Bruins

Ex-Winnipeg defenseman Postma happy for fresh start with Bruins

boston-bruins-paul-postma-92817.jpg

Ex-Winnipeg defenseman Postma happy for fresh start with Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – It turns out that the move to the Bruins organization is quite a monumental one for Paul Postma.

Postma, 28, has spent the past eight years as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets organization before signing a one-year deal with the Bruins on the July 1 opening of NHL free agency. He's established himself as a steady, reliable D-man who ended up playing 65 games for the Jets last season and had his best performance to date with a goal and 14 assists along with a plus-3 rating.

MORE BRUINS

Still, Postma was blocked as a big-bodied right shot defenseman with Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba ahead of him on the depth chart and buried in an organization. They also had Tyler Myers, Toby Enstrom and Mark Stuart ahead of him in the pecking order. So, Postma is looking at signing with the Bruins as a “fresh start” of sorts where he can get a chance to really see what he can do at the NHL level.

“I was a little too comfortable with Winnipeg. I had been with that organization for 10 years, so coming into camp I knew where I fell in the depth chart,” said Postma, who has 10 goals and 34 points in 191 career NHL games. “I was stuck in a rut [in Winnipeg] where I wasn’t really developing at all, so it was time for a change for me.
i
“This has been great for me so far. I’ve never really been traded like this or signed with a new team, so everything is new to me. But it’s been a great transition and I think I’m doing well with the systems and stuff, and even the business of city life. I’m starting to settle down and really enjoying it.”

The fractured jaw injury to Torey Krug may open exactly that kind of door for Postma in the first few games to start the regular season. Postma can play on both the left and right side and has already shown his big shot in scoring a preseason goal against the Red Wings, so now it’s about competing with younger, homegrown players Matt Grzelcyk and Rob O’Gara to see who will be in Boston’s top-six on opening night. 

“He’s interesting because he might be a little bit of a tweener where he’s a young veteran guy,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’s a bit of a new guy to us, so he’s got to balance showing us his best side with also simply getting ready for the season. As a veteran, they’ve got their own checklist to get ready for the season. My guess is that he wants to show his teammates and the staff that he’s a good hockey player and that he deserves to be in there every night, and do that while also getting himself ready.

“There is definitely some competition there. That’s one of the things we talked about with him, specifically. We’ve got some young kids that are going to push him. Some of them are still here and some them are not. Grzelcyk and O’Gara are still here and had a little bit of action last year while [Jakub] Zboril and [Jeremy] Lauzon have gone to Providence. So, it’s whittling down, but there is still competition.”

It remains to be seen if it will Postma, playing the left side for the first time in a couple of seasons, or Grzelcyk, a very similar player to Krug in stature and skill level, who will step into the lineup in Krug’s place for the first few games of the regular season. It may even be O’Gara if he can do something in the final two few preseason games (tonight in Philly, Saturday in Chicago) to make the B’s evaluators stand up and take notice. Either way, it seems inevitable that Postma will get his chance to show what he can do in Boston this season and perhaps take advantage of the fresh start he’s getting with the Bruins. 

Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

column_bruins_peter_cehlarik_kenny_agostino_101817.jpg

Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

BRIGHTON, Mass – It would appear that Bruce Cassidy is ready to start shuffling the deck up front after a slow start to the season.

With the Bruins ranking among the league’s worst both offensively and defensively just a handful of games into the season, they are both introducing a few new forwards to the mix while hoping for full health to a couple of other ones. 

First off, the Bruins appear that they might get David Backes back for Thursday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks after his bout with diverticulitis, supplying some badly needed size, strength and net-front tenacity on the wing. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) might not be too far behind after going through a full practice wearing a no-contact jersey. The return of No. 37 would help in any number of different areas once he’s good to go, and would have a cascade effect on the rest of the forwards.  

MORE:

Getting both players back in short order would give the Bruins a toughness around the net that was certainly missing against Malcolm Subban and the Golden Knights, and hasn’t been there consistently this season with No. 37 and No. 42 out of commission.

“[Bergeron] is progressing. In the past we’ve ruled him out ahead of time, but we’re not ruling him out for [Thursday vs. the Canucks]. Backes looks closer to being ready to play,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Some of the games that have gotten away from us, those guys are glue guys that really add that element to us to keep us on the rails without the game getting away. Some nights you just need their offense or some hard defending, and you miss their leadership obviously. They’re all good players, but most of them you know they’re bringing that North/South game and a few good shifts here or there could have got us back on track.

“[Bergeron] is underrated in his ability to get to the front of the net especially with Marchand and Pastrnak on his wings. So we miss that part of it: Getting there on time, making plays and finishing off plays. Backes is just a big body there and you certainly miss that part of it. With Vegas the other night that was one of the biggest things we were missing was getting second chances, shooting for second chances, hitting the net and getting those rebound chances against a team that was harder to get inside on.

A few moves on Wednesday might also suggest some on-the-fly changes with some forwards that haven’t been working out with the Black and Gold. Ryan Spooner suffered a lower-body injury on Sunday night against Vegas, and it sounds like it might not be a short-term injury for the center with just one point in his first five games. Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano also haven’t produced much in the first couple of weeks of the season, and could be in danger of losing roster spots to Providence call-ups Kenny Agostino and Peter Cehlarik.  

Both players were late cuts from training camp and were showing the blend of size, strength, skill, experience and production that Boston needs more of as they search for answers among their forward group. Beleskey, Spooner and Vatrano have combined for one point, a minus-6 rating and just 12 shots on net in a combined 14 games this season, so clearly that is one of the first spots to look for upgrading the roster from within.

“[A tryout period] is a good way to put it. We talked about that in training camp when we had a long look at guys, but not Cehlarik because he didn’t get a chance to play [because of shoulder surgery]. He obviously piqued our interest last year and did a lot of good things for us,” said Cassidy, who has been in a state of constant flux putting forward lines together due to injury and ineffectiveness. “We just went in a different direction at the trade deadline, but we brought him up to give him a look. We have a decision tomorrow and I’m not going to say whether [Cehlarik] is in or out.

“He’s really played well in Providence, and we just thought he might be able to help us. Some of it may depend on the health of the other guys as far as who’s in and who’s out. If both Cehlarik and Agostino are both in the lineup there’s a chance [they might play together]. They were with [Riley] Nash today in the middle, and he has some of the same qualities as JFK down in Providence. But until we sort through who’s in for tomorrow, and that starts at the top with Bergeron and Backes, then stuff will fall into place for all of them.”

Depending on how Don Sweeney plays with his 23-roster spots, perhaps the time has come to put one of those players on waivers for a trip to the AHL. Simply based on merit it would be Vatrano and the total nothingness he’s shown in his first four games this season, but there would also be a legitimate concern they’d lose the 23-year-old Massachusetts native on waivers for nothing.

For their part, players like Agostino and Cehlarik ripped up the AHL while teamed with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson in Providence, and were just looking for their chance to carve out a role in Boston. Now they may get their chance based on others not really grasping their opportunity, and they’re ready if that’s the case.

“It’s encouraging for me, but I’m just taking things day-by-day. I’m not looking past anything and I’m looking in the past. I just take things as they come here,” said Agostino, who leads the Bruins two goals and seven points in three games thus far. “This isn’t my first time [up at the NHL], so I’m just going to do whatever I can to make the best impression possible.”

What if Agostino and Cehlarik, a career AHL player and a former third-round pick, can’t make the impact that the Bruins are looking for?

Hopefully by then the Bruins will at least have their top two lines healthy and firing on all cylinders, and can continue to mix and match things in the bottom six until they find a combination of forwards that work. But it may come to a point where the Bruins need to look outside the organization for an impact forward or two, or at least find somebody that can make an impact on the ice rather than will themselves invisible.

Only Beleskey has been at all effective this season as he’s dropped the gloves and played physical at times, and certainly can still be an effective third or fourth liner with the right players skating alongside him. For those reasons along with the massive contract money still owed him, Beleskey should be given every opportunity to succeed in Boston. But one thing is clear at this point: There is too much dead weight on the Bruins roster right now at the forward position, and something needs to be done about it if they hope to pull themselves out of their early-season funk.   

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bruins lose Ryan Spooner for 4-6 weeks with a groin tear

bruins_ryan_spooner_120216.jpg

Bruins lose Ryan Spooner for 4-6 weeks with a groin tear

The Bruins have absorbed another substantial injury to their forward group with the news that Ryan Spooner will be out 4-6 weeks with a torn groin. According to sources, it was something he was playing with for some time before the right adductor muscle in his groin finally tore in Sunday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

With Spooner out of the Bruins lineup, there will be challenges to both team speed and to a power play unit that the fast-skating center was a key contributor over the last couple of seasons. Sean Kuraly was centering Tim Schaller and David Backes in Spooner’s absence during Wednesday practice, but it remains to be seen how they’ll go about filling the void for the next couple of months.

MORE:

“We’re no different than anybody else. We’d like to have our full complement [of players],” said Bruce Cassidy, when addressing the injury situation. “To be healthy and 100 percent in this league is tough, but we’d love to be there.”

Spooner was very clearly slowed by something at the start of the season with just one point and four shots on net in his first five games of the season along with a minus-2 rating, and that’s a tough development for a player like Spooner that relies on his speed and skating for much of his effectiveness at the NHL level. It will be interesting to see if Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson eventually gets a look given his fast start at the AHL Level, and the fact that Spooner is on a one-year deal that may see him playing somewhere other than Boston next season, or perhaps even following this spring’s trade deadline. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE