Bruins

Bruins won't break up 2011 core: 'They've got some good hockey left'

Bruins won't break up 2011 core: 'They've got some good hockey left'

If you are one of the futurist Bruins fans looking for the Bruins to get younger after falling short during this spring’s Stanley Cup Final, then you may be disappointed by the words from B’s management this week. If you are a fan of familiar faces on the Bruins roster and the past glory of the Black and Gold, then it was a little more encouraging.

While admitting that things are “winding down” for the Bruins core group that won the Cup eight years ago in 2011, Bruins President Cam Neely said he still believes that Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask are capable of winning another Stanley Cup before riding off into the Boston sunset.

“When we hired Don [General Manager Don Sweeney] that was certainly a conversation about how to do we take this core that won in ‘11 and give them another opportunity to win while they’re still somewhat in their prime. We still look at it that way,” said Neely. “We know, you know, our players are now one year older, and we’re another year removed from winning in ’11.

“So we certainly have recognized what we have coming, what we need to have coming, and who – you know, we’re talking pretty big shoes to fill. We’re certainly aware of that, and we recognize that. We still think they’ve got some good hockey left in them, but we certainly know that it’s winding down, so to speak.”

The “sunset” day may be coming a little sooner for some than others with 42-year-old Chara showing some signs of age this season while also showing he’s the ultimate warrior while playing through a fractured jaw in the Stanley Cup Final. Both Bergeron and Krejci will be 34 years old at some point next season, and even Marchand and Rask are on the wrong side of 30 years old at this point in their NHL careers.

It’s at the point in some of their careers where the status quo is going to be unreasonable to assume where injuries and lowered production could be a fact of life. More will be expected out of the younger generation of Bruins players, and workload management becomes a real issue for guys like Bergeron, Krejci and Chara in the twilight of their NHL careers.

It’s also unlikely that the pathway to the Stanley Cup Final is ever going to open up as wide as it did for the Bruins last season when all four top divisional seeds lost in the first round of the playoffs, and Tampa Bay, Washington and Pittsburgh all were out early in the postseason.

Still, the Bruins are clearly a playoff team in the Eastern Conference and it’s a tough sell to bust up an aging, proven nucleus that made it all the way to Game 7 of the Cup Final before falling woefully short against a group of first-timers in the St. Louis Blues. It all amounts to a difficult decision for guys like Neely and Sweeney this summer, but it sounds like their minds are already made up that the Bruins are going to push forward with the remaining core members of the 2011 Cup team intact.

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With Torey Krug down, Urho Vaakanainen called up to fill void on Bruins back end

urho_vaakanainen_bruins.jpg
File photo

With Torey Krug down, Urho Vaakanainen called up to fill void on Bruins back end

BRIGHTON, Mass. — The Bruins have called up Urho Vaakanainen from Providence on Monday and that, unfortunately, probably means the B’s will be without injured Torey Krug for the time being.

The 20-year-old Vaakanainen skated with Connor Clifton as part of the third defense pairing during Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena after his recall from Providence, and Bruce Cassidy said afterward that it’s a game-time decision between Vaakanainen and Steve Kampfer to fill Torey Krug’s vacant spot.

The best bet is that it will be Vaakanainen, given his ability to play big minutes, play equally at both ends and move the puck with his excellent skating ability.

Vaakanainen was off to a slow start with two assists in 15 games this season for the P-Bruins and wasn’t particularly sharp in training camp this time around for Boston after breaking camp with the team a year ago. Bruce Cassidy also mentioned that the 2017 first-round pick had some work to do with his practice habits, but that’s nothing new as young guys like Charlie McAvoy have also gone through that learning curve when it comes to Cassidy’s fast-paced practice sessions.

“The 12 forwards will be the guys that were out there and we’ve got a decision to make on the back end between [Steve] Kampfer and [Urho] Vaakanainen,” said Cassidy of Vaakanainen, who had both high and low moments while putting up four goals and 14 points in 30 games last season for the P-Bruins. “He’s played better, defended better. I think early on he was getting stuck out wide. I don’t know if that’s a European-sized rink issue or just an issue because of the way they play over there, but it showed in some goals against where he was getting beaten to the middle [of the ice].

“We need to make sure that is buttoned up if he’s in the lineup. He’s been moving the puck better and just more engaged in the game. He’s been practicing hard too and becoming a better pro, so all good things and his game is falling into place as well.”

Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings with both Krug and Jake DeBrusk out for Tuesday night’s game against the Panthers, but not ruled out for Friday night's big game against the Maple Leafs.

FORWARD LINES

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen David Krejci Charlie Coyle
Anders Bjork Par Lindholm Zach Senyshyn
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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Sloppy play catching up to the Bruins in their worst stretch of the season

Sloppy play catching up to the Bruins in their worst stretch of the season

BOSTON — There's no more denying that the Bruins' performance is slipping after a red-hot start to the season.

After three straight games where there was clearly too much looseness to their game, the Bruins went out and flatlined for the first 30 minutes against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night and couldn’t do enough late to escape a 3-2 shootout loss at TD Garden.

The Bruins were able to pick up a point in the loss and played much better in the second half of the game, but they can’t escape that they looked completely uninspired and unready to play in putting just six shots on net through the first half of the hockey game.

“We just got back to playing the game that we wanted to. Way too many sloppy plays and turning back rather than moving [the puck] forward,” said Patrice Bergeron of the first two periods. “When you do that everybody is kind of guessing on the ice and nobody is really on the same page. Then they take it to you. I think that’s what we saw in the first half of the game.

“A little bit better [in the second period] and much better in the third. You talk about playing for 60 [minutes] and if we did that tonight I would have liked our chances. It’s a lot of what we’re doing to ourselves to let teams into the game. It’s letting them get momentum and not being able to shut it down with a big shift.”

Part of it is certainly missing the injured Jake DeBrusk, Brett Ritchie and David Backes in the lineup and then watching Torey Krug go down as well in the late moments of the third period.

The Bruins didn’t have any massive breakdowns aside from an ill-advised Charlie McAvoy pinch down low with the fourth line on the ice that led to the Flyers' first goal, and special teams and goaltending weren’t really big factors.

Instead, it was about a Bruins team that’s now played two bad games in a row against inferior competition in Detroit and Philadelphia, and certainly doesn’t look as sharp now as they did during a torrid month of October.

“Poor. That’s about it. To sum it up, it was poor,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked about the start to the game where the Bruins were outshot 14-5 and outscored 2-0 on the scoreboard. “They [the Flyers] played the right way. Give them credit for playing a good game and managing the puck. Kept it simple and protected the front of their net when we did get through. They forechecked well, I thought, with good structure, so we had a hard time getting going. Why was it poor? I don’t think we had enough urgency, would be the simple answer. We weren’t breaking pucks out, got stuck below our goal line. We never got an opportunity to sort of put them on their heels, in any way, shape or form.

“So as a result they’re on their toes, they get a lead and we’re chasing the game. As a road team that’s come in, played a little bit lately, they all of a sudden find energy because of that. That’s my explanation of the start. We need to correct it in a hurry, but the good news is we did find our game eventually, and we can build off that.”

It’s been different things in each of the three losses, which speaks perhaps more to a general bit of malaise with the team rather than a specific issue. Against the Habs, Tuukka Rask had his worst game of the season allowing three soft goals, and that’s going to be impossible for almost any team to overcome. Against the Red Wings, the Bruins took a slew of offensive zone penalties while allowing a pair of power play goals and never ramped up their effort level against a bad team in a lifeless arena.

Against the Flyers, it was a Bruins team that looked as if it was missing a few key players to injuries while not getting enough from the guys that were healthy until it was too late. The loss to the Red Wings was the worst of the season, but the defeat at the hands of the Flyers felt avoidable and unnecessary given the situation.

Add it all up and it looks like a Bruins team which got off to a great start to the season has now put it in cruise control over the last week as the schedule starts to get a little bit more challenging.

“We’ve gotten away from what we do best and it’s cost us a bit,” said Charlie Coyle. “There are times in games when we’re doing the right things, but I think we’re getting away from it whether it’s early on, or at some point in the game. When you do that in this league, you’re going to get beat up. So we need to make sure we play the right way. When we do that, we put ourselves in great position and it’s hard for other teams.

“The work ethic has got to be there. We know the talent we have, but in this league you can’t ride solely on that. We need to make sure we bring it the right way. When we bring the work ethic, then the talent takes over after that.”

With the first three-game losing streak of the season, there will certainly be questions about the Stanley Cup Final hangover finally showing its face, or if the Bruins are simply going through a market correction after romping through the first month of the season.

The good news is we’ll know soon if this is a temporary bump or more of a prolonged swoon, based on their upcoming opponents — the Panthers and Maple Leafs. Both teams are within a handful of points of the first place B’s in the Atlantic Division and are shaping up to be among Boston's toughest competition for playoff spots.

The heightened intensity level should be enough to snap the Bruins out of their temporary three-game funk. If not, then a week from now we’ll all know that the B’s are facing a much bigger problem than anybody could have imagined after an October where seemingly nothing went wrong for a Bruins group facing their first adversity of the year.

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