Julien's improvement project: Close those gaps

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Julien's improvement project: Close those gaps

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Each year that Claude Julien has been at the helm of the Bruins, he's taken on a team improvement project with the Bs.

One year its turning up the pressure on the forecheck. Another year its improving the breakouts to gather speed through the neutral zone.

With so many key players remaining in Boston year in and year out, the Bruins have become accustomed to Juliens offensive and defensive systems. The familiarity allows the coaching staff to get deeper into the details of the game.

This season, the Bruins coach has determined that tightening the gaps between the defenseman and forwards is an area that needs to be addressed.

Tightening up the gap control can slow down the opposition's attack with diligent back-checking, and it also allows the defense group to get much more involved with the offensive attack. The Bs D-men actually did a nice job with their gaps during the playoff run, and could continue improving the attack with offensive defensemen like Joe Corvo and Steve Kampfer expected to log minutes for a more mobile group of blueliners this season.

Were adding a little bit every day and -- the first day was a little bit about -- we want our D to have a tighter gap this year, so we did a lot of drills with that, said Julien speaking about the practice process through the first few days. With the back pressure and backcheck . . . was a little bit more on our transition game and the attack. Were kind of touching up a little bit.

Every year, no matter what happens, you always look for certain things to get a little bit better. The defensemen gaps are an area we identified. It wasnt a major issue, but its an area that we can get better at. Sometimes our D is working up the ice a little harder, and they work up a little harder and are able to support the attack. If they work a little harder and get up the ice then they can also have a tighter gap. Our Ds can get that confidence if our third man is high and they can back-check properly and at least give them some confidence to stand up a little bit more to the blue line.

Its not an area that anybody is going to point to as the reason the Bruins have a successful season if it comes down that way, but its that attention to detail that has helped the Bs become a winner over the last five years.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Friday, Dec. 9: John Scott calls it quits

Friday, Dec. 9: John Scott calls it quits

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while digging the Spider-Man trailer that dropped last night. 

*John Scott has finally called it a day and announced his retirement, and apparently there’s a book of his memoirs also coming out too. I’m predicting it’s not headed for the New York Times best seller list. 

*Winter Olympics participation and the CBA negotiations for the NHL are starting to merge into giant issue.  

*Connor McDavid calls the Flyers' Brandon Manning classless for telling him on the ice that he purposefully tried to hurt him last season. Some players might also take issue with McDavid making public what another player said to him on the ice. That’s kind of a no-no for most hockey players and breaks an unwritten rule that McDavid might think he’s above given his star status. This whole thing isn’t a good look for anybody. 

*Kevin Stevens pleads guilty to federal drug charges in what’s become a pretty sad situation for the former NHL star. 

*New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is beginning to raise questions with his play, and his massive price tag. 

*Youngsters Zach Weresnki and Dylan Larkin took similar paths to the NHL, and are both considered part of the talented young generation full of hockey stars. 

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri has Carey Price taking a nutty on Kyle Palmieri after the player crashed into his crease last night. Price is being celebrated for sticking up for himself, but if another goalie did that to a Habs player at the Bell Centre, there would already be a warrant out for his arrest. Play it both ways, Montreal!  

*For something completely different: here’s the aforementioned new Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer that looks pretty darn good. 

 

Two more Pastrnak goals pull him into tie for NHL lead with Crosby

Two more Pastrnak goals pull him into tie for NHL lead with Crosby

BOSTON – While the loss to the Avalanche on Thursday night was a monumental dud, it put another dazzling display on the hockey resume of David Pastrnak. 

The 20-year-old star right winger scored two more goals in the 4-2 loss at TD Garden and nearly brought the Bruins back into the game by himself before another defensive breakdown at the end of the second period doomed them. 

Instead, Pastrnak had to settle with being the proud owner of 18 goals scored in 23 games that places him in a tie with NHL superstar Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead in goals. 

The goals also showed his wide range of lethal offensive skills. On the first score, he just broke away from the Avalanche defense and managed to bury a second-effort breakaway chance after a nice Tim Schaller stretch pass off the boards. The second goal was a straight one-timer bomb from the high slot off a slick setup pass from Brad Marchand in the corner, and it had the Bruins right back into the mix after a dreadful first period. 

It wasn’t enough when the B’s defense faltered again toward the end of the second period, but it was enough for everybody to be singing Pastrnak’s praises once again following the loss. 

“He’s a game changer. The momentum is going the other way, and he has the ability to break away on any given shift and score a big goal for us. He did that tonight,” said Torey Krug. “We can’t just keep relying on the same guys to score goals. We’ve got to come up with secondary offense, and I know every other guy wants to do that. 

“Now it’s about showing that on the ice and making sure we’re doing the work and getting better and proving to ourselves. But Pasta [David Pastrnak] has been great for us so far, and we’re obviously lucky to have him.”

The 18 goals barely two months into the season are not too shabby for a kid, in his third NHL season, who just now coming into his own. He’s nearly halfway to 40 before Christmas. For Pastrnak, however, it’s about the team result and he wasn’t overly satisfied with his two goals in a losing effort. 

“I’ve said before the season that our goal is to make the playoffs and to have that experience and have the chance to win the Stanley Cup. I’m still focusing on that,” said Pastrnak, who has yet to experience the Stanley Cup playoffs in his two-plus seasons with the Black and Gold. “We have zero points from tonight’s game and we have to move on. I think our game gets better in the second and third periods, you know, and we have to regroup and get ready for Saturday’s game.”

The Bruins will undoubtedly regroup and once again count on another Pastrnak offensive explosion to help lead the way in what’s become a truly spectacular season for the youngster.