Bruins

Exelby waiting for a chance to prove himself with Bruins

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Exelby waiting for a chance to prove himself with Bruins

NORTH SMITHFIELD, RI Garnet Exelby is right out of the veteran pro hockey defenseman handbook.

The 31-year-old has 408 games of NHL experience over seven seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers and Toronto Maple Leafs, and established himself in Atlanta as a sturdy, tough blueliner with the ability to drop the gloves when theres a need for some hockey violence.

Hes seen and done everything at this point in his pro career, and that allows him to be a good veteran influence on a decidedly young P-Bruins defenseman corps in need of some graybeard tutelage. Exelby called that paying it forward after current Toronto Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins took him under his wing during the defensemans early NHL days in Atlanta.

I love it. Its a great way to see the other side of things. It wasnt that long ago that I had some great mentors and veteran guys that helped me when I was first breaking in, said Exelby. I really used that to my advantage when I was younger. Anything I can do to help I definitely will. Anything thats going to help the team is going to make us look better individually.

My first D partner in the NHL was Dallas Eakins and I played almost exclusively with him for two years. I just sponged up as much as he could tell me. I was very close with Brad McCrimmon, and Brad told me to stick close to Dallas and listen to what he said. It helped me a lot, so I anytime I can pay it forward with a tip or two Im going to do that.

But Exelby also hasnt been an NHL regular since registering 51 games for a bad Toronto Maple Leafs outfit in 2009-10, and has a deep hunger to get back to The Show after a couple of years in the American Hockey League. The 31-year-old knew that the Bruins were down a veteran defenseman when they didnt resign Greg Zanon in free agency, and that pushed him in the direction of Boston and a three-way battle with Aaron Johnson and rookie Dougie Hamilton for that sixth spot among the Bs blueline crew.

I know that a guy like me fits well with this organization, said Exelby. Last year I was in the Detroit Red Wings organization last year and that was exactly the opposite in regard to being a good fit. I know they lost one D-man to free agency, so there were some holes up there where they might need a veteran guy up in Boston.

Thats always a part of the decision-making, but Im always trying to get back to the NHL. Thats my No. 1 priority and No. 1 goal. Ive played most of my career and I just want another shot to get there again.

Clearly the 19-year-old Hamilton has the inside track given his first round cachet and the dominance hes shown at the junior hockey level, but that also leaves a potential extra defenseman role for Johnson who couldnt report to Providence after ending the season on an NHL roster with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Exelby. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder will happily play the role of veteran defenseman on an AHL team full of young talent, and then wait for a chance to show that hes still NHL-caliber when theres an opening in Boston.

It also doesnt hurt that his particular set of hockey skills meshes nicely with the blue collar mantra of the Bruins organization.

The physical part of the game is a big part of my game as well, said Exelby. The Bruins are a big, gritty team with a lot of tough, physical players. Thats exactly how I like to play and how Ive always played.

If that chance opens up for me in Boston to step and prove myself or re-prove myself I am willing and ready.

Meanwhile Exelby will wait out the NHL lockout like all the other members of the Providence Bruins roster and try make a good impression as the Big Bs brass is watching.

Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes

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Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes

LAS VEGAS -- Even though it's only five games into a new regular season, it feels like the Bruins are in danger of going off the tracks.

They finished their three-game Western road swing Sunday with an aimless 3-1 loss to the expansion Golden Knights, which came on the heels of a wretched defeat in Colorado and a victory over the winless Coyotes. Sunday was particularly disheartening, as they never tested their ex-goalie, Malcolm Subban, putting only 21 mostly harmless shots on net against a player they gave away on waivers just a few weeks ago,

They may only have three losses in five games, but it sure feels like there's trouble starting to brew in Bruins land.

“It could be a lot of different things,” said Brad Marchand about the loss to Las Vegas. "We may not have been as mentally prepared for that game as we thought we were. They wanted it more than we did. They out-battled us in a lot of areas and they were the better team. We were making it hard on ourselves. We were trying to do too much with the puck, and not directing enough of the pucks toward the net. You can’t get rebound and you can’t get bodies there if the puck isn’t going there.”

That is a lot of different things. A lot of different problems:

-- They couldn’t fight to get to the front of the net against a rugged Vegas defensive group that was going to make them battle to get there.

-- Once again they had too many passengers along for the ride, with both Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano failing to even be a blip on the game’s radar screen. Spooner suffered a lower body injury midway through the game, but while he was out there he was a non-factor once again. 

-- It felt like there was no flow at all to Boston’s game, with breakouts dogged by sloppy passing and players who weren’t hard enough on the puck.

-- When they did get a chance to create something they either missed the net with their shot, or opted not to even take the shot in the first place. 

-- They lost 67 percent of the 57 draws taken during the game, and saw Spooner, Riley Nash and David Krejci and Ryan Spooner go a combined 8-for-29 in the face-off circle.

-- They chased the puck for long stretches and certainly didn’t ever put together anything approaching a consistent, driving pressure in the offensive zone.

Missing stalwart veterans like Patrice Bergeron and David Backes certainly isn’t helping. It makes the Bruins a much smaller group up front that can be pushed around by bigger, stronger defensive units.

But even so, there’s a sense the Bruins can’t consistently bring their 'A' game to the rink with them and don’t seem to have much fight when they fall down by a couple of goals. Trailing by just two goals going into the third period, the Bruins had four shots on net for most of the final period until a late flurry produced a score by David Pastrnak.

Perhaps of more concern, though, is the growing feeling that the Bruins aren’t all on the same page.

Marchand vaguely referenced that the Bruins weren’t prepared to play Sunday, and Tuukka Rask said he’ll no longer comment on anything except his own goaltending. Rask has always been candid and willing to be frank about any shortcomings after Bruins losses, but it appears that’s not something that is any longer welcome inside the B’s dressing room.

“I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on,” said Rask. “I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

Meanwhile, Krejci was similarly short in his postgame thoughts and started talking about avoiding pointing fingers after a frustrating loss.

“There’s no reason to point fingers," he said. "Yeah, we lost a game and it was a frustrating loss. But it’s just the fifth game of the season, so we don’t need to make a big deal out of it. We’re going to back to Boston, we’re going to work hard in practices and we’re going to get ready for the next game.”

Clearly, the fact this stuff is coming to the surface just five games into the season is a cause for concern. But it makes sense, given the way the Bruins are letting an easy portion of the season slip through their fingers.

In their first 10 games of the year, they're facing only one team that made the playoffs last season and they've got plenty of spaced-out stretches in the schedule to get off to a strong, healthy start. Instead they’re losing to subpar teams and highly unproven goalies, and doing so with a real lack of energy or purpose on the ice.

Certainly management would be smart to think about shipping underperforming players like Vatrano back to the AHL in place of Peter Cehlarik or Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. And a few more games like Sunday’s snooze-fest could advance trade talks for a player like Matt Duchene.

But there aren’t going to be any easy answers. It comes down to hard work and hunkering down together as a team, and Sunday’s pitifully inept loss in a very winnable situation was yet another sign the Bruins aren't even close to being there yet.

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Spooner, McQuaid injured in Bruins' loss to Golden Knights

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Spooner, McQuaid injured in Bruins' loss to Golden Knights

LAS VEGAS -- The Bruins are already missing a handful of players to injuries, and they may have lost a couple more in Sunday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Ryan Spooner was knocked out in the second period with a lower body injury, and Adam McQuaid was lost in the closing seconds of the third period when he was hit by a Colin Miller rocket from the point in his leg. McQuaid had to be helped to the dressing room after staying down on the ice for a few long moments, and the hope is that it’s the same kind of mostly harmless “dead leg” hit that allowed Kevan Miller to bounce back immediately from his Friday incident in practice.

McQuaid was spotted up and walking around in the visiting dressing room area postgame, so hopefully it’s nothing serious with one of the few Bruins giving everything he has on the ice each and every night.

Spooner finished with just eight shifts and 6:42 of ice time while failing to generate much offense, and went 1-for-4 in the face-off circle before getting shelved for the rest of the game. He just has a single point and is a minus-3 in four games this season and is once again has been pretty hard to notice on the ice during 5-on-5 play. It perhaps wasn’t a huge loss for the Bruins, given how much Spooner has been struggling to find baseline consistency, but the Bruins can’t continue to sustain injuries to their center men without those missing bodies beginning to take a toll.

The Bruins already have Paul Postma on hand if they take any injuries on the back end, but any more losses up front could mean the B’s dip into Providence where Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Kenny Agostino are all off to hot offensive starts.