Bruins

Bjork, DeBrusk getting early looks in big spots at Bruins camp

Bjork, DeBrusk getting early looks in big spots at Bruins camp

BRIGHTON, Mass – As expected, the talented kid forwards are going to get long looks up front in training camp for the Bruins. 

Anders Bjork was skating at right wing alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in the first on-ice session of camp at Warrior Ice Arena and similarly, Jake DeBrusk was at left wing along with David Krejci and Danton Heinen in the second session on Friday.

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It’s expected that Heinen will be moved around in favor of David Pastrnak on Saturday when the newly signed Czech right winger reports to camp. That means both young forward prospects, Bjork and DeBrusk, are going to get extended looks in top-six spots and get the best chance to win those jobs that are up for grabs at this point.

As far as Bjork goes, the Bruins hope the speedy, smart and skilled winger can pick up right where he left off at Notre Dame after posting 21 goals and 52 points in 39 games last season for the Fighting Irish. Certainly, things looked good on the first day of camp with the Bruins comfortable putting a talented youngster in something of an ideal spot skating with two of the best hockey players in the world.  

“[Bjork] has got a history of scoring at the collegiate level,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’s got pace to his game. Those are two things right off the bat [he has going for him]. We’re hoping he can keep his identity as a player with what he’s developed so far in his young career, and do the things he needs to do to be successful.

“Those two guys can certainly pick you up when you struggle or even play defensively. You’ve seen it over the years with Tyler Seguin and David Pastrnak have grown as young players, so yes there’s that advantage, and that’s why we’re able to even try this, because of the ability of those two to make such good defensive reads.”

It will be equally interesting to see what DeBrusk can do with Krejci as the two players attempt to build some chemistry after having never really played together before. DeBrusk is coming off a 19-goal season with the Providence Bruins, where he got better as the season went along, and plans on taking full advantage of the opportunity he’s being given at NHL camp.

“Obviously it’s just the first day of camp, but it’s cool to be out there next to [Krejci] for some of those drills,” said DeBrusk, the middle pick of the three consecutive first-round picks the Bruins made in 2015. “Any player would like to be in that spot and I know there are a lot of players fighting for it. I’m there right now and I want to do anything I can to stay there. I’m just want to get better acquainted with him, begin to read off him and get used to playing with a player like that who is a top-six centerman [in the NHL].”

Similarly, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson begins camp centering Frank Vatrano and David Backes in an audition of sorts for the third-line center role, and Charlie McAvoy was paired on the first day with Kevan Miller in a defensemen combination that we could absolutely see on opening night. It could be a very young lineup indeed for the Black and Gold if all these young talents show that they’re ready in the next three weeks of camp. 

Takeaways from the Bruins' 6-1 blowout loss to the Canucks

Takeaways from the Bruins' 6-1 blowout loss to the Canucks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins Saturday night 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Centre. 

1)  The young players for the Bruins are responding very differently while knowing they’re front and center in trade rumors going on this month. It’s a funny time of year when the rumors and the whispers kick up to high gear in the final weeks ahead of the NHL trade deadline, and it’s no different this season with the Bruins heavily involved with the deadline little more than a week away. Brandon Carlo has been mentioned early and often as a young D-man that’s drawn interest around the league, and it’s no surprise given that the 6-foot-5 defenseman has been a constant top-4 guy during his two seasons. He’s accomplished plenty at 21 years old and holds plenty of value around the league even if he’s never going to be a puck-moving demon like fellow youngster Charlie McAvoy. All that being said, Carlo responded to hearing and seeing his name kicked around by having one of his worst games of the season. Loui Eriksson basically backed him into the front of the Boston net on Vancouver’s first goal against the Bruins, and Carlo was an adventure with both defensive zone coverage and gap control all night. He finished a minus-4 in the blowout loss, and he was every bit that bad. Conversely, Jake DeBrusk has seen his name come up recently in the Ryan McDonagh rumors, and it’s clear other teams would hold him in high esteem given his solid NHL debut as a 21-year-old rookie this season. DeBrusk responded to the rumors by enjoying one of his best games of the season even if he didn’t end up on the score sheet. DeBrusk finished with four shots on net, hit a post in the first period on a nasty shot from the high slot and was turning pucks over while playing active, engaged hockey all night. DeBrusk was Boston’s best player, and that’s impressive given the circumstances. But then again, DeBrusk has shown early in his career that he responds in a very good way when he’s challenged by the circumstances around him. That kind of character is one of the reasons I wouldn’t want to give him up in a trade if I were Don Sweeney. Either way, it’s interesting to see how both of these young players are responding under the microscope. 

2)  Leave it to Loui Eriksson to pick his spot against the Bruins. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the years covering Eriksson, it’s that the Swedish winger can be a very good NHL player when he really wants to be. Like when he’s playing for a big contract in his final year with Boston, and posted 30 goals and 63 points while playing grittier and tougher than he ever had in his previous two seasons with the Bruins. After signing a huge six year deal with the Canucks, he responded with 11 goals and 24 points last season and is once again just “meh” this season as a minus player that’s pacing for much less than 30 goals and 60 points. But he rose to the occasion against his old Bruins team and scored a pair of goals while attacking the Boston net, and generally playing with an urgent approach that I’m pretty sure Vancouver hasn’t seen much of over the last two seasons. One of the best things that Don Sweeney did was take a pass on the passive, play-when-the-mood-strikes Eriksson, and instead replace him with a bigger, tougher and more consistent – if not quite as offensively gifted – winger in David Backes. Good luck with four more years of Eriksson, Vancouver. Yikes. 

3)  Once again Thomas Vanek gave Bruins fans a reminder that he is a certified Bruins killer and that perhaps they could use a player like Vanek at the trade deadline. Vanek didn’t even have a shot on net during the game, but it was his play attacking the Boston net that freed up Daniel Sedin for a wide open goal during the four-goal, first period onslaught against the Bruins. The 34-year-old Vanek has 16 goals and 40 points this season along with a minus-13 rating, and definitely stands as one of those second tier wingers that could be available to Boston if they strike out on Rick Nash as the top rental winger that’s going to be available at the deadline. It’s interesting that both Vanek and Patrick Maroon, who are both on Boston’s trade radar, will be available to the Black and Gold if they want them after tormenting the Bruins pretty much every time they play against them. The current tally: 33 goals and 68 career points in 63 games, and a plus-21 mark against the Black and Gold. That is some serious damage against the Bruins over the years, so maybe it bodes well for what he could do if the notoriously streaky forward donned the Black and Gold.  

PLUS

*Loui Eriksson – Credit where it’s due to the Swedish winger that stepped up and probably had his best game of the season against the Bruins scoring a couple of goals and doing some of the things that allowed to put up a massive final season in Boston. The two goals and constant pressure around the net were a big factor in the win for Vancouver. 

*Jake DeBrusk – The Bruins rookie winger didn’t end up scoring any goals, but he was all around the net with four shots and one post on a Grade-A chance from the high slot. It was an impressive performance in an otherwise gross effort from the Bruins, and it also came in front of his dad, Louie DeBrusk, who was working the color analyst gig between the benches for Hockey Night in Canada’s crew covering the Canucks/Bruins game. 

*Anders Nilsson made 44 saves, so credit where it’s due in the victory over the Bruins. But the backup goalie was shaky throughout while not making any clean glove saves, so the best thing the Bruins ever did for him was fall way behind early in the first period. That took the pressure off Nilsson, and he was able to keep it simple with a big cushion and ride that to victory. 

 

MINUS

*The minus-4 for Brandon Carlo was literally and figuratively the biggest minus for the Bruins in defeat. Carlo wasn’t nearly tough enough in front of the net early in the game, had some coverage issues in the defensive zone and really was a liability with Torey Krug as a pairing. Credit Carlo for stepping up and dropping the gloves with Darren Archibald after a big hit on David Pastrnak, and in doing so displaying a little toughness midway through the game. But it was too little, too late at that point.

*One shot on net and a minus-1 rating in 20:03 of ice time for Brad Marchand, who was clobbered early with a high stick that went uncalled and remained pretty silent in the game after that despite logging over 20 minutes of ice time. Marchand has had some pretty eventful games in Vancouver during his NHL career. This was not one of them. 

*The defense was dreadful in front of Tuukka Rask, but he also gave up four goals on nine shots before getting pulled after the first period. His rebound control was poor while he was in there in the first period and the Bruins only gave up a couple more goals the rest of the way, so it certainly feels like it was a combination of a bad night for the B’s and their goalie when they’ve both been so brilliant this season.

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Morning Skate: Blackhawks fans ejected for racist chants

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Morning Skate: Blackhawks fans ejected for racist chants

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while blown away at the amount of money that Black Panther is going to make this weekend. 

 

*An ugly incident in Chicago where Blackhawks fans were chanting racist garbage at Devante Smith-Pelly as he served out a penalty during the Caps visit to Chicago. Hockey fans are better than this. Everybody should be better than this. Here’s the statement from the NHL released on Sunday morning, and I sure hope those four fans ejected are never allowed into the United Center again after embarrassing their NHL team, and their city: 

 "Last night in Chicago, individuals directed racial taunts and abuse at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly," said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. "The National Hockey League condemns this unacceptable and reprehensible behavior. The League fully supports the actions taken by the United Center and the Blackhawks to eject the offenders and would expect the same response to any similarly unacceptable behavior at any of our arenas.

"While this incident was isolated in nature, no player, coach, official or fan should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games. The League will take steps to have our clubs remind all stakeholders that they are entitled to enjoy a positive environment - free from unacceptable, inappropriate, disruptive, inconsiderate or unruly behaviors or actions and may not engage in conduct deemed detrimental to that experience."

 

*The Hockey Night in Canada crew goes over the latest in rumors, including the NHL expansion into Seattle and the unclear situation still developing with Erik Karlsson in Ottawa. 

 

*Eric Staal deserves plenty of credit for the success of the Minnesota Wild after he’s been reborn as a player since going to Minnesota a couple of years ago. 

 

*Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray wants the prices to come down for potential deadline deals, and certainly they will to some degree ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline. 

 

*The Dallas media is certainly getting worked up about Tyler Seguin, as they’re starting to call him Mike Modano 2.0 as they enter the playoff picture. My prediction: Seguin is on his best behavior this season in his first year under Ken Hitchcock, but a leopard doesn’t truly change his spots. The talent is obviously there in huge amounts if he really wants it, but let’s see what Seguin does when things truly get nasty in the playoffs. 

 

For something completely different: As I mentioned above, it looks like Black Panther is going to break all kinds of box office records this weekend. Good stuff.

 

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