Notes: Krejci has been racking up points


Notes: Krejci has been racking up points

By JoeHaggerty

VANCOUVER Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton have enjoyed scoring tears of late for the Bruins, and its no coincidence that those bountiful scoring stretches have come together with a David Krejci revival.

The Czech Republic center disappeared for long stretches of December and January, but hes been revitalized since again pairing together on Bostons top offensive line with Lucic and Horton. Krejci picked up the assist on Lucics game winner in Bostons 3-1 statement win over the Canucks, and has put up a four-game point streak with a goal and seven assists over those last four games.

Bruins coach Claude Julien lauded Krejci for having one of his best games all season against the Calgary Flames earlier this week, and he flashed all of his considerable offensive skills in setting up the third period game-winner.

Krejci cut through Keith Ballard and Sami Salo en route to the net in a classic move to split the Vancouver defense, and continued to carry Ballard on his back as he whirled around the Canucks cage.

I tried to go through him and tried to get a goal, but somehow, something told I wasnt going to score there. So I went around the net and stuff it in around the side. That didnt work either, so I threw it Seidenberg. Looch and Horton are big bodies in front of the net and Luongo couldnt see, so Looch got to the rebound.

Krejci alertly found Dennis Seidenberg open at the right point, and the Bs defensemen slammed a shot that Roberto Luongo managed to block before surrendering a big rebound in front of the net. The puck landed right at the feet of Lucic, and the rest was childhood dream come true material for the Vancouver native.

Last season Krejci truly found his offensive stride while starring for the Czech Republic in the Olympic hockey tournament, and then helped carried the Bruins offense once he returned to Boston. This season February has again been a good month for Krejci, and once more a late season kick has been in the cards for Bostons playmaking pivot.

Theres really no coincidence that Krejci starts unlocking the unique vision, hands and creativity vital to his game when things start to mean more at the end of the season, and he rises to the competition being stacked against him.

You could say that, said Krejci. Im just trying to do my best like I was at the beginning of the year. Sometimes it wasnt going my way, but now Im more excited that those really count right now. Im trying to help my team get into the best shape they can be in headed into the playoffs. Im pretty happy with the way things have been going the last couple of weeks, but I still have 20-something games to go before we get to the playoffs.

Its no secret that the Bruins are achieving consistency and landing some of their best wins of the regular season with Krejci flourishing and again exploiting opposing defenses with his precision passing and surprisingly effective shooting.

The points are piling up again for Krejci, and thats a very good thing for the Black and Gold.

Andrew Ference was out of Saturday nights game after the first period with a lower body injury, and there was no further update after the win over the Canucks. Ference has had issues with groin injuries over the last few years, and theres always the possibility that type of injury has cropped up again.

Shane Hnidy spoke after the game about signing a one-year deal with the Bruins, and was clearly happy with the development while having no clear indication how close he is to returning from a shoulder.

Ive been cleared to practice, and thats about it at this point, said Hnidy. Im very excited. Boston has been a great place I wanted to go back, and here I am. I know there would be a bunch of steps. The first one was getting out there and practicing. The second one was making the team. Now I just need to move forward and get my health ready so I can fill whatever role is needed on the team.

Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley didnt factor much into the offensive end, but they did a lot of little things to help the win. Each player was a major factor in a penalty kill that kept the Canucks off the board in three different power play chances, and Kelly was both blocking shots and winning face-offs in that stretch.

Peverley and Kelly were really good for us. Especially killing that penalty late in the game. Kelly blocked a couple of big shots there in that last penalty kill, and theyre just very smart players. Theyre smart. Theyre quick. Theyve been a really good addition to the hockey club, and theyve fit in quickly.

Shawn Thornton joked after the game that there was a Serbian Army celebrating in the room adjacent to the visitors dressing room at Rogers Arena as the Lucic family hooted, hollered and cheered jubilantly with Milan Lucic after potting the game-winner against his hometown Canucks he rooted for as a hockey-loving child.

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

List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names


List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

With decidedly Boston-sounding names and thoroughly familiar faces, given their resemblances to their ex-Bruin dads, it might have been easy to overlook Ryan Donato and Ryan Fitzgerald and focus on the truly little-known prospects at Development Camp earlier this month.

But on the ice, their brimming confidence, their offensive skills and the maturity to their all-around game was impossible to ignore.

When it was over, general manager Don Sweeney singled out Donato, who plays at Harvard, and Fitzgerald, from Boston College -- along with Notre Dame forward Anders Bjork and former Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk -- as players who have developed significantly.
“[They're] just comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Sweeney. “I mean, they’ve played at the college hockey level . . . two, three, four years with some of these kids. They’re very comfortable in their own skin and in what they do.”
Donato, 20, is actually coming off his first season at Harvard, where he posted 13 goals and 21 points in 32 games. He looked like he was in midseason form during Development Camp, showing off a scoring touch, skill with the puck on his stick in tight traffic, and the instincts to anticipate plays that allow him to beat defenders to spots in the offensive zone. He’s primed for a giant sophomore season with the Crimson, based on his showing at camp.
“Every year is a blast," said Donato, son of former Bruins forward and current Harvard coach Ted Donato. "You just come in [to development camp] with an open mindset where you soak everything up from the coaches like a sponge, and see what they say. Then I just do my best to incorporate it into my game and bring it with me to school next year.
“One of the things that [Bruins coaches and management] has said to me -- and it’s the same message for everybody -- is that every area of your game is an important one to develop. The thing about the NHL is that every little detail makes the difference, and that’s what I’ve been working on whether it’s my skating, or my defensive play. Every little piece of my game needs to be developed.”
Then there's Fitzgerald, 21, who is entering his senior season at BC after notching 24 goals and 47 points in 40 games last year in a real breakout season. The 2013 fourth-round pick showed speed and finishing ability during his Development Camp stint and clearly is close to being a finished hockey product at the collegiate level.
“It was good. It’s definitely a fun time being here, seeing these guys and putting the logo on,” said Fitzgerald, son of former Bruins forward Tom Fitzgerald, after his fourth Development Camp. “One thing I’m focusing on this summer is getting stronger, but it’s also about just progressing and maturing.
“I thought . . . last year [at BC] was a pretty good one, so I just try to build off that and roll into my senior season. [The Bruins] have told me to pretty much continue what I’m doing in school. When the time is right I’ll go ahead [and turn pro], so probably after I graduate I’ll jump on and make an impact.”
Fitzgerald certainly didn’t mention or give any hints that it could happen, but these days it has to give an NHL organization a bit of trepidation anytime one of their draft picks makes it all the way to their senior season. There’s always the possibility of it turning into a Jimmy Vesey-type situation if a player -- like Fitzgerald -- has a huge final year and draws enough NHL interest to forego signing with the team that drafted him for a shot at free agency in the August following his senior season.
It may be a moot point with Fitzgerald, a Boston kid already living a dream as a Bruins draft pick, but it’s always a possibility until he actually signs.
In any case, both Donato and Fitzgerald beat watching in their respective college seasons after both saw their development level take a healthy leap forward.

Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins


Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN – Newest Bruins forward David Backes has heard the trepidation from Bruins fans about the five-year term of his contract, and he’s probably also caught wind of St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong stating publicly that contract length was an area he was uncomfortable getting to on a theoretical extension with his outbound.

The prevailing wisdom is that the decade of rugged, physical play from the 32-year-old in St. Louis will cause him to start slowing down sooner rather than later, and the last couple of seasons won’t be as high quality as the first couple in Boston.

So what does the actual player think about any questions surrounding his five year, $30 million contract?

The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes confidently said that concerns about his age, or him slowing down demonstrably in the last few years of his new contract, are “a bunch of malarkey” to borrow a favorite phrase from Vice President Joe Biden.

“I’m 32, not 52. Time will tell, but I feel really good and I take care of my body. I lay it all on the line, but when I’m not at the rink I’m resting and recovering for the next time I have to pour it all into a game,” said Backes, who logged 727 hard-hitting games all with the St. Louis Blues organization over the last 10 seasons. “Time will be the judge, but I feel like [after] five years I’ll even have a couple more [seasons] after that.

“I don’t think this is going to be end. That’s my plan. I’m still going to get better over the next five years, and hopefully have a couple of opportunities to hoist that big trophy I’ve been chasing around for the last 10 years.”

One area of concern from last season: the 21 goals and 45 points in 79 games for the Blues were Backes’ lowest totals over a full season since his first few years in the league. It might be the first signs of decline in a player that’s logged some heavy miles, or it could be a simple down season for a player that’s always focused on setting the physical tone, and defense, just as much as his offensive output at the other end of the ice.

As Backes himself said, “time will be judge” of just how well the five year contract turns out for a natural leader that will undoubtedly give the Bruins a boost as a hard-nosed, top-6 forward as he moves into the Boston phase of his NHL career.

Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?


Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after a pretty amazing, on-point succession of speeches by Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention last night. It was quite a contrast to the absolute circus sideshow that went on in Cleveland last week.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynksi chronicles the Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes, and the late entry of the Chicago Blackhawks as a suitor. Wysh still feels, as I do, that the Bruins end up getting this talented player at the end of the day.

*The details of the charges levied against Evander Kane paint an ugly picture of a hockey player doing a lot of the wrong things.

*PHT writer Mike Halford says that the Carolina Hurricanes might be ready to snap their playoff drought after extending head coach Bill Peters.

*John Tavares tells the Toronto media not to count on him ever pulling over a Maple Leafs jersey amid post-Stamkos speculation.

*Well, would you look at this? The Nashville Predators are providing salary cap and contract info on their own team website. What a concept!

*The Edmonton Oilers say they will have a new captain in place by opening night, and it will be interesting to see if they go the Connor McDavid route.

*Brian Elliott is thrilled at the opportunity to be “the man” between the pipes for the Calgary Flames this season after splitting time in St. Louis.

*For something completely different: a great feature on Howard Stern, and his transformation from shock jock to master interviewer.

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs