- With Boston off to a hot start to 2022 and nothing happening in terms of Jake DeBrusk’s trade request, head coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters including Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe that he’s not sure if the request still stands at this point. The 25-year-old has just five goals and five assists in 30 points this season and a change of scenery certainly couldn’t hurt at this point. However, with his performance not exactly boosting his value, Dupont argues that DeBrusk may be better off realizing that his best situation might be his current one, especially with the Bruins on a run at the moment.
The Boston Bruins have seemingly decided that Karson Kuhlman’s time on the active roster has come to an end for the time being, as Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that the depth forward is on waivers today.
Notably, if the Bruins wanted to clear a roster spot they could have sent the waiver-exempt Oskar Steen down, but the 23-year-old forward has played well of late in his first regular taste of NHL action. Kuhlman’s placement on waivers suggests that Steen has now secured his spot on the active roster, at least for now.
Kuhlman, 26, has played in 19 games this season for the Bruins and has registered just two points. In his last appearance against the Washington Capitals, he played just over ten minutes, almost exactly what he’s averaged for the year. The undrafted free agent signing out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth has played in 75 NHL games to this point in his career, racking up 111 hits and 15 points.
Interestingly, Kuhlman actually carries a cap hit lower than the league minimum salary, as his two-year deal comes with just a $725K average annual value. That could certainly be attractive to other teams, though fourth-line claims are still relatively rare.
It doesn’t make for much of an exciting stretch run, but it just might be the truth and The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington isn’t afraid to make the claim: less than halfway through the 2021-22 NHL season, the eight Eastern Conference playoff spots appear to be locked up. While the eight in place can certainly jockey for position, Harrington believes that those teams currently in the postseason in the East will stay in postseason position and those not, including his Buffalo Sabres, have nothing left to play for this season. Do you agree?
The conference standings do paint a pretty bleak picture for the playoff race, as the gap between the eighth and final playoff spot and the next closest competitor is sizeable. In terms of both absolute points and points percentage, the Boston Bruins sit in eighth in the East with 46 points and a .657 points percentage, holding the second wild card spot if the postseason started today. In ninth place in both categories are the Detroit Red Wings, but calling it a distant ninth is generous. Detroit has 39 points on the year, just seven back of Boston, but having played four more games than the Bruins the Red Wings are actually just a .500 team, 157 percentage points back. Every other team outside the playoff picture is under .500 and they are all chasing a Bruins team that is 8-2 in their past ten games, riding a five-game winning streak. Just ahead of Boston are the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are also 8-2 in their last ten. The only other teams in the conference that are not 200+ percentage points ahead of Detroit are the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers.
[See: Eastern Conference Standings]
Statistically, there don’t appear to be any clear underachievers outside of the playoff picture primed for a late push either. All eight teams not in a playoff spot in the East have a negative goal differential, with the top mark being the Columbus Blue Jackets at -15. In contrast, the worst differential among the playoff teams is the Rangers’ +17 and they are the only club below +20. Hardly any of the non-playoff teams hold a spot in the top half of the league in any major statistical category either. The New York Islanders are ninth in goals against per game and eleventh in penalty kill efficiency, the Blue Jackets are tied for twelfth in goals for per game, the New Jersey Devils are thirteenth on the penalty kill, and the Ottawa Senators are tied for fourteenth in power play efficiency – end of list.
Yet, can the playoff picture really be sealed up this early? The law of averages suggests that a current playoff team is likely to slump while a current non-playoff team is likely to hit their stride in the second half. In fact, this may have already begun. While the Bruins and Penguins have been surging, the Capitals are just 4-3-3 in their last ten games and struggling to find consistent goaltending and defensive play. The Capitals’ record is also buoyed by a league-leading nine overtime points and their abysmal 30th-ranked power play is a major stain on their playoff resume. If there is a pretender in the East, it could be Washington. The Rangers may also be due for some regression in the second half. New York has exceeded expectations thus far and have somehow found ways to win despite trouble scoring. Their 2.85 goals per game is tied for 18th in the league, behind the likes of Columbus and New Jersey and just .01 ahead of Ottawa. On the flip side of the playoff picture, the Islanders are one of the biggest disappointments of the season. A conference finalist last year, the Isles looked to be building a true contender. While they are still playing a good defensive game, the team has had no luck offensively this season. Yet, with a league-low 30 games played, the Islanders could have time to find their game and fight their way back into postseason consideration. At least on paper, the Philadelphia Flyers should also be better than their current record, while the rebuilding Red Wings and Blue Jackets should be happy with their performance so far this season but would be even happier to get their young rosters into a postseason battle.
It is hard to remember a conference having no battle for playoff position in recent memory, especially so early in the season. While it looks like that could be the case this year in the East, is that actual a realistic expectation? Is the current gap in the standings just too wide to overcome? Or is there enough potential for one or two teams in the playoff picture to collapse while one or two on the outside find a way back? Vote now and comment on which teams, if any, could drop out of the playoff picture and who might replace them.
- The Bruins announced (Twitter link) that defenseman Derek Forbort has cleared COVID protocol, missing only the minimum five days. His return will be a welcome one with John Moore being injured against Montreal on Wednesday and Matt Grzelcyk recently entering COVID protocol himself. Meanwhile, forward Trent Frederic isn’t ready to return yet from his upper-body injury while winger Nick Foligno has resumed skating as he works his way back from his lower-body issue.
During a live reveal on ESPN’s SportsCenter program in the United States, the National Hockey League unveiled their four divisional rosters for the 2022 NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Eight skaters and two goalies were announced for each team, leaving one skater spot open for each division. That last spot will once again be decided by a fan vote, who they can select by voting at NHL.com/LastMenIn.
The head coaches of each team were announced earlier, decided by the teams in first place (by points percentage) in their division on New Years Day. Florida’s Andrew Brunette heads the Atlantic Division, Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour will coach the Metropolitan Division, Colorado’s Jared Bednar is the bench boss for the Central Division, and Vegas’ Peter DeBoer will serve as the Pacific Division’s coach.
Below are the full rosters for each division.
F Auston Matthews “C” (Toronto Maple Leafs)
F Drake Batherson (Ottawa Senators)
F Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins)
F Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida Panthers)
F Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings)
F Nick Suzuki (Montreal Canadiens)
D Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo Sabres)
D Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning)
G Jack Campbell (Toronto Maple Leafs)
G Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning)
F Alex Ovechkin “C” (Washington Capitals)
F Sebastian Aho (Carolina Hurricanes)
F Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers)
F Jack Hughes (New Jersey Devils)
F Chris Kreider (New York Rangers)
D Adam Fox (New York Rangers)
D Adam Pelech (New York Islanders)
D Zach Werenski (Columbus Blue Jackets)
G Frederik Andersen (Carolina Hurricanes)
G Tristan Jarry (Pittsburgh Penguins)
F Nathan MacKinnon “C” (Colorado Avalanche)
F Kyle Connor (Winnipeg Jets)
F Alex DeBrincat (Chicago Blackhawks)
F Kirill Kaprizov (Minnesota Wild)
F Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes)
F Jordan Kyrou (St. Louis Blues)
F Joe Pavelski (Dallas Stars)
D Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche)
G Juuse Saros (Nashville Predators)
G Cam Talbot (Minnesota Wild)
F Connor McDavid “C” (Edmonton Oilers)
F Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers)
F Jordan Eberle (Seattle Kraken)
F Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames)
F Adrian Kempe (Los Angeles Kings)
F Timo Meier (San Jose Sharks)
F Mark Stone (Vegas Golden Knights)
D Alex Pietrangelo (Vegas Golden Knights)
G Thatcher Demko (Vancouver Canucks)
G John Gibson (Anaheim Ducks)
Jan 13: Matt Grzelcyk has now entered the protocol, along with another staff member. The Bruins recalled Tyler Lewington and Jack Ahcan today; the former would be making his Bruins debut should he enter the lineup as expected.
Jan 10: The Boston Bruins placed defensemen Connor Clifton, Derek Forbort, and a team staff member into the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol within an hour of puck drop of their game against the Washington Capitals tonight, per a team tweet.
In their absences, it’s likely that Urho Vaakanainen and John Moore will make up the bottom pair for tonight’s game. Warmups have already begun and the Bruins have no other defensemen on the active roster to fill in.
Forbort, who’s in his first season as a Bruin, has seven points through 31 games this year and has bounced around the team’s defensive pairings. He offers little offensively, but he’s had really good defensive impacts since joining Boston. His ability and versatility will certainly be missed while he’s in protocol.
Clifton has played in just 22 games, scoring two points, but he’s also been rather reliable defensively when in the lineup. Vaakanainen and Moore will need to play a responsible game in his and Forbort’s absences.
If all goes well, Clifton and Forbort could return January 18th against Carolina, the team’s first game after the conclusion of what could be five-day quarantines for them.
The Boston Bruins are officially bringing back one of the most successful goaltenders in franchise history, agreeing with Tuukka Rask on a new one-year contract for the rest of this season. According to PuckPedia and Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press the deal carries a cap hit of $1MM, but Rask will actually only earn $545K due to it coming this far through the season. CapFriendly adds that the contract also contains a no-move clause.
Now 34, Rask is coming off major hip surgery to repair a torn labrum and has been practicing with the Bruins for weeks. He also had recently signed a professional tryout contract with the Providence Bruins to try and get into game shape, but after the AHL squad saw several games postponed due to COVID, the agreement was terminated before Rask played. Instead, his return will come at the NHL level, potentially as soon as this week. The Bruins face the Montreal Canadiens tomorrow night and the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.
With 560 games of NHL experience, Rask brings a history with the Bruins that can’t be overlooked, even if the team was already getting solid goaltending from its current options. Offseason signing Linus Ullmark and young netminder Jeremy Swayman have combined for a .917 save percentage through 32 games this season. Swayman, who is still waiver-exempt, will likely spend some time in the minor leagues now that Rask is signed, though the team could also rotate three goaltenders over the second half of the season.
It’s completely unclear what kind of load Rask can handle at this point, but his promise of being a “cheap goalie” for the Bruins has come true. He’ll cost barely more than Swayman’s $925K and should not materially change Boston’s deadline cap space.
The 2020 Jennings winner and Vezina runner-up, Rask played in just 24 games last season and posted a .913 save percentage. He currently sits 33rd all-time in wins with 306, and fifth all-time in save percentage among goaltenders with at least 100 starts.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
Jan 7: Rask’s return to the P-Bruins will have to wait. The AHL has announced that games originally scheduled for tonight and Sunday will now be moved to April due to COVID-19 protocols affecting the Phantoms, meaning there are no Providence games until January 14 against the Hartford Wolf Pack.
The Maine Mariners, Boston’s ECHL affiliate, play the Adirondack Thunder tonight, tomorrow and Sunday, so perhaps there is a chance that Rask sees action there instead.
Jan 6: After being rumoured this past week, unrestricted free agent goalie Tuukka Rask is officially on his way to making a comeback in Boston. The Bruins announced this morning that he’s signed a professional tryout agreement with their AHL affiliate in Providence.
Rask will play his first AHL game in 13 years when he starts for Providence against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms tomorrow. His last season with Providence was in 2008-09, where he played in 57 games and posted a 33-20-4 record and .915 save percentage.
The 34-year-old Rask didn’t sign a contract with the Bruins this offseason after he underwent hip surgery, which left his playing future uncertain. Once it became clear that Rask would be able to return to NHL hockey, the NHL granted Rask and the Bruins an exemption, allowing Rask to use the Bruins’ facilities while unsigned to assist in his recovery.
His return casts some serious uncertainty over what the Bruins’ goalie depth chart could look like, however. The plan always seemed to be, at least after signing Linus Ullmark to a big-money deal this offseason, that Jeremy Swayman would head down to Providence to make room for Rask as he doesn’t require waivers.
That’s a tough decision to make at this point in the season, though. Swayman’s put up better stats than Ullmark this season and has received nearly equal usage, with Swayman putting up a .920 save percentage in 15 starts and Ullmark putting up a .917 in 14 starts.
It’s a decision to make later, though. For now, Bruins fans and staff are happy to have Rask back with the team, and Rask is certainly happy to get one more shot, maybe his last, at a Stanley Cup ring.
When Rask eventually plays for Boston this season, though, it will be the return of a living legend to the Bruins crease. He’s first in franchise history in terms of games played (560), wins (306), and save percentage (min. 50 games) (.921).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
- Per ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy is out for tonight’s game against Minnesota with a lower-body injury, although he notes it’s not a long-term ailment. It goes without saying that McAvoy is the rock for Boston’s blue line, scoring 20 points in 28 games and averaging 24:22 per game. In his place, 31-year-old John Moore likely slides into the lineup for just the fifth time this season.
Jan 4: The San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins have each announced more COVID-related absences. The Sharks have placed Logan Couture and Lane Pederson in the COVID protocol, recalling Adin Hill and Scott Reedy in the process. Alexei Melnichuk has been reassigned to the San Jose Barracuda.
Couture, the Sharks captain, was not one of the players who entered the protocol earlier this season, though he also was missing for one of the games they played shorthanded due to a non-COVID illness. He’ll now be sidelined for the next little while, likely missing at least this evening’s game as well as two others in the coming days.
With Hill out, Couture and Pederson will join only Mario Ferraro in the protocol at this time. Head coach Bob Boughner confirmed to reporters including Curtis Pashelka of Mercury News that Couture is positive but has not yet experienced any symptoms. With the league’s new policy, that means he could potentially exit the protocol in five days, should he be able to provide a negative test.
The Bruins meanwhile have placed Jake DeBrusk and three staff members in the protocol, where they will join Karson Kuhlman. DeBrusk has had quite the eventful season so far, with his trade request going public only for the Bruins to put him back in the lineup due to other absences. In the two games the team has played since the holiday break, DeBrusk has taken a regular shift in both, even playing more than 16 minutes on Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings.
Now, as he finds himself in isolation, he’ll be forced to miss at least tonight’s game and likely at least two others in the next few days.