Bruins

Kings' Westgarth: NHL 'believes in different reality'

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Kings' Westgarth: NHL 'believes in different reality'

Kevin Westgarth's summer has gone from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.

Fresh off a Stanley Cup win with the Los Angeles Kings, the forward is now spending his time in labor meetings trying to help negotiate a new CBA for the NHL. If it doesn't happen by September 15, there will be an NHL lockout.

As you're aware, it's not going well, and Westgarth, a Princeton graduate, seems pretty fed up with the negotiating process thus far.

On Wednesday, he was a guest on Danny Picard's radio show, "I'm Just Sayin'", where he was highly critical of NHL owners and commissioner Gary Bettman.

"As you said, the fans are frustrated, and I think the players are frustrated as well," Westgarth said. "It's something that we do want to take care of. I think the owners and the NHL got essentially everything they wanted last time, and for them to come with the variety of proposals they've brought so far just strictly isn't fair. We're looking for a fair deal just so we can get back to playing hockey."

Westgarth says he attends as many meetings as possible enough that he couldn't remember the number. Last week's meeting that he attended wasn't a good one.

"Obviously the week didn't end well and it sounded like the NHL was essentially cutting off talks. And we're obviously looking to get back into the negotiating room as everybody wants to figure this thing out before any hockey is lost like the tragedy that happened last time.

There's only a certain amount of money to go around, and neither side is happy with what each proposal dishes out.

"Inevitably it's - I think in any industry it's money," Westgarth said. "Gary Bettman has said it himself, he said he feels that the owners should be paying us less. That obviously- I tend to disagree with that. It's a league that has had record revenue the last few years. The game is just growing. The last time they locked us out they got as I said basically everything they wanted including a slurry cap which controls their cost automatically for players. They got all that and they basically said that the players will share in the growth of the game, and when you have as salary cap that's tied to revenues it automatically does that and now they're trying to take that away and tell us that essentially that we had nothing to do with the game growing, and the fans supporting it more and more."

Westgarth thinks the players' proposal is fair, centering around "a huge piece of revenue sharing". That's something the players don't look to budge on.

"Our proposal is based on the players giving up a number of concessions. We're going to give back hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years so that the owners can get themselves out of their own problems, and with that is a piece of revenue sharing, that is what we're asking for them to help us out to essentially fix whatever problems they may have and to help out these teams that may be struggling. We're willing to take some cutbacks over the next few years to limit the amount that we will be growing league-wide and obviously that was not accepted very well by the owners, but moving forward that has to be the way that we go with it with a huge piece of revenue sharing.

"As I said, we were willing to make some concessions over the next years and it's just unfortunate because for us any type of work stoppage would be an absolute last resort but I think as we're seeing with a lot of the leagues now but especially the NHL it seems like the lockout tends to be essentially one of their negotiating tactics and kind of first course of action to try to put pressure on the players. As a player it sucks because we want to play hockey, we know the fans want hockey and we love watching it as much as anybody else."

But it appears as though the two sides are very far apart at this point, and with the owner-imposed September 15 deadline looming, hockey in October looks grim. Westgarth even went as far as saying the ownership "believes in a different reality".

"Well we're definitely willing to work and to keep talking so that we can figure it out. But it's tough when you're negotiating against someone that believes in a different reality," he said. "They basically just want to have money grabbed from the players as opposed to trying to fix the actual problems and that's what we're trying to do here. As I said, it would be wonderful to get it done by the September 15 deadline and we'll do everything that we can to do it. That being said the September 15 deadline is only important because the owners have said that they will lock us out. We'd be more than willing to play under the current CBA and to continue negotiating in good faith and to get ready and to play hockey this season but the owners won't let us do that and it's something I guess we'll see coming up in the next week."

The next week is obviously a crucial one. If a lockout happens it will shorten or eliminate NHL training camps, and threaten the October 11 start to the regular season. Westgarth is still hoping for the best for the players' sake and the fans' sake.

"I am extremely hopeful that, yeah, we will be having hockey," Westgarth said. "As I said, I know the fans want it. I know that the NHL sometimes might - the league and the commissioner might think that they can do anything to the hockey fans because they're the best fans in the world but I think that's just being incredibly obtuse and taking them for granted. It's not something that we're willing to do as players. We're on the fans side. We want to get this done and make sure we're playing as soon as possible and make sure that no games are lost in the greatest sport in the world."

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.