Boston Bruins

Bruins see Canucks showdown as just another game

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Bruins see Canucks showdown as just another game

WILMINGTON -- Here we go.

The Bruins and Canucks, a rematch of last year's Stanley Cup Final. It's all or nothing on Saturday afternoon at the TD Garden.

Right?

Well, maybe not exactly. Vancouver may very well have something to prove. But the Bruins? They know this isn't the Stanley Cup Final.

Sure, they want the two points. The B's realize they're one point behind the New York Rangers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They understand that the Canucks are the top team in the West.

But as far as the build-up leading into Saturday afternoon's game, it's not what some outside the dressing room may make of it.

"I don't think it's as much as people think it is," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after Friday's practice at Ristuccia Arena. "The Finals was last year, and we did what we had to do, and we succeeded in that. We had to come back this year, and it's a league game. I'm not going to stand here and say it means absolutely nothing. There was a rivalry that was built there, that I'm sure both teams are going to go into tomorrow's game knowing that.

"But I don't think it's any different than the rivalry we have with Philadelphia or other teams that we've played, Montreal. It's just going to be one of those intense games. But certainly, I wouldn't read more into it than that. There's no Stanley Cup at the end of tomorrow's game, but certainly, it's a battle of two teams that feel they're good teams, and certainly will want to measure themselves to each other.

"I don't think we're putting all our eggs in one basket, as far as saying this is a must-win or a do-or-die situation," added Julien. "It's a league game, and we'd like to get the two points for the right reasons, and nothing more than that."

Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton agreed.

"It's a good challenge for us," said Thornton on Friday. "As far as extra build-up and stuff, I guess because we played them in the Finals, it was a pretty emotional Final. And the Final should be emotional. You're in the wrong place if you don't have emotion at that time of year. But as for this one, it's game, whatever it is, 38 for us. It'll be a good test. I think there's more build-up to it than there needs to be."

Milan Lucic expects to have a physical presence on Saturday. And he said on Friday that he's enjoying the hype.

"I think it's great that there's a build-up towards it," said Lucic. "Both teams I think are excited going into this game, as we should be. Both didn't really have the starts that we wanted, and both teams picked up their game and are on top of the league. So it makes it more interesting that there's a lot that we're playing for.

"It's a big two points for us. In the Eastern Conference, the Rangers are playing well. They're still ahead of us, and it's a chance for us to be first in the whole league, if we win this game. So it's definitely a big game for us, and we're looking forward to the challenge."

The Bruins watched the Canucks play the San Jose Sharks on television, Monday. They see the same type of Vancouver team that they saw in last year's Cup Final: a speedy, skilled, puck-possession team that enjoys getting their defensemen involved because of their solid goaltending.

"Their game hasn't changed," said Julien. "They had a great year last year, and had a lot of success with the way they play, and they believe in the way they play. And we believe in the way we play. So I don't think much has changed, as far as what we should be looking for. We should be looking for the same things we did last year when we played them."

When asked if he was concerned that the Canucks would use Saturday as a "statement" game and play more physical, Julien said that's not something the Bruins are concerned about.

"We're built to handle that if that comes, we'll deal with it then," he said. "But we're certainly not preparing ourselves for that. That's not what our main focus is on. It's about playing a solid game the way we've been playing all year. Whatever build-up people want to make of it, we're going out there and playing the game that we know we can."

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.