Bruins

With Bruins youth served, there are still plenty of lessons to be learned

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With Bruins youth served, there are still plenty of lessons to be learned

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins youth movement has gone remarkably well through the first three months of the season.

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-Charlie McAvoy, just 19, is a contender for the Calder Trophy and leads all first-year players in ice time while excelling in all aspects of the game. 

-Jake DeBrusk has endured through some ups and downs in a top-six role alongside David Krejci and has played a key role in a number of Bruins wins this season while on pace for a solid 19 goals and 44 points. 

-Danton Heinen has erased the memory of his ineffectual NHL audition last season and has established himself as a third-line winger while on pace for 19 goals and 53 points as a solid 200-foot player.

-Anders Bjork is currently in a quiet period, but he’s shown enough speed and skill to be able to live up to the hype. 

-Sean Kuraly has been solid as a fourth-line center and Matt Grzelcyk is beginning to establish himself as a puck-moving defenseman capable of holding up an NHL job. 

This doesn’t even mention guys like Noel Acciari and Brandon Carlo that are still in the first few seasons of their NHL development and continue on an upward trend for the Black and Gold.   

Despite all of these positive developments, there are still going to be teaching moments and frequent lessons for the young Bruins. 

The Thursday night loss to the Washington Capitals was one of those moments with a standout youngster McAvoy getting pushed around by the big, strong Cap. Bjork finished with a season low in ice time while getting benched in the second and third periods. He may even get scratched for Saturday’s game vs. the Rangers after simply not being hard enough on the puck recently.

As the season goes along the intensity, the speed and the physicality is going to heighten around the league and a game against a big, strong, deep and dangerous team such as Washington was a good reminder of that for Boston’s rookies.

“This league has different levels as you go along. It’s tough enough for the young guys when they’re healthy, so there’s another level happening that [Anders Bjork] is going to have to catch up. I think it’s a little more physical. I think he’s getting pushed off pucks now, and you’re starting to see it against some of, you know, the men,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We knew that coming in that there’d be a time where that may or may not happen with all the young guys. We saw that with [Danton] Heinen last year. He’s kind of figured it out.

“[Against Washington] Charlie [McAvoy] had a tough time. You know, he got pushed off some pucks and beat one-on- one, so it happens to a lot of guys. That’s a good hockey club. It’s a good test for those guys to understand what it takes. You know, Grizz [Matt Grzelcyk], not so much. I thought, you know, his quickness allowed him to get in and out of spots, but that’s where Anders is right now, and he’s got to fight his way through it.”

Certainly it’s the kind of first-year learning process that every NHL player goes through, so there’s a level of patience and understanding from the veteran guys that have been there. Patrice Bergeron broke into the NHL as the youngest player in the league and knows it better than most.

“You’re going to see that during the season, especially for young guys. So I think it’s about going back to what you do best,” said Bergeron. “I think when you move your feet and you stop and start in the right position, things fall get back and fall back into place. He’s right there and the plays are going to come back to him, I think it’s part of being a professional and being a young guy and learning. I’m not worried about it.”

Clearly, the Bruins aren’t worried about it while knowing full well this would be a learning curve for the rookies, and that the rare instance where the rooks are taken to school will help the team out in the long run. 

McQuaid makes impact in return to B's lineup after lengthy absence

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McQuaid makes impact in return to B's lineup after lengthy absence

BOSTON – Adam McQuaid had to wait months to get healthy and weeks to finally push back into the lineup once he was over his broken leg, but that was all in the rear view mirror when he made his return to the B’s lineup on Wednesday night. McQuaid was his solid, simple self on the ice in Boston’s 4-1 humbling of the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden, and immediately made an impact with his size, strength, physicality and penalty killing in the win.

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Afterward McQuaid was happy with the plus-1 rating in 15:12 of ice time while working mostly with rookie Matt Grzelcyk, and he even managed to get four pucks on net while playing assertive, aggressive hockey in the O-Zone. All in all it was a strong return after missing the past 36 games with a broken leg, and it was a much needed dose of again feeling like he’s a part of the team for the selfless, hard-working McQuaid.  

“I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just went with the first shift and then the second, and just went down from there. I wanted to try to keep things really simple, Grizz [Matt Grzelcyk] made life pretty easy to play with…he played really well,” said McQuaid. “All the guys did, so it was nice to be back and be a part of the win, I’m happy to be back.

“It’s nice to be in those situations – you don’t want to be – to be put in that situation. I think guys thrive off of wanting to kill that and be in those situations. Even though I was a little winded at the end of it, it was a good feeling for sure.”

The part that winded McQuaid was killing off a key 5-on-3 Canadiens power play in a tight, one goal game in the second period. McQuaid was second only to Zdeno Chara with his 1:34 of shorthanded ice time in the win over the Bruins, and the PK is clearly a situation where the rich get richer when the shot-blocking, rugged McQuaid draws back into the fold with Kevan Miller “under the weather” this week. 

“We did a good job, real good job [on the penalty kill]. It doesn’t surprise me,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Adam [McQuaid] is very good on the kill. We’ve said that all along, that’s one area we miss when he is out of the lineup.”

Now McQuaid will continue knocking any residual rust off by again drawing into Boston’s lineup on Thursday night in Brooklyn as Miller was left behind in Boston, and a respected B’s veteran is finally getting some run after a long wait. 

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Morning Skate: PK Subban rightly recognizes O'Ree as a hockey pioneer

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Morning Skate: PK Subban rightly recognizes O'Ree as a hockey pioneer

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading, while wondering when my video tribute is coming.

*Great interview with PK Subban, who appropriately lauds Willie O’Ree for his trailblazing, pioneer accomplishment of breaking through the NHL’s color barrier 60 years ago today. It was very cool that O’Ree did it with the Bruins and even cooler that he was in Boston last night from the Bruins-Habs game at TD Garden.

*Speaking of the Canadiens, old friend Joe Morrow decided to show the Canadiens digital people around Southie this week. That was his big accomplishment in these last two Bruins-Habs games.

*The Winnipeg Jets are having some big success this season, but they’ve also got some serious financial considerations coming up.

*The Colorado Avalanche continue to see attendance issues in their building, but at least there’s a reasonably better product on the ice.

*What is the value for power forward Patrick Maroon on the trade market as a rental? It certainly matters who is asking.

*Jack Johnson and John Tortorella are talking out their issues after it surfaced that the Columbus D-man wants a trade out of town.

*With Victor Hedman injured, it looks like young Tampa Bay D-man Slater Koekkoek is finally going to get a featured look with the Lightning. Per Elliotte Friedman, this is a player that the Bruins have eyed in trade possibilities in the recent past.

*For something completely different: Liam Neeson is open to returning as Qui Gon-Jinn, which adds another interesting piece to a standalone movie for Obi-Wan Kenobi.

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