Bruins

Observations from Day 1 of Bruins development camp

Observations from Day 1 of Bruins development camp

BRIGHTON, Mass – Here are some thoughts and observations from the opening day of Bruins Development Camp at Warrior Ice Arena with plenty of good prospects on the ice:

1. Urho Vaakenainen looked as advertised with a smooth skating stride, plenty of confidence on the ice and a pretty good shot from the point. There wasn’t a lot of wasted energy or awkward passes from the silky smooth first-round pick. He certainly looked the part of a future NHL player in his first appearance in a B’s uniform. That being said, it’s difficult to gauge a player fully until we see him in game situations later in the week. There were no warning bells or whistles after watching him go through a first day of workouts, however, and the size, skating and overall skill level portend good things even if Vaakenainen isn’t expected to be the flashiest defenseman around.

2. Ryan Donato continues to be a real shining star in development camp. Maybe it’s because of his familiarity and comfort level with the "Bruins Way" of doing things, or maybe it’s because he’s been to a handful of them already. Maybe it’s just because he’s always been a solid prospect who's growing in that stature as the years go by. Whatever the case, Donato again stood out among the B’s prospects for his skating, his offensive creativity and for a shot that continues to beat the goaltenders at these camps. Donato is entering his junior season at Harvard and still doesn’t sound like a player who's ready to leave the Crimson with his dad Teddy as the coach, but he looks like he’s got a chance at the next level as he continues to grow, mature as a player and mold himself into what’s expected from an NHL prospect.

3. Incoming University of Maine goaltender Jeremy Swayman really looked good in his first day on the ice with the Bruins organization. He obviously has good size at 6-3 and looks the part in goalie equipment, but he also looked athletic and very steady tracking the puck in the drills as one of just two goalies on the ice. Swayman wasn’t beaten cleanly by many shots and showed good competitiveness battling to keep everything out of the net when the puck got close to him. It’s always a challenge for goaltenders to stand out in development camps full of offensive prospects, but Swayman looked like the real deal in his first go-through prior to jumping in with the Black Bears.

4. Second-round pick Jack Studnicka looked perfectly fine as an offensive prospect in his first go-round with the other B’s youngsters on the ice. His skating speed was probably a little better than advertised. Apparently, that was his dad’s calling card when he was a player at Maine and his son managed to inherit that from the old man.

5. One name to keep an eye on among the non-draftee invitees is Karson Kuhlman from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He’s not a real standout at 5-foot-11, 180-pounds and his numbers at Duluth aren’t amazing in his three seasons there, but his skills jumped out among the other prospects given that he wasn’t drafted. He had a good day showing a dangerous shot, good skating speed and creativity. He looked like the kind of player that might warrant a longer look from the B’s once his collegiate career has finished. He certainly looked right in place with the best of the Bruins drafted prospects, so keep an eye on him in his senior season.

6. One player I just don’t see it with is Cedric Pare. He was a sixth-round pick out of the QMJHL with good size and toughness, but that’s about it. The book on him is that there isn’t much of an upside for his offensive potential and that he looks like a career grinder of sorts. Nothing he showed on the first day went against that. It’s always a challenge for everything to look good for these kids if they’ve been off the ice for most of the summer, but Pare had trouble with his hands simply calming the puck down and continuously fumbled it away when in position to make plays in drills. Clearly, Pare might not be a guy with the kind of skills that jump out at you at these prospect drills and perhaps game situations will show more of what he brings to the table. Still, he didn’t show much on his first day of drills with more polished, skilled players surrounding him on the ice.  

David Krejci Line looks to shoulder their share of Bruins offensive burden

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David Krejci Line looks to shoulder their share of Bruins offensive burden

TORONTO – The Bruins top line totaled up 20 points in the first two games, and the B’s took both of those against the Maple Leafs. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak had zero points in Game 3 on Monday night at the Air Canada Centre, and the Bruins ended up dropping that game to the Leafs. 

So clearly the Bruins’ playoff fate could be strongly tied to the ebbs and flow of their top forward trio, but the hope with the B’s is that the formula won’t be that simple throughout the postseason. A big part of the reason the Bruins gave up a boatload to the New York Rangers in exchange for Rick Nash was to acquire another forward capable of shouldering a scoring load, and turn Boston’s second line into a much more dangerous group. 

All three members of the B’s second line, David Krejci, Rick Nash and Jake DeBrusk, all have goals during the best-of-seven series, but they also came up empty in Game 3 with Krejci and DeBrusk only managing two shots on net between them. They know that they’re capable of more given the offensive talent on the ice, and given that so much defensive attention is being paid to neutralizing Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak rather than them. 

“We had lots of good looks. I missed a couple. We had lots of good looks that just didn’t go in,” said Krejci. “So we need to work extra harder [in Game 4] to bury those chances and have them end up in the back of the net. We need to stick to the game plan and respect the game plan.”

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Nash had five shots on net and some pretty good chances, but the best scoring chance was a DeBrusk dangle and pass to Krejci wide open at the net. It looked like the puck hit a rut on the ice and Krejci was never able to settle it down for a shot despite the nice-looking pass, so that line is left biding their team for another chance to carry the offense. 

“I think that’s the main reason why we’re the second line. We all have attributes that can help this team. It hasn’t really come to the table yet, but I still thought that we generated chances [in Game 3], and I think our whole team did. It just wasn’t bouncing our way,” said DeBrusk. “It’s frustrating, but at the same time you take the positives from it. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to get harder from here on in. Hopefully our top line does their thing, but if not then we’ll be ready to hopefully help out in that category.”

The Bruins top line is ready, willing and able to shoulder the lion’s share of the scoring burden for the Black and Gold, and most nights they’re going to be able to live up to that kind of responsibility. But if the Bruins want to beat the good defensive teams and become a much more difficult team to play against in the postseason, they’re going to need to start getting production from a second line that should be built to play the power, puck possession game in the postseason.

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Patrice Bergeron named Selke Trophy finalist for seventh straight season

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Patrice Bergeron named Selke Trophy finalist for seventh straight season

TORONTO – At some point, they’re going to have to start thinking about re-naming the award after Patrice Bergeron himself.

The Bruins center was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy on Wednesday night for the seventh consecutive season, and is going for his NHL-record fifth trophy for being the best defensive forward in the NHL. Bergeron was named a finalist along with Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier and Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar. Bergeron finished his 12th NHL season with 30 goals and 33 assists for 63 points with 26 penalty minutes and a plus-21 rating in 64 games.

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He ranked fifth in the league in faceoff win percentage (57.3, min. 1,000 face-offs), 12th in face-offs won (784), third in even strength faceoff win percentage (58.0, min. 500 face-offs won) and first in shorthanded faceoff win percentage (58.3, min. 50 face-offs won). The 32-year-old forward also ranked second overall in the team puck possession metric SAT (shot attempts differential), with a 57.56%, which should make the fancy stat nerds very happy.

Some might argue there other more worthy candidates given that Bergeron missed 18 games due to injury this season, but he was also the center of a line that didn’t give up an even strength goal until January while putting up his customarily excellent stats. That being said, a guy like Aleksander Barkov also deserved plenty of consideration outside the top-3 finalists that all come in with equally strong chances of taking home the award.

Bergeron has won the Selke in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2017. If he wins the year's Selke Trophy, he will break the record held by four-time winner and Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer Bob Gainey. The Selke Award is given annually to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the end of the regular season, and will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 20.

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