|11.04.11 at 7:38 pm ET|
One of the biggest questions early in the NHL season is whether Phil Kessel, who’s always been a fast starter, will sustain his crazy numbers over the course of the entire season. Right now, both Kessel and the Maple Leafs have shown no signs of slowing down.
Kessel has scored 30 goals in each of the last three seasons, but with 10 goals through 13 games, he’s on pace for an absurd total of 63. Kessel will eventually come back to earth, but it would appear a safe bet that he should go on to surpass his career-high of 36, which he scored in 2008-09, his final season in Boston.
“Phil’s matured. Just like any other player, he’s getting older,” Claude Julien said of Kessel on Thursday. “When I say he’s matured, [I mean] as a person. As a player, you can see it. He’s a lot stronger hanging on to the puck than he ever was. He shoots the puck and he’s finding ways to get shots off. Every game he has a lot of opportunities, so he’s becoming a better player with age.”
While the world is seeing a better Kessel this season, they’re also seeing a better Toronto team. Though the Bruins handed them a 6-2 beating last month in Boston, it was one of only three regulation losses for the 9-3-1 Leafs this season. Their 19 points are tied with the Penguins (who have played one more game), for best in the East.
One thing worth noting for Saturday is that starting goaltender James Reimer will once again miss a Leafs’ meeting with the Bruins. Coach Ron Wilson said Friday that the former first-round pick “hit a plateau in his recovery” from his upper-body injury. Jonas Gustavsson allowed six goals on Oct. 20 against the Bruins, and in his most recent start allowed three goals in a 3-2 loss against the Senators on Sunday.
Ben Scrivens made his NHL debut Thursday, allowing one goal in a 4-1 victory over the Blue Jackets.
|11.04.11 at 12:13 pm ET|
Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning for his weekly appearance. Ference talked about Boston’s win over Ottawa Tuesday night and how the Bruins are looking to rebound from a poor start to the season.
“We definitely wanted to turn the page from the last month,” Ference said. “November, it’s symbolic of a new page for us. We wanted to make it a good month. It was frustrating in October. We didn’t play as good as we want to, and then some of the games where we had multiple posts and games it was frustrating that way. It was good to get out of that month.”
After starting the season 2-7, the Bruins have won their last two games. They will face the Northeast division-leading Maple Leafs on Saturday in Toronto. Ference also talked about the importance of momentum, something Boston certainly didn’t have early in the season.
“A very powerful tool,” Ference said of momentum. “It can be really powerful. It can. Sometimes you don’t really want to believe it, especially when you’re losing. But it can work both ways. Momentum and confidence, when you say those words, you’re talking about the same thing. It’s just a matter of feeling good.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
On players trying to make plays when the team is struggling: “That can almost be a trap as well. When you start to get in that kind of mindset where it’s up to you to do something special to open up the game or change things around. There’s a difference between playing really good, solid hockey and doing your job well, and trying to do too much. Usually when guys try to do too much, it’s a bad thing.
“We’re the type of team that doesn’t really on complete individual talent or one guy doing something really special. We really do rely on a strong system.”
On his most important quality for a coach: “I think first and foremost is honesty. Just being up front. That covers a lot of things, but just being up front with his assessment of the games. Being honest in fact where he treats players, whether it’s the star or whether it’s the fourth-line guy or whether it’s the rookie or whether it’s the veteran, if he holds them to the same standard. I think those things are so important. When you start having different rules for different players and different expectations, it breaks the room down.”
|11.03.11 at 4:11 pm ET|
To the surprise of nobody, Dougie Hamilton, the Bruins’ first-round pick from June’s draft, has been named OHL defenseman of the month for October. The 18-year-old got off to an absolutely ridiculous start to his third season with the Niagara IceDogs, racking up 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 12 games in the first month of the season.
Now 14 games into the season, Hamilton has 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) on the season. Hamilton caught up with WEEI.com a couple of weeks ago to discuss the blueliner’s impressive start to the season (click here for that piece).
“I’m getting good opportunities,’ Hamilton said. ‘Our power play is doing really well. I think just coming back from camp with extra confidence and playing with those guys makes you better. I think I came back with confidence, and I think I got better over the summer as well. The opportunity, confidence and my development has helped a lot.’
Sarnia winger Nail Yakupov, the top prospect in the coming draft, was named player of the month after compiling 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) in 13 games. Sorry, Bruins’ fans — the B’s are only on pace for the second-worst record.
|11.03.11 at 1:27 pm ET|
For the second straight day, Rich Peverley and Dennis Seidenberg were the only two players missing from Bruins practice. Coach Claude Julien said after the skate that the past two days have simply been maintenance days for the two players, and that he expects both players to be good for Saturday’s game in Toronto.
The forward lines Thursday remained the same as they were on Wednesday. They were as follows:
Benoit Pouliot – Chris Kelly – Jordan Caron
Here are a few notes from the practice:
– The B’s got some power play work in before practice, as Zdeno Chara, Joe Corvo, Andrew Ference, David Krejci, Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Chris Kelly spent upwards of 20 minutes prior to practice down at one end working on the man advantage.
– With those guys working on the PP, the other end saw Adam McQuaid, Steven Kampfer and Jordan Caron doing some power skating with ice wizard Besa Tsintsadze. The power-skating coach got the three players’ feet moving, so much so, in fact, that McQuaid blew a tire and went crashing into the boards. Unfortunately for McQuaid, that isn’t anything new.
– Horton had some fun with the media Thursday. A day after he spoke for the first time in nearly two weeks and was asked why he has not made himself available to the press this season, Horton was sitting at his stall and declared, “I’m ready!” After greeting the reporters, Horton sarcastically said, “See? Nobody wants to talk to me.”
|11.02.11 at 8:55 pm ET|
Tyler Seguin has been able to bring more to the table offensively as a second-year player. Through 11 games, he has 11 points (four goals, seven assists), which both leads the Bruins and is half of his point total from his rookie season.
Seguin assisted Patrice Bergeron‘s second-period goal in Tuesday’s win over the Senators, but he had a few questionable plays in the first period. The most notable of those plays was one in which he beat a defenseman at the blue line and passed up a breakaway for an attempted drop-pass. The play resulted in a turnover and left anyone watching wondering why he didn’t shoot on the play.
‘Yeah, I do think that I need to shoot more,” Seguin acknowledged Wednesday at TD Garden. I remember there was one play ‘ I don’t remember if it was in the first or second last night ‘ I went down on the D and kind went one way and cut back the other way and when I watched the replay, I almost had a clear breakaway but I decided to pass. For whatever reason, my first instinct is always to try and look back but I know I’ve got to stop maybe being too fancy and just put pucks to the net. I know I’ve seen myself, when I shoot more, being rewarded. I think I’ve got to continue doing that and not give away good shots.’
The long-beaten-to-death topic of wing vs. center with Seguin comes into play in such a case, as he admitted Wednesday that because he is a natural center, his instinct is to distribute the puck rather than shooting it himself. At any rate, Seguin is still shooting way more than he did last season. The 19-year-old is on pace for over 268 shots on gaol this season, as he’s averaged more 3.27 shots on on gaol per game through the first 11 contests and is second only to Bergeron (39). Last season, Seguin put 131 pucks on net in 74 games.
Bruins coach Claude Julien also wished that Seguin shot the puck on that first period play Tuesday, but he didn’t fault the youngster for the decision he made.
“In that case, you probably wish he would have taken it to the net and maybe even drawn a penalty on that because he had half a step, but you’ve got to also realize that those two players behind him were kind of open and a guy like him is a really good playmaker,” Julien said. “You don’t want to be too hard on those kinds of decisions.”
|11.02.11 at 2:54 pm ET|
Benoit Pouliot has been back on the ice for a few days now, but it’s probably too early to say he was a healthy scratch Tuesday against the Senators.
Pouliot, who was sick, first missed practice on Friday due to an illness, and he did not travel with the B’s to Montreal for Saturday’s game. He returned to practice Monday, took part in Tuesday’s optional morning skate with the scratches and did not play Tuesday. It was unknown at the time whether Pouliot was sitting as a healthy scratch or whether he still wasn’t ready. Asked Wednesday, the 25-year-old said it was the latter.
“Personally, no,” Pouliot said when asked whether he was healthy enough to play. “I didn’t feel right and I gotta get some reps in and the cardio in and feel better. When you’re not doing much, you use everything and I just gotta get back on track and I feel good.”
The Bruins will next play Saturday in Toronto. That’s a good thing for Pouliot, who will take all the days he can get as he works to get his legs and conditioning back. He said he first started to feel under the weather during the week last week and felt especially bad during Thursday’s game against the Canadiens.
“It was tough. it was a long one,” Pouliot said. “Just a bad cold but couple days now, I feel much better and hopefully it was on the right track. A bunch of things just kept me from doing much. I’ve been sleeping a lot and hanging out on my couch, but it’s better.”
Pouliot is the only skater on the Bruins’ roster to not have a single point this season. He’s missed three of the team’s 11 games (he was a healthy scratch in the season-opener), but he isn’t getting down on himself yet.
“Obviously the points and the stats aren’t there, I think everyone knows that,” he said. “But I think the way I am working and trying to figure out the systems and everything, I think I’m on the right track. I am doing as much as I can and working as hard as I can and if you work hard enough, things will fall into good places. It’s just a matter of getting a point and getting back the confidence and everything should be good.”
While he’s focused on producing more than he has, a lot of Pouliot’s focus has been on fitting into the system here in Boston. The former fourth overall pick is now in with his third different organizations in the last four years, so he came in determined to prove he’s capable of fitting in with Claude Julien‘s squad as a bottom-six guy.
“Coming from Montreal, it was a lot different system wise,” he said. “Here, it is a lot different. Everyone stay in your lane, up-and-down, not east-west, north-south. Sometimes I am used to going to support the guy on the other side and then I lose my position completely. That’s a thing that I need to learn here and I’ve talked about it and coach has talked to me about it and it’s nice to hear. It’s a thing I need to learn but besides that everything is going pretty good.”
|11.02.11 at 2:15 pm ET|
Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and forward Rich Peverley were the only two to not take the ice for Wednesday’s practice at TD Garden, with Claude Julien saying afterward that he had given the two players maintenance days.
Adam McQuaid, meanwhile, left the practice early after he was cut on the chin, but there didn’t seem to be much concern from Julien’s end.
Aside from Peverley being out, the forward lines were the same.
Benoit Pouliot – Chris Kelly – Jordan Caron
Also, if you have access to today’s Globe or Bostonglobe.com, you have to check out Fluto Shinzawa’s story on how being a sportswriter furthers his conquests as a foodie. A great, off-beat read from one of the best in the business. Significantly better than my attempt.