ThoughtsObservations from P-Bruins scrimmage

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ThoughtsObservations from P-Bruins scrimmage

NORTH SMITHFIELD, R.I. A few thoughts and observations from the first day of scrimmaging at Providence Bruins training camp at the Rhode Island Sports Center as the two groups played against each other.

The Black squad otherwise known as Group B pounded the White Squad (Group A) by a 5-1 score including a four-point game from defenseman Zach Trotman, who finished with a hat trick along with an assist built on a series of long range bomb shots from the point.

Trotman laughed at the notion that hes an offensive defenseman, but he did score 11 goals last season for Lake Superior State and consistently found a way to get pucks through traffic. The Bruins signed the 6-foot-4, 202 pound blueliner while he still had one year of NCAA eligibility remaining, and theres a healthy ceiling for the prospect given his size, shooting ability and commitment to playing two-way hockey. Hes flown under the radar during his experience at Bruins development camp, but he wont any more after pumping three goals in during the teams first dress rehearsal.

Ryan Spooner was noticeable in creating a number of offensive opportunities, and the most encouraging part of it was his ability to turn defense into offense. On at least three occasions Spooner pressure defensemen on the forecheck, stole the puck away and then moved in for a one-on-one chance against the goalie. He didnt end up with any points, but its that merging of skill and hockey instincts that will make him highly effective at the AHL level this season.

Jared Knight is showing that hes not fooling around in his first pro camp with guys like Peter Chiarelli, Jim Benning, Don Sweeney and Claude Julien watching along with both the AHL and NHL coaching staffs. He dropped to his knees to block shots on at least two instances in a scrimmage, and crashed hard into the boards once after a collision on of his patented power forward drives to the net. Knight was a gritty, physical presence and appeared more than willing to do the kind of things required of a bottom-six forward at the NHL level. The offense wasnt as consistently noticeable for Knight, but its a positive sign if hes still making an impact when his shots arent falling.

I actually thought goaltender Shaun Hunwick was a kid picked from the stands before being informed that he was a last-minute addition to the roster of P-Bruins players invited to training camp. He actually got into three minutes of a Columbus Blue Jackets game last season after a very successful career at the University of Michigan, but his 5-foot-7, 163 pound body is a tough hurdle to overcome. Hes reportedly got the same great attitude that older brother, and former Bs defenseman, Matt Hunwick possesses, and hell need it to silence the critics.

Free agent signee Matthew Pistilli helped contribute to several of Trotmans goals by using his 6-foot-2, 219-pound frame to screen Niklas Svedberg in front of the net, and he fed a nice cross-ice pass to a trailing Trotman for another goal in the hat trick. Amid some players with a greater degree of hype attached to their names, Pistilli really stood out on Day One.

The Providence coaching staff interchanged Lane MacDermid and Max Sauve in with the two of them, but it appears theyre looking to pair Spooner with Chris Bourque from the start of camp. They developed some nice chemistry together over the course of the two 20 minute periods, and Bourque also added a tally when he snapped a shot from the high slot past Hunwick in the final 20 minutes. Bourque also missed on a backhander earlier in the scrimmage off a nice feed from Spooner, and had enjoyed some of the best offensive chances out on the ice. Bourque looks ready to go early in a training camp hed been eagerly looking forward to.

Speaking of goaltenders, Niklas Svedberg looked a little shaky in first outing. He was having trouble tracking pucks through traffic, but thats understandable given the adjustment from European Leagues to North American pro hockey. Many European goaltenders talk about the significant transition time going for larger rinks to the smaller ones in the NHL and AHL. Both Mike Hutchinson and Adam Morrison looked solid between the pipes.

Alden Hirschfeld was a former teammate of Carter Camper at Miami (OH) and they teamed up for the White Teams only goal. Camper fed Hirschfeld a pass from behind the net and his old Red Hawks teammate snapped it home. Hirschfeld also threw around his 6-foot-1, 206-pound frame with reckless abandon and teamed with Tommy Cross for one of the best collisions of the scrimmage.

Christian Hanson didnt appear to lose a face-off through the scrimmage and stood out at as the biggest specimen on the ice at 6-foot-4 and 228 pounds. You can see why an NHL team would view him as a very useful role player as the Maple Leafs organization did over the last few years.

Justin Florek was around the net and popped in the rebound of a Trotman shot for one of the Black Teams five goals. He performed the same kind of good hands garbage man work at the Bs Development camp over the last few years, and looks like yet another prudent signing of a player lured away from NCAA eligibility at Northern Michigan.

David Warsofsky can skate and has plenty of confidence, but the wrap-around-the-net breakout move from the defensive zone isnt something that Claude Julien and the Boston coaching staff are fully in love with. Its pretty high risk without much reward at the NHL level, and its something could become very predictable if its used too much during game action with experienced fore-checkers.

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.