Bruins

First taste of life without McAvoy looked rough for B's

First taste of life without McAvoy looked rough for B's

BOSTON – The first returns of life without Charlie McAvoy weren’t very encouraging ones for the Bruins.

Clearly, there will be plenty more time to evaluate things with the 20-year-old out for the next four weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee and the Bruins hope things will get better as they adjust to life without him for the next month.

Still, the Bruins defense was pretty poor Tuesday night in a 6-5 overtime win over the Red Wings at TD Garden and the newly reformed Zdeno Chara/Brandon Carlo pairing was at the heart of some of the worst struggles. Bruce Cassidy acknowledged those struggles after the game while hoping it was a one-time event, but the truth is the Bruins were lucky they were playing a poor team like the Red Wings where they could still come away with two points despite the careless level of play.

“Some of it, as a coach, you understand, and the other part of it is they’ll always be held accountable and they’re told that. We know there are 82 of these [games], and it’s hard to stay in the moment for 82, and [be] focused and not want to have a little offensive surge and trade chances,” said Cassidy. “But we’re trying to play to our identity, as well. So we talked about it. Hopefully, it doesn’t go in one ear and out the other and we take it to heart and build on it for our next game.

“Some of that was winning those pucks and getting the clears. So, that was the common denominator. I don’t think it was like Montreal where we turned it over a lot and it was all odd-man rushes. I mean, we had a line change in the second, we got messed up, they got a breakaway. They’ll do that, Detroit, they spring guys. So it was kind of the opposite of Montreal where our slot coverage, typically our strength, [was where] we needed to be better.”

The aforementioned Chara/Carlo pairing certainly didn’t get all of last season’s chemistry back in one fell swoop against the Red Wings. Instead, the 40-year-old Chara had one of those nights where perhaps he looked his age a little bit and made errors in puck management and defensive-zone coverage while on the ice for four of the five goals Detroit scored. Perhaps even more noteworthy, Chara ended up playing 25-plus minutes with many more on tap this month. He didn’t ring up a single registered hit or blocked shot despite leading all players in ice time.

Carlo wasn’t much better. He was on the ice for three Detroit goals and both tall, rangy defenders were far from the shutdown pair they were on many nights last season. We may learn in the next month that McAvoy was indeed a big part of Chara enjoying such a successful season and there may be some choppy waters ahead without him.

But some of the rough night for Chara can also be attributed to it being late in the season when the Bruins are in a stretch of 16 games in the 31 days of March. The truth with Chara is that the B’s would be best served to rest him at some designated points in the final month of the regular season. That may mean convincing him to be a healthy scratch on a couple of occasions given A) Boston’s comfortable position within the Eastern Conference playoff standings and B) the Bruins ideal depth on the back end since the addition of Nick Holden.

“I’ll have to look closer at that,” said Cassidy, when asked about the Chara/Carlo pairing after the game. “I think there was so much going on [against the Red Wings] that I didn’t worry too much about that part. They’ve played together, so they will find their chemistry. I thought Brandon was skating better again. He is trying to move pucks out of the zone with his feet, so that’s a good thing.”

That is a good thing and that is the hope over the next month. Playing with Chara again as a shutdown pairing might be the best thing that could happen for the 21-year-old Carl. Certainly, he played with more surliness and attitude in the defensive zone than we’ve seen in the past. Those things bode well for both Carlo and the Bruins as he prepares for his first playoff experience as well and perhaps it will work out over the next month.

But the defensive debacle against Detroit also painted a pretty stark picture of what life could be like for the Bruins in the playoffs without their 20-year-old wunderkind Charlie McAvoy and it wasn’t a very pretty one at all.

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Taking a shot at what the Bruins opening night roster might look like

Taking a shot at what the Bruins opening night roster might look like

BRIGHTON, Mass. - With the Bruins training camp finally on the same continent and the team together for the first time, things are beginning to feel a lot more like an NHL training camp.

It certainly felt that way on Friday when Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy addressed the Boston media for the first time and then again on Saturday when Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask and David Pastrnak were back working out at Warrior Ice Arena. So now is the time to get real about competition for open spots on the NHL roster and to start prognosticating which lines and pairings will be rolled out Oct. 3 on opening night in Washington.

To this point, Cassidy said that nobody has played their way off the NHL roster four games into the preseason and that sets up an interesting battlefield for candidates in the final four exhibition games starting tonight vs. the Detroit Red Wings.

“The veteran guys won’t play on Saturday and there’s quite a few that won’t play on Monday either, so we’re looking at a week together with a couple of home preseason games to maybe look at our lineup a little bit more,” said Cassidy. “So, Monday we’ll get another look and then we’ll decide how we’re shaping up here. By then you’re hoping that now we’re looking at where [Sean] Kuraly fits in, and hopefully [Bergeron] is ready to go by then. Who is Krejci’s linemate going to be on the right side? So now we’re looking at one of the guys that’s here and whether they’ll fit in with him. It could go down to the wire for one or two spots, but Monday is a big day for some of those guys.”

One of the biggest questions facing this roster is whether to keep Bergeron, Pastrnak and Marchand together on the top line, or whether it’s better to slide Pastrnak in with Krejci to make two offensively dangerous forward lines. Much of it depends on the performance of the younger candidates on the wing, and thus far, Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato have performed well while vying for one of those right-wing spots.

Then there’s the third-line center vacancy left by the departure of Riley Nash. That's potentially up for competition among a number of players including Chris Wagner, Kuraly, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka. Studnicka fared well centering Marchand and Pastrnak in China, and both Frederic and JFK had their moments centering potential NHL forward lines overseas as well. To this point, the Bruins kiddie corps has all done exceedingly well and that’s something that has all of them still standing as viable candidates.

“I think Donato was good in Game One. Game Two he made some plays and had some turnovers...the usual stuff that we work on with the young guys, but I love his initiative. He’s a guy that loves to make things happen,” said Cassidy. “JFK had pockets of really good shifts, and other teams he was tentative where we had to remind him it’s a 60-minute game. But again they are young guys. Frederic was very good on the kill with Backes, who has been his partner. He scored a goal, so offensively they all chipped in.

“Jack [Studnicka] had a little penalty trouble. I’m not sure he deserved all of them, but he’s learning that hands and sticks have to stay off the body. But again he’s 19 years old. Urho Vaakanainen played one game and he was pretty efficient. He’s a pretty smooth player as well.”

As lineups get more veteran-laden and the intensity ramps up in final four preseason games, here’s a first glance at what the Bruins roster might look like Oct. 3 against the Capitals:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak
DeBrusk-Krejci-Donato
Heinen-JFK-Backes
Wagner-Kuraly-Acciari

Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
Moore-Miller

Rask
Halak

The toughest omission is obviously Matt Grzelcyk on the back end after a strong rookie campaign, but the bottom line with Boston’s defensemen is that there’s going to be a good player sitting every night. Up front, Anders Bjork is the biggest name kept off, but his shoulder injury has put him behind Donato and Heinen, who have played very well in the preseason.

The biggest feature is keeping together Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak and that just comes down to maintaining an advantage that the Bruins will have over just about every team with a trio that can dominate at both ends of the ice. It would be easier to find a right winger that can make things go on the second line than recreating the magic of the Perfection Line using different forwards, so there’s a strong argument to be made for keeping the top group together for the long haul.  

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Kampfer excited for his second go-round with the Bruins

Kampfer excited for his second go-round with the Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- These days Steve Kampfer definitely looks a little bigger, a little stronger and a little older than the last time he suited up for the Black and Gold back in 2012.

That makes perfect sense, given that he’s about to turn 30 years old rather than the 20-something fresh out of the University of Michigan that he was during his last go-round with the B’s. But clearly, the Bruins liked enough about his game that they opted to snag him as the returning NHL-caliber defenseman in the Adam McQuaid deal with the Rangers just ahead of training camp.

Barring any injuries, the 5-foot-11, 192-pound Kampfer isn’t likely to start the season in Boston. It will be difficult for him to displace any of the D-men already earmarked for the Bruins roster, but he will provide some excellent organizational depth when the inevitable attrition arrives this season. Over the last six seasons Kampfer has racked up games of NHL experience for the Bruins, Wild, Panthers and Rangers, but actually had his best NHL season in Boston in 2010-11, when he totaled five goals and 10 points in 38 games for a team that eventually won the Stanley Cup.

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Since then, injuries have taken a bite out of his game and his stints with other NHL teams, so he’s looking for a nice, healthy stint with the Bruins organization.

“[I’ve had] a lot of injuries…a lot of injuries in between stops. I’ve had both knees done and I’ve had a few concussions, and I broke my hand last season, so I’ve spent a lot of time rehabbing and figuring out how to get my game back,” said Kampfer. “So it’s going to be nice to be healthy for once going into a season and hopefully that gets me out on the right foot.”

Injuries aside, Kampfer said he was just happy to be back in Boston among familiar faces, in an organization that saw something in him when they initially traded for him as a prospect of the Anaheim Ducks.

“It was a shock, but it was exciting at the same time,” said Kampfer, who came back to Boston with a 2019 fourth round pick and a conditional seventh-round pick in exchange for McQuaid. “To be able to come back to a place I’ve been before and where I’ve had some success, hopefully it’s the same thing this time around.

“It’s nice to walk into a room and pick up on relationships that you’ve had before and build on those, and it also makes it easier when you get on the ice since you know how other guys like to play.”

The puck-moving Kampfer will more than likely start the season in Providence barring something extraordinary happening with the NHL roster, but it stands to reason that he’s going to factor in wins and losses for the Bruins at some point this season.   

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