Bruins

Morning Skate: Hanifan ready to continue rise in Calgary

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NBC Sports Boston illustration

Morning Skate: Hanifan ready to continue rise in Calgary

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while officially back from being off the grid in Maine. 

-- Noah Hanifin had a mini-breakthrough with the Hurricanes last season, and Pro Hockey Talk thinks he’s ready for more now that he’s been dealt to the Calgary Flames. 
 
-- A look at the Vegas Golden Knights and what their offseason work means as they look for a big follow-up to last season’s Cinderella turn. 
 
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Josh Cooper has an oral history on the night that the Condor went wild at the Bakersfield Condors game.
 
-- A stick salute to Vancouver Canucks goalie Anders Nilsson, who continues to be very outspoken in support of the LGBTQ community
 
-- For something completely different: It’s the end of an era as Robert Redford has announced that his next movie will be his last as an actor after an amazing career in film. My favorite of his is most definitely “The Natural” for obvious reasons.
 

Bruins' "Kid Line" starting to find their way at both ends

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AP Images

Bruins' "Kid Line" starting to find their way at both ends

BRIGHTON, Mass – Call it the “Kid Line”, the “a Danton, a Donato and a JFK Line” or just about anything else you want. Just also make sure you call them a young, eager trio looking to lock things down on a Bruins third line that’s been in flux all season. 

After struggling for most of the season, in their past three games, Danton Heinen has goals in two of them, Donato has a goal and three points and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson has a couple of points while also managing a positive plus/minus rating. 

They have kicked in some supporting offense, played with speed and skill one would expect from their youthful backgrounds and give hope that the Bruins are going to eventually find some stability on that third line.

“[JFK] does want to pass first, and Ryan wants to shoot first. So they could end up being a good mix. They’re both young guys that should be comfortable with one another. Young guys come in and tend to want to appease the older guys first, so there shouldn’t be any of that,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Ryan has been tried on the second line and could slot in there again. JFK has always been looked at a little lower in the lineup.

“We’d like it to work out where they could play together, and so far they’ve had some moments. I like Danton’s accountability. He returns to the defensive zone quickly and puts things in order. I like Danton in that area no matter what line he’s on. He’s going to play it the right way. For him, it’s just a matter of where the best chemistry is to get his numbers up.”

If Donato, 22, JFK, 22, and Heinen, 23, can find some consistency, it would certainly take one thing off GM Don Sweeney’s checklist while looking for a veteran third-line center like rumored Minnesota target Charlie Coyle. It could also really give the B’s offense a nice, multi-faceted attack, particularly if both Donato and Heinen can find their best offensive game and Forsbacka Karlsson can give them the defensive balance any good line needs.

“[Heinen] is very dependable, and the same with JFK. It’s what he’s known for: Being a 200-foot player. And Danton does the right things that he’s asked to. So for me being on that line I just kind of learn from those guys,” said Donato. “But they’re also young guys, so it’s nice to have that feeling that you’re not the only young guys on the line. You’re not the only young on the ice reading that play.”

That’s certainly the nice thing about a “Kid Line.”

Will the Bruins be able to ride with a potential third line that only boasts one player with even one season of NHL experience?

It would seem to be a tall order, but the talent is clearly there at both ends of the ice. They’ll get a good test on Friday night in Pittsburgh when they’ll surely see plenty of Sidney Crosby & Co. with Pittsburgh getting the last change. That could begin to tell the tale as to whether Boston’s “Kid Line” will stand the test of time. 

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Bruins' Charlie McAvoy "hasn't missed a beat" since return from concussion

Bruins' Charlie McAvoy "hasn't missed a beat" since return from concussion

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy missed 20 games with a concussion, and he’s starting to make up for lost time.

He doesn’t have a point yet in the four games since returning in Tampa Bay last week, but he’s been his usual workhorse self while posting a plus-5 overall with four shots on net in those four games since coming back from injury. Even better, he’s averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time per game in that time and clearly given the Bruins a boost in the puck-moving department while scoring 3.5 goals per game after struggling to scrape together goals earlier in that stretch.

“I feel good. I think I came back with a little bit of rust, but since then I think I’ve come back and kind of taken off. I think I’m playing well in my own zone and trying to contribute when I can,” said McAvoy, who has a goal and six points along with a plus-6 in 11 games this season. “Fortunately our offense has been playing fairly well those left few games, so we didn’t really need to do much on the back end.

“It’s about being efficient and being smart, and not trying to look for anything more than the next right play has allowed me to feel like I haven’t missed a beat.”

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McAvoy has even taken a bad hit, the blind side shot that got Zach Hyman suspended for two games, and a high stick to the face, and kept right on playing his game. It’s those kinds of experiences that are giving McAvoy his confidence back, and show that he’s truly over the scary first-time experience with the concussion.

“Zero, which is what we were looking for,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if there was any hesitation in McAvoy’s game. “We were hoping he’d come back assertive and just play hockey. I think he’s been real good in that respect. The first night there was rust from not playing in terms of handling the puck and making the plays on time. He’d quickly got out of that.

“He obviously took a big hit from Hyman that was suspend-able, and he bounced back from that. I think he’s recovered really well.”     

Now, the next step for McAvoy is to go beyond the good first pass and the kick-start to the transition game and put up some points on the back end. The Bruins sorely missed that in the 20 games while the 20-year-old was out of the lineup, and it’s only a matter of time before that returns for McAvoy too. 

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