Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins' youth gives them upper hand

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Haggerty: Bruins' youth gives them upper hand

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

BOSTON -- The one thing that might just save the Bruins in this Stanley Cup hangover season: The playoff-hardened youth that the Bs roster is built on.

The 22 players most likely to make up the Bs roster when the team breaks camp in the beginning of October averages slightly over 27 years old, and could be one of the many reasons the Bruins can buck a 14-year trend.

No team has been able to win back-to-back Stanley Cups over those 14 years, but its difficult to recall a defending champ with a nucleus as fresh-faced as the Bruins. Its hard to believe, but Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Tyler Seguin, Tuukka Rask and Nathan Horton are all 26 years old or younger and just entering the prime of their hockey careers.

That means the organization can still expect better performances from many of the players entering their athletic peaks, and should be locked in for at least another five years of elite performance in the Eastern Conference.

Certainly Tim Thomas is perhaps the single biggest singe factor behind Bostons run to the Cup, and the seasoned netminder is at an age (37) when most goaltenders have become coaches running goalie clinics. But if the Bruins are going to have continued success this season after capturing the Cup its going to be on the strength of the young skating legs up and down the roster.

It also means the rest of the young core needs to take ownership of the team within the dressing room, and become a big part of the leadership group policing themselves and each other. Bergeron is the most visible given his role as an alternate captain, and the fact that hes already been in the NHL for seven full seasons gives him the most gravity of any voice in the room.

I think we have to do it," said Bergeron. "We have to all find ways to be more vocal and grab some of that void that Mark Recchi left in that leadership role. We've just got to all step up and find a way to do it.

It's not about not being ourselves. Youve got to make sure you stay yourself and it comes out the right way. You can't just force it. That's the biggest thing when you make sure the message goes out.

Its certainly easier said than done, but the proof is in the performances moving forward. Horton was a playoff hero with Game 7 goals and an intimidating physicality, but the winger only scored 24 regular-season goals while adjusting to his first season in Boston. Krejci nearly matched his season goal production in 75 games with a team-best 12 goals in 25 Stanley Cup playoff games, and admits theres another level of consistency he can reach with the Bruins.

Lucic may be hard-pressed to again reach 30 goals this upcoming season as he did while breaking through last year, but theres no reason to think that Lucic and Marchand cant combine offense and tone-setting physicality for a team that thrives on both skills mixed together.

Rask is there to spell Thomas during the regular season and provide the 37-year-old netminder with a little bit of rest after the Vezina Trophy winner played in a whopping 82 games last year.

Perhaps the biggest X-factor is Seguin, who should be able to build on a promise-filled rookie campaign and could be the scoring catalyst that helps the Bruins pass right on by their hangover doldrums.

After all, hangovers were a lot less painful at 19 years old, werent they?

I think the one thing thats for sure is that weve still got a young team," Claude Julien said. "When you look at players on our top two lines they generally are all young. And it got a lot younger with Mark Recchi retiring. But somebody else is going to step in there and replace Recchi and its probably going to be a young player as well.

Theres no doubt that theres room to grow still and a lot of it will be experience. Last year with the experience from the playoffs it is certainly going to serve us well this year . . . if they want it to serve us well.

Older veterans like Andrew Ference, Shawn Thornton, Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are still veterans capable of contributing heavily to whatever the Bruins do this season. But youth will have to be served if the Black and Gold are going to fare better than some of their fellow Stanley Cup champs over the years but the good news is that veteran youth is perhaps unlike anything the NHL has experienced in a long, long time.

Its going to be an interesting hockey season in Boston, and it starts with a group of homegrown young players that have grown to savor the taste of winning.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Morning Skate: 'After Hours'? Injured Jagr is open

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Morning Skate: 'After Hours'? Injured Jagr is open

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering if it shouldn’t be more of an issue that potential Red Sox manager Alex Cora was good buddies with Dustin Pedroia when the two played together in Boston.

*Jaromir Jagr suffers a lower-body injury and then goes on Hockey Night in Canada’s “After Hours” program to show once again how wonderful it is to be “The Jagr.”

*The Ottawa Senators get Erik Karlsson back this week, but now they’ve lost power forward Bobby Ryan for a month with a broken finger.

*The Montreal Canadiens are getting exposed for the very flawed team that they are during a brutal start to the 2017-18 season.

*Keep an eye out on the Los Angeles Kings now that they’ve suffered an injury with Jeff Carter and do appear to be in the running for the playoffs this season.

*New Jersey Devils fans help a singer belt out the national anthem after there might have been a case of forgetting the words.

*Doug Gilmour might not have always enjoyed the prying eyes while playing in Toronto, a case that gives you an idea what it’s like to be a pro hockey player in a market like Toronto where everybody knows your name.

*For something completely different: There’s no doubting that Aaron Judge has brought life and energy back to the Yankees and that’s something that’s very good for baseball.

 

Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries

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Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries

BOSTON – It feels like the Bruins might finally be hitting their critical mass with all of the injuries in the first few weeks of the season.

The B’s were down Tuukka Rask, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and David Krejci as the new injuries Saturday night and clearly missed those players, along with the others currently out with injuries in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. The Bruins had a three-goal lead in the second period and a two-goal lead in the third but frittered away both while allowing the hapless Sabres to outshoot them 21-6 in the third and overtime.

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Anton Khudobin battled his rebound control for most of the game while facing 42 shots on net but it was the absence of Miller and McQuaid in the D-zone that made it a little too easy for Buffalo to push Boston when it mattered late.

Torey Krug was on the ice for the last three of Buffalo’s goals and was out penalty killing late in the third period in a spot where he would never have been in if the B’s were healthy on the back end.

“That’s where the appreciation comes in for the Kevan Miller’s and the Adam McQuaid’s of the world. They’re not always flashy, but in those instances, they’re money. They get it done. And that’s why they are paid to get it done,” said Bruce Cassidy. “So yes, we miss them. But, last week we missed other players. So the guys that are out there, it’s up to them to get it done, right?

“It didn’t happen tonight, and hopefully we learned from it and can be hungrier the next time. There’s not much else to analyze that. That was it. Someone had to play in that situation. We pick guys who we figure would get the job done, and it didn’t work out for us. Next time, we’ll keep working at it.”

As part of the injury factor, there are also players that are banged-up and back in who are also clearly not back to full strength. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and David Backes (diverticulitis) are both back from their early-season issues and Krug continues to play with a healing fractured jaw, but all three key players combined for just a single assist and three shots on net in a game that featured nine goals.

Krug was the most noticeable weak link in the loss as he was overwhelmed in the D-zone on the game-tying goal when an Evander Kane shot bounced on him on its way into the goal. Krug was down on his stomach after losing his balance while battling in front of the net. Krug then was out for an extended period in OT before bumping a Sabres player around the crease who fell into Khudobin just as Ryan O’Reilly was pushing the game-winning goal past him.

Krug spoke on Saturday morning about feeling like things were starting to come together for him but he finished a minus-3 against the Sabres with his big, bad teammates out with injuries. He's a startling minus-8 after the first two weeks of the season.

“Obviously we have to do a better job tonight. Two-goal lead in your own building, it’s got to be the hardest place for the opposing team to come in and overcome that. We’ve got to be better,” said Krug. “I thought I had an opportunity to win a battle in the corner on that loose puck. Just trying to swat away and all of a sudden it comes out the other side, and we just couldn’t overcome. That’s survival mode. “Especially when they were able to make changes like they were. We just got to stay calm, composed, and make sure we’re not getting beat one-on-one. We obviously managed it for a while, but we just couldn’t get the puck back.”

It was also clearly about Khudobin, who had a big chance to put the Bruins team on his back with Rask out with a concussion. The Russian netminder made 37 saves and at times looked energetic and ready to battle between the pipes but at other times couldn’t make the clean save that the Bruins needed in order to get a whistle and calm things down. In OT, Khudobin couldn’t make a clean glove save on a Rasmus Ristolainen tester from the high slot that would have allowed the Bruins to get some tired players off the ice in the 3-on-3 OT.

Instead, Krug, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were out on the ice for 2 minutes, 15 seconds and eventually got beaten on O’Reilly’s play that took the puck straight to the Boston net. Cassidy called it an “erratic” night for Khudobin when they needed calmer, more poised play from their goaltender and that was clearly a reflection of the Black and Gold missing Rask.

“[Khudobin] was erratic. He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. [He] certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him,” said Cassidy. “But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out [on plays] that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.

“[There were instances] in the third period, plus overtime, where we needed to calm the game down. Whether it’s a face-off, even right before the overtime goal, we had opportunities to get possession out of that pile. They came out with it. And that’s what I said. They were hungrier than us. Late, they won more pucks. If we win that puck out of that pile, we might not be talking about losing. Maybe we get out of trouble and it goes our way. We’ll never know.”

Maybe things would have gone the Bruins way if they had more of their walking wounded back and contributing. Instead, it feels as if the B’s are being tested with new, damaging injuries with each passing day. A number of those had a direct impact on a brutal loss to the Sabres on Saturday night. One has to wonder if there are more of those coming until the Bruins can start stabilizing their medical situation.