McQuaid's thoughtfulness pays dividends for B's

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McQuaid's thoughtfulness pays dividends for B's

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
Adam McQuaid was a mess of emotion during Bostons Stanley Cup parade.

On that sunny Saturday in June, with over one million people bearing witness, McQuaid felt overjoyed, blessed and . . . awkward.

At first it was almost uncomfortable, he said. Just being up there in front of so many people. . . . People screaming and stuff.

Candor is one of his most endearing qualities.

The Bruins defenseman just finished his first full season with the Bruins. He had 19 points (3 G, 16 A) in 67 regular season and 23 playoff games. He finished plus-30 before the postseason started to lead all rookies in plus-minus. One month after winning the Stanley Cup, the 24-year old signed a three-year extension with Boston. General Manager Peter Chiarelli called McQuaid the poster child for Bruins development.

It is the stuff of pond hockey dreams. The realization nearly embarrasses him.

It definitely was amazing to see the reaction of the city. Especially . . . you know . . . at the parade and even . . . I would go all season long just walking around town and going to different restaurants and whatnot and no one had a clue who I was, he said.

Then I was only in town for a few days after the parade, but people would be coming up and saying congratulations and whatnot. It was definitely a little different, but . . . I don't know . . . it's nice to see the support that we had.

The words dont come easily. Not because McQuaid isnt well spoken he is. And its not because he hasnt taken the time to think about all thats happened this year he has. He gropes for a reaction because, in some ways, he cant get his arms around the whole thing.

Its even more fantastical than the kid on the pond could imagine.

I still think that I don't realize just how big, you know, it is, he said. Really the course of the year just so much has gone on with, first off, playing a full season, and winning, and a new contract again. There's been so much going on it's been kind of hard to grasp everything.

McQuaid is a small town kid.

Cornwall, Prince Edward Islands last reliable census data comes from 2006 and marks a population of 4,677. This number is something like 126-times smaller than Bostons 2006 total. For excitement, residents travel 11 kilometers to Charlottetown a treasure trove of five outdoor rinks and public skating facilities (two dollars for adults; five for families).

Harsh winters on P.E.I. make the sport a natural, if not a default, focus. School and hockey, said McQuaid. Thats it.

So he dreamed like all the rest of skating in the National Hockey League.

After a year of major midget in Cornwall and two years with the OHLs Sudbury Wolves, the Blue Jackets drafted him in 2005s second round. He went back to Sudbury after the draft and played another two years before Columbus traded him to Boston for a fifth-round pick. The Bruins signed McQuaid to a three-year deal and sent him to Providence.

Still in the AHL, he was on guard in the third year of his deal.

I felt like it was a make or break year, McQuaid said. I hadwatched a few guys go up and down. It's a fairly small window of opportunity and I knew it was going to be a big year for me. I tried, really, not to worry too much about the call-up situation when I was sent down. So I had to work hard that, if there was going to be an opportunity for someone, I would be hopefully at the top of the list.

As it happened, his opportunity was the result of other mens injuries.

Three Bruins D-men Dennis Wideman, Mark Stuart and Derek Morris all went down in December 2009. McQuaid came up. He celebrated the what and not the why.

When you're all in the same organization, you're all teammates and friends and stuff, you never want to see someone get hurt. But it happens. I just really wanted to make sure I left it all on the table and no regrets. You can put too much pressure on yourself, too, and I just tried to focus and put my best foot forward.

Kids got a big foot.

The 6-foot-5 blueliner played a physical game in Providence. Knowing NHL ice time is precious he also led with the body in Boston. By throwing down with guys like Raitis Ivanans and Troy Bodie both 6-4 he hoped to at least fulfill a basic need for the Bruins during his first NHL weeks.

Its classic thinking for a defensive defensemen like McQuaid. But the funny thing? Hes not a confrontational guy. Teammate Andrew Ference once remarked on the character discrepancy, calling McQuaid cool and calm as can be.

Its startling to watch him fight.

When he fell during a November tangle with Rod Pelley, he got back up, ripped of Pelleys helmet and finished the bout. A month later he forced veteran Matt Bradley to the ice with purpose. In his ninth fighting major of 2011 (he finished with 12), McQuaid pulled a Cam Neely-esque move on Brian Sutherby, pulling the Dallas center in by the jersey to pop him a couple in the face. Days later referees held McQuaid back from Max Pacioretty the rooks arms were still a flurry and he had fire in his eyes.

Hes a monster.

No. He looks like a monster.

It's something that I've had to, to be honest, kind of work at it, McQuaid said. It's not really something that comes natural. I've just kind of come to the realization that I want to have a career in the NHL, so it's one of those things where I had to learn how I needed to play if I wanted to make it.

What he is, is thoughtful. It seems nothing escapes him without some analysis or reflection. Most experiences lean toward the positive, what doesnt he can at least reconcile.

Was extended time as a healthy scratch frustrating? No, McQuaid said, he benefited from practicing with the Bruins.

At what point did he know hed won teammates confidence and trust? Actually, McQuaid said, security came from having confidence in his teammates to support him.

His maturity is impressive, especially under the bright lights of the big city, Stanley Cup at his side. The first-year service award is there, too. Its just tough to see in the shadow of a three-foot chalice.

I definitely know how fortunate I am this early on to have won. If nothing else, for me right now, it was such a thrill to win.

There he stopped, searching.

Now you know how hard it is. You know how good it feels to do it and it gives you more of a drive to want to do it every year.

Another active pause.

Obviously, that's not realistic -- you're not going to win every year . . . But it keeps you motivated to want to do it again.

How many athletes say when not in defense of failure they cant win every year? They all know its true, as do the fans who cheer them and the writers who cover them, but who wants to hear it? What kind of guy is calmly grounded in reality within the fantasyland professional sports often seems to be at 24?

A small town kid. Those Cornwall roots run deep.

Moments after the Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup Adam McQuaid stood on Vancouvers ice with the most important people in his world: mother Dianne, father Mark, brother Chad and sister Michelle. Dianne, in a black and gold sweater set, didnt even reach Adams shoulder. He kept his left arm wrapped around her for the entirety of a CBC interview.

It was important.

I moved away when I was 16 and that was tough for my parents to see me go, he said in retrospect. I was 20 hours away and I could only get up to Cornwall once a month. There was a lot of sacrifice on their part as well, so I wanted to make sure they were as much a part of the celebrations as possible.

All that joy and overwhelm. And with so much still ahead.

The Bruins believe McQuaid will continue to develop as a hockey player. Both sides want him to turn into a top-four defenseman who plays big minutes. The new three-year deal could give him that time to foster shutdown ability.

The emphasis is on growth, not change. In McQuaid, Boston has a bright, thoughtful young talent whos committed to learning all he can.

The awkwardness? Simple sincerity.

I'm going to do everything in my power to make it look like a great move on their part, he said.

In a lot of ways, it already does.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

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.