|Strength in numbers: Bruins will have most new players in an opening night under Claude Julien||10.08.15 at 1:28 pm ET|
The only time Claude Julien had more new faces to open a season with the Bruins, his was technically the new one.
“My first year I had over twenty new guys,” Julien said Thursday morning with a grin. “I didn’t know anybody, right?”
When Julien and the Bruins begin the season Thursday night, he will likely have five players making their Bruins debuts in Jimmy Hayes, Matt Beleskey, Joonas Kemppainen, Matt Irwin and Zac Rinaldo. That ties 2007-08, Julien’s first season with the B’s, as the most new Bruins in an opening night lineup in the Julien era, not counting backup goalies.
Between Julien’s first season and now, the most new Bruins on an opening night was three, which came in 2010-11 (Nathan Horton, Gregory Campbell, Tyler Seguin) and 2013-14 (Jarome Iginla, Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith). The Bruins have often had remarkably little roster turnover. Last season, for example, Bobby Robins was the only newbie in the lineup to begin the season.
Of course, players such as Robins who were in the organization beforehand had at least some comfort level with the B’s. All five of the new Bruins for Thursday’s opener were brought in this offseason in either trades or free agency. The number could have been even higher Thursday, but trade acquisition Colin Miller and 2009 sixth-round pick Tyler Randell are expected to be healthy scratches.
‘I think it’s been a good three-plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,’ Julien said. ‘Everything right now, we’re pleased with it, we’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too. I don’t have any issues with the number of new players. I just have a preoccupation with getting the whole group ready to play here tonight.’
Beleskey will play on David Krejci‘s line with David Pastrnak, while Hayes will start off playing left wing with Ryan Spooner and Brett Connolly. Kemppainen and Rinaldo will skate on the fourth line with Chris Kelly. The only newcomer expected on the blue line Thursday, Irwin figures to be paired with Zach Trotman.
ESPN NHL hockey analyst Barry Melrose joined Dennis, Callahan & Minihane on Thursday morning to look ahead to the 2015-16 NHL season. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
With the Bruins’ disappointing season last year, he feels coach Claude Julien is under pressure right away.
“I think he is. I don’t think he should be,” Melrose said. “I think Claude is a heck of a coach, won a Stanley Cup in Boston. They had a long drought, there was no Stanley Cup winners and he comes in and gets the job done and the team is good every year. I think he’s under pressure. Boston is a team that expects to win. They expect the Red Sox to win, the Patriots to win, the Celtics to win and they expect Boston to win. It’s going to be a tough year for the Bruins. They are not the dominant Bruins they once were. Everybody got a little bit better in the East and it is going to take Claude’s best coaching job he’s ever done in his life to make this a playoff team and give them a chance of winning.”
This past offseason the team lost a number of key players, including Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic. Melrose says their margin for error is very small.
“Are they as good today as they were last year? I don’t think so,” he said. “I think what has to happen for the Bruins now is they don’t have any margin anymore. The Bruins used to be able to overcome an injury or overcome maybe a struggling player here or there, but I don’t think they can anymore. I think the Bruins have to get plays from their kids, they have to get great games from [Patrice] Bergeron, [David] Krejci and [Zdeno] Chara. They can’t afford any injuries to key players. Tuukka Rask probably has to play the best he’s ever played and they just don’t have any margin for error anymore with their lineup.
“If all those things happen they are a playoff team, but if all of a sudden Bergeron misses six weeks or Krejci, who has been hurt a lot lately, misses six weeks, Chara is already starting the year hurt, [Dennis] Seidenberg is already gone for two months, so that’s going to be tough. They’ve been able to overcome those before, I don’t know if they will be able to overcome those now.”
|Tuukka Rask happy to get back on ice: ‘You kind of forget how tough it is out there’||09.29.15 at 12:12 am ET|
The long wait finally came to an end for Tuukka Rask Monday night.
The 28-year-old goalie made his 2015 preseason debut after watching the likes of Jonas Gustavsson, Jeremy Smith, Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre fill the void over the first four games, all wins.
Monday night wasn’t about the final result, a 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. It was about getting Rask’s feet wet for the first time in game action since the regular season finale last April 11 at Tampa Bay. That night, the Bruins were eliminated in the middle of the game. Monday night, in a game with far less significance, Rask stopped 21 of 24 shots in getting his first taste of action.
“Good to get it out of the way,” Rask said. “You kind of forget how tough it is out there. It doesn’t matter how much you workout or skate, it’s always different when it’s a real game and I definitely felt it. It’s good to get that first one out of the belt and to keep moving on that.”
Rask posted a 2.30 goals against last season with a 34-21-13 mark in 70 games. He will, of course, be the starting goalie for the Bruins when they open the season on Oct. 8 against Winnipeg at TD Garden.
“I think at this point I focus on myself and getting my game where I feel like it needs to be – it’s just with the feel and everything,” Rask said. “I felt that timing was sometimes a little off, angles were a little off at times — not natural all the time. Those are the things I need to work on, but I think in the bigger picture too, looking at the breakouts we did a pretty good job today and communication was pretty good too. The first period I had to handle it a couple times, the first one of the game I just made a bad pass, but after that I made a couple good passes. A couple guys talked to me where they wanted the puck to be and I think they did a good job in front of the net, clearing some sticks and some players. I think it was good.”
Rask realizes that improving Boston’s breakout this season begins with him.
|Bruins defense a work in progress with season approaching||at 12:07 am ET|
Rather, it was the group of six defensemen who saw action in front of Rask that Julien was watching most intently.
“We’re evaluating more the back end than we were Tuukka,” Julien said. “We’ve got some young D’s here and some spots to fill. Spots to win and spots to lose. So we’re looking closely at those guys on the back end. Some of those goals tonight [Rask] didn’t get much help.”
Boston dropped the final decision to Detroit 3-1, allowing at least two markers that didn’t thrill Julien in regards to his team’s play on that back end.
“That first goal a guy walks right into the slot,” said Julien of the game’s first goal scored by Detroit’s Drew Miller, with Boston’s defensemen Linus Arnesson and Kevan Miller near the crease some distance away.
And the second Detroit goal, with Tomas Jurko getting behind Arnesson and Colin Miller to make it 2-0?
“It was a mix-up there between our two D’s,” said Julien. “We laid it in [on the dump-in] and our right D changed hoping that our left D would go to right to be closer to the bench. Somehow they stayed in the same half of the ice and allowed them that breakaway.”
Without the blue-line services of Dennis Seidenberg for several more weeks and Zdeno Chara for an unknown length of time, some of Julien’s young defensemen will need to raise their game when the season begins a week from this Thursday.
“I think guys are getting used to having more pressure on them on the forecheck,” said Zach Trotman, who logged 18:39 of ice time Monday playing primarily alongside Torey Krug. “Getting used to reads. Getting some chemistry with other players and partners. We’ve gotten to play with each other for a couple games now. You’re going to notice that breakouts are a little cleaner, neutral zone is going to be a little cleaner. And then jumping up in the play and stuff and adjusting to the tweaks we’ve made to our system.”
Those tweaks to the Bruins system are designed to help spark an offense that ranked 22nd in the NHL in goals-per-game (2.55) last season. However, timing is everything in making sure the defense doesn’t suffer.
|What Dennis Seidenberg’s injury means for rest of Bruins defense||09.23.15 at 10:42 am ET|
The last time Dennis Seidenberg got hurt back in December of 2013, the best team in the Eastern Conference had to find someone to inherit Boston’s second-best defenseman’s minutes. This time around, things aren’t so cut and dried.
The Bruins announced Wednesday that Seidenberg, who has not taken the ice at all this training camp, would undergo back surgery Thursday and miss the next eight weeks. His absence for the next two months solves one problem and creates another.
Not having Seidenberg provides some clarity as it relates to the numbers game on Boston’s defense. The problem is that it does so by subtracting one of the only guys with ample experience as one of Claude Julien‘s most trusted defenders.
An issue for the Bruins entering camp is that they had too many defensemen, but not enough top-four blueliners. Though Seidenberg was coming off a bad season, the Dougie Hamilton trade left Zdeno Chara and Seidenberg as the only B’s with extensive top-four experience (Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid have taken on bigger roles at times over the last two seasons, but they’ve generally been reserved for playing against bottom-sixers). That the Bruins will go until Thanksgiving with three of their top-four defensemen treading relatively uncharted waters is concerning, but then again there was no guarantee that Seidenberg would have earned a top role over those guys anyway.
Seidenberg’s injury provides an opportunity for Krug, who will get his wish of being a top-four guy. Because right shot defensemen (of which the B’s have many) can’t play the left side, having a lefty to anchor the second pairing behind Chara is crucial. Seidenberg was a prime candidate if he was healthy and anything resembling his old self.
Now the candidates are Krug, Matt Irwin and Joe Morrow. The guess here is that Krug leads the second pairing with McQuaid on the right, with Irwin playing on the third pairing with either Kevan Miller or Colin Miller. While Colin Miller has more offensive upside than Kevan Miller, the absence left by Seidenberg on the penalty kill (Seidenberg led all Bruins players in shorthanded time on ice last season) could very well require the team to put Kevan Miller in the lineup over Colin Miller.
[An interesting note regarding Boston’s defense: Of the eight remaining healthy blueliners legitimately pushing for jobs — Chara, Krug, Trotman, McQuaid, both Millers, Morrow and Irwin — Colin Miller is the only that would not require waivers to be sent to Providence.]
|Claude Julien likes 3-on-3 (because he hates the shootout)||09.22.15 at 10:30 pm ET|
The Bruins didn’t get to practice 3-on-3 for long Tuesday night, as David Pastrnak ended the preseason overtime session just 12 seconds in.
Lack of experience aside, Claude Julien doesn’t need to see much to know he’s going to like the new overtime system more than he liked the old one. With the NHL moving to 3-on-3 for five minutes followed by a shootout, the chances are far greater that the game will be settled in overtime than in the shootout. In the old system of 4-on-4 followed by a shootout, the overtime session often did nothing but give way to the shootout. Julien wasn’t a fan of that, as one could say he hates the shootout.
“I hate the shootout,” Julien said Tuesday, confirming the aforementioned suspicion.
Julien didn’t hate what he saw Tuesday night. With Boston’s preseason game against the Capitals tied at the end of regulation, the game went to overtime (it would have no matter what the score, as the NHL is having teams practice the new format three times this preseason).
Julien sent David Krejci, Pastrnak and Torey Krug out to begin the session. Krejci won the faceoff, with Krug chasing the puck into over the Boston blueline. Krug threw the puck up to Krejci, who fed Pastrnak on a 2-on-1 to set up the game-winner.
Because he hates the shootout (see above) Julien spent the majority of the last two seasons sending three forwards and one defenseman out for 4-on-4. Tuesday’s deployment of Krejci, Pastrnak and Krug gives the Bruins both offensive creativity and skating, two things that come in handy in next-goal-wins scenarios. Yet Julien is willing to go even farther this season in 3-on-3, as the team has practiced 3-on-3 with three forwards and no defensemen. Julien says he intends to use three forwards at times in overtime.
“For me, when you’re playing in the overtime, you’re going for the win,” he said. “I mean, you’ve got the point, you want to get that second one, so why sit back? You know, let’s go for it. That’s my approach.”
The 3-on-3 will be a learning experience for all teams in the early months of the season, as pretty much any mistake (or line change) can end the game. Having gone 7-16 the last two seasons in shootouts, the Bruins should probably like their odds in overtime better than they like them in a shootout. With players like Pastrnak, Krejci, Krug, Ryan Spooner and others at their disposal, it pretty much has to work out better for the B’s than the old way.
|Don Cherry on MFB: Milan Lucic is ‘[going to] come back with a force’ this season||07.02.15 at 12:52 pm ET|
Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry joined Middays with MFB on Thursday to discuss the Bruins’ recent moves. To hear the interview, go to the Middays with MFB audio on demand page.
Prior to the NHL draft Milan Lucic and 22-year-old defenseman Dougie Hamilton were traded to the Kings and Flames, respectively. The trades caught many by surprise, though the return for both of them gave the Bruins pieces to work with, namely those acquired in the Lucic trade.
The winger was traded to Los Angeles for goaltender Martin Jones, defenseman Colin Miller and the No. 15 overall pick in last Friday’s draft. The B’s were able to flip Jones to the Sharks afterwards for a first-round pick in 2016 and the rights to Miami Redhawks rising senior Sean Kuraly.
“I think what happened is [Lucic] sort of fell out of favor with that  goals [last season],” Cherry said. “You expected more goals from him. I have to admit, he wasn’t Lucic of old last year, but somehow or other, I always think of the Bruins, I think of them as tough and everybody thinks of them as tough.”
“Lucic, I know he had an off-year last year, but he’s [going to] come back with a force,” he added. “When you think of the Bruins, when everybody thinks of the Bruins, they think of Lucic, and then a 22-year-old guy. … You don’t get a 22-year-old stud like that guy and Calgary now has the best defense in the league, there’s no doubt about it.”
Following Hamilton being traded there were reports saying Hamilton was a “loner” and an “uppity kid.” Cherry said that wouldn’t matter to him if he were coaching the Bruins.
“If I had Hamilton, somehow I’d work him in, and that’s the job of the organization,” he said. “When I hear he doesn’t work and he’s a loner, who cares? Look at the way he plays, it’s on the ice. I don’t care if he’s a loner or not. I don’t believe in that stuff.”