Changing on the Fly: B's prospects ready to take flight

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Changing on the Fly: B's prospects ready to take flight

One thing that wouldnt seem necessary on a team like the Bruins is a sweeping youth movement.

After all one of their key All-Star players isnt even able to order a legal drink in the city of Boston, and a healthy chunk of the Bruins corps will enter next season between the ages of 24-28 years old while seemingly in the prime of their hockey careers.

But that hasnt stopped many of the Bruins players from admitting they were fighting tired legs and exhausted minds by the time the playoffs arrived this spring.

Brad Marchand copped to a motivation level that was noticeably down a few notches from last years Stanley Cup run.

You dont notice it until after it happens. Youre obviously excited for the playoffs, but the hype of last year didnt really feel the same this year, said Marchand, who needed to be dropped to the fourth line in practice prior to Game 5 before he briefly woke up in the series. But at some point you have to find a way to get yourself engaged and prepare for the game.

I learned about how I have to make sure I prepare. There are different ways to get up for games. When youre not as excited or able to get up for games like we were last year during the playoffs, it can be a little tough. You have to be mentally tough enough to be able to mentally prepare yourself. Its a tough job to mentally prepare yourself to play at a high level every night, but what you have to learn to do being a professional.

So whats the best thing to do when key Bruins players are having difficulty finding their motivation just like Johnny Drama at a Hollywood movie audition?

Its easy if youre Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli.

Perhaps its time to start bringing along some of their talented young players to push the established veterans and create some roster competition. Whether its warranted or not another wave of shimmering Bruins prospects are about to make a play for NHL roles in Boston.

The Bruins are already counting on 2011 first round pick Dougie Hamilton to step in and potentially fill a top-six defensemen roster spot vacated by Joe Corvo. The 6-foot-5 two-way skilled Hamilon should be an upgrade both offensively and defensively despite his NHL inexperience.

The 18-year-old Hamilton has set records this season with 17 goals and 55 assists for the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL, and doesnt appear to have much more to prove at the junior hockey level after this season. Theres no reason to have him dominate the OHL for another year when he could begin helping the Bruins next season while learning his craft from experienced NHL blueliners like Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk.

Chiarelli has mentioned on numerous occasions he fully expects Hamilton to compete for a spot out of training camp, and his passingskating combo could do much to help jump start the Bruins offense with speed out of their own zone. Expectations should be tempered, but the talent is there.

I just want to look at the trade market and the free agent market. And we got a couple of good, young players coming too. We got a good defenseman that I think will challenge for a spot: Dougie Hamilton, said Chiarelli. Weve got young defensemen, you saw Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski. Youve seen some guys that are going to challenge but on the major change front, Im not looking at doing anything on that front. I would like to add some pieces.

On the front lines, 20-year-old Ryan Spooner has seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) in eight games for the Providence Bruins over the last two years. The creative center will be entering his first full AHL season next year and has an NHL-level skill set once his body fully matures.

Twenty-year-old Jared Knight is also graduating from the OHL and the London Knights, but wasnt able to finish up things with the P-Bruins while skating in the Memorial Cup playoffs at the end of the season. Hell push players like Caron and Pouliot for one of those bottom-six wing roles even if he needs a refresher course in Providence to start the season.

Both of those players will start pushing Bostons forwards as young, cheaper alternatives if they start showing play-making and goal-scoring prowess as they have during their junior hockey careers.

That will remedy one problem from this past season: Bostons AHL farm club was bereft of blue chip prospects this year, and that meant few players on the Bs roster felt threats for their roster spots coming off a Cup victory.

Things might be a little different now with a host of talented young players pushing for look-sees in Boston.

Perhaps that will wipe out some of the complacency and banish the bad habits Andrew Ference said he noticed creeping into Bostons game once the playoffs had rolled around. In the words of the Lion King, the Bruins were more than what they had become against the Washington Capitals, and that left a feeling of great disappointment when the season was over in April.

The disappointing thing about going to seven games is the feeling that during moments in a lot of those games we had more to offer from our end, said Ference. We brought The Chain in for a reason, so that nobody would be the weakest link. Its not just words there. Theres a lot of pride that goes into that. Youve got to continue to push who you are as a player, and what youre going to be known for as a player.

You need to live up to the expectations that are set. If you dont have that commitment from every single piece of the team then it hurts, and it only has to be a little bit. If it just slips a little bit this league is too good that it becomes a coin toss after that. Last year there was a real focus into detail and a pride on doing the small things that dont always get noticed. They added up to make us better than other teams. Those things all make a difference.

Perhaps a little youthful enthusiasm and healthy competition from the treasure trove of draft picks acquired in the Phil Kessel deal can bring some of the Black and Gold magic back.

Bs long range prospects will finally start turning into present day players this upcoming season, and that could all the difference as well.

Czarnik 'playing bigger' while looking to secure job with Bruins

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Czarnik 'playing bigger' while looking to secure job with Bruins

It’s not difficult to see why Austin Czarnik might have been a little overlooked headed into this Bruins training camp when forecasting favorites among the forwards to win a roster spot on the big club. After all he’s only 5-foot-9 and 167-pounds coming off just one very solid season at the AHL level for the Providence Bruins, and there are bigger, stronger forwards candidates that maybe rank a bit higher on the prospect list than him.

But the 23-year-old Czarnik put together an excellent training camp last fall before finishing with 20 goals and 61 points for the P-Bruins last season, and now he’s doing the exact same thing again this time around.

“Yeah, I feel more comfortable. I think we could have been a lot better in a lot of areas. Overall I think everyone is just happy to be back on the ice,” said Czarnik, who along with Frank Vatrano was one of the real starts of camp last season. “You know that type of mentality and you know mistakes are going to happen, and you’ve just got to move forward from it so everyone’s happy to be back.”

The former Miami University star is clearly happy to be back, and it’s showing on the ice with each chance he gets to show his tenacity, withering fore-check and his willingness to crash the net despite his smallish stature.

Czarnik was one of the most dangerous forwards on the ice for the Black and Gold in their preseason opener, and collected a key assist on Boston’s first goal of the game when he pushed a puck through the neutral zone before setting up on odd man rush for Jimmy Hayes and Jake DeBrusk.

This time around Czarnik scored the game’s only goal on a nifty rush during four-on-four play through the offensive zone by Ryan Spooner, who drew in the defense and dished to Czarnik for a wide open tap-in chance.

So it’s a couple of big plays in each of the first two preseason games that led to goals, and a genuinely excellent level of play throughout both contests. It’s something the Bruins coaching staff has taken note of along with his skating speed and hardnosed mentality, and now they have to figure if it fits in with their other NHL pieces.

“We were just talking about it. Everybody has that same feeling. He’s playing well. He moves well. He’s on the puck. He competes, and that’s the thing you’re looking for really,” said Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco. “Like right now, we know there’s going to be mistakes made by a lot of our players, especially the younger ones.

“We’re looking to see who’s got that competitive, you know, that competitive fire. [We’re looking for] who’s going to go out there and who can compete at a high level. I know he’s not big in stature, but he plays bigger than he is. He’s had two pretty good games so far.”

Czarnik had a couple of good games early in B’s camp last year before flat-lining a bit at the end when the NHL jobs were seriously on the line, and the 23-year-old wants that story to change endings this time around. It remains to be seen where he’s going to fit as yet another center among Boston’s group of training camp players this month, but Czarnik might just force the Bruins to make a tough decision if he keeps playing at his current high level.   

Talking Points: Veteran Red Wings torch Bruins

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Talking Points: Veteran Red Wings torch Bruins

GOLD STAR: Take your pick: Steve Ott, Drew Miller and Luke Glendening torched the Bruins with veteran savvy and toughness against a very young defensemen unit trying to survive in the second preseason game. Ott and Glendening each scored a goal and finished with three points, and Miller finished with a goal and two points while all three forwards had a plus-3 rating for the night. All of their goals came off winning battles, crashing the net and taking advantage of defensive miscues. The goals provided a good lesson to the young kids that have a ways to go before they’re NHL ready at this point in their careers. It certainly must have been a kick to the stones to many Bruins fans when “Brave” Steve Ott was named the No. 1 Star of the game after it was all over, but that was certainly appropriate.

BLACK EYE: Adam McQuaid was the most experienced defensemen out on the ice for the Bruins on Wednesday night, and it was a rough night for him with so many young guys around him on the back end. McQuaid finished a minus-2 in 17:41 with a couple of hits and got a little better as the game was going on, but was on ice for two of the first three goals allowed to Detroit in a really lackluster middle section of the game. In general, it was about more than just one player, though. There were blown assignments in the D-zone and some really noticeable lost battles leading to scoring chances for a Red Wings group that aggressively took it to the Bruins. This is a game that will leave the Bruins coaches with plenty of video material moving forward.

TURNING POINT: The real slippage came early in the game when the Bruins failed to score on some good power play chances for Peter Mueller and Matt Beleskey, and then allowed two goals within 19 seconds of each other in the first period. The first goal was a PP one for the Red Wings with Ryan Spooner whistled for a face-off infraction, and the second was simply the Bruins falling asleep at the wheel just seconds after the first goal was scored. Lost battles led to a bang-bang play in front with Steve Ott scoring as Malcolm Subban was turned around looking for the puck, and the B’s were reeling headed into the first intermission. Only a Subban shoulder save kept it from being 3-0 at the end of the first, and that was something the B’s never seemed to rebound from.

HONORABLE MENTION: Austin Czarnik scored the B’s only goal off a nice play from Ryan Spooner driving toward the net, and continues to put together another strong training camp after doing the same thing last season. Czarnik finished with the goal, three shots on net and six shot attempts in 17:38 of ice time, and battled back from a rough start to go 6-for-12 in the face-off circle while centering an extremely young line with Sean Kuraly and Zach Senyshyn. While Czarnik might not have been a big name when talking about an open roster spot with the Bruins a couple of weeks ago, he’s pushed toward making himself a part the conversation with his heart-filled, high effort energetic performances for the Black and Gold.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4-for-16 was the final tally for Ryan Spooner in the face-off circle as he continues to be a work-in-progress on the draw.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Maybe I was a little bit shocked first going out there. The speed of the game is noticeably faster, but I think as time went on I got more comfortable out there. Hopefully I can build off that moving forward.” – Bruins rookie D-man Matt Grzelcyk on his first NHL preseason game being a bit of a big wakeup call.