Those with big dreams for the Black and Gold might try imagining Vladimir Tarasenko in Bruins sweater No. 91, powering the right side of David Krejci’s line and lifting the Bruins to the ranks of the truly elite.
It’s a stretch, but the Blues, considered to be sellers at the Feb. 25 trade deadline, have reportedly been listening to offers on their elite winger, who is signed through 2024 at $7.5 million per year. When Tarasenko’s entry-level deal expired in 2015, he signed an eight-year, $60 million extension (David Pastrnak’s second deal: six years, $40 million in 2017).
Tarasenko is a big (6 feet, 225 pounds) left shot who plays his off wing, with highlight-reel hands, sublime vision, and excellent strength (though he could use the latter a little more; he is often content to rely on his heavy shot). The 27-year-old entered Thursday night’s game against the Bruins ranked third in goals since 2014-15 with 164. Only Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares had scored more. Tarasenko also had 153 assists in the last four-plus years, right behind Krejci (155).
To get him, the Bruins would have to pile assets higher than the Gateway Arch. The Blues would no doubt demand some combination of top picks, young standouts such as Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk, and high-end prospects (including, but not limited to, St. Louisan Trent Frederic). The Bruins have only around $3.8 million in space, according to CapFriendly. For those reasons, it likely never gets past the “dream” stage, but what a reality it would be.
Chara fights back
Zdeno Chara had seen enough. When St. Louis winger Patrick Maroon took an extra shot at McAvoy behind the Bruins’ goal late in the first period, and bumped into Chara as he skated away, the 41-year-old captain grabbed him.
In the ensuing scrap, Maroon, 6 feet 3 inches and 225 pounds, held his own for a moment, but Chara, 6 inches taller and 25 pounds heavier, topped him with a pair of rights.
“He finished a check pretty hard on Charlie,” Chara said of Maroon. “He was being heavy. I’m going to push back. Fair fight.”
The two have history.
Chara pummeled Maroon two years ago, when Maroon’s Oilers came to TD Garden. Thursday’s fighting major was Chara’s first since March 1 of last year. He has fought 25 times in his 11 seasons as a Bruin.
Ryan Donato said he was not checked for a concussion on Wednesday after the Flyers’ Jori Lehtera sent him face-first into the dasher in Philadelphiaa.
“I was fine. It wasn’t my head. It was just my lip that got split open,” said Donato, who had several stitches across his upper lip when interviewed Thursday morning. After Lehtera took the boarding major and game misconduct with 3:12 left in the second period, Donato got stitches and returned for the third. He skated 12:05 in total (minus-1, one shot, six attempts).
“I was in a pretty vulnerable spot,” Donato said. “It’s a blessing I didn’t get hurt more than I did. Lucky I didn’t hurt my head in any way. It’s part of the game. It was a hard play. I was in a tough spot, and I think any kind of pressure on my back could have put me into the boards like that.”
Donato, who wore ice on his hand after Thursday’s game, skated 9:24 and was replaced as a second power-play shooter by surging Peter Cehlarik.
Backes back in
David Backes, the captain in St. Louis for the last five of his 10 seasons (2006-16), was back in the lineup Thursday. The 34-year-old, stuck at 4-8—12 through the previous 38 games, was a healthy scratch Wednesday. He had not been asked to sit in a dozen years.
Backes, who had a four-game run on Krejci’s right side, played with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner and scored his fifth goal to tie the game at 2. Coach Bruce Cassidy scratched Noel Acciari for the eighth time this season.
On the back end, John Moore returned after a three-game press box stint. He replaced Matt Grzelcyk on Kevan Miller’s left. Grzelcyk, his offensive game flourishing in recent weeks, had not been a healthy scratch this season. Moore, a lefthanded shooter who was on the right of Torey Krug before he was scratched, feels “a little more comfortable” on his left but added he’s “pleasantly surprised” with how he’s adapted to his weak side.
“He had some rust,” Cassidy said of Moore.
In Backes’s place on Krejci’s right flank, seemingly for an extended run: Cehlarik, 23 and on his fourth career recall from AHL Providence. In his first varsity game of the season (18th career), he scored twice in the 4-3 loss to the Flyers, snapping home a strong-looking one-timer and deflecting a six-on-five shot from Brad Marchand.
For the second night in a row, Cehlarik took a minor penalty but made smart plays all over the ice, especially in the neutral zone. He registered an assist on the opening goal and is 2-1—3 in two games. Cassidy was effusive in his praise afterward.
“Liked the way he plays,” said linemate DeBrusk, who had stints with him with Providence, and a little last season. “I think him and Krech work really well together.”
Is Cehlarik the answer to the Bruins’ secondary scoring woes? If he can keep this up, perhaps. In the last seven games entering Thursday, only Marchand (four goals), Pastrnak, Krejci, and DeBrusk (three each) had scored more than Cehlarik.
“It’s been going well for me in the last couple weeks,” said Cehlarik. “I feel like a lot of pucks are going in. I want to keep this feeling going as long as I can.”
Rask, Tiny all tied up
Tuukka Rask tied Tiny Thompson on Boston’s all-time wins list (252). Cassidy will announce Friday if Rask will get a shot to break the record Saturday against the Rangers, the Bruins’ last game before a nine-day break . . . Krejci extended his point streak to five games (3-3--6) and has a 3-6—9 line in his last nine games. Krug is a point-per-game player (1-9--10) in his last 10.
The Blues (20-21-5), ending a four-game road swing in Boston, lost 2-1 in overtime at the Islanders on Tuesday. The Blues were 4-1-0 in their previous five, including their first three-game win streak of the season. St. Louis is 13-12-2 under interim coach Craig Berube (Mike Yeo was turfed after starting his third season 7-9-3).
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports