Bruins-Leafs preview: Bracing for a new year in the rivalry

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Bruins-Leafs preview: Bracing for a new year in the rivalry

TORONTO The Bruins are certainly aware of how bad things looked against the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night, but theyre ready to move on to their next divisional challenge against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Theyre expecting things wont be as messy defensively as they were against the Sabres while also paying the proper respect to a team they swept in six games last season while outscoring them by a 36-10 margin.

Bruins coach Claude Julien knows that kind of domination can stick in the minds of an aggrieved opponent, and it wont feed into the Bruins potentially underestimating their opponent. That shouldnt be a worry either way given the bad taste Boston still has in their mouths after the loss to Buffalo that saw both Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton go down with injuries.

Right now were seeing a team thats competing extremely hard and playing well. Theyre making strides in the right direction, said Claude Julien. One thing we dont do is underestimate your opponent so you never go out there and get surprised by the team youre playing against.

Tyler Seguin led the Bruins with seven goals against the Leafs team that traded the draft pick used for him for Phil Kessel, and had a hat trick at Air Canada Centre that served as the sweetest homecoming he could have possibly imagined. The 21-year-old knows that his team Bruins team will be facing a stiff challenge, particularly with the Leafs picking up tough guy Frazer McLaren on waivers in time for the game.

Its a new year. We know theyre a better team and this year theyre going to be a little grittier, said Seguin. Were definitely going to be prepared for that and were looking to get off to a good start.

Milan Lucic told reporters prior to Saturdays game that McLaren was the only guy that ever got the best of him when he was terrorizing the junior hockey ranks for the Vancouver Giants.

We had a few tussles in juniorthree of them, said Lucic. Hes the only guy thats ever put me on my back in a fight.

The bottom line is that after playing a tough, gritty game against Buffalo on Thursday night, another physical test awaits them Saturday night against a Maple Leafs team thirsty for payback. Dion Phaneuf is at the top of the list after having a rough go of it against Boston as top defensemen pairing last season.

Whether youre playing Boston or New York or any other teamits a new year. Last year is last year, said Phaneuf. We know what happened and were not happy about it. But its a new year. We need to concentrate on playing our system and playing our kind of game.
What the Bruins dont want to happen: watch as Dougie Hamilton, Tyler Seguin and Tuukka Rask all produce at a high level in the game and cause the Toronto fan base to turn on their team in yet another frustrating defeat at the hands of the Black and Gold big brother on the block.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Chris Bourque gets a chance to jump back into the lineup after getting scratched Thursday night against the Sabres, and will lineup with third line teammates Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. Perhaps sitting and watching from the ninth floor on Thursday night has helped Bourque take a deep breath after going scoreless in six games with a minus-4 and only three shots on net while averaging 12 minutes of ice time per game. Bourque could really use an offensive burst to ease the self-induced pressure and both Kelly and Peverley are coming off their best games of the season against Buffalo.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: If we win against Toronto it gives us a chance to finish a 4-game stretch this week at 3-1. If we lose we finish with a 2-2 record, and for us thats not good enough. Claude Julien on the importance of finishing up the week strong with a big win against the Leafs on Saturday night at Air Canada Centre.

KEY MATCHUP: Dion Phaneuf is a team-worst minus-6 for the Maple Leafs, and it will be his charge to stop Bostons trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin. Phaneuf still has the scorch marks on his body from last years six games against the Black and Gold when he finished with a pair of assists and a minus-10 in six games against the Bruins. Meanwhile Seguin went wild with seven goals and 11 points in six games against the hometown Leafs club that he grew up rooting for.

STAT TO WATCH: minus-18 the career plusminus for Phil Kessel in 18 career games against the Bruins that includes only three goals against Boston. Kessel was a minus-11 against the Bruins just last year alone.

INJURIES: The Bruins are without Shawn Thornton (concussion) and Daniel Paille (upper body injury as a result of a high stick) after both Bs fourth line players didnt make the trip to Toronto. The Maple Leafs are without Joffrey Lupul (broken forearm), Clarke MacArthur (lacerated pinkie) and Mike Brown (shoulder) for Saturday nights game.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask is coming off six goals allowed on 31 shots against the Sabres, though nearly all of that damage was from extremely shoddy defense played in front of him. On the season Rask is 4-1-1 and has been consistently outstanding outside of the one hiccup against Buffalo. James Reimer is 3-1 in five games for the Leafs this season, and is likely to get the start given that he has outplayed Ben Scrivens in the early going this season. Even so this is an area the Bruins should have an advantage headed into the game.

Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

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Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, after a busy morning celebrating my 3-year-old’s birthday at the trampoline park. Yee-ha.

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri says that adding toughness was a big offseason priority for the Montreal Canadiens.

*There’s at least one big fan of the Edmonton Oilers trade that brought defenseman Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils, and that fan’s name is Mark Letestu.

*Here’s everything you need to know about the Ice Guardians movie premiering this fall that takes a long, balanced look at the NHL enforcers.

*Roberto Luongo has an alibi for the robbery in Winnipeg with one suspect getting away in goalie equipment, and it’s funny as you would expect it to be.

*CSN Washington takes a look at the New York Rangers in their season previews for the Metro Division.

*I’m not entirely sure whether this “RIP Harambe” thing is genuine or meant to be ironic by the largely millenial group that seem so enamored with it, but I think it’s just stupid. I think the same with the crying Jordan meme…also stupid.

*For something completely different: a look at how Triumph the Insult Comic Dog learned how to poop on Trump’s politics.

 

Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Danton Heinen.

Danton Heinen exploded into a high-profile prospect for the Bruins after finishing among the NCAA’s top scoring players a couple of years ago as a freshman along with a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin. 

Since then, Heinen has continued to produce offense at the University of Denver and continued to create offense that leads to points. Now, the 21-year-old Heinen will be entering the professional arena for his first full season with the Bruins and he’ll be attempting to transition from the prospect phase to a regular gig in the NHL. That’s the challenge for a talented player who appears headed into a very good opportunity in NHL training camp.

 

What happened last year

Heinen was every bit as explosive in his second season for Denver as he was in his brilliant freshman campaign. He improved on his scoring with 20 goals and 48 points in 41 games. Then Heinen signed with the Bruins at the end of his sophomore season and played in a couple of pro games in the AHL with Providence as a tune-up for this first full pro campaign with the Bruins organization. Heinen finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating in four games with the P-Bruins and showed the coaches in Providence that he was ready to play and produce with more talented players. If Heinen surprised a little bit as a breakout freshman two years ago, his sophomore follow-up in Denver last season proved to everybody that he wasn’t a fluke.

 

Questions to be answered this season

The real question surrounding Heinen is about his ceiling as an NHL player and just how good he can become as a player with the skills and playmaking abilities to be a top-six forward. He’s proven he can dominate at the collegiate level while admittedly playing with some pretty good teammates at Denver. Heinen showed at the end of the season in Providence that the pro scene might not be much different for him. At this point, Heinen simply needs to go out and prove it against the best players in the world and show that his speed, playmaking and hockey sense are all elite in the AHL or NHL. Heinen’s biggest obstacle might be his size. He'll need to survive as a targeted skill player despite not being much more than the 6-feet, 180-pound range for a forward. It’s about average for a playmaking wing in the NHL, but the hits and attention will be at a much more intense level than anything he faced in the NCAA world.

 

What they're saying

“He’s the type of player that he can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ and he’s got really good skill. I think anywhere you put him, he’s smart enough to figure it out. I think you’ll notice him during training camp. It will definitely be up to him, but I think he’ll push some guys.” –Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo on Heinen during last month’s development camp where Heinen soared as a performer.

 
Outlook

While Heinen still has some things he’ll need to prove before he’s a regular contributor for the Bruins, he comes into the Boston fold as an experienced player following two very good seasons at the college level. So, Heinen should be a little closer to plug-and-play for Claude Julien than some of the other young players that have come through the system in the past couple of years. Heinen will still need to flash in camp while being handed a big spot to perform with high-end veterans Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand potentially off playing in the World Cup of Hockey. Heinen also has a much greater chance of winning an NHL job sooner rather than later after the Bruins lost out on the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes and still have a top-six forward opening that somebody is going to fill. Heinen and Frank Vatrano are the two biggest favorites to fill that position, which became vacant when Loui Eriksson departed for Vancouver. Whichever winger loses that battle should be also be a strong candidate for a role on the third line, as well, barring any late veteran signings by the B’s. That set of circumstances leaves a very good situation for Heinen to potentially walk into with the Black and Gold, but he'll still have to show he’s fully capable of seizing his good fortune and good timing.