Local schools represented well at Bruins camp

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Local schools represented well at Bruins camp

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
WILMINGTON Three local college hockey products hailing from three very different places in their careers took spots alongside the rest of the Bruins prospect ranks when development camp took place this week at Ristuccia Arena.

All three have played against each other in Beanpot competition over the last couple of years, and have quickly morphed from competitors into teammates and partners in bonding activities like paintball.

Boston College senior to be Tommy Cross is entering his fourth and final year at the Heights, and the 21-year-old defenseman stands as the oldest player among the Bs prospects aside from 24-year-old Brett Olson from Michigan Tech.

Cross has battled all the way back from a series of knee surgeries stemming from a summer injury playing baseball prior to his freshman season with the Eagles. Those problems left him on crutches for his first development camp with the Bs, but the youngster put up 18 points (7 goals, 11 assists) in 28 games for BC last year.

Cross scored the overtime game-winner against Boston University in the first round of the Beanpot, and has played in a bevy of big games throughout his collegiate hockey career.

It goes without saying that he brings a wealth of experience at the teams development camps with so many first and second year players surrounding him this season.

Tommys been through some, was a second round draft choice, so hes had some acclaim behind him in terms of where he was selected, said Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney. But hes been patient about staying in school, and hes a captain which obviously speaks volumes. Boston College runs a hell of a program, so thats a credit to Tommy in a leadership capacity.

The age, experience and poise gives the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Cross an air of authority around the phalanx of younger teammates, and it also makes him the perfect pairing for 18-year-old youngster Dougie Hamilton as a D pairing.

Thats a good pairing," Sweeny said. "First of all its a rather large pairing and Tommys Cross really filled out. Hes had some injury troubles so its good to see him in full speed and full capacity with no limitations to what hes doing on the ice. Hes got kind of a calming influence for Dougie Hamilton. Dougies looking to get up ice. Hes comfortable on the power play and hes looking to be physical. You know hes going to be a well rounded player with a two way component.

Where that fits in on the high side, one or the other we wont worry about that today thats for sure. We just continue to work with him and get him to understand and process the game as the game speed goes up.

While Cross has filled into the leadership role, David Warsofsky finished up his BU career with 22 points (7 goals, 15 assists) in 34 games before notching three helpers in 10 games for the Providence Bruins last spring.

The fourth round pick in the 2008 draft is going through his second development camp with Boston after getting traded to Boston from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Vladimir Sobotka, and was using the camp as a springboard toward his first full training camp and pro hockey season.

I think your first year is really exciting," Warsofsky said. "You dont know what to expect in your first training camp, and to be around the professional guys to see how they act. Im excited about this. I dont have expectations. Obviously every kid dreams about playing for the Bruins, but if I dont make the team I wont be mad about it.

Providence is a great place to start. The coaches down there are excellent and there are great players down there. Im just taking it day by day and well see what happens.

Warsofsky showed off his speed, decision-making and offensive creativity while setting up Justin Floreks rebound goal directly in front of the net during Sunday mornings scrimmage and fits very well into the defensemen group of Steve Kampfer, Matt Bartkowski and Ryan Button that will be competing for time in either Boston or Providence this season.

Alex Fallstrom plays on the wing rather than at the blueline like Cross and Warsofsky, and calls Harvard University home rather than either of the two Boston hockey schools on Comm. Ave. The Sweden native acquired in the Chuck Kobasew trade to the Minnesota Wild is perhaps the most unfinished product among the three prospects, and admitted that physical strength and skating power were two areas he was working diligently on.

Sweeney said that Fallstrom has been working with strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides since the end of the Harvard hockey season, and the improvements were pretty clear during the scrimmage. Fallstrom was keeping the pace with the speediest of skaters up and down the ice, and created a number of scoring chances for himself with a sweet pair of hands. At one point he maneuvered right through Hamilton with the puck while attacking the net with the speed, power and determination that could yield greater offensive potential in the future.

"Its a real good sign for Alex he met with John Whitesides at the end of his year before he went back to Sweden," Sweeny said. "He spent some time identifying some of the areas physically that he could work on and fine tune, so it would translate on the ice. I think it has done that. Hes moving better, shoots the puck well and hes a conscientious player. We want to see what his high side is offensively.

So youve got to get him in, fine tune and get him in the right shape and be able to utilize the skills that he has to be able to get there. The skating side of it is something hes going to continue to work on and he knows that. But hes done a lot of hard work and the fruits of that are showing up here this week.

Cross and Fallstrom will be back with their college teams by the time real training camp begins for the Bruins in September, but it might not be too long before all three opposing players are all sharing the same Black and Gold uniform.

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

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while Dave Dombrowski is collecting stars and talent over at Fenway Park. I dig it.

*Interesting piece about switching teams in the NHL and leaving behind old allegiances when the job calls for it.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Harvey Fialkov looks at the connections between the Bruins and the Florida Panthers, and more specifically with the Panthers and the Boston-area.

*A rumor round-up across the NHL including the humorous nugget that the Bruins are looking to move Jimmy Hayes. Yes, they are looking to move Hayes. They are begging some other NHL team to take on the player and the contract for somebody that has one point since last February. It’s not happening.

*Escrow is at the heart of the next negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA, and I really thought it was going to be years before I’d have to even think about the CBA again.

*Tough break for the Florida Panthers losing Keith Yandle for a long period of time after he was injured last night vs. the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the story at Pro Hockey Talk.

*Wild coach Bruce Boudreau talks his “bucket list”, which includes a lot of movies and even a stint as a movie reviewer for the Manchester Union Leader back in the day.

*Sounds like Pat Maroon might want to sit out the next few plays after calling hockey a “man’s game” among other things.

*For something completely different: Yup, I’m pretty okay with the Red Sox blowing up the prospect cupboard for Chris Sale.