Bruins

Julien scoffs at criticism of defenseman Miller

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Julien scoffs at criticism of defenseman Miller

PHILADELPHIA – It’s been a tough ride for a tough customer in Kevan Miller over the last few weeks.

The rugged stay-at-home defenseman had a very subpar performance in the Winter Classic along with a number of his B’s teammates, and was on ice for both of the goals against in a last-minute Monday night loss to the New York Rangers that was a little tough to swallow. He’s a minus-5 in his last 10 games for the Black and Gold, and knows that it’s been a bit of an up-and-down season for him coming off major shoulder surgery toward the end of last season.

“It’s going in the right direction. I’m just trying to be consistent and strong back there,” said Miller, who has two goals and nine points in 34 games this season along with a plus-1 rating. “It’s about keeping things simple and moving the puck. When I can I’m getting into the offensive end, and if not then I’m trying to be physical.

“[This season] has been a challenge, but it’s been a welcomed challenge. Everybody wants to play more and play against top lines, so it’s something to be excited about rather than nervous about. You always want to embrace that challenge.”

It’s also important for a player like Miller to have a quick memory when a few mistakes have ended up in the back of his next in recent weeks.

“There’s going to be mistakes in games. You want to manage those, and manage them as best we can as a team,” said Miller. “You also want to learn from them, so you don’t keep repeating them. At the beginning of the season I’d have some good games and some bad games, and then I got injured. So it’s kind of been up-and-down a little bit, and I’m just trying to get back into that consistent game night in and night out.”

The 28-year-old has also been an easy target for Bruins fans this season given some of the mistakes made in the defensive zone. The simple fact is that Boston’s lack of real, proven top-4 defensemen on the roster has thrust Miller into a bigger role than he would ideally slot into if Dougie Hamilton or Johnny Boychuk were still around. Rather than playing against other team’s third and fourth lines as a bottom pairing D-man like in the past, Miller is averaging 19:52 of ice time per game while matching up against other team’s best offensive players.

There have clearly been some times where Miller’s turnovers or mistakes have been spotlighted, or ultimately exploited by some very good offensive players. The month of January has been a little rough for Miller while getting a look on a top shutdown pairing with Zdeno Chara. Just don’t expect Claude Julien to view Miller simply doing his best in a less-than-ideal situation as grounds for criticism about the undrafted D-man’s performance this year.

“Kevan Miller hasn’t been any better or any worse than anybody else,” said Julien. “I think I look at it more as our team, and our team is in the [playoff] mix right now. We suffer a little bit in the standings with those games in hand, so it’s another opportunity to take advantage of the games in hand by winning them.”

Has the notion of scratching Miller for a game or two been considered after any particularly tough games lately?

“It’s the same reason why not [scratching] Zdeno Chara?” said Julien. “Let’s just leave it at that. I’m just not getting into that . . . sorry.”

The simple fact is the Bruins need Miller’s toughness and strength in the lineup, and they need him to play above his pay grade until they can find a better alternative through the trade market. In that sense the criticism toward Miller isn’t really being directed in the proper place, and perhaps should be saved for whatever situation was created to require a consistent top-4 performance out of the third year D-man that sometimes doesn’t seem up to the task.

Bobby Orr calls Don Cherry's firing 'disgraceful' says his former coach is 'not a racist'

Bobby Orr calls Don Cherry's firing 'disgraceful' says his former coach is 'not a racist'

Days later the argument over Don Cherry’s comments on Hockey Night in Canada that sparked his dismissal is still going strong. Now the NHL’s greatest player has weighed in. 

Bruins legend and Hall of Famer Bobby Orr stood up for Grapes when chatting with the Toronto Sun and WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria" show in separate interviews Thursday and called his former coach's firing “disgusting” and “definitely unfair.”

Cherry was fired on Monday by Rogers Sportsnet in Canada after his comments over the weekend on his "Coach’s Corner" segment on "Hockey Night in Canada" when he went on a diatribe about people not buying poppies to support Canadian military veterans.

The former Bruins coach - Orr played for him in the 1974-75 and '75-76 seasons, didn’t just stop with a statement supporting the military, though, and regrettably segued into singling out immigrants to Canada as a group not supporting the military enough publicly. Cherry, 85, started it all off by saying “you people that come here” and that set off a firestorm of criticism in the US and Canada against the analyst who has been part of Hockey Night in Canada telecasts for almost 40 years.

Cherry said on the Nov. 9 telecast: “You people … you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

Orr’s words carry a lot of water in the hockey world in Boston, where he won a pair of Stanley Cups while revolutionizing the game, and all over Canada, where he’s still revered as the greatest hockey player of all time.

And he’s sticking by his buddy, nicknamed Grapes, which is admirable.

“He got fired on Remembrance Day. That is just wrong,” said Orr to the Sun. “The whole thing is unbelievable. Don Cherry is a good man and to do this to him is disgusting. I know what he was saying. We all know what he was saying. He was saying we should buy a poppy. All of us. You can take it any way you want, but he isn’t a bigot.

“Yes, he’s my friend. But I have known him a long time and I know he is not a bigot or a racist. He is the most honest and generous guy there is. He’s very good to the veterans, the police, the firefighters, minor hockey players and fans. They all know what he meant and I know what he meant.”

Orr told WEEI: "What they’ve done to him up there is disgraceful, it really is. It's a new world, I guess. Freedom of speech doesn't matter." He added that Cherry is "hurt, but he's going to be fine. He's getting some nice calls from his friends here in Boston. He is getting some wonderful support."

It’s still unknown exactly what awaits Cherry after his departure from Hockey Night in Canada, and it remains to be seen what Sportsnet will do to replace him with Brian Burke, Ray Ferraro and Mike Milbury mentioned as possible replacements for the bombastic analyst. 

While it was probably never going to matter when it comes to his ultimate fate with a corporate entity such as Rogers Sportsnet after Cherry's divisive, offensive language used last weekend, it’s good to see that No. 4 still has Cherry’s back when the going got tough.

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Bruins call up Trent Frederic, hope move to wing can let him tap into his inner power forward

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Bruins call up Trent Frederic, hope move to wing can let him tap into his inner power forward

BRIGHTON, Mass. — Trent Frederic has largely been a bottom-6 center for the Boston Bruins when he’s received his shots at the NHL level in Boston.

So it will be a little different for the 2016 first-round pick when the 21-year-old Frederic gets back into the B’s lineup on Friday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs as a physical left winger based on Boston’s need for healthy bodies up front. Frederic skated on the left side with Par Lindholm and Danton Heinen on a makeshift third line at Thursday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

Frederic has just five points in 15 games for the P-Bruins this season and went scoreless in 15 games with Boston last season while mostly in the middle and admitted he hasn’t exactly hit his stride in the AHL as of yet this year.

“I’ve been playing hard and I’ve been playing well,” said Frederic. “It hasn’t exactly gone my way the whole year, but I keep battling through it and playing hard every game.”

Bruce Cassidy is interested to see if plugging the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder on the wing can free him up for some needed physicality and more offense. Those are a couple things the B’s are certainly a little light on up front with David Backes and Brett Ritchie both injured and out for Friday night’s tilt against the Maple Leafs. 

The move to left wing might be just the thing to allow the big, physical forward to tap into his inner power forward, though he did have a whopping 40 penalty minutes in his 15 AHL games this year. 

“We'll see if that frees him up to go out and be physical and play more his style, just straight-line game instead of overthinking it as a centerman," said Cassidy. "We're not going to bring him up as a left shot and throw him on the right wing, I think that's a little unfair. We're already kind of moving him to begin with to see where he's at."

Certainly the Bruins are getting a good look at their organizational depth with all of these call-ups to Boston this early in the season, and that could help them down the line when it gets closer to potentially dealing some of those young forward assets for more NHL help à la Marcus Johansson last spring. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings for Friday's game based on Thursday’s practice:

FORWARD LINES

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Anders Bjork David Krejci Charlie Coyle
Trent Frederic Par Lindholm Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom Sean Kuraly Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk Brandon Carlo
Urho Vaakanainen Connor Clifton

STARTING GOALIE

Tuukka Rask

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