Bruins

McQuaid's thoughtfulness pays dividends for B's

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McQuaid's thoughtfulness pays dividends for B's

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
Adam McQuaid was a mess of emotion during Bostons Stanley Cup parade.

On that sunny Saturday in June, with over one million people bearing witness, McQuaid felt overjoyed, blessed and . . . awkward.

At first it was almost uncomfortable, he said. Just being up there in front of so many people. . . . People screaming and stuff.

Candor is one of his most endearing qualities.

The Bruins defenseman just finished his first full season with the Bruins. He had 19 points (3 G, 16 A) in 67 regular season and 23 playoff games. He finished plus-30 before the postseason started to lead all rookies in plus-minus. One month after winning the Stanley Cup, the 24-year old signed a three-year extension with Boston. General Manager Peter Chiarelli called McQuaid the poster child for Bruins development.

It is the stuff of pond hockey dreams. The realization nearly embarrasses him.

It definitely was amazing to see the reaction of the city. Especially . . . you know . . . at the parade and even . . . I would go all season long just walking around town and going to different restaurants and whatnot and no one had a clue who I was, he said.

Then I was only in town for a few days after the parade, but people would be coming up and saying congratulations and whatnot. It was definitely a little different, but . . . I don't know . . . it's nice to see the support that we had.

The words dont come easily. Not because McQuaid isnt well spoken he is. And its not because he hasnt taken the time to think about all thats happened this year he has. He gropes for a reaction because, in some ways, he cant get his arms around the whole thing.

Its even more fantastical than the kid on the pond could imagine.

I still think that I don't realize just how big, you know, it is, he said. Really the course of the year just so much has gone on with, first off, playing a full season, and winning, and a new contract again. There's been so much going on it's been kind of hard to grasp everything.

McQuaid is a small town kid.

Cornwall, Prince Edward Islands last reliable census data comes from 2006 and marks a population of 4,677. This number is something like 126-times smaller than Bostons 2006 total. For excitement, residents travel 11 kilometers to Charlottetown a treasure trove of five outdoor rinks and public skating facilities (two dollars for adults; five for families).

Harsh winters on P.E.I. make the sport a natural, if not a default, focus. School and hockey, said McQuaid. Thats it.

So he dreamed like all the rest of skating in the National Hockey League.

After a year of major midget in Cornwall and two years with the OHLs Sudbury Wolves, the Blue Jackets drafted him in 2005s second round. He went back to Sudbury after the draft and played another two years before Columbus traded him to Boston for a fifth-round pick. The Bruins signed McQuaid to a three-year deal and sent him to Providence.

Still in the AHL, he was on guard in the third year of his deal.

I felt like it was a make or break year, McQuaid said. I hadwatched a few guys go up and down. It's a fairly small window of opportunity and I knew it was going to be a big year for me. I tried, really, not to worry too much about the call-up situation when I was sent down. So I had to work hard that, if there was going to be an opportunity for someone, I would be hopefully at the top of the list.

As it happened, his opportunity was the result of other mens injuries.

Three Bruins D-men Dennis Wideman, Mark Stuart and Derek Morris all went down in December 2009. McQuaid came up. He celebrated the what and not the why.

When you're all in the same organization, you're all teammates and friends and stuff, you never want to see someone get hurt. But it happens. I just really wanted to make sure I left it all on the table and no regrets. You can put too much pressure on yourself, too, and I just tried to focus and put my best foot forward.

Kids got a big foot.

The 6-foot-5 blueliner played a physical game in Providence. Knowing NHL ice time is precious he also led with the body in Boston. By throwing down with guys like Raitis Ivanans and Troy Bodie both 6-4 he hoped to at least fulfill a basic need for the Bruins during his first NHL weeks.

Its classic thinking for a defensive defensemen like McQuaid. But the funny thing? Hes not a confrontational guy. Teammate Andrew Ference once remarked on the character discrepancy, calling McQuaid cool and calm as can be.

Its startling to watch him fight.

When he fell during a November tangle with Rod Pelley, he got back up, ripped of Pelleys helmet and finished the bout. A month later he forced veteran Matt Bradley to the ice with purpose. In his ninth fighting major of 2011 (he finished with 12), McQuaid pulled a Cam Neely-esque move on Brian Sutherby, pulling the Dallas center in by the jersey to pop him a couple in the face. Days later referees held McQuaid back from Max Pacioretty the rooks arms were still a flurry and he had fire in his eyes.

Hes a monster.

No. He looks like a monster.

It's something that I've had to, to be honest, kind of work at it, McQuaid said. It's not really something that comes natural. I've just kind of come to the realization that I want to have a career in the NHL, so it's one of those things where I had to learn how I needed to play if I wanted to make it.

What he is, is thoughtful. It seems nothing escapes him without some analysis or reflection. Most experiences lean toward the positive, what doesnt he can at least reconcile.

Was extended time as a healthy scratch frustrating? No, McQuaid said, he benefited from practicing with the Bruins.

At what point did he know hed won teammates confidence and trust? Actually, McQuaid said, security came from having confidence in his teammates to support him.

His maturity is impressive, especially under the bright lights of the big city, Stanley Cup at his side. The first-year service award is there, too. Its just tough to see in the shadow of a three-foot chalice.

I definitely know how fortunate I am this early on to have won. If nothing else, for me right now, it was such a thrill to win.

There he stopped, searching.

Now you know how hard it is. You know how good it feels to do it and it gives you more of a drive to want to do it every year.

Another active pause.

Obviously, that's not realistic -- you're not going to win every year . . . But it keeps you motivated to want to do it again.

How many athletes say when not in defense of failure they cant win every year? They all know its true, as do the fans who cheer them and the writers who cover them, but who wants to hear it? What kind of guy is calmly grounded in reality within the fantasyland professional sports often seems to be at 24?

A small town kid. Those Cornwall roots run deep.

Moments after the Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup Adam McQuaid stood on Vancouvers ice with the most important people in his world: mother Dianne, father Mark, brother Chad and sister Michelle. Dianne, in a black and gold sweater set, didnt even reach Adams shoulder. He kept his left arm wrapped around her for the entirety of a CBC interview.

It was important.

I moved away when I was 16 and that was tough for my parents to see me go, he said in retrospect. I was 20 hours away and I could only get up to Cornwall once a month. There was a lot of sacrifice on their part as well, so I wanted to make sure they were as much a part of the celebrations as possible.

All that joy and overwhelm. And with so much still ahead.

The Bruins believe McQuaid will continue to develop as a hockey player. Both sides want him to turn into a top-four defenseman who plays big minutes. The new three-year deal could give him that time to foster shutdown ability.

The emphasis is on growth, not change. In McQuaid, Boston has a bright, thoughtful young talent whos committed to learning all he can.

The awkwardness? Simple sincerity.

I'm going to do everything in my power to make it look like a great move on their part, he said.

In a lot of ways, it already does.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Miller, Krejci game-time decisions tonight; O'Gara called up

Miller, Krejci game-time decisions tonight; O'Gara called up

BRIGHTON, Mass – It wouldn’t be a Bruins game this season if there weren’t some health question marks entering a game night, so the B’s will once again have a few players up in the air for the lineup tonight against the Buffalo Sabres.

http://www.nbcsports.com/boston/bruins/bruins-goalie-decisions-may-become-tougher-you-might-think?int

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David Krejci (back) and Kevan Miller (upper body) were both on the ice prior to morning skate and Krejci participated in the optional practice, along with Patrice Bergeron and a handful of others on Saturday morning at Warrior Ice Arena. Krejci and Miller were termed game-time decisions based on the way things went this morning and Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy could have more lineup juggling in front of him based on those players.

Krejci said he was taking things “day-by-day”, but didn’t think it was going to be a long-term injury even if he misses the game.

“We’ll kind of take it day-by-day and we’ll see. I feel better than two days ago, so I guess we’ll be taking it day-by-day,” said Krejci. “I got hit in the last game and that forced me to leave the game. It’s a brand new injury and it just happened the other day. So that’s what it is.

“I don’t think it’s an injury that would be long term. It’s just one of these things that happens [during the games]. I wouldn’t lie to you if it was something that was a week or two weeks. We’ll just see how I feel later tonight. Injuries happen to every team. Hopefully, this is it for us here early in the season, and down the stretch, we’ll be healthy pushing for the playoffs.”

First the definite situations for the Black and Gold: Bergeron will play for the second game in a row and Paul Postma will be in the lineup, with Adam McQuaid shelved for the next couple of months with a broken leg. Beyond that, the Bruins could swing Miller from the left side to the right side if he plays, Charlie McAvoy could be added to the penalty kill and David Backes could end up playing some center if Matt Beleskey draws back into the lineup.

“We’ll probably move people around. [David] Backes, [Tim] Schaller has played some center over the years and obviously [Patrice] Bergeron looks like he’s going to play,” said Cassidy. “I think we’ll be okay. We sat out a forward the [Thursday vs. the Canucks], so we’ll move people around.

“Kevan will be a game-time decision, so we had a discussion about that and we’ll look into that as well. [Krejci] got hit in the lower back the other night, tried to finish and it’s one of those ones where at puck drop we’ll know.”

Robbie O’Gara popped on the Bruins roster on their team website early on Saturday afternoon, so the Yale alum will get the call if Miller can’t answer the bell on Saturday night. Another piece of good news: Noel Acciari skated with the injured players ahead of the morning skate and appears to be progressing slowly from his broken finger.  

Anything, it seems, is possible for these banged-up B’s as another body drops with each passing game or practice. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings vs. the Sabres based on an optional morning skate:

Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork

DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak

Schaller-Nash-Backes

Beleskey-Kuraly-Agostino

 
Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

O’Gara/Miller-Postma

 
Khudobin

Bruins goalie decisions may become tougher than you might think

Bruins goalie decisions may become tougher than you might think

BRIGHTON, Mass – The good news for Tuukka Rask on Friday is that there was no dark, quiet room required for the Bruins goaltender when he reported to the Warrior Ice Arena practice facility for treatment for his concussion.

Instead, the Bruins goalie got going on the concussion protocol after getting steam-rolled by Anders Bjork at practice on Wednesday morning and started the road back to recovery from his first concussion suffered at the NHL level. In the further good news department, Bruins backup netminder Anton Khudobin stepped up in Rask’s absence and stopped 26-of-29 shots in a winning effort over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night.

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So now Khudobin has twice as many wins as Rask in half as many starts in the opening two weeks of the season. That’s certainly good for the Russian backup that stumbled out of the starting gate last season but has really fortified his spot early this year with a strong training camp followed by a .928 save percentage and 2.16 goals against average this year.  

“I’ve been there before. I’ve played many games in a row before in the AHL and the NHL, so it’s the same routine. It’s just harder to be honest when you’re playing one game every two weeks or something,” said Khudobin. “I’ll talk to Goalie Bob about what I did good or bad, get ready for practice, stretch it out and warm it up, go get it at practice and get ready for the games.”

That’s in stark contrast to Rask, who has a pair of losses to the worst team in the NHL last season, the Colorado Avalanche, and a defeat out in Las Vegas where he was out-dueled by Bruins castoff Malcolm Subban. The defense hasn’t been particularly good in front of him in those games and the team only scored a total of four goals in Rask’s three losses, but the All-Star netminder was also far from sharp with an .882 save percentage to start the season.

The home loss to Colorado, in particular, was a poor performance from Rask where he buried his team with an early deficit once a couple of soft goals by him in the first period. Compounding the lack of quality play from Rask was his odd choice to cease talking about team performance with the media following the loss to the Golden Knights.

“I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much,” said Rask after the Sunday loss in Vegas. “We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

It certainly sounded and felt like Rask was directed to only talk about his own play by somebody higher up in the Bruins organization, and it was that kind of a development rather than the Bruins goalie passive-aggressively dissing his teammates. But that kind of directive from the organization would also speak to some pre-existing friction between Rask and his teammates where past criticism has perhaps rubbed some of them the wrong way.

It felt that way when Rask and David Krejci spoke about things in a tense dressing room in Las Vegas following last weekend’s loss, and it felt that way late last season when the Finnish goalie stayed home in Boston while watching Khudobin win one of the biggest games of the season in Brooklyn against the Islanders. At times in the past, something hasn’t always felt quite right about the dynamic between Rask and the rest of the Bruins, and it’s not a particularly good sign that both parties seemed to already be headed down that path just five games into this season.

All of this makes for some very interesting timing with the Anders Bjork collision into Rask that knocked him for a loop, and has now opened the door wide for Khudobin to start a few games in a row. Should Khudobin play well and continue to backstop a winning hockey team playing hard in front of him, it will make for a much tougher goalie decision than some might anticipate. Rask is clearly the better goaltender in terms of talent, upside, resume and accomplishments over the last eight years, but the question becomes how much is that offset by the Bruins team potentially playing a better brand of hockey with Khudobin between the pipes.

Maybe it’s because Khudobin is the backup and the Bruins are trying to play tighter defense in front of him, but it’s hard to argue the fact that Boston seems to play a smarter, stronger game when the backup gets the call.  

“That’s what I’m there for, but at the same time, I wasn’t thinking, 'Oh maybe [Rask] is going to get hurt and he’s not going to play [the next few games].' I’m not thinking that way, definitely,” said Khudobin. “I was just focusing on my practice. Whatever coach is going to tell me after the practice, then I will keep moving from that point.”

The best-case scenario for the Bruins is that Khudobin plays good, strong, winning hockey in Rask’s absence and that in turn lights a fire under the No. 1 goaltender after he looked fairly laissez-faire in his first few games this season. That’s what everybody saw out of Rask late last season when he was called out by the Bruins coaching staff and challenged by a red-hot Khudobin pushing for some big game starts.

Perhaps that is exactly the kind of collective kick to the hockey pants that’s needed for Rask to start carrying the Bruins team once he gets healthy again.

A deeper question, however, would involve asking how much longer the Bruins want to hitch their wagons to a $7 million a year goalie that needs to mentally recharge his batteries from time to time, and who begins to wilt performance-wise if he makes more than 55-60 start in an NHL season. Members of the Rask Fan Club will point to his career .922 save percentage, but it's been three years since he's been able to consistently reach that level of performance. 

The older Rask, 30, gets, the more baggage is getting added on with a performance level that’s dropped from his Vezina Trophy-winning days. Some of that is clearly about the defense getting a makeover in front of him, but it’s also about Rask just not always being as consistently good when Boston needs him most in the big games.

Khudobin certainly wouldn’t be the long-term answer for the Bruins, and the jury is out on whether or not Zane McIntyre has a future in the NHL as a goalie. So there’s no long-term solution if they suddenly decided to go away from Rask for any reason. But if this humble hockey writer was coaching the Bruins and Khudobin goes on a winning tear over the next few weeks? A healthy Rask wouldn’t automatically be handed his No. 1 workload upon his return, and it would be a couple of goalies splitting time to decide who wants it more.  

That kind of situation might not be up to goaltender controversy standards at this early point in the season, but there’s nothing wrong with making Rask grind for it a little when he does come back after breezing through some early season losses. 

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