Bruins

Morning Skate: Donato's stock rising with each Olympic victory

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Morning Skate: Donato's stock rising with each Olympic victory

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while Team USA continues its uphill journey toward an Olympic medal.

*Ryan Donato potted a couple more goals in a decisive win for Team USA over Slovakia in elimination play and has been one of the top American hockey players at the PyeongChang Winter Games in South Korea. Donato showed a little bit of everything in the performance with a sniper shot off a loose puck, another goal off the rush and he played through a nasty hit up high that appeared to bloody his nose. It’s no exaggeration at this point to say that Team USA goes as Donato goes after he’s secured two-goal performances in each of their victories.

Even better, Donato did it after a surprise visit from his old man, former Bruins player and current Harvard coach Ted Donato, after it was up in the air whether he’d be able to get away to South Korea to watch his son play. From a Bruins perspective, it’s all good things watching Donato score and lead the Americans on a large, global stage while his prospect profile grows with each play that he makes. It’s clear he’s going to sign with the Bruins and go pro shortly after the Olympics, with the only question being whether it makes a quick detour back to Harvard to finish up his college season prior to signing with the Black and Gold.

What’s less clear is the immediate future for Donato, 21. He continues to show high hockey IQ and a scorer’s toughness that’s allowed him to basically be a goal-per-game performer for the Crimson this season. Those will serve him well in the pros. But it would be unrealistic to think that Donato can jump right in and play for the Bruins at this late point in the season. It’s far more likely that he instead spends some development time in Providence after finally inking his entry-level deal.

The Bruins may have to burn off the first year of the entry-level deal when they sign Donato as has become customary with many of the college prospects, but it would be in his best interest to gain experience in Providence rather than sitting and watching as Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson did last season. That experience has done him little good as he’s spent this season in Providence working up to being ready for his shot in the NHL.

What Donato could do for this year’s Bruins team is something else, however. His mere presence as a prospect about to join the pro ranks would allow the Bruins to part with one of their young players on the wing in a deadline deal trade. Anders Bjork would be the NHL-ready prospect most likely to move if the B’s had to give up one of their best and brightest in a big deadline move.

Bjork has speed and skill in large amounts and showed it in flashes when he was in Boston earlier this season, but the Bruins are dealing with a massive surplus of skilled wingers and left-shot defensemen in their prospect ranks right now. You can’t play them all in the NHL and Donato’s presence could and should allow Don Sweeney to deal one of them away ahead of Monday afternoon’s deadline.   

*Petr Mrazek is officially now in the playoff chase and also the newest goalie hope in Philly after getting traded to the Flyers from the Red Wings.

*Mat Barzal has overcome any bitterness about his previous experiences in pro hockey to become a Calder Trophy favorite with the Islanders.

*Interesting look at a typical practice with the struggling Montreal Canadiens from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Arpon Basu, who sees meaning in the mundane daily ritual.

*Larry Brooks seems to be dreaming of a lottery pick for the New York Rangers, who have not had one at the very top in a long, long time.

*Women’s Olympic Hockey will be expanding from eight to 10 teams for the next Winter Games, which is great news.

*For something completely different: Kurt Cobain would have been 51 today. Wow, that makes me feel wicked old.


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Bruce Cassidy says Bruins need to be 'better defensively' to snap losing streak

Bruce Cassidy says Bruins need to be 'better defensively' to snap losing streak

TORONTO — The Bruins aren’t necessarily going to change anything with their offensive philosophies based on the major amount of injuries that have hit their roster over the last few weeks. But the influx of Providence players combined with the offensive firepower of Torey Krug and Jake DeBrusk missing for the lineup has taken a toll on Boston’s goal-scoring capabilities, and that can hurt when the Bruins defense has allowed 15 goals (3.75 goals per game) over their current four-game losing stretch.

Certainly, that’s less of a problem with all of their offensive weapons healthy and operational, but it’s still something they were doing much better in October when it comes to defending and stopping pucks at the net.

It’s about fewer risky offensive chances for their defensemen trying to join the rush, and it’s about a better penalty kill after that special teams unit sprung a leak over the last week. That doesn’t mention the goaltending, but that could also stand to be much, much better with Rask starting vs. the Leafs and struggling through the month of November to this point.

“We just become less of a threat with that third line where it’s just ‘go out and check well and hopefully you get rewarded.’ We’ll see how [Trent Frederic] fits in there. We try not to change too much, but what we do need to do is be better defensively,” said Bruce Cassidy, who was acknowledging that the third line probably isn’t going to be a big offensive threat right now with Frederic, Par Lindholm and Danton Heinen filling it out. “We were for 40 minutes the other night [against Florida] until it completely fell apart. So that will be our goal tonight. We’re missing some guys that could typically help us at one end and so that’s our approach in that regard [on defense].”

Patrice Bergeron didn’t see it as a change of mindset for the B’s to get more conservative while missing their top-goal scorer behind the Perfection Line, and missing their top offensive defenseman in Krug. Instead it’s simply a return to the style of play that brought them tremendous success in the first month of the season, and what they did in allowing just 12 shots on net through the first 40 minutes against Florida before there were soft goals aplenty in the third period.

“It always comes back to playing the right way, having good defensive layers and a good forecheck. When you start moving forward and playing north/south, that’s when you get the most success and that’s when things open up to make the tougher plays,” said Bergeron. “Even when everybody is in the lineup, I think that is how we’re successful.

“We’ve been at our best when we don’t force things and let the play come to us, and have layers defensively. Then you can go back on the attack and do the damage. Obviously when you’re missing key guys it’s about everybody bringing it, being ready to play and our depth, and how important it is to rely on everybody in this locker room.”

Now would be the best time for the Bruins to snap back into place defensively as they travel to Toronto for a Friday night showdown with the rival Maple Leafs, and play more like the team that still ranks fourth in the NHL averaging just 2.50 goals per game allowed this season.

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Bobby Orr calls Don Cherry's firing 'disgraceful' says his former coach is 'not a racist'

Bobby Orr calls Don Cherry's firing 'disgraceful' says his former coach is 'not a racist'

Days later, the argument over Don Cherry’s comments on Hockey Night in Canada that sparked his dismissal is still going strong. Now, the NHL’s greatest player has weighed in. 

Bruins legend and Hall of Famer Bobby Orr stood up for Grapes when chatting with the Toronto Sun and WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria" show in separate interviews Thursday and called his former coach's firing “disgusting” and “definitely unfair.”

Cherry was fired on Monday by Rogers Sportsnet in Canada after his comments over the weekend on his "Coach’s Corner" segment on "Hockey Night in Canada" when he went on a diatribe about people not buying poppies to support Canadian military veterans.

The former Bruins coach - Orr played for him in the 1974-75 and '75-76 seasons - didn’t just stop with a statement supporting the military, and regrettably segued into singling out immigrants to Canada as a group not supporting the military enough publicly. Cherry, 85, started it all off by saying “you people that come here” and that set off a firestorm of criticism in the US and Canada against the analyst who has been part of Hockey Night in Canada telecasts for almost 40 years.

Cherry said on the Nov. 9 telecast: “You people … you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

Orr’s words carry a lot of weight in the hockey world in Boston, where he won a pair of Stanley Cups while revolutionizing the game, and all over Canada, where he’s still revered as the greatest hockey player of all time.

And he’s sticking by his buddy, nicknamed Grapes, which is admirable.

“He got fired on Remembrance Day. That is just wrong,” said Orr to the Sun. “The whole thing is unbelievable. Don Cherry is a good man and to do this to him is disgusting. I know what he was saying. We all know what he was saying. He was saying we should buy a poppy. All of us. You can take it any way you want, but he isn’t a bigot.

“Yes, he’s my friend. But I have known him a long time and I know he is not a bigot or a racist. He is the most honest and generous guy there is. He’s very good to the veterans, the police, the firefighters, minor hockey players and fans. They all know what he meant and I know what he meant.”

Orr told WEEI: "What they’ve done to him up there is disgraceful, it really is. It's a new world, I guess. Freedom of speech doesn't matter." He added that Cherry is "hurt, but he's going to be fine. He's getting some nice calls from his friends here in Boston. He is getting some wonderful support."

It’s still unknown exactly what awaits Cherry after his departure from Hockey Night in Canada, and it remains to be seen what Sportsnet will do to replace him with Brian Burke, Ray Ferraro and Mike Milbury mentioned as possible replacements for the bombastic analyst. 

While it was probably never going to matter when it comes to his ultimate fate with a corporate entity such as Rogers Sportsnet after Cherry's divisive, offensive language, it’s good to see that No. 4 still has Cherry’s back.

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