Bruins training camp preview: It could be a really bumpy ride this season

Bruins training camp preview: It could be a really bumpy ride this season

Optimism in the hockey world is usually never higher than it is on the first day of NHL training camp.

That’s as it should be with players rested and at their peak health after a summer of healing and recharging the batteries. Certainly the Boston Bruins should feel good after hitting the playoffs for the third straight season last spring and then marching all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final before falling painfully short of their ultimate goal. 

Given all of that, expectations will be high for the Black and Gold as NHL training camp gets underway on Thursday with fitness testing and physicals. There will be expectations of another deep run into the postseason and another great year from players like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

But the reality headed into this NHL training camp is that it could be a rough few months, if not a difficult entire season, for the Bruins hot on the heels of a bitterly disappointing postseason. It’s all setting up to a challenging training camp with unsigned restricted RFA defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo both holding out to start.

On top of that, fellow defensemen Kevan Miller (fractured kneecap) and John Moore (shoulder surgery) are busy recovering from last season’s injury aftermath. That means there’s a realistic scenario that Connor Clifton, Steve Kampfer and a youngster like Urho Vaakanainen could be the entire right side of Boston’s defense to start the season.

That’s a massive cause for concern.

Then there’s 42-year-old Zdeno Chara and 34-year-old Patrice Bergeron still recovering from lingering health issues related to last spring’s Stanley Cup Final run as well.

Even some of the healthy players have their own issues to deal with. Playmaking D-man Torey Krug is coming off arguably the best season of his career, but has questions in his mind about his future in Boston when he hasn’t had any contract extension discussions entering the final year of his deal. David Backes is an influential, important person in the Bruins dressing room, and the 34-year-old was a healthy scratch in the final three games of the Stanley Cup Final against his former St. Louis Blues team followed by a summer of uncertainty.

These are all significant loose ends to be tied up to start this season, and it doesn’t even mention the Stanley Cup Final hangover or the big time competition in the form of rivals Toronto and Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division. It’s all primed to be a challenging start to the season for the Bruins that will start with them shaking off last season’s bitter end.

That’s something Bruce Cassidy wants to put to bed early.

“We talked about [Game 7] today. It’s time to turn the page. It’s time to move on,” said Bruce Cassidy, on the first day of B’s training camp. “I hope they feel the same way. You look at our veteran group. We’ve got Stanley Cup champs, we’ve got gold medalists and guys that have been captains in the NHL. [We have] future Hall of Famers.

“We have very good hockey players and we know what’s at stake when the puck drops. There were a lot of good things last year, but we didn’t reach our ultimate goal. So we’re no different than St. Louis or Ottawa if you take both ends of the spectrum. It’s a new year and every team is starting from scratch and we’re no different. We’ve got a lot of good returning players with some new guys added to the mix, and some young guys that will hopefully push [for jobs]. That’s what we’re focused on to get into the same position as last year.”

It remains to be seen how all of these factors are going to play out for the Bruins.

But B’s fans might want to express some patience with a Bruins hockey club that broke their collective hearts just a couple of months ago. It looks like it’s going to be a bumpy ride to start for the Black and Gold with injuries, salary cap issues and heightened expectations all conspiring to make things difficult for them.

The hope has to be that enough of the loose ends can be tied up by the middle of the season, and that the Bruins aren’t too far behind their usual pace in an Atlantic Division that’s getting better and better each season. 

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Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panhters

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Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panhters

Here are my talking points from tonight's 4-2 Bruins win in South Florida . . .

GOLD STAR: David Krejci didn’t have a single point during the five-game losing streak. But on Saturday night he stepped up and, lo and behold, the Bruins took home two points. It was Krejci helped kick-start the transition game for Jake DeBrusk’s goal in the first period, and then scored one of his own in the second on a strike from the top of the faceoff circle. Krejci finished with a goal and two points and a plus-2 rating in 16:20 of ice time. He also had five shot attempts and won 9-of-14 faceoffs in a game where the second line providence plenty of offense and pressure. Bruce Cassidy slipped Charlie Coyle up to second-line right wing with Krejci and DeBrusk at the outset of the game, and it seemed to work well for the Black and Gold.

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BLACK EYE: Jonathan Huberdeau is having a very good season for the Panthers, but he wasn’t able to bring out his “A” game for Florida against the Bruins. Huberdeau didn’t get a single shot on net in the 21:25 of ice time that he played. He finished with three giveaways and a minus-1 against the Bruins. He was part of the line set to contain the Krejci line, but instead allowed them to march right up the ice on DeBrusk’s first period scoring play. Huberdeau was also on ice in the third, when Florida coach Joel Quenneville pulled the goalie with more than two minutes to go, only for David Pastrnak to quickly notch an empty-netter that sealed the game. Not a good night for a very good player.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins weathered the storm in the third when the Panthers came hard after them and carved out a couple of goals to cut the lead to 3-2. Considering that the Bruins blew a 4-0 third period lead against the Panthers at home just a month ago, there was certainly some nervous, anxious moments, with the Bruins looking like they’d blow a three-goal lead in the third period this time. But the B’s stiffened after Jaro Halak gave up a soft goal on a Keith Yandle point shot to make it a one-goal game. They didn’t allow Florida to take advantage of any other breakdowns. Instead the B’s hung in there, patiently waiting until the Florida net opened up the winning scoring chance for them.

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HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk was at the heart of some of the criticism from Bruce Cassidy after the loss in Tampa when the second and third lines weren’t getting much of anything done. DeBrusk was also one of the players that responded in a big way this weekend by scoring the game’s first goal, a pretty nifty dangle through Florida defenders before beating Sergei Bobrovsky in tight close to the net. DeBrusk also fed David Krejci for his second period goal, finishing with five shot attempts and a couple blocked shots in 15:38 of ice time while posting a plus-2 rating. Perhaps just as important, DeBrusk was winning 50/50 battles for the puck and playing a competitive brand of hockey rather than doing fly-bys in a lot of areas while hunting the puck. If DeBrusk played with the same kind of speed, skill and tenacity on more nights, he’d be a difference-maker for the Bruins more often.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28 – The number of goals for David Pastrnak after collecting two scores against the Panthers, and putting himself in a position where he’s easily going to have 30 goals before the Christmas break.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I thought we did a really good job. Every line played well. We moved some guys around, but right up and down the lineup all 12 forwards, 6 [defensemen] and Jaroslav Halak were all really good.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN when asked his assessment of the win that snapped the longest B’s losing streak (five games) since he took over as head coach.  

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Highlights: B's snap losing skid vs. Panthers

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Highlights: B's snap losing skid vs. Panthers

FINAL SCORE: Bruins 4, Panthers 2

IN BRIEF: Oh not, not this again? After the Bruins’ epic third-period collapse in their last meeting with Florida, they nearly repeated themselves after going up 3-0 after two periods. Keith Yandle’s goal with 11 minutes left made it 3-2, Boston fought off the Panthers long enough for David Pastrnak to get an empty-netter that sealed it. And so, after coach Bruce Cassidy called out their attention to details earlier in the week, the Bruins snapped their losing skid with a solid all-around effort.


BRUINS RECORD: 21-7-6 (48 points, 1st in Atlantic Division)






vs. Los Angeles, Tuesday, 7 p.m., NESN

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