Bruins

Bruins open camp prepared for 'higher expectations'

Bruins open camp prepared for 'higher expectations'

BRIGHTON, Mass. - As Bruins training camp begins here with fitness testing and physicals on Thursday morning, the biggest early storyline is, of course, the return of David Pastrnak to the fold after he agreed to a six-year, $40 million contract.

Still, there is plenty more to Boston’s camp with a team full of players that pushed back into the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring, a new coach overseeing his first NHL camp in more than a decade and a boatload of young prospects that the Bruins are relying on to make an impact this coming season. There will be open position battles for the left wing spot alongside David Krejci and the right wing position aside Boston’s dynamic duo of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and plenty of questions about where young D-men Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy will fit into Boston’s defensive pairings.

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All of this more will play out over the next month as the Bruins prepare for a season where the playoffs will become a goal of obligation and moving beyond the first round becomes the aim of this group.

“We definitely had a better year last year than a lot of people thought we would have, and we definitely came along,” said Brad Marchand, coming off a Hart Trophy-worthy season where he posted a team-leading 39 goals and 85 points in 80 games. “It’s been exciting even in the last few captain’s practices to watch the young guys and what they’ve been able to do, the skill they have and what they’re going to be able to bring to the table.

“It will be fun to watch them grow, help the team and hopefully we can make another stride this coming year. There are definitely higher expectations, but I’m not going to put that on me. Things really clicked well last year, but it’s more about being prepared every game, working hard and hoping that things go well for everyone.”

The one big thing the Bruins have working for them is their strong, battled-hardened core with Marchand, a healthy Patrice Bergeron, an aging Zdeno Chara, a motivated Tuukka Rask, a playmaking David Krejci with something to prove and a rock-solid David Backes leading the way with kids -  Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy and a few youngsters to be named later following behind them. They will be tested with the expectation that the team will be a half-step better after last season and they will be challenged by an Eastern Conference that is going to be much more difficult than last season.

The Atlantic Division was not strong last season, but it will be much tougher this year with Tampa Bay and Florida both expected to rebound strongly, Toronto on the rise with their young stars and both Montreal and Ottawa lying in wait as the possible best teams at the top of the heap. Even the Buffalo Sabres will be much improved from what they were last season. That means the B’s are going to have to markedly better if they expect to push into the playoffs for the second season in a row.

“It will be nice to all be on the same page and all start together for the first day of training camp and start building something together,” said Bergeron. “It’s exciting from an organizational standpoint, and for us as players you want to bring out the best mix of guys on the ice together to be successful. That’s really all that matters.”

It remains to be seen how the roster is going to fit together, but the Bruins sound hungry and have something to prove after getting that sweet, late-season taste of success again. Now, it’s up to the Black and Gold to build on that and meet “the higher expectations” they know are waiting for them once the regular season starts. 

Bruins, Marchand struggle mightily on power play in defeat

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Bruins, Marchand struggle mightily on power play in defeat

BOSTON – The Bruins have to hope the ugly look for their power play units ends up being a temporary phase.

The Bruins managed to put together just six shots on net in seven power play chances during Saturday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers, a situation that was just barely salvaged by a third-period power play goal. The score was a timely one on a connection from David Pastrnak to Brad Marchand that pushed things into overtime, but it did little to wipe out the monumental struggles earlier in the game.

The Bruins couldn’t cohesively get the puck in the offensive zone, and plenty of their team-high 22 giveaways in the game took place in the handful of instances they were rewarded with PP’s this season.

Couple that with the back-to-back shorthanded goals allowed in back-to-back games against Detroit and Washington, and there may be some issues to be straightened out on the man advantage.

“Early on, I thought the pressure in zone, we weren’t able to handle it. They were more aggressive on the kill than we were ready for, and we just did not handle it well,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We had a couple plays in mind we thought might work down low around the net. I think we forced the puck on those down by the goal line, so we spent a lot of time going back into our own end and breaking the puck out, which becomes frustrating.

“We tried to run a delayed play tonight; we were out of sync on it. So, there was problems getting into the zone and there were problems in the zone. There was problems, I mean, whoever watched the game clearly – I mean, we struggled on the power play. We’re not going to hide from that, but it got us a goal later, so we eventually kind of got it squared away but we certainly had opportunities early to take advantage and we didn’t.”

The overall performance during the month of December isn’t that bad for the Bruins, who are 6-for-26 (23 percent success rate) on the power play in the games played this month. They’ve been getting more production with better health, but they’re also playing a little too fast and loose with the puck management and decision-making on the ice.  

Brad Marchand admitted after Saturday night’s loss that it’s up to the Bruins players to start picking it up on special teams and make some better choices with the puck.

“It’s on us. We’re forcing plays when they’re not there. Maybe we need to realize we have an extra second, need to calm it down a bit. When we do that, we are at our best that’s kind of when things go well,” said Marchand. “When we take that extra second, we have good support and read off each other well. We aren’t doing any of that now, we are pressing a bit, but something we need to work on and get better at.”

Perhaps that Marchand goal can be the rallying point for the Bruins power play to move on and move out with all the proper personnel healthy and in place with Ryan Spooner, and just a good, old-fashioned confidence-booster acting as the only thing that can quickly lift the Black and Gold man advantage out of their current status in the dumps.

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Cassidy: Too-many-men penalties 'a lousy way to lose'

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Cassidy: Too-many-men penalties 'a lousy way to lose'

BOSTON – The Bruins made plenty of mistakes in Saturday night’s overtime loss to the New York Rangers, but perhaps most glaring was the pair of too many men on the ice penalties late in the tightly contested hockey game.

The first too many men call wiped out the Bruins' final power play of the game, and the second infraction set up the Mats Zuccarello overtime game-winner in the 3-2 victory for the Rangers. Bruce Cassidy had a wry smile on the Bruins bench right after the penalty was called, and copped to a guilty plea of trying to get away with a little something after the game was over.

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Truth be told, the too many men on the ice call in OT could have been called on any one of Torey Krug, Patrice Bergeron or Brad Marchand as they headed off the ice after a long shift going back and forth up the ice. The Bruins were scrambling to try and change players while also catching up to a Rangers rush into the B’s defensive zone, and that’s where the trouble came in.

“We’re scrambling to get on the ice, so the call might have been from, like, [Charlie] McAvoy jumping for [Torey] Krug, it might have been Krech [David Krejci] going for Bergy [Patrice Bergeron]. I don’t know. I can’t complain, I mean, we’re trying to gain an advantage there,” said Cassidy. “Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don’t. We didn’t. And the other one was on the power play; we had a forward jump for the wrong guy.

“We had six guys. So, it’s hard to complain about them, you know, we were at fault there, we’ll take the blame for that and unfortunately it’s a lousy way to lose, but we had some chances in overtime too, we just lost our footing on a couple too. It was one of those nights, it seemed like we were – we had some chances at the offensive blue line, even in overtime, we just lost control of pucks and lost our footing and took away some good chances for us.”

Cassidy and the Bruins had a little too many men on the ice trouble during their first-round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators last spring, but it hasn’t really been a recurring issue at all for the B’s bench this season. So the expectation is that Saturday’s OT loss to the Rangers, too many men on the ice penalties and all, was another example of a lot of odd things happening to the Bruins in a game they most definitely didn’t deserve to win. 

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