Bruins get a grasp of realignment

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Bruins get a grasp of realignment

PITTSBURGH The Bruins had to have the new NHL realignment plan explained to them a couple of times in the afterglow of a meaningful victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Andrew Ference and Shawn Thornton both had surprised looks on their faces when they learned that the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers will be joining them in the Snowbird Conference when things finally shake out.

Thats the most meaningful change for the Bruins. Rumors about previous plans had both the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins joining the Northeast Division for an incredibly tough super-conference, but instead both the Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets remained in the Western Conferences.

The Bruins will play their current Northeast Division opponents plus Tampa and Florida six times per season, and then will battle with those teams through the first two rounds of the playoffs each season. It conjures up images of the bloody old Adams Division battles featuring the Bruins and heated rivalries with the Nordiques and Canadiens among others.

The hope is the new alignment will rekindle many of those rivalries just as the Bruins and Habs have maintained theirs through seemingly annual meetings in the postseason.

The realignment plan was overwhelmingly approved by the NHL Board of Governors on Monday night during their Pebble Beach meetings, but may not take effect next season as the NHLPA also needs to weigh in on the configuration.

But the changes still held interest for the curious Bruins players. Gregory Campbell played five seasons for the Florida Panthers before landing in Boston, and he said the move could open an entirely new competitive door for the hockey teams remaining in the Sunshine Belt.

I guess it's more travel. One of the things that was nice about coming from Florida to Boston was that the travel was so good, said Campbell. Most teams are within an hour plane ride of us, but its something that were all going to have to adjust to. Those are good and talented young teams being added to our division. Theyre up and coming, so theyll be good in the future.

So itll make things more difficult, but I also think its good for hockey. When you play in Florida you dont really have the rivalries. Theyll see firsthand the rivalries in our division, and I think we have some of the best rivalries in the league. Those arent huge hockey markets in Florida, so the change to play against bigger hockey markets on a more regular basis is a good thing for the league.

There are still some kinks to be ironed out with the realignment plan rolled out quickly by the NHL, but it seems there are few that had issues with the way things were handled by the powers that be. Classic rivalries are kept together, the Red Wings have an easier travel schedule and the Winnipeg Jets will be located in a more geographically logical place once things get started.

Talking Points from the Bruins OT winner

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Talking Points from the Bruins OT winner

GOLD STAR: Solid night’s work from Ryan Spooner, who finished with the OT game-winning strike and was solid throughout the game as the de facto No. 1 center. He had four shots on net, six generated shot attempts and won 12-of-19 face offs as he continues to improve in that area while training camp rolls along. Spooner is trying to hold onto the No. 3 center spot in the lineup despite the addition of David Backes via free agency, and Friday night’s big boy performance with speed, playmaking and skill showed exactly what his potential can be when he puts it all together. It was also a nice little bounce-back from an up-and-down game on Wednesday night against the same Detroit team when he struggled in the face off circle and was part of a team-wide malaise.

BLACK EYE: It wasn’t necessarily a bad night for Brian Ferlin, but it was more of the invisible variety with just a registered hit and one face-off taken in 13 minutes of ice time. The forward earned some NHL time with the Bruins a couple of years, has battled concussion woes over the last year plus and is trying to push his way back into the crowded forward picture during this training camp. While he certainly showed some toughness and skill around the net a couple of years and didn’t seem shy about going there on Friday night, the results just weren’t there and Ferlin didn’t have much of a presence in the game. In general it was a pretty decent performance for the Bruins, so Ferlin’s game was quiet more than problematic.

TURNING POINT: Credit the Bruins coaching staff for switching up the lines in the third period, and that sparked the offense a bit after zero goals through the first 40 minutes against Detroit. Zach Senyshyn was moved with Danton Heinen and Riley Nash, and they became a threat in the third period before Heinen broke through for the game-tying goal from his knees. That score allowed the B’s to push things into overtime, and then Spooner made it a quick extra session by snapping home a shot from the slot after a good effort from Joe Morrow down low. It all was made possible by the adjustment to the lines that took place between the second and the third periods.

HONORABLE MENTION: Joe Morrow is battling to hold onto his NHL roster spot with the Bruins, and that is absolutely underscored by the news that Christian Ehrhoff is being brought to Boston on a PTO. So it was expected that the young D-man would come out with something a little extra after a mediocre performance in his preseason debut, and the left shot D-man was an impact player in the win for the Black and Gold. Morrow dropped the gloves with young tough guy Givani Smith in the second period as part of a B’s group that played with a little bit of an edge on Friday night, and then he won a battle down low in overtime to set up the Ryan Spooner game-winner. Morrow had two hits, two shot attempts, the assist and the fight in 19:48 of ice time, and showed that he’s ready to battle in camp to hold onto his spot.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 – the number of goals in two preseason games thus far for Danton Heinen, who scored important game-tying goals in both instances in the shootout loss to the Blue Jackets and Friday night’s overtime win against the Wings.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “The compete level, especially when he got down 4-0 [on Wednesday night], I don’t think it was high enough. So we talked about it, and we expect a better effort for sure.” –Ryan Spooner on Friday morning prior to going out and snatching the win away from the Red Wings in Detroit with an OT game-winner. 

Ehrhoff signs a PTO with the B's after World Cup

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Ehrhoff signs a PTO with the B's after World Cup

The Bruins will add another veteran defenseman to their training camp group fresh off the World Cup of Hockey as German D-man Christian Ehrhoff is headed to Boston on a PTO (professional tryout agreement). CSN has confirmed that Ehrhoff has indeed agreed to a PTO with the Bruins, and he'll report to the team sometime this weekend.

The 34-year-old Ehrhoff had three assists in six World Cup games for Team Europe, and had two goals and 10 points in 48 games for the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks last season while clearly starting to slow down a bit. He’s clearly no longer the player that averaged 14 goals and 47 points for the Vancouver Canucks from 2009-2011, and is another left-shot defenseman to add to a team that already has Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug.

But it behooved the Bruins to bring in at least one “name” veteran D-man on a tryout basis during this training camp with so many needs for upgrades on the back end, and with a host of young players that might not be ready for prime time. This might also be a warning sign for young veteran Joe Morrow, a left shot D-man that has struggled a bit in training camp after coming off an erratic first full season at the NHL level.

Clearly the Bruins need more than Ehrhoff, however, even if he’s somehow re-energized with the Bruins after playing pretty well in the World Cup. The Kings were down enough on his game to put him through waivers last season, but he was a top-4 defenseman for the previous eight seasons for San Jose, Vancouver, Buffalo and Pittsburgh prior to getting bounced around between the Kings and Blackhawks last season.

The added bonus with taking a look at Ehrhoff is that there’s no risk associated with a PTO, and the Bruins can simply walk away with no cost if the B’s coaching staff decides he’s not a good fit for the group in Boston. On the other hand, bringing in a Kris Russell-type would cost a great deal in terms of money and term in a free agent contract, and it might not benefit the Black and Gold club in the end result.