Bruins

Haggerty: Looking at Bruins plans for NHL Draft

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Haggerty: Looking at Bruins plans for NHL Draft

Youll have to pardon the Bruins if theres a certain element of shock and awe when they select 24th in the first round of the NHL draft this weekend in Pittsburgh. They have to make their splash when they can because after that, GM Peter Chiarelli and the Bs dont have another pick until the third round with the 85th overall selection.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, they will no longer have a top 10 pick as they had in 2010 (Tyler Seguin with the second overall pick) and 2011 (Dougie Hamilton with the ninth overall pick) courtesy of the Maple Leafs as part of the Phil Kessel deal.

So there will be a little more digging to be done for Bostons scouting staff this time around, but Chiarelli said the Bruins have already targeted five players who will likely be around at the end of the first round in a defensemen-heavy draft.

Its a little harder to pick when youre later on down the line, but its a draft thats very heavy on defensemen and weve kind of narrowed it down to five players that were looking at, said Chiarelli. Four of them are defensemen. Weve been wrong before, but were usually pretty good when we bring in a cluster of players.

There are a bunch of good defensemen that are available, and thats not a bad thing. Those can be hard to find. Were going to get a good player with the 24th pick.

Chiarelli added that hed like to add some wingers with size to the Bs organizational depth (as they did in 2009 when they selected Jordan Caron with their first round pick) if possible throughout the 2012 draft, so keep an eye out for that.

So who are the five players that the Bruins have poked, prodded, interviewed and targeted as hopefuls when the 24th pick arrives (barring any trades to move up in the draft of course)?

Heres a list with a quick scouting report:

Slater Koekkoek (defenseman) The 6-foot-2, 184-pounder had 18 points in 26 games for the Peterborough Petes before going down with a season-ending shoulder injury. He probably could have gone before No. 24 if hed had a healthy season. He plays big minutes and would be a steal for the Black and Gold if he slides.

Matthew Finn (defenseman) The 6-foot, 196-pound defenseman finished sixth in the OHL in defensemen scoring with 48 points in 61 games for the Guelph Storm, and has the NHL bloodlines as first cousin to St. Louis Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo. According to NHL.com his favorite player is Drew Doughty, and the Bruins would be extremely happy if he developed into anything close to that should they end up choosing him. Right now Finn is viewed as a viable defensive product still working on the offensive end of the game.

Olli Maatta (defenseman) The 6-foot-2, 202-pound lefty shot is a native of Finland, but traveled to North America to play for the London Knights of the OHL this season. Maatta led all OHL rookie defensemen with 32 points in 58 games last season and has played for the Finland World Junior entry in each of the last two seasons. In fact Maatta became the youngest player to participate for Finland since 1998 in the 2011 tournament when he qualified for the team as a 16-year-old. Maatta has a big shot and scouts say hes smooth in every area of the game. His favorite movie is Shawshank Redemption, so its clear he also appreciates the classics.

Hampus Lindholm (defenseman) A 6-foot-2, 196-pound Swedish defenseman that shoots lefty and is one of the top-ranked European players eligible -- and the top-ranked blueliner -- for the draft this year. No big eye-popping numbers, but Lindholm appears to have all the tools to be yet another excellent defenseman from Sweden.

Brendan Gaunce (center) A 6-foot-2, 215-pound lefty shooting center for the Belleville Bulls and led the team in rookie scoring with 36 points in 65 games. His older brother Cameron is a defenseman in the Colorado Avalanche organization that played 11 games for the Avs in 2011. Gaunces favorite player growing up was Brendan Shanahan and he was a punter on his high school football team showing a little bit of athletic versatility. Hed a very nice building block if he lasts to the 24th pick.

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

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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

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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.