Team Alfredsson rallies to win skills competition


Team Alfredsson rallies to win skills competition

OTTAWA The Bruins were well-represented in the NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Scotiabank Place,and the players fomTeam Chara gave it their best shot inthe skills challenges. But it was the hometown Team Alfredsson that took home the 21-12 victory over Charas hand-picked playersdespite theB's Captain's squadwinning each of the first three competitions en route to a big victory with some pretty cool highlights along the way. Here are the breakdowns of each competition with some description of the Bs involvement:

Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater: It was down to rookies Carl Hagelin (New York Rangers) and Colin Greening (Ottawa Senators) in the final heat, and it appeared Haggs who I was clearly rooting for given his name won the race when his body crossed the finish line first. But a review of the tape (yes, they really went to the video replay) showed that Greenings extended stick actually crossed the line before the Rags speedy rookie.

Allstate Insurance NHL Breakaway Challenge: Carey Price nearly stole the show with his blind goaltender and backwards save stops in the crease while NHL breakaway artists converged on him. But Pat Kane eventually stole the show when he donned a Superman cape and Clark Kent glasses for a pair of winning attempts one a hand-to-stick pass on his belly that had an Up, up and away flair to it and the second an exploding puck clearly brought on by Kanes super-strength. Corey Perry finished as the runner-up after several creative moves including using a mini-stick in his final shootout attempt.

Canadian Tire NHL Accuracy Shooting: It ended with Philadelphia Flyers rookie Matt Read going up against Dallas Stars Jamie Benn fresh off an appendectomy. Benn took it in dominant fashion while Bs forward Tyler Seguin struggled with Phil Kessel feeding him passes in the preliminary accuracy rounds.G Series NHL Skills Relay Challenge: Henrik and Daniel Sedin dominated with their feathery passing and soft hockey skills and registered an easy victory for Team Alfredsson.

Blackberry NHL Hardest Shot: Zdeno Chara captured his fifth straight hardest shot title after defeating Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber yet again with a record 108.8-mph slap shot. Chara broke his own personal record with an earlier shot of 106.2-mph on the evening and then completely shattered that seconds later by becoming the first NHL player to top 108-mph with a slapper. Said Chara on the ice right after the contest was over, I had great years in Ottawa. I wanted to break the record here.

Tim Hortons NHL Elimination Shootout: It comes down to John Tavares, Jason Pominville and Steve Stamkos in the final rounds of the shootout, and Stamkos was able to beat Jimmy Howard in the final round to take home the victory. Tyler Seguin was eliminated in the early rounds on an outstanding save by St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott.

Spooner, coming to life with Bruins, feels Julien 'just didn't really trust me'

Spooner, coming to life with Bruins, feels Julien 'just didn't really trust me'

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins' third line has been reborn under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, and the players are now openly admitting they desperately needed a change.

Claude Julien never trusted Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes enough defensively to play them together, but this line has blossomed under Cassidy: Six goals, 15 points and a plus-11 in seven games. They’ve survived in the defensive zone by rarely playing there. Instead, they push the pace, make plays to keep the puck out of the D-zone and, most importantly, keep producing the secondary offense that wasn’t there in the first 55 games of the season. 

No one has been freed from the shackles more than Spooner, who is back playing his natural center position after being forced to play left wing under Julien. The 25-year-old said Tuesday that getting a clean slate with a new coach has been extremely beneficial to him, and that perhaps he didn't always love playing for the guy now minding the bench in Montreal. 

“I felt like the last coach ... he just didn’t really trust me,” said Spooner, who has two goals and six points along with a plus-1 rating in seven games post-Julien. “It might've been kind of on me not really playing to the potential that I have, but at the same time . . . I just don’t think that he really liked me as a player. It’s kind of in the past now. It’s just a part of the game. It’s up to me to just go out there and just play, and not have that stuff in the back of my mind. 

“I just kind of have to go out there and believe in myself and I think at times I wasn’t really going out there and doing that. Maybe that’s something to learn. This sport has ups and downs, and I’ve had my downs. You learn that you can just sort of push through it. If you do that then things can be good.”

Spooner has 10 goals and 33 points along with a minus-3 this season, and could potentially surpass last year's numbers (13-36-49) in his second full season. 

Most felt that the speedy, skilled Spooner would be one of the big beneficiaries of the move from Julien to Cassidy, and now he’s showing that with a new lease on life in Boston. 

Haggerty: Trade flurry makes Bruins' road to the playoffs more slippery

Haggerty: Trade flurry makes Bruins' road to the playoffs more slippery

Don Sweeney and the Bruins aren’t expected to be big players Wednesday at the NHL trade deadline, understandable since they've won six of seven under interim coach Bruce Cassidy.

But they might be feeling a little more pressure to do something as many Atlantic Division teams -- and Eastern Conference ones, for that matter -- are making moves.

The biggest headline-grabber occurred out of division as the Washington Capitals shipped a first-round pick, two forwards and a conditional second-round pick to the St. Louis Blues for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and a young goaltender. Shattenkirk will turn the already explosive Capitals into a strong Stanley Cup contender, maybe even the favorite. And the pressure's on for them to deliver, since it’s expected the 28-year-old All-Star will head to the New York Rangers in free agency this summer. 

Shattenkirk had been linked to the Bruins in the past but they weren’t about to pay that exorbitant a price for a rental, not while they're still more rebuilder than contender even as they push for the playoffs. Moreover, the Bruins weren’t going to do a sign-and-trade for a player who's going to command a seven-year, $49 million deal on the open market and would ostensibly be blocking the top-4 development of both Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy as stud, right shot D-men. 

Instead, expect the Bruins to invest heavily over the next year in a potential top pairing left-side defenseman who could eventually step in for Zdeno Chara. 

The highest impact moves that concerned the Bruins during Monday’s flurry of activity, however, were the divisional teams they’re competing with direction for playoff spots:

-- The Maple Leafs made a sneaky big move in shipping out a second-round pick to Tampa Bay for gritty, battle-tested, third-line center Brian Boyle, who will bring size, sandpaper and character to a young Toronto team pushing for the playoffs. 

-- Ottawa sent a prospect to Vancouver for bad boy Alex Burrows, whose claim to fame is biting Patrice Bergeron during the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. The Senators and Bruins wplay each other three times in Boston’s final 20 games in the kind of matchup that could dictate the playoff fate for both clubs, and Burrows' cheap-shot antics will undoubtedly make the Sens a tougher team to play down the stretch. 

-- The Canadiens shored up their defense group by adding Dallas D-man Jordie Benn in exchange for young defenseman Greg Pateryn and a fourth-round pick. They did so before pulling off an important, come-from-behind win over the Devils on Monday night. 

The Bruins woke up Tuesday morning still holding their third-place spot in the Atlantic Division and still very much in control of their own destiny. But there’s no denying Boston’s competitors have all improved themselves. The gauntlet has been passed to Sweeney and the Bruins to do something smart for the long haul, but to also improve right now if the right deal presents itself. 

That could mean dealing off veteran players like Matt Beleskey or John-Michael Liles if there’s an interested party. It could mean picking up a cheap rental like Radim Vrbata or Dmitry Kulikov if the price is right. Or it could mean standing pat and not messing with a team playing its best hockey of the season. 

One thing is clear: Monday's moves have increased the Bruins' degree of difficulty for ending their two-year playoff drought.