Boston Bruins

Notes: Kessel breaks through against Bruins

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Notes: Kessel breaks through against Bruins

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON It would seem that the odds finally caught up to the Bruins.

For nine games the Bruins defense chewed up and spit out Phil Kessel every chance they got, and completely shutdown the winger in the goal-scoring department.

And everybody knows that Kessel without the goal-scoring ability isnt much of a hockey player at all. But the young right wing instead heeded the advice of the Toronto coaching staff, and changed the tape on his stick from white to black just prior to Tuesday nights game.

The change in tape led to Kessel potting a pair of goals including the game-tying strike in the third period on the way to a 4-3 victory for Toronto in a home tilt at the Garden that went completely awry.

The first goal opened up Torontos scoring in the first period, and the second goal was a sweet individual move that saw Phil the Thrill blow right by Dennis Seidenberg on the way to scoring a goal past Tim Thomas. With the two goals, Kessel had his first goals against his former team and also blew up a 14-game goal-scoring drought in the process.

The youngster was the first to admit that his lack of success at the Garden was undeniable, but didnt seem to publicly bask in the boos raining down on him after he made his former team pay the price with two goals.

I havent done anything in this building yet, until tonight, said Kessel. They are a very good team over there and we were fortunate to come out of here with a win.

Toronto coach Ron Wilson saw a pair of players in Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski that were giving that extra little bit of hustle, and doing battle with Zdeno Chara despite the fact the big defenseman level Grabovski at least twice throughout the game.

That was without a doubt Phils best game, not just because he scored, said Wilson. He was in on the forecheck, he was in banging around with Zdeno Chara and he did a good job in our end, too. He won some battles on the boards and he changed the color of the tape on his stick. I dont know if anybody noticed, he went from white to black.

Kessel certainly noticed the change in his sticks, and perhaps thats something more players will take into account when theyre putting together a summer plan.

Patrice Bergeron potted his 20th goal of the season in the third period, and in doing so put together the third 20-goal season of his career. It was also the first time that Bergeron has potted 20 goals in a season since prior to the horrific concussion suffered at the hands of Randy Jones and the Philadelphia Flyers in 2007-08.

The goal was a beauty with Bergeron simply defeating Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf during a battle in front of the net for a rebound, and then Bergeron popped in a second-effort attempt to give Boston short-lived lead. From there it was collapse, and thats what the Bruins need to work on despite Bergerons abilities to compete and succeed.

You hope so. And were a team that normally is capable of closing when you take the lead in the third. The goals that we gave up after that were just bad goals, and its not just one mistake, said Claude Julien. Its two and three. There was different ways of preventing those.

We all have to take blame in the way that our team is playing right now and Im going to put myself in that as well. Right now we need to be a little bit more emotionally involved in these games.

Peter Chiarelli indicated that because Chris Kelly was a Canadian native playing for a Canadian team in Ottawa, visa problems would likely make it impossible for the Senators center to participate in practice on Wednesday.

Daniel Paille returned from a four-game suspension and potted the teams first goal of the night to give the Bruins an early 1-0 lead.

I definitely wanted to make an impact as soon as possible, whether it was a check or just keep moving my feet and getting to the puck first, said Paille. You know I did that but I needed to continue to do it throughout the whole game and we kept getting power plays and penalty kills so it was tough to get out there five on five.

Johnny Boychuk was a healthy scratch for the first time this season on Tuesday night against the Leafs with Adam McQuaid, Mark Stuart and Steve Kampfer playing effectively for Bostons blueline corps.

I think his battle is still good and stuff like that, said Julien. But I think, again, when it comes to puck decision hes had his fair share of challenges there.

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

Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

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Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

The Bruins and Ryan Spooner wisely came to a contract agreement on a one-year, $2.825 million deal just prior to the start of Wednesday’s arbitration hearing. Don Sweeney hasn’t yet taken a B’s player to arbitration during his three years running the Black and Gold, and it could have grown unnecessarily contentious with a player like Spooner if they’d been forced to point out his flaws as a player in the uncomfortable setting of an arbitration hearing.

“It’s a fair deal for both sides in our opinion,” said Spooner’s agent Murray Kuntz to CSN after the one-year contract had been agreed upon. 

Now that Spooner has been signed to the one-year deal, it represents the last chance for the 25-year-old to show some growth as a player if he wants to be a member of the Bruins for much. Spooner has averaged 12 goals and 44 points over the last two seasons as Boston’s third line center, and has amassed 35 PP points while serving as the trigger man on Boston’s power play from the right-side half-wall. 

But he dropped from 49 points two seasons ago to 39 points last year, and didn’t exactly flourish under the more offensive-minded coaching of Bruce Cassidy. 

Spooner is an excellent special teams player and has been one of the key ingredients in Boston finishing with the NHL’s 7th ranked power play in each of the last two seasons. But he tailed off badly late last season after suffering a concussion, and showed so much tentativeness in his overall game that he became a healthy scratch by the end of Boston’s first round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. Spooner also continues to sit under a 40 percent success rate in the face-off circle, and shows little consistent interest in winning one-on-one battles anywhere along the ice.

The work on the draws is something, in particular, that comes down to hard work and diligence at practice, and should be an area Spooner can become at least average while practicing every day against a face-off maestro like Patrice Bergeron.  

All of this might be easier to overlook if he consistently utilized his excellent skating speed and considerable skill level to create offense during 5-on-5 play, but that hasn’t been the case enough over the last couple of seasons. A one-year deal for $2.85 gives Spooner one last opportunity to show some growth in those areas with the Bruins, and if he doesn’t then it should be fully expected the Bruins will rekindle trade discussions around Spooner. 

His situation is unmistakable: Spooner isn't going to be a top-6 center with the B's because Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are firmly entrenched at this spots, and Spooner really doesn't have the right skill set to be a fourth line center. So it's third line center or bust for Spooner as the internal competition grows around him. 

Spooner is now 25 years old and should no longer be viewed as a young player that’s still in the development phase. He should be close to a finished NHL product, and may not get demonstrably better in any area of his game if he doesn’t show it this upcoming season. He was one of the main pieces discussed when the Bruins talked trade with the Minnesota Wild prior to them dealing Marco Scandella to Buffalo, and there is clearly trade value for the former second round pick. 

But the Bruins also have a potential third line center replacement in Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson after signing him out of Boston University at the end of last season. Forsbacka Karlsson may need some AHL time to start this season after looking overmatched in his only NHL appearance late last season, but he’s the eventual two-way center replacement for Spooner in the long term. 

Forsbacka Karlsson may not be as fast or as flashy as Spooner, but he projects to be better on draws, better at winning battles and puck possession and better at being more difficult to play against while boasting his own set of offensive skills. 

It’s now up to Spooner to win that training camp competition with Forsbacka Karlsson for his current third line center position, and protect his own spot on the B’s roster by playing like his very job security depends on it. If he doesn’t show that kind of urgency and hop to his game right from the start of training camp, then it’s only a matter of time before he becomes trade fodder at a salary cap number ($2.825 million) that should be easy to move.

It’s no hyperbole to say that Spooner is entering his final chance with the Black and Gold after avoiding arbitration, and it’s wholly up to him to dictate exactly how long it lasts for.   

Morning Skate: Markov's time with Canadiens likely up

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Morning Skate: Markov's time with Canadiens likely up

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading while once again shaking my head reading the news headlines this morning. 

 

*Congrats to FOH (Friend of Haggs) Aaron Portzline, who is another esteemed hockey writer joining up with The Athletic’s Cleveland bureau

 

*Eric Engels says that the Habs signing Mark Streit to a short term deal means that Andrei Markov’s time in Montreal has come to a close. 

 

*The writers for the Pittsburgh Penguins have provided what they call “an Intimate Portrait” of Sidney Crosby from his closest boyhood friends. 

 

*Longtime NHL head coach Bruce Boudreau is trying something a little different out as an owner of a junior hockey team. 

 

*The Nashville Predators are expecting a decision to come soon on Mike Fisher as to whether or not he’s going to keep on playing in Music City. 

 

*Sounds like Mika Zibanejad is going to be filling a No. 1 center role for the New York Rangers after signing a big contract with the Blueshirts. 

 

*For something completely different: Jay Baruchel is looking to revive the Canadian superhero scene after growing up with Captain Canada and Alpha Flight.