Experienced Cross taking a leadership role among B's prospects

713902.jpg

Experienced Cross taking a leadership role among B's prospects

WILMINGTON, Mass. Tommy Cross is finally ready for his Bruins Development Camp graduation.

The Boston College defensemen and Connecticut native was a part of the first development camp six years ago that included Milan Lucic and David Krejci, and has been tracked by the Bruins through his hockey career at the Heights.

In fact Bruins third round pick Matthew Grzelcyk remembered Cross being on the ice as he sat in the Ristuccia Arena stands a couple of years ago watching development camp as a 16-year-old Bruins fan.

That kind of makes Cross feel like the old guy at prospect camp, doesnt it?

ReallyGrzelcyk said that? said Cross. Wow, I guess that does make me feel a little old. Thanks for telling me that.

Development camp has been a great learning tool for me. It just so happened that I came to the first one when I was 17 years old and went to college for four years. I wouldnt change that experience at all.

In truth thats the kind of veteran presence that a strong, tough, stay-at-home defenseman prospect like Cross needs to exhibit, and will suit him well in the world of pro hockey after getting two AHL games under his belt at the end of last season.

Now the 22-year-old Cross is signed, sealed and delivered to the Bruins, and hes likely headed to the Providence Bruins for some AHL seasoning while preparing for a run at an NHL job. Cross helped the Eagles to a pair of NCAA championships and overcame knee injuries that hampered his development in college, and now the Bruins are hoping that the 6-foot-3, 195-pound bruiser develops that same winning aura in the pros as he did in college.

The guys in the AHL are older and its a little bit of a controlled style, said Cross, who put up 24 points in 44 games for Boston College last season. College hockey was a great place to learn, grow and prepare myself for a new level.

Much of that starts with attitude. Cross showed plenty of that in Saturdays practice session as he got tangled up with Jared Knight by the boards during a battle drill, and both players got in a little stick-work and shoving before heading back toward the benches.

Cross gave Knight a long glare at the end of the exchange, and thats exactly the kind of physicality, grit and attitude the Bruins are looking for out of the physically impressive defenseman.

Its good for Tommy. For him to be a National Hockey League player hes going to have to develop a bit of that edge. Knight is a guy that naturally bowls his way toward the net. Thats just the way he plays and Tommy is going to have to stop those kinds of players, said Cassidy. Its good for him to show some push-back and if he develops that side of his game that will be a good thing for him.

Providence Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said hed encourage Cross to watch video of Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg if hes looking for directions to take his on-ice game.

His first AHL game he was a little tentative, and we had a little chat about what he had to do better. That second game he was crisper, he was snapping passes and physical when he needed to be, said Cassidy. It was night and day, but its too small a sample size to say what well be getting out of him. But we need more of that second game guy.

Hes a very mature guy, hes a winner and I think hes going to figure it out. Whether hes good enough, who knows? But thats the game he needs to bring to us. Because hes a big-bodied guy he can be a Seidenberg-type player where he physically moves guys and can make that good first pass.

Nobody is expecting Cross to immediately show signs of German engineering in his game like Seidenberg, but thats a pretty lofty goal to shoot for a Boston College kid looking to make an impact in the Bs organization.

Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

bruins_islanders_riley_nash_2_032517.jpg

Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

BROOKLYN, NY – It wasn’t particularly entertaining and it won’t be all that memorable down the ride aside from the timing and importance of the meeting between the Bruins and Islanders. But it was a solid 2-1 team win for the Bruins over the Islanders at the Barclays Center on Saturday night with the B’s grinding all the way down to the end while protecting a one-goal lead through much of the third period.

Nearly everybody across Boston’s roster contributed in the major victory over the team trying to bypass them in the wild card standings, and it was a beautiful thing. Anton Khudobin stepped up when Tuukka Rask couldn’t start Saturday night’s showdown with a lower body issue, and Riley Nash supplied both Boston goals from a fourth line that’s played some of their best hockey lately.

It was unlikely heroes all around for the Black and Gold in the tightly-wound contest, but that diversity of talent and production can be a very good thing for a team looking to make that playoff push.

“You have to stay with it. You have to stay in the moment and stay with the game no matter what’s happening during the game. That’s how you get results, and that’s how you find ways to persevere through adversity,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We just got back to playing stingy, especially in the neutral zone. We got away from it the last few games, and it was nice tonight to be back playing a low-scoring game like what we’re used to playing.”

When it was all said and done the Bruins only allowed 19 shots on net and also killed off six penalties in the kind of grinding defensive showdown that you haven’t seen all that much out of the Black and Gold lately. It was exactly what Cassidy was looking for to snap the four-game losing streak, and once again start pushing the Bruins upward into the playoff chase.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard and fighting that hard to see pucks and find pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Cassidy. “From the goalie on out, everybody was in there [in the win]. It was a tough game. It was a nice Bruins win. We had been doing it with offense earlier, and we’ve got to be able to do it both ways. You need to be able to win 2-1 hockey games, and it had been awhile.”

Now it’s simply up to the Bruins to be feeling good about their latest win while going back to basics, and looking for more next time around after ending their worst losing streak of the season.

Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

bruins_anton_khudobin_032517.jpg

Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

BROOKLYN, NY – Things didn’t go so well last season for the Bruins when Tuukka Rask suddenly wasn’t well enough to play in the last game of the season, so there was good reason for the B’s to be a little nervous when their No. 1 goalie again couldn’t answer the bell Saturday night vs. the Islanders.

Anton Khudobin had won four games in a row headed into Saturday night, of course, and in his previous start he’d helped snap a 10-game winning streak for the Calgary Flames. So perhaps it wasn’t all that surprising when Khudobin stood tall for the Bruins making 18 saves in a tight, nervy 2-1 win over the Isles at the Barclays Center.

“You don’t have that many shots, but maybe 10 scoring chances…that can be tougher than seeing 30 shots and same amount of scoring chances,” said Khudobin. “But I’m glad got the job done, we got our points and we got the ‘W’.”

It wasn’t wall-to-wall action in a game where both teams combined for 37 shots on net, but it was still impressive that Khudobin and the B’s special teams killed off six Islander power plays in such a tight hockey game. After the B’s backup netminder was lauded for the way he battled in the crease and competed for pucks like his team’s very life was on the line in a pivotal game.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard, and fighting that hard to see pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I loved his performance. He’s a battler. He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby. He keeps it interesting for you. He’s a battler and he always has been. That’s what we needed tonight.”

One could spend days analyzing Cassidy's words and wondering much of that was deserved, appreciative praise for Khudobin, and how much of that might have been a veiled message to Boston's No. 1 goaltender sitting back home in Boston. 

The best save of the night probably won’t even count as a save for the Russian netminder. It was John Tavares, after having beaten Khudobin once in the first period, moving into the offensive zone with speed during a third period power play, and getting an open look at the net front in the high slot. Khudobin thought quickly and dropped into the unconventional double-stack pad save that seemed to throw Tavares off just a little, and the Isles sniper smoked the shot off the crossbar rather than tying up the game.

“I didn’t touch it. I didn’t really have time to get there, so the only thing I tried to do was the two-pad stack, old school Bob Essensa-style,” said Khudobin, who has now improved to 6-5-1 with a 2.60 goals against and an .899 save percentage this season. “Then he hit the crossbar. You need to get some luck in this league, and if you don’t get luck you’re going to lose games.”

A little luck and a little good, old-fashioned battling between the pipes was enough for Khudobin and the Bruins in Saturday night’s mammoth win. Now the questions become whether or not to go right back to Khudobin again on Tuesday at home against the Nashville Predators.