Some Bruins still trying to find their bearings

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Some Bruins still trying to find their bearings

BOSTON -- While theres plenty to like about Bostons 3-0-1 start in their first four games, it hasnt been highlight reel goals and on-ice celebrations for everybody.

The Bruins third line is off to the slowest start of any of Bostons forward groups, and registered only a single shot on net in an ineffective performance for the Bs in their 4-2 win over the Isles at TD Garden.

Chris Bourque, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly have combined for two points, no goals and a minus-8 rating in the first four games of the season, and have been bailed out by the strong starts of some of their teammates.

Its perhaps not surprising given that Bourque is the only new forward thats been added to an already established group of 11 forwards, and that means adjusting to a player with different strengths and weaknesses than Jordan Caron or Benoit Pouliot. It's also worth nothing that the third line is still minding their responsibility defensively, which is job No. 1 for the trio.

For a guy like Kelly remaining defensively vigilant is job No. 1 for their line, but the Isles did manage to score a goal while their line was on the ice Friday night. Johnny Boychuk was largely responsible after losing track of the man with the puck behind the net, but a minus-2 rating for the season doesn't lie for a guy in Kelly that was a plus-33 last season.

I think were still working on it, said Kelly. I think every line is still working on it. Just when you think youve got it all figured out then youre in trouble. When youre playing with new linemates you want to go out there and start producing immediately with instant chemistry.

Sometimes that doesnt happen. In fact most times that doesnt happen. But I think weve been solid in our end and there have been a few chances. The offense will come if we stick with the game plan. Were a defense first team.

While Claude Julien thought Friday night was Bourques best game in a Bruins uniform, there was a clear admission that the line as a whole isnt playing at quite the level where theyll end up.

Its hard to make assessments because were in the fourth game of the season. I watch some games on TV, and you know I could be a lot more disappointed in situations Ive seen from other teams around the league, said Julien. But were hanging in there. We know its just a matter of time for certain guys to turn it around.

I think weve got enough players here to score some goals that are going to make us a better team along the way. When you look at Tyler Seguin, whos got zero goals, we know hes going to start scoring a lot more. Horts Nathan Horton and Peverleythose guys, theyll get it going. Youve just got to maybe show a little patience as far as the finishing touch is concerned. But as long as they work hard and are progressing you keep pushing them in the right direction.

Peverley hit the left post in the third period and seemed to get better as the game went along. Bourque showed some good things while moving around with purpose and creativity on the second power play unit and erased some Isles chances -- one in particular on Keith Aucoin when he was about to pounce on a rebound in the slot -- with responsible back-checking.

But its little more than flashes at this point for a third line still looking to find their footing this season while the other three lines seem to have the ground running.

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.