Isles' Grabner steals rookie show at Garden

191545.jpg

Isles' Grabner steals rookie show at Garden

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- It was the tale of two rookies. Both first-round picks. Both at the TD Garden on Wednesday night.

But only one was playing.

Unlike Bruins rookie forward Tyler Seguin, New York Islanders rookie winger Michael Grabner wasn't drafted last summer. He was taken 14th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2006. Seguin was taken second overall in 2010.

But having only played 20 games last season for the Canucks, Grabner is still categorized as a rookie this season with the Islanders.

On Wednesday night at the TD Garden, while the healthy-scratched Seguin sat high above the ice on the ninth floor, New York's rookie scored his team's only two goals, giving him 33 on the season in 74 games.

Grabner leads all rookies in goals, and is a clear-cut candidate for the Calder Memorial Trophy.

In fairness to Seguin, Grabner -- while a previous first-round pick -- is four years older. And since being drafted in 2006, Grabner had played three full seasons in the AHL prior to what's now being called his "rookie" year.

Still, Grabner hasn't disappointed the Islanders since being picked off waivers in October. The Florida Panthers placed him on those waivers with the purpose of sending him to their minor-league team.

Grabner went to New York with something to prove, after Vancouver traded him to the Panthers' organization at the 2010 NHL draft, the same draft in which the Bruins selected Seguin No. 2 overall.

Neither player's rookie campaign can be compared to the other. That was evident on Wednesday night as Grabner tied the game at 1-1 in the opening minutes of the second period with a one-timer from the right circle on a power play. He followed it up later in the period by cutting the Bruins' lead to 3-2, after he flat out beat Tomas Kaberle to a race to the puck at center ice, while the Islanders were on the penalty kill.

Grabner took the puck and skated in all alone, only to beat Tim Thomas with a deke and a quick flip into the top-right corner of the net.

"What can you say? It's almost like, when you chip a puck out into the neutral zone, he's got a chance to track that puck down, and make something very exciting happen," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano after his team's 3-2 loss to Boston. "And that's what happened tonight. We got a little turnover, and Josh Bailey just chipped it out, and Grabner made a great move on Thomas there.

"He's just been working hard," added Capuano on his speedy winger. "And when you work hard in practice, and you do the right things, it pays off for you."

That's not to say Seguin doesn't work hard in practice, or do the right things when he's on the ice. After all, the 19-year-old has played in 72 games this season, totaling 11 goals and 11 assists.

And perhaps if the Bruins weren't one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, Seguin would have the luxury of playing more minutes, and seeing consistent time on the top line.

But Boston coach Claude Julien is in a position where, not only does he not have to give Seguin those minutes, but he doesn't even have to dress him, regardless of how hard he might work, and how much more improved he's looked in recent weeks.

The Bruins are playing for a Stanley Cup. The Islanders are, well, playing two more regular-season games and then teeing off.

It still can't be denied that Grabner's individual rookie season has been better than Seguin's. But those factors -- older, more experienced, getting plenty of ice time on a going-nowhere team with no expectations -- will always make one wonder what the results would have been if the shoe were on the other foot.

"It was nice to get a couple goals," said Grabner. "Obviously, it would be nicer to have a win in the bag. I'm just not going to change my game. I think the whole team worked hard tonight.

"Like I said before, I just try to go out there and play my game," added Grabner. "I was drafted to score goals. It has been going good this year. Hopefully I can keep it up the last couple of games."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

bruins_blue_jackets_jimmy_hayes_092616.jpg

Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

BOSTON, Mass. – There’s a long way to go toward a complete resurrection from last season’s misdeeds, but Jimmy Hayes made a nice little statement that he’s learned some lessons in Boston’s preseason debut. The Bruins lost the game, 3-2, in the shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Hayes scored one of the two goals for the Black and Gold as one of the few veterans in a very youthful lineup for Boston.

The Hayes goal was a nice give-and-go with Jake DeBrusk at the end of a nice transition play in the second period, and was the highlight of a night playing on the right wing with DeBrusk and center Austin Czarnik. The score and a team-high four shots on net for Hayes represent a good start for what he hopes is a gigantic rebound season after last year’s disappointment.

Clearly Hayes heard some of the unflattering chatter about him on sports talk radio and otherwise last season, and may even understand how his difficult season in his home city of Boston -- whether he actively expressed it to him or not -- might have been a factor in his buddy Jimmy Vesey ultimately choosing New York over Boston.

It appears the former Boston College standout is looking to change the conversation in Boston. 

“Yeah, sure am. I’ve got a lot to come out here and…[there were] a lot of comments about myself, but I know I’m a good player. I got to this level for a reason,” said Hayes, who dropped from 19 goals and 35 points with the Panthers to 13 goals, 29 points and a career-worst minus-12 for the Bruins last season.

“To be able to play at the NHL level and continue to play at that level on a consistent basis is what I expect out of myself. I do it for myself and our teammates, and to help our team win. I’ll continue moving forward.

“It’s funny being the old guy on the line. It’s nice to see those young guys and see how excited they are, and how excited I am to get back out there. That’s what I said to the guys, they still have the jitters and they still have them for the first preseason game. It shows that these guys want it and it’s been a lot of fun skating with those guys. They’ve got a lot of speed and to keep pushing the pace. Trying to keep up with them has been a lot of fun.”

There is still a long way to go for the 26-year-old winger, and his willingness to stick around the danger areas on Monday night was a welcomed one for a Bruins team that needs his 6-foot-6 body in front of the net. Hayes paid the price with stitches and a fat lip after taking a Dalton Prout high-stick to the mouth in front of the Columbus net that went uncalled on a Bruins PP at the end of the second period.

That’s all part of the big man’s game on the ice, however. It’s also the kind of battle and determined fight that Hayes will need to show much more consistently in his second season with the hometown Bruins if he’s truly looking to bounce-back from last year’s mediocre performance. 

Carlo 'arguably the best' defenseman for Bruins in preseason opener

bruins-brandon-carlo.jpg

Carlo 'arguably the best' defenseman for Bruins in preseason opener

BOSTON – On a night when many of Boston’s young players stepped up nicely, perhaps none did more so than 19-year-old defenseman Brandon Carlo. The youngster was in a top pair role with John-Michael Liles against a decent Columbus Blue Jackets lineup that included Sam Gagner, Alexander Wennberg, Seth Jones, Brandon Saad and Sonny Milano, and had almost no miscues in his 20:16 of ice time.

Better than that, Carlo notched an assist on the game-tying score in the third period when his right point shot made it through traffic for Danton Heinen to redirect it past Curtis McElhinney from the slot. That left Carlo with an assist, a plus-1 rating and three shots on net in 20:16 of ice time to go along with some heavy battling around the net whenever Blue Jackets players tried to get too close.

“Arguably our best D, if not our best D. [He showed] real good decision-making, and his gaps are good. I can really only think of one time in the third period he kind of threw a puck away in the middle of a change, and ended up on his wrong side,” said Bruins assistant coach Bruce Cassidy. “It wasn’t a bad turnover, but it was just one that he could have made a little bit of a better decision.

“He didn’t handle the puck much in the game, that’s pretty good. He jumped up the ice, got his shot through when it was there, matched up well with whoever he was put out there [against], pushed back in front of our net. [There were] a lot of good things.”

It’s a big training camp for Carlo, who is more than likely earmarked for Providence unless he can utilize a stellar training camp performance to push over one of the seven veteran Bruins D-men with NHL contracts. That means potentially displacing Joe Morrow as the seventh defensemen on the roster, or forcing the Bruins to possibly deal Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller if the Bruins feel he is ready for the day-to-day NHL grind.

The preseason opener was a good start that the 2015 second round pick was excited about, but things will certainly get more challenging for Carlo as the Bruins get deeper into this training camp.

“I just want to keep the same mentality, same energy. Show a little bit more physicality. I felt like I did that, but definitely could close a little quicker in a few instances overall. I just want to keep building on every game,” said Carlo. “There are some very strong guys on the puck in this league and throughout this game they had those guys out there definitely. Overall, you just have to compete just as hard as them.

“You’re dealing with NHL guys out there. [The Blue Jackets] had some pretty good guys in their lineup tonight and everyone is competing for jobs on both sides…so the speed was phenomenal. I loved it.”

The Bruins loved what they saw of Carlo in a pretty big opportunity right out of the gate this preseason, and now the teenager has set the bar if he wants to keep pushing with a hockey club that needs to upgrade their defense with strong, young players.