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

Haggerty: Trouba deal is one Bruins need to get done

Haggerty: Trouba deal is one Bruins need to get done

Bruins management has been in a holding pattern waiting for something to “shake free” in the top-four defensemen department and that might have finally happened this weekend.

With the news on Saturday that Jacob Trouba won’t be reporting to training camp with the Winnipeg Jets and has asked for a trade, a player is becoming available that the Black and Gold have had their eyes on for months and months.

CSN was the first to report that the Bruins were putting together a plan for an offer sheet for the 22-year-old American-born defenseman back in June, but that never materialized. GM Don Sweeney eventually backed off that aggressive plan to nab a player they have tapped as a top-four, right-shot defenseman, but clearly there is still interest from a Boston team that literally did nothing to upgrade their back end over the summer.

Cam Neely admitted to CSN a couple of weeks ago that the Bruins were still positioned to make a move for a D-man if something opened up on the market.

“Basically from April to now everybody is talking about our back end, and not being able to land a top-four defenseman. We still have an opportunity as far as cap space goes if something shakes free, and I know Don [Sweeney] has been working hard trying to do something,” said Neely. “But I feel like as a group we can do better than we did last year.

“I think Tuukka [Rask] can play better than he did last year. If that happens we should be a better club. It’s going to be a challenge and it’s going to be competitive. But I feel like the changes we’ve made through the organization, and not just in player personnel, that there’s opportunity for our group to improve.”

Well, here’s a memo for the B’s brass on Causeway Street: things just opened up as high and wide as a vintage Rich Peverley shot off the high glass. The ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft is going to be made available and will undoubtedly be the best defenseman to move in trade between now and the start of the regular season.

He’d also go a long way toward providing the B’s with the kind of bridge D-man that could improve markedly in the present, and allow the back end to be much closer to good until young defenesmen Charlie McAvoy, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Brandon Carlo are ready for prime time.

This Saturday night statement from agent Kurt Overhardt explains the situation succinctly, but basically Trouba doesn’t want wind his career away stuck behind Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers on the right side of Winnipeg’s defense.

“Our client, Jacob Trouba, will not be attending the Winnipeg Jets NHL training camp. Since May, we have been working with the Jets management in an effort to facilitate a trade of Jacob’s rights. Both parties continue to work on this matter,” said Overhardt in the statement. “There has been no negotiation regarding the terms of a contract between our client and the Jets over the course of the last several months. The situation is not about money; it is solely about our client having the opportunity to realize his potential as a right shot NHL defenseman.

“To the Jets credit, the club has two outstanding right shot veteran defensemen and our client simply wants the opportunity to have a greater role. As a consequence of the Jets depth on the right side, we believe it is in both parties’ best interest to facilitate a mutually advantageous trade.

Our client has nothing but respect for the people and City of Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Jets, its fans, management and ownership - our desire to get him moved has everything to do with opportunity. We will continue to work with the Jets in good faith to achieve this end.”

Clearly, Trouba will draw big interest around the league: he’s a 6-foot-1, 200-pound, right-shot defenseman who posted 10 goals and 29 points in his rookie season as a teenager and has averaged more than 22 minutes of ice time per game since entering the league. 

This is yet another chance for Sweeney and Co. to close a deal on a defenseman and finally start to address some of the damage done while shipping away Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton in successive years. It will undoubtedly cost a pretty penny in terms of assets, but there has to be a reason why Sweeney has been stockpiling centers headed into training camp.

A package of Ryan Spooner, Joe Morrow and a first-round pick would be considerable, but it also might not be enough to get a deal done for a high-demand talent in Trouba. Undoubtedly the Jets would also for a blue chip D-man prospect such as Carlo, or perhaps they’d be more interested in  veteran right-shot option Adam McQuaid, who could immediately replace Trouba in the Winnipeg lineup.

The worst-case scenario is Kevin Cheveldayoff taking a page from the Kevin Shattenkirk trade talks, and both starting and ending any conversations with David Pastrnak as the main trade chip. The Bruins have made it clear they’re done “sprinkling their talent around the rest of the league” as one B’s front office exec made clear to CSN.   

The bottom line: it’s not going to be easy, but this is exactly the kind of situation where Sweeney needs to become a closer rather than a lamenter who starts an explanation with “price are high” or “it takes two to tango.”

It takes a good manager to close a deal his team desperately needs. This Trouba situation is shaping up to provide the B’s with that opportunity. 
 

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

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Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask and David Backes are back from competing in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, that doesn’t mean you’ll see those players on the ice over the next couple of days. Perhaps the trio will practice on Monday in the fourth on-ice session at main training camp, but Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that none of those returning players will suit up against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the B’s preseason debut at TD Garden on Monday night.

“Yeah…absolutely,” said Sweeney when asked if those three players have been ruled out for Monday night. “They’re going to get through the weekend here. Next week, we’ll evaluate [them] when they get on the ice. But, all those guys will not be on the ice until next week.

“It might be case-by-case for each guy. Those guys have been playing for a while at a high level. It’s unique for David Backes coming into the organization, so he’d like to integrate himself. I talked yesterday with all three of them just to get a read of where they’re at. But, sometime first of next week, they’ll be on [the ice].”

Both Pastrnak and Rask have checked in with the Bruins media over the last couple of days after returning from Toronto, and the Bruins goaltender, in particular, has plenty of motivation coming off a down statistical season. The 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage were well below his career numbers, and people like B’s President Cam Neely have pointed to Rask as somebody that needs to have a better season for Boston to rebound back into the playoffs this year.

“There were a couple of years where the standards pretty high, so obviously when they go down there’s something to rebound from. You kind of know where you can be. That’s where I try to be every year and I’m working on being there this year, and taking us to the playoffs and moving forward,” said Rask. “But every year is a new year where you’ve got to work hard, and set your goals to be at your best. More often than not you hope [being at your best] is going to happen, and I hope this year is going to be a great year for us.”

Clearly Rask wasn’t alone in his struggles last season behind a mistake-prone defense that allowed plenty of Grade chances, and that could be a repeating phenomenon again this season for the Bruins unless the defense is substantially upgraded along the way.

As far as the other three B’s players still taking part in the World Cup, it could be a while for Patrice and Brad Marchand as Team Canada has advanced to the final best-of-three series that could also feature Zdeno Chara if Team Europe is victorious.