Khokhlachev mourns loss of friends in KHL crash


Khokhlachev mourns loss of friends in KHL crash

By Joe Haggerty Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
WILMINGTON The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash has brutally affected people all across the hockey world, and unfortunately the young and talented Bruins prospects at rookie training camp are no different.

Bs 2011 second round pick Alexander Khokhlachev grew up in the Russian capital city of Moscow and has watched all of the news and reports out of his home country with wide-eyed horror over the last week while working out in North America for his first NHL training camp.

Its been very difficult for Khokhlachev being so far away from home when tragedy struck at the heart of his mother country, and things hit very close to Kokos heart when the crash took the lives of a pair of his friends the talented center grew up playing with.

Khokhlachev played for a pair of junior Russian National teams with 18-year-old Maxim Shuvalov and also knew 21-year-old Sergei Ostapchuk, who had played a pair of seasons in the Quebec Major Junior League before joining on with Lokomotiv in the KHL. Both young men were lost before the prime of their lives when the Yak-42 plane ripped apart in Yaroslavl.

Khokhlachev mourns the loss of both comrades.

I went to one school with Ostapchuk. This is just terrible. It was the first Lokomotiv road trip of the year, so they brought some of the young guys that I knew. Just really terrible news, said Khokhlachev. There were a couple of young guys there. It was shock first thing when you heard and then you just felt really bad for all of those guys. Its a really bad time. I dont even know how to explain it.

The crash came at the end of a challenging summer for Khokhlachev, who scored 30 goals with the Windsor Spitfires last season while learning English and mastering the North American game before heading home to Moscow for a couple of weeks.

Then Khokhlachev headed to Toronto for the NHL rookie combine, hit Minnesota for the NHL draft and then flew to Boston for a prospect camp that he wasnt quite physically prepared for after the Bs tapped him in the second round.

Once the Bs prospect camp was over Khokhlachev went right back to Ontario to begin working out in Windsor with some new instructions and training tips from the Bs training staff.

The whirlwind summer appeared to be winding up on a high note with Bs training camp on the horizon and Khokhlachev celebrating his 18th birthday on the first day of rookie camp. But that was all cast in a different light when he saw the Russian plane go down immediately after take-off, cutting down the lives of so many good hockey people.

It was really tough when you dont know everything thats going on, said Khokhlachev. Ive been reading the news every day and checking on things. I think theyre going to find out in the next couple of days what actually happened with the plane. So we just wait for now.

Khokhlachev knows that it will be important to impress when he plays in the two rookie games against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum over the next two evenings, but the Russian scorer will be doing so with a bit of a heavy heart.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: Bruins sinking fast with nothing to hang on to

Haggerty: Bruins sinking fast with nothing to hang on to

So, what do the Bruins do now amidst a three-game tailspin that could easily devolve into a six- or seven-game losing stretch if they’re not too careful?

The goaltending has been predictably porous with Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin out of commission with injuries. The Black and Gold allowed 11 goals in the past two games despite Zane McIntyre battling in tough conditions at Madison Square Garden. The bottom line is McIntyre and Malcolm Subban don’t look ready for NHL prime time and there are legitimate questions as to whether Subban ever will become an NHL goalie.

Beyond that, the Bruins defense has been downright atrocious just as the goaltending situation has deteriorated. Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug have struggled individually and as a pairing that the B’s coaching staff had hoped would complement Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo in Boston’s top-four. McQuaid is a minus-3 in his first two games back from an upper body injury and Krug is a minus-4 with a surprising zero points in his first seven games this season.

In fact, every Bruins defenseman not named Chara or Carlo is a combined minus-16 on the season and, of that group, only currently-in-the-AHL rookie Rob O’Gara has a positive plus/minus for the season. Both the defensive zone coverage and the compromised ability to break the puck out of their own end have been problematic and Boston’s opponents have enjoyed way too easy of a time getting into the slot area for juicy scoring chances.

In other words, the defense looks very much like last season for the Bruins with – surprise, surprise – nearly the same cast of characters returning from that subpar crew.

Then there’s the forward group, which has enjoyed great production from David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand in the early going and from David Backes before his elbow injury that was at least partially caused by the hard miles the 32-year-old brawny center has logged over the years. 

Patrice Bergeron has just one point in four games since returning from a lower body injury and opposing defenses in recent games have been able to key on that top line of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak while mostly neutralizing them. 

That’s because the other Bruins forward lines are doing nothing offensively from a production or puck possession standpoint. Sure, Austin Czarnik had his first NHL goal Wednesday night against the Rangers and Dominic Moore has a couple of goals for a fourth line that’s been decent for Boston this season.

But David Krejci has no goals and three points in seven games with a minus-4 rating while looking slow and tentative coming back from hip surgery, Ryan Spooner is off to a slow start bouncing between wing and center and the third line winger combo of Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes have zero points and a ghastly combined minus-14 rating on the season.

So, basically the Black and Gold have nothing to hang their hat on with the goaltending, the defensemen and the forwards all working at far less than full capacity right now, and that’s making them hockey road kill for opponents. To make matters worse, the Bruins find themselves in the middle of a six-game stretch where they’re playing quality teams that made the playoffs last season, and can expose all of their weak spots.

A prolonged losing streak could knock the Bruins far out of the playoff picture over the next few weeks and leave them more than a handful of points out of the postseason cut by Thanksgiving. Once that happens, the odds would be against the Bruins turning things around and there would zero margin of error for a team that needs leeway based on the glaring roster weaknesses.

So, what are the Bruins to do right now?

There’s not much they can do aside from simply play better, hope that Backes and Rask can return rather quickly and avoid buckling and quitting in games like they did against the Wild and Rangers over the past few days. The Bruins will try to ramp Rask up potentially for this weekend against the Red Wings in Detroit and perhaps that will be enough time for his reported hamstring and groin issues to have healed up.

But if not, the Bruins will need to look on the goaltending market for possible answers rather than asking rookie goalies to thrive behind a struggling, substandard defensive group. Ondrej Pavelec out in Winnipeg would be too expensive in terms of cap hit and there may not be a chance to snag Mike Condon on waivers from Pittsburgh as the Penguins look like they want to hold onto the Massachusetts native with Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury also in the fold.

That leaves the Bruins with a number of retread goalie options like Kari Ramo, Kevin Poulin, Ray Emery, Dan Ellis and Yann Danis, who might have to become a reality if Rask suffers a dreaded setback in the coming days. Bringing in a veteran goalie with NHL experience certainly makes some sense on paper if things are left to Subban and McIntyre, but the bottom line is that Boston will continue to resemble an imploding hockey club until some of their other deep-seated issues are fully addressed.

Gerry Cheevers isn’t walking through that door anytime soon, and if he did, he’d smartly walk back out rather than get hung out to dry by a Bruins team that’s playing embarrassingly poorly in front of a couple of young goalies that need their best.  

Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team


Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while saying RIP Vine but not really feeling it since it’s a rabbit hole I never really delved down into. 

*Down Goes Brown celebrates the “NHL’s old guys”, and yes, that means a gratuitous shout out to Zdeno Chara as the top defenseman on the All-Graybeard squad. 

*Hampus Lindholm has signed a long term deal with the Anaheim Ducks, so now that deal leaves everybody to wonder who is leaving the Anaheim roster in the eventual salary cap crunch. It will be interesting to see if this hastens any Cam Fowler trade talk as far as the Bruins are concerned because it looks like they need the help.  

*Pro Hockey Talk has the Oilers off to their best start since the Wayne Gretzky Era and people in Edmonton finally getting to see the hockey they’ve been waiting for over the past few years. 

*In honor of the Halloween season that we’re in, here are a few cool and scary goalie masks with a bit of spooky flair. 

*Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka is confident that his young team is going to rebound after a rough start to the season. 

*Speaking of creative uniforms, it’s a most wonderful time of the year for hockey when they bust out their Oktoberfest sweaters. 

*For something completely different: this matchup of Peanuts and Stranger Things hits all the right notes for fans of both.