|10.08.14 at 6:57 pm ET|
|10.08.14 at 1:52 pm ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his first weekly appearance of the 2014-15 season Wednesday, hours before the Bruins drop the puck against the Flyers in the opener at TD Garden. To hear the interview, go the MFB audio on demand page.
Prognosticators think highly of the Bruins heading into the campaign, and Brickley explained there’s a good reason for that.
“I don’t know if they’ve gotten better in any one particular area other than a little bit more experience,” Brickley said. “I think they have the strengths that most teams that want to be an elite team have. You try to build teams from the goal line on out. So they have a goaltender that won the Vezina in the last year, obviously, Tuukka [Rask] is tremendously talented and calm and has that demeanor that everybody likes to play in front of.
“They have a real good defensive corps led by Zdeno Chara. They play a defense-first system. They play a backchecking formula that really, really pays off, which is one of the main reasons that they play four lines. The demand by Claude Julien and his coaching staff to have that back pressure to help out the team defense part of the game is almost unmatched across the league. And it really stands out when you break down tape just how committed the Bruins forwards are to get back and play defense and pressure the puck and try to turn defense into offense with turnovers and control the middle of the ice — that’s that straight-down-the-middle phrase that I use.
“And then try to have their offense be a balanced scoring attack along with quality special teams. They were the third-best power play in the league last year, that has a lot to do with the infusion of young talent that they got — like a Dougie Hamilton, like a Torey Krug, they both play power play on different units. Reilly Smith comes in in that deal for [Tyler] Seguin, he gives you a different element, a little bit more speed, a little bit more skill up front. It allows Chara to play the front of the net — whether you thought that was going to be a successful and productive experiment or not, it has paid off for the Bruins.
“So, that’s the formula for success. That’s why the Jeremy Roenicks and the Barry Melroses feel that the Bruins, relative to every other team in the Eastern Conference, that they’re right there at the top.”
|10.08.14 at 1:26 pm ET|
Adam McQuaid probably hoped that he would have been a top-4 defenseman by the time he reached his fifth full NHL season. Now, he kind of is. Maybe. For now.
McQuaid, who has played on Boston’s bottom pairing throughout his NHL career, figures to open the regular season as Dennis Seidenberg‘s defensive partner on Boston’s second pairing, by the looks of morning skate. The spot was held by Johnny Boychuk throughout training camp, but Saturday’s trade of Boychuk left an opening to be filled by McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski or Kevan Miller.
The guess here is that it will eventually be Miller, but for now, McQuaid, who hasn’t played in a regular-season or playoff game since last January, is getting his shot.
“I did feel like [I could be a top-4 player] when I could get some consistency and play a little more,” McQuaid said Wednesday. “I think everyone’s always looking to continue to take steps, but it was kind of hard when I was in and out of the lineup so much.
“It is a great opportunity, but I just need to focus on what I do and not look at as any different as a situation. Whoever I’m playing against, play hard and be aware of who’s out there. That’s all you can do.”
McQuaid and Seidenberg have not played much together in the past. Seidenberg has typically played on Boston’s second pairing in the regular season before playing on the top pairing in the postseason. McQuaid has remained a third-pairing guy.
“We haven’t played with each other a ton, but it’s one of those things,” McQuaid. “We’ve had the same group here for quite a while, for the most part. Guys have been comfortable playing with one another, but we’ve got some shifts together in the preseason. I think he’s a pretty easy guy to play with, so I’m not too worried about that.”
Look for the Bruins to take their time as they try different players with Seidenberg in order to find a full-time Boychuk replacement. For now, it’s McQuaid. The first step to keeping the job will be staying healthy.
|10.08.14 at 12:29 pm ET|
Maybe, just maybe, Claude Julien and the Bruins don’t hate young, skilled players.
Maybe — and just hear me out on this — some skilled players need a bit more coaching than others. Maybe it takes skilled players longer to feel comfortable in the Bruins’ system. Maybe it’s OK for players to develop in the AHL.
Maybes aside, it’s definitely the second one.
When Tyler Seguin was traded, Ryan Spooner became the name at the tip of Bruins fans’ tongues when they wanted to make the “Claude hates the kids” argument. Spooner, a speedy playmaker at center with defensive deficiencies, was being kept in the AHL for too long (two seasons), they’d say, and it was because Julien wants to win games, 0-0.
The actual reason was because there was a logjam at center and because Spooner still had to work on his game, but now that Spooner has won an NHL job in training camp for the first time, he’s more than happy to be whatever the Bruins want him to be.
“I don’t think he hates skilled players,” Spooner said Tuesday. “If you look around the league, every team has them; they’re essential for your team, but you need a good mix of both.”
The Bruins have a mix of both, but they don’t want their players to be one-dimensional. If you’re a center, you’re encouraged to be as creative as you wish, but you need to provide support down low in the defensive zone. That’s why, after Spooner scored a goal in a preseason game against the Canadiens this fall, Julien spoke about the defensive shortcomings that led Spooner to watch the Habs while he was on the ice. Spooner was eventually sent down to Providence and recalled later in the preseason for a second look.
When Spooner scored twice as a left wing against the Islanders last Friday, Julien again held back on the praise, pointing out that much of the team iced by New York consisted of AHL players.
Tough love? You bet. Claude hates kids? Not quite.
Granted, Julien doesn’t talk the same way about other players, but Spooner can see that his coach is trying to motivate him. As Julien says, he doesn’t want to see good players rot in the AHL, so maybe he was simply trying to light a fire under Spooner.
“You have to listen to what he has to say, try to turn it into a positive and then just kind of go with it like that,” Spooner said. “It would be easy for me to take what he said and just mope around and go, ‘Oh, I’m not going to make the team now. He doesn’t like me,’ but if you look at it from a different angle, you can just kind of say, ‘Actually, you know what? He actually does care about me. He wants me to be a better player, and that’s his way of trying to motivate me.’ That’s kind of what I did with it, and I hope it works out.”
Spooner actually isn’t a complete stranger to this kind of treatment. When he got to the Peterborough Petes of the OHL when he was 16, his coach, Ken McRae, wasn’t overly hard on him. The OHL doesn’t expect its younger players to be smart players as they get their feet wet.
Yet by the time he got to his third season, Peterborough’s new coach, Mike Pelino, was more demanding. He didn’t want Spooner to be one-dimensional. He was tough on Spooner. The team ended up trading him to Kingston that season.
“He called me out on it,” Spooner said. “[He] wanted me to be a more complete player.”
So Spooner’s used to being coached a little tougher than other players, and it looks like Julien’s motivational tactics paid off. With David Krejci out for at least Boston’s first three games of the season, Spooner has centered a line with Milan Lucic and Matt Fraser the last two days.
Asked Wednesday if it was rewarding to see Spooner, a player he had publicly criticized in order to inspire a better push, make the team, Julien made it clear that he’s not done motivating the 22-year-old.
“This is not negative, but he hasn’t made the team,” Julien said. “He’s here. He’s got to hang on to a spot, and we’re giving him that opportunity.
“We’ve said that before: Anybody who feels comfortable here certainly doesn’t have the right approach to our team. It’s about earning it.
“The thing I like about what he did was, he had an average camp, he was sent down, he came back and he showed us that he wanted a second chance and proved that he deserved a second chance. So he’s got it now.”
|10.08.14 at 11:58 am ET|
David Krejci will miss at least the Bruins’ first three games of the season after being placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury retroactive to last Saturday. Krejci is eligible to return to Boston’s lineup after Saturday’s game against the Capitals, with next Monday’s game against the Avalanche the first contest in which he can dress.
Wednesday’s morning skate indicated that Matt Bartkowski will be the team’s healthy scratch on defense. Adam McQuaid was paired with Dennis Seidenberg on the B’s second pairing.
Brian Ferlin and Malcolm Subban, both of whom were on the roster yesterday afternoon purely for the sake of a temporary paper transaction to maximize potential cap space going forward, were not on the ice.
With Krejci out, the team’s lineup in morning skate was as follows:
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson
Lucic – Spooner – Fraser
Paille – Cunningham – Robins
Chara – Hamilton
Seidenberg – Adam McQuaid
Torey Krug – Kevan Miller
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
|10.08.14 at 1:56 am ET|
Last season, Chara finished a distant second to Duncan Keith for the Norris Trophy, which is voted on each season by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (full disclosure: I am a voting member who gave Chara my top vote last season).
Intended to go to the league’s top defenseman each season, the Norris is perhaps the most up-for-interpretation award on which the writers vote.
Voting, in the eyes of the players and at least this member of the media, is out of control. Either more specific criteria should be set for voters or writers shouldn’t determine who wins. The Vezina Trophy, for example, is voted on by NHL general managers. They mess it up sometimes, too, but general managers are (for the most part) smarter than writers.
“A lot of times, it’s like a political campaign,” Ray Bourque, a five-time Norris-winner in his day, told WEEI.com.
Defensive metrics are becoming more widely available, but as they become fine-tuned and the hockey world slowly begins to accept them, the statistic that voters continue to look to first remains points. Lunacy.
In 2012, Erik Karlsson won the award, while Chara finished third. The year after that, P.K. Subban won. Both Karlsson and Subban’s Norris wins were based exclusively on points; Karlsson did not kill penalties for the Senators and Subban was 12th on the Habs in shorthanded time on ice the year he won.
Yet Subban, after tying for the lead among NHL defensemen in points in his Norris-winning season, finished fifth in points last season but dropped all the way to 14th in voting, receiving a single third-place vote and a single fifth-place vote. So is the award about playing defense or putting up points? If it’s the latter, why were Subban’s points ignored last season? And why, then, were Mike Green‘s 31 goals in Chara’s Norris-winning season not enough to wrest the trophy from Chara?
It’s that inconsistency in voting that each year brings Chara closer to finishing a Hall of Fame career with just one Norris to show for it.
“You kind of feel like, ‘OK, is this going to ever happen again or is this going to change or are they going to look at it differently?’” Chara said. “Because every year they tell you, ‘He didn’t get it because he had a lot of points, a lot of goals, but he’s not an all-around defenseman.’ Then the next year they’ll be like, ‘Hey, he’s an all-around defenseman but this [other] guy got 25 goals as a defenseman,’ so it’s like every year it’s almost like it swings, the way they look at it. How do you know really [what they want]?”
Over the last 10 seasons, Chara has been a top-three finisher in Norris voting six times and finished in the top five eight times. His only win came in 2008-09, and while both Niklas Lidstrom and Keith have won the award multiple times in that span, no defenseman has finished near the top with Chara’s consistency in the last 10 years.
Translation: Chara comes up short a lot.
He loses because of points. In fact, he even understands that though he was the best all-around defenseman in the league last year, his 17 goals (10 of which were on the power play, where he mostly played forward) were probably as big a reason that he got as many votes as he did as his defensive dominance.
Winning the Norris is important to Chara, but he shouldn’t expect to win it again. Last season he was as deserving of the award as he usually is – Chara’s performance was backed up well by both advanced and old-fashioned stats (his plus-25 rating was tops among the top 10 vote-getters; Shea Weber, who played tougher minutes, was a minus-2) — but he was blown out of the water by Keith, a well-rounded defenseman who was used on Chicago’s second pairing to maximize his offensive output. That meant a sensational 61 points (second among defensemen) but it came against easier competition than Chara faced.
The Blackhawks’ usage of Keith was brilliant, but it should have done more for Joel Quenneville’s Jack Adams (top coach; voted on by broadcasters) candidacy than it did for Keith’s Norris odds. Regardless, the voting wasn’t close. Keith finished first in votes with 1033 points and 68 first-place votes. Chara was given 667 points, receiving less than a third of Keith’s first-place votes with 21.
“I’m not mad about Duncan or anybody who is winning the trophy,” Chara clarified. “I just feel a little bit disappointed at times that I’ve really felt I had a strong season, I really had an all-around season and I would deserve it, but it’s voting. It’s in the hands of writers, and [that] is obviously something that only [writers] who have votes can change and make a difference, if that’s something you guys feel should be different.”
Bourque’s five Norris seasons give him the fourth-most in NHL history behind Bobby Orr (eight), Doug Harvey and Nicklas Lidstrom (seven apiece). Keith, who won the award as a shutdown defenseman in 2009-10, is now in the exclusive club of players with multiple Norris wins (12 players).
It’s very easy to argue that Chara should be in that club, but both he and anyone who has seen how the votes have fallen over the years should be wise enough to not hold their breath.
“If you want to get me started talking about the Norris Trophy and who should win it and how that all comes about in terms of who wins it in certain years,’ Bourque said, ‘’… I think that Karlsson in Ottawa is an incredible offense player, but I think that when you look at the Norris Trophy and the position of DEFENSE-man, and I put an emphasis on DEFENSE-man, it’s incredible to me sometimes, the voting and how it all happens.
“Believe me, I’ve been there,” Bourque added. “I’ve been in his shoes many, many times. I won it five times, but it was very frustrating at times, not saying that I’ve won it more times.”
|10.07.14 at 6:02 pm ET|
The Bruins made multiple moves to trim their roster to 23 players prior to Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline, but general manager Peter Chiarelli cautioned beforehand that the moves made Tuesday might reflect a different roster than the one that takes the ice Wednesday against the Flyers when the regular season begins.
As Chiarelli said, the team would be doing some “roster manipulation” in order to get as much cap space as possible from using the long-term injury exception to the upper limit of the cap.
The moves included assigning Jordan Caron to Providence, recalling Brian Ferlin and Malcolm Subban from Providence, placing David Krejci on injured reserve, placing Marc Savard on long term injured reserve and putting Gregory Campbell and Anthony Camara on non-roster injured reserve.
The team had sent David Pastrnak to Providence earlier in the day.
That leaves the following roster, which, again, will probably be different from Wednesday’s:
FORWARDS (13): Patrice Bergeron, Craig Cunningham, Loui Eriksson, Brian Ferlin, Matt Fraser, Chris Kelly, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille, Bobby Robins, Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg, Ryan Spooner
GOALTENDERS (3): Tuukka Rask, Malcolm Subban, Niklas Svedberg
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