Boston Bruins

Boyes makes statement with game-winner

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Boyes makes statement with game-winner

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli traded Brad Boyes to the St. Louis Blues at the 2007 trade deadline. In return, the B's brought in puck-moving defenseman Dennis Wideman.

At the time, Chiarelli explained his thought process: "I'd like to think that our defense will be a better puck-moving unit now. That's really going to help our chances."

Similar words were spoken at this year's trade deadline, with the acquisition of veteran puck-moving defenseman Tomas Kaberle.

But on Thursday night at the TD Garden, it was Boyes who proved his offensive qualities to be more important -- in this game at least.

Boyes knocked home the game-winning goal with 1:16 left to play in overtime, giving the Sabres a 4-3 win over Boston. It was his sixth game with Buffalo, after being traded from the Blues for a second-round pick at last month's trade deadline.

He made an immediate impact in the division race as he skated hard to the net, and finished a Nathan Gerbe pass from the lower-left circle, after Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was caught too far out of the net, after taking Gerbe's initial shot off the shoulder.

"I figured I'd follow Gerbe in there and see what he's got," said Boyes. "He made a great play. Most of it was effort. With Timmy Thomas coming out like that, it was an easy tip-in for me."

In essence, Kaberle is this team's new Wideman, proving he can fill the "puck-moving" role on the blue line. And in the moments leading up to Boyes' game-winner, it was Kaberle's defense -- or lack thereof -- that allowed Gerbe to not only get an easy shot off from the high slot, but also allowed him to make Kaberle look like a turn-style, beating him to the loose rebound, and finding a wide-open Boyes at the right post.

It marked Boyes' third goal with his new team. And it was a big one, as it kept the Sabres in the hunt for one of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spots.

It was also fitting that it came against his old team, at the expense of some poor defense from a puck-moving defenseman, which was the type of player Boyes was traded for.

"I've had some great memories here," said Boyes after the game. "I loved playing here. It was a lot of fun. So you want to come back, and you want to do those things. I've been on a few teams, and any time you play an old team, there's that little extra bit, that, you want to make sure that they made a mistake, kind of getting rid of you. Again, that was a while ago. But you still have that extra jump, that sense of excitement."

Boyes played 142 total regular-season games with the Bruins before he was traded more than halfway through his second year in Boston.

He scored 26 goals in 82 games in 2005-06, and had 13 goals in 62 games with the B's prior to the trade to St. Louis.

The following season -- his first full year with the Blues -- Boyes scored a career-high 43 goals. The year after that, he scored 33.

Since then, Boyes' numbers have dropped. Last season, he scored only 14 goals in 82 games, while having only 12 goals in 62 games this season, before being traded to the potentially playoff-bound Sabres.

Thursday night's overtime game-winner marked his 15th goal of the year. While it was special to score against the team that once traded him, Boyes was happier to help the Sabres get two points, putting them in seventh place in the East, with 74 points.

"There is always that extra little bit, but to be honest, it's been a while since I've been back," said Boyes on playing in Boston. "You want to score and go hard against all teams. There are a lot of different faces over there.

"The biggest thing is, you can't stress how important it is to get that extra point. Those other things are great, and I'll take them. But that point is so valuable right now.

"I enjoy it here," said Boyes about his new home in Buffalo. "I think it's been a good move. I'm excited. When I came over here, that was my thought, just being excited, and getting back to what I enjoy doing, scoring goals, winning games, and things like that. That's what I'm trying to do."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

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Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling that we’re just now learning about the massive rap skills of the brotherly duo of Andrew and Pete Frates. 

 

*Ken Campbell from the Hockey News says that if influential players, like Connor McDavid, want to go to the Olympics then they need to get more involved in the CBA negotiations

 

*Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang shows what a class act he is by taking the Stanley Cup to a children’s hospital in Montreal.

 

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Minnesota Wild looking to find long term deals for both restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. That was pretty clear when they chose to deal off Marco Scandella in order to clear up some cap space to afford both of them. 

 

*The Edmonton Oilers are going to face higher expectations for next season, and are willing to embrace that kind of pressure.

 

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance wonders aloud whether there will be any offer sheets coming for restricted free agents. I appreciate Craig wanting to add a little more intrigue to the NHL’s offseason, but it isn’t going to happen as long as GMs are treated like they have small pox once they go that route with an offer sheet. Take a look at the future job prospects for general managers that went with offer sheets in the past, and you’ll see why GMs simply don’t do them. This is why the Bruins are uncomfortable with David Pastrnak sitting unsigned as a restricted free agent, but not overly concerned that he’s going to sign a mega-offer sheet elsewhere.  

 

*The CCM hockey brand is apparently changing hands from its former home at Adidas

 

*For something completely different: Speaking of Pete Frates, MLB has announced a fundraising drive for ALS research in his name. 

Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

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Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

The Bruins and Ryan Spooner wisely came to a contract agreement on a one-year, $2.825 million deal just prior to the start of Wednesday’s arbitration hearing. Don Sweeney hasn’t yet taken a B’s player to arbitration during his three years running the Black and Gold, and it could have grown unnecessarily contentious with a player like Spooner if they’d been forced to point out his flaws as a player in the uncomfortable setting of an arbitration hearing.

“It’s a fair deal for both sides in our opinion,” said Spooner’s agent Murray Kuntz to CSN after the one-year contract had been agreed upon. 

Now that Spooner has been signed to the one-year deal, it represents the last chance for the 25-year-old to show some growth as a player if he wants to be a member of the Bruins for much. Spooner has averaged 12 goals and 44 points over the last two seasons as Boston’s third line center, and has amassed 35 PP points while serving as the trigger man on Boston’s power play from the right-side half-wall. 

But he dropped from 49 points two seasons ago to 39 points last year, and didn’t exactly flourish under the more offensive-minded coaching of Bruce Cassidy. 

Spooner is an excellent special teams player and has been one of the key ingredients in Boston finishing with the NHL’s 7th ranked power play in each of the last two seasons. But he tailed off badly late last season after suffering a concussion, and showed so much tentativeness in his overall game that he became a healthy scratch by the end of Boston’s first round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. Spooner also continues to sit under a 40 percent success rate in the face-off circle, and shows little consistent interest in winning one-on-one battles anywhere along the ice.

The work on the draws is something, in particular, that comes down to hard work and diligence at practice, and should be an area Spooner can become at least average while practicing every day against a face-off maestro like Patrice Bergeron.  

All of this might be easier to overlook if he consistently utilized his excellent skating speed and considerable skill level to create offense during 5-on-5 play, but that hasn’t been the case enough over the last couple of seasons. A one-year deal for $2.85 gives Spooner one last opportunity to show some growth in those areas with the Bruins, and if he doesn’t then it should be fully expected the Bruins will rekindle trade discussions around Spooner. 

His situation is unmistakable: Spooner isn't going to be a top-6 center with the B's because Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are firmly entrenched at this spots, and Spooner really doesn't have the right skill set to be a fourth line center. So it's third line center or bust for Spooner as the internal competition grows around him. 

Spooner is now 25 years old and should no longer be viewed as a young player that’s still in the development phase. He should be close to a finished NHL product, and may not get demonstrably better in any area of his game if he doesn’t show it this upcoming season. He was one of the main pieces discussed when the Bruins talked trade with the Minnesota Wild prior to them dealing Marco Scandella to Buffalo, and there is clearly trade value for the former second round pick. 

But the Bruins also have a potential third line center replacement in Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson after signing him out of Boston University at the end of last season. Forsbacka Karlsson may need some AHL time to start this season after looking overmatched in his only NHL appearance late last season, but he’s the eventual two-way center replacement for Spooner in the long term. 

Forsbacka Karlsson may not be as fast or as flashy as Spooner, but he projects to be better on draws, better at winning battles and puck possession and better at being more difficult to play against while boasting his own set of offensive skills. 

It’s now up to Spooner to win that training camp competition with Forsbacka Karlsson for his current third line center position, and protect his own spot on the B’s roster by playing like his very job security depends on it. If he doesn’t show that kind of urgency and hop to his game right from the start of training camp, then it’s only a matter of time before he becomes trade fodder at a salary cap number ($2.825 million) that should be easy to move.

It’s no hyperbole to say that Spooner is entering his final chance with the Black and Gold after avoiding arbitration, and it’s wholly up to him to dictate exactly how long it lasts for.