Bruins must avoid letdown

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Bruins must avoid letdown

UNIONDALE -- If the Thursday night game against the NHL cellar dwellers in Columbus was in the trap category of games on the Bruins schedule, then Saturday nights tilt against the Islanders might be the ultimate trap game.

Its the kind of trap game at half-filled Nassau Coliseum that would make Admiral Its a Trap! Akbar proud, and could lure the Bruins right into the hockey pitfall. After all the Bruins have important divisional games against the Montreal Canadiens and the Buffalo Sabres at the end of the three-game road trip, and still need to push a little harder to get themselves comfortably within the top eight Eastern Conference teams by Thanksgiving morning.

Its going to be good for us to go on the road. Its a big road trip for us, three games, said Patrice Bergeron. You got the Islanders, but then youve got two teams that are in our division that are going to be huge games. Were going to start with the Islanders and its always tough to play there. Its going to be a good challenge for us to be on the road.

If the Bruins arent in a playoff spot by the time they celebrate American Thanksgiving with the truly patriotic combination of beer, carved turkey and NFL football, then it becomes an uphill climb through the rest of the season. So all three road games are important for the Bruins coming off 13 of their first 17 games on the TD Garden ice, but the Saturday night Isles tilt is the one game they might just overlook.

Claude Julien granted his Bs players an off-day on Friday after determining that his team appeared fatigued against the Blue Jackets, but there has to be a nagging suspicion that the same distracted hockey club might appear this weekend. The Bruins were sloppy with their transition passes, careless with the puck around their own net and their best offensive players never got untracked over 65 minutes of hockey against the Blue Jackets.

There is little reason to think the Bruins can avoid the same fate against the lowly Islanders while they muddle their way through their season with the bizarre three-man goaltender rotation.

The Habs and Sabres are much racier opponents for many good reasons: The Bruins are looking for revenge against their arch-rival Habs after the Canadiens slapped Boston across the face with a home-and-home sweep at the end of the October. The two straight losses to Montreal, actually, have been attributed as the wakeup call that finally snapped the Bruins out of their Stanley Cup hangover.

Then theres the revenge game against the Sabres after Milan Lucic took out Ryan Miller last weekend at TD Garden, and set off a ridiculous open season on goaltenders narrative across the NHL. Much of it could be tossed at the feet of Miller and his profane barbs tossed at Lucic in the postgame locker room, but there is also much for Buffalo to prove against the Bruins.

The Sabres have been ridiculed across the NHL for failing to stand up for Miller after Lucic collided with the Buffalo netminder, and there should be plenty of fire on the Sabres bench to prove theyre not such a heartless bunch of wimps. The NHL might prevent the Wednesday night pre-Thanksgiving match from turning into a complete gong show by simply watching with a heavy dose of scrutiny, but theres no doubt the Bruins are already thinking about it.

Thats the challenge for the Bs coaching staff, and the players. They will all say the right things about focusing on each game one shift at a time, but they need to prove it against the Islanders like they didnt prove it against the Blue Jackets.

You don't take anybody lightly. You know to end a streak you can lose against the last place team or you can badly beat the first place team, said David Krejci. You just don't take anybody lightly and just play your game I think that's what we have to do from now on.

The Bruins got lucky with the shootout win behind Tuukka Rask Thursday night, and arent likely to be as fortunate against the Islanders this time around. The Bruins have experienced some awful performances on Long Island over the last few years in such a challenging environment for a high level hockey effort, and honest-to-goodness intensity and work ethic are the only antidotes for the Uniondale malaise.

Thats the important first step in a three-pronged process for a perfect road trip in the first extended series of games away from the Boston home base of operations for the Spoked B crew.

Haggerty: It's time for Pastrnak to take a step forward

Haggerty: It's time for Pastrnak to take a step forward

BRIGHTON -- The third season is usually a pivotal one when it comes to an NHL player's development and trying to forecast exactly how high their ceiling will be.

So it is for David Pastrnak, who is expected to take a major leap forward in his third year after showing flashes of great promise in each of his first two seasons.

“The [World Cup] is done, so now all of my focus is on being as ready as I can for this upcoming season,” said Pastrnak, 20, who threw probably the biggest hit of his career on unsuspecting teammate Patrice Bergeron when the Czechs played Team Canada in the preliminary rounds. “I feel way bigger, very comfortable on the ice, and I obviously feel really good right now.”

Pastrnak has had moments of dazzling brilliance in Boston so far while riding the usual learning curve that every young player travels in Claude Julien’s system. In addition, injuries last season sidetracked his development process.

Pastrnak put up 21 goals and 55 points between Boston and Providence as the youngest player in either league as an 18-year-old rookie two years ago. Last season he had 15 goals and 26 points in 51 games for the Bruins while also missing significant time because of a fractured foot. The injury not only sidelined him for a few months but also made it difficult for him to jump onto the moving train of the NHL regular season once he was ready to return.

Just as the former first-round pick was really catching fire at the end of the year, time ran out on a Bruins team that had a few too many older veterans with empty gas tanks after being ridden hard throughout the season. Pastrnak scored goals in each of the final couple of games, and showed off the game-breaking ability that should be on full display if he's healthy and placed in a position to succeed.

His World Cup stint ended on a high note, as he played his best game of the tourney against Team USA, though he didn’t make a major impact in the elite international competition. He put on five pounds of muscle during the offseason and clearly looking bigger and stronger at 189 pounds after ending last season closer to 180.

Part of that is the natural physical maturation process for somebody Pastrnak’s age as he gain’s “man strength”, and some of it was a dedicated effort. He worked out in Boston with the B’s training staff for much of the summer for the first time in his career.

The expectation is that Pastrnak is going to be running on the right wing with David Krejci on Boston’s second line, and the search in training camp is for a left wing who can bring added playmaking ability and maybe a little size and strength to the mix. In a perfect world Krejci and Pastrnak will develop into the same dynamic, two-way combination of Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

Pastrnak and Krejci could be a lethal offensive duo to be sure, but they’ll also have to pay attention to the little details if they want to stay together playing for Julien. Perhaps with that in mind, Julien was looking to temper expectations for Pastrnak

“I don't know if [the World Cup experience] accelerates expectations. But it's certainly encouraging to see that a guy that's got that experience to go and play at that level, and made himself better,” said Julien. “We know he's skilled and we know he's fast, and he's also gotten stronger. He's taking steps in the right direction here. We can look at those guys that are first overall picks and say, wow, some guys are exceptional.

“Some of the guys, you've got to give them time to grow and develop. That's what we need to do with David Pastrnak. I think we've got to stop putting expectations too high for him, and allow him to grow properly. He's going to have some growing pains and there are still some things he's going to want to get better at. There are still some things that he's going to want to learn that we're going to want to teach him. Let's give him that opportunity to grow properly without the extra pressure and extra expectations that maybe are not realistic.”

One would argue Pastrnak put those expectations on himself when he posted the 21 goals and 55 points as an 18-year-old, but that’s neither here nor there. Instead, the Pastrnak development project can, and should, be one of the things considered when we evaluate Julien’s current ability to get the most out of his young prospect-type players.

The bottom line with Pastrnak and the Bruins is this: It’s his contract year and motivation should be sky high. The Czech youngster is one of the few people who can step up and help fill the offensive void left by the free-agent departure of Loui Eriksson. Expectations are much higher for an experienced, talented 20-year-old than they are for a wide-eyed 18-year-old, and Pastrnak needs to make a big stride forward. Now is the time for Pastrnak to show all he’s learned, and completely unleash the array of offensive skills that caught everybody’s eye in the first place.

The Bruins need Pastrnak, and young players, to step up and start taking ownership of the hockey team.

Beleskey, Spooner and McQuaid highlight Bruins lineup vs. Red Wings

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Beleskey, Spooner and McQuaid highlight Bruins lineup vs. Red Wings

The Bruins announced their lineup for the second preseason game on Wednesday night at home against the Detroit Red Wings, and it was slightly more veteran-laden than the youthful Boston group tapped for Monday night’s opening loss to the Blue Jackets.

Matt Beleskey, Ryan Spooner, Adam McQuaid and Dominic Moore lead the grizzled group of Bruins players readying for the exhibition tilt against their Atlantic Division rivals, and 19-year-old Zachary Senyshyn will make his preseason debut after getting fully medically cleared from appendectomy surgery a couple of weeks ago.

The 2015 first round pick has had a bit of a rough summer after bouts with mononucleosis and appendicitis forced him to miss Bruins rookie camp, but Senyshyn has quickly regained his strength and the blazing speed that's his biggest asset as a player. 

Austin Czarnik, Peter Mueller and Sean Kuraly are the only players from the opening night roster that will be in again to show their stuff against the Winged Wheels, and undoubtedly to get another long look from the Bruins coaching staff. Here is the full Black and Gold lineup for Wednesday night’s home date against the Red Wings with the untelevised exhibition game to be streamed on bruins.com

 

FORWARDS: Noel Acciari, Matt Beleskey, Anton Blidh, Austin Czarnik, Brian Ferlin, Jesse Gabrielle, Justin Hickman, Sean Kuraly, Dominic Moore, Peter Mueller, Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Spooner.

DEFENSEMEN: Linus Arnesson, Chris Casto, Matt Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon, Adam McQuaid, Colin Miller.

GOALIES: Malcolm Subban, Daniel Vladar.