Bruins

Kuraly, Nash step up for shorthanded Bruins

Kuraly, Nash step up for shorthanded Bruins

BOSTON – With a handful of Bruins players down with injuries, the cliché has been that it creates opportunities for others to step up into the void. 

There hadn’t been an overwhelming number of B’s players that have really raised their game thus far, but that changed on Thursday night against the Vegas Golden Knights as both Sean Kuraly and Riley Nash had their best games of the season. Kuraly and Nash were the two goal-scorers for the Bruins in the tight-checking 2-1 win over the Golden Knights at TD Garden, and found a way to light the lamp with Vegas’ defense focused on shutting down the stacked Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak line.

MORE BRUINS:

“That’s what this league is about. A lot of top lines are really good. Patrice Bergeron [and his line] certainly win their share of battles, but a lot of times they can also cancel out. At that point it can become a special teams battle, or a battle of the third and fourth lines,” said Nash, who scored the game’s first goal on a second-effort bid in front of the net after his first shot rocketed off the post. “I think at this point our third and fourth lines haven’t contributed enough, myself included. It just has been a tight-checking so far, so hopefully these can help out the confidence and we can start contributing more on a regular basis. That can help our team put some winning streaks together.”

Certainly, it was about Nash scoring the first goal for the Bruins in the second period, and then it was about Kuraly crashing the net in the third period while fighting through Brayden McNabb trying to take him out of the play. 

Torey Krug and Jake DeBrusk had each initially fired up shots at the Vegas net that were stopped by Maxime Lagace, but the big-bodied Kuraly was the one that finally broke after driving straight toward the Vegas net. Both Bruins goals in the Vegas win were second-chance efforts right around the front of the net, and that’s exactly what the B’s coaching staff has been preaching for weeks while waiting for it to arrive. 

On Thursday night against a fourth-string rookie goalie ripe for the pressure, the Bruins finally started to kick in their dues-paying, blue-collar production in a winning effort despite missing some pretty big offensive guns. 

“It was good to see Sean get rewarded. He’s certainly more than willing to go to those [dangerous scoring] areas. Those are the type of goals he’s going to score,” Bruce Cassidy said. “He’s not a guy who’s going to come down the wing and inside-out someone generally and blast it in. He’ll track pucks down, loose pucks, breakaways, and second chances. So, good for him [to score a goal].

“The opportunities will be there. We’re not asking anybody to be something they’re not, but be what you are on a regular basis, and you’ll get plenty of opportunity. Riley fits into that category and I was happy for him. He’s a guy that pitches in offensively and he had a tough start that way, so maybe this will get him going a little bit confidence-wise.”

Certainly the Bruins can’t expect to get scoring from secondary contributors like Nash and Kuraly every single night, but even a gradual uptick in their production could go a long way toward absorbing some of the organizational losses currently incurred by the injuries thus far to Krejci, Backes, Spooner, Acciari and Adam McQuaid among others.

That was the case on Thursday night as skilled, bottom-6 veteran forwards in Nash and Kuraly proved just important they could be in showing the young B’s players how to get things done. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Countdown to Bruins training camp: Noel Acciari

cp-spark-acciari-countdown-camp-082018.jpg
NBC Sports Boston illustration

Countdown to Bruins training camp: Noel Acciari

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Noel Acciari.

Noel Acciari has always been known for throwing around his 5-foot-10, 208-pound body with reckless abandon and never backing down from a hit no matter how big the guy he’s tracking down. Those are great traits for a fourth-line center/winger that managed to get a full NHL season under his belt as part of a young B’s fourth line that had some great moments this past year. Acciari certainly has a lot going for him: Physicality, a local boy done good story as a Rhode Island kid and even a little offensive fire that adds to his value as an energy line forward.  

MORE COUNTDOWN TO CAMP

What Happened Last Year: The 26-year-old Acciari made a nice step forward in his first full season with the Bruins as he suited up for 60 games, cracked double-digits with 10 goals scored and continued to play a heavy, punishing game when he was in the lineup. Acciari plays hard all the time and plays with a fearless tenacity, and those kinds of qualities rub off on the rest of the fourth line when he’s out there running around and making hits. Unfortunately, playing that way also leads to injuries and last season was no different as Acciari missed time after blocking a shot, absorbed a concussion and played through a sports hernia injury that required surgery following the season. It’s probably unfair to say that Acciari is injury prone, but injuries are just the cost of doing business with the way the former Providence College standout plays.  

Questions To Be Answered This Season: The biggest question with Acciari is if he can stay healthy enough to remain effective in his role with the Bruins. By all accounts Acciari had a very good season providing energy, physical oomph and even kicking in 10 goals while scrapping for offense around the front of the net. He’s dogged, fearless and the kind of player that will help a team win hockey games. But that style of play leads to injuries and time missed, and Acciari needs to find a way to stick in the lineup and finish up strong if he wants to remain an integral part of what the B’s are doing. Given that he’s shown some offensive spark and plays with true fire in his belly, the Bruins will certainly be patient with the aches and pains that go along with Acciari doing his job. But if Acciari truly wants to be a part of the core Bruins group, he’s also going to need to be a reliable, constant presence in the everyday lineup.   

In Their Words: “We’ve got a lot of confidence from this past season, and like I said, that can build up until next year, and get better from there, and make a deeper run next year. We want to continue what we did this past year and get even better, so it’s going to be a good hard summer, and work hard, and kind of have that bad taste in our mouth where we got knocked out this year. Let’s not have that again next year.” – Noel Acciari, on the mentality that he and his B’s teammates are looking for headed into next season. 

Overall Outlook: Acciari has earned his reputation as a tough competitor and a punishingly physical player, and he continues to hone the offensive production as a fourth-line player. It’s to his credit that he even got a bit of a look as the third -line center when Riley Nash went down with injury, and speaks to how the Rhode Island kid continues to up his game. That being said, it feels like Acciari is really in his sweet spot as a hard-hitting fourth-line winger that plays with energy and physicality. It all comes down to remaining as healthy as he can within his reckless playing style, and showing that he can stay in one piece at the NHL level while playing the way he does. Other than the occasional run-in with injuries, Acciari brings everybody anybody could want in a fourth-line energy winger.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Countdown to Bruins training camp: Sean Kuraly

bruins_sean_kuraly_110316.jpg
File Photo

Countdown to Bruins training camp: Sean Kuraly

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Sean Kuraly.

Kuraly represents a Bruins prospect turned legit player after the fourth line center graduated from the P-Bruins and turned into a solid, strong two-way pivot on a B’s energy line that was actually pretty good for most of the season. There may be a limit to the offensive upside for a rugged, penalty-killing player like Kuraly, but there was more than enough good there for him to earn  new three-year contact with the Black and Gold that will begin this upcoming season.

What Happened Last Year: The 25-year-old Kuraly was the B’s fourth line center from beginning to end last season after really popping in the previous season’s playoff series against the Ottawa Senators, and he performed up to hopes and expectations. Kuraly finished with six goals and 14 points in 78 games for the Bruins, and was a big-bodied center willing to throw his body around on occasion and kill penalties pretty much all the time. Kuraly also had his moments during the playoffs with a couple of goals and four points in 12 games, but the entire B’s fourth line was pretty badly outplayed by Tampa Bay in the second round of the postseason. So there are definitely a few things for Kuraly to build/improve on from last season, and now he’ll have the time to do it with the B’s.

MORE COUNTDOWN TO CAMP

Questions To Be Answered This Season: The biggest Q for Kuraly is just how high the upside is for the 25-year-old former Miami University standout. Kuraly showed last season that he could be a pretty solid fourth line center that could bang bodies a bit, provide occasional offense, kill penalties and win a few big face-offs while bringing size and strength down the middle. Now Kuraly will be in the mix for the vacant third line center position, and he could win it outright if he can show a little bit more offense and physical aggression as he matures into an NHL career. Is last season the ceiling for Kuraly, or can he harness the impact game we’ve seen out of him in the playoffs to make him an even more impact NHL center. The good thing about Kuraly is that he’s smart, he’s a good teammate and he plays hard all of the time, so the Bruins aren’t going to have worry about any of those things as anything but automatic with the young center.

In Their Words: “I don’t think you could tell me about it and try to tell me what it’s going to be like or how to prepare for it. It’s something you really have to go through, and it’s long, and it’s a marathon, and it’s nights where you’re not feeling 100 percent, and maybe you have to do a little bit more that night. So, there are nights that it’s tough, and I think that’s something that I, hopefully, can get better at next season is dealing with some of the adversity and realizing that this is a long season, and there’s going to be some ups and downs and just try to stay levelheaded.” –Sean Kuraly, on what he learned from his rookie season and how he can apply it to this upcoming season and beyond.

Overall Outlook: The Bruins certainly liked what they saw out of Kuraly last season as a rookie, or they wouldn’t have signed him to a three-year contract. It’s reasonable to expect that the big-bodied pivot is going to improve from the six goals and 14 points posted in his rookie NHL season, and it’s now up to Kuraly to see how good he can be. Could he be a steady third line center at the NHL level where he teams with David Backes to form a physical, grinding third line that can pound other teams? Can he supply enough offense to be a legit third line center, or is the offense the kind of thing that’s going to likely relegate him to fourth line duty. As mentioned above, the intangibles are never going to be in question with Kuraly and that’s a very good place to start. Now it’s just a matter of letting Kuraly develop at the NHL level, and see what he ultimately turns into after showing he’s got the right stuff for the B’s energy line at the very least.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE