Morning Skate 329: Early look at the NHL Awards

Morning Skate 329: Early look at the NHL Awards

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.comBOSTON With only weeks remaining in the regular season, that means it will soon be time to vote on the NHL Awards handed out each summer in Las Vegas amid the glitz, glamour and Vegas trapping that scream out anything but the National Hockey League.Here are some candidates Im kicking around for each major award while counting down the days until the official ballot lands in my email inbox.Hart Trophy: Daniel Sedin, Corey Perry, Tim Thomas, Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist, Henrik Sedin, Jonathan Toews, Henrik Zetterberg, Lubomir Visnovsky, Nicklas Lidstrom, Keith Yandle. My thinking: Plenty of good candidates beginning with Daniel Sedin and his 96 points as the lead horse in the race with plenty of other candidates at every other position with some excellent hockey resumes. Pretty amazing that there are three Henriks in my MVP discussion kind of tells you what direction the NHLs elite are headed toward.Norris Trophy: Nicklas Lidstrom, Zdeno Chara, Lubomir Visnovsky, Keith Yandle, Dustin Byfuglien, Christian Erhoff, Shea Weber, Kris Letang, Drew Doughty, Brent Seabrook. My thinking: Theres an upper tier of defensemen in this years crop including Lidstrom, Visnovsky, Yandle, Chara and Weber that should dominate the voting as some of the other name defensemen really didnt live up to their hype this season. Lidstrom may walk away with another one at zz years old this season.Vezina Trophy: Tim Thomas, Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price, Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ryan Miller. My thinking: When a guy like Tim Thomas is 10 points ahead of everybody else in the save percentage category and setting modern day NHL records, there really isnt much a race. You can make some nice arguments for good goalie performances on lesser hockey teams, but there should be an investigation if Thomas doesnt take it home.Calder Trophy: Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture, Michael Grabner, Tyler Ennis, Taylor Hall, Brad Marchand, Cam Fowler, P.K. Subban, Kevin Shattenkirk, Corey Crawford, Sergei Bobrovsky, James Reimer. My thinking: Jeff Skinner is the leading scorer and was the It boy at NHL All-Star weekend, but this is Logan Coutures award after watching him burst on the scene in San Jose. A pretty impressive rookie crop that really outlasted both Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin when it came down to it.Selke Trophy: Ryan Kesler, Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Mike Richards, Travis Zajac. My thinking: This should be Keslers year to take home a trophy along with the rest of the his Canucks teammates, but Toews, Bergeron and Richards all deserve real consideration with Datsyuk battling through so many injuries this season.Jack Adams Award: Bruce Boudreau, Peter Laviolette, Dan Bylsma, Guy Boucher, Claude Julien, Barry Trotz, Alain Vigneault, Mike Babcock, Dave Tippett. My thinking: After playing through the blaring spotlight of HBOs 247 cameras and an underachieving first half that had many people calling for his head, Bruce Boudreau has emerged with a team playing great hockey in the second half of the season. He deserves plenty of consideration, though this may come down to Vigneault for the season hes enjoyed with the dominant Canucks or Boucher helping to steer the Lightning to their first playoff berth since 2007.On to the links: A one-on-one interview with the Vancouver Sun andMontreals Mike Cammalleri about a wide-ranging number of subjects.Joe Yerdon and the NBC Pro Hockey Talk crew shine the proper amount of light on Scott Arniel for calling it like he sees it in Columbus. Adrian Dater goes through some Monday morning quarterbacking at Versus.comCSNPhilly.com hockey insider Tim Pannacciohas the scoop on ticket prices being raised for Flyers fans in Philadelphia.According to the boys at Wicked Good Sports, there is nobody that the Bruins should play in the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs.CBCs Elliotte Friedman weighs in with his 30 thoughts including a pair of thoughts about the whole Mark RecchiMax Pacioretty saga that played out last week between Boston and Montreal.Bruins President Cam Neely sits down with Felger and Mazz on 98.5 the Sports Hub to talk about the upcoming playoffs.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.