Bruins

Haggerty: Far too soon to panic on these young, banged up Bruins

cp-spark-debrusk-bruins-avalanche-10-12-17.jpg

Haggerty: Far too soon to panic on these young, banged up Bruins

It would appear that some Bruins fans are panicking just three games into the new season.

There’s this tweet and then, of course, this one too that represent some of the fear and loathing going on in Black and Gold nation right at this moment after two rough, back-to-back losses to last year’s NHL punch line, the Colorado Avalanche.

But it certainly is awfully premature to pull the plunger on a full-blown trip to Panic City after Wednesday night’s 6-3 loss for a number of different reasons.

First and most importantly the Bruins are missing some pretty important pieces out with injuries. Patrice Bergeron has missed the first three games of the season with a mysterious lower body injury and may end up missing even more based on the slowness of his recovery. David Backes is out a minimum of 2-3 weeks with diverticulitis, and that means the Bruins are missing his size, strength, toughness and willingness to mix it up in all of the dangerous areas of the ice.

Those two injuries alone wipes out two of the toughest and most battle-hardened players on the roster, and can’t be adequately replaced by Riley Nash playing up in the lineup or Matt Beleskey trying to fill the shoes of Backes. Add in the absence of hard-hitting Noel Acciari and the rust factor for Torey Krug (minus-4 in the two losses to Colorado) coming back from a fractured jaw, and injuries have wreaked havoc on the Bruins in the early going.

It’s not an excuse the Bruins are even acknowledging, but missing your best player is certainly going to leave a mark Tommy Boy-style.

The other big reason is the youth on this team, and the erratic nature of sporting so many rookies on an NHL roster. It’s great that the Bruins have waves of youthful, real talent coming and the future is indeed bright a couple of years into the future.

But even the brightest-eyed Bruins fan had to admit that there were likely to be high highs and low lows to this season with a pair of rookies in the top-6 up front, and a couple of youngsters in Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy playing top-4 minutes. That doesn’t even count 21-year-old David Pastrnak, who is a team-worst minus-5 with just a single point in the first three games of the season after signing his hefty six year contract extension.

But the last couple of games haven’t pretty for the Bruins Youth.

Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk are a combined minus-10 with zero points, and Charlie McAvoy has seen his ice time drop in each of the first three games this season. He didn’t even top 18 minutes of ice time in Wednesday night’s loss and was skating in a pairing with Zdeno Chara in Colorado as it seems like the Kevan Miller partnership isn’t working well at this point.  

Bjork has zero shots on goal in two of the three games out of the starting gate for the B’s, and DeBrusk hasn’t shown any of the offensive oomph in the Colorado games that did during a dazzling debut in front of his family.

But this was to be expected and something the Bruins were already prepared for when giving key roster spots to unproven rookies.

“I think we do have to have some patience, and some understanding that we’re going to go through some of those [rough] time periods,” said Don Sweeney. “We have a core group that’s going to pull us through those periods, and we have depth during those times when guys do stub their toes where we can withstand some of those times of struggles. But the results also take over from here, to tell you the truth. That’s what this league is and we have to be cognizant of that while balancing the patience part of it.”

If there’s one thing to be perplexed about in the early going it’s the B’s core veterans that have underperformed. Tuukka Rask has alternated between okay and dreadful in the first three games while coughing up 10 goals, and didn’t even give his team a chance to compete in Monday’s matinee after surrendering two bad goals right off the hop in the first period. He needs to be better immediately, or the Bruins are going nowhere fast.

The same goes for David Krejci and Brad Marchand until Bergeron can find his way back into the lineup. Krejci disappeared in the last two games after a strong opening night, and Marchand looked like he finally got untracked with a two-point game on Wednesday afternoon after managing just a measly single shot on net in each of the first two games.

Worse than the individual performances have been the D-zone coverage mistakes and the general disorganization on breakout plays. Things aren’t really going to improve for Boston until those areas are tightened up and forged by a little structure and discipline. There’s too much talent for the Bruins to truly slide off the rails and there are too many prideful veteran leaders to allow things to further devolve after two discouraging losses to the Avalanche.

Three games into the season the Bruins still have plenty of time to fix things, foster their identity and continue mixing in the youth with their established, experienced group. The bet here is that the Bruins will adhere to that old sports adage: The Bruins not as good as they looked in spanking Nashville on opening night, but not as good as they looked in getting consecutive spankings at the hands of the lowly Avalanche either. 

DeBrusk on being subject of trade rumors: "I love being a Bruin"

boston-bruins-jake-debrusk-100617.jpg
File Photo

DeBrusk on being subject of trade rumors: "I love being a Bruin"

TORONTO – Jake DeBrusk has heard about the trade rumors. Heck, the 21-year-old has actually been traded before in his hockey career as he was dealt in junior hockey from Swift Current to the Red Deer Rebels in his final season. It’s a little different, however, when DeBrusk hears his name involved in trade rumors with New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, and reports indicate that DeBrusk is a name that Rangers GM Jeff Gorton wants included in any deal. 

MORE BRUINS

It makes perfect sense with DeBrusk off to a strong start to his NHL career with 11 goals and 29 points in 54 games while playing a top-6 role next to David Krejci, and just scratching the surface of how good he can be with the Bruins. Brandon Carlo has likewise been mentioned prominently as well as a young NHL player being sought after in trade talks. 

But the bottom line for all the Bruins youngsters is that they don’t want to go anywhere, and are doing their best to block everything out while preparing to go out and do their best. 

“I got traded in junior, so I know a little bit about it…but it’s a little different when it’s the magnitude of the NHL,” said DeBrusk. “We’re just focusing on getting wins, and doing everything I can do to help the team win. At the same you’re keeping an eye out and looking [at the rumors] secretly. But it is what it is. You can’t control it. You can only control your play, and do anything I can to help the team win now. You can only take it day by day. 

“I love being with these guys and we’re a pretty tight group. So whatever happens is going to happen, but at the same time whoever is on the ice we’ll go to battle with them.”

MORE BRUINS

Clearly DeBrusk wants to stick with the team that selected him 14th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, and the Bruins would do well to keep a talented, likable and bright youngster that could be a meaningful member of the organization for a long, long time. But he’s also drawing whatever positive that he can out of the situation, and the biggest one is that other NHL teams are clearly taking notice of what he’s done this season as a rookie. 

Being the primary name mentioned in a deal for a player like the captain of the New York Rangers means you must be doing a lot of things right. 

“When you’re a rookie with your name being thrown around and the other guy has some pretty high stature in the league, it’s a compliment. But I don’t look too much into it,” said DeBrusk. “I love being a Bruin. I just want to continue to get better, continue to improve and I’ve got lots of room to grow. I’m just taking it shift-by-shift.”

That’s a smart kid with a good answer as he focuses on his game on the ice, and learns on the job to navigate through his first NHL experience that’s now included being at the heart of a juicy trade rumor for the Black and Gold.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Holden 'very excited to get started' with Bruins

boston-bruins-nick-holden-22218.jpg
File Photo

Holden 'very excited to get started' with Bruins

TORONTO -- Nick Holden suited up wearing No. 44 at his first official Bruins practice on Friday morning at the Ricoh Coliseum, home of the Toronto Marlies, but it remains to be seen exactly how things are going to shake out with the 30-year-old defenseman.

Holden mixed into the bottom pairing with a crowded back end of Matt Grzelcyk, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Paul Postma, and it sounded like he might not be breaking into the B’s lineup immediately. Bruce Cassidy might go with the same defensemen group that’s won two straight in Calgary and Edmonton, and then simply revisit with each passing game as the Bruins play a whopping 24 games in the final 44 days of the regular season.

“He’s big, he’s long,” said Cassidy. “I watched some of his shifts against us and Philadelphia . . . [he's] a good defender and [has] a good first pass. I think he’s going to help us.

"I know the next question is ‘when?’ We’re going to talk about that today. I don’t know when he’ll go into our lineup, to be honest with you. I don’t know if it will be tomorrow or Sunday (in Buffalo), with the reason being that we’ve liked the seven guys that we’ve used over the last two months.

“We can’t forget about that, or not have the loyalty to the guys that have got us here. We talked about it with him directly. We’ve played the guy that deserves to play this year, and once he’s in it’s his job to stay in. That’s about it.”

As it stands this weekend, the Bruins have nine healthy D-men on their roster and Holden is excited to get a chance to suit up in Black and Gold with his new team.

“I kind of knew I was getting traded, and when I found it was the Boston Bruins I was really excited,” said Holden. “Obviously they’re having a great year and it’s a really good team, so I’m very excited to get started. It worked out good that I was able to get in two days ago and go out with the team to dinner [in Toronto] and kind of meet everybody right away. It’s been great.”

Holden admitted it will be a change for him going more zone defense than man-to-man as it’s been in the past with the Rangers and the Avalanche, but those things tend to work themselves out in short order.

Otherwise it was a full group for the Black and Gold on Friday morning with Kevan Miller (upper body) fully healthy, and Tuukka Rask named as the starting goalie for Saturday night’s big game vs. the Maple Leafs.

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Maple Leafs based on Friday’s practice session:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak
DeBrusk-Krejci-Spooner
Heinen-Nash-Backes
Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari

Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
Grzelcyk-McQuaid
Holden-Miller
Postma

Rask
Khudobin

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE