Bruins

Bruce Cassidy's message to Jakub Zboril, Zach Senyshyn: 'It's time to separate yourself'

Bruce Cassidy's message to Jakub Zboril, Zach Senyshyn: 'It's time to separate yourself'

BRIGHTON, Mass – With Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo now signed and in training camp, the news is overwhelmingly positive for the Black and Gold with a full camp roster highlighted by players returning from last year’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

“The band is back together now, eh?” said a smiling Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy when asked about it on Wednesday afternoon with everybody on the ice and Patrice Bergeron seemingly healthy with no restrictions, either.

But a slew of returning players and avoided contract snafus also means few open spots on the NHL roster with the start of the regular season just a couple of weeks away. For some players, the clock is running short on their time to make an impact and become part of a Bruins group expected to once again compete and go deep in the playoffs this season.

Bruins prospects like 23-year-old Anders Bjork, 22-year-old Zach Senyshyn and 22-year-old Jakub Zboril are at a major crossroads with the Black and Gold entering this season. All three enter the final year of their entry level deals, as do Jeremy Lauzon, Ryan Fitzgerald and Karson Kuhlman, and need to begin making a bigger impact if they want to remain within the organization.

“Those guys are in the last year of their entry deals. It is important. You’re playing for your spot here in Boston, but also for your livelihood. You want to earn that next contract, and for some guys it takes a little bit longer,” said Cassidy. “They should be farther down the line than a guy like [Oskar] Steen that’s just coming in here and it’s all new to them. You’d expect those guys to push through.

“It’s just the circle of life so to speak. You have guys turning pro every year and we’ve got to make room for them. It’s kind of time to separate yourself. You should be the first call-up if you’re in that situation, and that should be your goal.”

Certainly Bjork is in a bit of a different category since he’s already played 50 NHL games, and a pair of shoulder surgeries have played a big role in holding back his development. But for Zboril and Senyshyn, former first round picks in the 2015 NHL Draft, it’s getting to become now or never time after a couple of “just okay” seasons at the AHL level.

Zboril has put identical four goal, 19-point seasons at the AHL over the last two seasons in Providence, and did so last year while playing in 12 fewer games for the P-Bruins. Senyshyn finished with 14 goals and 24 points last season for Providence, a pair of points less than he scored in his first pro season while playing in 66 games both seasons.

Zboril hasn’t really tapped into the offensive end of his game that many projected for him when he was in junior hockey, and Senyshyn hasn’t much resembled the guy that scored 40-plus goals in the OHL during his junior career. The Bruins are still searching for a top-6 right wing to play with David Krejci, and that should be Senyshyn based on his age and where he was drafted.

It just hasn’t happened to this point as the undrafted Kuhlman took that spot in the Bruins lineup during the Stanley Cup Final, and open auditions are once again there for the spot this fall in training camp.

Each now has some NHL games under their belt, but both were also surpassed organizationally by Connor Clifton and Kuhlman last season when injuries hit the Black and Gold at the NHL level. That’s a pretty telling statement about where both Zboril and Senyshyn are currently at in the organization, and an indicator that they both need to step up their games. If not, the bust term is going to be applied to two of the three first round picks from the 2015 NHL draft where the Bruins became the first team in history to make three consecutive first round selections.

“I’m just trying to show my details and show my work ethic and use my speed to take pucks to the net,” said Senyshyn, who said that playing a couple of games in the NHL last season has ‘lit a fire under me.’ “I think doing the little details that I’ve done the last couple of years in Providence is going to be big. I just have to trust my game and play with confidence.”

At this point, Zboril and Senyshyn are never going to be able to make people forget that players like Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, Thomas Chabot and Brock Boeser were selected shortly after them in that infamous first round of the 2015 NHL Draft. But they can make sure they are of use to the B’s organization and still attempt to develop into the impact players that Bruins scouts once clearly envisioned them to be four years ago.

If it doesn’t happen this season then it probably won’t be long before either of them, or both, might be facing an uphill battle in another NHL organization that doesn’t have as much invested in them.

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Rask knows he 'can't be too satisfied' with the way his game his taken a slide

Rask knows he 'can't be too satisfied' with the way his game his taken a slide

BOSTON – There’s no denying the single biggest common thread through the Bruins' four-game losing streak.

The same Tuukka Rask that was brilliant in the first month of the season has hit a rough patch in November and that tough stretch continued as he coughed up four goals in the third period of a 5-4 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

Rask is 1-2-1 with a 3.45 goals-against average and .886 save percentage in four November starts and played a starring role as a liability in losses to Montreal and Florida the past week. It was Rask who was beaten in the first minute of the third period on a long-distance Aaron Ekblad shot where the goaltender admitted he was too deep in the net and it was Rask who didn’t shut off the post on Florida’s third goal scored by Mike Hoffman as Florida was storming back in the final 20 minutes.

“I should have been sharper in that third period,” lamented Rask. “There were a couple of soft goals and I let [the Panthers] kind of get some momentum. It’s a 60-minute game and we’ve been on the other side of it.”

It wasn’t quite as bad as the three soft goals he gave up that all clanged off his glove hand last week in Montreal, but it was far from vintage Rask at a time when a few different things are going wrong for the Bruins. Rask is still top five with a 2.16 GAA and eighth in the league with a .926 save percentage, but it’s a far cry from the .951 save percentage he racked up in 10 games in a red-hot October.

Clearly, Rask is going through the same kind of tough stretch that used to greet him the first month of the season, but this time, it’s hitting him after a brief, dominant stretch out of the starting gate. Perhaps the Bruins coaching staff will get a quicker hook with Rask the next time he shows signs of trouble as in the losses against Montreal and Florida, or Jaroslav Halak will be used with a little more frequency until Rask works out the kinks in his game.

At least the B’s No. 1 goaltender isn’t under any illusions about the way he’s played the past few games.

“In Montreal, I sucked. In Detroit, I felt okay. Today, in the last period there were a couple of soft goals, so I can’t be too satisfied,” said Rask. “But, hey, there’s a lot of hockey left.”

While it’s refreshing to hear the kind of accountability  Rask is putting out there, the Bruins aren’t going to go very far if Rask is talking too much about sucking and giving up soft goals. The B’s better hope that their top goalie gets locked back in pretty quickly so both the team and Rask can leave their early-season mini-slumps behind in the rear-view mirror.

 

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NHL Power Rankings: Big shakeup in the Top 10 this week

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NHL Power Rankings: Big shakeup in the Top 10 this week

Sure, the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs are months away, but it's never too soon to look ahead, right?

The competition for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference could be tight, as several teams have surged forward recently, including the Flyers, Panthers and Canadiens — all of which missed the playoffs a season ago.

The picture is also crowded out West, where not many teams have started to separate from the pack as of yet.

How are the Bruins stacking up after a four-game losing streak? And which teams are making leaps forward?

Click here for Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings.>>>>>>

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