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, Heinen called back up to Bruins

Acciari, Heinen called back up to Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Bruins made a few roster moves after a slogging 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche earlier this week, with an eye toward getting some competition going among the forward group, and perhaps spark a team struggling offensively.

Danton Heinen and Noel Acciari were brought up from Providence to skate with the big club on Saturday morning at Warrior Ice Arena and gritty Anton Blidh was returned to the P-Bruins after a solid stint as a fourth-line energy guy for the Black and Gold. 

Jimmy Hayes and Colin Miller were the late skaters off the ice following morning skate, so those will be the healthy scratches for the Bruins with both Acciari and Heinen in the lineup for the Black and Gold tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.

Heinen has been tearing it up for the P-Bruins lately with four goals and seven points in his past five games with a plus-2 rating, including a couple of two-goal games for a Providence team that’s starting to heat up. 

Otherwise, things looked fairly similar for the Black and Gold, who didn’t make any changes to the struggling top power-play unit that was a disaster on Thursday night in the first period. It was Patrice Bergeron in the bumper role, Ryan Spooner on the half-wall, David Backes at the front of the net and David Krejci and Torey Krug manning the point positions. 

Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings based on the morning skate: 

 
Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Heinen-Krejci-Backes

Spooner-Nash-Czarnik

Schaller-Moore-Acciari/Hayes

 
Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Morrow-K. Miller

C. Miller

Rask

 

Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

BOSTON - It would appear things can’t continue the way they are for the Bruins' power play. 

After a disastrous first period helped dig them a hole in a 4-2 loss to the lowly Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, there was some pretty serious soul-searching going with a man-advantage that has been both toothless and mistake-prone on far too many nights. 

In the Colorado loss a couple of early power-play possessions, one that was completely ineffectual with zero meaningful possession or shots on net and then a second that turned into a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal, dropped the B’s into a hole they couldn’t climb out of. The shorthanded sequence was particularly damning with a desperate Torey Krug diving to keep a puck in the offensive zone, and then watching helpless as MacKinnon beat him to the loose puck and then took off down the ice behind the last line of B’s defense. 

Krug placed the blame on himself for the high-risk play at the offensive blue line, but it’s hard to wholly blame somebody that was using hustle to try and make something happen offensively. 

“I thought they were tired, and if I could keep it in then we keep them hemmed in and get them running around. At the end of the day, it’s a 50-50 play, but maybe early in my career, I learn that now and probably won’t do it anymore. Sometimes you’ve got to go through those things to learn,” said Krug. “It’s just one of those plays I thought instinctively I could get there and keep him hemmed in, and you could even tell when he went in on the breakaway that he was tired.

So, if I keep that in and we keep them hemmed in, hopefully we get a couple chances. But we’ve got to be better, some of our better players on our team, and we’ve got to take the onus on ourselves to start capitalizing on opportunities and changing the game for our team.”

Nobody is going to reasonably suggest that a dangerous power-play guy like Krug be removed from the special-teams unit, but clearly something needs to change. The Bruins are tied for 25th in the NHL on the power play with a 14.1 percent success rate, and they can’t blame lack of opportunities because they’re middle of the road when it comes to power-play chances this season. 

Only the Flyers, Stars and Blackhawks have allowed more shorthanded goals than the Bruins (four) in 28 games played as well, so the Black and Gold essentially aren’t playing good defense or offense on the power play this year. Krug saie that it’s a mindset thing and that the Bruins need to get back to the confident, energetic way they attacked penalty kills last season. 

“We want to make plays, we want to help our team. It’s not like we’re out there not trying to make plays or anything, but we just have to be better,” said Krug. “We’ve got to have better focus, crisper passes, making quick plays to the net and making things happen. I feel like right now we might just be standing there, [just kind of] static, just hoping that things are going to happen and we’re not making them happen. 

“So, we’ve got to change our mindset, and like I said, those guys on that unit are the guys that will go to work and make sure we’re better next time for our team.”

But it goes beyond simple approach. The Bruins lost their second-leading PP goal-scorer last season when Loui Eriksson signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Other top unit PP performers like David Krejci,  Krug and Ryan Spooner haven’t been as good this season. Still, perhaps the biggest reason is the all-around offensive disappearance of Patrice Bergeron, who had 12 goals and 13 assists on the PP last season for a team-best 25 power-play points. This season, Bergeron has one goal and two points on the PP in 25 games and has been neutralized by opposing penalty kills from his “bumper” position roving up and down the slot. 

The Bruins are determined to ride things out with Bergeron both five-on-five and on the PP, and rightfully so, given his quality, productive body of work with the Bruins. He’s Boston’s best player and you don’t ever go away from those guys. 

But Bergeron has been ordinary for the Bruins on the PP after being extraordinary last season, and not much is going to change with the B’s man advantage unless No. 37 begins to find the range, confidence and short-term quick burst that’s needed for the B’s power play to flow through him like a well-oiled scoring machine. A greater impact by David Backes on the net-front power play could help and an uptick in PP production from Krug, Krejci and Spooner would obviously be welcome for the Black and Gold. 

But the Bruins power play is designed to play off Bergeron’s many qualities and strengths when he’s at his best, and a big part of the B’s troubles and Bergeron’s troubles are linked together because No. 37 has been less than his best in a season that’s been challenging for him from the very beginning.