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.

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

This probably won’t come as a complete shock to those watching the way things have played out with him this season, but the Bruins have engaged in discussions with multiple teams about a Ryan Spooner trade, per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. 

The 23-year-old Spooner was mentioned casually a few months ago as possible fodder in a Jacob Trouba deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but that deal never really materialized prior to the Jets signing their young, frontline D-man to a two-year deal. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks have all expressed interest in Spooner, per one hockey source, as it appears that things simply aren’t going to work out for him in Boston. 

It’s been a challenging year for Spooner with pedestrian numbers of three goals and eight points in 24 games, but there are plenty of mitigating circumstances behind the slow start. Spooner has been pushed into playing left wing for the bulk of the season rather than his natural, preferred center position, and he’s been dropped to the fourth line by Claude Julien over the last few weeks. At times he’s also been pulled from the Bruins power play where he racked up six goals and 17 points working off the half-wall last season.  

Julien talked about the former second round pick in frank terms after this week’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, which featured a Spooner snipe to the top corner during a successful shootout for the Black and Gold. 

“I think at times that [David Krejci] line goes quiet, other times it’s better. We’ve tried different guys on the left side right now and one [Spooner] might give them speed but doesn’t win as many battles,” said Julien of his search for stability at left wing alongside Krejci and David Backes. “The other way [with Tim Schaller] guys are a little harder right now, and they spend more time in the O-zone. So we’re really trying hard to find the right balance there.”

Trade talks have increased the past few weeks because A) the situation has worsened recently with Spooner’s prolonged stint as a miscast fourth line winger and B) the speedy, skilled forward will most likely be a man without a spot when 22-year-old left winger Frank Vatrano returns sometime around the mid-December range. 

According to one source, the Bruins are asking for a “top six forward” in exchange for a package including Spooner, and it’s a lead pipe certainty they’re looking for some goal-scoring given their 24th ranked offense this season. That represents a bit of an organizational sea change after the Bruins searched low and high for a top-4 defenseman in trade over the summer. The emergence of 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, and the Boston defense’s performance across the board, has lowered the Black and Gold’s priority list need to trade for a D-man. 

The Bruins have scored two goals or fewer in 18 of their 25 games this season and badly need somebody that can put the puck in the net from one of the wing positions. Unfortunately for the Bruins, there aren’t a lot of top-6 forwards readily available that could make an immediate impact. It’s highly doubtful any team is going to fork one over for an asset like Spooner that’s been downgraded due to the way he’s been utilized by the Bruins this season. He hasn't played with the same creativity or confidence this season after posting 13 goals and 49 points as their third line center last season. 

So it remains to be seen what the Bruins will get for Spooner after they offered him and a draft pick to Buffalo for rental forward Chris Stewart a couple of years ago. That was a deal Sabres GM Tim Murray turned down before trading Stewart for considerably less at the trade deadline.

The bottom line: the Bruins are working the phones discussing possible Spooner deals, and it feels like there is some motivation from B’s management to move a player that doesn’t seem like he'll ever be a proper fit in Julien’s system. 

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at the Bruins setting a franchise record this season for fewest practices in a regular season. Thanks compacted schedule due to the World Cup!

*Pavel Zacha is adjusting to life as a rookie in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, and things are getting better as they go along.

*Manitoba Moose players relive their favorite Star Wars moments prior to the team holding their Star Wars Night.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Friedman sits down with new Florida Panthers head coach Tom Rowe to discuss the massive changes in that organization with the firing of Gerard Gallant.

*Good for Anders Nilson putting a rainbow decal on the back of his goalie to mask to support some gay friends that have faced public resistance in their lives.

*Bruce Garrioch has his weekly NHL notes with several players, including Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald, potentially on the trade block if anybody wants them.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson suffering a broken leg that will keep him out 6-8 weeks.

*There was no blood for the Vancouver Canucks fans, but there was still plenty of drama in a win over the Maple Leafs.

*For something completely different: The World Baseball Classic works for everybody except for Major League Baseball, and that would appear to be a problem.