Bourque leading a P-Bruins offense that's coming around

924289.jpg

Bourque leading a P-Bruins offense that's coming around

PROVIDENCE, RI The expectations were pretty sky high for Chris Bourque before hed played even a single game in a Providence Bruins sweater.

Bourque had lead the entire AHL with 93 points last season in 73 games for the Hershey Bears, and his 27 goals scored was exactly the kind of scoring punch that was needed for a Providence team thats locked scoring punch in recent years.

While Bourque hasnt been able to maintain his point-per-game pace in Providence this season, the 26-year-old still has 18 (2 goals, 16 assists) points in 22 games for the Bruins. Bourque also put up a pair of assists including a helper on Kyle MacKinnons game-winning overtime goal -- in Sundays 3-2 win over the Adirondack Phantoms thats pushed the P-Bruins just a single point behind the Worcester Sharks for the Atlantic Division lead.

Bourque set the play in motion in overtime by getting the puck to defenseman Matt Bartkowski behind the net, and the Bs blueliner provided the feed for MacKinnon to rifle into the back of the net.

Its taken a little more time than Bourque originally thought, but the P-Bruins are looking like the solid, offensively improved bunch people expected when he arrived on the scene.

We played good and it was a solid weekend. We struggled a little bit at the beginning in five-on-five play and that goes along with getting used to some new players, said Bourque. You get used to playing with each other and building that good chemistry. Now were doing a lot of scoring five-on-five and we just need to make sure our power play is clicking.

Part of the transition period has been Bourques teammates getting used to his ability to create offensively and take risks that are sometimes missing from the Bs defense-heavy system. Theres also the simple fact Providence doesnt have a goal-scoring forward like Ryan Potulny, who snapped off 33 goals skating with Bourque in Hershey last season.

Thats turned Bourque into less of a goal-scoring option, and more of an offensive distributor creating plays for others on the ice.

Case in point: it was Bourque carrying the puck through the high slot area on the power play that opened things up for Providence, and it was passing eye that found Ryan Spooner for the one-timer from the right circle. It eventually led to Jamie Tardifs rebound goal and a secondary assist for Bourque, but it was his playmaking ability and vision that started off the whole play.

Every night he makes a couple of high end plays," P-Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "Sometimes the rest of the guys arent ready for them, but Spooner was for the one-timer on the power play goal. He threw a cross-ice pass on Friday that Tommy Cross wasnt quite ready for, and he kind of half-hit it off the crossbar on a tap-in.

He does some high-end things that our guys are getting used to. Hell take some high-risk plays, but they work out a lot more than they dont when its him making them. Hes competitive, he cares, he battles and he wants to be out there all the time. Id like to see his goal total being a little higher, but thats a part of the issue with our team right now. We dont have a lot of guys that are making those plays to set him up. Hes making them for other people.

Helping to right the ship has been a good challenge for Bourque, and its allowed him to keep his mind off the NHL lockout thats now raged on for more than 80 days. The son of Hall of Famer Ray Bourque went into this season hoping for a crack at the NHL roster in Boston, and he still hopes that chance materializes should they start a 2012-13 regular season.

We hear about the lockout obviously. You check Twitter and guys are keeping you informed, said Bourque. But we dont have much contact with anyone, so its really what the average fan knows. We cant solve it, so we just need to keep it in the back of our minds and just keep playing hard.

I was definitely hoping it wouldnt last this long just for the hockey fan inside of me. I definitely like watching NHL games just like everybody else. Getting a chance to play for the Bruins was something I was looking forward to. But you just need to keep focusing on Providence and winning games. Hopefully we can keep it going like we have been for the last little while.

But for now Bourque is serving as a bright scoring light, leader and main attraction for a Providence Bruins thats 5-0-1 in their last six games -- and turning in their best AHL season in at least three years.

For now, thats more than enough him.

Celtics aren't asking Al Horford to be 'anything more' than what he is

Celtics aren't asking Al Horford to be 'anything more' than what he is

WALTHAM -- From one media station to the next, Al Horford effortlessly moved about during Boston Celtics Media Day.
 
In between stations, I jokingly asked the nine-year veteran, "Been through a few of these before?"
 
"A couple," he quipped.
 
But Monday was different. And every other Monday going forward this season will be different, too, for the longtime Atlanta Hawks forward, who is now a member of the Boston Celtics after they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract this summer.
 
With that significant increase in salary comes -- from those outside the Celtics program at least -- a higher level of expectations.
 
"We’re not asking Al to be anything more than him," said coach Brad Stevens.  "He’s a good fit for how we play on offense. He’s a good fit for how we play on defense. He’s a professional. He has a routine. He works hard at his craft. He’s a guy that guys can follow by example."
 
However, Horford joins a Celtics team that -- since the rebuild began in 2013 -- has yet to win 50 games in a single season or get past the first round of the playoffs.
 
And while it will certainly be a collective team effort for Boston to achieve those goals, make no mistake about it: Horford is expected to be the man leading the way.
 
"We need to start building good habits from Day One," Horford said.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, is a big fan of Horford’s character and versatility, which has been on display throughout his career.
 
"As much as anything he’s been very consistent over his career," Ainge said. "Shooting the ball, playing multiple positions. He’s a guy that fits in with our system with big guys handling the ball a lot."
 
Horford’s new teammate echoed similar sentiments about the four-time All-Star.
 
And when you listen to his new Celtics teammates talk about him and what he’ll bring to a roster that’s loaded with returnees, there are a couple of common themes that seem to develop.
 
"He brings leadership; hard work," said Avery Bradley.
 
Bradley had a chance to spend some time around Jeff Teague, one of Horford’s former teammates in Atlanta.
 
"He just told me I’m really going to enjoy having him on this team," Bradley said. "He’s going to open the floor for everybody. He’s a great player on the offensive end, defensive end. He knows how to play the game of basketball. To have him be a part of this team, I’m just happy about it."
 
So is Amir Johnson, who will likely start with Horford in the frontcourt for Boston.
 
Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man. With the addition of Horford, Johnson won’t be relied on as heavily to be Boston’s last line of defense, which makes his life easier and, more importantly, makes the Celtics a better team defensively.
 
"[Horford] has so many skills he can contribute to the game," Johnson said. "He can run the floor, block shots, shoot the 3-ball, which is big now. He can do it all. It’ll be a big piece to carry us over the top. We just have to put it all together."

Young Bruins 'really excited' for preseason opener tonight

boston-bruins-brandon-carlo.jpg

Young Bruins 'really excited' for preseason opener tonight

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins aren’t going to have anything resembling an All-Star lineup when they take the ice against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at TD Garden for their preseason opener. But they'll take a long, lingering look at their future with a game-night roster full of prospects and young players who still get butterflies at the thought of putting on an NHL sweater for an Original Six club.

Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Jakub Zboril, Robbie O’Gara, Peter Cehlarik and Brandon Carlo are among the top B’s youngsters that will be in the lineup, and will be cranking up the energy prior to puck drop against the Blue Jackets.

“Everybody is really excited. I woke up this morning with a big smile on my face knowing that I get to put the B’s jersey on and get to go out [on the ice] at TD Garden,” said Brandon Carlo, who will be paired with John-Michael Liles as he has been throughout the start of training camp. “I probably won’t have much of a nap today because I’m so amped up.

“I feel like I’m moving my feet out there, and I want to show that I’ve gotten better at things I worked on over the summer like moving the puck. I definitely want to show a little bit of physicality out there as well.”

The young players are the ones who also provide the most unknown variable for the coaching staff at this point. So the first preseason game is largely about how those hopefuls respond to faster, more physical and intense competition.

“You’re looking to see effort and energy tonight. If the effort and energy is there everything else will take care of itself,” said assistant coach Joe Sacco. “You don’t really want them to think too much out there tonight. This is a game where players are trying to showcase their talent, and we want them to do that.”

Sacco said Anton Khudobin will play the first two periods and Zane McIntyre will wrap things up. Here are the line combos and D-pairings expected to take the ice against the Blue Jackets:
 
DeBrusk-Czarnik-Hayes
Cehlarik-Kuraly-Mueller
Heinen-Nash-Griffith
Hargrove-Cave-Randell
 
Zboril-Miller
Liles-Carlo
Morrow-O’Gara
 
Khudobin
McIntyre