Kessel family affair comes to Boston

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Kessel family affair comes to Boston

WILMINGTON, Mass. It should be an interesting scene at TD Garden Saturday night with Phil Kessel and the Toronto Maple Leafs invading Causeway Street for the second half of a home-and-home series for Northeast Division bragging rights.

The Bs have jumped out to a commanding 3-0 regular season record over Toronto this season, and outscored the Leafs by a 19-5 margin in those three blowout wins. So theres a natural motivational element if youre wearing a Toronto sweater in addition to keeping their current playoff pace.

But theres also an added twist: the Leafs arrive in Boston on the traditional fatherson trip that many NHL teams embark on during the regular season.

So Kessels dad is expected to be part of the paternal entourage traveling with the team, and could be subjected to the same Thank you, Kessel chants that have become part and parcel with Toronto trips to Boston since Tyler Seguin landed in the Bs laps with the No. 2 overall pick.

Kessel had his best game of the season against the Bruins on Wednesday night with an assist, and is still the leading point-getter (32) and goal-scorer (16) in the NHL this season.

He also leads the league in All-Star voting after his memorably uncomfortable turn as Mr. Irrelevant in last years first annual All-Star team fantasy draft amid the All-Star weekend festivities in Carolina.

But the Bruins and the bruising defensive style of Zdeno Chara continue to pound on Kessel despite his higher standing in the league this time around. Kessel has been beaten down to the tune of three team losses, one point and a minus-5 in the three games between the two Northeast Division rivals this year, and its more of the same domination by Boston that No. 81 has endured for the last three seasons.

We prepare for the Leafs just like any other team. We know theyre going to be better, so we need to just focus on our game in order to beat them, said Chara, when asked about shutting down Kessel and his Toronto cohorts. Anytime were playing with desperation we have a much better chance of winning hockey games.

Kessel now has two goals and is a minus-12 in 15 games against the Bruins since getting dealt to Toronto three years ago. Those are numbers that scream out operation shutdown, but Claude Julien said the Bruins arent doing anything exotic to bottle up the speedy Kessel.

Its the same old menacing physicality in the corner and stifling defense down the center of the ice employed by the Bruins that has continuously turned Kessel from peerless to clawless no matter what he does against the rest of the NHL.

Ill be very honest with you. We havent said anything special about Phil Kessel, said Claude Julien. Its one of those things where if hes on the ice were aware of what hes done, but we handle every team the same way. Whether its Crosby or others, theyre all treated the same.

We certainly know Phil well, but he still got an assist the other night on a great pass. Its more about a five-man unit than it is about one guy watching one other guy. So far weve been pretty successful and thats a good thing because hes off to a great start.

So what could happen with Kessels papa potentially in the house this weekend?

If the word gets out to enough fans in the Garden stands then perhaps there will be a Thank you, Mr. Kessel! sing-song chant to go along with the customary one if the Bruins are once again holding a comfortable lead in the third period Saturday night.

That would be just another chapter for Kessel in the book of misery against Boston since he left behind Black and Gold.

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 


 

Friday, April 28: Why combine NHL Awards with expansion draft?

Friday, April 28: Why combine NHL Awards with expansion draft?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while hoping that Bruce Cassidy does a regular call-in to the Toucher and Rich Show next season. It’s a treat for Bruins fans. Cassidy is a straight shooter and has a great personality as well.

*Puck Daddy explains why the NHL is cramming the expansion draft for Vegas in with the NHL Awards show. I feel like this kind of makes sense because they’re both Vegas-centric.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Ian Mendes says there’s no playoff fever in Ottawa and instead only a “Sens malaise.” It’s crazy to me that there were pockets of empty seats in Ottawa for Game 1 of the second round of the playoffs against the Rangers.

*Speaking of Game 1 between the Sens and the Rangers, here are the details with Erik Karlsson again stepping up and playing the hero while carrying Ottawa.

*The Anaheim Ducks are having a heck of a time containing Leon Draisaitl in their second round battle with the Edmonton Oilers.

*Here’s some of this morning’s chat between Bruce Cassidy and Toucher and Rich where he talked about his relationship with Claude, his hate for the Canadiens and the future outlook for the Bruins organization. Good stuff.

*Glen Gulutzan reflects on his first season behind the bench for the Calgary Flames after their first round ouster.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer Mike Halford has details of the Rangers not allowing Chris Drury to interview for the GM job with the Buffalo Sabres.

*For something completely different: What is the deal with this Buckingham McVie music that’s coming out? Whatever happened to Buckingham Nicks?