Bruins

Bruins roster update: Bjork is in, DeBrusk needs to impress in final preseason game

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Bruins roster update: Bjork is in, DeBrusk needs to impress in final preseason game

BRIGHTON, Mass – With the days numbering just a few until final NHL rosters are due into the league offices on Tuesday, Bruce Cassidy has an idea of where he’s going with most of his roster headed into Saturday night’s preseason finale in Chicago.

With the caveat that nothing is concrete until the final list is submitted on Tuesday afternoon, it’s just about an automatic that Anders Bjork has won the top-six, right-wing job alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Anton Khudobin will be the backup goaltender provided he gets through Saturday’s start without any issues and it looks as if Sean Kuraly has won a job to start the season after a solid training camp.

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Jake DeBrusk isn’t quite in the same “lead-pipe lock” status that fellow rookie Bjork is for Thursday's opening night roster, but it looks like the 20-year-old former first-round pick will make the cut if he can show a little offense against the Blackhawks in his final exhibition tune-up.

“Bjork seems like he’s going to be a fit. We’ve played him with [Bergeron] and [Marchand], but he can play the other side. So he could flip and play the other side with Krejci and Pastrnak as well. We haven’t looked at that much, but it could happen,” said Cassidy. “But we like where his game is at right now. DeBrusk, we’re going to keep in there and we’re looking for a few more things out of his game. We like it as well, but we think that Bjork is the furthest ahead of all the young guys.

“We like where Kuraly’s game has been as far as what he brings: Energy and the ability to turn pucks over. It has really turned into a lot of offense, but we believe that it will over time as he continues to play like that. We’re looking at him as a wing tonight rather than center, and he may be a guy that moves around. I’ve liked Danton Heinen’s game. We haven’t talked about him as much, but we want to get another look at him with [Ryan] Spooner as more of a skill guy. There’s no concrete decision on the sixth defensemen yet, and I think [Anton Khudobin] is ready to go as the backup. That’s where I have him. Bjork looks like he’ll start in the lineup, and then we have some spots to fill in down below [among the forwards]. The game matters tonight more for that area.”

DeBrusk came close to scoring in his last preseason game before it was wiped away due to goaltender interference, and Cassidy wants to see the young left winger play at the higher pace he knows he’s capable of when he’s pushing forward.

“[We’d like to see] a little finish around the net. That would be good for [DeBrusk’s] confidence. When you’re playing up in the lineup [in a top-six spot] that will be talked about if you can’t finish,” said Cassidy. “Be a little more proactive skating. There are times when he really pops out of the pile and off he goes skating. He’s shown spurts of that, but let’s see that all the time.

“Coming down the wing let’s not pull up with the puck, but let’s continue to attack and make your plays with your feet moving. He’s a good skater, and if he’s going to make our team it’s going to be because he adds foot speed. That’s what we want out of that younger group, and that’s what they’ve been advertised as.”

Clearly, there are still jobs up for grabs among the bottom-six with Noel Acciari, Matt Beleskey, Frank Vatrano, Danton Heinen, Teddy Purcell, Tim Schaller and Kuraly all in Saturday night’s lineup, and likewise Matt Grzelcyk, Robbie O’Gara and Paul Postma all competing for a fill-in spot while Krug sits out with a fractured jaw.

So, it should be a competitive effort from a group of hungry Bruins on Saturday night in their final dress rehearsal prior to opening night and several players keenly aware that NHL employment might hinge on the final impression they leave with the coaching staff. 

Bruins are ready for a 'formidable' foe in the second round vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Bruins are ready for a 'formidable' foe in the second round vs Tampa Bay Lightning

BOSTON – The Bruins have barely come down from the high of winning Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and they’ve already got to set their sights on an even bigger challenge waiting this weekend in Tampa Bay.

The Bruins will next face the Eastern Conference regular-season champion Tampa Bay Lightning, who just edged out the Black and Gold for the top spot in the East at the end of the regular season when Boston dropped their regular season finale against the Florida Panthers. 

“Well, they won the Eastern Conference. I think it’s equally a formidable if not even more so task [than the Maple Leafs]. Not a lot of holes in their lineup. We had some success in the regular season against them,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney. “We’re going to have to find a way to replicate that and probably be even better. We had pockets of our game in this past series that we know we need to improve upon, and it’s going to take our best effort from start to finish to play against Tampa. We’re a confident group to go in. We deserve to be here. We’re moving on and I’m sure they feel the same way.”

The good news is that the Bruins took three out of four games from the Lightning this season, and have fared very well against the Bolts over the last couple of seasons. Tuukka Rask, in particular, has been very strong against Tampa and finished with a .926 save percentage along with the three victories against them this season. 

The bad news for the Bruins is that they’re a much better team than the Toronto Maple Leafs with a better defense, a better goaltender and a more explosive array of experienced forwards including Steve Stamkos, Hart Trophy favorite Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson among others. Certainly, they’re going to need better than the .899 save percentage that Rask posted in the seven games series against the Maple Leafs, and they’re going to need more support scoring beyond a Bruins top line that will have their hands full against Victor Hedman the Tampa defense.  

“It’s going to be a battle. They were a top team all year. They compete very hard, have a ton of skill, and they have a lot of depth,” said Brad Marchand, who finished second among the Bruins with five points in the four games vs. Tampa this season behind only the six points from Torey Krug. “We’ll look at them a little bit more in the next few days, but we’re going to enjoy this one tonight.”

One area where the Bruins are going to be able to do some damage? The Tampa Bay penalty kill was 27th in the league this season, and they’ll be going up against a Bruins power play that scored on 31.8 percent (7-for-22) of their PP chances in the first round against a better Toronto penalty kill. That will be one area where the Black and Gold can do a lot of damage, but they clearly go into the second round series as the prohibitive underdogs. 

In all truthfulness, however, the Bruins are playing with house money right now. They took that next step by going from a return to the playoffs last season to winning a round and advancing deeper into the postseason with the second round date vs. the Bolts. Sure, they have Cup aspirations and the B’s will push as deeply as they can on their postseason run, but there will be little pressure on the Black and Gold at this point to win a best-of-seven series that they’re not expected to win against the favored Lightning. 

That’s not a bad spot to be in for the young, gritty and battle-hardened Black and Gold.

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Morning Skate: Bruins fan celebrates Game 7 by. . . swimming in a puddle?

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Morning Skate: Bruins fan celebrates Game 7 by. . . swimming in a puddle?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while still in awe of the magic of a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs. That game was off the hook on Wednesday night. 

 

*Speaking of off the hook, take a look at these crazy, very inebriated celebrating Bruins fans swimming around in a dirty puddle outside TD Garden after Game 7. This is like an episode of Cops: Causeway Street Edition. 

 

*Damien Cox is saying that Frederik Andersen was not very good in the first round series, but I don’t think that series gets to a Game 7 unless the Toronto goalie was as good as he’d been in some of the Leafs wins. 

 

*After a painful year playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, Wayne Simmonds is thinking about his long-term future

 

*There is still plenty that separates the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins when it comes to playoff results even if Sid and Ovie have been on similar tracks in their careers. 

 

*Patrick Roy is coming back as the head coach/general manager of the Quebec Remparts after his stint with the Avalanche. 

 

*For something completely different: Give me a break, George R.R. Martin. You’ve been completely lapped by the TV series. 

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