Bruins readying for big Rangers challenge

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Bruins readying for big Rangers challenge

WILMINGTON, MA The Boston Bruins and New York Rangers should be looking to make an Eastern Conference statement right off the bat on Saturday night as they open the 48-game NHL regular season at TD Garden.

The Rangers have traditionally had Bostons number over the years, and Henrik Lundqvist is one of the Black and Golds longtime tormentors, so motivation and adrenaline shouldnt be a problem for the Bruins.

Its up to us to go out there and perform. Weve talked a lot about that and getting back our good habits, and we need to get that started off on the right foot against the Rangers, said Milan Lucic. They finished first in the Eastern Conference last year and theyre a team thats made a lot of strides in the last three or four years to become one of the elite teams in the NHL. I think its a good way to start because these are the ones that are easy to get up for. Youve just got to embrace the challenge and embrace the struggle and enjoy it.

It could be wildly unpredictable given the different conditioning levels players will be coming from and new additions to each teams lineup that may need some orientation time before theyre at maximum power. For the Bruins a rookie defenseman like Dougie Hamilton will be playing in the NHL for the first time, and will be paired with Dennis Seidenberg in a role that could be significant.

For the Rangers prototypical All-Star power forward Rick Nash is inserted into the Blueshirts lineup, and hell have to find a way to coexist with players like Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards in a long-established chemistry formed under head coach John Tortorella.

With 17 of the last 21 games between the Bruins and Rangers getting decided by one goal, it could be one simple mistake that means the difference between winning and losing in this one. That means Lundqvist and Bs goaltender Tuukka Rask will need to be on point, and the Bruins need to be much better than they were in a Sloppy Joe Special effort in Tuesday nights scrimmage at TD Garden.

Getting off to a good start will be key.

As you well know a lot of teams got off to good starts last season, but through an 82-game schedule they couldnt sustain it, said Claude Julien. "But in a 48-game schedule they will be able to sustain it, so we cant afford slow starts and we cant afford slumps.

With two games against the Rangers within their first three of the 48-game regular season, the challenge is clearly there for the Bruins to get off to a good start.

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

The Celtics' two main targets in free agency are expected to be Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin. But what if neither signs here . . . or what if the C's have other plans? This week, we'll look at some of  'The Other Guys' who might interest the Celtics: TODAY: Dallas' Nerlens Noel.

BOSTON -- When the Celtics had trade talks with Philadelphia last season, it was no secret they had their eyes set on Nerlens Noel.
 
The 23-year-old has shown tremendous potential as an elite, rim-protecting big man.

THE OTHER GUYS: POTENTIAL CELTIC FREE-AGENT TARGETS


The Dallas Mavericks saw those same qualities, which is why they engineered a trade for him last season despite knowing he would be a restricted free agent this summer.
 
And while he would certainly be the kind of player Boston would absolutely love to add to the mix, seeing the Mavericks go in a different direction seems highly unlikely.
 
But until he signs with the Mavericks or any other team, the Celtics can’t be totally discounted as a possibility if they strike out on Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin.
 
WE LIKE HIM BECAUSE . . .
 
His proven body of work and his potential. Noel has shown flashes of being a decent player offensively, but he’s going to get paid handsomely this summer because of his defense and rebounding.
 
According to Basketball-reference.com, Noel has been among the NBA’s top 10 in defensive box plus/minus two of his three NBA seasons.
 
During the 2014-15 season, his defensive plus/minus was +4.5 (fourth in the NBA) and the following season it was +3.4 (eighth in the NBA).
 
And while his upside is viewed primarily through a defensive prism, his presence on the floor seemed to provide a much-needed jolt to the Mavericks offensively.
 
In his 22 games with Dallas, he averaged 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds with a solid offensive rating of 106.1.
 
NOT CRAZY ABOUT . . .
 
You love Noel’s length and athleticism, but you wish he would add some weight to withstand the physical rigors of playing primarily in the post. In an ideal world, Noel will add another 10-15 pounds, which would put him weight-wise similar to another standout Maverick from a few years back, Tyson Chandler. But Noel’s narrow shoulders and pogo-stick thick legs will likely result in his current 228-pound frame not changing much in the near future. He will still be a factor defensively, but there will be nights when stronger, more physical centers will give him problems. Fortunately for him and the Mavericks, big men whose strength is well, their strength, are becoming scarce in this new age of position-less basketball in the NBA.
 
IN CONCLUSION . . .
 
Noel would look really good in a Celtics uniform, but there’s little to no chance the Mavericks allow him to get away. They've made it clear that re-signing the 6-foot-11 big man is their top priority. And short of Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry saying they want to become a Maverick, it’s highly unlikely Dallas will change course.
 
PRICE TAG
 
Four-year, $106.4 million. That’s the most a team outside of Dallas can offer the soon-to-be restricted free agent. Noel knows the Mavericks won’t hesitate to offer him a max contract, which would give him more guaranteed years (five), better raises (eight percent versus five percent) and a total package of $143.55 million, which is more than $37 million beyond what other teams like the Celtics can offer.
 
Again, something would have to go unexpectedly wrong for Noel to wind up on any roster other than the Mavericks.

Bruins sign restricted free agent Acciari to two-year deal

Bruins sign restricted free agent Acciari to two-year deal

The Bruins have locked up a potential fourth-line piece for next season at a bargain basement price.

The B's signed Rhode Island native and Providence College alum Noel Acciari, a restricted free agent, to a two-year deal worth $1.45 million, a contract that breaks down to a very affordable $725,000 cap hit for each of the next two seasons. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound bowling ball of a forward finished with two goals and five points in 29 games for the Bruins last season, and has appeared in 48 games at the NHL level over the last two seasons in Boston. It was also encouraging that Acciari seemed to be tapping a bit more into his offense toward the end of the season, and was building some confidence for whatever modest offense he’ll end up bringing to the NHL table once he’s reached his potential ceiling as a player.

Clearly the two-year, one-way deal portends that Acciari, 25, will be counted on as a high energy, hard-hitting fourth-line player who does a good job of aggravating opponents while playing at full tilt. The real question is whether his body can hold up with his maximum effort style of playing, and whether he can avoid serious injuries with some of the car-crash level of violence he puts in his hitting.

Acciari has battled several different injuries over the last couple of seasons, but managed to be healthy enough to log time in the playoffs for both Boston and the P-Bruins.

Either way it’s a low-risk, affordable contract for the Bruins for a young player who, if healthy, will be a large piece on their fourth line as a diligent worker and excellent teammate. So that’s a good proactive signing for Don Sweeney as he continues to work on a more complicated contract for a higher profile player like David Pastrnak.