Kampfer's rookie mistakes cost the B's

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Kampfer's rookie mistakes cost the B's

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

NASHVILLE Steve Kampfer has already experienced deliriously high moments and challenging low points during a full-figured NHL rookie season.

But Thursday in Nashville was one of those deep, dark nights that the rookie blueliner will remember as being close to rock-bottom when hes looking back on the season.

Kampfer has largely been very solid in his first NHL season as that rare puck-moving defenseman for the Bruins, but he made a pair of costly mistakes in the closing minutes of a 4-3 overtime loss to Predators.

They were the kind of costly gaffes that make you wonder how ready Kampfer is for playoff-style pressure, and whether he might be headed for a seat in the press box when Andrew Ference returns to action, perhaps as soon as this weekend.

The defeat was one of those games that a playoff team simply shouldnt lose this late in the year and mental mistakes, in the form of defensive breakdowns, simply shouldnt be happening.

Weve had a chance to review the goals. We need sharpness in how were thinking the game right now, said a perturbed Claude Julien. Were making some poor decisions mentally."

Davod Legwand goal's, little more than halfway through thethird period, tied things up at 3-3, and was the play that seemed toirk Julien most after the loss. It was a bad line change on an expiringpower play to kick things off, as Martin Erat got behind the Boston defense.There should have attention lavished on one of Nashvilles hottestoffensive players as he hopped out of the penalty box, but there was noBruin to be found.

Erats breakaway chance was kicked away byTuukka Rask as he moved out of his cage, and the Bs goaltender somehow got apiece of Sergei Kostitsyns rebound attempt in front of the net.

Kampferhad arrived as defensive support by that point and tried to fill up thenet as he landed in the crease on his stomach, but that left bothdefenseman and goaltender unable to do much of anything. Legwand jumpedon the sliding puck in front of the net and deposited the tying goalfor the Predators.

"Erat is on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box on a poor line change, but Tuukka bails us out," said Julien. "Then our D " meaning Kampfer "is on the back-check and ends up flat on his stomach in the crease.

"All he has to do is stop the slot, then the first save has been made and the puck is in the corner. But you end up flat on your stomach for no reason because theres nobody there, and it ends up being a goal.

Kampfer caught an edge and ended up on all fours in the goal crease.

The rookie defenseman compounded the mistake by taking a holding penalty on Mike Fisher in overtime. The ensuing power play led to Nashville defenseman Shea Weber beating Rask at the high point with a blistering slap shot.

Thats a real bad penalty in overtime, and weve seen that a lot lately, said Julien. A lot of bad penalties. Thats more mental than physical. I thought our team really battled hard tonight. We came out really well in the third period like we wanted to win that hockey game.

But then you give them that tying goal, and a bad penalty at the end. We have to get sharper with our decision-making because its getting too costly for us.

The numbers werent so bad for Kampfer on the evening as a whole, but the growing pains cost the Bruins a victory. The Bs rookie has looked much older and more advanced for most of the season, but it appeared the learning curve has slowed now that things have sped up on him at the worst time.

The holding penalty on Fisher was the one misstep that stayed with Kampfer after the game was finished.

It was a bad penalty, said Kampfer. Ill be the first one to admit it. It was a bad penalty on my part. I cost the team the game. It was my fault. Its a bad penalty. Its my fault. Theres nothing more to say. Its my fault.

Youve got to forget, but at the same time youve got to learn from mistakes. So hopefully Ill learn from it.

As with many game-changing plays late in the season with mounting importance, there were differences of opinion between player and coach and between teammates on and off the ice about some of the mistakes. Kampfer mentioned several times after the game that hefelt Rask was out of place and out of position, which blurs thelines of who was really at fault for the debacle.

Ill be thefirst one to say to Rask that those last two goals were my fault,said Kampfer. But youre trying to help out your goalie when hes outof position and it backfires. Its a frustrating game for the team.

Rask, for his part, was clearly upset about the defensive breakdowns in front of him that led to the Legwand score, and fired his stick straight up in the air out of sheer frustration when the game was tied.

Its a tough loss, said Rask. We get the lead, stuff happens and then you lose the game.

Obviously maybe you do something differently, but its some tough luck. We shouldnt lose this kind of game. I thought we had everything under control there, and then its just a tough loss.

Julien feels like Kampfer deserves much of the criticism for being out of position in the Bruins' defensive system, and he wont let his young players forget it.

Kampfer said he was simply jumping into the crease for Tuukka, because he was out of place though it was clear Rask was out of position because Erat had managed to get behind every layer of the Boston defense.

Thats exactly what I was trying to do, said Kampfer. Tuukka was out of place and the guy is getting the shot. Im trying to cover up, and the puck goes right to the other guy. Theres nothing more to say. Youre trying to stop a goal and it backfires on you.

While its still an isolated incident, Kampfer has to hope there arent too many more backfires before the season begins.

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

Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

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Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

A day after the Bruins announced a much-maligned four-year contract extension for defenseman Kevan Miller, B’s general manager Don Sweeney held court with the media to equal parts explain/defend the $10 million deal. Sweeney pointed to the very high character of a hardnosed player in Miller, and the relatively low mileage given that he’s played only 159 games at the NHL level.

There was also mention made of the room to grow in Miller’s game, though it’s difficult to imagine a much higher ceiling for a 28-year-old player than what the former UVM produced showed in 71 games last season.

“Kevan brings incredible character. His signing provides us with the necessary depth on our defense that all teams need. His relative low-mileage, having just played 160 games, we identified that we think Kevan has room for continued growth and development,” said Sweeney. “We certainly saw that in his play this year when he had an expanded role. Relative to the free market place, very, very comfortable with where Kevan fits into our group, and this provides us with the opportunity to explore the marketplace in every way, shape, or form, in having Kevan signed.”

Here’s the reality: Miller is a 5-6, bottom pairing defenseman on a good team, and a top-4 defenseman on a team like last year’s Bruins that finished a weak 19th in the league in goals allowed. The five goals and 18 points last season were solid career-high numbers for a player in the middle of his hockey prime, but he barely averaged 19 minutes of ice time per game as a front top-4 defenseman. Miller struggles with some of the fundamental needs in today’s NHL if you’re going to be a top-4 D-man: the tape-to-tape passes aren’t always accurate, there’s intermittent difficulty cleanly breaking the puck out of the defensive zone and Miller was exploited by the other team’s best players when paired with Zdeno Chara at points last season.

Certainly Miller has done some good things racking up a plus-55 rating during his three years in Boston, but executives and officials around the league were a bit surprised by the 4-year, $10 million contract extension. It’s viewed as a slight overpay in terms of both salary and term, but it’s more the redundancy of the contract that’s befuddling to some.

“Miller is certainly a rugged guy, but you already had one of those at roughly the same value in Adam McQuaid. I believe that you can’t win if you have both McQuaid and Miller in your top 6 because they are both No. 6 D’s in my mind,” said a rival NHL front office executive polled about the Miller contract. “You look at the playoffs and the direction that the league is headed in, and you need to have big, mobile defenseman that can quickly move the puck up the ice. You have too much of the same thing with Miller and McQuaid, and I think you can’t win with that in this day and age.”

The one facet of the four year Miller contract that might make it okay for some Bruins fans: the tacit connection to the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes. According to several sources around the league, the Bruins taking care of Miller now will very likely have a positive impact on their chances of landing Vesey when he becomes a free agent on Aug. 15, and makes them the front-runner for the Harvard standout’s services. Both Miller and Vesey are represented by the same agent in Peter Fish, and those are the kinds of behind-the-scenes connections that many times factor into free agent signings and trades around the NHL.

So many, this humble hockey writer included, may owe Sweeney a slight apology if paying a $10 million premium for a bottom-pairing defenseman in Miller now pays dividends in landing a stud forward like Vesey that’s drawing interest all around the league.

Sweeney: Bruins head to market seeking 'transitional defenseman'

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Sweeney: Bruins head to market seeking 'transitional defenseman'

BOSTON -- This isn't exactly a state secret: The Bruins are on the lookout for a puck-moving, top-pairing defenseman who can help their transition game, and aid them in more easily breaking the puck out of their own zone.

The B's basically had two top-4 defensemen on their roster last season -- Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara were the only two on the Boston roster who topped 20 minutes of ice time per game -- and tried to fill in the blanks with Kevan Miller, Adam McQuaid, Dennis Seidenberg and several other young blueliners. Their success, or lack thereof, is reflected in the fact they finished 19th in the league in goals allowed.

So general manager Don Sweeney said during a Wednesday conference call with reporters that the team is in search of a “transitional” defenseman, and will do whatever is necessary to acquire one.

In Sweeney's words, the Bruins will be “aggressive” and pursue improving the hockey club “in any way, shape or form".

There are plenty of signs that Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk could figure prominently in Boston’s trade pursuits this summer, and free agents Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski would be immediate upgrades in the “transitional defenseman” department. But the Bruins were also on a mission to get a “transitional defenseman” last season as well, and came up empty (aside from early season flameout Matt Irwin and 35-year-old journeyman John-Michael Liles acquired at the trade deadline).

They had grand plans to trade up in the first round of last year's draft and nab Boston College's Noah Hanifin. But -- after dealing Dougie Hamilton to the Calgary Flames for three 2016 draft picks -- they were unable to move into position to draft Hanifan.

So it’s clear that making efforts to land that elusive defenseman, and actually closing the deal, are two extremely different things.

Toward that end, Sweeney also talked about looking for defensive help from within the organization. 

“We’ve had talks with (Krug, a restricted free agent) and we’ll find, whatever term that ends up being . . . we’ll find a contract for him," said Sweeney. "But we’re looking for balance. We’re also looking for players like Colin Miller to take the next step. We’ve got younger players that will hopefully push, and that’s what you want.

“You want the depth of the organization to be there for the younger players to push somebody out because they’re ready to play . . . (young players such as) [Matt] Grzelcyk and [Rob] O’Gara. And [I] just came back from seeing [Jeremy] Lauzon play. You know [we're] very excited about the trajectory of that player and the possibility (of his making the NHL roster) down the road, depending on what his development curve looks like and when he gets in here and [starts] playing against the men.

“We’ve got pieces in place that will hopefully push the group that we currently have and that’s what you want. You want that internal competition that players feel like they better perform."

But, he added, "we’re also looking outside the marketplace because we need to continue to transition the puck better.”