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


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.

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

It’s hard to believe that it’s already come to this, but it might just be Malcolm Subban between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, and perhaps again on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The 22-year-old Subban has been pulled from two ineffective starts for the P-Bruins in four AHL starts this season (.846 save percentage and a 4.50 goals against average in four games) while coming back from last year’s fractured larynx injury. He's also a player the organization was uncertain enough about that they signed veteran backup Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on the July 1 open of NHL free agency.

Subban attributed his start to a slow opening few weeks with a new P-Bruins roster of players, but that hasn’t stopped fellow P-Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre from putting up excellent numbers between the pipes in the early going.

But Khudobin went down with an injury mere minutes into Monday morning’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and Tuukka Rask been battling a nagging leg injury since the season opening win against the Blue Jackets.

So Subban was the last goalie standing on Monday as an emergency recall from Providence, and could be in line to play Tuesday night against the Wild if the Bruins medical staff can’t perform some Mr. Miyagi-style healing techniques on Rask or Khudobin.

“Khudobin got injured and couldn’t practice with us, but I haven’t heard anything yet [on an update],” said Julien following practice. “This is hockey. We deal with it on daily basis with the injuries. We wait for the news and then it’s about doing your job as it’s required. If we have to make some adjustments and have to have some different personnel, then we’ll deal with it when we have more of an update. Tuukka is still day-to-day, so nothing is changed there.

“We’re in a situation here where we’ll see what happens, and if [Subban] needs to go in goal then he’ll go in goal. It’s as simple as that. As a coach, there’s one thing that worries me and that’s ‘stop the puck.’ I’m not a goalie coach, so I’m just demanding on making the saves.”

Subban, of course, hasn’t been making the saves down in Providence early in the going there this season, and is entering the stage of his career where he needs to begin showing signs of being a potential No. 1 guy at the NHL level.

Fellow goalies from the 2012 NHL draft class like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Joonas Korpisalo, Matt Murray, Connor Hellebuyck and Frederik Andersen have all begun making their mark in the league, and Subban was selected higher than all of them except for Tampa’s Vasilevskiy. So in the final year of his entry level deal it’s high time for the 22-year-old to begin showing signs he can play in the league, whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere.

He admitted on Monday he might have been putting too much pressure on himself down in Providence while watching the injury issues play out with Tuukka Rask in Boston.

Subban was worried about the big picture of stringing together saves so he was the guy called up if the Bruins needed a goalie, and instead should have been focusing more on the present opponents at the AHL level.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think anybody that knows me well knows that. I don’t like to let in goals no matter what happens, whether it’s breakdowns or not it’s my job [to stop the puck]. If there were no breakdowns then you wouldn’t need a goaltender,” said Subban. “I want to make every save and get a shutout every game. I think the biggest thing is just relaxing and playing, and knowing that it’s okay to let a goal in every once in a while.

“So I think in my position right now I’m supposed to be playing really well down there, and I think that go in my head a little bit. I was trying to get a shutout every game rather than going game-by-game and shot-by-shot. I was overthinking it too much. But collectively as a team we’re a new team and we were trying to get the chemistry together, and once we do that the D-zone will be better and the offensive zone game will come.”

If Subban does indeed get the emergency start on Tuesday night against the Wild, the Bruins just have to hope that it’s a better outing than getting pulled in his NHL debut against the Blues two seasons ago after allowing three goals on three straight shots to start the second period. They also have to hope that Rask or Khudobin get well quick given Boston’s shaky situation on defense in front of the goaltender, and the stretch they’re in of playing six straight opponents that qualified for last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

If not then watch out below because every hockey person knows there’s no quicker way for a hockey club to really begin imploding than if the goaltending starts to become a major problem whether it’s because of injury, inconsistent performance or simply because of being a straight-up sieve.

McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup


McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It was a bitter pill for Adam McQuaid to sit out the first five games of this season, but it looks like the veteran Bruins stay-at-home defenseman is nearing a return to the lineup. McQuaid was cleared to potentially play in Saturday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens after an upper body injury kept him shelved for the team’s first four games, and could be approaching a return in the next few days as Claude Julien mulls a number of possible lineup changes.

“It was obviously frustrating, but I’m where I’m at now and trying to move on from it. Looking forward to getting back into the lineup hopefully as soon as possible here,” said the 30-year-old McQuaid, who had a goal and nine points in 64 games for the Black and Gold last season. “The excitement level is high for me, and it is for everybody after a loss when you’re looking forward to getting back out there.

“It would have been nice to have started the season with the guys, but you can’t change that now. I’ve had some good practices, and I’m just trying to my game as simple as possible, and take it as it comes. Obviously guys have played some games and it’s been a couple of weeks for me, so I’ll just have to keep my game simple.”

The B’s bench boss indicated it was only a matter of time before McQuaid makes his 2016-17 regular season debut, but that he’s got plenty of things to decide prior to dropping the puck against the Wild.

“[McQuaid] was cleared last game. I haven’t made any decisions based for [Tuesday night vs. Minnesota]. There’s a lot of things that are up in the air, and I’ve just go to juggle those things,” said Julien. “Who knows? Hopefully tomorrow morning I’ve got a better picture [of injury situation], and if not then it will be game-time decisions. I wish I could have a better answer [on if McQuaid will play], but I’ve got no answers right now.”

With Colin Miller (minus-4), Joe Morrow, Torey Krug (a rough minus-3 against Montreal) and John-Michael Liles all minus players after the first five games of the season, there are ample options for Julien on which potential blueliner to bump up to the press box. McQuaid is just happy he’s getting closer to a return while skating with 23-year-old Rob O’Gara at practice, and he can get back to helping a B’s team that’s smack dab in the middle (ranked 15th allowing 3.0 goals per game) of the NHL for team defense this season.