Bruins' McQuaid is a presence on the blue line

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Bruins' McQuaid is a presence on the blue line

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON, Mass. It raised an eyebrow or two when Adam McQuaid was signed by the Bruins to a two-year deal over the summer, while veteran defenseman Mark Stuart McQuaids closest match on the Boston rosterin terms of style, strengths and weaknesses was given only a one-year contractas he approached unrestricted free agency.

Its not quite as surprising now that the Bs are more than 50 games into the season. McQuaid has supplanted Stuart in the Boston lineup as the stay-at-home, physical blueliner ready to drop the gloves.

The 24-year-old gave some indications he might be ready for regular duty as a bottom-pairing defensemen last season. He filled in when Stuart suffered a couple of injuries last yearand immediately made an impression while throwing down with Raitis Ivanans in one of his first games against the Los Angeles Kings.

It was clear the Bs coaching staff had confidence in McQuaid heading into this season, and the young blueliner blossomed when he got regular playing time after Stuart suffered a broken right hand.

Stuart, recovered from his hand injury, has been a healthy scratch in the last seven games and is on the trading block as other teams around the league are putting up their bids for the blue-collar defenseman. It's no fault of Stuart's as he's been a good soldier about the entire situation true to his personality and leadership qualities, but it appears that the rugged Stuart will become another victim of the salary cap era.

The reason that has all happened for the Bruins: McQuaid has proven he belongs among the Bs top-six defensemen and has become an effective blueliner on a multitudeof different fronts for the Bruins. The Prince Edward Island native has a goal and seven assists in 40 games with the Bruins along with a plus-21, and has gained confidence in his offensive game as he continues to willinglydrop gloves withall opponents both big and small.

McQuaids easygoing nature and mop of curly hair underneath his hockeyhelmet might have fooled some into underestimating his toughness and thedevastating power of hisright hand punch, but his teammates have certainly noticed.

He has the ability to turn it up pretty good, said Andrew Ference. Its interesting because hes pretty cool and calm on the exterior, but he throws a really mean punch. Its funny to see him snap sometimes because he doesnt hold anything back when he gets in his fights. There are a few guys that have found that out the hard way.

McQuaids first goal of the season was a good indicator of where his confidence level is offensively as well. The 6-foot-5, 209-pounder didnt hesitate in the high slot when Nathan Horton got the puck to him.

It was in that sequence that we were going back and forth in the game, so it felt really good, said McQuaid. The first one always feels really good.

McQuaid simply fired the puck to the top corner, finally getting his first goal of the season and showing an above-average shooting ability that should come into play more often.

A bogus goalie interference call last week on Blake Wheeler in an earlier game wiped out what should have been his first score. But the Bs defenseman also showed some good shooting instincts in that sequence when he pulled back a shot destined to be blocked, moved to better shooting position and fired on the net. Whether the goal counted or not was immaterial in the long run as the play showed McQuaid has elevated to a different offensive plane this season as an everyday blueliner.

Hes ready to pinch and scrap to keep pucks in the attack zone, and getting a little less predictable and safe with his puck choices after settling for plenty of soft servevanilla last season.

It seems like things are coming along and Im getting more confidence with the puck. Im especially getting more confidence that the forwards are going to cover for me if I jump in on the play, and thats really opened things up, said McQuaid. I may have been . . . maybe playing too simple at times last year and a good part of this year. The game is still built on making the simple plays, but there are definitely times when you can be too simple.

Im just trying to make a play if I see something.

McQuaids shot from the point area is deceptively good, and he skates well enough for a big man to get the puck up the ice a pair of modest skills that will never make him Paul Coffey, but will keep him employed in the league as long as he has them in tandem with the physicality.

The one thing we knew about McQuaid is that he was a pretty steady defensive defenseman, said coach Claude Julien. But he continues to move the puck better every day he plays and every game he plays. Hes got the confidence now where hes a lot more than a defensive defenseman.

I dont think hes ever going to get away from his role, which is as a defensive defenseman with a really good physical edge to his game. But what hes done is added those other parts to it that make him even better.

Its all about comfort and the feeling that he belongs in the NHL, and McQuaid has become effectively safe on both counts while realizing his dream of becoming an everyday defenseman while also acknowledgingit can be taken away at any time.

It sounds like McQuaid has his head on straight, and could be in Boston for a good, long time.

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

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

BOSTON – The Bruins simply weren’t ready to play on Thursday night when the puck was dropped against the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

They fell down quickly by a 2-0 score, had a couple of completely inept power plays in the first period that sucked all the game’s momentum away from them and received some subpar goaltending from Anton Khudobin on the way to a 4-2 loss to the lowly Avs. About the only B’s person above reproach in this one was David Pastrnak after scoring a pair of goals in the second period to get Boston back into the game, but it all fell short in a very frustrating, lackadaisical loss to a Western Conference team that isn’t very good. 

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Needless to say B’s coach Claude Julien wasn’t too happy after a loss where the Bruins might have had more success with a smarter approach to holding the puck. 

“There were a lot of problematic things [in the loss]. No doubt that the power play could have helped us in the first period, and failed to do that. They’ve got to be better,” said Julien. “We needed some saves tonight, and we didn’t get them. [Anton Khudobin] has got to be better. 

“A lot of things here that we can be better at, and take responsibility [for]. But at the same time, you got to move on here.  It’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, we would have had a chance.”

Clearly it was about a lacking group effort when dissecting the loss, and the minus-3 for David Krejci on Thursday night marked back-to-back negative performances from the playmaking Czech center in big spots. The goaltending was shoddy with Anton Khudobin allowing four goals on 22 shots for Colorado, and unable to make plays on a couple of Colorado shots from outside the painted area that built up the Avs lead in the first place. 

But it was also very much about the inability of the Bruins to generate consistent offense outside of David Pastrnak’s offensive burst in the second period, and the complete breakdown of the Boston power play in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins struggled to enter the zone in their first PP possession of the game, and then allowed a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal after Torey Krug futilely dove at the blue line to try and keep the puck in the offensive zone. 

The Krug misplay at the offensive blue line gave MacKinnon a clear path the net, and he buried a wrist shot past Khudobin to get the one-sided loss rolling. Beyond the costly mistakes that ended up in the back of the net, the Bruins looked sloppy and slow-reacting in their breakouts and more than willing to settle for outside perimeter shots.

That doesn’t exactly make for a winning combo even when it comes against a flawed, underachieving team like Colorado, and especially when it comes less than 24 hours after a hard-fought road game in Washington DC. 

“I think we were still sleeping there early in the game and they were able to capitalize on their opportunities. We couldn’t claw our way back,” said Brad Marchand, who picked up an assist on David Pastrnak’s second goal of the night on a perfect dish for the one-timer. “I think it was definitely a mental [block]. You’re able to battle through that physical fatigue. It was more the mental mistakes and not being prepared right off the hop of the start of the game. Again, that’s kind of where we lost it.”

The sleepwalking Bruins lost Thursday night’s valuable two points as soon as the opening puck was dropped against the Avalanche, of course, and the Bruins never got out of lollygag mode at a time when intensity should have been automatic.