Haggerty: Right move for Bruins to stand pat?

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Haggerty: Right move for Bruins to stand pat?

Peter Chiarelli admitted he doesnt get many cold calls from the NHL's 29 other general managers these days.

He likes his hockey club and it shows.

Chiarelli is bringing 12 forwards back from last years Bruins team minus Benoit Pouliot, and five of their six defensemen plus 19-year-old super prospect Dougie Hamilton. Theyve got two goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin that suited up for the Bruins last season even if Tea Party Tim Thomas has flown the Black and Gold coop to Colorado.

When asked if teams constantly ask about Bostons top prospects in potential trade talks, it seems Chiarelli is successfully sending out a consistent message: He intends to keep the 2011 Stanley Cup-winning nucleus together.

"Ive been pretty clear over the last year and a bit that I really like the large makeup of our team," Chiarelli said. "Other GMs have been backing off. I dont get a lot of trade calls. Guys call and try to cherry pick on our top end guys, and I dont blame them for doing it. But I dont get a lot of calls. Its kind of a cycle: were a good team and nobody really wants to help us.

I dont want to say comfortable because you never want to say comfortable in this position. But Id be very content if our roster now is the roster we go with to start the season. Id be really content. But crazy things happen in trades or free agents, so you have to be on top of it in case you want to do something.

There is plenty of reasons for Chiarelli to be enamored with his club. After all, they marched to the Cup and proved they could be successful in their current incarnation.

When the factors are right, Bostons combination of toughness, depth, and quality goaltending gives them as good a chance as anybody else to come out of the Eastern Conference, which has been wide open the last two postseasons.

The Bruins also have young players like Hamilton, Rask, Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand that are still on the upswing in their careers, so theres plenty of argument to be made that they can get even better.

Whats the biggest potential flaw in Chiarellis potential status-quo plan?

It would appear every other team in the Eastern Conference is steadily improving, and some are hastily attempting to build a hockey super power.

The Bruins are getting busy staying the same while the rest of the East is moving on with their improvement plans.

Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby, Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, and it has begun clearing money from their salary cap to make serious runs at both elite unrestricted free agents, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. That is a scary proposition for the rest of the league when the Penguins were already one of the favorites to win the Cup next season.

The Rangers could have been the team in the Cup Finals rather than the New Jersey Devils, and they have a cast of young players hungry for their first Cup as well as plenty of cap space to make a big move headed into next year.

The Flyers have taken a step forward defensively after their deal with Toronto for Luke Schenn, and GM Paul Holmgren seems on the verge of making a big splash each and every offseason. Last season his moves gave Los Angeles the building blocks for a Cup winner, but they also tend to keep Philly strong and hungry every year.

The Washington Capitals still need a head coach, but they had a good weekend at the draft adding former Montreal flop artist Michael Ribeiro and tough customer Tom Wilson after they already seemed to be getting the hang of the winning thing during the playoffs.

The Maple Leafs have already added 22-year-old forward-on-the-verge-of-a-breakout James van Riemsdyk and look ready to pull the trigger on a Roberto Luongo swap that could finally address their longstanding goalie problems.

Erik Karlsson has helped elevate the Ottawa Senators to a legitimate playoff team as he augments a roster with an intriguing mix of young players and capable veterans who have Cup Finals appearances on their resume.

Tampa Bay still has Steve Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, Victor Hedman and a crop of talented young players with GM Steve Yzerman reshaping them into a contender.

The Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils return playoff teams confident they can get back there again even if the Jersey roster is suffering through some painful turnover.

The Carolina Hurricanes were a much better team under new coach Kirk Muller in the second half of the year, and their young squad is going to play with a different kind of energy watching the Staal brothers, Jordan and Eric, skate together for the very first time.

The Buffalo Sabres still have the same team everybody listed as trendy Northeast Division favorites last fall before team chemistry issues and Milan Lucic's assault on their goaltender submarined their season.

The Montreal Canadiens organization finally had a much-needed front office enema after last years embarrassing campaign, and the New York Islanders and Winnipeg Jets should be improved next season.

The point of going through the off-season ups and downs of the Eastern Conference is simple.

Nearly every other team in the conference has done something significant to improve themselves. The Bruins have done nothing aside from retaining their own players while their GM stays faithful to a team that bowed out in the first round of the playoffs.

the departures of Joe Corvo and Benoit Pouliot might be addition by subtraction, but thats a different story for another day.

Chiarelli will still be hunting for a Recchi-type forward after July 1 to add to the Boston mix as their one big roster-building move for next year. Any veteran acquisition the Bruins make will surely be done after the start of free agency, and be part of the secondary trade market Chiarelli has mentioned more than once.

Otherwise, Chiarelli likes what he has.

Everyone talks about teams that have oodles and oodles of cap space, but youve got to find players, said Chiarelli. Youve got to fill spots. I like the spot that were in right now.

Watching other teams improve wouldnt be a sole determiner for us to add somebody. I dont ignore it, but I wouldnt engage in trade talks because of it. I think were in a good spot right now. Were in a good roster spot.

Is standing pat the right move for the Bruins? Or should they be showing a willingness to execute a big, bold move in what's an important offseason for the Bruins?

Depending on how it all ends up, Chiarelli's decisions will be looked at as either justified faith or stultifying conservatism.

There will be all kinds of frustration if Nathan Horton goes down early in the season, and the Bruins have the same kind of offensive struggles that cropped up once he was done with a concussion in late January.

The Bruins are also slicing and dicing the power play this summer in hopes of revamping and improving it for next year, but its legitimate to question how much offense can be siphoned out of the same old PP personnel that crapped out during the last two playoffs.

Time will tell whether Chiarelli made the right call by standing pat, but thats his offseason plan and hes sticking to it.

'Healthy' Rask ready to go with a lot to prove

'Healthy' Rask ready to go with a lot to prove

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Tuukka Rask went through morning skate Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and proclaimed himself “healthy” to start against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden after sitting out Saturday with a lower body injury.

So, Rask will play his 60th game of the season tonight and the Bruins will hope that a dominating performance will douse some of the brush fire that’s cropped up around the Black and Gold’s goaltending situation. 

After Boston’s No. 1 goaltender coughed up five goals in a rough loss to Tampa and then sat out the must-win against the Islanders on Saturday night, questions about Rask’s big-game reliability are absolutely there after he also sat out last season’s pivotal finale against the Ottawa Senators.

Still, Rask said he hasn’t paid attention to the media scrutiny and is instead looking forward to locking up against fellow Finn Pekka Rinne of the Preds.

“I haven’t listened to the [media scrutiny], but I’m sure they’ve been very nice to me,” said Rask. “I don’t listen. I don’t read it. Doesn’t affect me. You know where you stand, and how good you play and when you don’t play good. That’s all you need. You don’t need to listen to the outside voices because it’s just going to distract you. People have opinions and they can say whatever they want.

“This is what we play for, right? It’s fun. It’s going to come down to the wire again and it’s going to be another battle tonight. I don’t even know how many games I’ve played. I feel good. I think I’ve said all throughout the year there’s going to be ups and downs, and you just try to stay even-keeled. It’s something that you learn not getting too high or too low, and just win as many games as you can.”

The bottom line with Rask is that there are major question marks about his standing as a No. 1 goaltender that he needs to address in these final seven games, media scrutiny or no media scrutiny. A No. 1 goalie worth $7 million per season can hold up with a 60-plus game workload and not fade down the stretch while in need of mental and physical breaks. 

The slender Rask has shown signs of slippage in his performance when the workload is heavy, and coach Bruce Cassidy admitted as much on Tuesday while not guaranteeing that his No. 1 will be able to play in six of the final seven games down the stretch.

“We’re trying to write our own story this year. I know how the last few years have ended, and we’d like a different ending,” said Cassidy. “I think this group should be afforded that right to write their own stories, and we’ll see how it plays out. Obviously last week did not play out well for us and we heard about it, and that’s part of the business.

“Saturday, hopefully we turned a corner, but we won’t know that until we get going forward here. I’m asking [Tuukka] to play well tonight, and I’m asking the players in front of him to play well tonight. The workload for Tuukka has to be monitored, and whether the whole world agrees with it or not, that’s the situation. I think the data backs up that he’s better with ‘X’ amount of rest and that’s just the way it is. It’s an inexact science and we’re trying to do a better job with that. The second half we’ve really tried to monitor it and last week was a bit of an exception. At crunch time things change a little bit, and that’s what we’re trying to balance.”

In an ideal world, a hockey team scratching and clawing for the Stanley Cup playoffs wouldn’t have to so closely monitor whether a goaltender is about to break down because he’s pushing 60 games in a season, especially when he’d enjoyed a five-day bye just a month earlier.

There are also questions about Rask’s reliability after sitting out last weekend, whether it was by his choice, the team’s choice or a mutually agreed upon decision after his lower body discomfort cropped up. A No. 1 goalie is no longer worthy of that lofty mantle when a team can’t rely on big-game performances from him, or even if he'll be available, once the pressure is on in the final weeks of the season.

So, there are plenty of questions to answer for Rask down the stretch here and they may go a long way toward determining his long-range future with an organization that invested heavily in him a few years ago. Those answers begin on Tuesday night against the Predators and it certainly feels like it will be game-to-game with him for final seven contests of the regular season. 
 

Krejci doesn't skate, 'game-time decision' tonight vs. Nashville

Krejci doesn't skate, 'game-time decision' tonight vs. Nashville

BRIGHTON, Mass – It was an optional morning skate for the Bruins at Warrior Ice Arena, but only Torey Krug and David Krejci were missing from the ice ahead tonight's game against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden. 

That’s two skates missed in a row for Krejci, who will be a game-time decision vs. the Preds after spending his morning undergoing treatment for an upper body issue.

If Krejci can’t play then Ryan Spooner would get bumped up to the second line with Drew Stafford and David Pastrnak and the Bruins would shuffle the rest of their forwards while presumably getting Matt Beleskey back into the fold.

“[Krejci] will be a game-time decision,” said Cassidy. “He stayed off the ice to get some treatment. I think he’ll play, but we’ll have to wait until warm-ups and go from there.”

Normally an injured player that doesn’t skate in the morning isn’t likely to play in the game, so let’s put Krejci as a questionable status to suit up after getting dinged up vs. the Islanders. 

Cassidy also confirmed that John-Michael Liles would be subbing in for Colin Miller on the third defensive pairing after having played just two games since the beginning of February. Also, Tuukka Rask was “healthy” and ready to play tonight vs. Nashville.

Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings vs. Nashville based on the past two days of practice:

Marchand-Bergeron-Backes

Stafford-Spooner-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Nash-Hayes

Beleskey-Moore-Acciari

 
Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Liles-K. Miller

 
Rask