Bruins

No McAvoy-type among this crop of B's World Junior prospects

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No McAvoy-type among this crop of B's World Junior prospects

Last year at this time, the entire hockey world was buzzing about one of the Bruins best and brightest prospects at the IIHF World Junior tournament when Charlie McAvoy and Team USA took things over when it mattered most.

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A year later, McAvoy is one of the lead candidates for the NHL’s Calder Trophy and six other B’s prospects were looking to make their own name at the World Juniors in Buffalo. Those prospects have enjoyed varying degrees of success in this year’s Under-20 tournament, but it also looks very clear that there isn’t a McAvoy-type game-changing youngster rising through the ranks of the Black and Gold.

Certainly, Trent Frederic ended his world junior career on a high note by scoring an amazing four goals to help lead Team USA to a 9-3 blowout win over the Czech Republic for the Bronze medal. It’s the third year in a row that Team USA has medaled in the tournament. That’s a record-setting achievement for the USA Hockey program.

Clearly, there are things to like about Frederic stepping up in a medal game and dominating with a huge offensive night. It tells you something about the player’s overall makeup in big-game situations, and was also a nice response after he was benched for portions of Team USA’s disappointing loss to Team Sweden in a medal round game on Wednesday.

He showed a lot of his strengths: Size, strength, hustle, some great penalty killing and a really dogged, aggressive approach to attacking the puck carrier.

But there were also the other five games in the tournament where Frederic managed just a single point and was essentially the fourth-line center for Team USA with limited ice time and very little presence in any of the games. Clearly, he looks like an NHL player based on his size (6-2, 210), strength and willingness to do a lot of the little things on a game-by-game basis, but the jury is still very much out on whether he’s anything more than the “third-line NHL center” that then-scouting director Keith Gretzky projected him to be way back on the first night of the 2016 NHL Draft.

Ryan Lindgren was good enough to be a top-four defenseman for Team USA, but he looks like a true stay-at-home defenseman with very little natural inclination toward the offensive end of the ice. He finished a minus-3 in five games with just two shots on net leading into the blowout win over the Czechs.

Jeremy Swayman was the third-string goaltender for Team USA and didn’t get into any games while still racking up the big-stage experience being around the tournament.

The B’s 2017 first-round pick, Urho Vaakanainen, was another player, like Frederic, who certainly looked like he belonged in the elite tournament, but had mixed results at best. Vaakanainen finished with an assist in five games, along with a minus-3 rating, and had seven shots on net in a very defense-first performance. The B’s prospect wasn’t on the Finnish power play and most of the time his big offensive move consisted of dumping the puck into the end boards after gaining the offensive blue line.

Perhaps there is some latent offensive ability waiting to come out in Vaakanainen’s game, but it sure doesn’t appear like the instincts or the tools are really there for him. Instead, he looks like a good-skating, shutdown defenseman that will chew up his share of minutes, but is going to be more one-dimensional than one would hope as a mid-first round pick. The good news is that he showed a good, active stick in the D-zone and certainly didn’t seem to shy away from the physical play in front of the net.

But Vaakanainen was simply okay on a Finnish World Junior roster that was loaded with NHL first-round picks and really didn’t live up to the hype by not even making it to the medal round games on Friday.

Instead, it was a pair of lower-round picks that really impressed in the tournament. One was 2016 fifth-round pick Joona Koppanen, a big, aggressive bottom-six center for Finland who seemed to always be fore-checking hard or getting to the front of the net. The 6-5 Koppanen finished second on Team Finland with three goals in five games, and finished with four points and a plus-2 while killing penalties, taking face-offs and showing that he could do a little bit of everything. 

It says something about Koppanen that he managed to make plays despite playing a much more limited role on a Finland roster with some pretty big prospect names up front.

Finally, there’s scrappy, undersized Swedish forward and B’s sixth round pick Oskar Steen, who really gave everybody an idea of what he can do in Team Sweden’s dispatching of the Americans in the medal round. Steen scored on a shorthanded snipe under the bar for the eventual game-winner against Team USA, then got in touch with his inner-Marchand when he slashed the knee of American winger Kailer Yamamoto in the closing seconds of the win for the Swedes. It was a cheap play to be sure, but it was also evidence that there’s some snarl and sandpaper to the young Swede’s game that will endear him to the Bruins organization once it’s harnessed.

Clearly, there were a couple of excellent individual performances from B’s prospects and a four-goal game from Frederic is something to long be admired. Still, it sure doesn’t feel like there was a McAvoy-type player, or one that might be able to help the Bruins in the NHL next season, among this crop of B’s world junior prospects.  

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Bergeron walks out of ACC wearing a protective right boot

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Bergeron walks out of ACC wearing a protective right boot

TORONTO – Patrice Bergeron led all forwards in ice time in Saturday night’s loss to the Maple Leafs and played the final 90 plus seconds in the 4-3 defeat, but the 32-year-old center was spotted walking out of the Air Canada Centre with a protective boot on his right foot.

It certainly wasn't a fashion statement as many Bruins fans are probably hoping postgame, but instead it appears that No. 37 suffered some level of right foot injury after the hard-fought loss to the Leafs. 

Bergeron walked out of the arena under his own power with the boot on his right foot, and there was no update from the Bruins on his condition as it wasn’t known until after team availability was over for the night. It appeared that Bergeron was hit in the leg with a puck during the second period that caused him some discomfort, but No. 37 still finished 19:15 of ice time, a couple of assists, a plus-2 rating, six shot attempts and won 15-of-22 face-offs.

So it didn’t appear to hamper Bergeron’s game against the Leafs as he was his typically excellent two-way self, but there’s also the possibility that the possible injury didn’t really swell up on him until after he removed his skates postgame. It will be telling to see if Bergeron is good to go on Sunday as the Bruins are playing less than 24 hours later in a 5 p.m. start against the Sabres at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo.

The Black and Gold currently don’t have an extra forward on the road trip with them as they’re carrying an unwieldy nine defensemen with the addition of Nick Holden to a group that was already eight defensemen strong. So the Bruins would need to either play with seven D-men against the Sabres or call somebody up from the P-Bruins if Bergeron’s right boot is anything more than a precautionary measure after a tough game.  

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Bruins lose 4-3 heartbreaker to Leafs

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Bruins lose 4-3 heartbreaker to Leafs

TORONTO – In a tight game all the way through, the Bruins ended up falling a little short in their parting game with the Leafs before the playoffs.

Ron Hainsey scored in the final couple of minutes in the third period on a long distance shot from the point where it appeared that Zach Hyman interfered with Tuukka Rask in front of the net. But the refs overruled the goalie interference challenge from the B’s, and the Maple Leafs came away with a 4-3 win at the Air Canada Centre.

The Leafs took three of four games against the B’s in the regular season series, and won all three without the services of Auston Matthews.  

The Bruins and Leafs traded goals through the first couple of periods in true back-and-forth fashion between the Atlantic Division rivals. Brad Marchand got the B’s on the board first when he sniped one past Frederik Andersen while left all alone in the high slot with all day to shoot, and then a minute later Mitch Marner scorched one past Tuukka Rask from the left face-off circle.

It was Toronto that got a quick lead on the Bruins later in the first when Kadri popped home an open PP chance after a nifty tipped JVR pass from the net-front, and then the Bruins responded again less than five minutes later. It was Marchand again this time in tight close to the net with a filthy finish under the bar after a slick backhanded dish from David Pastrnak below the goal line.

Jake DeBrusk put the Bruins out on top again in the second period when he out-skated JVR to the front of the Toronto net to redirect a Ryan Spooner pass beyond Andersen for his 12thgoal of the season. Once again the Maple Leafs power play got the equalizer in the final minute of the second period when Kadri rocketed home a shot from the high slot after playing give-and-go with Marner at the top of the PP formation.

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