Exelby waiting for a chance to prove himself with Bruins

911411.jpg

Exelby waiting for a chance to prove himself with Bruins

NORTH SMITHFIELD, RI Garnet Exelby is right out of the veteran pro hockey defenseman handbook.

The 31-year-old has 408 games of NHL experience over seven seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers and Toronto Maple Leafs, and established himself in Atlanta as a sturdy, tough blueliner with the ability to drop the gloves when theres a need for some hockey violence.

Hes seen and done everything at this point in his pro career, and that allows him to be a good veteran influence on a decidedly young P-Bruins defenseman corps in need of some graybeard tutelage. Exelby called that paying it forward after current Toronto Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins took him under his wing during the defensemans early NHL days in Atlanta.

I love it. Its a great way to see the other side of things. It wasnt that long ago that I had some great mentors and veteran guys that helped me when I was first breaking in, said Exelby. I really used that to my advantage when I was younger. Anything I can do to help I definitely will. Anything thats going to help the team is going to make us look better individually.

My first D partner in the NHL was Dallas Eakins and I played almost exclusively with him for two years. I just sponged up as much as he could tell me. I was very close with Brad McCrimmon, and Brad told me to stick close to Dallas and listen to what he said. It helped me a lot, so I anytime I can pay it forward with a tip or two Im going to do that.

But Exelby also hasnt been an NHL regular since registering 51 games for a bad Toronto Maple Leafs outfit in 2009-10, and has a deep hunger to get back to The Show after a couple of years in the American Hockey League. The 31-year-old knew that the Bruins were down a veteran defenseman when they didnt resign Greg Zanon in free agency, and that pushed him in the direction of Boston and a three-way battle with Aaron Johnson and rookie Dougie Hamilton for that sixth spot among the Bs blueline crew.

I know that a guy like me fits well with this organization, said Exelby. Last year I was in the Detroit Red Wings organization last year and that was exactly the opposite in regard to being a good fit. I know they lost one D-man to free agency, so there were some holes up there where they might need a veteran guy up in Boston.

Thats always a part of the decision-making, but Im always trying to get back to the NHL. Thats my No. 1 priority and No. 1 goal. Ive played most of my career and I just want another shot to get there again.

Clearly the 19-year-old Hamilton has the inside track given his first round cachet and the dominance hes shown at the junior hockey level, but that also leaves a potential extra defenseman role for Johnson who couldnt report to Providence after ending the season on an NHL roster with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Exelby. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder will happily play the role of veteran defenseman on an AHL team full of young talent, and then wait for a chance to show that hes still NHL-caliber when theres an opening in Boston.

It also doesnt hurt that his particular set of hockey skills meshes nicely with the blue collar mantra of the Bruins organization.

The physical part of the game is a big part of my game as well, said Exelby. The Bruins are a big, gritty team with a lot of tough, physical players. Thats exactly how I like to play and how Ive always played.

If that chance opens up for me in Boston to step and prove myself or re-prove myself I am willing and ready.

Meanwhile Exelby will wait out the NHL lockout like all the other members of the Providence Bruins roster and try make a good impression as the Big Bs brass is watching.

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

penguins_guentzel_052917.jpg

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

cp_morning_skate-.jpg

Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while hoping everybody on this Memorial Day takes some time to appreciate all of those that made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. We should also take a moment to say thanks to people like the three heroes in Oregon that stood up to a hateful bigot earlier this week, and in doing so reaffirmed what the majority of people living in the US believe we are all about while trying to live up to that ideal every day.
 
-- A number of NHL legends are shaking their heads at the dirty play that we’re seeing in these playoffs, particularly those plays targeting the superstars that people pay big money to see in the postseason. Why should anybody be shocked by this? The rooting out of enforcers, and fighting, has taken accountability out of the game for the cheap-shot artists and dirty players, and leaves little real deterrant for players looking to take out opponents with dangerous plays. I wrote about this a couple of years ago when the NHL threw the book at Shawn Thornton for going after Brooks Orpik, and in doing so chose to protect somebody trying to hurt opponents (Orpik) and punish somebody trying to protect his teammates (Thornton). It was a sea change for the league, and something players didn’t forget as more and more enforcers were quickly weeded out of the NHL. This is what the rule-makers and legislators wanted, and now it’s what they’re getting just a couple of years later with dangerous stick-work, cheap shots and a general lack of respect for fellow players.
 
-- Here's why the Tampa Bay Lightning would consider trading a player like Jonathan Drouin, and the major impact that could have on the offseason trade market.
 
-- Down Goes Brown has a Stanley Cup Final rooting guide for the other 28 other fan bases now that Nashville and Pittsburgh are in the final series.

-- So which goaltender has the edge in the Stanley Cup Final: Nashville's Pekka Rinne, or Pittsburgh's two-headed monster of Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury?
 
-- Scotty Bowman says winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles has become monumentally difficult since the advent of the salary cap.
 
-- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are pushing each other to be betters, and showing exactly how a team should be led by its superstars in the salary-cap era for the league.
 
-- For something completely different: We can confirm through this report that a lot of hot dogs are eaten in the summertime. So glad we have people to research these kinds of things.