Preview: Boston Bruins vs. Los Angeles Kings

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Preview: Boston Bruins vs. Los Angeles Kings

EL SEGUNDO, CA The Bruins have no excuses. Jet lag and time zone changes wont be acceptable, and truly they werent during an offensive no-show against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.

With the Ottawa Senators losing three straight games things have been placed on a tee for the Bs to smack the ball out of the park. If the Bruins can generate production, performance and results against the Kings on Saturday, and the Ducks on Sunday, then they can all but secure the Northeast Division for themselves.

But it wont be easy against a Los Angeles Kings squad thats won six games in a row and is coming off a playoff-style shootout win over the Blues where goaltender Jonathan Quick was brilliant.

Claude Julien is looking for something much better than what we saw in San Jose.

We never caught up to the pace of the game against San Jose. We need to bring it on the road, said Claude Julien. For whatever reason, we had some guys that didnt play well enough to let us win a hockey game. There is no way were going to win hockey games on this road trip if we dont have everybody going."

I dont like using the word desperate. We need to be a little bit more committed and determined rather than desperate. Right now the chances of making the playoffs are very good, but how do we want to be playing going into the postseason. Hopefully we want to be better.

The good news for the Bruins: Zdeno Chara has been outstanding lately and should be highly motivated playing in his 1,000th NHL game Saturday against the Kings at the Staples Center. Tim Thomas has also been great in his last three games, and was keeping the Bruins in the game against the Sharks on Thursday night when the offense couldnt get on track.

The bad news for the Bruins: Chara and Thomas arent enough if the top-six forwards dont bring more to the table than they did in the first game on the California road swing against the Sharks.

The Bruins arent looking for any passengers on the bus against the Kings, and victory should follow if they can accomplish their mission.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Bostons top six forwards didnt contribute anything offensively in Thursday nights loss to the Sharks, and Tyler Seguin, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly didnt register even a single shot on net. Claude Julien called them out the following day at practice and has continued to push Rich Peverley as a forward thats going to take somebodys place on the game day roster if theyre not playing up to par.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: What we need to do is create more offense than we did in San Jose. That didnt give us much of a chance to win if we dont create more chances than we did. Claude Julien, who wasnt impressed with his teams 17 shots on net against the Sharks. He wasnt the only one.

KEY MATCHUP: Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings defense have allowed only eight goals in their last five games, and have put up a wall of defense around the net as they push toward a playoff berth in the competitive Western Conference. Quicks goals against average dropped to 1.96 GAA with a shutout against the Blues on Thursday night, and that should be about the last a group of Bs offensive pieces need after firing off only 17 shots in a loss to the Sharks. The Bruins forward group, as a collective, needs to be better against the Kings and needs to start moving their feet to get the puck up the ice with speed. If the forwards cant do any better the results might not be any difference against a Kings team thats just as motivated.

STAT TO WATCH: 10-3 the Kings record since trading for disgruntled Columbus Blue Jackets forward Jeff Carter.

INJURIES: Tuukka Rask (groin strainabdomen strain) and Nathan Horton (mild concussion) are long term injuries for the Bruins. Peverley will take warm-ups with the team prior to Saturdays game in Los Angeles, and could play as soon as Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks. For the Los Angeles Kings Simon Gagne (concussion) and Scott Parse (hip) are not available for Saturday nights tilt against the Bruins.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tim Thomas will get the call for the Bruins, and hell be appearing in his 15th straight game for the Black and Gold including a pair of relief appearances. Thomas is 5-6 with a 3.23 goals against average and an .870 save percentage during the month of March, but looks like hes now starting back on the upswing again. Former UMass star Jonathan Quick has won five games in a row and has allowed just eight goals over that span, and made 35 saves in a shutout win over the St. Blues in his last outing Thursday night.

Tuesday, May 31: Will NHL follow MLB's lead and retire O'Ree's number?

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Tuesday, May 31: Will NHL follow MLB's lead and retire O'Ree's number?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while blaming both the zoo and the parents in Cincinnati. Is it okay to do that, or does everything in life have to be all or nothing?

-- Dan Rosen says Sidney Crosby has a twinkle in his eye as he returns for, and wins, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

-- Tim Panaccio has a few thoughts on the sad passing of Philadelphia Flyers legend Rick MacLeish at the age of 66.

-- It looks like Ken Hitchcock will be back once again as head coach of the St. Louis Blues despite their fall in the Western Conference Finals.

-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gives a number of scenarios for potential expansion, including waiting another year before doing anything.

-- A good Players Tribune piece on hockey dad Matt Cullen preparing with the family for the Stanley Cup Finals with the Penguins.

-- Jacques Martin, currently serving as a member of Mike Sullivan's Pittsburgh coaching staff, is appreciating his first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

-- Joel Ward wants to see the NHL retire Willie O’Ree’s No. 22, similar to Jackie Robinson's No. 42 permanently retired by all Major League Baseball teams.

-- Ken Campbell says that the San Jose Sharks won’t be in a panic after dropping Game 1 to the Penguins.

-- So Ulf Samuelsson will be a head coach in the AHL next season for the Charlotte Checkers. Teams might want to stock up on the foil

-- This goal call by Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi for Nick Bonino’s game-winner in Game 1 is pretty damned awesome.

-- For something completely different: Bernie Sanders attending the Warriors/Thunder Game 7 on Monday night, a week before the California primary, might qualify as a savvy political move, but it’s also pretty clear that he's a big basketball fan. Did you see footage of that textbook old-man jump shot while Sanders was waiting for primary results a few months ago? Ball don’t lie.

 

 

Report: Khokhlachev leaves Bruins, signs with Russian team

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Report: Khokhlachev leaves Bruins, signs with Russian team

Another once-valued Boston Bruins asset might be heading out the door with nothing coming back in return.

Russian prospect Alex Khokhlachev has signed a contract with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL, according to a report out of Russia. The deal will become official after his entry-level contract with Boston runs out on June 30.

Khokhlachev, 22, was a second-round pick in the 2011 draft and spent the last three seasons as one of the Providence Bruins' leading scorers. In that time he appeared in only nine games in Boston, with no points and a minus-4.

At the start of last season's training camp, Khokhlachev he’d never been given a legitimate chance by the Bruins at the NHL level. But “Koko” also never exactly crushed his chances in preseason, or during his regular-season stints with the parent club.

The belief is that Khokhlachev’s camp would have rather the Bruins traded him, as his family had settled in the Toronto area over the last few years. But he was, in essence, forced to go to Russia since the Bruins would continue to hold his NHL rights as a restricted free agent.

According to sources close to Khokhlachev, the last straw came when the Bruins signed a European free agent -- 28-year-old Finnish center Joonas Kemppainen -- before last season and gave him more than four months to prove himself at the NHL level. It was the kind of audition that Khokhlachev never felt like he received during his time in the Bruins organization, despite posting 59 goals and 168 points over the last three years in the AHL.

Clearly, there are still questions about whether the 5-foot-10, 181-pound center is a “tweener” -- not big enough or fast enough to score at the NHL level. And it looks like those questions will go unresolved as Khokhlachev returns to Russia for the foreseeable future. 

Curran: Even after all that's gone down, sun still shines for Brady

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Curran: Even after all that's gone down, sun still shines for Brady

I wasn’t looking to get nostalgic last Thursday. But I got that little twist in the tummy. It was a song that did it. It reminded me of how things were and how things are.

The song was “Beautiful Day” by U2. It was, for a few years, practically a Patriots anthem. It was the first song the legendary Irish band played during its halftime set at Super Bowl 36, a mini-concert that was sad, hopeful, jubilant and defiant all at once. 

It’s not hard to recall what things felt like in early February of 2002.

Five months earlier, the September 11 attacks stripped away the sense of security and insulation we'd come to enjoy as our birthright. Anger, indignation, unity, national pride and a sense of resolve emerged that probably hadn’t been felt in 60 years.

But our new reality also meant a palpable sense of unease, too. Vulnerability.

It was at sporting events in the wake of 9/11 that we got an introduction to how things had changed and how we’d been changed. Armed security, bomb-sniffing dogs, personal searches and patdowns fueled our new trepidation. But once inside, a strength-in-numbers feeling emerged. The vulnerability was replaced by a near-universal sense of community and patriotism. The focus was on what we had in common as Americans, our shared interest in being safe and maintaining who we were.

The feeling isn’t quite the same now, is it? A lot’s changed.

It was near the end of that Thursday practice that the song came on. Blaring. It was supposed to replicate crowd noise during an 11-on-11 drill but it had the additional impact of causing me to reflect on that time and Tom Brady.

Brady was standing behind the offense watching rookie Jacoby Brissett take the reps at quarterback. Next to Brady was Jimmy Garoppolo.

Brissett was 9 years old when U2 played at that Super Bowl while Brady sat in the visitor’s locker room at the Superdome, improbably in possession of a 14-3 lead and 30 minutes from taking the first step on the road from “cool story” to “legend.” Garoppolo was 11.

How many rookie quarterbacks has Brady seen come and go since he was a rookie himself in 2000? How many backups has he dispatched since Brady himself was a backup in 2001? A lot.

He’s so far removed from the 24-year-old kid who, upon winning the MVP in that Super Bowl, put his hands to his head in beaming disbelief.  Does he think about that game? That atmosphere? That song?

That was an amazing day. I remember the military presence all week in New Orleans and on Super Bowl Sunday especially. Soldiers with M-16s surveyed and patrolled all along inside the barriers set up outside the Superdome. Inside, the Patriots were the ultimate Cinderella team going against a dynasty-in-waiting. They were -- hard as it is to believe now almost 15 years later -- beloved nationally. And the country didn’t hate Boston fans then, either. They mostly felt bad for us because of the constant sports heartbreak.

There were emotional juxtapositions that day -- from U2's moving halftime tribute to those killed on 9/11 to the Patriots stunning win -- that by the end felt cathartic. It was like an Irish wake.   

Brady doesn’t beam too often anymore. At least not publically. He’s got 17 years in the league, 16 minicamps, four Super Bowl wins, two Super Bowl losses, three Super Bowl MVPs and two league MVPs under his belt. The novelty’s worn off some.

There’s also the matter of the NFL itself deciding it would bring the franchise that went from Cinderella to Godzilla to heel by over-prosecuting the team in 2007 and trumping up charges against Brady himself in 2014.

Can’t beat ‘em? Delegitimize ‘em.

For Brady to find himself a reviled athlete, a target of the league office, a media piñata must have been beyond comprehension.

But on Thursday, there was a sign that maybe he’s making some peace with that, too.

The person who was at a loss for words in an uncomfortable 30-minute press conference a year ago January, who set his jaw and refused comment last summer walking in and out of New York courthouses, who welled up in September talking about the impact the investigation had on Jim McNally and John Jastremski . . . that guy actually walked past the media on Thursday when practice was over.

He didn’t stop. He only smiled and waved a few hellos. But compared to last year, when he’d exit the practice fields 100 yards from the media and didn’t speak from the Super Bowl until September, this was a departure.

There is no bigger point I’m trying to make here about football, patriotism, party politics, the decline of civility or the Patriots being a national treasure or blight.

All this was just something that occurred to me last Thursday. Which just so happened to be the first legitimately beautiful day of the year.