Bruins' McQuaid is a presence on the blue line

191545.jpg

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

Bruins release complete 2016-17 exhibition schedule

bruins-logo.jpg

Bruins release complete 2016-17 exhibition schedule

The Bruins got on with the rest of their hockey lives on Tuesday with most NHL eyes fixed on the Stanley Cup Final, and kicked off the important dates to start a 2016-17 season that they hope goes better than the last two years.

The Bruins will open rookie training camp on Thursday, Sept. 15, and one week later the main NHL camp will open on Thursday, Sept. 22. There will obviously be plenty of Bruins personnel missing, including head coach Claude Julien, from the first few weeks of camp with the World Cup of Hockey taking place at the same time in Canada.

The World Cup will take place from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The two-week tournament, featuring eight teams comprised of more than 150 of the best players in the NHL, will progress from the Preliminary Round to the Semifinals and ultimately the Final. 

That means somebody other than Julien will be calling the shots behind the Boston bench when the Bruins open up their preseason schedule at TD Garden with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sept. 26, and proceed to play a seven game schedule against the Blue Jackets, Flyers, Red Wings and Canadiens that concludes at home against Philly on Oct. 8.

The highlight of the preseason schedule is the Oct. 4 game against the Habs to be played at the new Videotron Centre in Quebec City, the first time both teams have played an exhibition game in the former home city of the Nordiques since 2009.

Here is the complete 2016 preseason schedule for the Black and Gold:

MONDAY, SEPT. 26 -- vs. Blue Jackets, 7 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 28 -- vs. Red Wings, 7 p.m.
FRIDAY, SEPT. 30 -- at Red Wings, 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, OCT. 1 -- at Flyers, 7 p.m.
TUESDAY, OCT. 4 -- vs. Canadiens at Quebec City, 7 p.m.
THURSDAY, OCT. 6 -- at Blue Jackets, 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, OCT. 8 -- vs. Flyers, 5 p.m.

Tuesday, May 31: Will NHL follow MLB's lead and retire O'Ree's number?

cp-morning-skate.jpg

Tuesday, May 31: Will NHL follow MLB's lead and retire O'Ree's number?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while blaming both the zoo and the parents in Cincinnati. Is it okay to do that, or does everything in life have to be all or nothing?

-- Dan Rosen says Sidney Crosby has a twinkle in his eye as he returns for, and wins, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

-- Tim Panaccio has a few thoughts on the sad passing of Philadelphia Flyers legend Rick MacLeish at the age of 66.

-- It looks like Ken Hitchcock will be back once again as head coach of the St. Louis Blues despite their fall in the Western Conference Finals.

-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gives a number of scenarios for potential expansion, including waiting another year before doing anything.

-- A good Players Tribune piece on hockey dad Matt Cullen preparing with the family for the Stanley Cup Finals with the Penguins.

-- Jacques Martin, currently serving as a member of Mike Sullivan's Pittsburgh coaching staff, is appreciating his first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

-- Joel Ward wants to see the NHL retire Willie O’Ree’s No. 22, similar to Jackie Robinson's No. 42 permanently retired by all Major League Baseball teams.

-- Ken Campbell says that the San Jose Sharks won’t be in a panic after dropping Game 1 to the Penguins.

-- So Ulf Samuelsson will be a head coach in the AHL next season for the Charlotte Checkers. Teams might want to stock up on the foil

-- This goal call by Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi for Nick Bonino’s game-winner in Game 1 is pretty damned awesome.

-- For something completely different: Bernie Sanders attending the Warriors/Thunder Game 7 on Monday night, a week before the California primary, might qualify as a savvy political move, but it’s also pretty clear that he's a big basketball fan. Did you see footage of that textbook old-man jump shot while Sanders was waiting for primary results a few months ago? Ball don’t lie.

 

 

Report: Khokhlachev leaves Bruins, signs with Russian team

alex-khokhlachev-boston-bruins-9-18-2015.jpg

Report: Khokhlachev leaves Bruins, signs with Russian team

Another once-valued Boston Bruins asset might be heading out the door with nothing coming back in return.

Russian prospect Alex Khokhlachev has signed a contract with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL, according to a report out of Russia. The deal will become official after his entry-level contract with Boston runs out on June 30.

Khokhlachev, 22, was a second-round pick in the 2011 draft and spent the last three seasons as one of the Providence Bruins' leading scorers. In that time he appeared in only nine games in Boston, with no points and a minus-4.

At the start of last season's training camp, Khokhlachev said he’d never been given a legitimate chance by the Bruins at the NHL level. But “Koko” also never exactly crushed his chances in preseason, or during his regular-season stints with the parent club.

The belief is that Khokhlachev’s camp would have rather the Bruins traded him, as his family had settled in the Toronto area over the last few years. But he was, in essence, forced to go to Russia since the Bruins would continue to hold his NHL rights as a restricted free agent.

According to sources close to Khokhlachev, the last straw came when the Bruins signed a European free agent -- 28-year-old Finnish center Joonas Kemppainen -- before last season and gave him more than four months to prove himself at the NHL level. It was the kind of audition that Khokhlachev never felt like he received during his time in the Bruins organization, despite posting 59 goals and 168 points over the last three years in the AHL.

Clearly, there are still questions about whether the 5-foot-10, 181-pound center is a “tweener” -- not big enough or fast enough to score at the NHL level. And it looks like those questions will go unresolved as Khokhlachev returns to Russia for the foreseeable future.