Bruins

Bruins' patience getting tested as young players learn

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Bruins' patience getting tested as young players learn

GLENDALE, Arizona – The Bruins have committed fully to the youth movement, so they’re fully aware of what they signed up for this season with young, first-year players Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy filling important roles.

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They reaped the benefits on opening night when all three provided offense and led the Bruins to an impressive victory over Nashville. They’ve also witnessed an ensuing valley afterward when things leveled off. Bjork and DeBrusk have been a combined minus-10 with zero points in a pair of back-to-back losses to the Colorado Avalanche and McAvoy registered a season-low 17:49 of ice time in the Wednesday night loss in Colorado.

The two stunning losses clearly aren’t all on the rookies. There were plenty of veteran core players who struggled as well, but the difference in play for the team, and the rookies, within the first three games has been noteworthy. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said shepherding the rookies through tough times was about two things: 1) Striking the balance between nurturing patience and challenging them and 2) those young players getting back to the basics of hockey.

“Probably [needing to] play inside a little more and getting to the net," Cassidy said. "We’ve talked about that they’re going to get a feel for how hard it is to hold onto to pucks in this league, so they know that. We’re trying to coach them up as far as the structure. I thought some of their reloads could have been better as far as going back through the middle of the ice, and their line gave up some rushes coming back at us. But that’s all stuff on the [coaching] staff to make sure they get up to speed.

“It’s up to them to do what they do best, which is attack, play inside and get to the net. Hopefully, they do a little bit more of that as a line. Some guys catch on quicker than others. We knew there would be consistency issues as every young kid goes through them. So we saw highs in the first game and some lows in the second game, and we saw them starting to come out of it in the third period [in Colorado]. We’re going to try to keep them confident, but also on their toes and aware of what needs to be better. Sometimes that’s a fine line for the young guys. They take it to heart, or they don’t take it to heart sometimes. We’re working our way through that with them. There are plenty of veteran guys here to pull us through while [the rookies] learn the ropes, and that’s what they need to do.”

DeBrusk had four shots on net against Nashville and scored his first NHL goal while attacking the net with speed and assertiveness. He’s had a combined three shots on net in the two games since and is looking to get back to aggressively attacking the net while using his surprising speed and growing strength to get there.

“I remember one of the big things last year [in the AHL] was staying consistent every game," DeBrusk said. "Obviously it’s a different league and it’s an 82-game season. It’s a long season. The last two games haven’t gone the way we wanted them to go as a group, and me myself there have been some mistakes and learning curves. It’s frustrating and it’s something you don’t want to have happen. You just learn from it and move on.

“The good thing is we have back-to-back games [vs. Arizona and Vegas], so you’ve got a chance to get back to .500 and fix some of those things. I think it’s the details in my game. It’s not just in the defensive zone, but all over the ice. I was a little too reckless on the fore-check and just lost my guys. It’s about wanting to do a little too much. It’s also just fronting more pucks and getting to the net more. That’s what I’m doing when I’m playing well and pucks seem to find me there.”

Bjork might have had his best game in the matinee defeat against the Avs when he had three shots on net but didn’t come away from with a point after notching an assist on opening night. The injury to Patrice Bergeron might be toughest of all for him after he’d build up chemistry with No. 37 and Brad Marchand throughout training camp as their probable right wing.

Still, the harsh truth is that Bjork has had zero shots on net in two of his first three NHL games after a very strong camp and needs to make himself more of a consistent factor for the Bruins with the speed and hockey smarts to make it happen.

McAvoy, 19, has had just a single shot on net in each of the two losses and is a minus-3 in those games but he hasn’t struggled to the degree that his fellow rookies have the past couple of games. He wasn’t generating enough offense, to be sure, but he did level Nathan MacKinnon with a clean, punishing open-ice hit while trying up the energy in the Monday matinee.He’s a little bit ahead of DeBrusk and Bjork in the physicality department and that’s allowed him to get assimilated pretty quickly to the NHL.

“We’re not using him a lot on the PK, so if it’s not a defenseman penalty then [McAvoy] and Krug are going to be our last pair we’d use because we’re saving them for offensive situations. He made plays [in Colorado], he’s up the ice and kept pucks alive and contributed to the goal doing that,” said Cassidy. “I’m fine with Charlie. On the first night, he got a little lesson against Nashville about trying to defend standing still, and he’s tried to play his 1-on-1’s with better angles. So he’s been good.

“[He’s got] composure. He’s a confident guy without being arrogant about it. He’s coachable, but when the puck drops he’s got good instincts for the game. I also think he’s a little underrated in his skating with the puck. I think he’s faster with it than he is without it. He fools some people with his ability to separate, and he’s strong on it. For a 19-year-old that’s rare. We’ve talked about some of the young guys learning the ropes on that, but he’s got some of those gifts that take a few years to develop.”

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to the rookie wingers or other scuffling Bruins (Ryan Spooner, Frank Vatrano): The B's have some talented reinforcements in the AHL that are red-hot right now. Peter Cehlarik is off to a strong start in Providence with two goals and five points in two games for the P-Bruins and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson has two goals in as many games for Providence. Likewise, Kenny Agostino has a goal and five points in those two games for the P-Bruins and can go back and forth between the NHL and AHL for the next month after clearing waivers at the end of the preseason.

That line has been tearing it up for the P-Bruins to start to start the season and it won’t be long before those players are getting auditions for NHL jobs if the incumbents continue to struggle after a very promising start. It’s harsh, of course, but that’s also the way of the NHL world where it’s a bottom-line business based on present-day results, productivity and consistency. The Bruins need to see more of all of those from their young guys this weekend in Arizona and Vegas as they look to stop the bleeding of a two-game losing streak.  


 

Bergeron (back spasms) makes first on-ice appearance at Bruins camp

Bergeron (back spasms) makes first on-ice appearance at Bruins camp

BRIGHTON, Mass – A welcome sight for the Bruins finally arrived Friday morning as Patrice Bergeron hopped on the ice for the first time in training camp. Bergeron had been out with back spasms suffered in the days leading up to the opening of camp as he worked his way back from groin surgery. He's just started getting back onto the ice the past couple of days testing out a back that he admits still feels “a little stiff.”

Bergeron left the ice when practice with the team got going, and he continued to be absent from the camp sessions along with Jakub Lauko (undisclosed), Sean Kuraly (lower body) and Ryan Fitzgerald (lower body).

Still, the fact Bergeron, 33, is slowly ramping things up is a good sign as the Bruins center still points toward the Oct. 3 season opener as the ultimate day when he really needs to be back to 100 percent.

“It felt great to be back on the ice and just slowly ramping it up. It’s always good to be touching the ice for sure,” said Bergeron, who said his preference continues to be getting into a preseason game if possible. “The goal is to be ready for game one. Hopefully, we get an exhibition game in at the end, but we’re going to play it by ear at that point. We’re not going to push for it, so we’ll see how it goes. The timeline hasn’t changed.

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“Time is on our side and that’s not always the case during the season. So we’re trying to use that to our advantage.”

Bergeron’s absence certainly left a void on the ice given his importance to the team, but these camp sessions with the reunited team after the China trip are when the importance steps up a bit. Given some of the injury issues Bergeron has suffered in camp the past few seasons, it’s a wise move to bring him along slowly.

Provided he can get on the ice for a full practice in the next week or so, there’s really no danger of No. 37 not being ready for when the Bruins open against the Capitals in DC Oct. 3 and that’s really the only timetable that matters.  

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Bruins' young guns firing right now in camp, but can they keep it up?

Bruins' young guns firing right now in camp, but can they keep it up?

BRIGHTON – It’s obviously still early in Bruins training camp and the two separate groups haven’t even practiced together yet thanks to the week-plus trip to China, but a theme is most definitely developing for the Black and Gold.

Similar to training camp a year ago, the youthful wave of Bruins prospects are taking their preseason by storm in the very best way possible. A third-round pick just a couple of months ago, 18-year-old Jakub Lauko has two goals in as many games and has shown that he may indeed be a first round talent that was snagged a couple of rounds later.

“I’m never nervous, so I think it’s a good thing for me that I’m never nervous,” said Lauko, after suiting up for his first NHL preseason game for the Bruins. “So, yeah, [it was] just fun.”

There's a bevy of B’s young guns out there having “fun” right now.  

Former BU center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson is one of a trio of young prospects vying for the third line center spot in Boston, and the Swedish pivot currently leads all Bruins players in preseason scoring with three points in two games. JFK has shown the strong two-way abilities that he’s always been touted for, and his passing skill has been on display in setting up fellow youngsters like Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Donato around the net. Speaking of Donato and DeBrusk, each of those young wingers earmarked for the NHL roster has a couple of counts in two preseason appearances as well.

Zach Senyshyn may have come into camp slightly under the radar after a so-so debut season in Providence last season, but he deposited a couple of goals in Tuesday night’s preseason win over the Capitals in Washington.

Trent Frederic scored a goal in the first preseason game against the Calgary Flames in China, and has teamed with David Backes for a big, strong and physical crash and bang line to this point in the preseason as well. Jack Studnicka, Cameron Hughes and Axel Andersson have all cracked the score sheet as well, and big winger Peter Cehlarik had two assists during the two China games vs. Calgary as well.

So in a camp where a couple of young players could come away with NHL jobs if their preseason performances are up to snuff, the Black and Gold young guns have been that and then some to this point.

That’s great news for a Bruins team that’s become accustomed to young players breaking through over the last few years, but the bad news for all these talented youngsters is that it’s going to get tougher from here on out. With the China contingent and the Boston-bound B’s crew set to be reunited at the end of this week, the training camp competitiveness is about to ramp up a few notches. There’s also the simple fact that things get quicker, more physical and more intense as the preseason goes along, and the veteran players began to really fight for their spots.

It’s the natural rhythm of training camp, and it’s about to become a little more eye-opening for a kiddie corps that’s been great thus far in B’s camp.

“Every year players coming into training camp and whether you’re a third-year player, second-year player, there’s always competition and there’s always somebody pushing from underneath [the NHL level], or pushing on a [camp tryout],” said Sacco. “Every team has young players that are hoping to push through and leave their mark to get their opportunity to play in the NHL.

“Once you see more players with NHL experience start getting into the lineups, it becomes a little bit more of a challenge for those young players to maintain that level that they had early on in the preseason. The ones that do, then you quite frankly start looking at them more and giving them a longer look.”

That will be the million dollar question for each of these young guys. There are plenty of cautionary tales of guys that flashed early in Bruins training camps in the past, but then couldn’t maintain that performance once the lineups got a little closer to NHL ready toward the end of the preseason. But there are also players, like Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, on the current roster that just kept producing and performing as young talents that played their way into Boston’s NHL plans earlier than anybody could have projected when they were first drafted.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s another one of those guys in this Bruins training camp with so many of them off to a strong and promising start. 

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