Archive for June, 2012

NHL draft: Which players experts mock to Bruins

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

The Bruins are no longer defending Stanley Cup champions, so it’s time for them to start retooling for another run at the Cup. The season just ended, but the work does not end for the B’s front office, which will be using the NHL draft on Friday night to improve the organization by bringing in young talent.

Peter Chiarelli raved about the number of top-level defense prospects, but the Bruins will likely take the best player available in the first round thanks to the balance in the organization right now.

Here is a look at some of the prospects that experts have been projecting to the Bruins in their mock drafts.

Steven Hoffner, NHL.com: Stefan Matteau, C, USA U-18 (USHL)

Hoffner: Tough forward has balanced offensive attack which will help big, bad Bruins.

Kyle Woodlief, USA Today: Matteau

Woodlief: Nobody fits the dirty, gooning style Boston plays better than Matteau. He’ll fit right in in Beantown and make the Bruins an even more menacing presence.

Key 2011-12 stats: 18 GP, 6 G, 4 A, 10 PTS, 93 PIM, +4

Allan Muir, Sports Illustrated: Scott Laughton, C, Oshawa (OHL)

Muir: I have a feeling the Bruins trade this pick and move down unless the draft unwinds in such a way that a certain defenseman drops in their lap (it is thought that they covet Matthew Finn). But if that doesn’t happen, Laughton plays a classic black-and-gold style that should make him a popular choice. His offense hasn’t yet met the expectations set for a guy who was the third overall pick in the OHL draft, but he’s a safe call because he is so competitive every time he steps on the ice. “He’s motivated, sharp on the draw, a great defensive player. He works the body well and will drop the mitts when necessary,” one scout said, adding, “he’s a great team guy.” His upside projects to a Dave Bolland-type, but if his offense doesn’t come around, he’d slot perfectly into Chris Kelly‘s spot a few years down the road.

Key 2011-12 stats: 64 GP, 21 G, 32 A, 53 PTS, 101 PIM, +8

Mike Morreale, NHL.com: Brady Skjei, D, USA U-18 (USHL)

Morreale: Big blueliner is an elite skater and puck-mover with creativity off transition.

Key 2011-12 stats: 24 GP, 3 G, 9 A, 12 PTS, 12 PIM, +5

Matthew Scianitti, National Post: Dalton Thrower, D, Saskatoon (WHL)

Scianitti: With Dougie Hamilton likely to move up to the big club this year, Thrower could be the new project. He was in the top 10 in scoring among WHL defenceman this season, and also showed an aggressive edge with 103 penalty minutes.

Key 2011-12 stats: 66 GP, 18 G, 36 A, 54 PTS, 103 PIM, -4

Adam Kimmelman, NHL.com: Oscar Dansk, G, Brynas Jr. (SWE-Jr)

Kimmelman: Bruins need to add a goaltender to prospect pool.

Key 2011-12 stats: 2.82 GAA, .910 SV%, 2 shutouts

Pierre McGuire and Craig Button, TSN: Andrei Vasilevski, G, Ufa Tolpar (RUS-Jr)

McGuire: His size is a such a factor. He’s also athletic and quick. When he gets more refined, he’ll be a special player.

Key 2011-12 stats: 2.23 GAA, .931 SV%, 3 shutouts

Bruins’ schedule released

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

The NHL schedule was released on Wednesday, and assuming that there is no lockout, the B’s will open the 2012-13 season on the road against the Flyers on Oct. 11.

The team will then travel to New Jersey before playing a home-and-home with the Canadiens. Their home opener is Oct. 18 against the rival Habs. Here are some other notable dates:

- Boston will get its first crack at the Capitals on Nov. 2 in the nation’s capital. Washington eliminated the B’s in seven games in the first round.

- The last two Stanley Cup winners will play on Dec. 17 when the B’s host the Kings.

- This year’s game against the Canucks will be played on Dec. 29 in Vancouver.

- Round 3 of Taylor/Tyler is Jan. 2 in Edmonton.

For the complete schedule, click here.

Overdue, but Patrice Bergeron joins Selke club

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Of all the NHL awards, the Selke certainly isn’€™t the flashiest of them. It doesn’€™t put a player on the cover of a video game, nor does it skyrocket jersey sales. Yet for real fans ‘€“ the ones who either played at some point in their lives or have just been around the game for long enough ‘€“ it’€™s the easiest to appreciate. Finally, it belongs to Patrice Bergeron, and it couldn’€™t be more fitting.

If Bruins fans were given a poll of who should win the Selke, Tyler Seguin would probably win (before you complain about that, remember the 7th Player Award fiasco). If the Selke were a popularity contest, Pavel Datsyuk, who in any given season could be considered the best player in the league, would win it for the eight hundredth time in his career. Wednesday’€™s awarding is long overdue, but it means that the humble and quiet Bergeron is getting the credit he deserves.

For the previous six years, the Selke fraternity hasn’€™t taken many new members. Datsyuk’€™s won it three times, Rod Brind’€™Amour won it twice, and two seasons ago Ryan Kesler was the recipient for the first time in his career. Through all that, it seemed an injustice that Bergeron, who has consistently been his team’€™s most important forward given Claude Julien‘€™s defense-first system, wasn’€™t even nominated.

Anyone who has watched Bergeron over the years saw that his defensive play in addition to his faceoff prowess made him one of the best, if not the best, two-way forwards in the game. The award is said to go to ‘€œthe forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game,” but like many awards, it doesn’€™t always hold true to its claimed criteria.

Rather than going to the best defensive forward, it can go to the defensive forward with the best offensive numbers. Then once you’€™ve won it, you stay in the voters’€™ (it’€™s chosen by members of the Pro Hockey Writers’€™ Association) minds for a while. It’€™s just tough to get their attention.

Bergeron finally began getting that attention last spring during the Bruins’€™ Stanley Cup run. As the B’€™s kept winning and the spotlight shined a little brighter on the quiet center (and his finger, of course), the fact that he’€™d been snubbed in past seasons got a little more play with the North American media. It was no surprise afterwards that when Bergeron put up big numbers this past season (64 points, an NHL-best plus-36 and a league-high 973 faceoffs won), he ended up being the favorite for the Selke.

From a pure offensive standpoint, 64 points won’€™t get you mentioned among the best playmakers in the league, but Bergeron’€™s season provided everything that makes him such an important member of the Bruins. He played consistently against other teams’€™ top scorers and kept them off the score sheet while also killing penalties and helping the Bruins to a league-best plus-67 differential. Not surprisingly, he led all Bruins’€™ forwards in time on ice per game and shorthanded time on ice per game.

The chatter amongst other voters suggested Bergeron would be the runaway winner Wednesday night, and he was just that. He had over four times as many first-place votes as runner-up David Backes (106-24) and his 1,312 total points for the vote nearly doubled Backes’€™ 698.

Now, Bergeron is in the club. Like Dastyuk (this season’€™s third-place finisher), he should receive significant consideration each year. With linemates Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin entering the primes of their careers, Bergeron’€™s offensive numbers could still improve, making him an easier pick for those who lean towards those with more points. Plus, the re-signing of Chris Kelly means that Seguin will remain a wing long-term, so Bergeron should be able to have one of the most talented scorers in the league as a weapon for the foreseeable future.

Voting for these awards isn’€™t easy. Jonathan Quick, my top vote for the Hart trophy, didn’€™t finish in the top three. I didn’€™t have Norris winner Erik Karlsson in my top five for the award, though I did give him my fourth Hart vote. Yet after years of watching Bergeron and seeing his proficiency in all areas of the ice this season, the Selke was an easy choice. It may have taken a little longer than it should have, but the entire hockey world seems to see it now.

Patrice Bergeron wins Selke

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron won the Frank J. Selke Trophy Wednesday night, earning for the first time in his career the coveted awarded for the forward ‘€œwho best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.’€ Bergeron beat out St. Louis’ David Backes and three-time winner Pavel Datsyuk.

During the regular season, Bergeron led the NHL in plus/minus (plus-36) and was second in faceoff percentage (59.3). He has never won the Selke in his career.

Bergeron becomes the fourth winner of the award in the last seven seasons: Rod Brind’€™Amour twice, Datsyuk in three straight seasons and Ryan Kesler in the 2010-11 season.

Bruins’ training camp opens on Sep. 21

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

he Bruins announced their key preseason dates Tuesday. Rosters for rookie camp and training camp are still to come, but here are the dates:

- Rookie camp opens on Sep. 14 at Ristuccia Arena.
- Training camp opens on Sep. 21 at Ristuccia Arena.
- The Bruins play their first preseason game against the Capitals at Verizon Center on Sep. 26. The rest of their preseason schedule is as follows: September 26 at Buffalo; Sep. 29 against the Jets in Saskatoon, SK; Sep. 30 at Winnipeg; Oct. 3 against the Capitals; Oct. 5 against the Sabres and Oct. 6 at Montreal.

How will this week impact the 2012-13 Bruins?

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Thanks to trades and ‘€“ let’€™s face it, the Maple Leafs ‘€“ the Bruins have been able to do something in recent years that often isn’€™t guaranteed in the NHL draft: come out of the weekend with a better NHL roster. For the first time in three years, the Bruins will not be selecting in the first 10 picks of the NHL draft, so this may be a return to reality as a contending team during draft week.

The Bruins have five picks on this weekend, with selections in rounds 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7. Their second-rounder was given up in the Tomas Kaberle deal, a rare instance these days in which the Leafs can actually say they stole draft picks from Boston, while the B’€™s sent their fourth-round pick to Carolina last July in the Joe Corvo trade. Puck-moving busts took their toll on Boston’€™s collection of picks in this draft, but the Bruins are still in good position to take advantage of a deep group of defensemen with the 24th overall pick.

‘€œThere’€™s a lot of good defensemen in this draft,’€ Peter Chiarelli said Monday. ‘€œSo we’€™re hoping ‘€¦ that some will slip and because of the number of defensemen ‘€“ I’€™ve never seen it ‘€“ the number of NHL defensemen this large.’€

Of course, last season the Bruins capitalized mightily on a slipping defensemen. Niagara (OHL) defenseman Dougie Hamilton fell to the B’€™s, who gladly scooped him up ninth overall with Toronto’€™s pick. The selection was considered a steal at the time, but since then the 6-foot-6 Hamilton has lit up the OHL with a 72-point season in 50 regular-season games.

Assuming they stay put, the Bruins won’€™t be getting a Hamilton or a Tyler Seguin, both of whom were major prospects that were expected to go in the first five picks. They could still upgrade their NHL roster via trade, but it doesn’€™t seem likely.

Remember, the week of the 2010 draft, the Bruins, who were already picking second overall thanks to the Maple Leafs, sent their own first-rounder (15th overall) to Florida in the deal that landed them Nathan Horton. The Panthers moved down with the pick in a trade with the Kings before selecting Nick Bjugstad 19th overall, and while Bjugstad’€™s point-per-game pace at The University of Minnesota makes him a very bright prospect for Florida, the Bruins got the first-line forward they needed. Though the Bruins picked up all four of their wins in the Stanley Cup finals without Horton, they likely wouldn’€™t have been there in the first place were it not for heroics in the first three rounds.

The Bruins have three of their four lines from last season under contract, with restricted free agent Benoit Pouliot‘€™s future the only one that’€™s uncertain at this point. Chiarelli has said multiple times since the Bruins were eliminated that he’€™d like to add a forward, but don’€™t bank on him swinging a draft-week trade like he did two years ago.

‘€œThe reality is that the trade market right now is the most active,’€ Chiarelli said Monday. ‘€œWhat’€™ll happen is come July, that will take a bit of a backseat to free agency, and then once we go through that first tranche of free agents, then the trade market will re-emerge. Right now, with the trade market the way it is, I make some calls, but frankly, I’€™m probably more apt to wait till the free agent market and then the secondary trade market.’€

Chiarelli did say on his conference call Monday that he would like to add another pick if he can, but that the signings of prospects like Torey Krug and Niklas Svedberg have helped to make up for the lack of selections.

As is, the Bruins have enough capable players that their NHL roster could conceivably be set. Assuming Jordan Caron gets a full-time job next year, the B’€™s could be fine offensively regardless of whether they sign Pouliot. Defensively, expect Hamilton to take Corvo/Greg Zanon‘€™s spot and just like that you’€™ve got a lineup. Though there isn’€™t much room for it, the B’€™s could still stand to add for the sake of avoiding stagnancy. If they do, it doesn’€™t seem like it will be this week. Instead, expect the draft-wait-and-see approach that teams without premium picks have used for so long.

Guess what the Bruins did a year ago?

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the Bruins winning the Cup, and among all the Tim Thomas bashing we welcome you to a time when his most famous words weren’t political or controversial but rather, “Do I leave it here?”

2010-11 was my first year on the Bruins beat, so it was pretty action-packed and plenty exhausting. It all started in Prague and ended on the ice at Rogers Arena after Game 7. While it was an incredible experience for a young journalist — I got a picture next to the puddle from the beer that was thrown at Gary Bettman during the Cup ceremony — there probably wouldn’t have been enough coffee in all of British Columbia to keep me or the rest of the media functional if there was such a thing as Game 8.

That day began with media availability at the Bruins’ hotel. I did my normal routine for hotel availability in Vancouver. There was some mall by the water that had a Tim Horton’s, so I would get a muffin and tea there and grab a cup of coffee at the hotel. Claude Julien and a few players were available to speak — I want to say it was Chris Kelly, Tyler Seguin (to their credit, Kelly and Seguin are absolutely always available to the media), Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. Their nerves seemed fine, but for a series that had so many money quotes, nobody said anything overly interesting. After all, they were either going to win or lose the Stanley Cup that day, so what else could they have to say?

We took one of the earlier shuttles to the arena that day, and Joe Zarbano got some incredible footage of the Bruins’ bus arriving shortly after ours. He came up to the press box pumped about the video (someone actually said, “Keep your head up, Horton”) but was unsure as to whether a video with that many bleeps would be worth watching. Luckily he had time for extensive edits and it got fans riled up.

Then the best running gag of the playoffs came to a hilarious end. The Flyers serve amazing soft pretzels in the shape of their logo to the media during games. Prior to Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, I noticed that for the first time all season, the B’s were serving soft pretzels to the media and sarcastically tweeted that the B’s were 2-0 in the playoffs in games in which the media were served pretzels. I updated the stat following the game and the media relations folks — the best in the business and apparently a superstitious bunch — bought into it. From then on, pretzels were served at very home game, and they won them all. The “#pretzel” hash tag caught on with the twitter folk, and the Bruins finished the playoffs 8-0 in games in which the media were served soft pretzels.

For Game 7, the Bruins sent a dozen pretzels from Boston to Vancouver to keep the good thing going, but they were actually seized by Canadian customs. There were a lot of funny stories from that postseason run, but that was as outrageous as it  could have gotten.

Fortunately for the Bruins, that ended up being inadvertent misdirection, as Nathan Horton famously snuck some Garden Ice in and sprayed it onto the surface at Rogers Arena.

Fast forward to the game, and after Bergeron’s goal late in the first period, the rest of the game felt like 10 minutes. As entertaining as that series was, there was just no way Thomas was going to let anything past him after that. It seemed like he wasn’t the only one on the ice that knew it.

Here’s some behind-the-scenes information about WEEI.com: Mike Petraglia is an absolute master of the under-appreciated art of headline-writing. Tell him what your story is, and he’ll have something perfect, whether funny, snarky or whatever else may suit it. I was adamant that if the Bruins won, the headline for the game story should be, “Bruins win the Stanley Cup,” just for the sake of all the 20-or-30-something-year-old fans that thought they might never see those words written in their lifetime. He wanted something else (I forget what it was). A compromise was reached, and we each wrote separate entries (he writes them for the This Just In part of our homepage) with the headlines we had made a light fuss about. Sportswriters may be a lot of things, but you can’t say they aren’t particular.

Vancouver was out of control after Game 7 and it was a dangerous scene for lots of the scribes covering the series, but I own perhaps the most boring “Vancouver riots” story of them all. By the time I finished all my work at Rogers at a much later hour than usual (rather than simply going in the dressing rooms and then coach’s press conference, media went on the ice, then to press conferences for players and then to the coach’s pressers), the shuttle service taking the media to and from the hotel had caught wise to the whole situation and mapped a safer route. Many of the media members walked back through all the destruction and rioting and saw some unbelievable things. I was back in five minutes, with the only rioting I witnessed coming from the television.

Now the Cup is in LA while the Bruins, fresh off a woefully underwhelming Cup defense that lasted just seven games into the postseason, will try to replicate their run without their Conn Smythe winner.

The East is better these days than it was a year ago, and though June 15, 2011 may feel like it was ages ago, the Bruins still have the experience as they look to bring the Cup back to Boston.