Boychuck still finding his high water mark

191545.jpg

Boychuck still finding his high water mark

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

Johnny Boychuk made a name for himself paired with Zdeno Chara two years ago during the playoffs, and now No. 55 finds himself back with the Bruins captain to start this season. Boychuk has an assist and a plus-1 in a pair of regular season games while averaging 18:31 of ice time in a pairing with Chara, and Claude Julien said it was a concerted plan to let the Bs defenseman play the stopper role.

While it may be Chara and Dennis Seidenberg together when it gets to the playoffs, Boychuk is still learning and gathering confidence after two full seasons in the NHL. The defenseman was exposed a little bit during last years playoffs against the speedy Tampa Bay Lightning, but this season Boychuk was much more effective bottling up the Bolts forwards.

There were points in the third period where Boychuk was on the ice along with the Bs fourth line against Steve Stamkos and Marty St. Louis, and held the Lightning players down after earning the confidence from the Bruins coaching staff. Thats the kind of trust that can propel people forward during a young season.

Late in the game Saturday night I put Gregory Campbells line out there against Steve Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis, said Julien. I put them out there and told them it was an opportunity to do the job.

Even on the back-check I saw them go hard. We have a lot of guys that are willing to take those responsibilities some times. Boychuk played that shutdown game with Zee during the playoffs a couple of years ago, and this time of year an opportunity to allow players to gain some confidence in those roles. That will carry itself through the year. Thats what players want. They want the challenge and its an opportunity for us to give it to them.

It all comes down to depth, and the Bruins have plenty of it with a group of defensemen headlined by Chara and Seidenberg but supported by established NHL blueliners like Joe Corvo and Andrew Ference. Its easy to forget that Boychuk and Adam McQuaid are both still learning their craft at the highest levels of hockey and finding out what their NHL ceiling is.

On the back end, and I think we've got some depth, we've got some guys that, a lot of guys back there that we are trusting more and more over the years and some guys getting more experience, said Julien. Adam McQuaid is one of those guys and hopefully he's good to go tonight. Johnny Boychuk is now entering his third full season.

Everybody's kind of getting more experience, so we feel that our depth is greater. Even if a lot of those faces are the same faces, they're better players now.

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

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

This probably won’t come as a complete shock to those watching the way things have played out with him this season, but the Bruins have engaged in discussions with multiple teams about a Ryan Spooner trade, per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. 

The 23-year-old Spooner was mentioned casually a few months ago as possible fodder in a Jacob Trouba deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but that deal never really materialized prior to the Jets signing their young, frontline D-man to a two-year deal. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks have all expressed interest in Spooner, per one hockey source, as it appears that things simply aren’t going to work out for him in Boston. 

It’s been a challenging year for Spooner with pedestrian numbers of three goals and eight points in 24 games, but there are plenty of mitigating circumstances behind the slow start. Spooner has been pushed into playing left wing for the bulk of the season rather than his natural, preferred center position, and he’s been dropped to the fourth line by Claude Julien over the last few weeks. At times he’s also been pulled from the Bruins power play where he racked up six goals and 17 points working off the half-wall last season.  

Julien talked about the former second round pick in frank terms after this week’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, which featured a Spooner snipe to the top corner during a successful shootout for the Black and Gold. 

“I think at times that [David Krejci] line goes quiet, other times it’s better. We’ve tried different guys on the left side right now and one [Spooner] might give them speed but doesn’t win as many battles,” said Julien of his search for stability at left wing alongside Krejci and David Backes. “The other way [with Tim Schaller] guys are a little harder right now, and they spend more time in the O-zone. So we’re really trying hard to find the right balance there.”

Trade talks have increased the past few weeks because A) the situation has worsened recently with Spooner’s prolonged stint as a miscast fourth line winger and B) the speedy, skilled forward will most likely be a man without a spot when 22-year-old left winger Frank Vatrano returns sometime around the mid-December range. 

According to one source, the Bruins are asking for a “top six forward” in exchange for a package including Spooner, and it’s a lead pipe certainty they’re looking for some goal-scoring given their 24th ranked offense this season. That represents a bit of an organizational sea change after the Bruins searched low and high for a top-4 defenseman in trade over the summer. The emergence of 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, and the Boston defense’s performance across the board, has lowered the Black and Gold’s priority list need to trade for a D-man. 

The Bruins have scored two goals or fewer in 18 of their 25 games this season and badly need somebody that can put the puck in the net from one of the wing positions. Unfortunately for the Bruins, there aren’t a lot of top-6 forwards readily available that could make an immediate impact. It’s highly doubtful any team is going to fork one over for an asset like Spooner that’s been downgraded due to the way he’s been utilized by the Bruins this season. He hasn't played with the same creativity or confidence this season after posting 13 goals and 49 points as their third line center last season. 

So it remains to be seen what the Bruins will get for Spooner after they offered him and a draft pick to Buffalo for rental forward Chris Stewart a couple of years ago. That was a deal Sabres GM Tim Murray turned down before trading Stewart for considerably less at the trade deadline.

The bottom line: the Bruins are working the phones discussing possible Spooner deals, and it feels like there is some motivation from B’s management to move a player that doesn’t seem like he'll ever be a proper fit in Julien’s system. 

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at the Bruins setting a franchise record this season for fewest practices in a regular season. Thanks compacted schedule due to the World Cup!

*Pavel Zacha is adjusting to life as a rookie in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, and things are getting better as they go along.

*Manitoba Moose players relive their favorite Star Wars moments prior to the team holding their Star Wars Night.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Friedman sits down with new Florida Panthers head coach Tom Rowe to discuss the massive changes in that organization with the firing of Gerard Gallant.

*Good for Anders Nilson putting a rainbow decal on the back of his goalie to mask to support some gay friends that have faced public resistance in their lives.

*Bruce Garrioch has his weekly NHL notes with several players, including Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald, potentially on the trade block if anybody wants them.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson suffering a broken leg that will keep him out 6-8 weeks.

*There was no blood for the Vancouver Canucks fans, but there was still plenty of drama in a win over the Maple Leafs.

*For something completely different: The World Baseball Classic works for everybody except for Major League Baseball, and that would appear to be a problem.