If the flurry of moves made by the Bruins (37-15-8) over the past week is any indication, GM Don Sweeney and Boston’s front office understandably believes that with the right tweaks, this is a club that can contend for the Eastern Conference crown and Stanley Cup this spring. It all started last Tuesday as the B’s flipped Providence defenseman Rob O’Gara and a third-round pick to the Rangers (27-30-6) for defenseman Nick Holden. Then on Thursday, forward Frank Vatrano was moved to Florida (28-25-6) for a third-round pick. Finally, things reached a crescendo on Sunday morning as the Black and Gold made what is so far the biggest splash before Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline (3 p.m. EST) by acquiring winger Rick Nash (18 goals, 10 assists in 61 games) from New York for forwards Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey, a defensive prospect in college (Minnesota’s Ryan Lindgren) and first-round pick while also signing free agent forward Brian Gionta (BC’s all-time leading scorer and the Team USA captain from the just completed Pyeongchang Olympics) to a one-year deal.
The Nash rumors to the Bruins really started to percolate over the weekend and Bruins fans woke up to the exciting news on Sunday morning. New York will pay half of Nash’s remaining salary while Boston will do the same for the comically overpriced Beleskey. Nash’s credentials speak for themselves: the No. 1 overall pick in 2002 for Columbus is a six-time NHL All-Star and two-time gold medalist with Canada (where he played with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand) . He’s scored 434 career goals (5th most for active players) and had 365 assists. With Boston ending its five-game road trip in Buffalo (19-33-11) on Sunday night, Nash suited up in his familiar #61 jersey for his first game as a Bruin. Playing on the right wing (the left shot power forward can also work on the left side), Nash skated on Boston’s second line with rookie Jake DeBrusk (12 goals, 18 assists) and David Krejci (11 goals, 18 assists). The Bruins fell 4-1 to the lowly Sabres but Nash looked fine in his Bruins debut: his time on ice was 17:27 and he was minus-1 with five shots on goal (not including the snap shot he ripped off the post) and one blocked shot.
All season, Boston’s top line of Marchand (24 goals, 34 assists), Bergeron (27 goals, 27 assists) and David Pastrnak (22 goals, 33 assists) has carried them offensively so they had a obvious need for a big winger to pair with the skilled veteran playmaker Krejci at center. Nash certainly fits that demand as he stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 211 pounds. At 33 (he’ll be 34 in June), he’s playing in his 15th NHL season. He’s not at his peak anymore but you would have to expect that he will be very motivated going for his first ever Cup after he left the suddenly rebuilding Rangers.
Coming off their longest road trip of the season, Boston gets rewarded right away with its longest homestand (6 games). They host Carolina (27-25-10) on Tuesday (7, NESN) before a showdown with Pittsburgh (36-23-4) on Thursday (7, NESN) and a meeting with Montreal (23-29-9) on Saturday (5, NESN). After dropping its last two games, the Bruins have fallen behind the Leafs (39-20-5) into third-place in the Atlantic Division. Still, they are only five points behind Tampa Bay (42-17-3) with two games in hand and a point behind Toronto with four games in hand. In the words of Sixers star Joel Embiid, “Trust the Process.”