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In showdown of elite centers, Patrice Bergeron dominates Flyers’ Claude Giroux 10.09.14 at 12:23 am ET
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In theory, Wednesday night’€™s season opener between the Bruins and Flyers should have given us a great back-and-forth battle between two of the NHL‘€™s best centers. Patrice Bergeron and Claude Giroux both finished in the top five in Hart Trophy voting last season, and their lines were matched against each other for most of the game Wednesday night.

But instead of that great battle, what we got was a total beatdown in favor of the Bruins. Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith dominated Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek all game long, rendering one of the best players in the league virtually invisible.

Bergeron won 10 of the 12 faceoffs he took against Giroux and ended up with a plus-16 Corsi (22 shot attempts for, 6 against), according to hockeystats.ca, while Giroux finished the night with a minus-18 Corsi (6 attempts for, 24 against). Bergeron and his linemates combined for seven shots on goal, while Giroux and his managed just two. It seemed like every time the two lines were on the ice, the puck was in the Flyers’€™ zone, and the numbers reflect that.

“They take pride in being a better line than the line that they’€™re facing up against,”€ Claude Julien said. “It’€™s just a trait that they have. They worked hard. You have to give them credit, too, for how they checked against that line because it had a lot of potential to be dangerous offensively. But those guys did a pretty good job of taking away those opportunities.”

The key was winning battles. Bergeron is one of the best faceoff men in the NHL, but it’€™s not like he won all 10 of those faceoffs cleanly. Some of them required him outworking Giroux on a second or third attempt to win the puck back, and some of them required Marchand or Smith to jump in and beat the opponent to a loose puck.

Battles in the corner led to longer offensive-zone possessions. One of the best examples of this came with around 9:40 left in the second when Bergeron won a 1-on-1 battle in the corner to the left of the Flyers’ net. He came away with the puck and moved it back to Zdeno Chara at the left point. Chara then moved it over to Adam McQuaid, who sent a shot through a nice Smith screen, one that he was able to set by winning a battle for position. The shot didn’€™t go in, but it wasn’€™t an easy save either. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brad Marchand, Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Patrice Bergeron
Why you should have cared about Wednesday’s Bruins win: Chris Kelly supplied a season-opening thrill 10.08.14 at 10:03 pm ET
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After ending last season hurt, Chris Kelly began the Bruins’€™ 2014-15 season with the game-winning goal in the final minute of the team’€™s season-opener against the Flyers.

With the game tied at a goal apiece, Kelly banged a bouncing puck past Steve Mason to give the Bruins a 2-1 victory. Kelly had nine goals last season.

In a play seen many times a season ago, Reilly Smith went to the left side of the net and took a pass across the net from Carl Soderberg for a backdoor goal on the power play.

After a scoreless second period, the Flyers tied the game on a Sean Couturier goal that might have gone off Carl Soderberg’€™s stick. A Patrice Bergeron holding penalty minutes later put the Bruins in a right spot, but an effective kill (the B’€™s held the Flyers’€™ power play quiet on three power plays), kept the game knotted at one.

Tuukka Rask made 19 saves on the night for the B’€™s.

Here are some takeaways from the game:

– In a matchup of top-five finishers in 2013-14 Hart voting, Patrice Bergeron dominated Claude Giroux. In addition to Bergeron overwhelming the Flyers’€™ captain in the face-off circle, Bergeron and his linemates held a strong edge in possession over Philadelphia’€™s top line.

– The Bruins started the game with Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton as their top pair and Dennis Seidenberg with Adam McQuaid. Claude Julien switched Hamilton and McQuaid halfway though the second period, making the B’€™s top four Chara-McQuaid and Seidenberg-Hamilton. The pairings were switched back and forth throughout the third period, with the Chara and Hamilton allowing the tying goal.

An offensively overzealous performance from Hamilton probably played a factor in the switch, as an attempt at keeping the puck in the zone in final minute of the first led to a 2-on-1 for the Flyers. Early in the second, Hamilton tried to pressure a puck carrier coming out of the Philadelphia zone and got beat, giving the Flyers number the other way again.

Hamilton was also picked off at the blue line in the offensive zone midway through the period to give the Flyers another odd-man rush.

– Ryan Spooner centered a line with Milan Lucic and Matt Fraser that Julien used as his third line. Spooner held his own in the faceoff circle and made some nice plays, but his biggest offensive issue from a season ago crept up again. Spooner does not go to the net, whether it’€™s with or without the puck, and that showed up in his play again Wednesday. He peeled off to the right wall after skating the puck into the zone in the first, while a second-period play in which he dished the puck to Lucic at the blue line saw him loiter at the right circle.

– Playing in his first career NHL game, 32-year-old Bobby Robins got in his first NHL fight when, after he and Craig Cunningham hit Zac Rinaldo simultaneously (Robins was given a charging minor for the hit), Robins dropped the gloves in a feverish bout with Luke Schenn.

– The lineup in the game was as follows:

Marchand -€“ Bergeron -€“ Smith
Kelly -€“ Soderberg – Eriksson
Lucic – Spooner -€“ Fraser
Paille – Cunningham – Robins

Chara – Hamilton/McQuaid
Seidenberg -€“ Adam McQuaid/Hamilton
Torey Krug -€“ Kevan Miller

Live Blog: Follow all the action as Bruins take on Flyers at TD Garden 10.08.14 at 6:57 pm ET
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Live Blog Bruins season opener
 

Andy Brickley on MFB: ‘Expect further moves to be made’ by Bruins 10.08.14 at 1:52 pm ET
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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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andy Brickley, Claude Julien, Johnny Boychuk, Kevan Miller
Adam McQuaid appears to get first turn as potential Johnny Boychuk replacement 10.08.14 at 1:26 pm ET
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Adam McQuaid

Adam McQuaid

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.

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk,
Ryan Spooner on Claude Julien: ‘I don’t think he hates skilled players’ 10.08.14 at 12:29 pm ET
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Ryan Spooner

Ryan Spooner

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.”

Read More: Ryan Spooner,
David Krejci to miss at least 3 games for Bruins 10.08.14 at 11:58 am ET
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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

Tuukka Rask

For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: David Krejci,
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