Morning Skate 56: B's ready to 'do some damage'

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Morning Skate 56: B's ready to 'do some damage'

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON So heres an interesting tweet from the NHL that really explains how important closing things out is for the Bruins: @NHL: Did you know? Bruins are 1 "W" away from their 1st conf. final since '92. Only other teams who haven't made final 4 since: Phx CBJ Nas Atl.Thats right. Only the orphan Coyotes' franchise in Glendale, the small-market, NHL version of the Minnesota Twins (Nashville), and the downtrodden hockey franchises in Columbus and Atlanta have been held out of the conference finals since 1992 . . . along with the Original Six Black and Gold.If the Bs want to make a statement, then its time to borrow a few pop culture phrases: the always favored Sweep the Leg from the Karate Kid and Finish Him! command from the classic Mortal Kombat video game. The Bruins have the Philadelphia Flyers reeling, doubting themselves and severely regretting their decision to solve their goaltending issues on the cheap for this season. Theres also the statement that the Bruins know they can make by stepping on the Broad Street Bullies while the team is down, and in doing so fully vanquishing the questions about last years debacle against Philly in Games 4-7.
Brad Marchand is one of the new guys that never got on the ice last playoffs when he was scratched in favor of veteran Trent Whitfield during the postseason, and the smallest guy on the ice is ready to make the biggest difference in a closeout game.Its always a tough battle, but we have the home-ice advantage, said Marchand. You have to keep the collapse in the back of your mind just in case you need to use it whether youre up or down. We have a different team and I think over the half of the guys are new on the team this year.Its a new mentality. We have a great crew here and we know we can do some damage. If were focused and playing hard then were going to put ourselves in a good position. Theres a ton of pressure on us. Everybody is going to be looking at us to see if were going to fold. We have to make sure we keep that stuff away from our team and stay prepared for the game.On to the links: The Edmonton Journal explores how possible it is that the Oilers could end up leaving Edmonton for another city looking for a hockey team. Yahoo! Sports catches with Jaromir Jagr to talk about a possible return to the NHL, concussions and life in the KHL as a veritable hockey deity on Russia. The Globe and Mail has a good piece on a player from a different generation that shows hockey players did get concussions in the Old Time Hockey days and are trying to help pave the way for research. TSNs Scott Cullen has a look at Vancouvers Ryan Kesler, who plunged a dagger into the Nashville Predators on Thursday night in their series and has the Canucks poised for the kill. Damien Cox is catching the Smashville fever while watching the Predators go through the postseason, and win or lose they are a hockey success story in a non-hockey market. Jaspers Rink has a good look at Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, and the vultures flying around his office in the Nations capital after another early playoff exit. The Green Men have taken over the NHL and were in Nashville last night amusing Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban as they took in the PredatorsCanucks tilt at Bridgestone Arena. Good stuff from NHL draft guru Kirk Luedeke asking if the Memorial Cup and championship-level junior teams produce better hockey prospects than other comparative teams around junior hockey.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

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.