Bourque feels like he belongs in NHL despite struggles

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Bourque feels like he belongs in NHL despite struggles

Theres no denying it when Chris Bourque says hes worked his balls off each of the 96 shifts hes skated with the Bruins this season.

The 26-year-old left wing is scoreless in his first six games in a Bruins uniform and has only scrapped together three shots on net while averaging close to 12 minutes per game including regular power play shifts. Bourque has skated with competent offensive linemates in Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley even if Kelly has struggled a bit out of the starting gate this season.

The oldest son of Ray Bourque is keenly aware he hasnt produced offensively and its compounded by struggling with his confidence in the Boston area where he grew up and developed as a hockey player. The career AHL player is also on this third NHL organization after failing to break through in past stints with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, so theres a healthy amount of pressure on a stint with the Black and Gold that might be his last, best chance to secure an NHL gig.

I normally put a lot of pressure on myself, and when I dont the pressure mounts even more for me. I just need to go out there and not think about that stuff. I just need to go out there and play my game, said Bourque. Its not that Im not comfortable here, but its just a learning process getting used to his surroundings.

Now Bourque is getting scratched for Thursday nights tilt against the Buffalo Sabres in favor of the bigger, tougher Lane MacDermid in anticipation of a gritty battle with their division rivals.

I had a good talk with Chris this morning. I think hes putting a lot of pressure on himself right now and hes certainly not the Chris that we know, said Claude Julien. Ive seen him enough to know that hes a really good skater, hes a really good playmaker, but I think right now hes putting way too much pressure on himself.

Hopefully we can help him through that and once he takes the extra weight off his shoulders youre going to see a player that can certainly be a much more efficient player than hes shown so far.

Is there a part of Bourques game that he feels like he isnt showing with the Bruins?

Yeahscoring, said Bourque, who led the AHL with 93 points scored last season and obviously hasnt lost his sense of humor amid the struggles. I dont know if its the pressure or that I just want it to happen so bad, but sometimes when you want it so bad you always forget about what youre supposed to be doing out there.

I dont think Im playing badly. Im just not playing my type of hockey. Im always going to bust my balls every shift, finish my checks, back-check and all that kind of stuff. Thats the easy part. I feel like I belong in this league and I think I can produce in this league. I just havent gone out and shown it yet.

The clock is certainly ticking for Bourque, and hes smart enough to know it. Jordan Caron is playing in the AHL for Providence and represents a bigger, stronger option if its decided the third line needs more of a net-front presence in its combination. Jay Pandolfo continues to skate with the Bruins and could be a solution as a third line left wing capable of killing penalties and filling a checking line role to the T.

But Bourque also deserves a chance to take a breath, get his bearings and get at least one more extended shot with the Black and Gold because a big upside is there if he can find the same NHL comfort zone that's allowed him to kill at the AHL level.

Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

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Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

BROOKLYN, NY – It wasn’t particularly entertaining and it won’t be all that memorable down the ride aside from the timing and importance of the meeting between the Bruins and Islanders. But it was a solid 2-1 team win for the Bruins over the Islanders at the Barclays Center on Saturday night with the B’s grinding all the way down to the end while protecting a one-goal lead through much of the third period.

Nearly everybody across Boston’s roster contributed in the major victory over the team trying to bypass them in the wild card standings, and it was a beautiful thing. Anton Khudobin stepped up when Tuukka Rask couldn’t start Saturday night’s showdown with a lower body issue, and Riley Nash supplied both Boston goals from a fourth line that’s played some of their best hockey lately.

It was unlikely heroes all around for the Black and Gold in the tightly-wound contest, but that diversity of talent and production can be a very good thing for a team looking to make that playoff push.

“You have to stay with it. You have to stay in the moment and stay with the game no matter what’s happening during the game. That’s how you get results, and that’s how you find ways to persevere through adversity,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We just got back to playing stingy, especially in the neutral zone. We got away from it the last few games, and it was nice tonight to be back playing a low-scoring game like what we’re used to playing.”

When it was all said and done the Bruins only allowed 19 shots on net and also killed off six penalties in the kind of grinding defensive showdown that you haven’t seen all that much out of the Black and Gold lately. It was exactly what Cassidy was looking for to snap the four-game losing streak, and once again start pushing the Bruins upward into the playoff chase.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard and fighting that hard to see pucks and find pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Cassidy. “From the goalie on out, everybody was in there [in the win]. It was a tough game. It was a nice Bruins win. We had been doing it with offense earlier, and we’ve got to be able to do it both ways. You need to be able to win 2-1 hockey games, and it had been awhile.”

Now it’s simply up to the Bruins to be feeling good about their latest win while going back to basics, and looking for more next time around after ending their worst losing streak of the season.

Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

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Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

BROOKLYN, NY – Things didn’t go so well last season for the Bruins when Tuukka Rask suddenly wasn’t well enough to play in the last game of the season, so there was good reason for the B’s to be a little nervous when their No. 1 goalie again couldn’t answer the bell Saturday night vs. the Islanders.

Anton Khudobin had won four games in a row headed into Saturday night, of course, and in his previous start he’d helped snap a 10-game winning streak for the Calgary Flames. So perhaps it wasn’t all that surprising when Khudobin stood tall for the Bruins making 18 saves in a tight, nervy 2-1 win over the Isles at the Barclays Center.

“You don’t have that many shots, but maybe 10 scoring chances…that can be tougher than seeing 30 shots and same amount of scoring chances,” said Khudobin. “But I’m glad got the job done, we got our points and we got the ‘W’.”

It wasn’t wall-to-wall action in a game where both teams combined for 37 shots on net, but it was still impressive that Khudobin and the B’s special teams killed off six Islander power plays in such a tight hockey game. After the B’s backup netminder was lauded for the way he battled in the crease and competed for pucks like his team’s very life was on the line in a pivotal game.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard, and fighting that hard to see pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I loved his performance. He’s a battler. He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby. He keeps it interesting for you. He’s a battler and he always has been. That’s what we needed tonight.”

One could spend days analyzing Cassidy's words and wondering much of that was deserved, appreciative praise for Khudobin, and how much of that might have been a veiled message to Boston's No. 1 goaltender sitting back home in Boston. 

The best save of the night probably won’t even count as a save for the Russian netminder. It was John Tavares, after having beaten Khudobin once in the first period, moving into the offensive zone with speed during a third period power play, and getting an open look at the net front in the high slot. Khudobin thought quickly and dropped into the unconventional double-stack pad save that seemed to throw Tavares off just a little, and the Isles sniper smoked the shot off the crossbar rather than tying up the game.

“I didn’t touch it. I didn’t really have time to get there, so the only thing I tried to do was the two-pad stack, old school Bob Essensa-style,” said Khudobin, who has now improved to 6-5-1 with a 2.60 goals against and an .899 save percentage this season. “Then he hit the crossbar. You need to get some luck in this league, and if you don’t get luck you’re going to lose games.”

A little luck and a little good, old-fashioned battling between the pipes was enough for Khudobin and the Bruins in Saturday night’s mammoth win. Now the questions become whether or not to go right back to Khudobin again on Tuesday at home against the Nashville Predators.