Spooner a surprise among Bruins' early cuts

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Spooner a surprise among Bruins' early cuts

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- The Bruins made some surprising roster decisions following Friday nights preseason win over the New York Islanders, returning some of their shiniest young prospects to their junior hockey teams.

Ryan Spooner, Jared Knight, Dougie Hamilton and Alexander Khokhlachev were among 14 players cut from a training camp roster that was once 54 players, but has been cut down to 34 players heading into a weekend series against the Habs in Halifax and Montreal.

Andrew Bodnarchuk, Ryan Button, Marc Cantin, Carter Camper, Craig Cunningham, Josh Hennessy, Kirk MacDonald, Nathan McIver, Kevan Miller and Jamie Tardif were all cut and assigned to the Providence Bruins training camp roster, as well. The AHL cuts were expected and both Hamilton and Khokhlachev were never expected to threaten for an NHL roster spot, but the early returns of Spooner and Knight were slightly eyebrow-raising.

Spooner made it through nearly all of training camp with the Bs one year earlier, but wasnt very effective in his preseason appearance against the Ottawa Senators in his hometown rink of Scotiabank Place. Knight skated with David Krejci and Milan Lucic in Fridays win over the Islanders, and played a decent while earning an assist, four hits and one blistering shot off the post while finishing at a minus-2.

The 19-year-old was a factor in the game, but was ultimately destined to return to the London Knights for more development.

Claude Julien gave some insight into the Bruins thinking earlier on Friday afternoon when asked about the chances of a junior player opening the season for nine games before returning to his team.

I dont know about that, said Julien. I think its going to be a decision that we all make together. If he earns it, I think theres no reason why that wouldnt happen. But at the same time, if you look at our prospects, the Jamie Arniels and the Jordan Carons and the Maxime Sauves and the Zach Hamills.

I think weve got a lot of depth in the American League that we can use that way as well. But if the junior player is ready, like every other year, I think we always find ways to make room or give him that opportunity.

The older tier of prospects is the exact reason why Spooner and Knight were sent back to the OHL so quickly. The Bs front office wants to get a look at AHL prospects likely to help the Bruins team if injuries befall any players this season, and certainly wants to reward players that worked diligently up the prospect development ladder.

To see some of those young guys do well is exciting, said Julien. There is nothing more exciting than after a game talking with your general manager and other coaches and saying Wow this guy really stepped up I liked his game. Its exciting because you hear me saying after training camp that we have some depth.

I like the job our scouts have done and bringing the right type of players and when you see them play, see it happen in front of your own eyes its even more encouraging. You can picture where this guy will fit in down the road if he does make the team.

It was unrealistic to believe that either Knight or Spooner would make the team and pointless to think that their return is a reflection on their performance in Bs training camp. The Bruins are a loaded roster looking to repeat as Stanley Cup champs, and thats no place for a bunch of teen-aged rookies.

The day will come for Knight, Spooner and Hamilton, but its just not there yet.

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

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons. 

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while hoping that Purple Passion doesn’t try the same comeback as Zima.

*A Seattle investor says that an NHL team coming to that city is much more likely than a return by the NBA to the Pacific Northwestern city.

*Gare Joyce writes eloquently about the loneliness of a hockey scout, and how that world can sometimes come to a crashing halt.  

*Good piece from Arpon Basu giving the sights and sounds of Claude Julien’s second stint behind the bench with the Montreal Canadiens.

*The agent for Russian player Maxim Shalunov says there is a “10 percent chance” that he’s going to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks.

*Mike Babcock says not to expect any big trade deadline deals from the Toronto Maple Leafs as they push for a playoff spot.

*Henrik Zetterberg reflects on a difficult season with the Detroit Red Wings where it looks like things might finally come down to a crashing halt.

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/nhl/red-wings/2017/02/17/red-wings-zetterberg-reflects-tough-season/98064530/

*The Minnesota Wild have underrated depth on their team, and the Hockey News says it might just be their scariest attribute.

*For something completely different: as referenced above, it looks like that Zima drink of the 1990s is trying to make a comeback. I was in college when the Zima people were seemingly flooding campuses with advertising and samples back in the day.