Bruins

Experienced Cross taking a leadership role among B's prospects

713902.jpg

Experienced Cross taking a leadership role among B's prospects

WILMINGTON, Mass. Tommy Cross is finally ready for his Bruins Development Camp graduation.

The Boston College defensemen and Connecticut native was a part of the first development camp six years ago that included Milan Lucic and David Krejci, and has been tracked by the Bruins through his hockey career at the Heights.

In fact Bruins third round pick Matthew Grzelcyk remembered Cross being on the ice as he sat in the Ristuccia Arena stands a couple of years ago watching development camp as a 16-year-old Bruins fan.

That kind of makes Cross feel like the old guy at prospect camp, doesnt it?

ReallyGrzelcyk said that? said Cross. Wow, I guess that does make me feel a little old. Thanks for telling me that.

Development camp has been a great learning tool for me. It just so happened that I came to the first one when I was 17 years old and went to college for four years. I wouldnt change that experience at all.

In truth thats the kind of veteran presence that a strong, tough, stay-at-home defenseman prospect like Cross needs to exhibit, and will suit him well in the world of pro hockey after getting two AHL games under his belt at the end of last season.

Now the 22-year-old Cross is signed, sealed and delivered to the Bruins, and hes likely headed to the Providence Bruins for some AHL seasoning while preparing for a run at an NHL job. Cross helped the Eagles to a pair of NCAA championships and overcame knee injuries that hampered his development in college, and now the Bruins are hoping that the 6-foot-3, 195-pound bruiser develops that same winning aura in the pros as he did in college.

The guys in the AHL are older and its a little bit of a controlled style, said Cross, who put up 24 points in 44 games for Boston College last season. College hockey was a great place to learn, grow and prepare myself for a new level.

Much of that starts with attitude. Cross showed plenty of that in Saturdays practice session as he got tangled up with Jared Knight by the boards during a battle drill, and both players got in a little stick-work and shoving before heading back toward the benches.

Cross gave Knight a long glare at the end of the exchange, and thats exactly the kind of physicality, grit and attitude the Bruins are looking for out of the physically impressive defenseman.

Its good for Tommy. For him to be a National Hockey League player hes going to have to develop a bit of that edge. Knight is a guy that naturally bowls his way toward the net. Thats just the way he plays and Tommy is going to have to stop those kinds of players, said Cassidy. Its good for him to show some push-back and if he develops that side of his game that will be a good thing for him.

Providence Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said hed encourage Cross to watch video of Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg if hes looking for directions to take his on-ice game.

His first AHL game he was a little tentative, and we had a little chat about what he had to do better. That second game he was crisper, he was snapping passes and physical when he needed to be, said Cassidy. It was night and day, but its too small a sample size to say what well be getting out of him. But we need more of that second game guy.

Hes a very mature guy, hes a winner and I think hes going to figure it out. Whether hes good enough, who knows? But thats the game he needs to bring to us. Because hes a big-bodied guy he can be a Seidenberg-type player where he physically moves guys and can make that good first pass.

Nobody is expecting Cross to immediately show signs of German engineering in his game like Seidenberg, but thats a pretty lofty goal to shoot for a Boston College kid looking to make an impact in the Bs organization.

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

cp-spark-bruins-celebrate-111917x.jpg

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
 
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.


 
3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
 
PLUS
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
 
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
 
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
 
MINUS
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
 
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
 
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

cp-morning-skate.jpg

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
 
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
 
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
 
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
 
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
 
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
 
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.