of being told that I was right! Seriously, it was just a matter of giving an informed opinion. Believe it or not, sometimes the people that cover teams on a daily basis actually know what they’re taking about when they have a strong opinion, or hot take, on the individuals around that team. Hope you had a good time in Vancouver watching Brad Marchand celebrate his return to Vancouver with a third period hat trick.  

What in sweet Jesus is Jimmy Hayes still doing on the ice?

--Mike Silvey (@silvercreek20)

JH: In his last five games that he’s dressed for, the grand summation of Jimmy Hayes’ contribution has been one shot on goal. One shot on goal. I admit that I think Jimmy has actually played better since the coaching change and you can’t teach somebody to be 6-foot-5 and 215-pounds, but he shouldn’t be suiting up for the playoffs if he can’t find a way to be a little more involved with the action. 

Joe, who is the B's top scorer in the minors that we could see by the end of the season or next year? Or college...?

--Big Wally (@BostonWest80111)

JH: Well, their top player for most of the season had been Peter Cehlarik and he was just shipped back to Providence last weekend. Players like Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen have been okay in their first pro seasons, but not up to the levels where they could jump in and give the Bruins what they need at the NHL level. 

As far as college goes, Anders Bjork, Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson are the lead candidates to turn pro this spring. If I were the Bruins, I would send both McAvoy and Forsbacka-Karlsson to Providence -- if they turn pro -- and allow them both experience the AHL playoffs just as Brandon Carlo did at the end of last season before jumping to the NHL. I’m not sure you want to drop either of those players into the NHL playoff pressure cooker that will be fully in effect from now until the end of the regular season. 

Bjork might be a bit of a different story if/when he signs because he might be able to help the Bruins immediately on the wing after scoring 19 goals and 47 points in 36 games for Notre Dame as one of the best players in college hockey this season. 

Love the nerdiness. I like Iron Fist, think people are harsh, but it is my least favorite marvel Netflix show so far

--Michael Butron (@b00ch)

JH: I like Iron Fist more than Jessica Jones, but I think Finn Jones was a major misstep as Danny Rand in the casting department. He is totally exposed in the fight scenes and doesn’t have a great deal of charisma. I actually liked the character of Colleen Wing much more, just like I liked Patsy Walker (Hellcat) more than Jessica Jones in the other series. 

Here’s my order of Netflix Marvel series: 

1.       Daredevil Season 1

2.       Daredevil Season 2

3.       Luke Cage

4.       Iron Fist

5.       Jessica Jones

When are the B's planning on making Cassidy the head coach and remove his interim status, or are they actually shopping around?

--Christian (@Castil8Bruin)

JH: At this point, I don’t think they’re shopping around until the season is over and there’s no reason to even go shopping right now. If the Bruins finish strong and get into the playoffs then I think it’s a slam dunk Cassidy gets the gig, and that looks like a near certainty at this point. 

If something disastrous happens down the stretch and the Bruins fall apart like they did in each of the last two seasons, then that would be a different story. If that were to happen I could see Boston University head coach Dave Quinn or Providence College coach Nate Leaman getting a long look from Don Sweeney, but I think there are too many pros with Cassidy: Past working history with Sweeney, a rapport and respect level with the young players, a style that meshes with what both Sweeney and Cam Neely want in their Bruins teams and, oh yeah, the extraordinary results in the first 16 games since the coaching change. 

Could Sweeney make it official once the Bruins clinch a playoff berth? He certainly could, but it would seem a deliberate guy like Sweeney is going to think things through before making any big moves with the organization. Just think about how long it took Sweeney to make the move with Claude Julien in the first place when it was so sorely needed for this team.  

What will the B's look like next season? Who's coming and who's gone?

--Alan (@AlanMM63)

JH: It’s tough to tell at this point. I’d expect either Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller to be taken in the NHL expansion draft by Vegas, and Charlie McAvoy to replace whichever one of those players departs from the right side. I’d also expect that none of the UFA’s (Drew Stafford, John-Michael Liles and Dominic Moore) will be coming back based on the salary cap, and the Bruins continuing to move in the direction of youth. 

Depending on what happens down the stretch and into the playoffs, the Bruins may revisit dealing Matt Beleskey in the summer as they look for ways to save money that will go toward new contracts for guys like Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak. Because let’s face it, the Bruins need to do whatever is necessary to make room for Pastrnak’s second NHL contract after putting together a 30-goal season as a 20-year-old player.  

Is Julien back or what? Two defensive lines. Two RW on the second line and two LW on the third line. Who will give the puck to Vatrano? And Hayes is still playing. Back to reality I guess.

--Bryan Lapointe (Message via CSN Facebook page) 

JH: The Bruins have 12-of-16 games since the coaching change, and they’ve averaged 3.88 goals per game since Cassidy took over. They’re also comfortably in a playoff spot at this point. I know there’s a danger of getting too comfortable, but c’mon man…this is complaining just to complain right now. Just enjoy that the Bruins are once again putting a good product on the ice and that we’ll all have playoff hockey in the spring. I think that will be a nice change for the better after the last couple of seasons, don’t you think? 

Will Noel Acciari get another call up before the season ends? He's also due for a new contract at season's end, correct?

--Matt McGuirk (@matt_mcguirk)

JH: I wish I had posted the mailbag on Saturday and predicted a call-up for Acciari on Sunday morning. That would have made me look wicked smaht. Acciari is a restricted free agent after the season is over, but I’d expect him to return to the Bruins given his ability to contribute as a hard-nosed, energy guy on the fourth line when he’s needed. He’s a good New England kid and a hard worker, so he’s going to be okay either way. 

I have to say, you were right about Claude Julien........which line Stafford gone to play?

--Dan Cormier (Message via CSN Facebook page)

JH: So let’s end the Hagg Bag mailbag as we began it. Like I said, I never get tired of being told how right I am. I just hope we get to see the Bruins and their old, beloved coach face each other down in this spring’s playoffs as it should be. See you next time hopefully for a mailbag gearing up just ahead of the playoffs. 

Talking Points: Austin Czarnik puts on a show vs. Red Wings

Talking Points: Austin Czarnik puts on a show vs. Red Wings

GOLD STAR: Austin Czarnik once again showed that he can really put on a show during training camp after winning an NHL job last season based on his strong preseason. Czarnik finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-1 rating in 15:15 of ice time, created a penalty shot situation solely based on his skating speed and perfectly executed a 3-on-1 late in the third period while feeding a one-timer dish to Teddy Purcell for the insurance marker. Czarnik tied David Pastrnak with a team-high four shots on net for the night, and won 8-of-15 draws for the Bruins while manning his natural center position. Czarnik showed once again that he can play effectively when he’s motoring at a high pace and playing aggressive hockey, a couple of things he didn’t always do with the Bruins once the routine of the NHL regular season settled in last year.

BLACK EYE: Brandon Carlo didn’t have a particularly terrible night, but he did end up as the only Bruins player with a negative plus/minus. Carlo was on the ice for both goals scored by Detroit, and otherwise didn’t really factor into the game while clocking in a solid 17:48 of ice time. His only other major contribution was an interference call halfway through the first period that put the Wings on the power play. Carlo was playing without his usual partner, Zdeno Chara, of course, and one of the remaining questions about the 21-year-old D-man is exactly how good he can be as a shutdown defenseman when he doesn’t have the big captain on his left side. Clearly, it was a good night overall for the B’s, but Carlo was far from his best in his preseason debut.

TURNING POINT: Nobody would have blamed the Bruins if they were a little frustrated after outshooting the Red Wings by a 13-8 margin, and not seeing any points up on the board. Instead of getting frustrated they kept working and finally busted through with a pair of goals within 90 seconds of each other in the second frame. Ryan Fitzgerald finished off the first chance off a nice dish from Jakub Zboril, and Danton Heinen followed by banging home a backdoor dish from Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson across the ice. The two goals from two of Boston’s young forward group pushed the B’s out to a lead that they would never relinquish against Detroit.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jakub Zboril probably hasn’t received some of the fanfare of the other first-round picks in Bruins camp, but the skilled, improving D-man played an excellent first preseason game for the Black and Gold. It was Zboril’s one-man rush from his defense position that helped set up his creative dish to a wide-open Ryan Fitzgerald for Boston’s first goal, and he followed that up with 19:12 of mostly solid ice time. Zboril finished with the assist and a plus-2 rating along with a shot on net and a registered hit while also playing a special teams role on both the power play and the penalty kill. Zboril is still working on the polish to his game that will eventually make him an effective pro, but he was noticeable in a good way in his first preseason action of the season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 – the team-leading number of shot attempts for David Pastrnak in his first action of the preseason while skating with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Who is hard on the puck? Who is winning pucks? Who can keep their pace up? I think [the young forwards] are all capable of making plays, the young skilled guys. You can probably list seven or eight that have talent and could make NHL plays.” – Bruce Cassidy, on what he’s looking for out of B’s forward prospects that want to win NHL jobs.