Bruins

Morning Skate 32: A deeper look at the B's

Morning Skate 32: A deeper look at the B's

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Happened upon an interesting Twitter conversation this morningwith uber-hockey columnist Justin Bourne, who pops up on Yahoo! Sports, The Hockey News, USA Today and many other fine publications with his bang-on and amusing hockey observations.I was throwing out the scenario that the Eastern Conference was wide open for the taking with the situations developingon many other contending teams around the Bruins. I say "wide open" in the sense that its anybodys playoffs, with each team harboring at least one major weakness and a playoffpath could be open for a long, bountiful run like the one undertaken by the surprising Montreal Canadiens last spring.I say wide open with the full-well notion that the Flyers have a monstrous positional player roster with some very suspect goaltending until proven otherwise. The Penguins have no Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, and no shot without both of them working together as a duo. The Capitals have been a mess all year, have choked in the playoffs multiple times and were looking at Bs castoffs like Dennis Wideman and Marco Sturm as part of the solution. Color me not impressed after they needed 26 minutes out of Wideman in his first night suiting up for them.The Tampa Bay Lightning have a young team in playoff terms with little real experience beyond Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier and Dwayne Roloson.Beyond those five teams (including the Bruins), its a mess of mediocrity in the East.The one thing that Boston has over every single other team: the best goaltender in the NHL (who's also motivated to see how good he can be as the candle begins flickeringat 36 years old) and a great deal of impressive depth fortified by the deals for Tomas Kaberle, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly.The Bs are top five in goals for, top five in goals against, the best team in the NHL in the third period and boast a physical edge with good size and strength. The one thing they dont have: a game-breaking scorer. Its the point smartly brought up by Bourne in the conversation, and its altogether true.There is no CrosbyMalkin, ZetterbergDatsyuk, ToewsKane on the Bruins, and thats the hurdle Boston will have to clear in any manner of Stanley Cup run. It could certainly be done, but itll be in a different way of winning (Charlie Sheen trademarked)than weve seen out of the last handful of Stanley Cup champions, dating back to the Carolina Hurricanes.What the Bruins dohave is the right combination of depth, physical, hard-nosed players with the right amount of skill -- and emerging young players that could both surprise and wear down opponents in the playoffs. Just ask the Canucks or Flames if you're looking for testimonials.Either way its going to be fascinating to watch in the conference with a ton of parity among the top five seedsOn to the links: Heres FOH (Friend of Haggs) Justin Bourne on his eponymous blog dissecting the Bruins with 19 games to go in the season, and liking what he sees. Elliotte Friedmans always anticipated and always celebrated 30 thoughts for the week including some reasons for the dud of a trade deadline. Mike Milbury on NBCs Pro Hockey Talk choosing the winners and losers at the trade deadline, and certainly insulting someone in the process. A good look at the Bemidji State hockey program for all of my Minnesota readers out there. Do I have any Minnesota readers? Guess well find out. Michael Russo with an excellent piece on the Nystrom brothers, and their hockey legacy. On Frozen Blog gives us a peek at the Washington Capitals and some fresh now things hes seeing from the Caps in a largely stale hockey season. Dustin Penner likes what hes of the Los Angeles Kings, and in theory he should be a nice fit as a big-bodied forward to pair with Anze Kopitar. A double-dose of Elliotte Friedman this week as Ive also included a fascination sleep study that some NHL teams are enrolling in, and the results that could change plenty within the game of hockey.Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

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.