Bruins take care of business vs. Islanders

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Bruins take care of business vs. Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. The sleepy effort and near-loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this week might have been the best thing that happened to the Bruins prior to their 6-0 win against the Islanders on Saturday.

With big divisional tilts against the Montreal Canadiens, who humbled the Bruins with a home-and-home sweep at the end of October, and the Buffalo Sabres, who will be looking for revenge after the Milan LucicRyan Miller brouhaha last weekend, the Black and Gold skaters wouldnt be blamed if they thoroughly overlooked a date with the Isles at Nassau Coliseum.

After all, the Bruins had already nailed the Islanders by a 6-3 score earlier two weeks ago, and New York is having serious issues with two wins in their last 10 games to go along with a minus-21 goal differential. The Islanders have taken their rightful place in the Eastern Conference basement, and it wouldnt have been shocking to see the Bruins feel their way through the first 20 minutes.

We know when they score first that theyre a good hockey team, and we wanted to get that first goal and build off it, said Chris Kelly, who potted a pair of goals and enjoyed his first three point game with the Bruins. We wanted to start this road trip off on the right foot. The Islanders have good offensive weapons and if we overlooked them they were going to bury us. We needed a solid 60-minute effort and we got it.

Instead the Bruins slugged the Islanders with a series of haymaker shots and knocked Isles goaltender Rick DiPietro out of the game with three goals on the strength of 13 shots. The second period effort wasnt quite as effective in sealing New Yorks fate, but the Bruins were so good in the first 20 minutes that the Islanders never mounted a serious comeback in Tim Thomas 28th career shutout in the 6-0 win on Long Island. After the game the Bs pointed to the Columbus game as the kind of fortunate wakeup call that reminded them just how easily another hockey team can creep up and bit them if they become unsuspecting enough.

You cant just let up on a team, or have any letdown, said Patrice Bergeron, who scored the teams first goal and finished with a plus-1 in 16:46 of ice time. The parody in the league is too good to do so. It was important for us to have a good effort and bounce back from that last game against Columbus.

Any hockey team needs those kinds of on-ice reminders from the leagues whipping boys, and New York certainly qualifies after monumental struggles over the last few years have kept them at the bottom of the East standings. Claude Juliens philosophy headed into the game was for the Bruins to hit the Islanders quickly with a flurry in the first period that would discourage the team in rapid fashion, and thats exactly how it played out when Tyler Seguin cut through Steve Staios and Mark Streit before dishing to Patrice Bergeron for the quick goal.

DiPietros breakdown followed with goals allowed to Nathan Horton and Chris Kelly, and the Bruins were off-and-running while laughing at the notion of a trap game while Boston fans chanted Lets Go Bruins at an emptying Nassau Coliseum.

These kinds of teams are always hard to play against, said Claude Julien. That might not have shown because we played them tight tonight and respected their game. The only way we were going to get back into the race was to get going on some kind of a streak here. It doesnt matter how many games weve won here because were still just hanging on to the last playoff spot or slipping out of it. Weve got to get ourselves into a better playoff position than that.

Now its on to the Montreal and Buffalo legs of the road trip, and games that wont be taking the Bruins by surprise. Julien will be happy to know the Bs find themselves in the seventh spot among the top eight playoff teams in the East after their eighth straight victory, and have a whole point of breathing room.

The Bs will need to keep the pedal down over the next two grudge match road games if they hope to solidify that in time for their return trip home on Thanksgiving.

Haggerty: Loss of Colin Miller not a significant one for Bruins

Haggerty: Loss of Colin Miller not a significant one for Bruins

There will be some that will absolutely crucify the Bruins for losing Colin Miller in Wednesday night’s expansion draft, and rail against an asset that was lost for nothing. Those people will also miss the absolutely essential point that the whole raison d’etre for an expansion draft is to remove assets from each of the 30 NHL teams, and do it without a cost for the benefit of the new franchise opening up shop in Las Vegas.

It could have been much worse for the Black and Gold as some teams were shipping first round picks to Vegas to shelter their own players from expansion selection, and other teams were losing essential players like James Neal, Marc Methot and David Perron from their respective rosters. The B’s didn’t entertain overpaying simply to avoid losing a useful player, and clearly, they did lose a talented, still undeveloped player in the 24-year-old Miller, who now may be flipped to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a side deal with Vegas.

But let’s be honest here. A whole lot of people are vastly overestimating a player in Miller that’s long on tools and very short on putting them together, and they’re also vastly underestimating Kevan Miller. The younger Miller can skate like the wind and has a bazooka of a shot when he winds up and fires his clapper at the net.

But despite those clear offensive talents, Colin had the same number of points as stay-at-home defenseman Kevan this season despite the bigger, stronger and older Miller playing three less games this season. Kevan also had more goals (five) and more points (18) than Colin did two years ago in his rookie season for Boston.

This isn’t to say that Colin doesn’t have more discernible offensive skill than Kevan when it comes to moving the puck or creating offense. He does, but all that talent hasn’t manifested into real points, real offense or anything else for the Black and Gold over the last couple of seasons. At a certain point, a prospect like Colin needs to put all the tools together into production on the ice if he wants to become the sum of his hockey parts, and that hasn’t happened in two full seasons in Boston.

Instead, Miller continues to struggle with decision-making with the puck, consistency and finding ways to turn the quality skating and shot package into any kind of playmaking on the ice. Miller had his challenges defensively and he was never going to be the most physical guy on the ice, but those could have been overlooked if he was lighting it up in the offensive zone on a regular basis.

Plain and simple that wasn’t happening, and over the last season 20-year-old Brandon Carlo and 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy passed Miller on the organizational depth chart for right shot defenseman, and either Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller would slot in as the third pairing D-man on the right side. It’s clear at this point that Colin Miller needs more time and patience if he’s ever going to develop as a late-blooming defenseman at the NHL level, and he wasn’t going to get those opportunities to develop in Boston.

So how good can Colin Miller really be if he was about to get buried on a Boston defensive depth chart without much hope of being in the starting six every night unless he was able to magically transform himself into a top-4 guy on the left side?

Clearly, there is risk here as Miller could move on to Toronto, develop into the player that posted 19 goals and 52 points in the AHL a couple of seasons ago and torment the Bruins for the next five-plus years. It would become another arrow in the quiver of those critics looking to hammer GM Don Sweeney and President Cam Neely at every turn, and it would generate massive “Why can’t we get players like that?” homages to the legendary Bob Lobel all across New England.    

But there’s just as good a chance that Kevan Miller will still be throwing hits and soaking up heavy minutes of ice time for the Bruins three years down the road, and that Colin Miller will be out of the league after never harnessing together his considerable talent. Perhaps Sweeney could have been better about securing an asset for Miller ahead of the expansion draft if he knew he was going to lose that player for nothing to Vegas.

The bottom line is that the Bruins were going to lose somebody to Las Vegas in the expansion draft, and the Golden Knights weren’t going to do them any favors by taking on misfit toys like Jimmy Hayes, Malcolm Subban or Matt Beleskey. They did instead lose a player with plenty of raw talent in Colin Miller, but it’s not exactly somebody that’s going to be missed in Boston once Carlo and McAvoy start showing just how bright the B’s future is on the back end starting next season. 

Bergeron makes Bruins history with fourth Selke Trophy

Bergeron makes Bruins history with fourth Selke Trophy

Patrice Bergeron made hockey history on Wednesday night at the NHL Awards Show in easily the best moment of the evening for the Bruins.

That’s right. Boston’s beloved No. 37 won the fourth Selke Trophy of his career at the NHL Awards presentation recognizing the standouts from the 2016-17 season, and in doing so Bergeron became only the second player in NHL history (Bob Gainey) to win the defensive award in four different seasons. The Habs legend Gainey made the presentation of the award to No. 37 at the event, and it certainly felt like the passing of the Selke baton from the best defensive forward of the last generation to the best defensive forward of this generation.  

“I’m humbled. It’s a huge honor. It’s also a huge honor to get [the award] from Mr. Gainey. He’s somebody I looked up to and he was a great role model for kids when I was growing up,” said Bergeron. “It’s a huge honor that I couldn’t do without everybody back home in Boston.”

This particular award had to be extra sweet for the 31-year-old Bergeron after playing injured for the entire season while battling through the discomfort of a sports hernia, and in doing so helping to lead the improving B’s back into the playoffs.

Clearly, Bergeron’s teammates were pumped for him as Brad Marchand tweeted out a little line love after the awards were announced.

Bergeron was the NHL's busiest player in the face-off circle for the third consecutive season, leading the league with 1,812 draws and 1,089 winning face-offs. His draw winning percentage of 60.1% ranked third in the NHL, and he did so while continuing to score high in the puck-possession statistical categories across the league. Bergeron finished with 71 first place votes ahead of second place Ryan Kesler, and third place Mikko Koivu with 28 first place votes.

In the other good news department, Bergeron told reporters in Las Vegas that he’s feeling good physically following surgery and should be healthy and ready to go at the start of next season.