Bruins

UMaine was growth experience for Penner

782210.jpg

UMaine was growth experience for Penner

NEWARK, NJ Its hard to believe that Dustin Penner all 6-foot-4, 249 pounds of him wasnt always the power forward behemoth that hes become in the NHL.

The 29-year-old is picking a good time to get hot in the playoffs with 17 points (7 goals, 10 assists) in 15 games after an underachieving regular season with free agency awaiting him in the offseason.

Penner is known for his quick wit, and production in the playoffs has made him a regular Carrot Top with his teammates.

My level of play tends to make me funnier than I already am, said Penner, with a smile showing where one of his top teeth is missing in true hockey fashion. But Ive been lucky. Ive played with great players here. I played with great players in Edmonton, and the same thing my first few years in Anaheim.

My first two linemates in Anaheim were Sergei Federov and Teemu Selanne, so that gives you a pretty good idea. Its the curse of being a big guy, though. Playing with guys like that you stick out like a sore thumb on the ice if youre not moving your feet.

Thats been Penners modus operandi at times throughout his career, and the Cup Finals is where he originally made his name during his first full NHL season with the Anaheim Ducks during their Cup run in 2006-07. It got him a gigantic offer sheet from the Edmonton Oilers that had then-Anaheim GM Brian Burke in a bubbling rage, and settled him with the Oil prior to his arrival in Los Angeles.

But Penner wasnt always cut out of the power forward mold, and really was a late bloomer in most every respect. He was a 120-pound hockey weakling with bountiful skill and little size up until his junior year of high school, and then had to regain his coordination as he grew to be a very large man.

Ive been on both sides of the coin. I wasnt that big in high school. I was barely 5-foot-6 and 120-pounds. I shot up a lot at the end of high school and going into college, said Penner. I had some years where I had 100-something points. I was always trying to be a playmaker, passer and a scorer, and I remember Dan Bylsma telling me that I had to find some part of my game to hang my hat on and work on that.

Part of that for me was using my size and strength around the net and making sure I could always factor into the game that way. Its something I had to learn once I got to college and then beyond.

The University of Maine took a chance on Penner based largely on the advice of former assistant coachrecruiter Grant Standbrook, who saw the raw hockey talent long before it had blossomed into a pancake-eating force of nature in the NHL. Penner was playing for an MSU-Bottineau hockey program out of the NJCAA that barnstormed their way across North America, and gave the big winger a chance to be seen by hockey talent evaluators.

Standbrook and Maine head coach Tim Whitehead were known for finding diamonds in the rough for their college hockey program, and thats exactly what happened with Penner.

I never played junior hockey. I played junior hockey. We didnt even have a league. We were like the Harlem Globetrotters and wed go around playing anybody that would have us: junior varsity teams and junior mens teams. Anybody that would play us, said Penner. I red-shirted for a year at Maine and got a taste for a Division I hockey practice. Then I got a taste for the game and the energy from the crowds up there. There was also a high level of coaching from guys like Standbrook. He was really a great mentor for me.

Standbrook was the same coach that recruited Teddy Purcell, Jimmy Howard, Ben Bishop and a host of other players to the University of Maine, and Penner was another one of the educated risks that worked out for the Black Bears. Penner stayed on the Orono, Maine campus for only one season depositing 11 goals and 23 points in 43 games, and then moved on to professional hockey.

Now that educated risk is getting ready to potentially celebrate the second Stanley Cup win of his career if he and his Kings teammates can manage three more wins over the Devils.

Talking Points: DeBrusk provides energy in win

bruins_jake_debrusk_111817.jpg

Talking Points: DeBrusk provides energy in win

GOLD STAR: Jake DeBrusk gave the Bruins all kinds of energy out of the starting gate, and made a couple of plays that allowed his team to hold a lead despite getting outplayed in the opening 20 minutes. DeBrusk went hard to the net splitting a couple of San Jose defenders on the first goal, and fired a shot on net that created a rebound for Peter Cehlarik to cash in on. Then DeBrusk scored a little bit later on a rush where he beat Brent Burns in a foot race to a loose puck, then whistled a wrist shot past Aaron Dell for his fourth goal of the season. DeBrusk finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net while falling just short of 16 minutes of ice time in the victory. It was a strong effort from DeBrusk shortly after being a healthy scratch, and showed what he’s capable of when he gets his skating legs going.

BLACK EYE: Brent Burns was a complete mess for the Sharks. He was burnt by Jake DeBrusk in each of the first two Bruins goals in the first period with the B’s rookie going right at him with the attack. He also didn’t make it to the net with 12 of the 16 shots that he attempted and Burns finished with seven giveaways as well. It’s been a rough follow-up season for Burns after last year’s Norris Trophy season where he’s tried to do too much for the Sharks, and his game has suffered as a result. That seemed to be the case for Burns against the Bruins as well where his mistakes played a big role in the Sharks dropping the game.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins won the game when they managed to survive an opening 20 minutes where they were outshot 17-5, and even better they had a 2-1 lead based on some offensive fireworks from Jake DeBrusk. They were also aided by a couple of video reviews where the Bruins took a San Jose goal off the board when it was ruled that a crashing Joonas Donskoi punched a puck into the net with his glove. The Peter Cehlarik goal was also upheld at the other end after a challenge from the San Jose bench. It looked like DeBrusk was tripped before he partially crashed into Aaron Dell that set up the Cehlarik goal, and that’s clearly how the referees saw it after reviewing the play.

HONORABLE MENTION: It’s got to be Anton Khudobin, who stopped 36-of-37 shots and improved to 5-0-2 on the season with another strong win aided by a stalwart defensive effort in front of him. Khudobin now has 12 of the 20 points that the Bruins have amassed on the season, and he absolutely rewarded the B’s for opting to go with the Bruins backup for a second game in a row as they ride the hot goaltender. Khudobin was helped by a number of Bruins blocked shots in the third period when the game was still very tight, but it was also about Khudobin coming up with 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were getting outplayed by the Sharks.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 – the number of Bruins rookies that have scored their first NHL goals this season, including Peter Cehlarik finally getting his first NHL score Saturday night in his 14th career game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We need them. They’re in the lineup and they’re playing significant minutes. We need them to produce for us. Tonight we needed some offense early, and they provided it for us.” – Bruce Cassidy, on the role of the rookies in the win where it was all first-year players Peter Cehlarik, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen doing the scoring vs. San Jose. 

Khudobin stops 36 shots to help Bruins beat Sharks, 3-1

bruins_sharks_anton_khudobin_111817.jpg

Khudobin stops 36 shots to help Bruins beat Sharks, 3-1

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Anton Khudobin enjoyed getting pestered with shots early. He didn't have time to let his mind wander.

Khudobin stopped 36 shots to lead the Boston Bruins to a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

"I like it busy," Khudobin said. "I don't have to think about anything else. The third-period start was unbelievable . . . I don't think I faced a shot until halfway through the period."

Peter CehlarikJake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen scored to help the Bruins get their second straight win after a four-game skid (0-3-1). Boston had totaled nine goals in its previous five games, scoring more than two for just the second time in nine November games.

"It went our way," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "They were clearly better than us but we come out 2-1 (in the three games on West Coast). If you stick with it, good things happen."

Khudobin remained unbeaten in regulation (5-0-2) and improved to 4-1 with a 0.99 goals-against average in five games against the Sharks.

Timo Meier scored and Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves for the Sharks, one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. San Jose has been held to two of fewer goals in five of their seven games this month.

"Guys in this room can score; we just have to do it," Sharks Logan Couture said. "I thought we had good chances and a lot of them at the end. We've got to create offense. If you don't score goals, you're not going to win."

Meier gave the Sharks, losers of two straight following wins in six of seven, a short-lived 1-0 lead after tapping in a rebound 4:50 into the game. Daniel O'Regan, making his season debut, won the puck behind the net and skated around to take the shot that bounced to Meier. It was O'Regan's first career assist and second career point.

"I just kind of fished it out and wanted to bring it to the net," O'Regan said. "Timo made a nice finish."

Cehlarik, in his 14th game, scored his first career goal about 1 1/2 minutes later to tie it for the Bruins.

Boston took the lead on DeBrusk's goal with 9:14 left in the first. Charlie McAvoy cleared a puck in his zone that DeBrusk, one of three rookies who scored, chased down and easily beat Dell 1-on-1.

"It's massive," DeBrusk said. "We all want it so bad and we all work so hard. These are big games for us."

Heinen made it 3-1 with 5:51 left in the third. Kevan Miller skated down the ice, drawing all the attention on the right side. He passed across the crease, from where Heinen tapped it in.

"He made a heck of a play," Heinen said. "I just put my stick on the ice."

The Sharks had a goal negated for the second straight game, this one two minutes in.

"We got enough looks tonight to score," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "We're doing more good than bad we're just not being rewarded."

NOTES: O'Regan was recalled before the game. He's the leading scorer for the Barracuda of the AHL. ... The Sharks have had three consecutive goals reversed after challenges dating to Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers. ... Sharks F Joel Ward has recorded points in six of his last eight games. ... DeBrusk, who assisted on Cehlarik's goal, recorded his first multi-point game since Oct. 14, a span of 14 games.

UP NEXT

Bruins: At the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

Sharks: Host the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE