Bruins

Morning Skate 56: B's ready to 'do some damage'

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Morning Skate 56: B's ready to 'do some damage'

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON So heres an interesting tweet from the NHL that really explains how important closing things out is for the Bruins: @NHL: Did you know? Bruins are 1 "W" away from their 1st conf. final since '92. Only other teams who haven't made final 4 since: Phx CBJ Nas Atl.Thats right. Only the orphan Coyotes' franchise in Glendale, the small-market, NHL version of the Minnesota Twins (Nashville), and the downtrodden hockey franchises in Columbus and Atlanta have been held out of the conference finals since 1992 . . . along with the Original Six Black and Gold.If the Bs want to make a statement, then its time to borrow a few pop culture phrases: the always favored Sweep the Leg from the Karate Kid and Finish Him! command from the classic Mortal Kombat video game. The Bruins have the Philadelphia Flyers reeling, doubting themselves and severely regretting their decision to solve their goaltending issues on the cheap for this season. Theres also the statement that the Bruins know they can make by stepping on the Broad Street Bullies while the team is down, and in doing so fully vanquishing the questions about last years debacle against Philly in Games 4-7.
Brad Marchand is one of the new guys that never got on the ice last playoffs when he was scratched in favor of veteran Trent Whitfield during the postseason, and the smallest guy on the ice is ready to make the biggest difference in a closeout game.Its always a tough battle, but we have the home-ice advantage, said Marchand. You have to keep the collapse in the back of your mind just in case you need to use it whether youre up or down. We have a different team and I think over the half of the guys are new on the team this year.Its a new mentality. We have a great crew here and we know we can do some damage. If were focused and playing hard then were going to put ourselves in a good position. Theres a ton of pressure on us. Everybody is going to be looking at us to see if were going to fold. We have to make sure we keep that stuff away from our team and stay prepared for the game.On to the links: The Edmonton Journal explores how possible it is that the Oilers could end up leaving Edmonton for another city looking for a hockey team. Yahoo! Sports catches with Jaromir Jagr to talk about a possible return to the NHL, concussions and life in the KHL as a veritable hockey deity on Russia. The Globe and Mail has a good piece on a player from a different generation that shows hockey players did get concussions in the Old Time Hockey days and are trying to help pave the way for research. TSNs Scott Cullen has a look at Vancouvers Ryan Kesler, who plunged a dagger into the Nashville Predators on Thursday night in their series and has the Canucks poised for the kill. Damien Cox is catching the Smashville fever while watching the Predators go through the postseason, and win or lose they are a hockey success story in a non-hockey market. Jaspers Rink has a good look at Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, and the vultures flying around his office in the Nations capital after another early playoff exit. The Green Men have taken over the NHL and were in Nashville last night amusing Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban as they took in the PredatorsCanucks tilt at Bridgestone Arena. Good stuff from NHL draft guru Kirk Luedeke asking if the Memorial Cup and championship-level junior teams produce better hockey prospects than other comparative teams around junior 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.