|Are Phil Kessel and the Leafs for real, and who’s in net?||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.
|Slumping Bruins must now face red-hot Phil Kessel||10.20.11 at 12:49 am ET|
Phil Kessel is returning to Boston once again, and this time he probably has more confidence than ever.
The former Bruin, whose trade to the Maple Leafs is still closely monitored to this day, has been a statistical monster early on this season. While Tyler Seguin, drafted with one of the three picks received in the 2009 trade between the Leafs and B’s, leads Boston with five points, Kessel more than doubles that with a league-leading 12 points. Kessel added to his already league-leading goal total with his seventh tally of the season in Wednesday’s 4-3 shootout win over the Jets. He also had two points Wednesday.
The Bruins used the final pick of the deal in June’s draft, selecting Niagara (OHL) defenseman Dougie Hamilton ninth overall. Here’s a quick look at the players from the trade this season.
Phil Kessel 5 GP 7 G 5 A 12 P
Tyler Seguin 6 GP 1 G 4 A 5 P
Jared Knight 9 GP 7 G 3 A 10 P
Dougie Hamilton 9 GP 5 G 12 A 17 P
Though the Leafs have done poorly enough to get the Bruins top-10 draft picks in each of the last two seasons, they, like Kessel, are off to a great start to the 2011-12 campaign. Toronto has yet to lose a game in regulation this season (4-0-1) and leads the Northeast division with nine points. The Bruins, meanwhile, are 2-4-0.
|Report: Bruins sign Jared Knight, Ryan Spooner||07.19.11 at 11:52 am ET|
According to Kirk Luedeke (one of, if not the best, hockey prospects writer out there) of the New England Hockey Journal, the Bruins have signed both of their 2010 second-round picks in right wing Jared Knight and center Ryan Spooner to three-year entry level deals.
The signings of the player in no way impacts their standing with the big club, as the 19-year-olds would both have to return to their OHL clubs if they don’t make the Bruins this season. They do not have AHL eligibility for the full season given that they are under 20 and haven’t played four years of junior hockey. Both did finish last season in Providence, however on amateur tryout agreements. Knight had a pair of assists in three games, while Spooner had two goals and an assist in his three contests.
Knight, selected 32nd overall in 2010, was a product of the Phil Kessel trade, as the pick used to select him was acquired in the Sept. 2009 deal. He had 25 goals and 45 assists for 70 points for London (OHL) last season. Spooner, selected 45th overall, had 35 goals and 46 assists between Peterborough and Kingston (both of the OHL) last season.
Both players were singled out by B’s general manager Peter Chiarelli as players who impressed at this summer’s development camp.
‘For a guy like Spooner, one of the things that we told him at the end of last year and at development camp and at training camp, was he has to put the time in to get better, to get stronger, to get bigger,” Chiarelli said. “And he did. He did do that, and all the testing showed that. There’s still room to improve, but you could tell, we take the testing very seriously and Ryan put the time in and you could see it in his play. He had a little more spring in his step with the puck, he had a little more bulk in his, he was able to protect the puck a little bit better.
‘You see it firsthand, so a guy like Knight, he was already last year in tremendous shape and this year he’s even improved.’
|What will the Bruins do with the ninth pick?||06.24.11 at 3:14 am ET|
As the world continues to have a laugh over pictures of Brad Marchand and the Bruins’ bar tab (did you hear they had a $100,000 bottle of champagne?) to the point where the dead horse couldn’t possibly take another blow, the Stanley Cup champions are getting ready to add a potential franchise player.
The B’s will pick ninth overall in Friday’s NHL draft, finally closing the book on the Phil Kessel trade as they add one of the top players in a draft widely considered to be a notch below that of last year’s. Given that Toronto’s selection is slotted ninth, it’s safe to say the B’s will add one Central Scoutings’ highest-rated players.
Here are the top 15 skaters in this year’s draft accoriding to Central Scouting.
1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Red Deer (WHL)
2. Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Kitchener (OHL)
3. Jonathan Huberdeau, C, Saint John (QMJHL)
4. Dougie Hamilton, D, Niagara (OHL)
5. Nathan Beaulieu, D, Saint John (QMJHL)
6. Sean Couturier, C, Drummondville (QMJHL)
7. Sven Baertschi, LW, Portland (WHL)
8. Ryan Strome, C, Niagara (OHL)
9. Ryan Murphy, D, Kitchener (OHL)
10. Duncan Siemens, D, Saskatoon (WHL)
11. Vladislav Namestnikov, C, London (OHL)
12. Joseph Morrow, D, Portland (WHL)
13. Jamieson Oleksiak, D, Northeastern (Hockey East)
14. Mark McNeill, C, Prince Albert (WHL)
15. Zack Phillips, C, Saint John (QMJHL)
And the top five European skaters:
1. Adam Larsson, D, Skelleftea (Sweden)
2. Mika Zibanejad, C, Djurgarden (Sweden)
3. Jonas Brodin, D, Farjestad (Sweden)
4. Joel Armia, RW, Assat (Finland)
5. Dmitrij Jaskin, RW, Slavia (Czech Republic)
Of course, Central Scouting isn’t everything, as we saw last year. The top-ranked player (Tyler Seguin) went second overall, and it looks like the Hurricanes weren’t crazy when they drafted the 34th-ranked North American skater (Jeff Skinner) seventh overall.
Whoever the Bruins take with the ninth pick (assuming, as Peter Chiarelli indicated Thursday, they stay put), don’t expect him to be in Boston next season. Chiarelli told reporters in Minnesota that based on the players he expected to be on the board at No. 9, the player the B’s select will not be NHL ready. That means bad news for Seguin, who jokingly expressed hope on breakup day that someone else could be ‘the kid’ next season and that everyone would be on the draft pick’s case instead of his.
Chiarelli said his intention is to draft the best available player, and given that this draft is top-heavy when it comes to defense, that player may be a blueliner. Picking defense would give the B’s a blue-chipper in an area in which it organizationally does not have a sure-fire star in the making, and it would also be somewhat of a deviation for Chiarelli. The highest the Bruins’ GM has selected a defenseman was 35th overall, when the B’s traded up in the second round to grab Tommy Cross 35th overall.
If the B’s spend the ninth pick on a defenseman, you can bet your bippy the Tomas Kaberle rumors will swirl, and there will obviously be two easy arguments. If the team has a young puck-mover (we’ll get to the players below) with star potential a year or two away, perhaps they could try to go with Steven Kampfer next season (and beyond) and let Kaberle walk. On the other hand, the Bruins happen to have just won the Stanley Cup, and the Vezina winner isn’t getting any younger. There isn’t much of a window closing for the Bruins given that they are good and young both offensively and behind Tim Thomas (remember Tuukka Rask?), but they certainly want to win now.
With all that being said, here are some of the guys who have been common Bruins’ selections in mock drafts and/or might make sense for the B’s at No. 9:
Ryan Murphy, D, Kitchener (OHL)
Height/weight: 5-foot-10, 166 pounds
2010-11 stats: 63 games, 26 G, 53 A, 79 P, 36 PIM
An offensive-minded defenseman, Murphy’s 26 goals were the most among OHL blueliners this past season. Considered a plus-skater and strong passer, he could eventually offer more than the Bruins are currently getting out of Kaberle on the power play. The Bruins certainly showed in the Kaberle deal that a defenseman who can help the offense is a priority, so landing one for the long term would be a wise move if Murphy is still on the board. Given that he’s ranked 9th by Central Scouting among North American skaters, it could be close. Murphy is also a right-handed shot. The Bruins’ blue line was lefty-dominant last season, with Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid (and, at points, Kampfer) the only righty defensemen in the lineup.
Nathan Beaulieu, D, Saint John (QMJHL)
Height/weight: 6-foot-2, 174 pounds
2010-11 stats: 65 games, 12 G, 33 A, 45 P, 52 PIM
Beaulieu is another strong-skating defenseman, though his speed won’t get confused with that of Murphy. He still brings an impressive offensive skill set to the blue line, and he certainly offers more size than Murphy. He would most certainly be the puck-moving defenseman of the future if the B’s were to select him.
Ryan Strome, C, Niagara (OHL)
Height/weight: 6-foot-0, 175 pounds
2010-11 stats: 65 games, 33 G, 73 A, 106 P, 82 PIM
Another center? With the Bruins, you never know. You have to figure that Seguin will eventually become a full-time center once he’s done being eased in, but there are enough question marks in the future to make selecting a center not seem so crazy. Excluding Marc Savard given all the uncertainty, Patrice Bergeron and Seguin are the only pivots signed past next season (David Krejci will be a restricted free agent, while Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell will be unrestricted).
Duncan Siemens, D, Saskatoon (WHL)
Height/weight: 6-foor-2, 192 pounds
2010-11 stats: 72 games, 5 G, 38 A, 43 P, 121 PIM
The bulkiest of the blueliners featured in this sample, many things you read about about Siemens will suggest he’s behind some of the other defensemen in this draft as far as both development and potential go. Still, he’s strong, and though he doesn’t bring the same bells and whistles that guys like Murphy and Beaulieu do, he could still be a welcome presence on Claude Julien‘s blue line eventually.
|Bruins will pick ninth overall in NHL Draft||04.12.11 at 8:35 pm ET|
The Devils won the NHL Draft lottery Tuesday night, meaning they got to move up the maximum four spots from No. 8 to the fourth overall pick. Given that the team that won the lottery was already picking ahead of the Bruins, the B’s, who have Toronto’s first-round pick from the Phil Kessel deal, will remain at ninth overall.
For the second consecutive year, the Oilers will pick first overall. Edmonton selected Windsor (OHL) left wing Taylor Hall with the top pick last season. Edmonton general manager Steve Tambellini had tried to swing a deal with Boston to get the second overall pick as well in order to secure both Hall and Plymouth (OHL) center Tyler Seguin, but the B’s kept the pick and selected Seguin.
The rest of the top five sees Colorado picking second, followed by the Panthers, Devils and New York Islanders.
|Hey Tim Thomas, what do you think of your Cup chances after another loss to Leafs?||03.31.11 at 11:44 pm ET|
Before the reporter could even get the question out of his mouth, you could see the smirk on the face of the man who will likely win the Vezina Trophy this year.
The question to Bruins goalie Tim Thomas? Seems like Toronto (now 4-2-0 against Boston this season) has a done pretty good job of handling you guys. How do you feel your [playoff] chances are going forward?
“They’re terrible. We have no chance in the playoffs, we lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs at home,” Thomas said, with sarcasm showing his playoff-ready intensity.
It wasn’t the best of nights for Thomas, who had his shutout streak snapped at 122 minutes, 21 seconds when Luke Schenn scored just over seven minutes into the game. And yes, the Bruins did lose for just the third time this season in 31 games when leading after two periods. And yes, they also fell to 2-6 this year in shootouts.
But after his brush with sarcasm, Thomas gave a more direct and heartfelt response.
“I mean Toronto has definitely had our number and they’ve played better than us when we’ve played against them this year. But they have a good team with a lot of speed and a lot of talent. I don’t get to watch them all year long, but if they played the same way every game this year like they played against us, I’d expect them to be in a better spot.”
Hmmmm. That could be taken two different ways. Toronto – with players like Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel – is talented. But they also have 82 points now, and still on the outside, looking in on the race for the eighth and final playoff spot. Which brings us to the Bruins.
How important is it for the Bruins to get that momentum heading into the NHL’s second – and most important – season?
“I think it’s pretty good to take the same theory that you’re going to have to take in the playoffs, which is the same theory that you should have in the regular season, which is not too high and not too low. We’ve had some big wins here recently, beating Montreal, Philadelphia, Chicago, and now it’s kind of a tough loss to take. But in either case it should be not too high, not too low. Don’t think you’re too good if you get that win and don’t think you’re too bad if you get that loss.”
As for the goals the Leafs scored, Thomas said they were pretty similar to the ones they’ve scored all season against the Bruins.
“They’re typical Toronto goals,” Thomas said. “They’ve had a lot of those against us this year. Montreal had the same at one point, just seems to be the way it’s worked out.”
But to Thomas, it means nothing going foward.
|Bruins lose to Maple Leafs in shootout||at 9:53 pm ET|
The Bruins fell to the Maple Leafs, 4-3, in a shootout Thursday night at TD Garden.
The Bruins got goals from Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Andrew Ference. All three Bruins goals came in the second period. Tim Thomas made 32 saves in regulation, and made the save of the game in stopping Mikhail Grabovski on a penalty shot in overtime.
However, the Bruins blew two leads in the game. Joffrey Lupul struck for two goals for Toronto ‘ both of the Toronto forward’s tallies were of game-tying variety, as his second period power-play goal knotted the game at two, and his third-period goal made it 3-3. Lupul went off for slashing Tomas Kaberle with 1:05 remaining in overtime.
The Capitals defeated the Blue Jackets Thursday, so the Bruins are now four points behind Washington. Bruins will wrap up their three-game home-stand on Saturday when they host the Thrashers in a matinee.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Milan Lucic became the 10th player in the post-lockout NHL to have 30 goals, 30 assists and 100 penalty minutes in a season when he assisted Krejci’s second-period goal. Lucic later added to his penalty minute total by fighting Jay Rosehill.
– With Marchand’s shorthanded goal, he moved into a three-way tie for second in the NHL. It also gave him points in three straight games, and he now has five points (2 G, 3 A) over his last five contests.
– Krejci’s goal preserved the high level at which the B’s center has produced. Since Jan. 11, Krejci has not gone more than two consecutive games without a point. He has five (1 G, 4 A) over his last five games.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Zdeno Chara went missing for a bit. After his shift with 2:46 remaining in the second period, the Bruins captain was not on the bench, and he was nowhere to be seen as the third period began. He ended up returning to the at 3:05 and playing the third period without appearing hindered, so the B’s seem to have dodged a bullet after a scare to one of their most important players.
– Toronto initially got on the board because a puck deflected off former Leaf Tomas Kaberle. The tally was credited to Luke Schenn. The goal also gave Schenn goals against Thomas in the last two meetings between the two clubs. Not bad for Schenn considering he’s scored just three other times this season.
– Schenn’s first-period tally broke up Thomas’ shutout streak at 1:22:21. For a while it seemed it would take a flukey goal to end the streak, and it did.
– Bruins fans seemed to dislike hearing a Phil Kessel assist being announced more than they did seeing a Toronto goal scored. The former Bruin picked up helpers on both of Lupul’s goals.