Cup hangover weighing on Bruins

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Cup hangover weighing on Bruins

CHICAGO The Bruins will probably be doing a little more chirping than usual on the ice Saturday night when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks.

But theyll actually be on a fact-finding mission rather than the usual insults hurled all over the ice.

While the Bruins have issues with the Stanley Cup hangover phrase itself, the Bs players also cant deny that something has been missing from the mental, physical and emotional preparation for the first four games this season.

The Bruins played a solid, satisfactory game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the other three have been to be kind subpar and fairly uninspired.

The Blackhawks know what the Bruins are going through because they had every possible manner of adversity hit them last season after bringing the Cup back to the Windy City.

The team was torn apart with salary cap constraints serving as the main culprit, injuries chipped away at the depth throughout the season and the consistency just wasnt there all season aside from a stupendously excellent season from Captain Serious, Jonathan Toews.

I can't speak to what's going on over there, but what we went through was more of a season-long thing than a quick hangover in October, said Chicago forward Patrick Sharp. It took us a while to build (roster) chemistry. It was not so much in the room but on the ice with line combinations. We had a lot of injuries, too.

So the Blackhawks know the challenges presented by every team saving their best shot for the champs, and just how difficult it can be to dig deep into the emotionalphysical reservoir coming off a nine month hockey season of more than 100 hockey games.

But the Hawks also know that things were very different for them with only nine regular roster players that returned from their Stanley Cup roster for the following season.

By comparison the Bruins had 18 players (16 skaters and both goaltenders) return from last years Cup winning squad, and essentially get another crack at it this season. Thats a big distinction to a guy like Patrick Kane that saw his Cup-winning hockey club dismantled in a salary cap chop shop before it was their turn to defend the belt.

The Bruins are a great team. People talk about hangovers, but we lost 9, 10 guys from our team last year, said Kane. They haven't lost many and it seems they've made some improvements with guys like Joe Corvo coming over.

If anything they're just as good as last year, especially with guys like Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara and their core guys they seem to be in pretty good shape. It will be a good test for sure.

Its expected that a hotly contested game against the Blackhawks at a packed United Center would bring out of the best in the Bruins, but the key for them is approaching Saturday as they would a random Wednesday night game in Winnipeg. The Blackhawks got off to an 8-9-2 start last season through mid-November and werent in the Western Conference playoff mix at that point, but managed to scrape and claw their way into the eighth and final playoff position when the regular season ended.

They're a proud bunch and they don't want to get too far in the hole, said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville of the Bruins. Our start put us in a tough spot early (last year). We left valuable points on the table. We know it's a dangerous game for us again. Its a different situation in this instance, but we know the value of where we're at and the value of home ice as well.

The Bruins are off to the 1-3 start and have already frittered away potentially important points to Colorado and Carolina in the early going, but they need to start reversing their seasonal fortune if they hope to avoid repeating Chicagos bumpy season after the Stanley Cup.

Friday, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations

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Friday, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while using “malarkey” in my day-to-day vocabulary as much as possible. 
 
-- Dale Tallon was promoted with the Florida Panthers to accentuate his strengths as a talent evaluator, but maintains that he still has final say on hockey decisions
 
-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has another young D-man off the board with the Wild’s Matthew Dumba signing a two year, $5.1 million deal with Minnesota
 
-- In the interest of self-promotion, here’s my take on the negotiations between Brad Marchand and the Bruins: There’s a couple of good signs at the outset of negotiations
 
-- The Arizona Coyotes are stressing the defensive side of things in a big, big way, and it appears to be part of John Chayka’s master plan

 -- Alex Pietrangelo would be a natural selection to replace David Backes as the next captain of the St. Louis Blues. 

-- A moving letter from Sens forward Bobby Ryan to his recently passed mother is up at the Players Tribune website. 

-- Chris Kreider has re-signed with the New York Rangers, and plans to get out of his head and onto the score sheet more often. 
 
-- For something completely different: Jerod Mayo will bring a new voice to Tom E. Curran’s Quick Slants program on our very own CSN network. 

 

List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

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List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

With decidedly Boston-sounding names and thoroughly familiar faces, given their resemblances to their ex-Bruin dads, it might have been easy to overlook Ryan Donato and Ryan Fitzgerald and focus on the truly little-known prospects at Development Camp earlier this month.

But on the ice, their brimming confidence, their offensive skills and the maturity to their all-around game was impossible to ignore.

When it was over, general manager Don Sweeney singled out Donato, who plays at Harvard, and Fitzgerald, from Boston College -- along with Notre Dame forward Anders Bjork and former Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk -- as players who have developed significantly.
 
“[They're] just comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Sweeney. “I mean, they’ve played at the college hockey level . . . two, three, four years with some of these kids. They’re very comfortable in their own skin and in what they do.”
 
Donato, 20, is actually coming off his first season at Harvard, where he posted 13 goals and 21 points in 32 games. He looked like he was in midseason form during Development Camp, showing off a scoring touch, skill with the puck on his stick in tight traffic, and the instincts to anticipate plays that allow him to beat defenders to spots in the offensive zone. He’s primed for a giant sophomore season with the Crimson, based on his showing at camp.
 
“Every year is a blast," said Donato, son of former Bruins forward and current Harvard coach Ted Donato. "You just come in [to development camp] with an open mindset where you soak everything up from the coaches like a sponge, and see what they say. Then I just do my best to incorporate it into my game and bring it with me to school next year.
 
“One of the things that [Bruins coaches and management] has said to me -- and it’s the same message for everybody -- is that every area of your game is an important one to develop. The thing about the NHL is that every little detail makes the difference, and that’s what I’ve been working on whether it’s my skating, or my defensive play. Every little piece of my game needs to be developed.”
 
Then there's Fitzgerald, 21, who is entering his senior season at BC after notching 24 goals and 47 points in 40 games last year in a real breakout season. The 2013 fourth-round pick showed speed and finishing ability during his Development Camp stint and clearly is close to being a finished hockey product at the collegiate level.
 
“It was good. It’s definitely a fun time being here, seeing these guys and putting the logo on,” said Fitzgerald, son of former Bruins forward Tom Fitzgerald, after his fourth Development Camp. “One thing I’m focusing on this summer is getting stronger, but it’s also about just progressing and maturing.
 
“I thought . . . last year [at BC] was a pretty good one, so I just try to build off that and roll into my senior season. [The Bruins] have told me to pretty much continue what I’m doing in school. When the time is right I’ll go ahead [and turn pro], so probably after I graduate I’ll jump on and make an impact.”
 
Fitzgerald certainly didn’t mention or give any hints that it could happen, but these days it has to give an NHL organization a bit of trepidation anytime one of their draft picks makes it all the way to their senior season. There’s always the possibility of it turning into a Jimmy Vesey-type situation if a player -- like Fitzgerald -- has a huge final year and draws enough NHL interest to forego signing with the team that drafted him for a shot at free agency in the August following his senior season.
 
It may be a moot point with Fitzgerald, a Boston kid already living a dream as a Bruins draft pick, but it’s always a possibility until he actually signs.
 
In any case, both Donato and Fitzgerald beat watching in their respective college seasons after both saw their development level take a healthy leap forward.