Bruins-Jets preview: Something's gotta give

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Bruins-Jets preview: Something's gotta give

WINNIPEG It should be a couple of desperate hockey teams when the Bruins and Winnipeg Jets suit up for a meeting at the normally raucous MTS Centre in Winnipeg on Sunday afternoon. Both teams are riding two-game losing streaks. It's the first such streak of the season for the Black and Gold. For Winnipeg it's just the latest blow to their pride as they tumble to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

We have to get back on track here, said Claude Julien said Saturday. Weve lost two in a row to New York and Buffalo, so we need to bounce back. We have to be ready to play tomorrow and we know what kind of a challenge we have in front of us. They have a good coach that gets them to play hard.

Theyre a hard-working team. Basically we have to be the better team tomorrow if we expect to win.

It starts with generating a little more offense than the 2.7 goals per game thats stuck them in the middle of the NHLs rankings this season. That was a problem for the Bruins against Buffalo after they failed to build a good enough lead against the Sabres Friday night before collapsing in the third period, and Bostons best players like Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron continue to have problems producing goals.

That kind of needed goal production will be more under the spotlight on Sunday afternoon because Milan Lucic has reported back to Boston to attend to personal reasons and 38-year-old veteran Jay Pandolfo will be inserted into the Boston lineup for the first time. Thats clearly an offensive downgrade for the Bruins, but it opens up a challenge for some of Bostons top-drawer offensive talent to finally get things going in a shortened season that wont look kindly on extended slumps.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Chris Kelly is still the only Bruins forward without a goal 12 games into the season, and has a minus-4 rating. The Bruins offense has been very average for the balance of the season and it can be traced to a couple of different things: the season-long goal-scoring struggles of Tyler Seguin and the inability of the Bs third line to kick in a little more. The Bruins were nearly undefeated last season when Kelly scored (he had 20 goals) so its clear how important the third lines contributions are to the success of the team. It needs to start happening for Kelly, who still doesnt look like he has his hands or timing back yet when he gets the chance to make plays in the offensive zone.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: They were a team that was really excited to be back here last year. The players can feel the passion and support of the fans on the ice. We came in here last year and they gave us some tough games. We lost both games here last year, but its a new year. Bruins coach Claude Julien talking about going winless at the MTS Centre against the Jets in two tries last season.

KEY MATCHUP: The Winnipeg Jets have the worst penalty-kill unit in the NHL while allowing close to 35 percent of their opponents power play chances to be successful, and theyll be going up against a Bruins man advantage that actually produced a goal Friday night against the Sabres. Things will look different for the Bs PP units with Lucic set to miss the game, but it also appears the Bruins man advantage finally started playing with a little more swagger and a lot more life and movement against Buffalo. If that carries over into Sunday afternoon, it could be the difference between winning and losing in Winnipeg.

STAT TO WATCH: 2 That's the number of game-winning goals for Winnipeg forward Bryan Little against the Bruins in two home games for the Jets at MTS Centre last season. I could have also gone with the team-worst minus-8 for Blake Wheeler this season, but thought Id take the high road.

INJURIES: Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) is expected to miss the season and be placed on long term injured reserve. Milan Lucic (personal reasons) will miss his first game of the season against the Jets after he had to fly back to Boston on Saturday afternoon for personal reasons. Winnipeg is expected to be without goaltender Al Montoya (lower body) and forward Antti Miettinen (upper body).

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask is expected to get the start coming off his worst game of the season while letting up a pair of bad goals Tuesday night against the New York Rangers. Rask has a .946 save percentage this season if you subtract his six goals allowed against the Sabres earlier this season, and has been excellent. Ondrej Pavelec has a 3.15 goals against average and an .890 save percentage that arent exactly going to get the job done, but he had arguably his best game of the season against the Bruins while making 26 saves in a Martin Luther King Day matinee.

Bruins coaches: Czarnik a ‘Belichick-type hockey player’

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Bruins coaches: Czarnik a ‘Belichick-type hockey player’

BOSTON – Austin Czarnik is off to a good start at Bruins training camp.

He’s got points in each of the first two exhibition games and just the fact that he’s cracked the B’s lineup in both games tells you that the coaching staff wants to get a long, good look at the undersized forward.

But the 5-foot-9, 167-pound Czarnik brings more than simply a touch of the Napoleon complex after always being told that he was too small to make it to the elite levels of hockey. The 23-year-old clearly can score after posting 20 goals and 61 points in his first pro season in the AHL in Providence last season. He plays with heart, energy and a dogged determination when he’s hunting pucks on the fore-check.

But former P-Bruins head coach and current B’s assistant coach Bruce Cassidy says that Czarnik also brings something a little extra that New England Patriots fans will certainly appreciate.

“As far as being a player goes, he would be, to me, that [Bill] Belichick-type player that you could use in a lot of different situations,” said Cassidy, in clear reference to intelligent utility guys Troy Brown, Danny Woodhead, Julian Edelman and others that all filled different roles in their time with New England.

“He’s got a very, very high IQ, he’s a quick learner and very coachable,” Cassidy said. “So, he’s a guy you can move around, and he can play with different players. He can play on the penalty kill, he’s good on the power play and especially on the point.

“So there are a lot of different things. I think from night-to-night if you wanted to, you could move him around in your lineup and he could be effective for you. I know he’s a center, but it would be interesting to see if he could play the wing and be effective. That’s something we haven’t really seen. Is that something we maybe attempt down the road? I don’t know. I don’t want to speak out of turn, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he could handle it. He even played for us 6-on-5 as a defenseman with the goalie out. He’s just a smart player, and he understands the game very, very well.”

So, Czarnik is off to a good start in training camp with the Bruins, but we also saw the same thing from him last year as a rookie to pro hockey. 

Now, it’s about seeing whether a smaller player can finish strong as the competition heightens deeper into the preseason, and perhaps he can bring that versatility and feistiness to the NHL level in Boston. 

 

 

Thursday, Sept. 29: Oilers right where they belong

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Thursday, Sept. 29: Oilers right where they belong

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while looking forward to watching the Luke Cage Netflix series.

*The Cult of Hockey has no issues with yours truly ranking the Edmonton Oilers 29th out of 30 teams in my first preseason NHL power rankings.

*An interesting piece about Brian McGrattan and his battle with alcohol in his career as an NHL tough guy. I can honestly say having covered him a bit when he was in the Bruins organization that he was one of the scariest dudes I’ve ever talked to in an NHL dressing room. A nice guy, but very intense and always looked like he definitely enjoyed his work on the ice.

*Dennis Seidenberg hopped on with the Hockey Central crew today to talk about his new contract with the New York Islanders.

*PHT writer and Friend of Haggs (FOH) Mike Halford has Guy Boucher with some serious Dion Phaneuf love going on in Ottawa.

*Jack Eichel is oozing confidence and swagger in his second NHL season with Buffalo looking to make a big step up this season.

*Scott Burnside said that the World Cup of Hockey could be coming to an end tonight and I think most predict that it will with a little bit of an anticlimactic thud due to the sheer awesomeness of Team Canada.

*For something completely different: “Aleppo Moment” sounds like a great name for a rock band. Not so much for a Presidential candidate.