Bruins

Haggerty: Youthful, fast-moving Bruins draw rave reviews on opening night

Haggerty: Youthful, fast-moving Bruins draw rave reviews on opening night

BOSTON – There were two major takeaways from the Bruins opening night win over the Nashville Predators. One is that the B’s are very young in many key spots around the lineup and that they played very fast hockey in an energetically good way.

Three of Boston’s four goals in the 4-3 win over the Western Conference-champion Predators were from players 21 or under and the Bruins played fast, aggressive hockey while consistently pushing the pace and moving Nashville backward for long stretches of play.

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Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork both passed their top-six forward tests with flying colors as DeBrusk potted his first career goal on a nice drive to the net. Both of the rookie wingers ended up on the same line with a rejuvenated David Krejci by the end of the night. Charlie McAvoy showed his skill dishing slick PP passes to David Pastrnak for one-time opportunities and soaked up 22 plus minutes of ice time while also showing his rookie side by taking on three minor penalties.

The healthy doses of confidence that the rookies will take from opening night certainly can beneficial to a strong start and undoubtedly will also help guide them through the inevitable challenging periods they’ll face this season.

“It’s awesome. It’s awesome for the three of us to kind of get that out of the way and now you can roll, kind of,” said McAvoy. “Points aren’t everything that’s for sure, but for offensive guys like Jake [DeBrusk] and Anders [Bjork] and myself – I try and contribute – sometimes the hardest thing to do is to get that zero out of there in the point column. We came out of the gate pretty hot there and I’m very happy. I’m very happy for Jake, very happy for Anders to get their first points and I’m just thrilled that we walk out of there with two points.”

For a team that’s going to rely heavily on youthful contributions after no major signings or trades this summer, the Bruins had to love the early returns with all their kids stepping up in their first night under the big lights. There is still more of that to come, but the draft-and-development plan has begun to produce in a major, tangible way at the big-boy level.

“We’re pleased. They all had good moments. They all had learning moments throughout the course of the game, as we expected, but they stayed with it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “They’re good players and obviously helped us win a hockey game. But that’s what they’re here for. They were put in good positions to do that, and I thought our veteran guys pulled them along well. They’re good players and they did their part, so we’re very pleased with them.”

The youthful additions to the lineup certainly paid off on the scoreboard with DeBrusk and McAvoy scoring their first NHL goals, and Bjork also getting involved with his speed and tenacity on the fore-check. 

It was clear that a couple of young, fast-moving players along with an adept puck-mover in McAvoy also did a great deal to augment Boston’s team speed and allow them to embrace an aggressive, up-tempo style Cassidy has been working to instill. Even a bigger, slower-moving object like 40-year-old Zdeno Chara has altered his style and embraced the relentless, quick-acting approach that seemed to overwhelm the Predators for long stretches.

Combine all of the high-speed and precision skill with Adam McQuaid’s old-school, titanic heavyweight bout in the first period, and you have the Black and Gold version of the Extremely Fast and the Traditionally Furious coming to a hockey rink near you this winter.

“I thought it was good. It was a high-paced game and both teams played with a lot of energy. You can tell it’s early in the season, but that pace was pretty quick and fast with the puck moving up and down,” said Chara. “Obviously there were some opportunities on both sides and some power plays, but that’s what we’re going to see. It’s pretty obvious that’s what the new ‘modern hockey’ is all about. It’s a lot of skating and a lot of moving, and whoever makes those plays quicker and better is probably going to win those games.”

Clearly, there were mistakes and things to work on borne of both youth and the fast, aggressive style. McAvoy was whistled for three minor penalties while getting caught leaning offensively a couple of times and the Bruins allowed goals in the waning minutes of periods in a pattern that’s been very problematic for them in the recent past.

Still, if the suddenly Fast and Furious Bruins can play with that same speed, skill and relentlessness for most nights this season, they’re going to be pretty good. If they can get consistent contributions from the rookie players that stepped up on opening night, then the Bruins will be even better. 

That’s the test now. The Bruins set the bar up fairly high with a strong effort right out of the starting gate and the challenge now will be to match that and build on for 81 more games this season. 

The fact they were able to do that on opening night without Patrice Bergeron, David Backes and Torey Krug gives everyone belief that we may see plenty from this entertaining, high-tempo Bruins team in what could be a surprisingly good season for the Black and Gold.  

Kenny Agostino looking forward to 'the right opportunity' with the Bruins

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Kenny Agostino looking forward to 'the right opportunity' with the Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – It’s been a few different stints with a few different NHL teams for 25-year-old Kenny Agostino, so he knows the drill at this point in his pro hockey career. The Bruins signed Agostino as a free agent on July 1 after he led the AHL in scoring last season, and they gave him a one-way contract as a show of proof that he’d get his chances at the NHL level.

It didn’t happen immediately out of camp as Agostino was felled by a concussion for part of the preseason, but he’ll get his chance now with injuries and ineffectiveness creating an opening for him on the Black and Gold. Agostino should get a look as the left winger on the third line after lighting it up in Providence with two goals and seven points in his first three games with the P-Bruins, and he’s looking forward to seizing another chance at the NHL level after stints with the Flames and Blues. 

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“I’ve been doing this a few years and I like to think I’ve developed my game outside of my offensive ability,” said the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Agostino, who had 24 goals and 83 points for the Chicago Wolves last season. “That’s kind of been my goal to become more of a complete player. I’m excited and looking forward to another opportunity and just want to make the most of it. I’m not looking past tonight.

“I was fortunate as a college guy to get my first pro experience at the NHL level in Calgary, but then you understand how difficult it is to establish yourself. You need a lot of different things. You need the right opportunity and you need to do well with it, so it makes you appreciate how great of an opportunity it is anytime you get to play in this league.”

Certainly, the Bruins are anxious to get a look at Agostino, and probably Peter Cehlarik at some point soon, and the lack of production from some of the NHL incumbents have fast-forwarded that process a little bit. Agostino will replace Ryan Spooner along the half-wall on the first power play unit, and perhaps he can add the kind of scoring touch in the bottom-6 that Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano haven’t been able to thus far.

“We know Kenny is going to start in Spooner’s power play spot, he’s done it before and he’s had some success at the lower levels when given that opportunity. Obviously he’ll play left behind [Brad] Marchand and [Jake] DeBrusk, probably on the third line spot,” said Cassidy. “He’s played with [Riley] Nash yesterday [at practice] so there’s a good chance he’ll play with him today.”

The Bruins certainly need a spark after limping out to a 2-3-0 start to the season in the first five games, so perhaps a hungry Agostino can do that while being given a legit chance to show what he can do by the Black and Gold. 

Tuukka Rask out indefinitely for Bruins with a concussion

Tuukka Rask out indefinitely for Bruins with a concussion

BRIGHTON, Mass – Tuukka Rask has been diagnosed with a concussion, and will be out indefinitely for the Bruins after getting trucked in Wednesday’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

The good news is that the 30-year-old Rask hasn’t previously dealt with concussion issues in his NHL career, but the bad news that it looked like a fairly serious concussion after Anders Bjork crashed into him during line rush drills at Bruins practice. It’s still unclear if Bjork caught an edge and crashed into Rask during drills, or if there was contact with another player that thrust the B’s rookie, who needed stitches on his chin as well, into the unsuspecting Bruins goalie for the rare violent collision during an off-day hockey practice. 

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“It’s not really easy. Last year I had a couple of collisions and it doesn’t feel good,” said Anton Khudobin. “Sometimes you get run over in a game and you kind of expect that it’s coming, but in the practices maybe you’re not expecting it. I don’t know. It’s not fun.” 

Rask had to be helped off the ice by his teammates and was spaghetti-legged and unsteady on his feet as he made his way off the way, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect him to miss 7-10 days at a minimum based on NHL concussion protocol. 

Clearly it’s a blow to the Bruins to lose their No. 1 goaltender while struggling to stabilize their game weeks into the regular season, and for Rask it continues a tough season where he’s off to a 1-3-0 start with a 3.30 goals against average and .882 save percentage behind a leaky defense. 

So Anton Khudobin will step in on Thursday night for Rask coming off a 29-save win over the Arizona Coyotes last weekend, and P-Bruins netminder Zane McIntyre will serve as Khudobin’s backup goalie on an emergency basis.

“You don’t want to see that, but at the same time we’ve got to keep moving forward and hopefully he’s going to get better soon,” said Khudobin. “I feel good. Camp was good and everything is fine, and I’ve started better than last year. My role is just day-to-day. Today is a game day and hopefully, you get a good result, and then tomorrow is another new day.”

It remains to be seen how quickly or slowly that Rask recovers from this concussion, but there is concern as more than a few NHL goalies have suffered from recurring issues once they start going down the path with concussion issues. 

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