Bruins

Jakub Zboril working for shot at Bruins vacancy on defense

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Jakub Zboril working for shot at Bruins vacancy on defense

BRIGHTON, Mass – It has been well-documented that the Bruins are scouring the league for potential left-shot defensemen that could be paired with Charlie McAvoy in a top-4 role this upcoming season in Boston. The free agent supply was scooped up quickly on July 1 before the Black and Gold could close a deal on any of them, and B’s general manager Don Sweeney hasn’t been able to piece together the right trade for a D-man to this point either.

There are internal options within the Bruins organization as well, and one of those potential defenseman candidates is 20-year-old former first round pick Jakub Zboril. The Czech-born defenseman is entering his first full season of pro hockey and wrapping up what he expects will be his final development camp with the Black and Gold this week. Zboril said he was ready for whatever fate is waiting for him at training camp this fall, but he watched with great interest as fellow young B’s D-men Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy both made an impact last season.

Zboril would like to be that guy this season in Boston as more of the B’s youth movement is taking hold with each and every season.

“I’m looking forward to it so much. I’m just going to keep working so hard and I’m going to try to make it. If I go to Providence then I’m going to keep on working hard until the one day that I get that chance to play in that league,” said Zboril. “When I saw Brandon [Carlo] got a chance to play a full season and didn’t even get sent to Providence, I was looking at it like ‘maybe I’ll get that chance too.’ It’s hard work, but maybe if I work hard enough it will pay off.”

The outlook wasn’t quite so rosy for the B’s prospect a year ago as he was coming off a down season in the QMJHL, and some were even throwing around the “bust” word despite Zboril’s youth and clear upside in his game. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder showed something, however, when he bounced back with a strong junior season for the Saint John Sea Dogs while finishing with nine goals and 41 points in 50 games, and then helped lead his club to the Memorial Cup Finals with three goals and seven points in 16 games during the playoffs.  

His strong play during both the regular season and playoffs was something the Bruins organization took note of and clearly hope leads to an upward track as he begins his pro career this year. He’s come a long way from a younger player that didn’t always bring the necessary intensity level to past development camps, and needed to show a little more of the pro approach to his craft.  

“He’s come in leaps and bounds [in his development], and I think it’s comfort level for him. I think he’s a cautious kid and the maturation process he’s gone through from rookie camp to the end of the year has been fantastic. You can see it in the way he integrates himself into the group here, and the way that he’s become a leader,” said Bruins Player Development Coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner. “I think it comes with getting more comfortable with the language and the culture, and maybe getting to know people a little more before he starts to open up.

“I think you want these guys to go through that process of playing their college hockey or junior hockey, getting some time in Providence learning our system on how to be a Bruin and then getting here as quickly as possible when he’s ready. I think he’s got a lot of natural talent, he plays hard and competes and he’s got a lot of those natural skills.”

As for Zboril himself, he knew there were some questions about his work ethic and commitment level after he showed up in less-than-optimal shape for his very first development camp two years ago. That’s a perception he’s been motivated to change in the last couple of seasons since getting drafted by the Bruins, and it’s something he’s addressed in the best way possible, with his actions rather than his words.

“I am one of the older guys, so I kind of had to change my attitude a little bit to be a good example for the younger guys,” said Zboril. “I try to help them out and show them the way a little bit. When I came here the first time [to development camp] I didn’t know what to expect, and I just thought it was going to be fun. I’m kind of a free-spirited guy and doing jokes and things like that.

“But I’ve tried to let it go and be more serious about it. [This past season] was a much better year for me and I thought I did a good job of adjusting back to the junior level. I think my compete level got really high over the last season. I just want to show that I’ve really matured as a player, and as a guy off the ice as well.”

The proof is in the progress he’s made over the last couple of seasons, and the leadership role he’s taking hold of with the younger prospects at development. The question now is whether Zboril’s package of skating, passing, solid physicality and good offensive instincts can develop quickly enough for him to pop at a time when Boston needs a left-shot defenseman to step up.

The easy answer to this question is a negative one given that Zboril is a work-in-progress and still has some things to prove both mentally and physically before he’s truly in the top-4 circle of trust at the NHL level. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a 20-year-old like Zboril paired with a 20-year-old like McAvoy for anything approaching regular usage at the NHL level, and instead a couple of other options – Kevan Miller swinging from the right side to the left side, or Torey Krug continuing to play up in a top-4 role – would be safer and more prudent for the Bruins.

But the bottom line is this: Zboril could end up being the most talented option the Bruins have in their search a left-shot D-man, and it may just be a matter of time before he fills that void on a much more permanent basis than any of the other stopgap solutions for the B’s.  

Bruins outlast Devils in 11-round shootout

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Bruins outlast Devils in 11-round shootout

NEWARK, N.J. Charlie McCoy scored in the 11th round of the shootout to lift the Boston Bruins to a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

Anton Khudobin made 40 saves as Boston improved to 9-7-4 with its third straight win-all with Khudobin in goal.

Jake DeBrusk and Patrice Bergeron scored first period goals for the Bruins.

New Jersey has dropped three of its last five in falling to 12-5-4.

Jesper Bratt and Brian Gibbons scored for the Devils, and Cory Schneider made 27 saves.

The shootout opened with Hall and David Pastrnak trading goals. And it stayed that way until McAvoy's game-winner

Prior to the extra period, the first of three regular season meetings between the longtime Eastern Conference rivals was essentially a special teams affair.

Despite not scoring on their four power plays and surrendering a man advantage goal to the Devils, it was the Bruins who left with two points thanks to two first period even strength strikes and the play of their ostensible backup goaltender.

The Bruins struck first when rookie left winger DeBrusk opened the scoring with his fifth of the season with a shot from the right circle at 1:25. And Bergeron added to Boston's lead with his fifth of the season at 11:02.

The Bruins had a two-goal lead and Khudobin, who made his third straight start, tried to make it hold up with a pad save on a Nico Hischier break-in with and a diving stop on Travis Zajac in a span of 1:13. But there was nothing he could do on Bratt's power play goal with 2:50 left as New Jersey's rookie right winger lifted a loose puck in the slot to halve the deficit while Brian Boyle was tied up with Zdeno Chara in front of Khudobin. A video review upheld the goal.

The game remained 2-1 until the Devils equalized on Gibbons' top-of-the-crease deflection with 4:44 left in regulation. Up to that point, though, Khudobin was the story as the netminder stopped a Blake Coleman shorthanded attempt with 10:35 left in the second. Khudobin also benefitted from Hischier, the first overall pick in last June's NHL draft, losing control of the puck alongside the goal line late in the period. Midway through the third, Khudobin stoned Hischier from the top of the crease.

The Devils outshot the Bruins, 42-29.

NOTES: Prior to the game, New Jersey announced RW Kyle Palmieri would miss 4-6 weeks with a broken right foot, suffered in the Devils' 4-3 overtime win in Minnesota Monday. The team later announced Palmieri had been placed on the injured reserve retroactive to Monday. .New Jersey scratched D Dalton Prout and RW Stefan Noesen. .Bruins C Ryan Spooner dressed for the first time since suffering a torn right adductor on Oct. 15. .Boston scratched LW Matt Beleskey, D Torey Krug and D Paul Postma. .The Bruins did not have LW Anders Bjork (undisclosed), LW Brad Marchand (upper body injury), RW David Backes (colon surgery) and D Adam McQuaid (broken right fibula). .Boston announced RW Jordan Szwarz had been sent down to AHL Providence. .The Devils announced Friday's home game against Vancouver will coincide with the team hosting the NHL and NHLPA "joint initiative Hockey Fights Cancer" as part of the "annual Cancer Awareness Month."

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Pittsburgh Friday afternoon.

Devils: Host Vancouver Friday night.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Morning Skate: Dad's texts and emails reveal enforcer's sad story

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Morning Skate: Dad's texts and emails reveal enforcer's sad story

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wishing everybody a safe night before Thanksgiving. Be careful out there, people.

*The New York Times has a very sad story on former NHL enforcer Stephen Peat, as told to the Times through a series of emails and texts from Peat’s dad as he struggles with a number of seemingly concussion-related issues in his post-hockey life.

*There’s nothing better than some Benn on Benn brotherly crime as Jordie Benn lays a hit on Jamie Benn in the Stars vs. Habs game.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Marc Spector has the Edmonton Oilers hitting a new low after they quit in a loss to the St. Louis Blues.

*Duncan Keith said he wants to play until he’s 45 and defy the odds as one of the few that get a chance to play pro hockey for that long.

*Dylan Larkin is flourishing with the Detroit Red Wings as he’s adding more responsibility to his chores in Hockeytown.

*A Happy Thanksgiving to the Boychuks and all the other great people around the NHL, including Matt Beleskey with the Bruins, who take time out of their days to help make sure everybody has a good meal on Turkey Day.

*For something completely different: Excited for my kids that there is going to be more Trolls in their future starting with a Christmas special on Friday.