Bruins

DeBrusk, McAvoy and Bjork all kick off B's careers with a bang

DeBrusk, McAvoy and Bjork all kick off B's careers with a bang

BOSTON, Mass – If the Bruins were trying to get all of the firsts out of the way in their season opener, they did a pretty good job of it in Thursday night’s win over the Predators. 

Both Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy scored their first NHL goals in their very first regular season games, and Anders Bjork also notched his first career point in Boston’s 3-2 victory at the Garden. Even better both DeBrusk and McAvoy did it in front of their families, including former NHLer Louie DeBrusk wiping away tears in his eyes after watching his boy score in the game’s second period. Particularly for a player like the 20-year-old DeBrusk that wasn’t able to break through for a goal in the preseason, notching one on a nifty little 1-on-1 move at a meaningful moment is something he’ll always remember. 

“[It’s] pretty surreal to be honest. It was one that I’ll never forget, that’s for sure. A little bit of a blur at the moment. Was just trying to make a quick move, and it went in, and the crowd went pretty loud. So I’ll never forget that feeling,” said DeBrusk. “[His dad] is known as a tough guy but I heard that there were some tears coming from him. So it’s a very emotional time, but I’ll be chirping him for a couple of years to come. That’s for sure.”

Those specific, individual moments were obviously special for those rookies, and created personal memories that will last a lifetime. But they also brought an enthusiastic energy to a Bruins team looking for any kind of motivation entering a new season, and eased the pressure each young player was feeling to contribute immediately. 

“I think [it means] a lot. I mean, even when they try to think, ‘yeah okay, I just want to have a good game.’ They still want to get the first one,” said David Pastrnak, who also scored in Thursday night’s opener and can still remember his first NHL goal in a Bruins uniform. “Once you get the first one, first point they can get the thought in their head, ‘I can play in this league.’ 

“You know, instead of game by game going [by] with no points and you start thinking more and more [about it]. I’m talking from my own experience, you know. So, it’s good. I’m really happy for the guys and [I’m glad] they scored.”

Now DeBrusk, McAvoy and Bjork should move into their next few NHL games with a different level of confidence, and the growing belief that they truly belong after getting off to a rousing good start on opening night. 

Morning Skate: Ex-Bruin Dougie Hamilton on the move once again

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Morning Skate: Ex-Bruin Dougie Hamilton on the move once again

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while declining all interviews prior to the July 1 free agency period.

*Dougie Hamilton has now been traded twice in the last three years despite statistically being one of the best defensemen in the NHL. Certainly, he’s got fancy stats fanboys in his corner with an armada of bar graphs and pie charts that will tell you he’s one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL, and anybody can see that he scored 17 goals last season. But it’s also clear that Hamilton has soured on each of his last two organizations leading to an exit, and the feeling seems pretty much mutual based on the stuff surrounding both of those departures.

I can tell you in Boston that one of the final straws with Hamilton was a Vegas team party at the end of the regular season where every member of the team aside from Hamilton and Reilly Smith was in attendance. They were both traded within a couple of months after that. By all accounts even noted party machine (sarcasm included) Zdeno Chara was there. It was one of several signals in that final season that Hamilton wasn’t really fitting in with what the Bruins were doing as a team. There were other things as well over the years where it was clear that Hamilton was a little sensitive to criticism and a little set in his ways, and self-focused, on the ice. He’s certainly not a bad kid or a divisive teammate, but it says a lot that Hamilton dropped to Boston’s spot in the draft and now has been dealt twice despite his considerable talent.

Hopefully, the Carolina Hurricanes become the NHL organization where Hamilton gets comfortable and doesn’t eventually want to leave for another fresh start.  

 

*Speaking of the Hurricanes/Flames deal, Carolina is certainly getting the new look that they were hoping for.

 

*John Tavares will opt to talk to several teams in the free agent interview period, so he’ll become the focus of the next couple of weeks until he decides where he wants to sign a mega-big deal.

 

*TSN has their top-60 free agents with the pre-July 1 interview period officially set to begin on Monday morning.

 

*The first born-and-bred Brit was selected in the NHL entry draft this weekend when Liam Kirk heard his name called.

 

*For something completely different: Here’s what to expect from the next Jurassic World movie in the series.

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Haggerty: NHL draft weekend a big dud for the Black and Gold

Haggerty: NHL draft weekend a big dud for the Black and Gold

DALLAS – There’s no way to sugarcoat it for the Boston Bruins, and competitive hockey guys like Don Sweeney and Cam Neely wouldn’t want that anyway.

The 2018 NHL Draft at the American Airlines Center netted the Bruins a few prospects and one in particular in Czech-born Jakub Lauko that has all the makings of a mid-round steal, but in just about every way draft weekend was a big, fat bust for the Black and Gold. 

The Bruins lost out to the Los Angeles Kings in the bidding for 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk when they understandably, and perhaps wisely, wouldn’t go to a three-year offer for a talented player that skipped town on his last NHL team. They weren’t able to engineer a package to entice the Carolina Hurricanes with defenseman Noah Hanifin and forward Elias Lindholm available in a blockbuster trade that could have answered both of Boston’s needs in one fell swoop.

Instead, Dougie Hamilton was traded from the Flames to the Hurricanes as the biggest piece in the trade, and for a second time in three years Sweeney watched Hamilton get moved while not able to land his “white whale”, a top-4 left shot D-man, in Hanifin.

With the July 1 opening of NHL free agency quickly approaching, the Bruins also don’t appear any closer to locking up backup goaltender Anton Khudobin at a key roster spot that absolutely needs to be addressed if Boston wants to be successful again next season. It’s much the same with Riley Nash, which means the Bruins could be looking at propping up a rookie third line center in the middle of their lineup next season.

To top it all off, the Bruins also didn’t have a pick in the opening night first round of the NHL Draft on Friday, a scenario that Sweeney himself called “excruciating” after watching the top 31 players get selected while his face was pressed up against the proverbial glass. 

So it wasn’t a very productive weekend for the Bruins, who certainly didn’t get any better at the NHL level as several other teams very clearly accomplished that goal. Certainly the Bruins seemed to feel pretty good about their chances for Kovalchuk at the start of this weekend, but they weren’t willing to go to a third year for a 35-year-old player that’s been stowed away in Russia for the last five seasons. Time will tell if that was the right call, but it’s always good business not to overpay for aging free agents in a salary cap world.  

“We put ourselves in a position to be considered,” said Sweeney, when asked about missing out on Kovalchuk after he’d agreed to a three-year, $18.75 million deal with the Kings. “West coast-East coast, you’d have to ask Ilya what ultimately swung things into LA’s favor. We thought it was a good fit and it didn’t work out. Ultimately, you move on to the next one.”

Now, the Bruins will move on as well to this week’s interview period ahead of NHL free agency and the July 1 open to the market where they may once again have a few balls up in the air. James van Riemsdyk may be a possibility on the free agent side as a power forward winger with size, net-front presence and plenty of productivity, but he’s clearly not going to come cheap after scoring a lot of goals with the Maple Leafs.

There is still a chance to swing a deal with the Hurricanes as well with winger Jeff Skinner potentially on the trade block as well for Carolina. The 26-year-old put up 24 goals and 49 points last season in Carolina, and has averaged 28 goals per season over the last five years with the Hurricanes. There are also the ongoing talks with Rick Nash about returning to the Bruins after last spring’s deadline deal, of course. But it’s also pretty clear the Bruins viewed Nash as a second tier option to Kovalchuk as a goal-scoring answer on their second line, and that doesn’t exactly ignite the excitement levels thinking about a possible return.

The one that could really come back to haunt the Bruins is the Hanifin/Lindholm package to the Flames that dropped midway through Saturday’s Day 2 of the draft in Dallas. It didn’t sound like the Bruins were heavily in the mix on that deal, but they certainly could have been competitive for it if they’d tailored a package around young NHL players like Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen. Instead, Sweeney cautioned on Friday night that the Bruins were going to be very reluctant to move young NHL players that are still determining just how high their ceiling can be as Bruins. 

“We realize that we have some young players that have played just a year in the National Hockey League with some success. I’d like to continue to see how that unfolds. But [other GMs asking about B’s young players] is a good opportunity to see how other teams around the league view those players as well, and what maybe their market value is,” said Sweeney. “Yeah, there have been a lot of guys that have been intrigued. And I think we are as well. We’ve peeked under the covers a bit and we just want to make sure that if we make a move it’s for the absolute right reasons. 

“I want to make a good hockey trade if we go down that road. We’ve got good players and we’ve got good young players that have assumed roles, and hopefully, they just continue to grow.”

The Bruins certainly do have good, young players and they’ve got a pretty darn good hockey club that amassed 112 points in the regular season as well. But they also showed some pretty well-chronicled weaknesses that cropped up in the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the bottom line is they got nothing accomplished in terms of addressing those at NHL Draft weekend.

The good news is that the Bruins have $12 million in cap space headed into free agency week, and there will be other opportunities both in trades and free agency.

But any way you slice it NHL draft weekend in Dallas was an acrid, empty dud for the Black and Gold, and that’s far from a good thing.

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