Boston Bruins

Bruins looking to bury their chances

562420.jpg

Bruins looking to bury their chances

WILMINGTON Right now the Bruins are allowing more goals (19) than theyre scoring (18), and thats not a recipe for success. The Bs are in the bottom third in the NHL with 2.25 goals per game, tied for 21st with the Dallas Stars, and they spent much of Monday morning at Ristuccia Arena working on finishing plays in the scoring areas.

The Bs started practice without Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask and instead placed four nets around the practice ice to encourage the players to shoot the puck often and go under the bar with their offensive attempts. It was an appropriate first step in three straight days of practice leading up to a home-and-home series against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday and Saturday night.

Were trying to improve our scoring and getting better in those areas is something thats pretty important to us, said coach Claude Julien. Weve done this in the past . . . Its not the first time and hopefully it helps us along the way.

Weve got an opportunity to work on those kinds of things. I dont think were that far off, but weve just got to clean up a couple of areas that will allow us to score a little bit more. At the other end, too, I think we can do a little better and a little stingier. At both ends we could be a little bit better, balance things out and turn some of those losses into wins.

Skilled forwards like Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, along with defenseman Zdeno Chara, have gotten off to slow starts offensively given their abilities, and the Bs fourth line has only registered one point on the entire season. Second-year forward Tyler Seguin is off to a point-per-game start, but the rest of the Bs players know that its time to start finishing off some of the plays that have been out there on the ice for them.

There have been enough posts and crossbars already in eight games to last half a season for the Black and Gold, and anecdotally the Bs slow starts are partially due to the teams inability to finish off scoring chances early in the game. That was part of the story in the loss to the Sharks Saturday night, and its something the players are looking to correct.

You can have confidence and you just miss the net or the goalie makes a good stop, said Johnny Boychuk. But youve got to keep that confidence, so youll know you'll bury your chances the next time.

If you look at the game against San Jose we probably out-chanced them 2-to-1 by the end of the game. It seemed like we were taking the play to them. We just have to make sure were making good on our chances. We just need to make sure if we get a chance that were putting it in the net.

Thus far its a far cry from the Bruins team that averaged 2.98 goals per game last year, but its nearly the same cast of Bs characters as last season. The absence of Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder and Tomas Kaberle shouldnt be a mortal blow to the Bruins offense, so offensive answers are there.

Its just up to the Bruins to find the shooting range, and they were working on manufacturing that offense yet again Monday morning.

Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

bruins_ryan_spooner_031715.jpg

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.   

Morning Skate: Markov's time with Canadiens likely up

canadiens_andrei_markov_072617.jpg

Morning Skate: Markov's time with Canadiens likely up

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading while once again shaking my head reading the news headlines this morning. 

 

*Congrats to FOH (Friend of Haggs) Aaron Portzline, who is another esteemed hockey writer joining up with The Athletic’s Cleveland bureau

 

*Eric Engels says that the Habs signing Mark Streit to a short term deal means that Andrei Markov’s time in Montreal has come to a close. 

 

*The writers for the Pittsburgh Penguins have provided what they call “an Intimate Portrait” of Sidney Crosby from his closest boyhood friends. 

 

*Longtime NHL head coach Bruce Boudreau is trying something a little different out as an owner of a junior hockey team. 

 

*The Nashville Predators are expecting a decision to come soon on Mike Fisher as to whether or not he’s going to keep on playing in Music City. 

 

*Sounds like Mika Zibanejad is going to be filling a No. 1 center role for the New York Rangers after signing a big contract with the Blueshirts. 

 

*For something completely different: Jay Baruchel is looking to revive the Canadian superhero scene after growing up with Captain Canada and Alpha Flight.