Bruins

Kuraly 'keeping it simple' in camp after playoff success with Bruins

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Kuraly 'keeping it simple' in camp after playoff success with Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – Just a few months ago, Sean Kuraly was the talk of the NHL world after a clutch two-goal performance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The 24-year-old suited up for four of the B’s playoff games against the Senators after spending most of the season in Providence, and memorably scored a pair of goals – including the double-overtime winner – in an epic Game 5 win that took the series back to Boston. That’s not too shabby for a kid that had played just eight NHL games for the B’s during the regular season, but then really clicked with David Backes and Noel Acciari once the playoffs got rolling.

MORE: Thoughts and observations from first weekend of B's camp

Unsurprisingly, Kuraly now hopes to parlay that playoff confidence into carving out a roster spot for himself at the NHL level to start this season. It remains to be seen if that will happen in a crowded field of forwards, but Kuraly certainly has raised expectations heading into his second NHL training camp.

“For me the first thing is to put the [playoffs] behind you, realize it went well and then maybe realize that there’s another training camp and another year to go here,” said Kuraly, who said the coolest part of the Game 5 heroics was getting recognized for the first time while out to eat in Boston. “It’s just sticking to my game, knowing the things that worked and really keeping it simple. I think I just had a really clear role and it was communicated very clearly to me how I can help the team in the playoffs.

“It was pretty cool to see that I could help the team, and that a simple North/South kind of game is something that the team could use. Just use my body, use my speed and get pucks behind their ‘D’ while playing a good puck management game. Everyone is here to win a job, and I’m no different. I was trying to do the same thing last year, and I’m going to do the same thing this year [trying to] make the team. I’m hoping to do that in this camp.”

It’s easy to forget just how effective Kuraly was at the end of the season, but the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder finished with 10 shots on net in the four playoff games for the Black and Gold. Not only was he strong and heavy on the forecheck, but he was skating with great pace for a big man and seemed to have knocked all of the hesitation out of his game. That’s exactly what the Bruins coaching staff is looking for as they put together their roster to start the season.

It sure sounds like Kuraly has a good shot to least start the season as the 13th forward on the NHL roster, and it will be hard to keep him off the ice if he’s playing with the same determination he showed during the postseason. If Kuraly can summon a large percentage of what he showed in the playoffs, then it will be pretty difficult for the Bruins coaching staff to turn away from him.

“It’s hard to put a lot [of expectation] on him because it was a short window. It’s a different situation to me than Charlie [McAvoy], but it’s more of an excitement for me like ‘Can he bring that for us again this year from Day One?,” said Bruce Cassidy of Kuraly, who finished with 14 goals and 26 points in 54 games for the P-Bruins last season. “He brought a lot of energy and gave us an identity at the bottom of the lineup that was going to be hard to play against.

“And he created in the offensive end, and we didn’t know if that was going to come right now. It’s a bit like Noel [Acciari] where all of a sudden they were scoring and it was like ‘Wow.’ Those kinds of players are invaluable in April and May. Sometimes they get lost in the shuffle during the regular season. He went to Providence after the [Bruins elimination] but he wasn’t really able to play. Sometimes then you really see growth in players when they go out there with that kind of confidence. That’s the part we weren’t really sure about this summer, but he looks really good right now [in training camp]. Like a lot of guys these preseasons will be big to see what kind of steps they’ve taken.”

Kuraly won’t be in the lineup for Monday night’s preseason opener against the Canadiens, but it shouldn’t take long to notice him in the preseason if he’s playing the same heavy, high-energy game he did while elevating his game in the playoffs. 

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Improving Grzelcyk setting up a healthy competition with Krug

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Improving Grzelcyk setting up a healthy competition with Krug

BOSTON – Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is fond of saying that internal competition brings out the best in everybody on a hockey club, and he’s lived that credo with the way he’s handled the goaltending situation this season.

Cassidy is also seeing that competition paying dividends with the defensemen group now that Matt Grzelcyk is hitting his stride at the NHL level, giving Torey Krug a push as a similarly skilled, left shot, puck-moving defenseman. Krug finished with a couple of assists and a plus-1 rating in 17:55 of ice time in a strong game in the 3-1 win over the Islanders on Saturday night, and Grzelcyk was solid in his 16:47 of ice time as well with an active five shot attempts.

The 23-year-old Grzelcyk is building his comfort level at the NHL level, and has been pretty good with three points and a plus-5 rating in nine games while avoiding any major mistakes with puck management or D-zone play.

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There may be some adjustments for Krug based on Grzelcyk being eligible to play in most of the same situations that No. 47 would regularly hop over the boards for in the past, but Cassidy sees that as something that could ultimately benefit the Bruins.

“I think it will in the long run [it will be a benefit]. [Krug] may lose a shift or two, which will annoy him. Any player with pride will [be annoyed],” said Cassidy. “But once that part is [done] – you digest that and say, well, I don’t want to lose any more shifts, [you say] ‘What do I have to do to earn the coaches trust or get those shifts back.’ Because he has our trust, but earn [the right to] be the first guy over the boards every time in situations. He’s going to push himself, and he should. That’s what we want. And then hopefully we get to a nice balance where we don’t have to overuse one guy in every situation.

“We want Torey to be our 1A in those situations. Charlie [McAvoy] is pushing him too, and now you have Griz [Matt Grzelcyk], so we have three different [offensive] guys. It’s only going to make us better, and I’ll tell you why. Because those guys – we have guys that aren’t pouting there because of that either. There’s a difference between being annoyed and having pride, or having a guy that pouts and shuts it down. We don’t have that. I’m fortunate as a coach that they can wrap their heads around it eventually and just want to outplay the next guy, yet still be happy for his success. It’s a nice problem and you are seeing some of it now bubble up.”

There have been long stretches with the Bruins over the last couple of seasons where Krug was the lone offensive defenseman choice when they needed plays to be made, and it factored into the 5-foot-9 D-man topping 21 minutes of ice time in each of the last two seasons. Krug is down a little averaging 20:33 of ice time per game this season, but he’s under 20 minutes (19:33, to be exact) per game during the month of December coinciding with the arrival of Grzelcyk.

It makes for challenges on the penalty kill when the Bruins have only one real left shot D-man in Chara that’s a defensive stalwart, and it’s too small of a sample size to say that Grzelcyk will keep playing this consistently over the long haul. There’s also the fact that Adam McQuaid will be returning to the mix sooner rather than later, and that will force the Bruins into different configurations at some point down the road.

But for now they’ve got a pretty good thing going with their mix of young and old, puck movers and stay-at-home shutdown guys, and that’s reflected in the healthy, friendly competition going on between Krug and Grzelcyk right now.   

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Morning Skate: Hey ref, let the boys play

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Morning Skate: Hey ref, let the boys play

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while getting in the holiday spirit listening to “Merry Christmas, Baby” from Bruce Springsteen, my favorite holiday song even though I’m not really a Springsteen guy.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t give this Brad Marchand play a second thought as far as supplementary discipline goes. He was whacked with a five minute interference major, which I thought was excessive in the first place, there were no injuries and it ended a contentious shift between Marchand and John Tavares. Let’s not go crazy with the suspensions and hearings, shall we? Let’s keep a little bit of the fun, violence and mayhem in the game, and leave it with what the officials called on the ice at the time. Good call by the Department of Player Safety to leave this one alone despite Marchand’s longtime customer status, and to leave alone the weird head-butting call on David Backes as well.  

David Pastrnak has officially made it in Boston with a profile in the Improper Bostonian. I never knew that Pasta was an amateur artist, or that he now has a Porsche after the new contract. Not too shabby.

The Florida Panthers need a goaltender with Roberto Luongo down and out, and former Bruins goalie farmhand Mike Hutchinson is one of the lead possibilities to help the Panthers out according to recent speculation from many, including Pro Hockey Talk.

The Golden Knights are in the weeds again with another tweet attempting to be funny that angered the Nashville Predators media corps. Was it ill-advised and poorly executed? Certainly if it was taken seriously as something that was meant to be funny, and that is always a potential pitfall when trying to be funny and edgy on twitter. But it’s a little much to think this was going to be damaging to anybody in particular. At least the Golden Knights were adult enough to apologize that they were in the wrong, as opposed to milquetoast Montreal radio personality Connor McKenna, who tried to pull a similar lame stunt with the Bruins media a few years ago.

More thoughts on the body of work that Matthew Tkachuk is putting together this season along with other assorted hockey things in The Athletic notebook.

For something completely different: You’ve got to love the response by some athletes down in Tennessee to a video posted on social media of a sweet little kid getting bullied. This is the way to take a negative and turn it into a positive.

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