Bruins

Kuraly snaps dry spell in big night for the Bruins

Kuraly snaps dry spell in big night for the Bruins

DETROIT – Sean Kuraly doesn’t score many goals at the NHL, so he makes certain to get every last bit of value in his on-ice celebrations when he does light the lamp. 

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The 25-year-old fourth line center is perhaps overshadowed on many other nights by the host of talented rookies on Boston’s NHL roster, but Kuraly and his scoring celebration were front and center in the Bruins 3-2 win over the Red Wings at TD Garden. It was Kuraly that got things going for the Bruins by making the proper read when Zdeno Chara stepped up to pinch at the offensive blue line, and then he was in the right place at the right time when a Matt Grzelcyk pass found him in the high slot. 

Kuraly fired away and scored Boston’s first goal to things up at 1-1 in the second period, and the Black and Gold never looked back after that. It was Kuraly’s fourth goal of the season, and his first since way back on Thanksgiving when he scored in the Turkey Day eve win over the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. 

So Kuraly snapped his 29-game goal-scoring streak and gave it a vigorous fist pump and yell afterward as opposed to his trademark leap into the air a la last year’s playoffs. 

“I was worried about it because it had been so long [since scoring],” said a smiling Kuraly. “You can't really control [the celebration]. I didn't know what was going to come out of me, but it was okay. There was no leap today, but I was pretty excited to get it. 

“The point of the game is to score. It’s not my main job. There are other guys that do it, and I’ve got other main jobs and other responsibilities that I’ve got to do on a nightly basis while being consistent. But it always feels good to score…that’s why we’re all here.”

More than okay was Kuraly’s night where he scored the aforementioned goal in the second period, and also served up a perfect pass to Danton Heinen in the third for the eventual B’s game-winning strike from the slot. 

Kuraly finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-2 rating in just 9:42 of ice time, and had a couple of shots on net in an efficient, very effective performance from the fourth line pivot. It’s what his head coach has come to expect from Kuraly as the constant on the B’s energy line while he was working with new wingers in Austin Czarnik and Frank Vatrano.

“Some of the stuff we preach is about our ‘D’ keeping pucks alive, but our forwards have to reload or they won’t be comfortable doing it. He’s reloading, taking the ‘D’ spot and then all of a sudden we keep a puck alive and he’s the high forward getting rewarded with a goal,” said Bruce Cassidy. “That’s a ‘Bergeron Special’ and I think our guys are learning from it. That’s a really good spot to be in to find the puck, and it’s a really good spot to be in both offensively and defensive if things break down.”

Clearly Kuraly keeps learning and improving while bringing the trademark hustle and intensity required for his role, and it continues to make him into an even more effective player as the guy truly holding the energy line together on a nightly basis.

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Bruins wary of negatively impacting "very good chemistry" at trade deadline

Bruins wary of negatively impacting "very good chemistry" at trade deadline

TORONTO – It doesn’t take much searching on the Google machine to uncover noteworthy accomplishments from the Bruins this season. 

The Bruins are top-five in the NHL in offense, defense and penalty kill, and they have gone an amazing 31-6-4 since the middle of November while storming to the very top of the NHL standings. Along the way they’ve overcome injuries, tough losses bad starts, one lengthy Brad Marchand suspension and a fan base that was only half paying attention until the season ended anticlimactically for the New England Patriots a couple of weeks ago. 

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They also did all of this while introducing a lineup with five or six rookies in it every single night, and playing for a head coach in Bruce Cassidy in his first full year running the NHL team after 13 years between NHL gigs. They’ve been resilient and filled with fighting character all along, and they’ve overwhelmed opponents with their depth and quality of players on the vast majority of nights. 

They’re an entertaining and fun hockey club to watch, to be sure, and they are a group that sticks up for each other and genuinely likes one another while also sitting mere points behind the top dog Tampa Bay Lightning. That was all evident when the entire team enjoyed a night out together in Toronto on Wednesday, and wound up using the team-wide get-together as quality content for their Instagram accounts. 

Long story short, the Bruins have been extremely good this season on a consistent basis and look primed for an intriguing run into the postseason as the NHL trade deadline beckons. 

With all that in mind, it’s a delicate balance for Bruins management between making necessary roster improvements and not upsetting a tangle team chemistry that’s been notably special this season. The always candid Cassidy admitted as much when asked that question while meeting with reporters at the Bruins team hotel on Thursday morning. 

“I think it’s been factored into conversations between me and Donny [Sweeney] that we have a group with some real togetherness there this season,” said Cassidy. “At the end of the day if you can add and make your team better then you always have to look at it, and Donny is looking at that right now. 

“Adding [Nick] Holden I think he’s done that and we’ve added some more depth. But after that I do worry about if we subtract somebody from the room. If you’re adding and you’re not subtracting, i.e. future assets, then as a coach you always prefer to go that way. But Donnie will do what’s best and as a coaching staff we’ll take it from there so to speak. But there is a good chemistry with that group…a very good chemistry in that locker room.”

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Translation: There's a real concern that trading away a young NHL roster player like Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen or Brandon Carlo could be altering the team's DNA a little too boldly. 

This is the factor to keep in mind chasing after rental wingers like Michael Grabner, Thomas Vanek and Patrick Maroon that are unlikely to cost more than a “B” prospect or reasonable draft pick in exchange for them. It’s expected that the Bruins would need to give up at least one young NHL asset, possibly two in a true blockbuster for a player with term, if they chased after bigger ticket targets like Rick Nash or Ryan McDonagh with the Rangers.

Certainly there might be some level of impatience that the Bruins should go for broke at the deadline based on the promise this group has shown this season. Perhaps some are worried the window is starting to close for some of their veteran core players, but the numbers say otherwise with players like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand all enjoying vintage seasons. This isn’t a 2011 “Go for the Cup” type situation this season with the Bruins where they were primed and ready for a lengthy playoff run, and deals for Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Tomas Kaberle helped put them over the top. 

This year’s group is much more reminiscent of the 2008-09 Bruins that blew away expectations with a strong regular season, and enjoyed breakout performances from a number of younger players that saw them soar high above expectations. The youth and inexperience caught up to the Bruins that season when they were eliminated in the second round during a rugged seven game series with the Carolina Hurricanes, but the experience helped grow them into a contender on a steady trajectory over the next three seasons. 

That’s where the Bruins are this season. 

They’re a pleasant surprise team with a group of talented youngsters helping to push them to a higher level, and they’re due for a learning experience down the stretch and into the postseason. That isn’t likely to develop into an extended two-month Cup run unless a lot goes tremendously right for the Black and Gold, but the experience will pay dividends for next season and beyond. 

It might be that there’s just one more player for the Bruins to add ahead of Monday’s deadline, and that it will be more “sensible roster addition” than “take-your-breath-away blockbuster.” But that’s really okay when it comes to the Black and Gold.

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It’s okay because it means Don Sweeney hasn’t attempted pulling the roster apart at any of the seams, and will instead roll with his chemistry-filled Bruins regular season juggernaut to see exactly how good they stack up to be in the postseason. They’ve certainly earned that right after kicking the tar out of the rest of the NHL for the last three plus months, and it’s starting to feel like they’re going to get it.

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Bruins' Bjork out for season after undergoing shoulder surgery

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Bruins' Bjork out for season after undergoing shoulder surgery

TORONTO -- Anders Bjork's up-and-down rookie season has come to an end, as the Bruins' left wing underwent left shoulder surgery this week that’s expected to keep him sidelined for the next six months. 

Bjork was knocked out of a Jan. 30 loss to the Anaheim Ducks when Francois Beauchemin caught him with a cross-check to the left arm, but it’s unclear whether he was already playing through some level of shoulder injury prior to that collision. According to the B’s release, the 21-year-old winger “underwent successful left shoulder arthroscopy and labral repair on Tuesday” at Mass General Hospital. Bjork had been spotted around the Garden in recent weeks wearing his left arm in a sling, but it was difficult to guess the severity of the injury based on what looked like a fairly run-of-the-mill hit from Beauchemin. 

The injury and season-ending surgery ends a bit of a lost year for Bjork, who cracked the Opening Night roster and finished with 4r goals and 12 points in 30 games.

He showed the speed and skill required to be a top-6 forward at the NHL level, but also appeared to need more development time when it comes to battle level and adjusting to the physicality level in the pro game. The former Notre Dame star never seemed to fully bounce back from getting steamrolled in the neutral zone by Matt Martin in the middle of November, and ended up spending time in Providence as well prior to his season-ending injury. 

Bjork’s injury certainly doesn’t rule him out completely as a trade asset ahead of Monday afternoon’s trade deadline, but it probably makes him less attractive to NHL teams looking for young, NHL-ready talent that can step into their lineups right now. With Bjork headed for the long-term injured list and Frank Vatrano traded to the Florida Panthers for a third-round pick, that certainly opens the door for both a) a deal to bring on a veteran rental winger ahead of the trade deadline and B) a spot to be opened up in the Bruins organization for Ryan Donato when the Harvard University star, currently at the Olympics, is ready to sign.

Those are both very good things despite the downer news about Bjork, who watched fellow rookies Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen live up to the expectations many had for him.

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