Bruins get first shot at Stanley Cup since 1990

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Bruins get first shot at Stanley Cup since 1990

ByArtMartone
CSNNE.com

You'd have to be in your mid- to late 20s to remember the last time the Bruins were in the Stanley Cup Finals, and at least in your 30s to be able to appreciate it. They were quick fodder for the Edmonton Oilers -- losing in five games, just two years after being swept by the same team in four -- and an amazing thing has happened as time has past.

The 1990 Bruins have been taken off the hook.

"They had no chance," is the conventional wisdom nowadays. "Edmonton was an overwhelming favorite." "They were lucky to be there."

No, no, and no.

All that was true in 1988, the last year of the dynastic GretzkyMessierKurriFuhr Oilers. That team may have finished second to Calgary in the Smythe Division that year, but they swept through the playoffs in a mere 14 games -- sweeping Calgary in the quarterfinals and needing only five to beat Winnipeg in the opening round and Detroit in the semifinals before knocking off the Bruins in a four-game sweep -- in winning their fourth Stanley Cup in five years. The B's truly were overmatched that time around.

But they weren't in 1990.

First off, Boston was better in '90 than it was in '88. Ray Bourque was in his prime. So was Cam Neely. Andy Moog had taken over as the No. 1 netminder and led the way as the B's allowed the fewest goals in the league. The Bruins were a league-best 46-25-9 that season, good for 101 points . . . 11 better than Edmonton (38-28-14), which again finished second. After a nailbiting seven-game opening round playoff series against Hartford, they needed only five games to beat Montreal in the quarterfinals and four games to beat Washington in the semifinals.

The Oilers? Wayne Gretzky was gone, having been traded to Los Angeles after the '88 Cup. Grant Fuhr, who battled injuries and substance abuse problems during his final years in Edmonton, played in only 13 games. They were good, but they weren't the team they'd been just two years earlier.

Game 1 was in Boston, and the Bruins overcame a 2-0 deficit with two third-period goals in forcing overtime. But -- with an open net to shoot at, as Oilers goalie Bill Ranford had been knocked down and was out of position -- Glen Wesley, standing alone in the slot, fired a shot over the crossbar in the first overtime period. A sure goal, and a Game 1 victory, was instead . . . nothing.

And when Petr Klima, who'd been nailed to the bench for most of the game, scored in the third overtime after 1 a.m., the Bruins were down 1-0 in the series.

They'd never get that close again.

They were blown out in Game 2, 7-2, They managed to win Game 3 in Edmonton, 2-1, but lost 5-1 in Game 4 and 4-1 in Game 5. The Oilers were champs, and the Bruins were bridesmaids for the second time in three years (and fourth time since 1977). It was the most disappointing of all the losses, since -- unlike the other three times they'd gotten to the Finals -- they weren't outclassed, talent-wise, by their opponents.

Now, finally, they get another shot at history.

A history that's been rewritten a little over the last few years.

Art Martone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

Haggerty: Bruins need to close on a D-man this weekend

Haggerty: Bruins need to close on a D-man this weekend

BUFFALO – Don Sweeney’s mission for this weekend, should he choose to accept it, is to come away with a top-four defenseman capable of transitioning the puck for a Bruins team badly in need of that exact kind of impact player.

But it’s not just about simply acquiring the established blueliner that will add legitimacy to the team’s woebegone back end, and perhaps finally stabilize a group that was routinely substandard last season. It’s also about Sweeney and the Bruins pulling it off without compromising the Black and Gold’s long-term future any more than management has already done with some ill-advised moves over the past year.

That will be the tricky part as other NHL suitors queue up to start the bidding for puck-movers such as Kevin Shattenkirk and Cam Fowler. A source with knowledge of the situation told CSNNE.com on Friday morning that “there’s a very good chance [Shattenkirk] is a Bruin, Ranger or Flyer” when next season opens in October.

Of course, Shattenkirk, 27, will also be looking at a seven-year deal worth $7.5 million per season if Bruins want to hold onto the All-Star defenseman beyond 2016-17, after the Panthers signed Keith Yandle to a massive $44.5 million contract this week.

The big question for this weekend is at what cost Shattenkirk will be delivered?

Will the Bruins be pushed into giving up the 14th overall pick in the first round and potentially deal away the chance to draft Dante Fabbro or Charlie McAvoy, who could both be a Shattenkirk-level All-Star defenseman within the next three years?

“I think Fabbro is exactly the same as Shattenkirk was at this stage in his development,” said one talent evaluator for a Western Conference team. “He can move the puck, he makes decisions quickly and there’s a certain smoothness to his game that’s very similar. He’s going to be a very good defenseman in the NHL someday.”

Sources with knowledge of the situation were skeptical that the 29th overall pick in the first round would be enough, along with a young forward, to get the deal done with St. Louis for Shattenkirk. But Sweeney would also be wise to hold to that stance and fight the temptation to deal away a draft pick that will get the Bruins a good, young player ready to contribute within a couple of years.

“There are two sides to it. You have to look at what the cost may be relative to the situation that we’re in. We have two first round picks, so I’m exploring all opportunities with them. I feel very good about making two selections if that’s the direction we go because acquisitions costs are too high,” said Sweeney, who said it would have to be a “very substantial” player to get the Bruins to make the 14th overall pick. “Then we’d go back into the UFA market if needed. We’re pursuing all of it. We’re not going to stop. It’s just a matter of whether or not the line for buying into some players is too punitive to wade into.”

There’s also the problem that GMs with young, restricted free agent defensemen like Jacob Trouba will be demanding that the Bruins part with David Pastrnak or Frank Vatrano, and that’s if the Bruins aren’t already outbid with names like Matt Duchene and Taylor Hall swirling around as potentially available for trade. That’s the difficult neighborhood Sweeney is traversing through this weekend amid a gauntlet of greedy, opposing GMs and it doesn’t allow for any more flubs from the B’s front office.

“The forecasting part of the business is difficult, obviously. Whether or not you take a player [in the draft] that in two or three years will be ready, or maybe not,” said Sweeney. “I’ve used Kyle McLaren a long time ago as a guy that walked through the door [to NHL training camp] and surprised everybody. So, we get excited whether it’s Brandon Carlo, Robbie O’Gara or Matt Grzelcyk. Those are going to be good pieces for our organization, but it’s up to each individual player as to when they’re going to be ready to play.

“But it’s delicate when you look at what that player is bringing to the table in reference to trading the 14th pick overall and the impact of whether that player is going to be around and part of what we’re trying to do now, and moving forward. We want to be a competitive team that has an opportunity to win each and every year, and then certain times when the window is there then you may tip the scales [to the short term] a little bit. But until you get there [from a competitive standpoint] then I think you have to be patient. My job is to build the best hockey team that I can possibly build for this year, and for moving forward. We have to be committed to the overall process. Being a competitive team that’s in a position to be in a playoff race, and win, is the only goal we have. But I’m not going to leverage it to the point where we’re just chasing it all the time.”

It will help that the Bruins have young defensemen like Carlo, O’Gara and Grzelcyk on the way, and that Sweeney believes they can perhaps contribute at some point next season, or certainly in 2017-18 after a year of AHL development. The question is whether both Sweeney and Bruins President Cam Neely will be able to see through those players’ development arcs if the Bruins again fails to make the playoffs for a third straight season.

The Bruins GM can’t afford another miscalculation sending a third-round pick to Philadelphia for Zac Rinaldo, who might never play another game in the NHL again. He can’t take pennies on the dollar like he did last season in a rash, rushed Dougie Hamilton trade that undoubtedly has the 29 other NHL GMs feeling like they can swindle the Bruins when push comes to shove.

One thing that’s a positive for the Bruins, however:  Sweeney still feels like there are multiple targets that will yield the B’s a quality NHL defenseman as soon as this weekend. With Sami Vatanen signing in Anaheim and both Alex Goligoski and Yandle signing long term deals with Arizona and Florida, one might think that the D-man supply was running a little thin.

But Sweeney is having multiple conversations with a number of teams, and even hinted that some names are in play that haven’t been widely circulated in the usual NHL rumor mills. This is where names such as Dmitry Kulikov fit into the equation if the Bruins are beaten to the punch for both Shattenkirk and Fowler.

“There’s supply everywhere. I’ve had discussions with multiple teams about players, and you might not even necessarily know that they’re available,” said Sweeney. “It’s just a matter of how it all lines up. We have targets and we have players that we think will improve our hockey club.

“There are plenty of them still available. Whether or not they land, I can’t sit here and tell you with absolute certainty that one is coming our way. But we’re in talks with several teams to see. But I’m not going to chase it because I think our younger players are going to push. But we’ll look to improve in every way, shape or form that we can.”

The Bruins have talked a great deal over the last year about improving their back end, but this weekend is the time when they need measured, prudent action more than the optimistic, hopeful words.

Friday, June 24: Looking back at 10 goalies drafted in top 10

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Friday, June 24: Looking back at 10 goalies drafted in top 10

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering if Guerschon Yabusele is a member of House Baratheon, or the True Warden of the North?

*A look at the past 10 goaltenders drafted in the top 10 of the NHL draft, including the immortal Rick DiPietro.

*Some of the “other” NHL Awards that were handed out a couple of nights ago courtesy of Barstool Sports.

*Jim Benning said a lot yesterday, including that the Canucks have interest in Milan Lucic and that he called Montreal about P.K. Subban.

*Charlie McAvoy talks about the NHL draft process as part of a piece for the Players Tribune headed into this weekend.

*Speaking of Subban, is he the true target for Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli during this week leading up to free agency?

*The fans, and some of the media, are upset about Erik Karlsson losing out to Drew Doughty in the Norris Trophy voting. One man’s opinion: if Karlsson was the best defensemen in the league last season then the Senators probably would have made the playoffs.

*The Islanders need to provide some help for John Tavares whether they keep the No. 19 pick or trade it for players to help them now.

*Mike Harrington got some thoughts from Evander Kane and Jack Eichel on the excitement surrounding the Sabres, and more of the moves made to improve them this summer.

*You don’t read about an NHL draft prospect surviving a meteor strike every day, do you? Here’s an interesting piece on Vitaly Abramov.

*For something completely different: I don’t think anybody cares whether Ben Affleck was buzzed or not when he ripped into the NFL over Deflategate. We’re just glad he did it. Side memo to Deadspin: stop trying to make “Ballghazi” happen. It’s just not.

 

Sweeney, Bruins hoping they get a crack at Vesey

Sweeney, Bruins hoping they get a crack at Vesey

BUFFALO – It’s not much of a mystery that the Bruins have keen interest in Hobey Baker winner Jimmy Vesey.

The Harvard captain is expected to be a free agent on Aug. 15 rather than sign before that date with the Buffalo Sabres despite Buffalo GM Tim Murray trading for his exclusive negotiating rights earlier this week. The Sabres shipped a 2016 third-round pick to the Nashville Predators for Vesey’s rights, and they still remain one of the favorites to land the big winger based in large part on his friendship with Jack Eichel.

Murray also had the wherewithal to take ownership of those rights based on the four third-round picks they owned going into this week, while the Bruins hold zero third-round picks this year, and next, after flipping them for John-Michael Liles and Zac Rinaldo.  Still, the Bruins still have a puncher’s chance of signing Vesey based on him growing up in North Reading, Mass., as a B’s fan, and his equally tight relationship with Bruins defenseman prospect Matt Grzelcyk.

Who wouldn’t want Vesey after posting 24 goals and 46 points in 34 games for Harvard last season, and projecting to immediately jump into an NHL lineup as a 23-year-old top-six winger working on an entry level contract.

“I spoke to Nashville on several items, and that player [Vesey] did some up,” said Sweeney. “[The Sabres] took a swing at the window that they think will help them from a recruiting standpoint. I’m sure that even Nashville would admit that if it gets to August that there will be 29 teams courting him. We’ll see what happens between now and them. If we’d had a [third- round pick] then possibly [we could have traded for his rights]. I don’t really deal in whether or not I had or had not and whatnot, but you have to acknowledge that he’s a good player.

Unfortunately there has also been plenty of sentiment from people close to the Vesey camp that the family has wariness about the local kid playing for the Bruins after the way a struggling Jimmy Hayes was knocked around publicly in his first season in Boston. The theory there is that Vesey would be in a better position to succeed in a setting such as Buffalo, with an improving young core group and Eichel already playing the savior role in the eyes of fans and media.

Vesey’s camp maintains that they want to talk to all interested teams when he becomes a free agent on Aug. 15, but it’s believed the Bruins, Sabres, Maple Leafs and Penguins are the strong favorites to land the talented kid’s services.