Bruins

Bruins' patience getting tested as young players learn

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Bruins' patience getting tested as young players learn

GLENDALE, Arizona – The Bruins have committed fully to the youth movement, so they’re fully aware of what they signed up for this season with young, first-year players Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy filling important roles.

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They reaped the benefits on opening night when all three provided offense and led the Bruins to an impressive victory over Nashville. They’ve also witnessed an ensuing valley afterward when things leveled off. Bjork and DeBrusk have been a combined minus-10 with zero points in a pair of back-to-back losses to the Colorado Avalanche and McAvoy registered a season-low 17:49 of ice time in the Wednesday night loss in Colorado.

The two stunning losses clearly aren’t all on the rookies. There were plenty of veteran core players who struggled as well, but the difference in play for the team, and the rookies, within the first three games has been noteworthy. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said shepherding the rookies through tough times was about two things: 1) Striking the balance between nurturing patience and challenging them and 2) those young players getting back to the basics of hockey.

“Probably [needing to] play inside a little more and getting to the net," Cassidy said. "We’ve talked about that they’re going to get a feel for how hard it is to hold onto to pucks in this league, so they know that. We’re trying to coach them up as far as the structure. I thought some of their reloads could have been better as far as going back through the middle of the ice, and their line gave up some rushes coming back at us. But that’s all stuff on the [coaching] staff to make sure they get up to speed.

“It’s up to them to do what they do best, which is attack, play inside and get to the net. Hopefully, they do a little bit more of that as a line. Some guys catch on quicker than others. We knew there would be consistency issues as every young kid goes through them. So we saw highs in the first game and some lows in the second game, and we saw them starting to come out of it in the third period [in Colorado]. We’re going to try to keep them confident, but also on their toes and aware of what needs to be better. Sometimes that’s a fine line for the young guys. They take it to heart, or they don’t take it to heart sometimes. We’re working our way through that with them. There are plenty of veteran guys here to pull us through while [the rookies] learn the ropes, and that’s what they need to do.”

DeBrusk had four shots on net against Nashville and scored his first NHL goal while attacking the net with speed and assertiveness. He’s had a combined three shots on net in the two games since and is looking to get back to aggressively attacking the net while using his surprising speed and growing strength to get there.

“I remember one of the big things last year [in the AHL] was staying consistent every game," DeBrusk said. "Obviously it’s a different league and it’s an 82-game season. It’s a long season. The last two games haven’t gone the way we wanted them to go as a group, and me myself there have been some mistakes and learning curves. It’s frustrating and it’s something you don’t want to have happen. You just learn from it and move on.

“The good thing is we have back-to-back games [vs. Arizona and Vegas], so you’ve got a chance to get back to .500 and fix some of those things. I think it’s the details in my game. It’s not just in the defensive zone, but all over the ice. I was a little too reckless on the fore-check and just lost my guys. It’s about wanting to do a little too much. It’s also just fronting more pucks and getting to the net more. That’s what I’m doing when I’m playing well and pucks seem to find me there.”

Bjork might have had his best game in the matinee defeat against the Avs when he had three shots on net but didn’t come away from with a point after notching an assist on opening night. The injury to Patrice Bergeron might be toughest of all for him after he’d build up chemistry with No. 37 and Brad Marchand throughout training camp as their probable right wing.

Still, the harsh truth is that Bjork has had zero shots on net in two of his first three NHL games after a very strong camp and needs to make himself more of a consistent factor for the Bruins with the speed and hockey smarts to make it happen.

McAvoy, 19, has had just a single shot on net in each of the two losses and is a minus-3 in those games but he hasn’t struggled to the degree that his fellow rookies have the past couple of games. He wasn’t generating enough offense, to be sure, but he did level Nathan MacKinnon with a clean, punishing open-ice hit while trying up the energy in the Monday matinee.He’s a little bit ahead of DeBrusk and Bjork in the physicality department and that’s allowed him to get assimilated pretty quickly to the NHL.

“We’re not using him a lot on the PK, so if it’s not a defenseman penalty then [McAvoy] and Krug are going to be our last pair we’d use because we’re saving them for offensive situations. He made plays [in Colorado], he’s up the ice and kept pucks alive and contributed to the goal doing that,” said Cassidy. “I’m fine with Charlie. On the first night, he got a little lesson against Nashville about trying to defend standing still, and he’s tried to play his 1-on-1’s with better angles. So he’s been good.

“[He’s got] composure. He’s a confident guy without being arrogant about it. He’s coachable, but when the puck drops he’s got good instincts for the game. I also think he’s a little underrated in his skating with the puck. I think he’s faster with it than he is without it. He fools some people with his ability to separate, and he’s strong on it. For a 19-year-old that’s rare. We’ve talked about some of the young guys learning the ropes on that, but he’s got some of those gifts that take a few years to develop.”

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to the rookie wingers or other scuffling Bruins (Ryan Spooner, Frank Vatrano): The B's have some talented reinforcements in the AHL that are red-hot right now. Peter Cehlarik is off to a strong start in Providence with two goals and five points in two games for the P-Bruins and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson has two goals in as many games for Providence. Likewise, Kenny Agostino has a goal and five points in those two games for the P-Bruins and can go back and forth between the NHL and AHL for the next month after clearing waivers at the end of the preseason.

That line has been tearing it up for the P-Bruins to start to start the season and it won’t be long before those players are getting auditions for NHL jobs if the incumbents continue to struggle after a very promising start. It’s harsh, of course, but that’s also the way of the NHL world where it’s a bottom-line business based on present-day results, productivity and consistency. The Bruins need to see more of all of those from their young guys this weekend in Arizona and Vegas as they look to stop the bleeding of a two-game losing streak.  


 

There will be extra satisfaction if Bruins can help put a nail in Habs coffin

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There will be extra satisfaction if Bruins can help put a nail in Habs coffin

MONTREAL – It’s not often the Boston Bruins get a chance to literally deal the death blow to their arch-rival Montreal Canadiens.

But that’s really where the B’s stand on Saturday as they visit the Bell Centre for a third meeting in eight days against the hated Habs after winning each of the first two rivalry match-ups. The Canadiens are nine points out of a wild card playoff spot with four teams ahead of them, and sit 11 points out of an Atlantic Division playoff spot more than halfway through their season.

It would take an epic hot streak like the one engineered by Andrew “Hamburglar” Hammond and the Ottawa Senators three seasons ago for Montreal to simply get into the postseason. It would also require the Canadiens to actually start winning divisional games like the one facing them on Saturday night against Boston. So the Bruins know they could plunge the dagger into the Habs by sweeping the third game this weekend, and they’re taking just a little bit of pleasure at the position they’re in while on an 11-0-4 run in their last 15 games.

“We’re aware of the standings. We know that we want to keep climbing up and trying to catch up to Tampa. That being said, you look at Montreal and whichever teams that are behind you and you want to push them down,” said Patrice Bergeron. “When you face them it’s big games for them, and it’s the same for us. It will be a big battle. They had a big win last night and are feeling good about their game, so we need to make sure that we’re ready.”

They’ll take even more please out of it if they leave Montreal tonight with two points secured in their column while pushing the Habs deeper into their tailspin.

“I don’t think we’re going into the game talking about that, but if works out that way at 10:30 when we’re getting ready to get on a plane out of town…I think there would be a little extra satisfaction,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I think some of our young kids are still getting a taste of it. Last Saturday [Jake] DeBrusk and Charlie [McAvoy] got an idea of how loud it is in here, and how passionate [the fans are].

“But at the end of the day we play 82 times a year, and this one of them to get two points and keep climbing up in the standings.”

While the Bruins are rested and ready after getting a full day off on Friday, the Habs were battling until the final buzzer in Washington on Fridaynight to eke out a win against the Capitals. It was a nice win for the Habs after the embarrassment of dropping a stink bomb in Boston on Wednesday night, but it also should leave them as fatigued, easy pickings if the Black and Gold come armed with their killer instinct on Saturday.

“They know [the importance of the game] on the other side. I expect a desperate effort tonight from them, and giving it their all in front of their home fans,” said Bruins rookie winger Jake DeBrusk. “It’s a four point game and it’s against Montreal, and we got the first two [games]. It would be nice to get the third one here, but we just want to keep things going. It doesn’t really matter who we play except for games like this. We just need to keep our head on straight and play the way we can play.”

It’s true the Bruins/Habs rivalry loses a little juice when one of the teams is really down as Montreal is this season, and the real revenge factor for Boston was getting a decisive win in former coach Claude Julien’s return to Boston in mid-week. But there’s little doubting that having been the one kicked around so many times in the long, storied history of the Bruins/Canadiens rivalry, any chance for Boston to really put a hurting on Montreal still means a little something to those in Black and Gold. 

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Morning Skate: R.I.P. Red Fisher, Montreal legend

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Morning Skate: R.I.P. Red Fisher, Montreal legend

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while knowing that I’m in Canada because I’m watching women’s curling on a Saturday afternoon.

*Rest in Peace to Red Fisher, a legendary figure in the Montreal media who added to the atmosphere every time I saw him at the Bell Centre over the years. When you talk to people about him, you realize they just don’t make sportswriters like that anymore.

*Here’s a good piece on local hockey player John McCarthy, who will be on the USA Olympic hockey roster after a solid career at BU and in the San Jose Sharks organization.

*Cabbie Richards visits with Brayden Schenn as the St. Louis Blues player chats about important hockey stuff like dessert.

*I’ve got to be totally honest with you: The idea of an NHL expansion team called the Seattle Kraken is pretty awesome. Just think of all the Clash of the Titans tie-in possibilities.

*Looks like the Providence Bruins are finally getting into the "Star Wars" Night, and why not given how popular it’s been across hockey’s minor leagues?

*For something completely different: I spent part of my day yesterday tweeting back and forth with Star Wars director Rian Johnson and ended up in the Twitter “Moments” section yesterday. Just another day in social media Shangri-La, right?  

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