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


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.


-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. 

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

TAMPA BAY – It certainly might not be the shape they envisioned themselves being in when these late season games arrived against the President’s Trophy favorites in Tampa Bay, but the Bruins are bracing for a showdown with the high-powered Lightning either way. 

The Bruins stand just four points behind the Bolts with one game in hand, and mathematically they absolutely have a shot of catching and surpassing the Lightning for the NHL’s top spot with three games remaining against them in the season’s final month. But realistically it’s got to be considered a long shot at this point with Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk all out for Saturday night’s meeting with Tampa, and Bergeron and McAvoy expected to potentially miss all three of their divisional scraps. 

Coming off a 3-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Florida Panthers and at the end of a week-long, four-game road trip, the Bruins know they’re going to need to tighten things up against a Lightning team they can’t match firepower with in their weakened state. 

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of just playing the game in front of us, and not getting too far ahead, too high or too low. We’ve got the best team in the National Hockey League, arguably, at home and rested [in front of us],” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We look forward to the challenge. They’re a high-scoring team, so we talked about that with our goaltenders and our ‘D’ today. We better be ‘on’ because they’ll be coming. Our forwards are going to have to help out in that area and make sure we’re reloading well, and keep getting pucks at the net. 

“We didn’t finish [against Florida] but it wasn’t because of lack of effort or lack of pucks at the net. That part of our game is trending pretty well offensively. I think you’re going to have score to a certain extent against this team because you’re not going to shut them down completely. That’s our game plan for whoever is going to be in the lineup. They’ve got to be ready for it because that’s how it works, and that’s how it’s worked all year long for us. We need the guys in there to do their part and do it well.”

Certainly the Bruins could still do some offensive damage with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak still intact on their top line, and David Krejci and Rick Nash also still developing their chemistry on the second line. Torey Krug also came through feeling healthy at practice on Friday after soaking up 26 plus minutes of ice time in the loss to Florida, so they’ll also have some puck-moving and offensive pop on the back end as well.

But it may come down to the Chara-less defense and Tuukka Rask to step up and go into shutdown mode against the Lightning if they’re looking to really push up on the Lightning, and make this a horse race for the Atlantic Division down the stretch. Not to mention, it would be a psychological swing for both teams if the Bruins could take down a rested, relatively healthy Tampa Bay hockey club with their undermanned, injury-ravaged bunch. 

That in and of itself should be plenty of motivation for a Bruins team that’s got their sights and set on bigger and better things this spring with the Lightning expected to be one of the big obstacles standing in their way.


Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

NBC Sports Boston Photo

Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while jacked and pumped about that Infinity War trailer. Wow. 


*Credit here for something outside the box and clear hockey satire while looking far into the NHL’s crystal ball where the new expansion team is called the Seattle Slippery Seals, and Brad Marchand is the head of the NHLPA. That is quite a twist at the end of the movie right there. 


*The Hockey Central crew debates whether they would want John Tavares or Tyler Seguin as a player to build their team around. Seguin is having a solid year (with the end of his contract coming into view), but I’m going with Tavares all day long. I think he’s more of a competitor and a reliable player along with an equitable level of talent, and that counts for quite a bit in team-building. 


*It’s good to see the PHWA decide to make public the ballots of all NHL Awards starting at the end of this season. It’s something I voted in favor of and already did annually as I think transparency is something we always ask for from those we cover, so it should never be something we shy away from. 


*The Flyers have hit the skids again after pushing themselves into playoff view. This has been such a streak team over the last couple of years. 


*Pro Hockey Talk says that the Montreal Canadiens need to take a long look into the mirror before they move on from this season. I couldn’t agree more. 


*For something completely different: I feel badly for my kids that Toys R us is liquidating as a company, and the stores will be closing. It’s getting to the point where there will be no more brick and mortar toy stores for kids to visit, and that’s something from my youth experience that they’re going to miss out on. Frankly, it’s kind of sad.