Isles' Grabner steals rookie show at Garden

191545.jpg

Isles' Grabner steals rookie show at Garden

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- It was the tale of two rookies. Both first-round picks. Both at the TD Garden on Wednesday night.

But only one was playing.

Unlike Bruins rookie forward Tyler Seguin, New York Islanders rookie winger Michael Grabner wasn't drafted last summer. He was taken 14th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2006. Seguin was taken second overall in 2010.

But having only played 20 games last season for the Canucks, Grabner is still categorized as a rookie this season with the Islanders.

On Wednesday night at the TD Garden, while the healthy-scratched Seguin sat high above the ice on the ninth floor, New York's rookie scored his team's only two goals, giving him 33 on the season in 74 games.

Grabner leads all rookies in goals, and is a clear-cut candidate for the Calder Memorial Trophy.

In fairness to Seguin, Grabner -- while a previous first-round pick -- is four years older. And since being drafted in 2006, Grabner had played three full seasons in the AHL prior to what's now being called his "rookie" year.

Still, Grabner hasn't disappointed the Islanders since being picked off waivers in October. The Florida Panthers placed him on those waivers with the purpose of sending him to their minor-league team.

Grabner went to New York with something to prove, after Vancouver traded him to the Panthers' organization at the 2010 NHL draft, the same draft in which the Bruins selected Seguin No. 2 overall.

Neither player's rookie campaign can be compared to the other. That was evident on Wednesday night as Grabner tied the game at 1-1 in the opening minutes of the second period with a one-timer from the right circle on a power play. He followed it up later in the period by cutting the Bruins' lead to 3-2, after he flat out beat Tomas Kaberle to a race to the puck at center ice, while the Islanders were on the penalty kill.

Grabner took the puck and skated in all alone, only to beat Tim Thomas with a deke and a quick flip into the top-right corner of the net.

"What can you say? It's almost like, when you chip a puck out into the neutral zone, he's got a chance to track that puck down, and make something very exciting happen," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano after his team's 3-2 loss to Boston. "And that's what happened tonight. We got a little turnover, and Josh Bailey just chipped it out, and Grabner made a great move on Thomas there.

"He's just been working hard," added Capuano on his speedy winger. "And when you work hard in practice, and you do the right things, it pays off for you."

That's not to say Seguin doesn't work hard in practice, or do the right things when he's on the ice. After all, the 19-year-old has played in 72 games this season, totaling 11 goals and 11 assists.

And perhaps if the Bruins weren't one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, Seguin would have the luxury of playing more minutes, and seeing consistent time on the top line.

But Boston coach Claude Julien is in a position where, not only does he not have to give Seguin those minutes, but he doesn't even have to dress him, regardless of how hard he might work, and how much more improved he's looked in recent weeks.

The Bruins are playing for a Stanley Cup. The Islanders are, well, playing two more regular-season games and then teeing off.

It still can't be denied that Grabner's individual rookie season has been better than Seguin's. But those factors -- older, more experienced, getting plenty of ice time on a going-nowhere team with no expectations -- will always make one wonder what the results would have been if the shoe were on the other foot.

"It was nice to get a couple goals," said Grabner. "Obviously, it would be nicer to have a win in the bag. I'm just not going to change my game. I think the whole team worked hard tonight.

"Like I said before, I just try to go out there and play my game," added Grabner. "I was drafted to score goals. It has been going good this year. Hopefully I can keep it up the last couple of games."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

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.