Boston Bruins

P-Bruins top Phantoms in overtime, 3-2

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P-Bruins top Phantoms in overtime, 3-2

PROVIDENCE, RI It would have been a shame had the Providence Bruins not pulled out a game they completely dominated, so overtime provided a happy ending for the P-Bruins en route to a six-point weekend.

Fourth line winger Kyle MacKinnon potted the overtime game-winner for Providence just 70 seconds into the extra frame, and the Bruins took a 3-2 win over a talented Adirondack Phantoms club at the Dunkin Donuts Center. Veteran P-Bruins forward Jamie Tardif added a pair of goals and Chris Bourque had two assists for Providence while they outshot the Phantoms by a 47-26 margin.

We had a chance to put them away early and didnt, but we really hung in there, said P-Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. We had to re-group a little, but we worked really hard and had a lot of really good chances. Im happy for the guys. Theyre working hard.

But were a little like parent club in Boston, we need all 12 forwards to be successful. It was a great weekend for Kyle MacKinnon.

Providence opened up the scoring in the first period on a pure hustle play by Tardif. The Bs forward threw his body at the mid-ice boards to block a Phantoms clearing attempt, and then managed to parlay the defensive play into an odd-man rush going in the other direction. Tardif looked off the trailing P-Bruins skater and fired a snap-shot over Scott Munroes glove hand for his ninth goal of the season.

Tye McGinn tied it up for the Phantoms when Colby Cohen and Ryan Button collided at center ice and opened up an attack lane for the Adirondack attackers. The P-Bruins again seized the lead in the second period on a power play with Chris Bourque wheeling through the high slot area. Bourque turned and fired a perfect pass to Ryan Spooner for the one-timer, and Tardif pumped in the Munroe rebound on a dogged play in front of the cage for his team-leading 10th goal of the season.

A poorly timed Justin Florek holding penalty led to Adirondacks game-tying goal for Jeff Dimmen with less than six minutes to go in the third period on a pretty passing play, and pushed both clubs into overtime. The P-Bruins jumped all over the Phantoms in the extra session with Bourque starting the play in the Adirondack zone. He worked the puck to Matt Bartkowski behind the Phantoms net, and the Bruins defenseman found MacKinnon crashing the net. The Bs fourth line forward snapped a shot past Munroe for the game-winner, and pushed a streaking Providence club to a 5-0-1 record in their last six games.

GOLD STAR: Jamie Tardif scored a pair of goals one in each of the first two periods with both coming courtesy of superior hustle and dogged determination. The first was a clearing attempt blocked against the neutral zone boards that was a great example of Tardif turning defense into offense. He transformed the turnover into a top-shelf wrist shot over the Phantom goalies glove hand to open the scoring. Tardif kept it up in the second period when he crashed the net on the Providence power play and stuffed a Ryan Spooner one-timer rebound in for his 10th goal of the season. Tardif leads the P-Bruins in goals scored and has been one of their most consistent performers on the top two lines.

HONORABLE MENTION: Kyle MacKinnon finished the weekend with his first three goals of the AHL season after potting 14 for the P-Bruins last year, and snapped home the game-winner in overtime during four-on-four play. The versatile MacKinnon finished with two shots on net and a plus-1 on Sunday afternoon, but saved his best for the game-winning shot he buried after a beautiful pass from behind the net by defenseman Matt Bartkowski. MacKinnon isnt quite as heralded as some of Providences other forwards, but he was one of the big factors in their perfect six-point weekend.

BLACK EYE: Justin Florek recently potted his first goal of the AHL season, but the Bruins forward continues to struggle overall for the Providence Bruins. Florek finished with a single shot on net while not really registering as a blip on the radar screen for much of the game. The only remarkable event was taking a bad holding penalty with six minutes to go in the third period that led to Adirondacks game-tying power play score while pushing the overtime session. Florek is obviously still young and in need of development, but isnt off to a very good start with one goal and four points in 19 games as a fourth line winger.

TURNING POINT: Things could have fallen apart for Providence after they frittered away a third period lead on a power play goal courtesy of an ill-timed Justin Florek penalty. A week earlier the P-Bruins dominated the game, but allowed their opposition to push things to overtime before falling in the shootout. Instead Providence didnt let that happen this time around and attacked Adirondack in overtime before scoring the game-winner just 1:10 into the extra session. It was important for Providence to get aggressive in overtime after sitting back in the third period, and they did exactly that while securing the two points.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5-0-1 Providences record in their last six games as they passed the .500 mark and are playing their best hockey of the AHL season. The P-Bruins took home wins over Manchester, Worcester and Adirondack this weekend.

QUOTE TO NOTE: The last five or six games hes really become involved. Last night he scored the tying goal when he joined the rush and fired one top shelf. Last week he threw one in front that became a tip for Christian Hanson. Hes making some plays now and getting confident at both ends of the rink. P-Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy on Matt Bartkowski, who authored the pass on Sundays game-winner and has been playing exemplary hockey for the last few weeks.

Morning Skate: Sorry, Shaughnessy but young B's are on the rise

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Morning Skate: Sorry, Shaughnessy but young B's are on the rise

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while appreciating that Brad Marchand is willing to say something is “an absolute joke.” There are not enough candid players in the NHL like good, ol' No. 63.

*So FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dan Shaughnessy writes that the Bruins are “a lowly number four nowadays” in the power rankings of the big four Boston sports teams. Certainly, Danny is technically correct in saying that the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics are ahead of the Bruins in terms of the Boston pro sports zeitgeist and that they dominate the sports conversation.

But Shaughnessy points to the Bruins doing nothing to improve themselves last summer as some kind of reason behind their low position among the other Boston sports franchises, and that’s not really a factor. The problem right now is that the Bruins are extremely young and still a couple of years away from returning to true Stanley Cup contention as a result. 
Once Charlie McAvoy is a few years into his career, some of the other Bruins prospects are in the NHL for good and Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask are still at the back end of their prime, the Bruins will once again be a Cup contender that’s pushing their way back into the championship conversation that commands the attention of the Boston fan.

Would Shaughnessy have been more satisfied with the Bruins if they spent bad money on a big free-agent contract as they did with Matt Beleskey and David Backes in back-to-back years, or if they traded premium prospect Brandon Carlo for hired gun Matt Duchene? That would be the kind of “big splash” move that a bad management group would make to appease the casual fans that don’t truly understand what the B’s are going with their draft-and-development plan.

This Bruins outfit is still a playoff team while they’re building back to that Cup-worthy level. They were playing a much more exciting, entertaining brand of hockey once Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien last winter. This isn’t a lowly team unworthy of the fans’ attention, or more importantly their sports dollar. This is much more about the all-time greatness of the New England Patriots, the deserved excitement for a Celtics team that is truly going for it after being in the Bruins current “building it back up” phase for the past few years and a playoff-level Red Sox team that really has no competition in the summertime.

This isn’t about what the Bruins aren’t doing right now. This is about what the Patriots and Celtics, and to a lesser degree the Red Sox, are doing right now. It's as simple as that in a local sports landscape that’s cyclical and constantly in motion.  

*What a great Facetime hit here from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Ray Ferraro with Jay and Dan now that they’re thankfully back to their rightful home in Canada. The technical difficulties really make the whole thing come together.  

*Congrats to Jonathan Drouin for making a commitment to the city of Montreal that goes well beyond being a player for the Canadiens.

*Lots of prayers and well-wishes to Hingham, Mass., native and New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle after his stunning cancer diagnosis. Anybody that knows the Boyle family knows how courageous they are, and how much love and support that Brian will have at a time when he’s going to need every bit of it. I also included a link to a New York Post Q&A with Boyle where he talks a bit about his father’s miraculous battle with cancer as well.   

 *John Chayka is trying to bring with him a new chapter to the history of the Arizona Coyotes, but it’s seemingly always an uphill battle there.

*Nobody should have any problems with the contract extension handed out to Mikko Koivu by the Minnesota Wild.

*For something completely different: Are we seriously living in a world where the Juggalos are marching for their rights?

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30 teams in 30 days: Grit-and-Grind days are over in Memphis

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30 teams in 30 days: Grit-and-Grind days are over in Memphis

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Memphis Grizzlies. 

Memphis is no different than any other NBA team when it comes to making changes.
 
It’s an inevitable part of the NBA.

 
There are changes, and then there’s losing Zach Randolph and Tony Allen to free agency.
 
They didn’t lose the face of their franchise.
 
They lost its backbone.
 
And when you throw in the departure of Vince Carter, the Grizzlies are getting younger and more athletic and maybe just as significant, further removed from the physical, rough-and-tough brand of basketball they played for years.

You’ll have to go to YouTube to see Grit-and-Grind anymore.
 
Still, this isn’t all that surprising when you consider they brought in a new coach last year, David Fizdale, who came from Miami but also spent time on the bench as an assistant in Atlanta and Golden State.

Those teams played a more position-less, free-flowing brand of basketball compared to the Grizzlies.
 
So what we’re starting to see now is a Memphis team that will eventually look and hopefully play, more akin to what their coach envisions.
 
While the DNA of this team has changed dramatically, the Grizzlies will still be among the teams battling for one of the last playoff spots in the West this season.
 
They return Marc Gasol who still ranks among the best centers in the NBA. They also have point guard Mike Conley Jr., who unfortunately still holds the title for the best veteran player to not be named to an NBA All-Star team.
 
He’s coming off his best season as a pro when he averaged career highs in scoring (20.5 points per game) and shooting (45.9 percent from the field, 40.7 percent on 3’s) along with 3.5 rebounds, also a career benchmark.
 
In addition, Conley’s 6.3 assists per game were just 0.2 assists away from tying his career best in that category.
 
But for Memphis to surprise many and extend its playoff run to eight years in a row, the Grizzlies’ inside-outside tandem of Gasol and Conley, will need help.
 
A healthy Chandler Parsons would be a huge boost.
 
One of the more versatile wing players in the league, injuries have left Parsons a shell of the player that he once was.
 
He has had each of his past three seasons end prematurely due to injuries, so it’s hard to imagine Memphis will be banking on him to be healthy enough to make a major impact on the team this season.
 
They added Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans, both from Sacramento, to the roster this season.
 
Both come into training camp competing for a starting job.
 
The Grizzlies also have high hopes for 6-9 forward Rade Zagorac, a second-round pick in 2016 acquired from Boston who spent an additional year overseas before coming over to the NBA.
 
The new faces will be critical to the success of Memphis in those post Grit-and-Grind era.
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Ben McLemore (Sacramento); Tyreke Evans (Sacramento).
 
Key losses: Zach Randolph (Sacramento); Tony Allen (New Orleans); Vince Carter (Sacramento).
 
Rookies of note: Rade Zagorac; Ivan Rabb; Dillon Brooks.
 
Expectations: 33-49 (fourth in the Southwest Division, 11th in the West).
 

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