Thornton looking like a go vs Isles

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Thornton looking like a go vs Isles

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON It appears that Shawn Thornton will be back in the lineup Wednesday night after getting the 40 stitches removed from the forehead area above the right eye and just in time for a game against infamous New York Islanders goon Trevor Gillies.Thornton has missed three games with the slice above his right eye caused by Fernando Pisanis skate blade, but had the stitches removed Tuesday and now has a long snake-like healing scar above his eye.While the Bs enforcer said he wasnt sure whether he would be playing or not, Bruins coach Claude Julien indicated Thornton was likely to be in the lineup after gaining medical clearance.Obviously if I get hit there its going to hurt, but as far as I know Im ready to go, said Thornton. Im preparing to play. I feel great. Its not that big a story anymore. Its been over a week, guys.Thornton wont play with a half-shield after ditching it on Monday morning while skating at Madison Square Garden, and it will be interesting to see who Julien opts to scratch. Rookie center Tyler Seguin seems like the most likely option after getting his ice time scaled back to eight minutes and being removed from the second power play unit against the Rangers.Thornton should be in the lineup, and well have a couple of other decisions to make before game time, said Julien.Seguin, Michael Ryder, Patrice Bergeron, Thornton and Chris Kelly were the five forwards that took part in an optional morning skate for the Bruins at TD Garden, and it doesnt seem like Ryder or Daniel Paille would be the scratches for a Bruins team looking to fine tune things before the playoffs.Julien is a conservative hockey coach in many regards, and it certainly manifests itself when it comes to young players and playoff lineups a situation that cropped up four years ago with a very different young player in Phil Kessel.Kessel was memorably benched to start the series against the Montreal Canadiens, and responded with a big rest of the series against the Habs in the seven-game series loss to top-seeded Montreal. He finished with three goals and an assist in four playoff games against the Habs once the Bs decided to scratch Jeremy Reich in favor of Kessel, and responded in a big way on the ice.But it also permanently wrecked the relationship between coach and player, and was one of the big reasons Kessel was looking for a way out as soon as restricted free agency time hit with the Bruins.Everybody knows that the 19-year-old Seguin isnt Kessel, and is outgoing, diligent and conscientious with his teammates in a way that the introverted Maple Leafs sniper never was.But Seguin still appeared unhappy about potentially being a scratch against the Islanders, and was well aware of comments made by Bs general manager Peter Chiarelli on 98.5 the Sports Hub Wednesday morning that a Seguin playoff scratch is the way it looks to be trending, but the competition isnt over yet.Seguin wasnt very happy chatting briefly after Wednesdays skate on the Garden ice, and said he wanted to play.Im sure Ill talk to coaches about and theyll tell me why if Im scratched, said Seguin. Of course I want to be in there playing.Seguin does have only one goal in his last 16 games, and hasnt enjoyed an offensive windfall despite a raised battle level over the last month of the season. But its undeniable that Seguin has played better, faster and stronger down the stretch, and tasting the playoffs is something beneficial to his development.The problems: Michael Ryder has nine goals and 18 points in 24 Stanley Cup playoff games with the Bruins over the last two seasons, and Daniel Paille is playing his best hockey of the season over the last two weeks. Both of those players could potentially serve in a fourth line capacity while Seguin is probably best-suited to be skating with Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly as he was over the last few weeks leading into tonights game against the Isles.Tim Thomas was the first goaltender off the ice and it appears hell get the start for the Bruins against the Islanders as hes looking to rebound from a couple of uncharacteristic goals surrendered to the New York Rangers. Thomas is still holding onto the highest save percentage total in NHL single-season history with a .9376 amount just above the .9366 totaled by Dominik Hasek in the 1998-99 season. One or two more good performances should leave him with the record and two of the top three best single-season save percentage totals in NHL history.Julien said he wasnt panicking after one ugly loss to the Rangers that featured a third period collapse and one of those bothersome 3-0 leads that crumbled into nothingness.I think it depends on how you look at it, said Julien. "Everybody is looking for perfection and every little thing that doesnt go well is going to be scrutinized and criticized. But you have to look around the league. I mean Vancouver has lost two games now to Edmonton. Is there panic there? Philadelphia is having a tough time. I think once the playoffs start, the good teams are going to be ready to go. We plan on being one of those. Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

When the hockey world grew tired of shootouts, the league took something of a half measure. Rather than eliminate the shootout, the league moved overtime from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3. It worked; games that were tied at the end of regulation were more likely to end in the five-minute OT period than before, thus reducing the frequency of shootouts. 

Now, the NHL is dealing with its latest cumbersome gameplay issue: the offsides challenge. A half-measure isn’t as desirable in this case. No more half measures, Walter. 

The offsides challenge was introduced with good intentions, but it’s simply too easy to abuse. And really, when the option is there with only a timeout at risk, why wouldn’t a coach roll the dice that maybe a guy was offsides entering the zone 29 seconds before the goal was scored? 

The option needs to be taken away. Rely on blueline cameras and automatically look at anything close on a goal that’s scored off the rush. It would take two seconds and would save the refs from another Matt Duchene incident while saving the viewer a lot of time. Let anything else go the way of the dry scrape. 

There’s the temptation to instead tweak -- maybe make offsides challengeable if the entry in question occurs within however many seconds -- but that would just mean more time would be wasted seeing if a play was even challengeable. 

It was proposed at the GM meetings in Chicago that if a coach loses an offsides challenge, his team will be assessed a two-minute penalty. That sounds great as a deterrent, but it won’t stop instances of the needless why-the-hell-not challenge. Late in games, coaches might be just as likely to take their chances in a tie game or a one-goal game. That goal allowed could likely be the deciding tally, so if they’re likely to lose anyway, some coaches might still go for the time-wasting Hail Mary. 

And of course, the loser there is the person hoping to catch their train out of North Station in time, or the person who might doze off during the stupid challenge, wake up four hours later on their couch and develop back issues over time. That was a friend, not me. 

Colin Campbell said at the GM meetings in Chicago ahead of the draft that the league is trying to "temper" the negative reaction the offside challenge has received from players and fans. 

There’s really only way to do that, and that’s to get rid of it.

See you in a year when we’re going through the same thing with goalie interference. 

Haggerty: Bruins need more than draft-weekend output if they want improvement

Haggerty: Bruins need more than draft-weekend output if they want improvement

CHICAGO – With the 2017 NHL Draft officially wrapped up and the proverbial eve of NHL free agency upon us, there wasn’t anything to get particularly alarmed or excited about when it comes to the Bruins actions over the last few days.

The Bruins lost a potential-filled defenseman that might never actually realize any of it in Colin Miller, and they followed up the expansion draft subtraction with an average draft class where they addressed defense, goaltending and their depth up front. But at the same time, it didn’t really feel like the Bruins got anybody in the draft that they were particularly bowled over by, and the B’s lost a potential trade chip once they’d used their 18th overall pick in the first round to select smooth-skating defenseman Urho Vaakenainen.

MORE: NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

The sense at this address, though not confirmed by anybody inside either organization, is that the Bruins weren’t willing to trade a first-round pick as part of a package for Wild defenseman Marco Scandella, and would have preferred Jonas Brodin if they were going to give up that kind of asset. Don Sweeney confirmed that Boston’s first-round pick was in play, but stressed it was for “target specific” players that the Bruins coveted.

A deal was never worked out for one of those “target specific” players, so the Bruins continue to move on and hope that something breaks over the next few weeks.

“I was on record saying we’d be offering our first-round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to do it, so we went ahead with our own pick. I was target specific on a few players and there were other considerations being discussed.

“It’s an area we’d like to address and help our team currently. I’m not going to stop exploring areas where we can improve our club. It’s hard to tell [which way trade talks will go]. Maybe people will feel that picks from next year’s draft will be even better, or they like that pool of prospects a little bit better. It’s hard to tell [where trade discussions will go], to be perfectly honest.”

At least the Bruins were right on time with picking a Finnish player in the first round as a record six players from Finland were nabbed in the first round of the draft, and one would hope that means all will benefit from the hockey talent streaming out of that Scandinavian country right now. It will take years to determine how Vaakenainen, Jack Studnicka, Jeremy Swayman and the other members of the 2017 draft class ultimately pan out, but it sure doesn’t feel like the same outpouring of talent as in 2015 when Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jake DeBrusk and the rest of the Bruins draft picks officially entered the Black and Gold system.

B’s assistant GM Scott Bradley admitted as much when discussing the entire draft class on Saturday afternoon at the United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins got good value, addressed organizational needs and felt good about the players they picked in each and every spot, but there isn’t going to be a Charlie McAvoy or David Pastrnak coming out of a really “meh” group of draft-eligible hockey players.

“Our first rounder is somebody we’re excited about. His skating is close to what we call a ‘5’ in our system. He’s a left-shot. You compare his skating to [Paul] Coffey at times, really mobile and transition defenseman,” said Bradley, who hadn’t run a draft board for the Bruins in roughly ten years while Wayne Smith and Keith Gretzky had been in charge of the Black and Gold’s scouting operations. “I think we addressed a lot of our needs. It wasn’t sexy, but I think we did well in addressing a lot of the organization’s needs.”  

So with the amateur draft and the expansion draft both in the rearview mirror, the Bruins must move on in the roster-building process while still facing a pair of big needs in top-6 left wing and top-4 left side defenseman. They may be able to nail down one of those needs by swinging a trade with their list of available assets including Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes, Jakub Zboril, Adam McQuaid and next year’s first-round pick.

A deal that would send a Spooner-led package elsewhere might be enough to land the big, skilled, young winger that the Bruins are currently in the market for, and provide top-6 insurance in case DeBrusk, Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork all aren’t quite ready for full-time duty skating, passing and finishing off plays with David Krejci.

It might be that the Bruins have to begin thinking about free agency as a viable place if they want to land a solid, top-4 D-man for the next handful of years to pair with Charlie McAvoy. Karl Alzner headlines a list of players that would be a good fit for the Black and Gold, but they would absolutely have to overpay for a 28-year-old UFA that’s averaged 20:13 of ice time per game over the course of his 591 career games with the Washington Capitals. More affordable would be a young, free agent defenseman like Dmitry Kulikov, who is still extremely young as he comes off a rough year with the Buffalo Sabres after getting traded there from Florida. Or other potentially available left-shot free agent defenseman like Brendan Smith or Ron Hainsey could be stop-gap answers for the Bruins until the next crop of D-men in Jakob Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Vaakenainen, and others, are ready to step up just like Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy did last season.

The bottom line is that the Bruins did perfectly fine over draft weekend with no true idea until a few years have passed for these teenage prospects, but they need to aim higher than “perfectly fine” with their offseason if they want to be any better at the NHL level next season. A big move or two will be needed from the Bruins front office if the B’s are going to make the jump that everybody wants to see from them over the next couple of seasons.