|Bruins trying out center-heavy Spooner-Krejci-Backes line||10.04.16 at 12:08 pm ET|
BRIGHTON — For the second straight day, the Bruins iced a line consisting of David Krejci between Ryan Spooner and David Backes in practice at Warrior Ice Arena. By the looks of it (and by what Claude Julien essentially confirmed), it figures to be a line used in Tuesday night’s exhibition against the Canadiens when Krejci makes his return from hip surgery.
Considering there are only three preseason games left, the idea that the B’s would use that line at this point suggests they’re actually taking it seriously. The Bruins figured to be loaded at center after signing Backes, but three centers on one line?
“Obviously it’s something new,” Krejci said. “New linemates, but I’m pretty excited. We have three centermen. If I’m having a tough time on the draw, those two other guys can step in. Spoons is a lefty, so he can take some draws as well. I’m really excited. I’ve known Spoons for a long time. Backes, I’ve played against him for a really long time, so I know him as well. I know what he can do; hopefully we can click right away and who knows? Maybe stick together for some time.”
Though he didn’t fully admit it, it’s entirely possible that Julien got the idea for such a line while coaching at the World Cup of Hockey, where Team Canada had only two actual wingers (Brad Marchand and Corey Perry) on its roster. The rest of the forwards were centers, meaning every line was loaded with multiple pivots. Canada’s first line had three-time Selke-winning center Patrice Bergeron playing right wing.
“We had a lot of centers playing wing,” Julien said. “It was great for faceoffs; one gets kicked out, the other goes in. They adapted well; it just gave us more flexibility. It’s hard to replace a center; it’s much easier to replace a winger.”
“We’ve got the opportunity to see what it’s going to give us tonight,” Julien said. “We want to see different things and see where it goes. It just makes our decisions a lot easier when we’ve had the chance see it vs. wondering what if we would have done this or that. We’re trying everything right now. For sure, by the start of the season we’ll certainly have a much clearer picture. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be set in stone, but at least we’ll have some options.”
If the Bruins were to use such a line in the regular season, they’d still easily have the centers to fill out the rest of their lineup. Dominic Moore figures to center the fourth line, while Austin Czarnik’s strong training camp could make him a candidate to center the third line.
If that second part sounds like a stretch, look no further than another line that was used Tuesday morning: Beleskey-Czarnik-Hayes.
Boston’s lines Tuesday morning were as follows:
|Charlie Jacobs says David Backes is Bruins’ third-line center||08.30.16 at 1:16 pm ET|
The Bruins’ signing of David Backes was met with multiple questions, with “Why?” being the most popular. After all, signing Backes meant giving the money they could have given to Loui Eriksson to an older player who isn’t expected to age as well.
The second question was, “What position is he going to play?” A longtime center in St. Louis, the 32-year-old Backes played right wing for the Blues in the postseason and would be a reliable presence on Boston’s top line with center Patrice Bergeron and left wing Brad Marchand. Both the Bruins and Backes have preached flexibility, leaving it unknown what Boston’s plans are for their $30 million man.
On Tuesday, the CEO may have spilled the beans. Participating in the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund radio telethon, Charlie Jacobs used the Bruins’ depth at center — naming Backes and not incumbent third-line pivot Ryan Spooner — as a primary reason as to why he feels the Bruins will be improved this season.
“We’ve got Bergeron, [David] Krejci and Backes as our first three centers. Think about that,” Jacobs said. “I don’t know if there’s a team in the Eastern Conference that is [as] three-deep at center.”
Furthermore, Jacobs said that Backes’ presence will allow the Bruins, who finished fifth in goals scored last season thanks in part to Eriksson’s 30, to boast one of the best offenses in the league.
“This may be a stretch, but think about what Pittsburgh had down the middle, and they supplemented it with just about a rookie on just about every line with the exception of the HBK line and went on to win the Cup last year,” Jacobs said.
A source told WEEI.com Tuesday that the Bruins have not told Spooner that he’ll be playing wing in the coming season. Spooner is entering the final season of a two-year deal with a $950,000 cap hit and will be a restricted free agent after the season.
If Backes and Spooner are to play on the same line, it’s possible that the Bruins could resurrect the split of center responsibilities they did in recent seasons with Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg (and, briefly, Kelly and Spooner). In such a scenario, the more defensively savvy player (in this case Backes) would support down low in the defensive zone, while the more offensive player (Spooner) would run things in the offensive zone.
|Projecting Bruins lines with or without Jimmy Vesey||08.18.16 at 9:42 am ET|
The Bruins have made their pitch for Jimmy Vesey. Now they and seven other teams will wait as the player goes about whittling down his list.
While Boston is not the slam-dunk that many assume it is, the Bruins should at least have some confidence in their chances following a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with Vesey on Wednesday. They were Vesey’s last meeting, so as long as they didn’t Ari Gold it, they could have positioned themselves to be freshest in Vesey’s mind as the North Reading native goes about choosing his team. A source who was in the meetings said the Bruins did a “great job.”
So what happens if the Bruins land Vesey, and what happens if they don’t? Netting the Hobey Baker winner would add to something of a crowded left wing group, but it would position the B’s to help their right wing problem by moving someone like Frank Vatrano to the right side.
Outside of a potential Vesey addition, the biggest question with the Bruins’ lines is where to play David Backes. The former Blues captain spent most of his time with St. Louis as a center, but Boston’s depth chart lacks solid options at right wing after the departure of Loui Eriksson.
At least for now, the preference here is to play Backes as a right wing. This is partially because handing him the third-line center job would essentially be a punishment for Ryan Spooner, a young player who does not deserve for his job to be taken away after a mostly solid first full NHL season. Spooner put up 38 points (11 goals, 27 assists) over his first 51 games last season before a second-half slump (11 points in his final 29 games), though he was nagged by a lower-body injury down the stretch. The team should give Spooner the chance to continue to develop into a responsible center, especially since he’ll be due for a new contract after the coming season.
Regardless of his primary position, Backes figures to move around a bit. Assuming he starts off as a right wing, here’s a guess at line configurations for the Bruins, with or without Vesey.
Obviously, the lineup is a little trickier to project if Vesey is not in the mix. These projections have Danton Heinen making the leap to the NHL in his first year as a pro, but the B’s also have forward Austin Czarnik pushing for an NHL job after a strong year in the AHL (61 points in 68 games), Tyler Randell in the mix as a fourth-line right wing option and Seth Griffith still looking to carve out a full-time NHL gig.
|David Backes discusses Bruins contract length, fit with David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Spooner||07.01.16 at 5:23 pm ET|
The best question on David Backes’ introductory conference call was asked by himself.
Or, at least, it was a question he recalled asking the Bruins as they went about trying to sign the former Blues captain.
“Through the process I was asking questions and didn’t want to pull myself out of being part of the Bruins, but I said, ‘You’ve got Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, who are top-tier center-icemen and are both right-handed,’” Backes said. “’You’re going to bring me in as another right-handed center men. Your top three center men are all going to be right-handed. How’s that going to work?’”
The elephant in the room that follows Backes’ signing is that someone’s either got to go or be used differently. Ryan Spooner is the Bruins’ sole left-shot center, so could Krejci be traded? Could Backes be moved to wing? Backes said that his talks with the B’s prior to signing focused “mostly” on him playing center, but he allowed for the possibility of playing right wing, as he did during the postseason for the Blues.
“If a guy like Spooner can play the third-line center and I move up to the right side with [Brad] Marchand and Bergeron, that gives us a heavy, responsible line that can put a lot of pucks in the net,” Backes said.
“If you want to call me third-line, I completely respect that,” Backes said. “Those two other guys are awesome, but I’ve got to imagine that we’re going to share a lot of responsibility and not burden one guy with all the hard ice or the heavy lifting. When you have responsible guys that can share those roles, then we can all flourish on the other side of the ice and have tons of energy to go out for the ends of games to close it out or score a late big goal.”
The number of right-shot centers presents something of a redundancy. The length of his contract, however, is what is most worrisome. Backes has stayed healthy throughout his career, but one has to wonder who he will hold up in the final two years of his deal.
“I’m 32; I’m not 52,” Backes said. “I think there’s plenty of legs and plenty of physicality and energy left in me. The terms that I’ve come to, people may have questions, but for me, I expect to still be at the top of my game for the last year and still be a contributing member for the Boston Bruins.”
Added Backes: “I don’t think the game’s getting slower. It’s a fast game, but if you start to manage the puck in the right way, you can occupy the offensive zone and do a lot of the things that teams that are heavy and control the puck and occupy the zone do, it’s not a track meet up and down the ice. With Pittsburgh winning the Cup, a team that was kind of designed on that track meet, ‘let’s go, let’s see who can skate the fastest up the ice,’ there may be a trend or a tendency to try to start to build teams like that, but you’ve also seen teams in the LA Kings and the Boston Bruins win playing that heavy game and maybe not having the fastest team, but winning every battle that you get into, being able to control the puck once you get it.”
|Best defense for Bruins down stretch might be strong offense||04.05.16 at 12:58 pm ET|
Even at less than 100 percent, Kevan Miller’s expected return to the Bruins’ lineup Tuesday will help improve the defense from what it was on Sunday. With Dennis Seidenberg still out, the B’s need whatever they can get to avoid the issues they had when trying to defend the Hawks of the first 40 minutes of their final road game.
So with Colin Miller also entering the lineup, it’s natural to wonder whether the youngster’s return is a step in the right direction for the Bruins defensively.
It isn’t, but then again they weren’t going to much better off with Joe Morrow or Zach Trotman in the lineup instead of him. If the younger Miller can bring his skating and offensive ability, it will be worth what he lacks in his own end.
This is because the banged-up Bruins aren’t positioned to defend particularly well one through six. The offense, however, can be a strength after recently bouncing back from its most dormant 10-game period of the season. It might need to be if the Bruins want to avoid missing the postseason for a second straight year.
“The offense is there right now again,” Claude Julien said Tuesday morning. “We just have to tighten up a little bit defensively, which we’ve gone through a couple of times this year. We’ve gotten loose a little bit and then we’ve tightened it up and when we’ve tightened it up we’ve been able to have success, so if we can tighten it up tonight and continue to take advantage of our opportunities to score, that should help our chances quite a bit.”
Coming off a road trip that saw the B’s score 10 goals and allow 11, they will look for similar offense in the season’s final three games while crossing their fingers on the health and play of the defense improving. That might mean some high-scoring games, which are not the type Claude Julien teams have been known for playing.
“I think we can. I don’t think that we want to,” Ryan Spooner said of winning potential track meets. “If you look at our team, just this team as a whole in the past 10 years, they’ve taken a lot of pride in being a good defensive team first. I think if you ask all the guys in the room, they would rather win a game 2-1 or 3-2 than they would 6-5. At this time of the year, you don’t want to get into those run-and-gun matches.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Ryan Spooner, John-Michael Liles won’t play vs. Devils; Loui Eriksson prepares to play center||03.28.16 at 11:13 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Ryan Spooner, John-Michael Liles and Brad Marchand all were absent from Monday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena as the Bruins prepared for Tuesday’s game against the Devils. Neither Spooner nor Liles will travel with the team to New Jersey.
Spooner did not play the third period of Saturday’s game in Toronto due to a lower-body injury that has nagged him for much of the second half of the season. Spooner, who has missed just one game this season, had 40 points in his first 56 games but has seven points in his last 19 games and one point in his last six games.
Liles missed the game altogether as a result of a lower-body injury suffered in last Thursday’s loss to the Panthers. Claude Julien said after Monday’s practice that Liles had skated earlier in the day. Marchand is ill, according to Julien, but will travel to New Jersey.
To this point, the Bruins have not made any recalls. The forward lines in practice looked as such:
While Marchand could be expected to return to his usual spot next to Patrice Bergeron, the most notable change in Boston’s lines Monday was Loui Eriksson playing center, something both Julien and Eriksson intimated was a realistic possibility for Tuesday’s game.
“[A call-up] is not the plan as we speak,” Julien said. “You saw Loui at center. Loui’s very capable of doing that and we’ll see where we go from there.”
Eriksson played center for one shift Saturday and said that he played a little center back when he played for the Stars. Eriksson is best known as a versatile left-shot wing who plays both sides and is strong in his own zone. On the season, Eriksson has won eight of the 15 faceoffs he’s taken.
“Obviously faceoffs, you have to be the guy that comes home and plays in the defensive zone,” Eriksson said. “It’s a little bit different. It’s probably going to take a few shifts to get used to, but I’ve played it before and hopefully I can do something good with it.”
|3rd-place Bruins say they’ve ‘surprised,’ ‘proved people wrong’||01.27.16 at 2:15 am ET|
The Bruins’ final game before the All-Star break didn’t go their way, a 6-2 loss to Anaheim that dropped the B’s home record to a lousy 11-13-2.
However, the players in the Boston dressing room seemed content with their lot in life as they packed up for a week’s furlough, a 26-18-5 season mark in tow that was holding them third place in the Atlantic Division with 33 games remaining on the season.
“We’ve surprised a lot of people,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “We’re not surprised in here where we [are]. We had a goal to be in the top three [of our division] before the All-Star break and we’re sitting right there.”
“At the beginning of the year there were a lot of people that probably thought that we wouldn’t be in the playoffs,” echoed forward Ryan Spooner. “You kind of heard that stuff, and that we would be a younger team. But we’ve shown that we can play with the top teams. We’ve proved a lot of people wrong and we just have to keep that up.”
The Bruins have indeed exceeded many preseason prognostications to this point. The team’s 21-10-2 record against the Eastern Conference shines bright, as does its 12-6-1 mark within the division. The latter includes a 4-0 performance against the two teams ahead of Boston in the Atlantic (Florida and Detroit).
That said, despite winning five of their last seven games, players also are willing to admit that their current playoff perch is a tenuous one.