Bruins

Rookies looking to make roster push

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Rookies looking to make roster push

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
WILMINGTON The three Bruins rookies with the most to prove as camp commenced on Friday morning where also the trio of Black and Golden prospects with the most to potentially gain over the next month of drills, orientations and puck battles.

First round pick Dougie Hamilton and 2010 second round picks Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner are the unquestioned name players among the group of 22 young players participating in the 2011-12 Bs rookie camp at Ristuccia Arena.

A selection of the current score of players will be selected to remain for veteran camp when it opens next Friday, and all three are a good bet to remain at least for that long.

Hamilton is the furthest away from cracking the roster as an 18-year-old defenseman with a reedy 6-foot-5 body but also a world of potential as a defensively sound, offensively capable blueliner. The first round pick slid surprisingly to the Bs with their first round pick, and Hamilton bounced between impressive and inconsistent during his first prospect camp in Boston.

Hamilton is an exceptionally fast skater for such a big body and boasts a hammer slap shot, but the young blueliner also appeared surprised by the pace of scrimmages against other elite talent. He was caught behind defensively on numerous occasions and played with his head down a little too much, but these are all the traits of an inexperiencedD-man getting his feet wet.

Hamilton packed on six pounds since prospect camp and is up to 194 pounds, according to Bs assistant general manager Jim Benning, and is just looking to make a good initialimpression during his first NHLrodeo.

He looked really good today I thought hes skating well, said Benning. From the summer he weighed in at 188 and was 194 today, so he put on 5-6 lbs of muscle. Hes a young player and hell continue to get stronger and bigger. Hes going to be a good player. Its just going to be a matter of time with him.

The big blueliner also attended the Team Canada World Junior Orientation camp among the hockey hotbeds elite, and came away impressed with the quality of players around him.

There are a lot of good players in Canada, said Hamilton when asked for his impressions of the world junior camp.

Bruins officials believe Hamilton is at least a year or two of development away from potentially landing on Bostons roster, but that isnt stopping the cocksure teen-ager from attempting to make a strong first impression. He also wasnt about to concede a roster spot to anybody else without a fight despite six established NHL veteran defenseman already in the fold once the real Bruinsget going next week.

"I just want to come in and play my best, said Hamilton. "Obviously there are a lot of good D men. But I'm just going to coming in and I'm going to show my stuff and what I can do. Whatever they want to do with me, that's what I'll do."

Bruins front office personnel love to hear that kind of confidence from their young players, but all signs point to Hamilton returning to the Niagara Ice Dogs for at least one more campaign.

Two players that the Bs will be looking for confidence from as well as skilled execution on the ice are Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner a pair of skaters that went through the entire prospectrookieveteran camp rigamarole last season.

Theyve both learned their lessons well, and are treating things a lot more like business this time around with a potential NHL paycheck on the line.

The skilled Spooner dropped his body fat percentage significantly over the past year after the Bs staff implored him to push himself through the entire year, and Knight looks the most physically capable of enduring the NHL gauntlet over a long season.

Both are 19 years old with three-year contracts already inked with the Bruins, but both can also be returned to junior hockey for another season if they dont make the NHL roster.

I was just a rookie last year and I really didnt know what to expect, so I was kind of the little guy in the background, said Knight. This year I know some of the guys from playing with them, so this year Im going to be a lot more comfortable.

Benning admitted its going to be a difficult challenge for any of the three teenagers to make a Bs roster filled with 18 returning players from last years Stanley Cup winning edition, but the energy and spark of youth might be exactly what the team needs during an expected hangover season.

Either way Benning wasnt going to discount any rookies chances after watching players like Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler and Brad Marchand play their way onto opening night rosters with strong training camp performances.

Since the team won the Stanley Cup but we dont know for sure, said Benning when asked the chances of any rookie breaking in with an established group of champions. Were just going to have to go through the process of this camp and main camp. And the one thing about Peter and Claude, if a player deserves to be on the team, then they find a way to get the player on the team. With time, thatll work itself out.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: Longtime Julien targets get last laugh in Claude's return

Haggerty: Longtime Julien targets get last laugh in Claude's return

BOSTON – The lack of energy, emotion and urgency from the Montreal Canadiens in their coach’s return to Boston on Wednesday night revealed some things about that group of players. It also once again confirmed the particular brand of nowhere that Claude Julien’s Habs are destined for this season.

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On the other side, it was also mighty telling which Bruins players stepped up and made a major impact in the 4-1 victory over Julien and his hated Habs at TD Garden.

Almost to a man, it was the Bruins who faced the most criticism and scrutiny under Julien in Boston, who rose up and did the most damage against the Habs on a night their coach hoped for a triumphant return. Perhaps nobody in a Bruins uniform had a rockier road with Julien than Ryan Spooner, the speedy, skilled center who was never tough enough, aggressive enough or good enough at the little things to satisfy his demanding, old-school coach.

Some of that was clearly on Spooner as he developed his game in fits and starts in the NHL, but some of that was absolutely on a coach who never truly connected with the player, or gave him the room to grow and develop his confidence. There were many instances where Julien simply decided a player couldn’t help his team, and that would be that. In many instances, the former Bruins coach was spot-on in his determination, but there were many examples of speed, skill players such as Spooner where he was blind to their potential.

It’s been a different story under Bruce Cassidy, who has brought out the best in Spooner this season as evidenced by his game-winning goal against Julien and the Habs Wednesday. The goal gives the red-hot Spooner three in his past four games and has him on a pace for a career-best 16 goals and 40 points this season while also importantly turning into a plus player on the ice.  

Spooner carried the puck straight through the guts of the Montreal defense toward the net and attempted to make a centering pass toward Matt Grzelcyk at the far post. Instead, the puck bounced off Jonathan Drouin’s skate and into the net to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead in the second period.

Boston scored two more goals in the one-sided game, but it was Spooner’s goal that stood as the game-winner in Claude’s not-so-triumphant return. After the game, Spooner was asked whether it felt good to score against a coach that had doled out so much tough love to him in the past.

“It was just another game for me, I just want to help out,” said Spooner, who was clearly playing it down given some of his critical words for Julien in the past. “It was nice to score though...Yeah, for sure. I just think that we have a good mix here.

“We have some guys who are young that stepped up for us and that’s huge. I mean, to be one of the top teams in the league you have to have some guys that are 18, 19, 20 [years old] that are going to step up and we’ve had that so that’s been good for us.”

Clearly, Spooner had a little something extra in this one from the drop of the puck, though. The speedy winger led the Bruins with four shots on net and threw a whopping four registered hits perhaps in an effort to show Julien some of the hardness that he’s developed in his game. This has been a consistent trend in Spooner’s game this season, though, as he’s put up 22 registered hits in 23 games played this season, which actually gives him more than Brad Marchand (17) while No. 63 has even played in 12 more games than the Spoon Man.

Spooner wasn’t alone, however, in shining on Wednesday night in Rendezvous De Claude.

David Pastrnak was another young player that had his ups and downs with Julien in his first three seasons. He found himself on the bench on more than one occasion when puck management or defense became an issue. Pastrnak scored the Bruins first goal after doggedly chasing the puck and turning it over from Jeff Petry behind the Montreal net. He finished with six shot attempts, a goal and a plus-1 rating in 14:57 of ice time.

David Krejci certainly had his moments of frustration as a creative offensive player dealing with Julien in their long time working together, and once again he stepped up as well vs. the Habs. Krejci finished with a goal and two points along with a team-best plus-2. He also absolutely dominated in the face-off circle with a 16-for-20 performance and crushed young players Drouin and Jacob De La Rose.

Judging by his recent, pretty disconnected comments about seeing Julien behind the Montreal bench, it’s fair to say that Tuukka Rask was another Bruin not overly worked up about last season’s coaching change. Rask wasn’t exactly facing wall-to-wall challenges from a pop-gun Montreal offense that only managed to scratch out 22 shots on net, but he stopped 21 of them while standing tall as Boston killed a 5-on-3 power play in the second period.

Rask improved to 13-0-2 in his past 15 decisions dating to Nov. 29 and has surpassed Andrei Vasilevskiy (13-0-1 from Oct. 9 – Nov. 16) for the longest such run by a goaltender this season. So, Wednesday night’s showing in Julien’s return was yet another example of a Bruins player who appeared happy to make sure the coach’s much-hyped return was cloaked in defeat.

Just don’t expect any of them to publicly gloat about it, or hint that there might have been some motivation with Julien on the other side.

“Gain as many points as you can. They’re all important games, especially divisional matchups,” said Rask. “You try to get points like we have. Still a lot of games left, so trying to keep our game the way it’s going. Our effort and battle have always been there. Execution sometimes is not there, but I think that’s what it all comes down to. Just effort, battle level and how well your head is in the game…a lot of it is just being a smart hockey player.

“You know, you understand what you do right and what you do wrong and then you correct the mistakes. Then you go out there and execute them. I mean it’s pretty simple to say it, but I think the guys we have here are really smart hockey players. They understand.”

The “effort” and “battle level” Rask was referring to is something that was lamented as missing many, many times in Julien’s final couple of years in Boston. It clearly went AWOL for the Habs on Wednesday night in a game that should have been emotional and urgent.

It was telling so many of Julien’s former critical targets left with a victory and their former coach shuffled out of the Garden lamenting in two languages that his Montreal team “laid an egg” in Boston. While Julien might have deserved better given his long body of work, it’s clear his former Bruins players earned the better result as they received a little measure of revenge in the place it matters most, the scoreboard. 

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Julien thankful for B's video tribute, 'happy he can move on'

Julien thankful for B's video tribute, 'happy he can move on'

BOSTON – It was the final piece of closure for former Bruins coach Claude Julien when he made his return to TD Garden for the first time as the bench boss for the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night. Julien stood on the visiting bench, watched a first period video tribute of appreciation for his 10 years guiding the Bruins and then received the warm, thankful ovation from the B’s fans that still very much appreciate his efforts that resulted in a 2011 Stanley Cup title. 

Unfortunately for him and the Canadiens he also presided over a lifeless, limp effort from his Montreal club in a 4-1 loss to the Bruins where his team simply couldn’t derive any emotion or juice from his return to Boston. Julien said in both French and English that that his Habs simply “laid an egg” on the road, and that was disappointing for him given that Montreal already has its back against the wall for a possible playoff spot. 

Instead Julien’s biggest bright spot in the game turned out to be the video tribute from the Bruins midway through the first period, for which he was greatly appreciative. 

“It’s always something that you kind of dread a little bit because it’s a little emotional, and at the same time [you’re] trying to keep your emotions intact there so you can coach a game and stuff like that. But, you know, I appreciate what they did for me,” said Julien following his second loss to the Bruins in five days. “As I said, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about this organization that gave me the opportunity to spend 10 years here. At the same time I’m kind of happy it’s over so we can move on now, but that doesn’t mean you forget what’s happened here. It’s always going to be with you. But now I’m in another chapter of my coaching career, and I’ve got to think about that.”

Julien’s counterpart, Bruce Cassidy, called the video tribute a “classy move” by the Bruins organization after the game had been settled, and there’s no doubting it was the right move for a coach that won over 400 games during his 10 years leading the Bruins. It was also the final chapter in his Bruins book as Julien now has completely moved on to his new gig guiding the Canadiens where it seems like his work is most definitely cut out for him.