Bruins' Kelly effective with workman approach

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Bruins' Kelly effective with workman approach

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

It didnt take long for Chris Kelly to show exactly what hell be bringing to the table in Boston.

The newly acquired Bruins center was the first of several trade dominoes to fall during the month of February, and the 30-year-old was dropped right into playoff-level intensity games after floundering in Ottawa all season.

It was a far cry fromtheSenators,where he was skatingfor a Sens team thats been completely stripped down, and Kelly jumped right into the pressure cooker. He won a pair of face-offs late in the third period in a tight 3-1win over the Vancouver Canucks last weekend, and it was the gritty Kelly who blocked a pair of shots on an important penalty kill late in the game.

The late penalty kills and ice time in the third period -- or"winning time as it'sknown to some --were the kind of assignments that show just how confident Claude Julien is in assigningresponsibility and trust in Kellys game, and thats always the ultimate test with the Bruins coach.

The one thing I can tell you about Chris now that Ive had him a few games is this: you respect and like his game when you coach against him, and you like it even more if things have hit the fan," said Julien. "We heard about his demeanor, his attitude and ability to play under pressure, but you can also see how smart he is out there.

Ive only had him for a few games, but it says something.

Kelly is on pace for 16 goals and 16 assists this season while now manning the middle of Bostons third line between Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley and its clear the line's chemistry is being formed quickly. Both wingers really like to shoot the puck, obviously, and it comes down to Kelly figuring out when and where each forward likes the puck. The trio is beginning to develop the understanding of where each other skater fits on the ice, and that's paramount to generating offensive pressure.

Above and beyond the occasional offense, however, is the willingness to play the shot-blocking, faceoff role that could earn Kelly a lot more ice bags than easyplaudits over the course of the season and theninto the playoffs.

They had a great group before Rich Peverley and I came here, and weve been put in roles that we can succeed and do a good job while keeping it simple, said Kelly. I like our team. We skate well, we have big bodies and we have some really good goalies.

Its been good. Things are getting better each and every game. The Bruins kind of knew what they were getting into with me, and they put me in a great position to succeed. Those are the things that help a team become successful and win. I dont mind doing then. A lot of times it might go unnoticed, but the guys in the locker room notice it and appreciate it.

Kelly has logged in with a 53.8 percent success rate in faceoffs during his five games with the Bruins, and he gives Julien a pair of options for draws should the center continue to be kicked out of the circle. Thats part of the reason Julien credits the flexibility that allows the Bs to utilize either Kelly or Peverley as centers on the draw, and the same could be said of Bergeron and Marchand when wither of them is tossed out.

One thing thats clear is Andrew Ference hasnt completely put his injury woes behind him with the team traveling to Boston during an off-day of travel. Theres a void on the ice for leadership, intangibles and the willingness to play a physical brand of hockey, and Kelly has provided some of that in a package that plays roughly 15 minutes per night.One big difference that Julien has seen with both Peverley and Kelly: they've had to pay their dues and learn the little lessons of hockey in the minor league. Kelly played several seasons in the AHL and Peverley logged parts of two seasons in the ECHL. Blake Wheeler certainly had plenty ofsize and skating skill, but the instincts and attention to detail weren't always there given his jump straight from the University of Minnesota to the NHL.The new guys have those natural instincts honed in the minors."We've got to be careful we don't say everybody has to go through that, but it never hurts," saidJulienwhen asked about playing in theminors. "What it does is builds character, and they are character players. When you've gone through those leagues and ridden those buses and the schedules, even the situations you have to play through are never easy."It's like you can never be a great playerwithout going through some tough times. Some thing as a player and for coaches, and everything else. That's certainly what makes them now great character players."

Kelly might notlight up the scoresheet, but his "character" certainly gets the job done.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

The NHL trade deadline is now less than a week away, with plenty of movement expected despite the perpetual lack of sellers, and an expansion draft perhaps preventing some teams from taking on players they will then need to protect. 

The Bruins shouldn’t be much of a seller as long as they can continue their current good stretch for three more games before the March 1 deadline. The expansion draft shouldn’t be much of a scare either based on the players {Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Malcolm Subban) they might be in danger of losing to the Vegas Golden Knights this summer.

With the Bruins currently outside of a playoff spot by virtue of the one game in hand held by the Florida Panthers (both teams have 66 points vying for the final wild-card spot), it would be no surprise if GM Don Sweeney wanted to be a buyer at the deadline for a Boston roster that could use a big top-six winger with finishing ability, a top-four defenseman that can move the puck and a backup goaltender should Anton Khudobin have any more struggles this season.

The Bruins and Avalanche had been talking steadily in recent weeks about a possible deal for 24-year-old left wing Gabriel Landeskog, but those discussions have hit a standstill with Sweeney refusing to part with either Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy in the trade package. That's the 100 percent right move for a Bruins team that shouldn't start trading away blue chip D-man prospects. 

Landeskog has made sense for the Black and Gold because he’s signed long term with a reasonable $5.7 million cap hit, and because he’d theoretically be a good, power forward fit alongside David Krejci.

It’s that type of trade Sweeney and the Bruins are looking to make for a young player with term that will be part of the long-term solution in Boston. They aren’t looking for a repeat of last season where they shipped off good future assets in exchange for pedestrian rental players Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles and missed the playoffs anyway after dipping into the trade market.

In other words, Sweeney doesn’t sound all that keen in dipping heavily into the rental market, for a Patrick Eaves or a Dmitry Kulikov for instance, as he did a year ago.  

“Do I think we have an opportunity to make the playoffs? Absolutely, there’s no question this group has a chance to get in. Whether or not I can find a player between now and the deadline that sort of fills all those gaps, that does remain to be seen,” said Sweeney at the time of the Claude Julien firing, prior to the current four-game winning streak. 

“But I think it dovetails with the fact that I’m not going to be short-sighted. I’m going to stick to the longer term view as to what I have put in place with the intention of being able to bridge and bringing in players like David Backes and surround our guys that we get a chance to win now and be competitive now.

“I’d prefer to err on the side of a player that will integrate into us on the longer-term. Last year, we gave up draft picks. I wasn’t prepared to move players that I felt in the same regard that teams had asked for in order to get a higher-level rental or a different kind of rental. I’m not going to deviate from what I said. Are there players and we have a surplus? That’s what I want to try and evaluate and find out whether or not we can deal from a position of strength.”

Some of that may change after a current four-game winning streak with a Bruins team that looks much more playoff-worthy than the aimless group that struggled through the first 55 games. But it would have to be the perfect rental at the right price for it to make sense for the Bruins this time around and chances are that might not materialize for a team just looking to hang in there until McAvoy, Anders Bjork, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Zach Senyshyn are ready to contribute a couple of years down the road.

So, would people be okay if Sweeney and the Bruins stand pat at the trade deadline if they can’t swing a big hockey deal for a young player like Landeskog who would be part of the long-term plan? Is it acceptable to just let it ride with the current group that has suddenly shown a different gear under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, and bet on the core group rising to the occasion like they didn’t the last couple of years under Julien?

The answer from this humble hockey writer is that Sweeney should pass on anything less than a home run deal for the Black and Gold. The worst thing the Bruins GM could do is get in the way of the momentum that’s naturally starting to roll with his team, or make another severe misstep with his NHL talent evaluation. Right now, draft and development seem to be his strengths, and he should lean into those and away from being a wheeler dealer with wiser, more experienced managers around the NHL looking to once again rob the Black and Gold blind.

So, there’s a chance the Bruins do very little at the deadline and, after thinking about it, the fickle fans should be perfectly okay with that as they watch a newly transformed hockey club. 

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Talking Bruins with Ray Ferraro

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Talking Bruins with Ray Ferraro

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting ready for the February heat wave headed our way.

*In the interest of self-promotion, here’s a podcast I did on Tuesday talking Bruins with former Hartford Whalers great and current outstanding TSN hockey analyst Ray Ferraro, who is also a great FOH (Friend of Haggs).

*Good piece on a Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster that has already gained plenty of internet plaudits for his great, and now legendary, Nick Bonino goal call in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

*It’s never too early to look at this summer’s crop of NHL draft-eligible players. Right, Kevin Allen?

*Apparently Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews has his own rap song, so he’s got that going for him…which is nice.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer Jason Brough has James Wisniewski trying to revive his NHL career after a short stint in the KHL.

*There’s a call for Nashville backup Juuse Saros to get more playing time between the pipes for the Predators.

*Larry Brooks brings his always interesting take to the Bruins situation in allowing Claude Julien to take the head gig in Montreal, and said it all came down to money. Big surprise there. I think there was also a concern from the B’s about having another PR nightmare on their hands if it was perceived that they stepped in and didn’t allow Julien to gain employment someplace else, regardless of what waited for him in the offseason. It also tells me that the Bruins aren’t afraid of Julien coaching their arch-rivals, which makes perfect sense since they just fired him.

*For something completely different: the image of Woody Harrelson in the Falcon cockpit is both jarring and super awesome.