Shark Tank: the weekly 2016 NHL Entry Draft pick update

If the season ended today, the Bruins would head into the lottery with the 9th overall selection. They would also own the 18th pick of the draft by virtue of last summer’s trade of goaltender Martin Jones to the San Jose Sharks (looks like coin well spent on the part of Sharks GM Doug Wilson and Co.)

Boston got off to a brutal 0-3 start (all three losses coming at home), but have balanced that out with three strong road victories after blowing their best chance to get off the TD Garden schneid after giving up a two-goal lead against the Philadelphia Flyers in the third period last week.

The Sharks got off to a blistering start, thanks in large part to Jones’ brilliance between the pipes, but a recent leg injury to Logan Couture, along with other injuries have brought San Jose back down to earth a bit. In the first 7 games of the season, it appears that neither the Bruins nor the Sharks are as bad or as good as the first week indicated they would be.

Based on league-instituted changes, the 2016 NHL draft lottery will have a different system to discourage blatant “tanking” in an effort to land the top selection. Interestingly enough, the Buffalo Sabres did not benefit from their own lousy season a year ago, as they were leapfrogged by the Edmonton Oilers in the Connor McDavid sweeps (and they knew they would get Jack Eichel no matter what, so 2015 was the year for something like that to happen if you were Buffalo). With the ability now for the worst finisher to pick as low as fourth overall, that’s a significant enough drop to make sure teams don’t just mail it in. It also opens the door for better teams to jump up and grab the coveted brass ring if the lottery balls break their way. Toronto Maple Leafs conspiracy theorists unite!

Here’s the dope from the NHL:

Non-Playoff Team
(Fewest Pts. to Most)
New Draft Lottery Odds Odds Under Former Allocation
1 20.0% 25.0%
2 13.5% 18.8%
3 11.5% 14.2%
4 9.5% 10.7%
5 8.5% 8.1%
6 7.5% 6.2%
7 6.5% 4.7%
8 6.0% 3.6%
9 5.0% 2.7%
10 3.5% 2.1%
11 3.0% 1.5%
12 2.5% 1.1%
13 2.0% 0.8%
14 1.0% 0.5%

 

2016 NHL Draft Lottery

Beginning in 2016, the Draft Lottery will be utilized to assign the top three drafting slots in the NHL Draft, an expansion over previous years when the Draft Lottery was used to determine the winner of the first overall selection only.

Three draws will be held: the 1st Lottery draw will determine the Club selecting first overall, the 2nd Lottery draw will determine the Club selecting second overall and the 3rd Lottery draw will determine the club selecting third overall.

As a result of this change, the team earning the fewest points during the regular season will no longer be guaranteed, at worst, the second overall pick. That club could fall as low as fourth overall.

The allocation of odds for the 1st Lottery draw will be the same as outlined above for the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery. The odds for the remaining teams will increase on a proportionate basis for the 2nd Lottery draw, based on which Club wins the 1st Lottery draw, and again for the 3rd Lottery draw, based on which Club wins the 2nd Lottery draw.

The 11 clubs not selected in the Draft Lottery will be assigned NHL Draft selections 4 through 14, in inverse order of regular-season points.

Boston’s 2016 draft selections by round as of 10/26/15:

1st round- 9th (BOS)

1st round- 18th (SJS- for Martin Jones)

2nd round- 52nd (NYI- for Johnny Boychuk)

3rd round- 69th (BOS)

4th round- 99th (BOS)

5th round- 129th (BOS)

5th round- 141st (MIN- for 5th round in 2015)

6th round- 159th (BOS- reaquired from COL for Carl Soderberg)

7th round- 189th (BOS)

*BOS 2nd-round pick (39th) to TBL for Brett Connolly

 

 

Bruins Prospects Update 10/26/15

With the final weekend in October now in the books, the Providence B’s are getting a boost from Seth Griffith, who tallied a trio of assists in his first AHL game of the year Friday before adding a goal on Sunday in a loss to Lehigh Valley. A lower body injury (suffered on a questionable hit from Devils forward Tuomo Ruuttu) derailed his hopes of making the big club out of camp, but if he continues producing on the farm, he could be brought back up. However, with the Boston offense clicking right now, that’s a long shot unless someone else gets knocked out of the lineup.

Frank Vatrano scored another goal to keep pace at more than a goal per game, but Austin Czarnik remained out since taking a big hit in the open ice more than a week ago- he’s missed the last three Providence games.

In the major junior ranks, second-round defenseman Jeremy Lauzon continues to produce. Even more impressive than the points, has been his ability to log 30 minutes of ice time a night while playing a mobile, smart defense. He looks like an all-around player at this point who was terrific value where the Bruins got him as the third of three Calgary picks acquired for Dougie Hamilton on draft weekend. It was also a good week for the WHL forwards Jake DeBrusk and Jesse Gabrielle.

AHL

Frank Vatrano, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 7  Goals- 8  Assists- 2 Points- 10 Penalty Min- 4 +/-  -1

Alex Khokhlachev, C Providence Bruins

GP- 7  Goals- 2  Assists- 9 Points- 11 Penalty Min- 0  +/- 2

Four assists over the week put him on top of the Providence Bruins scoring list, as Koko continues to make his case for NHL time in the best possible way: with production.

Seth Griffith, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 2 Goals- 1 Assists- 3 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 0

Colby Cave, C Providence Bruins

GP- 7 Goals- 4 Assists- 0 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -3

Former Swift Current captain tallied a pair of goals in Providence’s Friday night victory.

 Zane McIntyre, G Providence Bruins

GP- 6  MIN- 362 GA- 20 GAA- 3.31  Spct- .882 W- 2 L- 2 OTL- 2

With the exception of one game, McIntyre has started every other contest for Providence with mixed results.

OHL

Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 12 Goals- 6 Assists- 3 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -6

No points for Senyshyn, who has cooled off after a hot start with six goals in his first 7 OHL games.

QMJHL

Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

GP- 12 Goals- 3 Assists- 17 Points- 20 Penalty Min- 22 +/- +13

With five assists in three games last week, the Val-d’Or native just keeps on rolling. His point totals are something a forward would be proud of. He’s a rugged, capable defender as well- which makes his early scoring all the more compelling. This blog said back in July that Lauzon might be the best of the three defenders taken in 2015, with the first two (Jakub Zboril, Brandon Carlo) grabbing more of the attention and spotlight. Both of them have already signed ELCs with the B’s, but the team would be wise to lock up Lauzon as well.

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs

GP- 8 Goals- 0 Assists- 3 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 8 +/- 0

WHL

Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 11 Goals- 5 Assists- 11 Points- 16 Penalty Min- 13 +/- -3

The goals have not been as plentiful in the early going for DeBrusk, but he’s setting them up from the left wing side to good effect. He’s the kind of player who doesn’t wow you with his skill when he’s out there, but then he’ll make an impressive pass or shot and you’re reminded that he was the 14th overall pick in last June’s draft.

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

OHL

Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 10 Goals- 6 Assists- 3 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -5

Senyshyn only had an assist in a couple of games this week after tallying six goals in his first eight contests. Part of that has to do with the offensive struggles of teammate Blake Speers.

WHL

Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 8 Goals- 4 Assists- 7 Points- 11 Penalty Min- 9 +/- -4

After scoring goals in each of his first two WHL games after being returned from Boston, DeBrusk did not find the back of the net in three contests this week. He did put up a couple of assists, and while his point totals aren’t anything to write home about, the focal point of Swift Current’s offense will pick up the scoring pace.

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

GP- 11 Goals- 9 Assists- 2 Points- 11 Penalty Min- 23 +/- 4

Gabrielle went on a tear since the last update, firing home five goals and throwing in a fight for good measure. He’s getting on the radar as someone who has a higher-level talent base than where he was drafted in the mid-fourth round and will have to guard against undisciplined play.

Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans

GP- 11 Goals- 1 Assists- 7 Points- 8 Penalty Min- 32 +/- -3

NCAA

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C Boston University Terriers (HEA)

GP- 3 Goals- 1 Assists- 2 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 2 +/- 1

The impressive freshman notched his first multi-point game of his collegiate career with a goal and helper over the weekend.

Ryan Fitzgerald, F Boston College Eagles (HEA)

GP- 5 Goals- 3 Assists- 2 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 8 +/- 5

The 2013 fourth-rounder is off to another solid start with the Eagles in his junior season. He doesn’t possess ideal size, but he’s instinctive and adept in all three zones.

Danton Heinen, LW Denver University Pioneers (NCHC)

GP- 4 Goals- 1 Assists- 1 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 10 +/- -1

Cameron Hughes, C University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)

GP- 6 Goals- 0 Assists- 2 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -4

Anders Bjork, LW University of Notre Dame (HEA)

GP- 4 Goals- 0 Assists- 4 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 2

Final Buzzer: B’s are Road Warriors at Barclay’s- down Islanders 5-3

Joonas Kemppainen netted his 1st points in the NHL with the Bruins vs the Isles (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Joonas Kemppainen netted his 1st points in the NHL with the Bruins vs the Isles (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

The Boston Bruins balanced out their home winless record with a perfect standing in road games, beating the New York Islanders Friday night by a 5-3 score (including a late meaningless goal by Thomas Hickey) to collect their third win and a 3-3-1 record overall.

Joonas Kemppainen scored his first career NHL goal and the B’s got tallies from four other players- Brett Connolly, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner and David Krejci- plus some solid if unspectacular play in net from backup Jonas Gustavsson.

It was also a strong game from the Boston defense, who played well on the whole as a unit, limiting mistakes and making the defensive plays that they needed to preserve the win.

Boston took the lead on Connolly’s second marker of the season, a scorer’s play that he made as he put on a burst after Brad Marchand put the puck out front from the corner and Connolly zipped past Islanders captain John Tavares in the slot to wire the shot into the net past a surprised Jaroslav Halak.

The lead didn’t hold for long as Marchand was sent off for a hooking call and Justin Bailey converted a rebound to tie the score at 1 goal apiece on the power play. 1:19 later, former Bruin defender and enduring fan favorite Johnny Boychuk (playing career game 400, btw) beat the Boston forward to the puck along the right wall and threw a shot on net that Casey Cizikas redirected into the net past Gustavsson. Ryan Spooner was defending him but allowed the Isles’ fourth line center and top defensive forward to gain body position as he cut to the net for his first goal of the year to make it 2-1.

Boston battled back in the second frame after Claude Julien shook up the lines and put Spooner on the bottom unit with Kemppainen and Tyler Randell. The move paid dividends as Kemppainen, who had been mediocre up until the midway point of the second period, made a sharp play to force a turnover on an attempted Islanders breakout, getting the puck over to Spooner. The skilled center tried to get a shot on net, but the puck hit a defender and bounced right to Kemppainen who was alone in the slot and fired a short-side shot that slipped past Halak to even the score.

Pastrnak later gave Boston the lead back with a tremendous play to corral a Loui Eriksson pass in his skates, kick the puck to his stick, then rifle a bullet shot into the twine for his second goal of the season.

Spooner would score to make it 4-2 in the third when he and Kemppainen did good forechecking work to force a turnover. As Spooner took the puck to the net, he tried a return pass to the Finn, but his attempted feed hit an Islander skate and skittered into the open side.

Krejci put a shot into the empty net to put the game out of reach and extend his streak of points in every game thus far with his fifth goal and 12th point.

UP

Zdeno Chara- The Boston captain played his 1,200th career NHL game against the team that drafted him in 1996. He’s well past his prime, but even so- he played with snarl and toughness tonight, going off late in the second period when he absorbed a hit by Matt Martin but then got elbowed by Cal Clutterbuck, who flew in on the backside and knocked his helmet off. When he plays like that, Chara inspires his young, but hard-working team to dig down a little deeper and stand a little taller in the face of adversity. He’s had a tremendous career and will one day reside in the Hockey Hall of Fame when all is said and done.

Joonas Kemppainen- Right after I tweeted about him being too soft on the puck, he finished a check in the offensive zone, then stripped the Isles of the puck, putting Spooner’s deflection home a couple of ticks later. He added an assist for good measure, getting his first NHL points and playing a more energetic, inspired game alongside Spooner.

Loui Eriksson- At times his skating looks labored, but he’s such a smart player who manages to be in the thick of the action. He tallied a couple of helpers tonight, but it was his solid 200-foot game that caught my eye for much of the night. He was strong on pucks, made good decisions with and without the puck and showed why he’s a savvy veteran and the second highest scoring (to Patrice Bergeron) player from the 2003 NHL draft’s second round.

David Krejci- He only had the empty-net goal to show for what was a solid performance from Boston’s leading scorer. He was particularly effective in puck support tonight and made some nifty plays that didn’t result in goals but reminded everyone that he’s on pace for a career-best year.

Adam McQuaid- Strong game from Darth Quaider. He fought Matt Martin in the opening period after the Isles took the lead, and played capable defense. On one memorable play in the second period, he was a step behind the Islander forward, but stayed with him and broke up the rush/prevented the shot. He also assisted on Krejci’s empty-netter.

Ryan Spooner- He belongs in both Up and Down sections in this one…his play in the first period was not encouraging, but after Julien demoted him, the 23-year-old pivot got some home cooking going with Kemppainen. Up until tonight, his 5v5 play had been a major bone of contention in the early going of the new season, but he salvaged  that a bit in the final 40 minutes by taking pucks to the net and being rewarded with a goal and helper.

Brett Connolly- What a snipe. He used his speed and hockey sense to score his second goal of the year. If there is more where that came from, he’s on the way to justifying the deal Peter Chiarelli made for him by surrendering a pair of second-round picks.

Jonas Gustavsson- He gave up three goals tonight, but was superb in the second by not allowing any of New York’s shots to get by him, opening the door for Boston to re-take the lead. He’s a bit scrambly at times, leaving fat rebounds and is an adventure when he roams from his crease to play the puck, but in two wins, both on the road, he’s done what his team has asked of him.

DOWN-

Spooner- Dropped from the third line, needs to bring more to the table at even strength or he could find himself doing more than just going down to the fourth line. With Alex Khokhlachev heating up in Providence, I wouldn’t put it past the Bruins to do some message sending. Thing is- he’s such a skilled and talented player- we saw what he’s capable of last season. That’s the Spooner the Bruins need back.

Brad Marchand- His lazy, undisciplined hooking penalty in the first period cost the Bruins a power play goal against. He’s got to do a better job than just putting his stick in the hands of an opponent rather than move his feet to force a turnover, especially with how fast a skater he is. He gets credit for working the puck to the front of the net on the Connolly goal, but his penalty was unacceptable in that situation and he’s got to learn from that.

Seven games in, and it looks like this is going to be an up-and-down season for this team. There are some things to be encouraged about on the defense- Torey Krug continues to log a lot of ice time and play well in all situations even if he’s snakebit and still looking for his first goal. Colin Miller and Joe Morrow are noticeable in their ability to skate pucks out of danger and make the crisp outlets. We also have to live with the inevitable mistakes they’ll make, but the raw material is there.

The B’s are a better team on the road right now than at home, but they’ll take it- it beats being poor at home AND in the role of visitors.

Book review: Breaking Away- The Harrowing True Story of Resilience, Courage and Triumph

y450-293

For those who remember, Patrick O’Sullivan was a polarizing figure in the early 2000s as a highly talented, dynamic scoring forward who had been the first overall selection of Don Cherry’s Mississauga (now Niagara) IceDogs in the 2001 OHL draft, but for whom a black cloud seemed to follow.

O’Sullivan dazzled with his pure offensive ability, emerging as a top scorer as a rookie during the 2001-02 season amidst a renaissance of top future NHLers including Corey Perry, Eric Staal, Nathan Horton and Brent Burns to name a few. But criticisms dogged him along the way- scouts questioned his attitude…the desire…and later, a darker picture emerged about his father, John, and the unhealthy relationship he appeared to have with his son. That story emerged more prominently before the 2003 NHL Entry Draft in a comprehensive ESPN the Magazine piece penned by Gare Joyce, which revealed a long pattern of abuse and the split between the younger O’Sullivan and the man driven to see him reach the NHL no matter the cost.

Now, years after finishing a pro hockey career that leaves us wondering what might have been (334 NHL games, 161 points with Los Angeles, Edmonton, Carolina, Minnesota and Phoenix), O’Sullivan and Joyce have authored a definitive account of his journey and the demons he battled along the way.

Born to a fringe minor league (and by fringe- we’re talking the lowest rung of the professional hockey ladder) forward who was the son of Irish immigrants, when Patrick O’Sullivan began to show early signs as a prodigy in the sport, his father began a single-minded and destructive pursuit in pushing his only son to a greatness he himself had not been capable of.

O’Sullivan tells the disturbing story of physical and emotional tyranny, not just perpetrated by John O’Sullivan but by his mother, who stood powerlessly by and never took any meaningful action to defend her child from his father’s excesses.

As a result, young O’Sullivan became a hockey nomad, moving from team to team. At first his father was involved as a coach, but he would soon wear out his welcome due to his bizarre antics that usually included focusing all of his attention (and ire) on his son while ignoring the rest of the players. One of O’Sullivan’s earliest minor coaches was former NHL player and Boston Bruins forward Dwight Foster, who now admits that if he had more experience as a coach, he would have done more to confront the elder O’Sullivan and seek help for his son.

Thus continues an ongoing pattern in the book, as O’Sullivan went from team to team, with more and more people picking up on the warning signs that all was not well as his father’s erratic behavior increased in its scope and intensity. When not striking him, O’Sullivan alleges that his father would kick him out of the family van after games in the dead of winter and make him run a mile a more before he was allowed back into the vehicle.

This all came to a head one night after an OHL game, when O’Sullivan stood up to his father and received a savage beating on the front lawn of his grandparents’ (on his father’s side) lawn. This prompted the player’s call to police that ultimately resulted in formal assault charges and a jail sentence for John O’Sullivan, though many would argue that the amount of time served was essentially a slap on the wrist.

By the time the 2003 NHL draft occurred, O’Sullivan had formally severed ties with his father, but what should have been one of his happiest days was miserable. The 14th-ranked skater by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service plummeted to 56th overall and O’Sullivan leaves little doubt it had a great deal to do with teams preferring to distance themselves from the potential baggage O’Sullivan brought to the table.

Although he reached the NHL, and at one time despite having a coach in Marc Crawford or “Crow” as O’Sullivan refers to him in the book, a man that reminded him more of his father than anyone else, showed promise with a 21-goal, 53-point sophomore season in 2007-08. Unfortunately, the team traded him to Edmonton, where a role on the third line saw his performance slip, and he was ultimately out of the NHL and hockey altogether by 2012.

Although his ordeal resulted in no meaningful relationship with either of his parents- O’Sullivan and his mother no longer speak after he alleges she broke off contact when he would no longer funnel money to her- the optimism in the book springs from the bond he has with wife, Sophie, and his two sons.

The book is difficult to get through in parts, particularly for those who have children and will have a tough time understanding the cruelty with which O’Sullivan was treated in what appears to be a misguided and extreme case of living vicariously through his impressive natural talent. The book’s coda is almost heartbreaking in itself, as O’Sullivan relates what how his life experiences have impacted the way he views the world as his own boys grow up and prepare to compete in youth sports programs in their native Florida.

This is an important book at a time when professional sports are becoming more lucrative for the athletes than ever, and more and more parents are faced with the temptations that come with having children that could represent a significant meal ticket, despite the long, long odds to get there. It also outlines a specific group of people who had the power to stop what was happening but were unable to either because of a lack of information or because they simply chose to look the other way. In essence, that is what makes for some of the toughest reading to get through, as the betrayal of a young boy and his loss of innocence is not simply confined to those who directly perpetuated the abuse.

I had an exchange with co-author Gare Joyce on Twitter, thanking him and O’Sullivan for telling an important story that for years, lacked true context. His response, while gracious, got to the true heart of the matter in all of this- going back to Patrick and the myriad injustices he received in what should have been some of the happiest times of his life:

Gare Joyce ‏@GareJoyceNHL 21h21 hours ago Toronto, Ontario
Thank Patrick. Suffering over the keyboard in my role looks awfully small beside what he had to endure and survive.

Whether you are an avid hockey fan or parent raising a youngster involved with hockey or competitive sports in general, read the book, understand the warning signs and be prepared to take action. Patrick O’Sullivan’s courage to come forward and tell his story should not be in vain.

Final buzzer: Bruins blow lead, still winless at home after losing to Flyers in OT

Captain Claude Giroux’s power play goal in overtime, his second of the game, gave the Boston Bruins their fourth loss at home this season in as many tries as the Philadelphia Flyers defeated them by a 5-4 score in sudden death.

Bruins and Flyers met at the TD Garden in NBCSN’s much-ballyhooed “Rivalry Night”, and although the B’s overcame a sluggish start and 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to gain a 4-2 advantage, quick third period goals by Flyers big guns Giroux and Wayne Simmonds evened the score with 8:39 left in regulation to set up the 3-on-3 overtime period.

The B’s once again got solid production from its special teams in the form of both power play and shorthanded goals (the second such shortie in as many games) from Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly respectively.

The Flyers struck first with a goal from Paris, France-born Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who put in his own rebound after boxing out Joonas Kemppainen and getting to the puck when Tuukka Rask was unable to close his glove on the initial shot.

Boston evened the score with Brett Connolly’s first goal as a Bruin dating back to his acquisition at last February’s trade deadline. He swooped in and converted a Bergeron rebound after Giroux failed to pick him up, firing the puck into the net past starter Michal Neuvirth.

The Flyers re-took the lead right after that when Sam Gagner capitalized on a bad line change by Boston to gain some extra time and space and beat Rask with a shot to make it 2-1 on his second goal of the season.

Boston tied it up when Bergeron batted a puck out of mid-air with the man advantage late in the opening frame. The NHL’s most lethal power play unit moved the puck with authority in the offensive zone and when Loui Eriksson worked the puck to the front of the net, David Krejci’s initial shot bounced up in the air with Bergeron right at the top of the paint to knock it in. Neuwirth slumped over after that play, which was a harbinger of things to come.

As the opening frame ended, Zac Rinaldo reminded everyone of the controversy that surrounded his summer acquisition (for a 2017 third-round pick) when he hit Sean Couturier hard at the buzzer, knocking the big center out of the game. At speed, the play looked like a head shot, but when slowed down, it appeared that Rinaldo went shoulder to chest, but Couturier had his head down, appearing to brace for backside checking pressure coming from Adam McQuaid. When Rinaldo ran him, his head snapped back and Couturier went down hard. Rinaldo was assessed a 5-minute charging match penalty (game misconduct) that will likely draw some form of supplemental discipline given Rinaldo’s history. The hit looked dirty, but the unfortunate outcome was that the Flyers player was lost for the remainder of the contest.

When the second period started, Neuvirth was out of the crease and not present on the bench with an undisclosed injury, giving way to Steve Mason.

While the Flyers were on the Rinaldo power play, the B’s rubbed some salt in the wounds on a breakout, with Eriksson throwing the puck to the Philly net with Chris Kelly driving straight in at Mason. The shot hit Kelly’s skate and deflected in the net to make it a 3-2 score.

Boston added to the lead when Jimmy Hayes broke in on the right side and threw a shot at the Flyers net from a sharp angle that somehow snuck over the goal line past Mason to make it 4-2.

Boston was cruising near the halfway mark of the final frame when Colin Miller found David Pastrnak all alone in the high slot with a yawning net to hit, but somehow, Mason got his glove hand across to deny the young B what looked like a surefire goal. The NHL reviewed it, but the call on the ice of no goal stood, leaving the score at 4-2.

That opened the door for Philly’s quick strikes to tie the game and eventually force overtime, especially after the B’s did not register a single shot on Mason in the final 12 minutes and change of regulation.

Ryan Spooner took a hooking call after Michael Del Zotto all but grabbed onto Spooner’s stick while hurling himself to the ice in spectacular fashion, but it worked to perfection. The Flyers went on the 4-on-3 man advantage with Bergeron-Zdeno Chara-MQuaid unable to clear the zone before the puck worked over Giroux for the one-timer that found the back of the net past Rask.

UP

Patrice Bergeron- On the day his first child, a son named Zack was born to him and wife Stephanie, Bergeron assisted on the Connolly goal and added one of his own. As Globe scribe Amalie Benjamin said- assist, goal and baby- thats got to be some kind of newfangled trick for the new dad, who couldn’t quite pull out the win for his boy.

Brett Connolly- For the former Lightning high-end prospect, this goal was a long time coming and he didn’t miss. He also displayed speed and quickness throughout the game, though that was all he was able to generate on the score sheet. If Connolly could put it all together, the B’s will benefit and for now- finding the back of the net is a good start for him.

Chris Kelly- He got one shorthanded goal and was instrumental on the Hayes tally with a hustling back check to diffuse a Philadelphia scoring chance then transition the play back the other way. The savvy veteran is contributing this season with his typical three-zone effectiveness while also adding some early production.

DOWN

Zac Rinaldo- C’mon, man. All that talk of turning over a new leaf…it doesn’t matter if the hit was technically shoulder-to-chest contact- it was unnecessary as Couturier did not have the puck and was looking away from Rinaldo as he came in. Fair or not- Rinaldo is not going to get the benefit of the doubt on plays like that, and so he’s getting hammered in the court of public opinion right now, especially since Couturier is out with what is believed to be a concussion. Not smart, but a lot of critics said this was coming and it only took six games. C’mon man.

Tuukka Rask- At some point, you have to quit making excuses for the guy. He’s off, and this was a game the Bruins played well enough to win, save for the fact that they didn’t get some key stops from him when they needed it.  Even if you allow for the fact that Kevan Miller’s turnover behind the net leading to the first Giroux strike was not on him, he was off the angle on the Simmonds goal and simply isn’t playing like the All-Star caliber goalie the B’s need him to be. It’s not Bobrovskian on the scale of disappointments in the early season, but the Bruins and their fans have a right to expect a whole lot more than what Rask is giving them right now.

David Pastrnak- Love the kid’s talent and enthusiasm, but the turnovers continue and when he had a glittering chance to put the game away, he wasn’t able to, opening the door for the Flyers comeback. You have to grit your teeth and live with the mistakes given how hard he works and how well intentioned he is, but he’s hurting the team and needs to simplify/try to find a balance between the high-risk decisions he’s making and the natural ability we all know he has to score points in this league.

Joonas Kemppainen- At this point, I’ve seen enough. He’s soft on the puck, not assertive enough, appears to be a step behind when it matters. Most of the time he looks like he’s in the right spots but  is just not making plays. I have to think Max Talbot would give you more effective all-around play on the bottom line than this guy will at this stage.

Kevan Miller- He’s got to be better in his own end. His aborted attempt to reverse the puck led to the goal that pulled Philly back into it, and when you’re a fringe d-man, you can’t afford those kinds of mistakes. Miller is one tough nut and a rugged customer, but he doesn’t have enough in the way of talent to get by when he makes gaffes out of what should be a routine exchange. Tighten up.

Ryan Spooner- Great on the power play, but not getting it done at even strength where the advanced stats are exposing him down near the bottom of the league in puck possession. The penalty he took in OT won’t help his case either, but in his defense, Del Zotto sold that like a Sotheby’s auctioneer.

Tough loss in a game the Bruins really had on their plate to win. It won’t get any easier when they travel to Brooklyn to face the Islanders on Friday, but play away from the TD Garden has offset their poor performance at home, so we’ll see.

Special K: Why David Krejci’s resurgence matters

When the Boston Bruins drafted David Krejci at the end of the second round (Detroit’s pick acquired via Los Angeles a year earlier at the 2003 NHL draft) the Czech teenager had frosted highlights in his hair and used then-B’s scout and former draft choice Otto Hascak to translate for him. He didn’t have anything all that profound to say to reporters, but the team’s front office gushed in the usual way about how excited the B’s were to get Krejci where they did and were effusive in their praise of his hockey sense and potential as a No. 1 or 2 NHL center.

11 years later, Krejci is among the NHL scoring leaders (albeit real early) and dropping the kind of thoughtful quotes that he’s been delivering with an articulate though soft-spoken and thickly accented delivery since 2009 or thereabouts. That was when posted his best offensive season and emerged as the top two line center current assistant GM and former amateur scouting director Scott Bradley said he could be in Raleigh, where the ’04 draft was held.

Here’s what Steve Conroy wrote about Krejci in the Boston Herald:

When David Krejci was asked after the Bruins’ 5-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday if he was at all surprised how quickly the Bruins’ power play has come together this season, the center seemed a bit perplexed.

It wasn’t an off-the-wall question, considering how much trouble the B’s have had on the power play in the past, but why would Krejci be surprised?

“If you go out there and don’t expect to score,” said Krejci, “then you shouldn’t be out there.”

Mic drop, please.

Krejci didn’t get his generous contract extension, the one that pays him north of $7M and represents another significant bite of the B’s salary cap apple, based on his statistics. Even by modern NHL standards, where scoring is down compared to where it was in the 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s, Krejci’s regular season production is pretty pedestrian. Where the native of Sternberk in the Czech Republic has raised the bar and proven his worth is in the playoffs, when his points-per-game average rises from 0.75 to 0.83. Had not not been for his struggles in the 2014 postseason (he wasn’t alone, either) with a mere 4 assists in 12 games, that postseason average would be even higher.

But Krejci has also proven his worth as a leader and student of the game. He might be a quiet guy by nature, whose voice is so soft that you’re out of luck if caught in the very back of a postgame scrum without a recorder that can pick up a pin drop or canine-like hearing; but don’t be fooled. Krejci is one of the fiercest, most driven and uncomprising competitors in that room.

The players know it. The coaches know it. Management does too. And the fans, well…let’s just say that in the world of salary cap, flashy plays and what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, even if some of them are aware of how good a teammate he is, it didn’t matter to many given the lack of scoring in the 2014 playoffs and the carryover to last season, much of it spent on the IR.

Right now, Krejci is in his prime at age 29, and he’s playing like one of Boston’s top paid players for a pretty simple reason: he knows that he must.

In an effort to get Boston’s salary cap situation better under control, more in the way of established talent left the team than came in last summer. Slow start in Los Angeles aside, Milan Lucic still represented a significant loss in production (not to mention one of Krejci’s established wingers), so it was critical for the veteran center to not only begin the new season healthy, but find away to translate his effort into production.

Krejci is not a dynamic skater, so to the untrained eye, he can look at times like he’s floating and not getting much accomplished. However, when you break down the goals he’s been scoring and the plays he’s made in the first five games, you see a player who is performing not only with confidence, but is emulating that critical element of any real NHL scorer: the ability to get to the right spaces in the offensive zone where he can either get the puck to the teammate best positioned to finish, or…screw it…score the goal himself.

Go back and look at his power play goal against Arizona. When he takes the pass from Torey Krug, he’s in that sweet spot by the left faceoff dot, coiled like a cobra ready to strike and he one-times a bullet that Coyotes goalie Mike Smith had no chance-none- of stopping. Unless Krejci hit him with it, which, he didn’t.

Krejci’s resurgence matters because the best way a player like him can lead is by example. When the younger skaters on the team watch how effective he is, see how he creates magic from the mundane but does it with a set of tools that has never earned him a great deal of respect outside of Boston, they realize that with a willingness to work and do the best with what you’ve been given, good things are possible indeed.

Like Patrice Bergeron, Krejci isn’t a rah-rah, in-your-face fiery leader who demands accountability and isn’t shy about calling people out. He speaks softly, carries a big stick and when he does have something to say, his mates listen. It isn’t an accident that Krejci wears an ‘A’ on his sweater. It’s not just because he’s scoring and winning faceoffs- the other players in the room look at him and say- “That’s the kind of veteran I want to be like,” and they embrace his example.

One day, when he hangs up the skates, Krejci is going to coach hockey at a high level. He won’t be a fiery bench boss, nor will he rub elbows and hold court with those who cover his teams. But, to those future charges he’ll mentor and train, he’ll teach them more about the game and how to be successful professionals than most.

That’s a long way off, though. For now- he’s making a difference and helping his team get back on track after an 0-3 start. If you ask him, he’ll say that winning is all that matters, and he’s telling the truth.

But deep down inside, like any driven competitor who has found himself on the receiving of biting criticism at times, he couldn’t be happier to be getting the points. And he’ll work even harder to make sure they keep coming.

Boston Bruins prospect update 10/19/2015

Jeremy Lauzon has continued his excellent start to the 2015-16 season, scoring 15 points in just 9 games for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies…and he’s a defenseman! Frank Vatrano proved he’s human when he didn’t score in his last game, but he’s still clicking along at a great pace- we’ll see if he can keep it up after losing center Austin Czarnik to injury.
AHL
Frank Vatrano, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 5  Goals- 7  Assists- 1 Points- 8  Penalty Min- 0 +/-  -1

Vatrano continued his early season assault, scoring in two more games last week before the Bridgeport Sound Tigers held him off the score sheet in a 3-1 loss for Providence on the road Saturday. It was a tough night for the line, which was a minus unit, and wasn’t able to generate much in the way of sustained offensive pressure. Vatrano did net a nifty goal against the Hartford Wolf Pack Friday night by going to the net and zipping a one-timer that deflected over to him off an initial point shot past goaltender Magnus Hellberg for his seventh goal of the young season. What was far more impressive in that game, however, was how fast Vatrano got back on a 2-on-1 shorthanded break after defenseman Ben Youds got caught on a bad pinch. The scoring is what Vatrano is known for, but when he shows such hustle and dedication on the back check, you know he’s not just impressing the coaches but the management types who decide who comes up to Boston and who stays on the farm when injuries create opportunities. File that one away.

Austin Czarnik, C/RW Providence Bruins

GP- 4 Goals- 1 Assists- 4 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 6  +/- 4

Injured Friday night, the loss of the explosive little center necessitated a re-wickering of the top line, with Koko moving back to the middle and Zack Phillips moving over to the right wing. The injury is not expected to keep him out all that long, but the P-Bruins missed his pure speed and high-end creativity for much of the Hartford contest and against Bridgeport.

Alex Khokhlachev, C Providence Bruins

GP- 5  Goals- 2  Assists- 5 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 0  +/- 2

The skilled Russian is playing like he wants a recall to Boston, and it has showed in the early going. He made some hay playing on the right side with Czarnik and Vatrano but is now back at center in the interim. The always excellent Mark Divver has a good piece over at the Providence Journal worth reading with quotes from John Ferguson Jr. and Bruce Cassidy about Koko’s potential future at wing in the NHL.

Linus Arnesson, D Providence Bruins

GP- 5 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -1

Boston’s top pick in 2013 (60th overall in the second round after the B’s gave up their first-rounder for Jaromir Jagr) is playing the type of hockey he’s known for- steady, unspectacular defense. He’s a smooth skater who is particularly good in puck retrieval, but I continue to look at his offensive zone play and don’t see anything that leads me to believe he’ll be anything other than a solid defense-first middle pairing defender at the NHL level. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, either- but if anyone is expecting him to put up points and push the pace of a game when he eventually arrives in Boston (and he will- it’s just a matter of time) will be left wanting more.
Colby Cave, C Providence Bruins

GP- 5 Goals- 2 Assists- 0 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -3

Former Swift Current Broncos captain has looked like the gritty, two-way pivot he was as an undrafted diamond-in-the-rough out of the WHL. He’s quick and opportunistic; goes into the greasy areas of the ice, competes hard on pucks and has even found the back of the net a couple of times in the early going to balance out some scoring that was being done primarily by the top unit. He’s going to have a tough time cracking the Boston lineup at center, but for now- he’s precisely where he needs to be and making an impact, which is good news.

 Zack Phillips, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 5 Goals- 1 Assists- 1 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -1

Former 1st-round selection of the Minnesota Wild in 2011 (28th overall) just doesn’t have the look of a legitimate NHL prospect right now. He’s an average skater and while he sees the ice well and handles the puck effectively enough, the decisions aren’t there yet. You don’t want to give up on a guy who is just 23, but you can understand why the Wild gave up Phillips in the deal last spring for Boston’s unsuccessful early pick in Jared Knight. Phillips has talent, but he’s having a tough time putting it together.
Noel Acciari, C Providence Bruins

GP- 5 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -2

The hometown hockey hero registered his first point while skating on the Providence third line flanked by wingers Anton Blidh and Anthony Camara– an industrial-grade sandpaper line. The line has not produced much in the way of offense this season, but they are engaged and on one shift against Hartford, I think I saw them throw more hits than the parent club did in the entire game against Tampa Bay early last week.
Anthony Camara, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 5 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 5 +/- -1

 

Anton Blidh, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 5 Goals- 0 Assists- 0 Points- 0 Penalty Min- 4 +/- -3

 
Chris Casto, D Providence Bruins

GP- 5 Goals- 0 Assists- 3 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 6 +/- -3
Zane McIntyre, G Providence Bruins

GP- 4  MIN- 242 GA- 15 GAA- 3.72  Spct- .873

With Malcolm Suban’s still out, McIntyre had a tough couple of games this past week, giving up 9 goals to go 0-1-1 and raise/lower his GAA and save percentage totals considerably. This is the type of valley that a young goaltender will go through, but Cassidy put Matt Ginn into the Saturday game against Bridgeport, and the former Holy Cross standout played well in the loss.
OHL
Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 10 Goals- 6 Assists- 3 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -5

Senyshyn only had an assist in a couple of games this week after tallying six goals in his first eight contests. Part of that has to do with the offensive struggles of teammate (and Devils prospect) Blake Speers. The one thing about Senyshyn when you watch him is this: he’s noticeable…keeps his feet moving and generates scoring chances with his speed and ability to use his size to get to the front of the net. He had a nice helper on Speers’ first goal of the year, making a bullet pass off the rush.
QMJHL

Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

GP- 9 Goals- 3 Assists- 12 Points- 15 Penalty Min- 16 +/- +9

Ho-hum…another week, another productive stint for the defenseman, whose stats line is one you would think belongs to Jakub Zboril. Lauzon is a smart defender who is playing with a ton of confidence right now and logging premo minutes- up over 30 per game in all situations.
Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs

GP- 5 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 8 +/- -1

Zboril finally got on board with a helper last week, but he also had to sit out with a one-game suspension for being overly exuberant in the application of his defensive responsibilities. Translation: he cross-checked an opponent to the point of ejection and the supplemental discipline meted out by the QMJHL. It once again reinforces the fact that Zboril is an atypical European player- he brings a nastiness and physicality to the ice with him (though not always in consistent fashion) and just needs to make sure that he channels that in the right way so as not to put his team behind the 8-ball unnecessarily.

WHL
Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 8 Goals- 4 Assists- 7 Points- 11 Penalty Min- 9 +/- -4

Productive week for DeBrusk, who posted a couple of goals and finished out with a pair of assists in his team’s game against Lethbridge on Saturday night. Having watched a bit of DeBrusk going back to Team Canada’s WJC evaluation camp, one thing has become standard to me: he’s not one of those players who grabs your attention. He skates up and down the wing, slips through defenses and goes stretches where you don’t notice him until a goal gets scored and he was in on it. That’s going to lead to criticisms from those who don’t see the nuances in his game, but as long as DeBrusk keeps producing, you can’t make too much of an issue.
Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

GP- 7 Goals- 4 Assists- 0 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 16 +/- 0

Did not see Gabrielle in action last week- he did not add to his scoring totals. Have by-appointment viewings to check him out.
Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans

GP- 8 Goals- 1 Assists- 6 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 23 +/- -3

 

USHL
Jack Becker, C Sioux Falls Stampede

GP- 7 Goals- 2 Assists- 1 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 1
Daniel Vladar, G Chicago Steel

GP- 4 Min- 218 GA- 9 GAA- 2.48 Spct- .910 W-L-T: 1-2-0

 

NCAA

 Danton Heinen, LW University of Denver (NCHC)

GP- 4 Goals- 1 Assists- 1 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 0

Tough weekend against Michigan State- no points for Heinen, who is off to a slower start this season after posting a goal and assist in DU’s first game of the year vs. Air Force but has not found the score sheet since.
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C Boston University (HEA)

GP- 2 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 2 +/- 1

Smooth, intelligent freshman looks like a keeper after BU decisively defeated the moribund Wisconsin Badgers in a two-game series. Spoke to one NHL scout in attendance who said that JFK is like a “Patrice Bergeron-lite- doesn’t wow you with his skating but is always around the puck and makes the right decisions with it.”
Ryan Fitzgerald, C Boston College (HEA)

GP- 3 Goals- 1 Assists- 2 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 6 +/- 3
Anders Bjork, LW University of Notre Dame (HEA)

GP- 2 Goals- 0 Assists- 3 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 2
Matt Benning, D Northeastern University (HEA)

GP- 3 Goals- 0 Assists- 0 Points- 0 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -4
Cameron Hughes, C University of Wisconsin (Big 10)

GP- 4 Goals- 0 Assists- 0 Points- 0 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -4

Looks like another tough year for Wisconsin, and Hughes, who looked like a solid value in the sixth round. Goals are not going to come easily for this team, so Hughes’ production this season (or lack thereof) will require context.
Europe
Peter Cehlarik, LW Lulea (SHL)

GP- 6 Goals- 2 Assists- 3 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 2

 

Maxim Chudinov, D St. Petersburg (KHL)

GP- 20 Goals- 5 Assists- 2 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 65 +/- -6

To quote former NHL goalie Darren Pang- Holy jumpin’- if the database is right, Chudinov racked up 31 penalty minutes since the last update. He might be small, but his reputation as a one who lives on the edge (a nice way of saying someone is a dirty player) endures.

 

Emil Johansson, D HV71 (SHL)

GP- 8 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 10 +/- -1

 

Final buzzer: Bruins wilier than the Coyotes; 3 PPGs pace a 5-3 victory

The Boston Bruins got near-perfect special teams play in desert, scoring three power play goals (including two by Patrice Bergeron) on six tries, plus a short-handed marker by Brad Marchand to defeat the Arizona Coyotes by a 5-3 score, raising the record to 2-3 after five games. Tuukka Rask made 23 saves to post his first ‘W’ of the season for Boston.

A sleepy first 40 minutes saw a barrage of goals in the final period (B’s got four, Coyotes two), as the B’s took their second victory of the season after going 0-3 at home.

Arizona got goals 2:24 apart by Tobias Rieder and Kyle Chipchura to even the game at 3 goals apiece with plenty of time on the clock. However, Bergeron broke the deadlock with a power play goal about mid-way through the third, redirecting a Ryan Spooner shot/pass into the net behind Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith for the tally that stood up as the winner.

As was the case in Denver Wednesday night, the B’s came out with energy and enjoyed an advantage in territorial play early. However, unlike the Avalanche, they were unable to solve Smith.

Arizona opened the scoring on a goal by veteran Shane Doan, whose initial shot was stopped by Rask, but defenseman Kevan Miller’s skate made contact with the puck and it slid into the net for Doan’s 900th career point. Coach Claude Julien issued a second unsuccessful coach’s challenge in as many tries, making the case that Arizona forward Joe Vitale had entered the crease and made contact with the Boston netminder. Unfortunately for Julien, even though Vitale entered the crease on his own and did bump Rask, the referee elected not to overrule himself and the call stood, maintaining that the contact was not related to the play that resulted in the puck crossing the goal line.

The B’s tied the game in the second period when fourth-line winger Tyler Randell scored his second goal in as many games, rifling a nifty backhander over Smith and into the net.

The B’s extended their lead while on the power play later in the period when David Krejci took a Torey Krug (2 assists, 22:55 TOI, 5 shots, 5 blocked shots) cross-ice pass and buried it with a rocket one-timer for his team-leading fourth goal of the season.

In the third period, the B’s made it 3-1 when Marchand got behind the Arizona defense, took a Tommy Cross bank clear/pass off the glass, and went in alone on Smith, beating him with a quick backhander. That gave Marchand his first goal of the season and Cross his first career NHL point. He was victimized on the Doan goal after an errant pass gave Arizona possession, but he ended up handling the rest of the game in solid fashion. As long as the Bruins keep winning, Julien and company will likely keep rolling Cross out there.

Although the Coyotes struck back and gave Boston fans an element of “here we go again” nerves, Bergeron’s first goal of the night restored the lead and then he struck again after Adam McQuaid drew an interference call late, firing a wrist shot that Smith whiffed on to close out the scoring.

With Boston’s power play at the top of the league and Krejci leading the way in scoring while admittedly very early on, this Bruins team has strung together a pair of hard-working victories, scoring 11 goals after netting just seven in their first three.

UP

Patrice Bergeron- With a pair of power play goals and his usual solid play, Bergeron led by example tonight, firing 8 shots on net and being rewarded by the coaches with more than 22 minutes of ice time.

Brad Marchand- The pesky little waterbug showed why he is so valuable to the club, netting his first goal of the year while the B’s were killing a penalty and generating multiple other scoring chances. He creates opportunities with his speed, but he’s a smart player, too. While on the power play, he took a Zdeno Chara shot off the leg, but had the presence of mind to get his stick on the puck and work it back out to the point so the B’s could reset. That’s going to get a thumbs up from the coaches when they break down film on this one. The team is so glad to have him back after his concussion and he looked to be suffering nothing in the way of after effects tonight.

Tuukka Rask- The save percentage (.870) is nothing to write home about, but the two points are huge for him. The Bruins don’t win this game without their main man in net. His tremendous save on Rieder after Anthony DuClair set him up for a glittering chance late in the second period was a highlight reel stop and reinforces the old adage of- it isn’t how many goals you give up, but when you give them up that matters more. Although Rieder would get Rask later on a rebound of his own shot after the B’s were just standing around while killing a penalty, Boston got enough offense tonight that their goaltender’s saves pulled them through.

David Krejci- One of the great things about David is how serious he is. People who haven’t been around him don’t appreciate his off-the-charts competitive drive and how tough he is on himself when he doesn’t perform. He was immensely disappointed not only in the fact that the Bruins missed the playoffs last year, but that he had a pretty poor season by his standards even though he was less than 100 percent most of the time. He heard and read the criticisms of his contract extension, so he’s doing the only thing he knows how- playing his best to silence the doubters by producing like a $7M a year player. His scoring clip is probably not sustainable for him given his overall body of work, but if there was one player on this team who needed a quick start, it was him. It’s just Krejci being Krejci really, but he’s playing with a ton of confidence, so don’t be surprised if he sets career bests in all categories this year.

Tyler Randell- He once scored four goals in a single playoff game while in the OHL, so Randell has always had the hands…he showed them off again tonight lasering a backhand shot past Smith before the Coyotes goalie could react. And we haven’t even had a chance to see Randell do what he’s on the team for yet…his toughness. Boston may have found a fixture for the bottom line. It’s early yet, but if you think Boston fans like him now, wait until he drops the gloves a few times.

Special Teams- 3/6 with the man advantage, 1 shorthanded goal. The Rieder goal that came on the same power play just 13 seconds later was the only blemish on the night. Spooner and Krug are particularly impressive on the power play with the way they move the puck around. The hands, the vision, the ability to take advantage of the added time and space- this is precisely what every good team with the extra man tries to do. It’s nice to see a couple of young players- former housemates in Providence- demonstrating the kind of chemistry and skill they’ve shown together.

DOWN

It was a well-played game across the board for Boston. They still have problems with coverage in front of their net, especially when teams overload and the B’s have trouble sorting out who is responsible for what.

However, on this night- not singling anyone out. Sure- there were some mistakes, and some guys looked slower and hobbled at times, but the team pulled together for another gritty win and with the special teams looking as strong as they have early on, you can see that even if the 2015-16 Bruins might lack the talent to keep up consistently with the NHL’s powers, there is some character in this plucky bunch.

They head back to Boston on a high note with some time to refresh before taking on Philadelphia at home on Wednesday. Time to give the hometown fans something to cheer about, boys.

Final buzzer: B’s are on a Mile High with first win, 6-2 over Avs

Tyler Randell netted his first NHL goal in his first NHL game in Boston's first win of 2015-16 (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Tyler Randell netted his first NHL goal in his first NHL game in Boston’s first win of 2015-16 (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

The Boston Bruins posted their first win of the season in Denver by a 6-2 score by jumping on the Colorado Avalanche and racing to a 5-0 lead. They chased starter Semyon Varlamov from the net and by dominating the puck possession game by limiting the Avs to just 12 shots in the first 40 minutes.

The 3rd line made the biggest difference keyed by Jimmy Hayes (1g, 4 points) and Ryan Spooner (1g, 2 points), forechecking effectively, forcing turnovers and then capitalizing on said turnovers with goals by Chris Kelly and Spooner in the second frame.

The game marked a couple of first career appearances for defenseman Tommy Cross and winger Tyler Randell. Cross became the second player from Boston’s 2007 draft class (Zach Hamill) and Randell the third from 2009 (Jordan Caron, Lane McDermid) to skate in the big show.

Jonas Gustavsson got his first NHL start for the Bruins, and wasn’t tested all that much. He held Colorado off the scoreboard until late in the second frame when David Pastrnak took a double-minor for high sticking former teammate Carl Soderbergh. Fellow Swede Gabriel Landeskog spun around with the puck just outside the crease, and Zdeno Chara (2 assists) tried to poke it off his stick, but inadvertently pushed it past Gustavsson to make it 5-1 after two periods.

Fourth-line center John Mitchell made it 5-2 on a lazy outside shot that caught Gustavsson cheating. This is a shame because the Monster made some excellent stops while his team was on the power play earlier in the period, so to give up such a soft goal with a little under 9 minutes left took some of the shine off of an otherwise solid performance in net (he made a terrific breakaway stop on Avs top draft pick Mikko Rantanen in the first period to keep Colorado off the board).

Boston’s top two lines had a quiet night with no goals scored (save for David Krejci’s empty net tally at the end), but that’s how its supposed to work- the big horses had generated much of the team’s offense in the three losses- so to have the bottom two lines, plus Kevan Miller grab hold of the scoring load is a good sign. The team’s strength is up front, so for one night at least, things are back on track.

Up 

Jimmy Hayes- He was in the “down” section for the Tampa Bay game, but he bounced back with a career-best 4-point night in this one, tallying the second goal of the contest by batting a Chara rebound out of the air and into the net. You could tell by his celly that a huge weight was taken off his shoulders with that one. The added pressure that local boys feel when they put on that spoked B is real, but Hayes wasn’t done. He forced a neutral zone turnover i the second period, getting the puck to Spooner, who fed Kelly with a backhand sauce pass. The veteran then skated in, made a quick deke in traffic and put the puck past Varlamov to make it 4-0. Hayes then forced another turnover deep in the Colorado zone and got it to Spooner on a backhander, who roofed a shot for his first goal of the season to finish Varlamov’s night. Hayes added an assist on Krejci’s empty-netter to seal the win. He skated a more uptempo game, and just maybe- getting away from Boston and the TD Garden was good for him. On this night, Hayes looked like he was having a lot of fun out there, and let’s face it- even though these guys are professionals, that’s how it should be for the most part.

Ryan Spooner- Along with Pastrnak, Spooner is Boston’s most dynamic forward, so if he isn’t scoring, he’s probably not helping a whole lot. Having said that- tonight he was skating hard on the forecheck, creating problems for Colorado as they tried to gain possession in their own end and break the puck out. He’s never going to be a stalwart two-way center, but the Bruins don’t need him to be that. He has to give a good effort away from the puck, but as long as he’s making things happen on offense, the team can live with the occasional lapses that will happen. His assist on the Kelly goal looked effortless- it wasn’t- and his first goal of the season was a pure snipe to the top shelf that was off his stick in a blur.

Tyler Randell- He became the first Bruin to score in his debut since Blake Wheeler back in October, 2008- which was interestingly enough- some eight months before Boston drafted Randell in Montreal. That’s how long it has been, and if you had said smart money would be on Randell finding the back of the net in his NHL debut, you should go out and get your lottery ticket. The rugged, physical forward didn’t have to do much in that regard, but his goal was vintage Randell: he tipped Adam McQuaid’s point blast home, demonstrating his slick hands. The skating is what has kept him from the NHL prior to now, but you can see that he has value on the bottom line, especially when things get tough. He won’t thrive in an uptempo game, but he’s proving that in the right role, there’s a place for him on this club.

Chris Kelly- The veteran looks pretty good on the third line left wing with Spooner and Hayes. He’s not the fastest guy out there, but he’s smart, industrious and in scoring his first of the season, showed off the slick hands that he previously parlayed into 20+ goals. Anytime you can get offense out of Kelly it’s a bonus, because he’s such a key leader and sterling example for the younger players. He may not be the most skilled LW to put on that line, but he’s getting the job done.

Tommy Cross- It was a solid, unspectacular night. He played sheltered minutes and wasn’t asked to do a whole lot, but for a guy who was drafted nearly nine years ago, he deserves ups for getting here. Cross is an NHL player- no one can take that from him. What happens from here partly up to him and partly not, but for one night- he looked like he belonged, and there are a lot more folks out there than this columnist who are genuinely happy for a genuinely good guy.

Kevan Miller- He opened the scoring on an absolute bomb from the point that rang off the far post and clanked in. For a guy who missed the second half of last season to have shoulder surgery, he looked like a winner on that play.

Adam McQuaid- Forget about the assist on Randell’s goal- did you see that nifty little spin move he put on along the half-wall to shake the defender and maintain possession, then fed it out in front to Loui Eriksson, who was stoned on what would have been a highlight goal? Wow- where did that come from?! He then put the puck to the net on the ensuing play and Randell tipped it in…great shift for No. 54.

Down-

Brett Connolly- He’ll show it in flashes, but the consistent shifts where Connolly is working, creating and making an impact on the game are still lacking. The B’s need a lot more from him. If you didn’t see it at all, it would make for an easy call for the coaches, but the talent is there for the former sixth overall pick. He’s still looking for his first goal as a Bruin and he had a great chance in the first period (right before Miller scored) when sent in alone on Varlamov but couldn’t even hit the net.

Joonas Kemppainen- Another soft performance from the Finnish newcomer. He’s not strong enough on pucks to these eyes and seems to be around the play a lot, which is a sign of his good hockey IQ, but he has left me wanting more. Kemppainen looks like a player, but he’s got to get more engaged to make a difference.

The good news- B’s fans won’t have to wonder about any more losses to increase the winless streak, and you have to hand it to the team for cooling off a hot offense at home. However, there is still plenty of work ahead for this group- improvements are showing through in their play, especially in puck support along the walls, so there isn’t a whole lot to take issue with on this one.

This just in: Frankie Vatrano = legit

Frank Vatrano's UMass Minutemen sweater from 2013-14 (Kirk Luedeke photo)

Frank Vatrano’s UMass Minutemen sweater from 2013-14 (Kirk Luedeke photo)

The torrid start for the one-time UMass Minuteman who signed with Boston as an undrafted free agent last spring is no fluke: Frankie Vatrano can flat-out play hockey.

Although his team fell to the Hartford Wolf Pack in OT (linemate Austin Czarnik took a hooking penalty that HFD forward Adam Tambellini cashed in on), Vatrano had another standout performance.

The AHL’s Player of the Week after five goals (including a four-goal outburst on Sunday vs Portland) in his first two games of the season continued his blistering pace by netting his sixth goal in three contests late in the second period when he drove to the net and put himself in the perfect spot to corral a point shot deflection off a player in front of the net. The puck was on his stick for a split second before he rifled it past Hartford goalie Magnus Hellberg (as an aside- I once had breakfast with young Magnus the morning he was drafted by the Nashville Predators- nice kid).

Back to Vatrano…

We all knew he could shoot the puck. He was the 88th-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting for the 2012 NHL draft, but went unchosen in Pittsburgh (and Newark and Philly after that). For those scoring at home, that’s a solid 4th-round draft grade, but teams were likely scared off by how much extra weight the kid was carrying around. Even when lighting it up for the Boston Jr. Bruins and U.S. NTDP (he didn’t score a ton, but his goals were often memorable snipes), you could see he had that stocky build and scouts behind the scenes talked about him being fat.

Well, it took him a while to get to where he is, but an aborted stop at Boston College, followed by 1 game in the 2013-14 season at Mass and then his 18-goal freshman year which promoted his hometown Bruins to come calling, he worked hard in the offseason to lose weight. The end result? He came to camp ready to go and was arguably the B’s top player at the rookie tournament in Buffalo. He followed that up with a strong main camp and exhibition season performance.

Tonight’s performance wasn’t just about the goal, though. In the third period, with Providence on the power play, Ben Youds pinched in from the point and lost the race to the puck lying just inside the right circle. As a result Hartford broke it out on a 2-on-1 that was developing into a disaster until there was a flash of black and gold streaking up the ice- No. 49- Vatrano!  The Wolf Pack managed to get a shot off, but the back check was impressive- not only for the speed Vatrano showed to catch up to the play, but for the sheer effort and hustle he showed.

Vatrano is serious about playing for his Bruins. They’re the team he grew up dreaming of playing for and he’s putting action to his words. In a second period interview, he talked about how the decision to leave school was a “no brainer” for him when Boston showed interest, and I had heard from at least one other NHL source that they were disappointed in not getting a chance to talk to him, as they would have made a push had they known he would come out after just one year in the NCAA.

Amherst’s loss was the B’s gain. I don’t know how close Vatrano is to getting called up. In fact, if I had to be completely honest, I’d say that fans should resist the shiny new toy syndrome and accept that by getting top line minutes and special teams time in Providence, it probably benefits him in  the long run over rushing him to Boston. As the wise Mark Divver remarked on Twitter tonight- “let’s see where he (and Czarnik) are in January.”

But, I don’t think the six goals in three games is an accident. He can’t sustain that level of scoring, but I thought he could get 30 goals in the AHL right off the bat for this very reason- he’s always been able to snipe the puck. However, what I didn’t realize is how much better shape he would be in…and how hard he would work on all 200 feet of the ice. That’s the kind of thing that earns a young player a chance at the big show sooner rather than later. Vatrano, Czarnik and Koko have been a dynamic line and there are bigger things ahead for all three if they keep playing hard and producing.

It’s all anyone can ask.