Bruins see Canucks showdown as just another game

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Bruins see Canucks showdown as just another game

WILMINGTON -- Here we go.

The Bruins and Canucks, a rematch of last year's Stanley Cup Final. It's all or nothing on Saturday afternoon at the TD Garden.

Right?

Well, maybe not exactly. Vancouver may very well have something to prove. But the Bruins? They know this isn't the Stanley Cup Final.

Sure, they want the two points. The B's realize they're one point behind the New York Rangers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They understand that the Canucks are the top team in the West.

But as far as the build-up leading into Saturday afternoon's game, it's not what some outside the dressing room may make of it.

"I don't think it's as much as people think it is," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after Friday's practice at Ristuccia Arena. "The Finals was last year, and we did what we had to do, and we succeeded in that. We had to come back this year, and it's a league game. I'm not going to stand here and say it means absolutely nothing. There was a rivalry that was built there, that I'm sure both teams are going to go into tomorrow's game knowing that.

"But I don't think it's any different than the rivalry we have with Philadelphia or other teams that we've played, Montreal. It's just going to be one of those intense games. But certainly, I wouldn't read more into it than that. There's no Stanley Cup at the end of tomorrow's game, but certainly, it's a battle of two teams that feel they're good teams, and certainly will want to measure themselves to each other.

"I don't think we're putting all our eggs in one basket, as far as saying this is a must-win or a do-or-die situation," added Julien. "It's a league game, and we'd like to get the two points for the right reasons, and nothing more than that."

Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton agreed.

"It's a good challenge for us," said Thornton on Friday. "As far as extra build-up and stuff, I guess because we played them in the Finals, it was a pretty emotional Final. And the Final should be emotional. You're in the wrong place if you don't have emotion at that time of year. But as for this one, it's game, whatever it is, 38 for us. It'll be a good test. I think there's more build-up to it than there needs to be."

Milan Lucic expects to have a physical presence on Saturday. And he said on Friday that he's enjoying the hype.

"I think it's great that there's a build-up towards it," said Lucic. "Both teams I think are excited going into this game, as we should be. Both didn't really have the starts that we wanted, and both teams picked up their game and are on top of the league. So it makes it more interesting that there's a lot that we're playing for.

"It's a big two points for us. In the Eastern Conference, the Rangers are playing well. They're still ahead of us, and it's a chance for us to be first in the whole league, if we win this game. So it's definitely a big game for us, and we're looking forward to the challenge."

The Bruins watched the Canucks play the San Jose Sharks on television, Monday. They see the same type of Vancouver team that they saw in last year's Cup Final: a speedy, skilled, puck-possession team that enjoys getting their defensemen involved because of their solid goaltending.

"Their game hasn't changed," said Julien. "They had a great year last year, and had a lot of success with the way they play, and they believe in the way they play. And we believe in the way we play. So I don't think much has changed, as far as what we should be looking for. We should be looking for the same things we did last year when we played them."

When asked if he was concerned that the Canucks would use Saturday as a "statement" game and play more physical, Julien said that's not something the Bruins are concerned about.

"We're built to handle that if that comes, we'll deal with it then," he said. "But we're certainly not preparing ourselves for that. That's not what our main focus is on. It's about playing a solid game the way we've been playing all year. Whatever build-up people want to make of it, we're going out there and playing the game that we know we can."

Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

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Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

BOSTON, Mass. – There’s a long way to go toward a complete resurrection from last season’s misdeeds, but Jimmy Hayes made a nice little statement that he’s learned some lessons in Boston’s preseason debut. The Bruins lost the game, 3-2, in the shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Hayes scored one of the two goals for the Black and Gold as one of the few veterans in a very youthful lineup for Boston.

The Hayes goal was a nice give-and-go with Jake DeBrusk at the end of a nice transition play in the second period, and was the highlight of a night playing on the right wing with DeBrusk and center Austin Czarnik. The score and a team-high four shots on net for Hayes represent a good start for what he hopes is a gigantic rebound season after last year’s disappointment.

Clearly Hayes heard some of the unflattering chatter about him on sports talk radio and otherwise last season, and may even understand how his difficult season in his home city of Boston -- whether he actively expressed it to him or not -- might have been a factor in his buddy Jimmy Vesey ultimately choosing New York over Boston.

It appears the former Boston College standout is looking to change the conversation in Boston. 

“Yeah, sure am. I’ve got a lot to come out here and…[there were] a lot of comments about myself, but I know I’m a good player. I got to this level for a reason,” said Hayes, who dropped from 19 goals and 35 points with the Panthers to 13 goals, 29 points and a career-worst minus-12 for the Bruins last season.

“To be able to play at the NHL level and continue to play at that level on a consistent basis is what I expect out of myself. I do it for myself and our teammates, and to help our team win. I’ll continue moving forward.

“It’s funny being the old guy on the line. It’s nice to see those young guys and see how excited they are, and how excited I am to get back out there. That’s what I said to the guys, they still have the jitters and they still have them for the first preseason game. It shows that these guys want it and it’s been a lot of fun skating with those guys. They’ve got a lot of speed and to keep pushing the pace. Trying to keep up with them has been a lot of fun.”

There is still a long way to go for the 26-year-old winger, and his willingness to stick around the danger areas on Monday night was a welcomed one for a Bruins team that needs his 6-foot-6 body in front of the net. Hayes paid the price with stitches and a fat lip after taking a Dalton Prout high-stick to the mouth in front of the Columbus net that went uncalled on a Bruins PP at the end of the second period.

That’s all part of the big man’s game on the ice, however. It’s also the kind of battle and determined fight that Hayes will need to show much more consistently in his second season with the hometown Bruins if he’s truly looking to bounce-back from last year’s mediocre performance. 

Carlo 'arguably the best' defenseman for Bruins in preseason opener

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Carlo 'arguably the best' defenseman for Bruins in preseason opener

BOSTON – On a night when many of Boston’s young players stepped up nicely, perhaps none did more so than 19-year-old defenseman Brandon Carlo. The youngster was in a top pair role with John-Michael Liles against a decent Columbus Blue Jackets lineup that included Sam Gagner, Alexander Wennberg, Seth Jones, Brandon Saad and Sonny Milano, and had almost no miscues in his 20:16 of ice time.

Better than that, Carlo notched an assist on the game-tying score in the third period when his right point shot made it through traffic for Danton Heinen to redirect it past Curtis McElhinney from the slot. That left Carlo with an assist, a plus-1 rating and three shots on net in 20:16 of ice time to go along with some heavy battling around the net whenever Blue Jackets players tried to get too close.

“Arguably our best D, if not our best D. [He showed] real good decision-making, and his gaps are good. I can really only think of one time in the third period he kind of threw a puck away in the middle of a change, and ended up on his wrong side,” said Bruins assistant coach Bruce Cassidy. “It wasn’t a bad turnover, but it was just one that he could have made a little bit of a better decision.

“He didn’t handle the puck much in the game, that’s pretty good. He jumped up the ice, got his shot through when it was there, matched up well with whoever he was put out there [against], pushed back in front of our net. [There were] a lot of good things.”

It’s a big training camp for Carlo, who is more than likely earmarked for Providence unless he can utilize a stellar training camp performance to push over one of the seven veteran Bruins D-men with NHL contracts. That means potentially displacing Joe Morrow as the seventh defensemen on the roster, or forcing the Bruins to possibly deal Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller if the Bruins feel he is ready for the day-to-day NHL grind.

The preseason opener was a good start that the 2015 second round pick was excited about, but things will certainly get more challenging for Carlo as the Bruins get deeper into this training camp.

“I just want to keep the same mentality, same energy. Show a little bit more physicality. I felt like I did that, but definitely could close a little quicker in a few instances overall. I just want to keep building on every game,” said Carlo. “There are some very strong guys on the puck in this league and throughout this game they had those guys out there definitely. Overall, you just have to compete just as hard as them.

“You’re dealing with NHL guys out there. [The Blue Jackets] had some pretty good guys in their lineup tonight and everyone is competing for jobs on both sides…so the speed was phenomenal. I loved it.”

The Bruins loved what they saw of Carlo in a pretty big opportunity right out of the gate this preseason, and now the teenager has set the bar if he wants to keep pushing with a hockey club that needs to upgrade their defense with strong, young players.