Bruins-Leafs need playoff rivalry

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Bruins-Leafs need playoff rivalry

WILMINGTON, Mass. There are no shortage of back stories and side angles when it comes to the Bruins and Maple Leafs these days.

Theyre both Original Six teams and theyre tightlylinked by multiple trades between the two franchises over the last couple seasons with the Phil Kessel escape to Toronto and subsequent Tyler Seguin draft as the most franchise-altering swap for either organization in their recent history together.Each time they meet the question of "Who won the Kessel deal?" is renewed again.

These things bring the Bruins and Leafs closertogether, and theres the neck-and-neck race for top position in the Northeast Division on top of it all.

But theres also a little something missing from the LeafsBruins rivalry, and its not difficult to perfectly diagnose. As Alec Baldwin most perfectly said in picking apart the Red SoxYankees rivalry "just like fire doesn't have a rivalry with kindling, lawnmowers don't have a rivalry with grass and that accurately explains their relationship: Quite simply the Bruins (fire) have enjoyed a thorough domination over the Leafs (kindling) for the last 5 years as the franchises have spun in opposite directions.I dont think theres any extra juice to Leaf games, said Tim Thomas. Every team is important. We havent overlooked them. But its not the same type of rival Montreal is, or Vancouver, because we havent played a playoff series against them in so long.The Bruins and Leafs havent met in the playoffs in 37 years, and havent clashed anywhere close to the 34 times that the Bruins and Montreal Canadiens have skated in anger against each other in the playoffs. Instead Toronto has missed out on the fun at the bottom of the league.Toronto has failed to properly vanquish a Bruins team thats bounced them like a puck on bad ice in multiple ways over the last handful of seasons.That domination has spilled over into this year as the Bruins are 3-0-0 against the Maple Leafs and have outscored Toronto by a 19-5 margin in those three lopsided results. So Toronto will have some hate in their hearts when they take the ice at the TD Garden Saturday night, and the Leafs have some legit tough guys in Jay Rosehill and Colton Orr should they decide to get a little grumpy like their rumpled GM after a tough day at the office.No matter what happens in the regular season it still won't feel like the seething contempt the Bruins hold for a hockey club like Montreal after so many meetings over the years, and now Vancouver deserves entrance onto that list after their hate-fueled Stanley Cup Final.The rivalry with Montreal has been built up over decades because the Bruins and the Canadiens get matched up so often in the playoffs, said Thomas, who has seemingly learned how to thrive off those playoff matchups with hated opponents. I dont think rivalries are made. Rivalries just happen.It would probably take a nasty playoff series to come anywhere close to being like Montreal temporarily. Even with Vancouver that will probably go away in three or four years if we dont meet them again in the playoffs. We just dont play them enough otherwise to keep that hatred going.It will also probably go away for Thomas when Roberto Luongo hand his tire pump have vacated Vancouver.But things could get interesting is the future for these two franchises that have been operating in the shadow of each other over the last four decades. The Leafs finally appear that theyre playoff-ready again, and it seems the Bruins and Leafs are on something of a collision course when it comes to a playoff match this upcoming season.The Bruins are distantly back in the pack of the rogues gallery of Toronto enemies. The Black and Gold lag far behind the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and even the Buffalo Sabres that the Leafs share their home turf with. But they're moving up the ranks of teams Toronto loves to hate.Its not difficult envisioning a situation where Thank You, Kessel chants will ring through the Garden during the playoffs, and Toronto willingly plays the role of truculent heel during a potential playoff series. Saturday nights game between the two teams in Boston could give a sneak preview of how a postseason best-of-seven series might just go down.There is a lot on the line in the last few games with the Leafs given the top spot in the division, said Milan Lucic. They obviously dont enjoy losing to us in a big way during the first three games of this season and theyre going to bring a little more tomorrow night. So we need to bring more as well.Its funny though. Meeting in the playoffs is when you do really start to hate another team. Theyre doing a great job this year playing the way they have. Theyre looking right now like they might end that drought of not making the playoffs, so who knows?There will be some juice as Tim Thomas called it when the Bruins and Leafs hit the ice for the second half of an enjoyable home-and-home series between the two squads Saturday night.But it could be much, much livelier if the two teams tangle during the postseason five months down the line, and the hate really stars to pour out on the ice.

Heinen looking to be dark-horse candidate for Bruins' roster

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Heinen looking to be dark-horse candidate for Bruins' roster

While much of the focus is going to be on the young D-men headed into Bruins training camp, it would be foolhardy to overlook a forward prospect Danton Heinen, who is in position for a real dark horse run at an NHL roster spot. 

The strong odds are that the former University of Denver star is going to be begin the season in the AHL for the Providence Bruins after putting up a couple of points in four games there at the end of last season.

Still, that certainly hasn’t stopped Heinen from setting his sights on an NHL spot out of this fall’s camp, most likely in a third- or fourth-line capacity to start things off, or perhaps at the top-six right wing spots that have given the Bruins some problems filling permanently over the past couple of seasons.

Either way, the 2014 fourth-round pick knows that his clock to fulfilling his dreams as an NHL player has started and that it’s up to him when he can start making that a reality.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to work toward my whole life, so I’m just going to try to keep getting better, have a good rest of the summer and then put my best foot forward to see what happens,” said Heinen, who had an assist and a sweet goal in the Friday scrimmage at development camp when he twisted D-man Cam Clarke around like a pretzel on a nifty rush to the net. “I just need to continue to get stronger this summer, and working on my skating to get a bit quicker.

“[The AHL] was a lot of fun to get in there and see what it was all about. It was a lot different than college hockey, and it was definitely good to get a taste of it. [Bruins officials] told me to have a really big summer getting faster and getting stronger, so that’s what I’ve been doing.”

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Heinen, 21, continued to show in development camp last week, however, that he has the playmaking skills and hockey IQ to flourish while surrounded by more accomplished players and in tighter situations. It’s exactly what he showed while posting 36 goals and 93 points in his freshman and sophomore seasons for the Pioneers and it was what he showed while finishing last week as one of the best forwards in camp.

“He’s looked really good at [development] camp. He’s a smart player, he’s committed and I think you’ll notice him in training camp. It will be up to him, but I think he’ll definitely be pushing some guys [for an NHL job],” said Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo, who was running the Bruins development camp. “He looked good [in Providence]. He fit in well. He’s the type of player that can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ, and he’s got really good skill.

“Anywhere you put him he’s smart enough to figure it out. You could tell in his first game there was a little bit of an adjustment for him, but the second time game it really looked like he’d been playing [at that level] for a long time. He’s a quick study, and he looked really good last year.”

The Black and Gold management hope he continues to look good at main NHL training camp in a couple of months, where he’ll undoubtedly be featured, and could be a lot closer than many people think as a polished skill forward coming out of a big-time college hockey program. 

Saturday, July 23: Hammer Time for VP pick Kaine with Caps

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Saturday, July 23: Hammer Time for VP pick Kaine with Caps

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while everybody is working for the weekend...or during the weekend.

*The vice-presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, made quite an impression while hanging out a Capitals game with MC Hammer. They call this guy boring, but that doesn’t sound very boring to me.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Bob Stauffer has the news that the Edmonton Oilers are parting ways with fancy stats lad Tyler Dellow. Boy, it seems like some teams are reversing course pretty quickly on some of these smarter-than-thou advanced statistics types, aren’t they? I certainly wish Dellow well and hope he finds another gig. But Instead of baselessly wondering whether the Oilers are going to continue down the fancy stats road (which they most certainly will), perhaps this is more a referendum on nonsensical stats-driven decisions like handing out that long term contract to a perpetually underachieving Benoit Pouliot.

*The New York Rangers have locked up Chris Kreider to a four-year contract at a reasonable number, and now he has the time with the Blueshirts to see how good he can be.

*Brian Leetch opens up to the Players Tribune about his NHL experiences playing with the New York Rangers, and all of his favorite experiences from a Hall of Fame career.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker says that Carey Price’s injury from last season is no longer a concern, according to Habs coach Michel Therrien.

*The Chicago Blackhawks will appear a whopping 21 times on national television across the NBC Networks next season.

*Incoming BU goaltender Jake Oettinger is among the names to look out for at the 2017 draft, according to the NHL Central Scouting bureau.

*Travis Yost says that the Carolina Hurricanes are on the rise thanks to winning the shot differential battle. I think it’s because they have an outstanding cast of young defensemen, who are helping them control the puck and win that shot differential battle. But they still need to score more if they’re going to really be a team on the rise, so we’ll see what happens there.

*For something completely different: for those that think I’m a Democrat because I am anti-Trump, here’s a story on the DNC machinery attempting to torpedo Bernie Sanders during the presidential campaigning over the last year.
 

 

Friday, July 22: Versteeg headed for Europe

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Friday, July 22: Versteeg headed for Europe

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading, while vowing to never try to marry the NHL and Pokemon into the same lame story.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has Kris Versteeg one of a number of NHL veteran free agents going to Europe for next season.

*The New York Islanders have reportedly been discussing moving to Queens and building a rink right next to the Mets’ Citi Field. Interesting. I know the Isles fan base was not happy with the setup in Brooklyn last season.

*The Black Knights get the top odds as a moniker for the Las Vegas franchise with a number of funny long shot names.

*Ian Mendes said that it’s pretty clear by the moves of the Ottawa Senators that they believe their time is now.

*Jason Botchford wonders if the Vancouver Canucks have a shot at being a playoff team next season. I hope so for Jim Benning’s sake.

*Ken Campbell wants to know if Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier, now that they’re both retired, are Hall of Fame-worthy players. I say no to both of them, but I can be stingy with my Hall of Fame qualifications as the Jarome Iginla fanboys know so well.

*For something completely different: Jon Stewart brought the funk and the noise while breaking his TV silence on Thursday night and tearing into a GOP that’s coming apart at the seams right now.