Haggerty: Don't expect a slugfest between B's, Sabres

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Haggerty: Don't expect a slugfest between B's, Sabres

The Bruins actually know exactly whats going through the furiousminds of the Buffalo Sabres.

A majority of the players now on the Bs roster have lived through the same kind of emotionalcycle of shock, embarrassment, anger and retribution that Buffalo has been riding since Milan Lucic blasted Ryan Miller in a collision at the Garden two weeks ago. It's a Merry Go Round from Hell for any team that prides itself on teamwork and trust.

Lucic collided with the skinny goaltender in a game twoweeks agowith enough force to knock Miller to the ice, and ultimately the Sabres goalie exited the contest with a concussion thats kept him sidelined since then. But thats not the worst part.

The worstaspect ofthe entire incident was a damning indictment of the Sabres: Not oneof Millers Sabres teammates stepped up in defense of their franchise goaltenderafter gettingdumpedby the hulking left winger. There was plenty of harsh criticism centered around Buffalo center Paul Gaustad, who was out on the ice during the incident and never attempted to drop the gloves with Lucic in defense of his fallen goalie.Gaustad has 27 fights on his NHL resume, and dozens more at the minor league level before making it with Buffalo -- so it's a role he should have been happy to fill.

Lucic admitted he was surprised the Sabres players didnt come gunning for him in the remaining two periods of play during the first meeting between the two teams. The B's power forward poured more salt on the wound bystating "it would have been different" if that kind of thinghappened to the Bruins. Guys like Cody McCormick or Patrick Kaleta could be forced into pushing Lucic for payback, but true justice would be ifGaustad atoned for his lack of courage the first time around.

Ive always respected the Buffalo Sabres, said Lucic, who admitted he expects to be invited to fight Wednesday as an answer to his actions. I didnt call anyone a coward or anything like that. I never said anything along those lines. All I said is we would respond differently. Thats the only thing I said. I never pointed fingers at absolutely anyone.

The passion is what makes it fun. I know its a Wednesday night in November. It is a big game. A lot of people are talking about it. Theres a lot at stake with getting that first place in the division. I think even the fans here in Buffalo are going to be excited for it. I know were excited for it. Weve been looking forward to this game as much as they have. Its what makes this game fun.

But the whole Sabresteam took the blame, and their players, management and coaching staff admitted in the days following the incident that they failed one of the basic tenets of hockey: standing up for teammates when other players take bigliberties with them.

For the Bruins it was eerily reminiscent of the Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard when the Bs players did nothing to make the Pittsburgh cheap shot artist pay for his blindsiding ways. Shawn Thornton and Matt Cooke eventually did drop the gloves during the Revenge Game a month later that season, and that essentially evened things out in the mind of the players.The Bruins were crushed for their lack of response to Cooke's elbow as Savard lay motionless on the ice, and that's the biggest reason Lucic knows his teammates would never let it happen again. They've lived through embarrassment and shame that's become Buffalo's world this month.Gregory Campbell saw a parallel between the Cooke and Millerincidents from a reaction perspective, and the feelings of retribution being sought after by the wronged team.

This team has been in situations like that before. We go into games focused on winning and our nature is to play physical anyway, said Campbell. Its not really our area to worry about. It was an internal issue with their Sabresteam and they can handle it howeverthey want.

The Bruins players expect the same kind of scenario to play out Wednesday night in Buffalo, and perhaps there is even a run or two taken at Tim Thomas between the pipes. That would be interesting given that Thomas has shown a real ability to defend himself at his goaltender position, and the Bruins will be watching their goalie protectively.

Things shouldnt get too out of control on Wednesday night with the league watching closely and the Sabres not really known as a brawling hockey club, and it would be playing right into the hands of the Big Bad Bruins after all. But Sabres President Ted Black did go on 550 AM radio in Buffalo on Wednesday morning and answered "Realistically, yes" when asked point blank if expected at least one fight in the BruinsSabres game that also has Northeast Division bragging rights on the line.

Its not like you can go out there and be stupid. We were obviously in the same situation with the Cooke thing when he hit Savvy. If they want to get goofy then thats fine, said Andrew Ference. Our team is well-equipped for different kinds of games. It was a controversial hit and theyre obviously upset about it. Im sure they want some retribution and Lucic is fully prepared to answer to anybody that wants to get involved. If not then we just play.

There will be plenty of passion and perhaps even a good old-fashioned scrap Wednesday between the Sabres and Bruins.Maybe Buffalo will get their revenge, or maybe the B's will put the Sabres in their place because that simply isn't the Sabres preferred style of play. But those looking for a Slap Shot style gong show will be sorely disappointed when a hockey game -- not an alley fight -- ultimatley breaks out in Buff.

Morning Skate: Stamkos destined to wind up somewhere new

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Morning Skate: Stamkos destined to wind up somewhere new

Here are the links from all around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while happy to be back in the city of Boston.

*The Buffalo Sabres don’t sound happy about the accusations against Evander Kane that cropped up during NHL Draft weekend, why would they be?

*NHL teams can now start discussing free agents, exchanging ideas with them and start the chase up to July 1.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the biggest winners in the 2016 NHL Draft. Here’s a shocker: the Bruins aren’t among them.

*A good piece from Alex Prewitt on the importance of the land line phones on the draft floor during NHL Draft weekend.

*The Edmonton Oilers are another team that didn’t come out of draft weekend with a defenseman, and are still in search of their back end help.

*A nice piece on Philadelphia Flyers draft pick Pascal Laberge, who could have been plucked by the Bruins at No. 29 rather than Trent Frederic.

*Bruce Garrioch has his Sunday NHL notes, and says that Steven Stamkos appears destined to play somewhere other than Tampa Bay.

*For something completely different: Jonah Keri has TV critic Alan Sepinwall on his podcast, and one can only hope it’s to explain how and why he could have disliked last week’s episode of Game of Thrones.

Haggerty: Grading the Bruins Draft

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Haggerty: Grading the Bruins Draft

BUFFALO – The Bruins knew they had some objectives heading into the 2016 NHL Draft at the First Niagara Center, and by their accounts they achieved them. The Black and Gold were looking to get bigger and grittier down the middle at the center position, they wanted to get faster and they knew they had to continue to add quality top-4 candidates to their organization defensemen corps depth.

Charlie McAvoy, Ryan Lindgren and Cameron Clarke will add to the defensemen within the Bruins organization, and both Trent Frederic and Joona Koppanen are big-bodied, gritty centers that take care of business in their own end.

Oskar Steen is the one departure as a small, skilled forward out of Sweden to add to the D-men and centers that now count themselves as members of the Black and Gold. Interestingly enough this was the first season in Bruins history that the B’s drafted an entire class of players without selecting a single Canadian player.  

The six player draft class wasn’t an overwhelming success or an abject failure, but something in between. It was a much more muted all-around experience for Don Sweeney in his second season running the hockey operations in Boston.

“You look at last year and we took three junior players right out of the hop. This year there were some college players,” said Don Sweeney. “We always identify the best players that we want, and positional need. In a perfect world it all lines up.”

With that in mind, here are grades and breakdowns for each of the six prospects that heard their names called by the Bruins this weekend:

First round: Charlie McAvoy (14th overall) – The Boston University D-man impressed scouts and college hockey enthusiasts all the same by playing extremely well as the youngest NCAA player last season. McAvoy’s explosive skating ability, quick decision-making with the puck on his stick and ability to execute the tape-to-tape pass practically ensure that he’ll have success at the next level, and his low center of gravity and feisty physicality at 6-foot, 208-pounds will make him well-embraced by Bruins fans. The Bruins scouting staff was split between choosing McAvoy or BCHL defenseman Dante Fabbro when both players were there for the taking, but McAvoy’s skating ability and playmaking confidence tipped the scales his way. McAvoy could be NHL-ready a within a couple of seasons, and immediately shoots to the top of the organization’s D-men prospects. Grade: A-. What the Bruins say: “We had a lot of discussion on a lot players, and those two players [McAvoy and Fabbro] we went back and forth on them quite a bit. They’re both good defenseman, but we really believe that Charlie has something that we really liked. Playing against men already at that age is a big thing, and we’ve seen him grow as a player. He can skate, he’s mobile and he plays physical. We feel like his style is what we’re looking for, and it’s up to him to take it to the next level.”

First round: Trent Frederic (29th overall) – The 6-foot-2, 210-pound center is a hard-working, strong player in the pivot that isn’t afraid to pay the price in the danger areas, and is more than willing to throw his body around. The offensive ability seems to be a bit limited, but he also played with an injured hand in the second half of last season that appeared to impact his placement in the final draft rankings. In a perfect world Frederic develops into a hard-nosed, gritty forward in the mold of his favorite players (David Backes, Justin Abdelkader), but he sounds eerily like a Chris Kelly kind of player taken in the first round of the draft. Clearly the Bruins were looking at size at the center spot, and perhaps they were a little thrown last minute when Tage Thompson got selected a few picks earlier in the first round. But it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to draft third and fourth line center prospects at the end of the first round when skilled players like Alex DeBrincat and Pascal Laberge were still on the board. If DeBrincat turns into a scoring machine in Chicago with Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin, the Bruins will regret this weekend in a big, big way. This feels like a reach with a draft pick the Bruins were hoping to move for a defenseman, but the likeable Frederic will have years at the University of Wisconsin to prove everybody wrong. Grade: D. What the Bruins say: “We needed some centers with some size and heaviness, and we really believe he’s going to a [Wisconsin] program where everything is changing for him. Even his teammates all talk him up. He’s not going to be top two line guy, and we all know that. He’s got some jam, and he plays hard. You want good people that are going to pay the price. He playing well during the year, and then he tailed off at the end because he had a broken hand. We liked his projection as a staff.”

Second round: Ryan Lindgren (49th overall) – The Minnesota native and Gophers recruit has recorded nine goals and 35 assists for 44 points and 145 penalty minutes in 116 games over the last two years with the US National Development Team Program. The 6-foot, 198-pounder isn’t very big, isn’t the fastest guy when it comes to skating and is far from the flashiest player that came through the Team USA pipeline over the last couple of years. But Lindgren is hard-nosed and competitive, and is a high character player that brings effort into every category of his game. Scouts rave about his leadership, character and willingness to sacrifice for the greater good of the team while quietly going about his own business, and the Bruins could use a solid defenseman like that. Lindgren will need to improve, but everybody that knows him thinks he’ll be able to do it. Grade: B. What the Bruins say: “He blocks shots. He’s not the most skilled guy like McAvoy or anybody like that, but he brings an element that we really liked as an organization. He really brings something as a leader, and we like those guys.”

Fifth round: Joona Koppanen (135th overall) – The 6-foot-5 center from Finland is big, strong and keen on playing with strength and effort in his own end, and has the kind of size at the center position that you just can’t teach. The problem right now is that the body type, style of game and limited offensive ability in a Finnish player reminds everybody of Joonas Kemppainen, who quite simply didn’t work out in Boston during his NHL audition last season. One has to hope that Koppanen can continue to develop his offensive skills to at least be a player with average production down the road, but nobody is expecting him to be more than a third or fourth line center at this point. Grade: B-. What the Bruins say: “He’s a big guy, and for a big guy he can really move around. He’s very good defensively and smart with his positioning. He plays hard. The skill is the one area that needs to develop, and we think it’s going to do that. He was a guy that we targeted because he’s a big guy that can skate, and is good in his own end.”

Fifth round: Cameron Clarke (136th overall) – The 18-year-old is a bit of a diamond in the rough out of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), who nonetheless got noticed in Michigan over the last year. Clarke played last season for the Lone Star Brahmas, and registered nine goals and 41 assists for 50 total points and 29 penalty minutes in 59 games during the 2015-2016 season. The 6-foot-1, 170-pounder is a bit on the gangly side and needs more physical development before he turns professional, and that’s something he should be able to focus on while heading to college at Ferris State. I like the off-the-beaten path Grade: B. What the Bruins say: “We knew there were teams that were there [ready to take him], and our guys really liked him. He’s gained a lot of weight in a year-and-a-half, but we know he’s going to take some time. We’re good with that. Our guys really liked him, so we took him.”

Sixth round: Oskar Steen (165th overall) – The 5-foot-9, 187-pound Steen is an undersized Swedish forward that plays a smart, versatile brand of hockey, and he does it while also showing plenty of flashes offensively. The 18-year-old played for Farjestad BK J20 of the SuperElit League for the past two years, putting together 15 goals and 45 total points across 69 games leading up to his selection this weekend. Clearly the size and lack of physical strength will be marks against Steen when he goes toe-to-toe against bigger, stronger competition in North America, but he showed enough smarts and skill to make his own mark. Grade: C+.What the Bruins say: “He’s got underrated skill. He can score goals and move the puck. He’s not the biggest guy, but we’ve seen him and we were excited to be able to draft him.”