Bruins' Kelly effective with workman approach

191545.jpg

Bruins' Kelly effective with workman approach

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

It didnt take long for Chris Kelly to show exactly what hell be bringing to the table in Boston.

The newly acquired Bruins center was the first of several trade dominoes to fall during the month of February, and the 30-year-old was dropped right into playoff-level intensity games after floundering in Ottawa all season.

It was a far cry fromtheSenators,where he was skatingfor a Sens team thats been completely stripped down, and Kelly jumped right into the pressure cooker. He won a pair of face-offs late in the third period in a tight 3-1win over the Vancouver Canucks last weekend, and it was the gritty Kelly who blocked a pair of shots on an important penalty kill late in the game.

The late penalty kills and ice time in the third period -- or"winning time as it'sknown to some --were the kind of assignments that show just how confident Claude Julien is in assigningresponsibility and trust in Kellys game, and thats always the ultimate test with the Bruins coach.

The one thing I can tell you about Chris now that Ive had him a few games is this: you respect and like his game when you coach against him, and you like it even more if things have hit the fan," said Julien. "We heard about his demeanor, his attitude and ability to play under pressure, but you can also see how smart he is out there.

Ive only had him for a few games, but it says something.

Kelly is on pace for 16 goals and 16 assists this season while now manning the middle of Bostons third line between Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley and its clear the line's chemistry is being formed quickly. Both wingers really like to shoot the puck, obviously, and it comes down to Kelly figuring out when and where each forward likes the puck. The trio is beginning to develop the understanding of where each other skater fits on the ice, and that's paramount to generating offensive pressure.

Above and beyond the occasional offense, however, is the willingness to play the shot-blocking, faceoff role that could earn Kelly a lot more ice bags than easyplaudits over the course of the season and theninto the playoffs.

They had a great group before Rich Peverley and I came here, and weve been put in roles that we can succeed and do a good job while keeping it simple, said Kelly. I like our team. We skate well, we have big bodies and we have some really good goalies.

Its been good. Things are getting better each and every game. The Bruins kind of knew what they were getting into with me, and they put me in a great position to succeed. Those are the things that help a team become successful and win. I dont mind doing then. A lot of times it might go unnoticed, but the guys in the locker room notice it and appreciate it.

Kelly has logged in with a 53.8 percent success rate in faceoffs during his five games with the Bruins, and he gives Julien a pair of options for draws should the center continue to be kicked out of the circle. Thats part of the reason Julien credits the flexibility that allows the Bs to utilize either Kelly or Peverley as centers on the draw, and the same could be said of Bergeron and Marchand when wither of them is tossed out.

One thing thats clear is Andrew Ference hasnt completely put his injury woes behind him with the team traveling to Boston during an off-day of travel. Theres a void on the ice for leadership, intangibles and the willingness to play a physical brand of hockey, and Kelly has provided some of that in a package that plays roughly 15 minutes per night.One big difference that Julien has seen with both Peverley and Kelly: they've had to pay their dues and learn the little lessons of hockey in the minor league. Kelly played several seasons in the AHL and Peverley logged parts of two seasons in the ECHL. Blake Wheeler certainly had plenty ofsize and skating skill, but the instincts and attention to detail weren't always there given his jump straight from the University of Minnesota to the NHL.The new guys have those natural instincts honed in the minors."We've got to be careful we don't say everybody has to go through that, but it never hurts," saidJulienwhen asked about playing in theminors. "What it does is builds character, and they are character players. When you've gone through those leagues and ridden those buses and the schedules, even the situations you have to play through are never easy."It's like you can never be a great playerwithout going through some tough times. Some thing as a player and for coaches, and everything else. That's certainly what makes them now great character players."

Kelly might notlight up the scoresheet, but his "character" certainly gets the job done.

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

B's determined to 'keep it going' during good offensive run

B's determined to 'keep it going' during good offensive run

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- The Bruins are going through a nice, little bountiful stretch of offense right now after a half-season of struggle.

The Bruins are averaging more than three goals per game in their last 12 contests, and have scored a whopping 22 goals in their last six games including dropping six scores on the Flyers Saturday afternoon at TD Garden. Combine that with the 7-for-25 performance on the power play during the month of January, and things are finally starting to catch up with a Bruins team that was all shoot/no score for months of frustrating hockey this season.

“If you want sustained success then you have to be good defensively, but you also have to score some goals. That’s definitely part of it and we have to keep it going,” said Patrice Bergeron, who has four goals and eight points in his last nine games after struggling out of the starting gate. “You’re not going to get rewarded every night like we did [against the Flyers], but you have to find that consistency where you’re close to having that every night.”

One thing nobody should expect out of the B’s, however, is to get outside of what they do well now that they’ve started slapping some numbers up on the board. Instead the Bruins are intent on their bedrock of disciplined defense and sensational goaltending with the added offense just making it much tougher to beat them these days.

“I don’t know if we can stand here and say we’re going to sustain that we’re scoring lots of goals. I think what we need to sustain here is winning more games than we lose,” said Claude Julien. “That’s what we’ve got to sustain. Whether it’s a 1-0 or 2-1 game, or it’s a 5-2 or 5-3 game it doesn’t really matter. It’s about winning hockey games much more than it’s about how much you scored, and how much you don’t score.

“Overall when I look at the scoring chances we’re giving up per game, that doesn’t seem to have changed. Goals allowed may have changed a little bit lately, but overall I think we’ve been very steady in that area [of defense].”

So now the Bruins will again be looking for that ideal balance of offense/defense when they take the ice against the Islanders on Monday afternoon for their second straight matinee at TD Garden. 

Morrow has 'confident feeling' as he readies to jump into B's lineup

bruins_joe_morrow_011816.jpg

Morrow has 'confident feeling' as he readies to jump into B's lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It’s been a long month of bag skates and lonely practices for Bruins defenseman Joe Morrow.

That’s about to change thanks to injuries to both Kevan Miller and Colin Miller, who are both not expected to be able to play against the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon at TD Garden. That means Morrow will be in the B’s lineup for the first time since a Dec. 12 win over the Montreal Canadiens, a span of 16 consecutive B’s games that the 24-year-old has been watching from the press box.

Morrow skated in a pairing with John-Michael Liles in Sunday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena prior to Monday’smatinee, and obviously he’s looking forward to getting back into games given this season’s sporadic practice schedule.

“[Playing well after sitting for long stretches] isn’t necessarily something you want to be good at, but if you are good at then it’s a good tool to have in your bag. It’s a confident feeling that I’ll be able to come in [and play well],” said Morrow, who has an assist and a minus-3 rating in 13 games for the Black and Gold this season. “I’ve stayed in good shape and worked hard in practice, and that’s all I can do up until this point.

“Put simply, [this year’s compacted schedule] is exhausting. Countless times I’ve skated by myself, and anybody would tell you there’s nothing harder than skating by yourself on a sheet of ice. Mentally and physically it’s just exhausting. There haven’t been many practices and there haven’t been many game-type situations in the practices we do have. Skating with the whole team is almost like a pregame skate scenario. But you’re still skating every day, so it’s putting it upon yourself to go out there and stay ready for things.”

The one issue for Morrow, a former first round pick, over the last couple of seasons has been maintaining a high level of play once he draws his way into the lineup. It feels like there’s a drop-off in his play once he’s played a few games in a row whether it’s physical mistakes or mental lapses in his play, and that’s something he wants to avoid when given an opportunity to suit up.

“I feel like when I have played this year that I’ve been quite consistent and that I’ve played well,” said Morrow, the last remaining part of the 2013 Tyler Seguin trade still in a Bruins uniform. “I’m just in a situation that the cards are playing out the way that they are, so it depends on how many games I get whether it’s one, two, 30 or however many games are left [in the season]. It’s realistically entirely up to me. If I can shake the rust out in the first couple of shifts and start from there, it’s going to be a big positive in my book. It’s the really the only option I have left now.”

Given that Colin Miller began skating on his own on Sunday morning, it might not be a very big window for Morrow to impress upon the coaches just how badly he wants to play. But one would expect he’s going to bring his best on Monday against the Isles with the hopes that it will be somebody else sitting up in the press box when it once again becomes a D-man numbers game for the 7-8 players for six lineup spots.