Bruins

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

bruins_sean_kuraly_042117.jpg

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. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Morning Skate: Team USA's medal dreams dashed

team-usa-olympic-hockey-loss-czech-222118.jpg
USA TODAY Sports photo

Morning Skate: Team USA's medal dreams dashed

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while disappointed at the whimper that Team USA went out with during a shootout loss to the Czech Republic.

*Here’s the aforementioned rundown on the Team USA loss just ahead of the medal round with the Americans going 0-for-5 in the shootout after battling to a 2-2 tie. Team USA had their chances and Ryan Donato scored another goal, but it’s clear they weren’t one of the more talented teams in the tournament with no current NHL representation.

*Marc Savard is back with another one of his DIY stick-taping videos where, this time, you can learn how to do a candy cane-style tape job just like Phil Kessel on your hockey stick.

*Down Goes Brown has the most annoying things that NHL GMs will say or do around the NHL trade deadline.

*Brad Treliving insists that it was just a coincidence that the Flames’ trip to Las Vegas coincided with the players’ mothers visiting for a road trip.

*Ryan Suter might be getting up there in terms of age and games played, but he is still every bit the workhorse he’s always been while in Minnesota.

*Braden Holtby is going through a tough stretch for the Washington Capitals as the losses are stringing together against him.

*For something completely different: MC Hammer has still got it after all these years.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

After Holden trade, what do Bruins do next?

After Holden trade, what do Bruins do next?

The Bruins made a preemptive move to shore up their defensemen depth nearly a week ahead of the NHL trade deadline, but Don Sweeney isn’t done dealing yet. The B’s are still in the market for a big, experienced winger capable of potentially filling a top-six role and somebody who can also bring more of a size/strength dimension to a group of wingers that are pretty young and pretty undersized outside of David Backes.

The Bruins have expressed interest in Edmonton’s Patrick Maroon and New York’s Rick Nash, and it’s expected that Thomas Vanek and Michael Grabner are on their radar as well before the Feb. 26 deadline. While the Bruins might have to give up a decent prospect for a premier rental in Nash, it's not expected that the others will cost the Bruins either an "A" prospect or a top draft pick.  

It’s also expected that the Bruins aren’t going to be very active in potential trade markets for D-men Ryan McDonagh or Nik Hjalmarsson over the next week after shipping Rob O’Gara and a 2018 third-round pick to the New York Rangers for 30-year-old defenseman Nick Holden.

Sweeney wasn’t tipping his hand much after the Holden deal, but indicated that the Bruins are still burning up the phone lines looking for the right moves to support Boston’s playoff run.  

"We’re going to continue to look at the marketplace and see where guys may fit in, who’s available, continue the calls that happen a lot more frequently this time of year and see where it goes,” Sweeney said to reporters in Edmonton. “Our club has played well, but we’ve got a long way to go."

One other thing that the Bruins are clearly trying to do: Move the Matt Beleskey contract if at all possible after burying him in the AHL earlier this season. Hockey sources have indicated to NBCSportsBoston.com that the Bruins talked with the San Jose Sharks about Beleskey and that presumably it would have been in a deal where the B’s would have taken on the rest of Paul Martin’s similarly cap-unfriendly contract.

With the Bruins doing the Holden deal, that should eliminate Martin as a potential player of interest for the Black and Gold.

The Athletic’s Craig Custance reported on Tuesday that the Bruins and Red Wings had preliminary talks about Detroit energy forward Darren Helm. Those discussions are also believed to have been about trying to move Beleskey for a similar contract around the NHL. While there is very clearly a robust market of big, experienced top-six wingers for the Bruins to choose from, it’s going to be a much stiffer challenge for Sweeney to find somebody, anybody willing to take on a Beleskey contract that still has two years at a shade under $4 million per season left on it.   

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE