Bergeron: Bruins coaching change a 'wakeup call'

Bergeron: Bruins coaching change a 'wakeup call'

Appearing on Toucher and Rich Tuesday, Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said that the firing of Claude Julien provided a wakeup call that has helped give the team its recent 6-0-1 run.

“I think it was just one of those things where we started playing better hockey,” he said. “We had a new voice, I guess, and it was definitely a wakeup call seeing Claude go. It seemed like everyone kind of looked at themselves in the mirror and had to be better.” 

Asked whether Bruce Cassidy taking over has allowed him to be a more offensive player, Bergeron disagreed. 

“I don’t know necessarily if he allows [me to be more offensive],” Bergeron said. “Even with Claude, he would let us use our imagination offensively, but at the same time, I think [Cassidy] wants us to have a faster pace and kind of have Ds joining the rush. Obviously when you have defensemen helping you out on the rush and having four, even sometimes a five-man rush, it helps having more openings and more lanes to the net and, ultimately, having more scoring chances.”

Bergeron said that there was not a drastic transition from Julien to Cassidy, the latter of whom served as Providence’s head coach in recent years before beginning this season as an assistant in Boston.

“It was a pretty good transition,” Bergeron said. “Bruce has been there all year this year. He was in the organization for nine years. The system, there’s lots of similarities to it, so the change has been pretty smooth so far. 

“Like I said, the biggest change is he really wants us to play with more tempo, more speed and go up the ice in a hurry. The practices are maybe a little different in that way. It’s always lots of energy and drills where you’re always moving your legs, which is a good thing. You kind of duplicate that in games.” 

Donato looks like impact player after 'dream' debut

Donato looks like impact player after 'dream' debut

BOSTON – It certainly looks like the Bruins have themselves another young impact player.

The only way it could have been more of a dream scenario for Ryan Donato in his NHL debut would have been if the Bruins won the game, but otherwise it was as good as could have been hoped with a goal and three points in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at TD Garden.

Donato fired off a one-timer missile from the right face-off dot for his first NHL goal, but also showed both tenacity in front of the net on the power play leading to Riley Nash’s goal, and playmaking in flipping a backhanded saucer pass to David Krejci for the tying goal in the third period. 

The highly skilled Harvard star didn’t end up finishing off the storybook opening with an OT winner, but he did more than enough in his first game to make it a living dream for himself.

“During warm-ups, actually, I was kind of taken away. I mean it kind of felt like a dream and I really didn’t even get that warmed up because I was too focused on everything else, and just kind of the whole situation,” said Donato. “At the end of the day it was an unbelievable experience and it was a blessing tonight.

“I mean, [the NHL] is so much faster than what I’ve ever seen but at the end of the day, it’s something that you can get used to. When you’re playing with great players like that it’s something that will come along fast as well.”

If there were a checklist of qualities that the Bruins wanted to see out of their 21-year-old prospect while jumping from college hockey to the pros, one could check off “high hockey IQ”, “natural goal-scoring shot” and “nose for the net” right off the bat.

Those are the kinds of qualities that could make Donato very effective for the Bruins down the stretch and into the playoffs if the youngster can harness them on a consistent basis. It also caps off a brilliant 2014 NHL draft for the Bruins, helmed by current Edmonton Oilers assistant GM Keith Gretzky, where their first four picks were David Pastrnak, Donato, Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork, a draft class that’s helped set the Black and Gold up for years to come.  

What about the combination of those qualities plus being able to do it in front of friends and family as the hometown kid for his father's old team? That takes a pretty special makeup to do as well.

“He’s on the puck, as advertised, in terms of his compete. [He] wanted to shoot the puck," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "Early he was trying to make some plays and then realized, just play to your strength. [He] did a real good job. I didn’t notice anything away from the puck. I’m sure there’s a few teaching moments once you go back over the game tape and go from there. But, like I said, I liked him a lot. I’m sure Krech [David Krejci] did, as well. They seemed to have some good chemistry.

“This is one game, but some of the guys that come in...You saw that with [Charlie] McAvoy, just played his game. It would be great if he has similar success. Consistency is a big issue for first-year guys, and we all understand that. If he can string it together then we’ll make that comparison, but very impressed by that to be able to come in here [and make an immediate impact]. Especially your hometown, could be some jitters there, might be easier to do it on the road, almost. I’m not sure – to each his own in that area – but there’s a lot of people to, sort of, impress, and it’s a tough game, so good for him to be able to do it right here in his own backyard.”

There was certainly no hint of tentativeness or nerves sapping any part of his game while jumping into a Boston lineup that desperately needed a guy like Donato while beset with injuries. The B’s are down Patrice Bergeron, Jake DeBrusk and now Rick Nash for the time being, and the ability to plug another capable top-six, potentially high-impact option into the lineup just allows the Bruins to keep on running like nobody was missing.

“Ryan [Donato] played a good game. Good for his confidence to get the first one. That is always the hardest, but he’s got to keep playing the way he played [in his first game]. I thought he played well and he made some good plays,” said Krejci. “He easily could have got a couple of more, but that’s a good start for him. For me, just have to go out and try to do your best to help the team.

“He was battling along the walls, and he was making some good plays. Like I said, it was a good game for him. For a first NHL game, you can’t really ask for anything better than he did. So it was a good game and hopefully, he can keep it up.”

The challenge now is twofold for Donato and the Bruins. The first hurdle is for Donato to keep performing and producing with consistency as he gets everything tossed at him in his first NHL go-round. That will be a challenge enough.

There are many that can look like an impact player in the NHL from time to time, but few that can pull it off nightly as the speed and physicality take a toll over the course of a long season.

The second difficulty, honestly, will be finding enough room in the Bruins lineup for all these players of different shapes, sizes and talents once they're all healthy and potentially start rolling once they bust into the postseason. If Donato keeps up something resembling his debut performance on a nightly basis, then the rich just got even richer with a Bruins team already awash in exciting, talented young players up and down their roster.



Haggerty: OT non-call latest instance of Marchand not getting respect he's earned

Haggerty: OT non-call latest instance of Marchand not getting respect he's earned

BOSTON – It’s high time that Brad Marchand starts getting a little more respect around the league.

The latest example came Monday night in the Bruins' 5-4 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at TD Garden when Marchand was the victim of a non-call in the extra session on a play that could have won the game for Boston.

Marchand busted in behind the Columbus defense after taking a stretch pass and had a partial breakaway chance on the kind of play that he’s scored on in his sleep this season in the extra session. Rather than giving one of the NHL’s best goal-scorers a chance to show off his dazzling skill in the 3-on-3 OT, Pierre Luc-Dubois wrapped Marchand with both hands from behind in bear hug-type fashion and hauled down the Bruins left winger to prevent him from getting a shot off at the net.

Young referee Kendrick Nicholson got a good look at the play as it happened and didn’t call either a penalty shot (which was warranted, but probably a long shot in this situation) or a minor penalty for holding that was absolutely called for in this situation. Maybe it was an inexperienced referee simply blowing a call in a big moment, but one would hope it’s not the referees continuing to turn a blind eye toward just about anything happening with Marchand.

“Listen, they make their calls. I was more confused about, like I said, I thought there were clearly two icings that directly resulted in goals. That was disappointing to me, but life goes on,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “We got our power-play opportunities; we were able to covert on one of them, so no. Hopefully, the next time we’re in overtime, a call goes our way. It’s just the way it is.”

It’s always been an uphill battle for Marchand to get the benefit of the doubt from officials, both when it comes to penalties for and against him, based on his past reputation, but that needs to start changing based on his ascension to NHL superstardom in the last few years. Marchand has 31 goals this season and only Alex Ovechkin has scored more goals in the last three seasons than No. 63 for the Bruins, and he’s earned the right to get the star calls in those clutch moments in overtime.

Marchand wasn’t available for comment after the game and the reason was that he was understandably furious about the non-call and probably didn’t want to say something he was going to end up paying dearly for.

It’s time for the NHL to stop busting Marchand’s balls about embellishment and ticky-tack penalties and instead roll out for the NHL royal red carpet for the league’s best and brightest.

Can you imagine Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin on a breakaway in a similar instance in OT with nothing getting called after they were pulled down from behind while moving in all alone for a sure thing game-winner?

The easy answer is “no”, and it’s time for the Bruins organization to begin pushing for Marchand to get those calls and probably even to go to bat for him in those instances so he doesn’t need to keep chirping the league. The same goes for the seemingly NHL-wide habit of breaking down everything on video that Marchand does on the ice looking for the latest transgression or incident can get him in trouble. It all goes for the clear lack of “star” respect toward Marchand despite him being a back-to-back All-Star and Hart Trophy candidate.

Monday night was just the latest example in a decision that might have cost the Bruins a point in overtime, but it’s time for the NHL to start giving No. 63 the treatment the rest of the league’s best players get as the playoffs, and many more big, game-changing calls, approach for the Black and Gold.