Boston Bruins

Vegas: Bruins' odds to win Cup worse in 2018 than in 2017

Vegas: Bruins' odds to win Cup worse in 2018 than in 2017

The Vegas oddsmakers don’t think the Boston Bruins are one of the heavy favorites to win a Stanley Cup next season, and that’s probably not a huge surprise for anybody around the Black and Gold scene. But the Bruins have actually lost ground from last season, according to Bovada as Boston sits at 33-to-1 odds to win the Cup next season after things were decided between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators on Sunday night.

The Bruins were at 25-to-1 odds to win the Cup at this time a year ago, and stand with the same odds entering the offseason as a couple of fellow playoff teams, the Calgary Flames and Ottawa Senators. It feels a bit odd for the Bruins to have longer odds next season after qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, and doing so while introducing exciting young players like David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo into the lineup while reloading their NHL roster.

But then again the Vegas numbers guys have the Tampa Bay Lightning at 12-to-1 to win the Cup next season, and that means Vegas thinks there will be at least an Eastern team or two hops past the B's next season.    

Not surprisingly, the reigning Cup champ Pittsburgh Penguins are the Vegas favorites to win it all again at 9-to-1 odds to hoist the Cup at the end of the 2017-18 season.

The Penguins defeated the Nashville Predators in six games and became the first NHL team in the salary cap era to win back-to-back titles with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin driving the bus for the Pens in a big, big way. Here are the complete odds for all 31 NHL teams with the Vegas Golden Knights included as a 150-to-1 longest-of-longshots as an NHL expansion team joining the mix out West next season after this month’s expansion draft:

 

Pittsburgh Penguins                              9/1

Chicago Blackhawks                             12/1

Edmonton Oilers                                   12/1 

Tampa Bay Lightning                             12/1

Washington Capitals                              12/1 

Anaheim Ducks                                     14/1 

Nashville Predators                               14/1 

Dallas Stars                                          16/1 

Minnesota Wild                                     16/1

Montreal Canadiens                               16/1 

New York Rangers                                 16/1

Toronto Maple Leafs                             16/1 

Los Angeles Kings                                18/1 

Columbus Blue Jackets                         20/1 

San Jose Sharks                                   22/1 

St. Louis Blues                                      28/1 

Boston Bruins                                       33/1 

Calgary Flames                                     33/1 

Ottawa Senators                                    33/1 

Florida Panthers                                    40/1 

New York Islanders                                40/1 

Philadelphia Flyers                                40/1 

Winnipeg Jets                                       40/1 

Arizona Coyotes                                    66/1 

Buffalo Sabres                                      66/1 

Carolina Hurricanes                                66/1 

Detroit Red Wings                                 66/1 

Colorado Avalanche                              75/1 

New Jersey Devils                                 75/1 

Vancouver Canucks                               75/1

Las Vegas Golden Knights                    150/1

Haggerty: Right fit for Backes one of camp's lingering mysteries

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Haggerty: Right fit for Backes one of camp's lingering mysteries

BRIGHTON, Mass – With the start of Providence Bruins camp bearing down on Monday, the Boston Bruins know their NHL training camp numbers will be thinning out very shortly. That won’t change some pretty established forward combinations that head coach Bruce Cassidy has been working with throughout camp thus far.

Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have skated together consistently as they obviously should as one of the league’s most lethal duos, and they’ve been teamed with rookie Anders Bjork at right wing pretty consistently through camp. David Krejci and David Pastrnak have also been linked together for every practice, game and drill since the 21-year-old Pastrnak signed his new six-year contract, and it’s been rookie Jake DeBrusk with them for most of camp.
Matt Beleskey finished the night in Detroit with Krejci and Pastrnak, and one begins to wonder if that’s where the established, 28-year-old Beleskey finds himself when the regular season begins.

That may or may not change after the young left winger was taken off their line in Saturday night’s preseason debacle in Detroit, but the point stands that Krejci and Pastrnak are expected to be on the same line to start the season. The same would seem to be the case with Riley Nash and Noel Acciari as fourth liners that really established themselves toward the end of last season, and have had Tim Schaller and Jesse Gabrielle cycle through as candidates.

That leaves the Bruins third line where the choices aren’t quite as easy for Cassidy, and where there are several different options for the Bruins coaching staff. Ryan Spooner and David Backes played together an ample amount of time last season, and would seem to be a good combo where their very different strengths can complement each other. Sean Kuraly and Backes would certainly give the Bruins a big, bruising, North/South third line dimension, and showed how effective they could be in the first round of the playoffs against the Ottawa Senators.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson got some early looks with Backes as well, but it seems a foregone conclusion he'll start in the AHL after getting dinged up earlier this week in preseason action. Backes hasn’t been shy about his preference to see where this combo could take them given his preference for a bit of old school smash-mouth hockey.

“It depends on usage, and that conversation has yet to be had. Are we going to be a checking line that’s going to get the matchup against the other team’s top line, or if we’re going to roll three lines that can responsibly play against any line then the makeup of [the line] changes a little bit,” said Backes. “I think another big body to get pucks in and have that grind really wearing things down, and kind of setting things up for the line after us, is first and foremost on my mind.

“I think there are certainly plays to be made on entrances, but there’s a lot of times when there’s not. But starting up that grind game that’s there at times, the more often it’s there the better we are. It can be overwhelming for teams to have to be in their end for minutes on end, and get a fresh line change, while you’re still in the offensive zone. That’s how goals are created that aren’t made on the rush. In the second half of the game [against the Red Wings] with JFK not feeling so hot, Sean Kuraly and myself felt pretty good with his speed, his ability and just the unselfish type of “let’s go in here and grind” to make space for the other guys. I don’t know how it all sorts out or if they’ve A, B, C and D type of choices, but there’s still a great deal of camp. So hopefully that all gets sorted out, so we’re able to build chemistry with whoever it is.”

There are other pieces to be worked in like Frank Vatrano or possibly Beleskey if both of Boston’s rookie wingers stick on the NHL roster, but it would seem that the Bruins are facing a major philosophical decision with their third line after bringing Spooner back into the fold. Do they go big, strong and “crash and bang” with Kuraly and Backes, or do the Bruins try to amp up Backes’ offensive production as trigger man with Ryan Spooner setting him as a speedy, skilled playmaker?

“[Kuraly and Backes] enjoy playing together, and in the playoffs they had some level of success,” said Cassidy of Backes, who finished with an underwhelming 17 goals and 38 points in his first season with the Bruins. “At some point we have to get a look at that. Noel was in that mix. Do we want to add skill on the left side if Kuraly is in to complement them, or do we want kind of three North/South guys? Those are the things that training camp is going to answer. It’s difficult because if you’re building a heavier line, and you’ve also got a Ryan Spooner who is more of a skill guy with Vatrano speed. Now the questions will come what’s your third line? We’re going to do whatever is best to suit the team, and we’ll number the lines as we see fit afterward.

“But I think it’s important that Backes has the right type of chemistry player [on his line]. We’ve addressed the top two with Krejci and [Pastrnak] and Bergie and Marchand, so now we’ve got to find the proper fit for Backes for him to be an effective player for us. He’s a very good hockey player and we’ve got to make sure he plays with people that complement his game too.”

So what would this humble hockey writer do if he were making the hockey decisions?

Probably start Spooner with Backes and Vatrano on the third line to start the season given Spooner’s considerable talent on the power play, and what’s been a bit more determined effort to battle for one-on-one pucks in the preseason. There’s no harm in potentially keeping Kuraly as the 13th forward on the NHL roster, and then going to him if A) Spooner falls back into previous bad habits or B) the B’s coaching staff determines they need more of a punishing fore-check presence as they did mid-streak against the Sens in the playoffs.

It may not be perfect and the surplus of third line bodies may result in an early season trade given the need around the NHL for talented bottom-six centers, but the Bruins need to do whatever is necessary to consistently squeeze more production and quality shifts out of that group, and particularly out of Backes, this season. 

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Morning Skate: Can BU's Keller break through with Coyotes?

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Morning Skate: Can BU's Keller break through with Coyotes?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while watching the worlds of sports and politics collide this weekend.

-- Can former Boston University standout Clayton Keller become the NHL’s newest rookie sensation for the Arizona Coyotes? The skills and the skating are certainly there, but we’ll have to see if he can remain in one piece all season with a middling team around him.

-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has Kris Letang returning to the Penguins on Sunday. It still blows my mind that Pittsburgh was able to win the Cup without him in its lineup last spring.

-- Speaking of the Penguins, they say they will accept the White House invitation to visit after last year’s Cup win, and offer a pretty non-committal statement about what’s going on in the other three major sports right now.

-- It was a tremendously successful opening of Little Caesar’s Arena for the Detroit Red Wings last night as they stomped the Bruins in preseason action.

-- The Maple Leafs' Nazem Kadri is out to prove that last season wasn’t a one-year wonder.

-- For something completely different: Good to see another Stoneham guy getting some accolades for a dead-on impersonation.