In Providence, disappointment over NHL lockout

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In Providence, disappointment over NHL lockout

NORTH SMITHFIELD, R.I. While it was good to finally see hockey being played by skaters in Black and Gold sweaters Saturday morning at the Rhode Island Sports Center, it wasnt exactly what anybody hoped.

Young defenseman Zach Trotman snagged himself a hat trick in the camps first scrimmage, and that was damned impressive. But the 23-year-old blueliner was also probably wondering how well he might have done in a full NHL camp -- one with higher stakes and greater competition among NHL caliber players.

Just like young top prospects Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight wanted to see if they could seize a job in Boston after rising up the ranks as top prospects among forwards in the B's organization.

Its the same lament that many of the 35 players at P-Bruins camp are voicing this week after the NHL lockout wiped out both Bruins training camp and the entire NHL preseason schedule. There are familiar faces like Jordan Caron, Chris Bourque and Trent Whitfield along with uber-prospects like Spooner and Knight dotting the roster, and they all have glaringly bright future in the Bs organization.

But for the time being, that future will be filling out an AHL season for the Providence Bruins while the NHL figures out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. There's an appreciation for the job that every player must do in the interim, of course.

But there's also little doubt the lockout has sucked some of the joy out of the process as only work stoppages in pro sports can do.

Its nice to get on the ice and get to know the guys a little bit, but its also definitely a tough situation for everybody involved, said Bourque. Players, fans, the owners and everybody involved wants to see NHL hockey. For us down here we want to have that chance to make the NHL team, and to not have that chance is a little upsetting.

But we know it might be resolved in the meantime, and for now were just going to get into shape and get focused for when the time does come to go up to Boston.

Players like Bourque, Caron and Torey Krug might have been particularly disappointed by the timing of the lockout given their solid chances of winning an NHL roster spot with the Bruins. But theres also an upside to being in the AHL while a work stoppage is underway. It's to each player's advantage to focus on the task at hand rather getting a little too crestfallen about the plight of the NHL.

Above and beyond anything else, all of the players skating for the P-Bruins will get plenty of attention lavished on them by the Boston front office and coaching staff. Peter Chiarelli, Don Sweeney, Jim Benning, Claude Julien and all members of the B's coaching staff are watching each and every session.

That might have been why Knight was making like a battering ram as he smashed opposing players into the boards, and went down on at least a couple of occasions to block shots during a seemingly meaningless intra-squad scrimmage. It's pretty apparent Knight is intent on winning a job and making a lasting first impression, and understands the new mindset required.

Its almost October and we havent played in any games yet, so its a little weird, said Knight. You go to an OHL camp and guys are maybe having McDonalds after practice. Now guys are having protein shakes and people are definitely taking things more seriously. Its great to watch the older guys like Trent Whitfield to see how they treat their bodies and prepare for each workout.

The P-Bruins roster will also be in perfect working order while ramping up through the AHL training camp and preseason schedule, and each of the Providence skaters will be in midseason form when the NHL finally gets started. That's a potential advantage for many of them.

Guys like Tyler Seguin and Andrew Ference were able to find work in Europe pretty easily, and somebody like Zdeno Chara will have a spot in Slovakia whenever they decide to head overseas.

But players like Caron, Spooner, Knight and Bourque will each get their own shot at a third line forward spot for the Bruins when the NHL season finally begins, and none of them was forced into scouring for a job overseas. Instead each of those players along with the other assorted prospects and journeymen dotted along every AHL roster will hit the ground running while playing every day in Providence.

Meanwhile other NHL players like Shawn Thornton, Johnny Boychuk, Nathan Horton, Chris Kelly, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic among others skate and wait with nothing more than informal scrimmages to keep them in shape.

That could leave them a step behind if B's training camp is still a few months away at the earliest.

Its a little bit different, admitted Caron. Its a little bit later than normal training camp too. We had fitness testing this morning and then we got right out onto the ice. Essentially its all the same thing. Its just with different guys.

I think being in game shape is going to be important. I know a lot of the NHL guys dont have leagues to play in right now, so its not too fun for them. I feel pretty lucky to be here in a real training camp and to get the season started. I just want to be a part of the team and help them win.

So theres clearly some rancor and disappointment that the P-Bruins skaters are working out in Providence rather than playing preseason games in Saskatoon and Winnipeg with Boston this week. Its all understandable under the circumstances fully grasped by the players in P-Bruins, and the show must also continue on in the meantime.

Thats exactly what the Baby Bruins will do in Providence until sanity prevails between the NHL and the NHLPA, and the best hockey league in the world is again open for business. For now they are what's keeping the candle burning for pro hockey in New England during this nuclear winter for the NHL.

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

BOSTON – The Bruins simply weren’t ready to play on Thursday night when the puck was dropped against the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

They fell down quickly by a 2-0 score, had a couple of completely inept power plays in the first period that sucked all the game’s momentum away from them and received some subpar goaltending from Anton Khudobin on the way to a 4-2 loss to the lowly Avs. About the only B’s person above reproach in this one was David Pastrnak after scoring a pair of goals in the second period to get Boston back into the game, but it all fell short in a very frustrating, lackadaisical loss to a Western Conference team that isn’t very good. 

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Needless to say B’s coach Claude Julien wasn’t too happy after a loss where the Bruins might have had more success with a smarter approach to holding the puck. 

“There were a lot of problematic things [in the loss]. No doubt that the power play could have helped us in the first period, and failed to do that. They’ve got to be better,” said Julien. “We needed some saves tonight, and we didn’t get them. [Anton Khudobin] has got to be better. 

“A lot of things here that we can be better at, and take responsibility [for]. But at the same time, you got to move on here.  It’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, we would have had a chance.”

Clearly it was about a lacking group effort when dissecting the loss, and the minus-3 for David Krejci on Thursday night marked back-to-back negative performances from the playmaking Czech center in big spots. The goaltending was shoddy with Anton Khudobin allowing four goals on 22 shots for Colorado, and unable to make plays on a couple of Colorado shots from outside the painted area that built up the Avs lead in the first place. 

But it was also very much about the inability of the Bruins to generate consistent offense outside of David Pastrnak’s offensive burst in the second period, and the complete breakdown of the Boston power play in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins struggled to enter the zone in their first PP possession of the game, and then allowed a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal after Torey Krug futilely dove at the blue line to try and keep the puck in the offensive zone. 

The Krug misplay at the offensive blue line gave MacKinnon a clear path the net, and he buried a wrist shot past Khudobin to get the one-sided loss rolling. Beyond the costly mistakes that ended up in the back of the net, the Bruins looked sloppy and slow-reacting in their breakouts and more than willing to settle for outside perimeter shots.

That doesn’t exactly make for a winning combo even when it comes against a flawed, underachieving team like Colorado, and especially when it comes less than 24 hours after a hard-fought road game in Washington DC. 

“I think we were still sleeping there early in the game and they were able to capitalize on their opportunities. We couldn’t claw our way back,” said Brad Marchand, who picked up an assist on David Pastrnak’s second goal of the night on a perfect dish for the one-timer. “I think it was definitely a mental [block]. You’re able to battle through that physical fatigue. It was more the mental mistakes and not being prepared right off the hop of the start of the game. Again, that’s kind of where we lost it.”

The sleepwalking Bruins lost Thursday night’s valuable two points as soon as the opening puck was dropped against the Avalanche, of course, and the Bruins never got out of lollygag mode at a time when intensity should have been automatic.