Scouting Post founder on TSN 1260 Edmonton to talk Bruins & 2016 NHL Draft

I was invited to go on host  on Edmonton-based Allan Mitchell aka Lowetide’s mid-day sports radio show on TSN 1260 yesterday.

Mr. Mitchell is a thoughtful guy with a lot of interest in hockey at all levels. Before the Oilers came along, he was a Bruins guy during their glory years of the early 1970s, so he’s been kind enough to have me on his show to talk Boston since 2011, when he got his own show and has developed quite a following. I do appreciate his kind words about the blog (and me) on his show.

Yesterday, I was asked about Boston’s youth movement (David Pastrnak, Noel Acciari), drilled down on Ryan Spooner’s progress, and an update on the Dougie Hamilton trade. I also talked Riley Tufte, Dante Fabbro and a New England prep sleeper for the 2016 NHL draft.

I hope you will give it a listen. I come on at the 6:55 mark of the SoundCloud clip for a 12-minute segment. And you can follow me on Twitter if you want more: @kluedeke29

Are You Not Entertained? Bruins recover to grab critical 2 points in South Florida

The Boston Bruins blew a pair of three-goal leads- 3-0 and 4-1 to the Florida Panthers, but got a tremendous top-shelf snipe from Lee Stempniak to get out of the BB&T Center with a critical two points in a 5-4 sudden death victory Monday night. It marked the 388th coaching victory of Claude Julien’s Boston career, moving him past Art Ross for sole possession of first place in Bruins franchise history.

Stempniak’s 17th goal of the season was his first as a Bruin- he broke into the zone during 3-on-3 overtime play with Ryan Spooner, took a cross-ice dish from Boston’s third-line pivot and then wired the puck over Al Montoya to escape Southern Florida after the Panthers tied it late on Jiri Hudler’s second marker of the night.

Things started well enough for Boston- Patrice Bergeron, No. 37 in your programs, No. 1 in your hearts one-handed a feed from Brad Marchand into the Florida net behind starter Roberto Luongo to give the road team a 1-0 lead just 37 seconds into the game. On 3.7.2016. Coolness.

David Pastrnak went five-hole on Luongo after slipping past the Florida defense for his 10th strike of the year (equaling last season’s total in 46 games) to make it 2-0 and then Brett Connolly rushed into the zone after getting the puck from Noel Acciari (his 1st NHL point) and firing a shot past Luongo to make it 3-0 at 12:22, his ninth goal.

Third-year center Aleksandr Barkov ( he’s Finnish, btw) cut the Florida lead to a pair of goals when he jumped on the rebound of a Jaromir Jagr shot and ripped home his 20th. The Jagr apple moved him past Gordie Howe for sole possession of third place all-time on the NHL’s scoring list (he trails No. 2 Mark Messier by 37 points).

Bergeron restored the three-goal lead with his 28th goal of the season and second at 17:25 of the opening frame when he took a Stempniak pass and buried it on a rush.

It looked like the B’s would cruise, as Luongo gave way to Montoya to start the second period. The Panthers had other ideas and jumped on the B’s when they came out for the middle frame stuck in neutral. The game seemed to turn when Shawn Thornton fought Adam McQuaid after a heavy hit in the corner, and fired up his team and the fans. Of course, the Bruins skating like they were in quicksand might have had something to do with goals by Hudler and Jussi Jokinen to cut the lead to 4-3, while allowing the Bruins to get just four shots on Montoya in the entire period.

That set up a back-and-forth third, which started to click down to the wire when the B’s lethargy in the neutral zone caught up with them and Hudler pounced on a rebound of an Alex Petrovic shot to make it a 4-4 game with under five minutes left in regulation.

Tuukka Rask gave up a couple he’d like to have back, but faced 51 Florida shots (he’s 7-0-1 when the B’s surrender 36 shots or more) and turned aside 47 (for a .922 save percentage). It was Rask’s 27th win of the season and put Boston in position to jump past both the Panthers and Lightning if they can beat Tampa on Tuesday.

Every point counts- the B’s can’t afford to leave anything on the table and tonight nearly got away from them if not for Stempniak, who now has one goal and six points in four games since coming over for a fourth-round pick this year and a second in 2017.

Although it was an ugly win, the scoreboard don’t say how, just how many. And it also allowed the Bruins to take on a little swagger (just a little- they did blow a couple of three-goal advantages, after all) and head out of South Florida saying this:

Gladiator

 

 

Bruins hammer Penguins in decisive home win

Are the Boston Bruins Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?

Are they a good team with clear shortcomings on the defensive side that sometimes make them look worse than they are, or a mediocre team that is able to pound opponents so decisively on occasion so as to fool the optimists out there who support them?

The answer just might represent a little of both.

On Wednesday night, the B’s completed a three-game series sweep against the Pittsburgh Penguins, which is a similar team in that it has been a perennial contender since the Sidney Crosby era revitalized the team’s fortunes, but this year has been a shadow of its former powerful self since squeaking into the playoffs at Boston’s expense last spring.

Like Boston, the Pens have a powerful 1-2 punch at center (though Evgeni Malkin was unable to return from injury to help his team at the TD Center last night), a leaky defense made up of game, but  often overmatched 4/5/6 types and a goaltender who can minimize the damage but can’t do it all himself in Marc-Andre Fleury.

As was the case in Dallas last Saturday, the B’s didn’t exactly dominate the contest, as the Penguins came at them early, hemming them in their zone. Tuukka Rask withstood a 13-shot opening period, not allowing any pucks by him, and David Pastrnak scored the third penalty shot goal of the season for Boston to make it a 1-0 contest.

Pastrnak (his eighth) and Penguins forward Tom Kuhnackl traded goals in the second period to set the stage for a critical third period with the B’s still smarting after getting zinged at home the other night against Columbus.

Jimmy Hayes, Landon Ferraro and Brad Marchand, who scored his team-leading 31st goal, tallied three goals on three shots in the final 10 minutes to push the score to 5-1 and give the Bruins a much-needed home victory.

Hayes finished off a brilliant rush by Ryan Spooner, who got the puck from Hayes after Adam McQuaid blocked a shot (after losing his helmet- no fear) and took off like a rocket up the ice, crossing with Matt Beleskey at the offensive blue line to gain extra space. He then approached the net from the left side and threaded a pass right to Hayes, who didn’t miss for his 13th marker.

Ferraro then broke away after slipping behind the defense and getting a home run pass from Dennis Seidenberg, beating Fleury with a top-shelf laser for just his fourth goal of the season. Ferraro also had an earlier fight with Scott Wilson and gave better than he got, showing off the kind of energy that has made him a capable bottom-line player since the B’s snatched him off the waiver wire from Detroit.

Marchand’s final tally was vintage No. 63, as he got the puck from Torey Krug, cut to the net and let a jumpy Fleury make the first move before going around the defender and sprawling goaltender to slip the puck in on the far side.

Rask, for his part, was magnificent in a 41-save effort- he gave up just the Kuhnackl goal, scored off the German forward’s skate after a fat rebound. This is the kind of game that the Bruins typically need from their one-time Vezina Trophy-winning netminder. The defense still gives up a good number of quality scoring chances, but when Rask is on top of his crease and in the zone, he’s as good as anyone else in the league. The problem is- when the B’s go up against clubs with better top-to-bottom roster depth, they have a tough time matching up against teams that have the speed and skill to employ an effective forecheck that disrupts Boston’s timing on the breakout and leads to defensive zone turnovers.

Pastrnak’s performance gives the team multiple reasons for optimism. For one thing, it’s been a tough slog for the 19-year-old, who burst onto the scene a little over a year ago when he was called up in January and then proceeded to become Boston’s brightest hope for the future. Beyond his obvious offensive talent, Pastrnak is an easy kid to get behind because he wears his love of hockey openly, with a wide, infectious smile that reminds everyone who watches him of how all of these pro players began their lifetime association with this sport. Pastrnak is also serious and hard-working. He’s not quite on the same level as Patrice Bergeron was at the same age, but he’s not that far off, either. Pastrnak made the NHL at 18 because he not only gave the Bruins something they desperately lacked, but also because the coaches saw his work ethic and desire to improve manifested at practice. Some people have to be taught by others how to work harder to maximize their natural gifts, but Pastrnak needed no such coaching, and was often the last player off the ice (and still is). Claude Julien and his veteran coaching staff saw that, and so even with the setbacks the second-year right wing has dealt with this season, they’re willing to stick with him and maintain the faith that he can become the regular scorer he’s shown the penchant for in flashes.

Where do we go from here?

The Loui Eriksson trade watch continues, and I’ve been intrigued by the polarized sides on Twitter and the Internet- the two camps that are clearly at odds with one another within the B’s fandom. I explained at length last week why the Bruins will trade Eriksson and try to leverage him into the assets that can allow GM Don Sweeney to more properly address the elephant in the room: the defense.

Although there seems to be a group of folks who believe Eriksson can and should be signed, I have yet to see any plausible explanation from that side on how it will work. Assuming his agent JP Barry wants to secure money and term from his client (and why wouldn’t he?), the Bruins would essentially be rolling the dice that the soon-to-be 31-year-old would be able to maintain his current level of contributions for another four years at least to make an extension worthwhile. While that’s not impossible, the odds are certainly not in favor of that. Eriksson has never been a dynamic skater, so if he loses a step over the next couple of years as many players on the wrong side of 30 tend to do, his production could essentially drop off a cliff. The B’s cannot afford to be shortsighted here- that thinking is what got them into salary cap jeopardy in the first place.

Loui is a fine man and teammate. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, and in the scope of the here and now, he obviously makes the Bruins a better team than they will be without him. But fans demand that their teams be in the winning mix year after year, and extending Eriksson puts that philosophy in peril. Sure- he’s one of the team’s most versatile and dependable forwards, but one can also make the argument that there are young players in the system that can capably address what Eriksson brings to the club given a little time. They won’t cost upwards of 5.5-6 million dollars a year (at least not right away) and dealing Eriksson gives the Bruins the much-needed coin of the realm: assets in the form of picks and futures that every team covets to off-set the ever escalating salary structures needed to retain the top talent across the league.

Should the B’s prove me wrong and hold onto Eriksson, either extending him or keeping him for the playoffs, we’ll revisit the implications of that when the time comes. Even if he’s not moved at the deadline, they can still flip him to a team that wants his exclusive negotiating rights before the July 1 free-for-all for a middling pick, which is not ideal but better than nothing. If they commit the term and dollars to him, then I think it works in the short run, but could have profound consequences by the years 2018 or 2019. I guess for those who like to live in the now, that may not be such a bad thing.

What we’re figuring out here is that making trades and acquiring the kinds of essential players needed to assemble a winning mix in the modern NHL is easy to talk about, much harder to pull off. It isn’t like Boston is bereft of young defensemen in the organization, but nobody is truly ready to step in and make the kind of difference this team needs right now with a goalie in his prime along with multiple forwards whose window might be closing by the time the B’s home grown blue line talent can make an impact.

Colin Miller has shown he can create offense, but he’s still got much to learn defensively. Rob O’Gara is having a down senior year at Yale but has size and mobility to become a bottom pairing staple after a little seasoning in the AHL. Matt Grzelcyk has the speed and offensive talent to be a two-way threat, but like Krug, will need some time to develop in the minors and will be a wild card in terms of what kind of role he can carve out for himself in Boston. Jakub Zboril, Brandon Carlo and Jeremy Lauzon were all drafted last June and are not realistic options to make a difference for at least another full season but likely two or three more years at the earliest.

That means Sweeney needs to add a key piece now or at least in the coming off season. You have to give to get, and Eriksson represents the kind of asset that can increase the GM’s options, not diminish them. Yes, fans may not be thrilled with the kind of return he brings back in a few days (assuming he’s dealt), but you have to play the long game here and realize that a trade made today could set up the even bigger haul tomorrow (or in about three or four months).

If we’ve learned anything about the recent wins over Dallas and Pittsburgh, it is this- the scores didn’t represent how close the games actually were. The B’s benefited from shaky goaltending play from their opponents, but in the playoffs, when every game’s intensity is ratcheted up a few notches and the better teams can make you pay for every mistake, this Boston club isn’t going anywhere far as currently constructed.

That means you have to live with the tough calls and some short-term disappointment in order to benefit from a potential sustained run of excellence. Ask Columbus fans how much fun it has been to cheer for a team that has always tended to fiddle around the margins rather than make bold decisions to build for the long term and you’re not going to like the answer. Teams like Edmonton and Columbus should serve as a reminder that picking at the bottom of the draft every year is no sure path to contention. The Bruins have the pieces to be a contender, but the team has to be smart about how they streamline the effort.

Making decisions based on emotion, loyalty and what someone did in the past versus what they will do is more of a recipe for failure than success. When it becomes time to come to grips with the fact that Bergeron, Krejci, Rask and Marchand can no longer do what Boston fans have enjoyed and come to expect for so long now, the team cannot afford to have multiple albatross contracts around the neck.

Digging out from that kind of hole could take years.

Thoughts on Boston’s 2-1 loss to the Rangers

In a familiar refrain, the Boston Bruins dropped a close game late in regulation to the New York Rangers when a Jesper Fast deflection beat Tuukka Rask with less than two minutes left to break a 1-1 deadlock.

Despite the lack of offense, it was an uptempo game with both teams trading some good chances, perhaps none better than Max Talbot’s doorstep shot that Henrik Lundqvist somehow got his skate on while pushing left-to-right and essentially falling prone to the ice while his legs kicked up into the air in a fashion similar to a scorpion’s tail.

All in all, the B’s had just one goal by Jimmy Hayes (his 10th and set up by Ryan Spooner) on a heavy shot from high out in the slot to show for it. As was the case last year when Boston’s offense was among the league’s worst, that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the goaltender to play a near-perfect game between the pipes.

The loss represented a missed opportunity- the Bruins carried the play in the second period but had only the one goal to show for it. As the cynics suspected, it was the Rangers who managed to capitalize when Claude Julien shortened the bench later in the third period, moving Landon Ferraro into David Pastrnak’s spot only to see defenseman Keith Yandle’s point shot sneak through when Fast got a piece of it and the puck changed direction.

We’re past the moral victories stage at this point of the season- every point counts and this is a game the Bruins should have had. To look for silver linings out of this one doesn’t get them any closer to the playoffs.

And, now- some thoughts and observations.

Designated scapegoat Kevan Miller had a rough night, on ice for both goals against and standing around when the winning goal was scored instead of clearing the much smaller Fast out of the crease. Miller has born the brunt of much fan angst and it is understandable- the undrafted free agent and former University of Vermont and Berkshire School captain has made some glaring mistakes throughout the season that get magnified because the puck has ended up in the net. However, much of the reason Miller is struggling is because he’s been put in a position to fail. The rugged, hard-nosed defensive defenseman is a serviceable 5/6 D when used correctly. Unfortunately, a lack of personnel and injuries have meant that the B’s have been using Miller as a 2/3 D for most of the year and he is simply not suited for that role- he’s in way, way over his head. This is not to absolve him of his errors- he’s had problems with his decisions and in basic execution, with gaffes that have cost the B’s in several instances, most notably in Boston’s 6-3 home collapse to Buffalo a few weeks ago. However, for anyone to think that Miller is not an NHL defenseman is a bit harsh: if he was on the bottom pairing and played somewhere around 17 minutes per night as opposed to the 20+ he’s been pressed into, there’s a good chance he’d be pretty respected because he plays the game hard, tough and works hard. Alas, for Miller, he’s limited and not capable of carrying the load, making him a magnet for fan frustrations. It happens to someone every year.

I wonder if Tuukka Rask has been checking the internet (10 years ago I would have said the Yellow Pages) for the numbers of good lawyers in Boston. He could sue the team for non-support after last night. He wasn’t able to do much on either the Fast winner or Derick Brassard’s rebound goal to tie it early in the third frame. But, Rask did what every good goalie must- gave his club a chance to win it.

Would like to see Julien give Pastrnak more of an opportunity to be a difference-maker late in games. Ferraro was not a terrible option to move up into his spot last night with a 1-1 game on the line, but the waiver pickup has cooled considerably since his first month as a Bruin.You live and you die by the talent you have, and when your team has only scored one goal in some 55 minutes of action, I’m not sure taking out the one guy who is arguably your most gifted scorer makes sense when you are trying to secure at least one point. Julien has coached 900 career NHL games, so there’s a reason he’s behind the bench and I’m not, but it’s about time to take the shackles off of No. 88. It’s really saying something about how woeful Boston’s offense was last night when Zac Rinaldo is in the conversation as your most effective forward. I don’t mean that as a slight because he’s been a pretty decent fourth-line option this season, but with just one goal and one assist- he is who we thought he is.

Frank Vatrano and Tyler Randell took a seat as healthy scratches last night after both being in the lineup against Ottawa Saturday night. Vatrano has a bright future ahead of him, but if this is to be his lot in life going forward for the rest of the season, then I suspect Butch Cassidy would love to have him back on the team in Providence. The undrafted free agent from Western Mass. has been a revelation, and his speed, dynamic shot and hustle are exactly what this Bruins team needs, but he had just 10 AHL games under his belt before going up to the big show, so there is more room for development on the farm rather than eating popcorn at press level.  Just saying.

Keith Yandle is a Milton, Mass. guy and former Cushing Academy star who had been linked to the Bruins in rumors for a couple of years before Arizona traded him to the Rangers last year at the deadline. There’s been some real grumbling in circles about how Alain Vigneault has used him this season, and let’s be honest- defense was never really Yandle’s strong suit. That said- with time ticking down and his team needing a play, they got one when his point shot was tipped in for the winner. He’s not the player a lot of people thought he would be early in his career when he showed signs of developing into something special, but a team like the Bruins sure could use him in a No. 2 role right now. Yandle only has two goals (on 88 shots) but his 23 points lead the Rangers from the blue line. He’s still a good offensive presence, even if the defensive side of his game isn’t there. He’s an unrestricted free agent this coming summer and will cash in- the question is where, and for how much/long?

Hayes netted his 10th goal last night, which puts him on the same pace as last year, when he established a career high 19 goals. It’s the inconsistency that has bothered Hayes this season, however- he had a brutal November, enduring a nine-game pointless streak at one point, and he went without points in nine of 12 December games. However, with his big body and soft hands, he’s capable of bringing more to the table. Last night’s goal was a rocket of a shot- scored from out near the tops of the circles when Hayes does most of his damage in close near the paint. He’s a good kid and wants to do well. I criticized him the other night because he stood around while Patrick Wiercoch worked over Vatrano after the diminutive forward crashed the Senators net. I felt that some kind of response- not necessarily fighting Wiercoch but at the very least, trying to restrain him so that Vatrano could extricate himself- was warranted, but many feel that he was right not to intervene and risk a penalty late in regulation of a tie game. Even if I don’t like it- that’s a fair assessment and with the way the NHL’s referees call games nowadays, any kind of intervention would be risky. That said- if Hayes is not going to bring much of a physical presence, then he’s got to keep scoring because he won’t be doing much else for this team.

It’s been a quiet couple of games for Patrice Bergeron (he was beaten by Mats Zuccarello on Brassard’s tying goal) and Brad Marchand since the latter returned from his three-game suspension. The B’s need those two to get it going.

Ryan Spooner continues to play well in David Krejci’s absence. Later this week, I’ll do a post dedicated to him and address some of the things he’s done behind the scenes to make himself a better all-around player, along with the help he’s gotten to get him there.
And that’s it. The B’s are 1-1-1 on their current road trip. They’ve been a good away team this year but they’ve got to find ways to get more points in the final two games at Philly and Buffalo before returning home Saturday to take on the Leafs with an ever-tightening Eastern Conference.

 

Final Buzzer: Stone OT goal powers Sens in 2-1 victory

The game was theirs had things been a little different for the Boston Bruins Saturday night in Canada’s capital city.

After young guns Mika Zibanejad and David Pastrnak traded goals in the first two periods of play, not another puck got past either one of Craig Anderson or Tuukka Rask until the 3-on-3 overtime period. Loui Eriksson had two glittering chances to give his B’s the extra point but could not cash in. Denied on a breakaway early in sudden death, he rang a shot off the post during a 2-on-1 break, and Ottawa took it the other way, finishing off the play to secure the home victory.

The winning goal came off the stick of Mark Stone, who had previously scored a pair of goals when Ottawa beat the B’s in the same building a few weeks earlier. Give the Senators forward credit- after Erik Karlsson’s shot hit off of Rask’s crest and bounced away from him, Stone gathered it up and attempted a wrap around goal. Rask somehow reached back in time from the left post to get his goal stick up against the far post to deny Stone’s initial bid. Unfortunately, with Eriksson behind Stone and out of the play, along with Colin Miller slow to react and put the body on the Senator player, Stone was able to corral the puck after it bounced off Rask’s stick paddle and flipped it up and over the goalie to end it.

Zibanejad’s first period tally, his eighth, was scored on a jailbreak rush after C. Miller’s shot attempt was blocked and Ottawa worked it back the other way. Karlsson slipped a pass to Zibanejad in the B’s zone after he broke in all alone and the Swede made a nifty deke before lifting the puck into the open side.

Pastrnak’s goal came on a deflection in the second frame, when he worked the puck around to Patrice Bergeron, who gathered it on the left half-wall and then passed back to Zdeno Chara at the point. Pastrnak rotated over to the slot in front of the net so that when Chara’s shot came in, Pastrnak was able to get a piece of it with his stick, making sure he made contact below the crossbar to make it a 1-1 game with his third marker of the year (in 12 NHL games).

That left it to the two teams to trade chances, with both Rask and Anderson holding down the fort until Stone finished off the B’s. Ryan Spooner and Senators forward Shane Prince (acquired with the 2nd-round pick in 2011 that Boston sent to Ottawa for Chris Kelly, btw) had particularly effective chances but neither player could find the back of the net.

 

World Junior Championship tourney underway- notes on B’s prospects in Helsinki

David Pastrnak, Emil Johansson and Zane McIntyre take a break during 2014 Bruins development camp (photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

David Pastrnak, Emil Johansson and Zane McIntyre take a break during 2014 Bruins development camp (photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

The 2016 World Junior (Under-20) Championship showcase is underway from Finland, as the tradition kicks off annually on the day after Christmas, better known in Canada and other parts of the world as Boxing Day.

In a rare twist, USA took on Canada, normally a match in the 2-week tourney’s round robin round reserved for New Year’s Eve, scoring a solid 4-2 victory thanks in large part to the stellar goaltending of Carolina Hurricanes prospect Alex Nedeljkovic (2nd round- 37th overall in 2014) and some opportunistic scoring by USA after falling behind 1-0 in the second period. The Americans overcame an Alex DeBrincat spearing match penalty late in the opening frame that could have put them behind the 8-ball, killing the 5-minute period between the first and second periods. After Islanders 1st-rounder Mathew Barzal scored on a jailbreak play to give Canada the first lead, Senators prospect Colin White (Hanover, Massachusetts) answered for USA. Questionable power play chances yielded goals by both sides (Zach Werenski– Blue Jackets and Dylan Strome– Coyotes). With time winding down in a 2-2 game, a Louis Belpedio (Wild- third round in 2014) shot from the point was inadvertently deflected into the Canada net by Red Wings prospect (and undrafted free agent) D Joey Hicketts past his own netminder, Mason McDonald (Calgary- 2nd round 34th overall in 2014). 2016 NHL draft top candidate Auston Matthews got an insurance goal after a puck squeaked through McDonald and lay near the goal line for the easy tap-in to close out the scoring.

In other games, Finland hammered Belarus (6-0), Russia beat the Czech Republic in a 2-1 shootout in a game where defense and the goaltending shined, while Sweden took vengeance against the Swiss by an 8-3 score but lost key players William Nylander (Leafs- 1st round, 8th overall in 2014) and Adrian Kempe (Kings- 1st round, 29th overall) to injuries. Swiss forward Chris Egli was suspended three games for his vicious blindside check to Nylander, knocking him out of the game with what is believed to be a concussion. The latest report has Sweden keeping him off skates for a ‘few days’ but hopeful the high-end forward can be back by the quarter final round.

The Boston Bruins have seven players at the tournament, with GM Don Sweeney announcing Saturday between the first intermission of the team’s 6-3 loss to Buffalo at home that David Pastrnak is being released to play for the Czech Republic and will be available when the 28 December NHL holiday roster freeze is lifted.

The Bruins have the following players at the WJC, which ties Arizona for the most players league-wide:

USA

Anders Bjork, F (5th round, 146th overall- 2014) ’96- last year of eligibility

Brandon Carlo, D (2nd round, 37th overall- 2015) late ’96 – last year of eligibility

Ryan Donato, F (2nd round, 56th overall- 2014) ’96- last year of eligibility

Czech Republic

David Pastrnak, F (1st round, 25th overall- 2014) ’96- last year of eligibility

Daniel Vladar, G (3rd round, 75th overall- 2015) 2017 WJC eligible

Jakub Zboril, D (1st round, 13th overall- 2015) 2017 WJC eligible

Sweden

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, F (2nd round, 45th overall- 2015) late ’96- last year of eligibility

Defenseman Jeremy Lauzon was one of two final cuts for Team Canada. Watch for him, Zach Senyshyn, Jesse Gabrielle all to be staple players on Canada in 2017, when both are still eligible for the tournament.

David Pastrnak is the player the Boston Bruins have been waiting for. (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

David Pastrnak is the player the Boston Bruins have been waiting for. (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

On Pastrnak being released to the WJC

You may have seen me commenting on this on Twitter, so I want to clarify my position on a forum that allows me more than 140 characters:

While good news for the Czech Republic and Pastrnak, this is a risky move for the Bruins in that they stand the most to lose should something happen to him over there to affect his availability for his NHL going forward.

Too often, I think the WJC has gained an almost mythical status in the minds of hockey fans in this day and age- it’s a symbol of status that often drives opinions and perceptions of players both positively and negatively. Like some kind of video game, it seems that the more players a team has at the WJC, the bigger the bragging rights fans can claim, even though merely being a part of the carnival atmosphere is no guarantor of future NHL success. I get it- because of the prestige factor associated with the U20 WJC as the premier global showcase for the best hockey talent, many of whom have either already tasted the NHL or will be there soon, there is an expectation that if a player isn’t there, then that means something is wrong with them. Conversely, if a player is named to his country’s WJC roster, their status tends to get elevated, rightly or wrongly, and in turn, a player’s performance is often scrutinized and magnified in a way that either over-hypes them or leads to negative perceptions of their future NHL chances.

What bothers me about Pastrnak going to the WJC is that he is coming off an injury that caused him to miss 24 NHL games after he took a hard shot off the skate and received a fractured foot (or “bone bruise” as reported). On the one hand- the B’s want to rehab him and the WJC provides a way to do that. It also exposes him to risk of either aggravation of the foot or possibly another injury. To those who have tweeted at me about the “safer” aspects of the larger ice surface and more skill/finesse at the WJC, go look at film on the Egli hit on Nylander yesterday in the Sweden-Swiss match and take note. Boston accepts all the risk here- Pastrnak is now playing games that won’t help the Bruins in the standings (nor would Providence, but the similar system would be beneficial to working him back into mental shape for the big club) but he’s also playing for coaches with different priorities/agendas than Claude Julien and Bruce Cassidy over in North America.

Another argument I’ve heard is about how important the “experience” at the WJC will be for Pastrnak. Okay. Assuming that is the case, how is playing in his third WJC going to give him any more experience than he got when he appeared at the same tourney at age 17 and then again a year ago when Boston released him at 18? He played only about half a season in the AHL a year ago before going up to the NHL, so the argument that the talent and overall experience he’d get in the WJC vs. being in Providence at this stage of his career is certainly debatable. You can make good cases for each scenario, but the whole “He *needs* to be at the WJC to develop properly” is hogwash. Nor is it a matter of this being his only chance to skate for his country there- he’s already done it. Twice. And you can bet he’ll do it again, perhaps as soon as the Men’s World Championship, or at the next World Cup of Hockey.

In the end- what I think doesn’t matter, because the Bruins made the decision to send him. I suspect they are acceding to his own wishes, and I get Pastrnak’s desire to play in the WJC versus going to the AHL with the chance to play for his country providing him with a compelling alternative. They might see the WJC as a better opportunity for him to get himself back on track after missing considerable time than riding the buses in Providence will. Perhaps the B’s feel that by doing this- they are acting in good faith and will only solidify their relationship with the player who by most accounts, is probably being groomed to one day replace Patrice Bergeron as the face of the franchise. It’s completely understandable. However, what do the Bruins get if something happens to Pastrnak in his 10-day stint overseas? The answer is- absolutely nothing…aside from blistering questions and second-guesses that will swiftly follow if the team suffers a setback with their prized asset in a game he didn’t really need to be playing, some 3,000 miles away from Boston.

It’s all about risk management here, and the Bruins obviously feel it’s the right thing to do. So, we’ll cross our fingers and hope they are proven right.

B’s WJC prospect notes and updates

Anders Bjork, USA- One of the last cuts a year ago, Bjork is a top two-way forward at Notre Dame, known for his speed, hockey IQ and playmaking skills from the wing position. He played a typically solid game yesterday, showing off his effectiveness on the forecheck to deny Canada puck carriers time and space. He uses his speed to close quickly and has a quick stick to force turnovers or clog passing lanes with. He’s a highly confident, effective penalty killer- he leveraged his vision and instincts to be in the right place and prevent Canada from collapsing USA’s formations and exploiting the extended power play time on the DeBrincat major. You won’t see a great deal of offense from Bjork in the pros, but he’s the kind of player NHL clubs win with.

Brandon Carlo (Kirk Luedeke photo)

Brandon Carlo (Kirk Luedeke photo)

Brandon Carlo, USA- He was beast yesterday defensively, using his 6-5 frame and long reach to repeatedly deny lanes to the American net all game long. Guys as big and mobile as the WHL veteran from Colorado is don’t grow on trees, and he played an effective game; making good decisions, maintaining his gaps effectively and electing the right times to play the body and puck. What I like about Carlo is that he doesn’t think he’s something he isn’t- he plays a refined, disciplined game positionally- not taking himself out of the play to score a big hit, nor pinching up in the offensive zone if a play isn’t there. He’s smooth and effective- he has all the tools to evolve into a very good shutdown defender at the NHL level in the not-too-distant future. Now for the bad news… While I recognize and respect his defensive acumen, I don’t see much in the way of consistent offense from Carlo that would lead me to believe he’s going to be a legitimate two-way threat at the NHL level. He’ll chip in with points on occasion, but his repeated missed shots from the point yesterday illustrate the kind of work he has yet to do on his game. I don’t see the vision or creativity once he’s in the offensive zone to be a real No. 1 defender at the highest level, but he’s only 19, so maybe that comes out in time. As far as the game against Canada goes- he played about as well defensively as you can ask, and that’s what matters most, as it translated into a key aspect of USA’s tone-setting win.

I would only caution folks to slow the roll on the hype train and understand that he has the look of an NHL player for sure- but how much of an impact (I’m studiously avoiding the use of the term ‘upside’ in case you hadn’t noticed) he’ll have is still very much a question mark at this point. I’m not down on Carlo at all- he’s a great kid with a bright future. But for those who don’t see him but hear all these glowing reports about him- just trying to keep things in perspective. In Carlo’s case- I would be thrilled to have him wrong on this score, but when my 2016 Boston Bruins prospect ranking comes out in the New England Hockey Journal next week, you’ll understand why Carlo is not in my top-6.

Ryan Donato, F- I’ll be brief. It was not a good look for the Dexter School prep star and Harvard freshman. He seemed to struggle with the pace and might have been a victim of nerves in his first-ever WJC game against an opponent like Canada. His ice time reflected that, as he didn’t get the regular shifts to work himself into a groove and when he was out there, he made some noticeable mistakes.

Donato is an excellent prospect who often times pays a price for the perception of prep hockey and where it ranks in the developmental pecking order. A sensational season in 2013-14, and one in which I would have been fine with taking him at the end of the first round, saw him slip down to the end of the second. Even with that, I saw grumblings about him being drafted there, which I completely did not agree with. Conversely, getting Donato at 56 overall was a fine value pick for Boston if not one that will take time to develop and see the payoff for.

Ted’s eldest son is a hockey savant- his offensive hockey sense and scoring instincts are second to none. He’s not a burner like his dad was, but he’s bigger and more physically gifted to skate in the modern NHL. He’s off to a fine start in Cambridge, a year after a down season at Dexter was then punctuated by a superb finish in the USHL with the Omaha Lancers.

In other words- just as a lot of folks were eager to jump on Twitter yesterday to sing Carlo’s praises, there is absolutely no reason to pile on Donato for his subpar showing. It’s one game in one tournament. The thing to watch going forward with Donato is to see how coach Ron Wilson and the USA coaches use him and if he can settle in and find a way to do what he does best- bring offense. Given the role he had yesterday, however, that’s a tall order for any player.

Czech Republic

Daniel Vladar, G- Was a non-dress yesterday as Capitals prospect Vitek Vanecek (2nd round, 39th in 2014) got the start with Ales Stezka backing up. Vanecek played very well in a 2-1 shootout loss to Russia, so Vladar will likely have to wait for his chance to play if he even sees a sniff of action. His role will likely be to carry the mail in 2017 if he continues to progress in his development this season.

Jakub Zboril, D- Boston’s top pick in June last just 10:17 into the contest when he was assessed a match penalty and ejected for boarding on a questionable hit that looked worse in real time than it was. He was given 25 minutes in penalties on the play, but no suspension is forthcoming.

Sweden

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, F- The second-rounder scored Sweden’s sixth goal in an 8-3 rout at 12:50 of the second period. No scouting report notes as I did not see the game, but it’s a good sign for the BU center, who tends to be more of a passer/playmaker than a finisher.

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson aka "JFK"

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson aka “JFK”

I will follow this blog post up later with some observations on some of the 2016 NHL draft hopefuls I saw in action yesterday.

 

 

 

 

Pastrnak out vs. Stars, Bruins recall Koko from Providence

Alex Khokhlachev gets first crack at replacing injured forward David Pastrnak when the Boston Bruins host the Dallas Stars tonight at TD Garden. The team announced today that it is recalling the Providence Bruins’ top scorer for a much-anticipated matchup featuring former Bruin Tyler Seguin.

The 22-year-old second-round pick in 2011 has gotten off to a fine offensive start in Providence, so the move comes as no surprise. He began the season on the right wing, but moved back to center when Austin Czarnik was knocked out of the lineup.

If Claude Julien slots him into Pastrnak’s spot on the right side David Krejci line with Loui Eriksson, then this will be a good opportunity to play and produce with some quality linemates.

Here are excerpts from the Bruins press release announcing his recall:

Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced today, November 3, that the club has recalled Alex Khokhlachev from Providence (American Hockey League). Khokhlachev will join Boston for Tuesday’s morning skate and be eligible for Tuesday night’s game against the Dallas Stars at TD Garden.

Khokhlachev has appeared in four games for Boston from 2014 to 2015, including his NHL debut on April 13, 2014 against the Devils in New Jersey.

The 22-year-old has skated in 10 games for Providence thus far this season, registering four goals (third on the team) and nine assists (tied for first in the AHL) for 13 points (tied for first in the AHL).

At the AHL level, Khokhlachev has appeared in 147 career games accruing 42-74=116 totals.

Pastrnak was not at his best in Sunday’s win against Tampa Bay after taking a hard shot off the foot in last week’s Bruins victory at home against Arizona.

Final Buzzer: Boston road greaters- B’s begin season a perfect 5-0 as visitors

An 0-3 start at home has been offset with five consecutive road victories by the Boston Bruins, the latest a 3-1 contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning to push the team’s overall record to 6-3-1 in the 2015-16 season’s first 10 games.

The B’s got goals from Matt Beleskey, Brett Connolly and Brad Marchand (an empty-netter) to earn two more points and move into second place in the Atlantic Division behind the Montreal Canadiens.

They fell behind to the home team when Nikita Kucherov took a nifty cross-ice pass from Vladislav Namestnikov and buried a high twine tickler to make it 1-0 on a power play tally after Ryan Spooner was sent off for hooking.

Beleskey got it back later in the period when he converted a rebound of a Colin Miller shot that squirted out to him in the slot. While on one knee, Beleskey fought off a Tampa defender to spin and put the puck past Tampa goaltender Ben Bishop low to the blocker side after it appeared that the shot changed direction. Jimmy Hayes started the play when he won a footrace to the puck behind the net and threw it out to the point where Miller was able to gather it in and put it back on net.

The teams battled to a second 20 minutes of scoreless hockey before the B’s took the lead in the third period with another power play goal to extend the league’s best unit with the man advantage. Connolly was positioned out to the left of the net and took a hot Marchand pass, then took an extra second to locate Bishop and fire a high shot over the sprawling goalie for his fourth tally of the season (in his last five games to boot). It was another goal scorer’s strike from Connolly, who appeared extra motivated to score what stood up as the winning goal against his former club.

Bruins backup Jonas Gustavsson played well, giving up the lone goal in the first period. Although he doesn’t always appear to be in control or in position, he’s a perfect 3-0 in his starts this season and is giving Claude Julien and the Bruins coaches the kind of confidence they need to balance out Tuukka Rask’s workload.

David Krejci’s 9-game point streak ended tonight, but you won’t hear any complaints from him, as his team continues to roll with a 6-0-1 record in its last seven games. If not for the third period meltdown against Philly at home, they’d have a seven-game string of perfection.

UP

Brad Marchand is playing some of the best hockey of his NHL career amidst Boston's 6-0-1 run in last 7 games (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Brad Marchand is playing some of the best hockey of his NHL career amidst Boston’s 6-0-1 run in last 7 games (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Brad Marchand- He was not suspended for his hit from behind on Florida’s Dmitri Kulikov, and it was a good thing, as he was Boston’s top forward, playing with his trademark energy and pace. In addition to his quality assist and ENG, Marchand drew a penalty when he exploded on a breakaway, which probably should have been a penalty shot. This is the best stretch of hockey Marchand has probably played since the final two series of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Brett Connolly- Another game, another snipe. Bruins fans are starting to see why the Lightning drafted him so early in 2010, and why it took a pair of second rounders to pry him away from Steve Yzerman last February. At this rate, that price is starting to look like a bargain, and Connolly’s one-year, $1 million “prove it” deal with the B’s might result in a nice payday for him next summer if he keeps it up. Ever since moving onto a line with Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson, the former WHL scoring star has been money.

Jonas Gustavsson- For people who like technically sound goalies, the Monster is going to fire up the nerves, but the veteran Swede is a perfect 3-0 and somehow makes the big saves when he needs to. Right now, he’s healthy and playing well- doing exactly what a top backup does, and his team has played well in front of him in his three starts. With all due respect to Jeremy Smith, the Bruins made the right call in signing ‘Gus’ and going with him.

Loui Eriksson- Another game, another superb three-zone effort from Eriksson. At this point, he’s Boston’s unsung hero as a winger who is bringing a lot more to the table than his scoring totals reflect. He’s forcing turnovers, creating scoring chances and making good defensive plays. His production won’t even begin to touch the player the B’s traded for him, but having him, Joe Morrow and Jimmy Hayes (acquired for Reilly Smith) takes a little of the sting out, as the trio is contributing a lot to Boston’s fortunes right now.

Adam McQuaid- This was a gritty, vintage McQuaid night, as he was blocking shots and making Tampa forwards pay for every inch of real estate in the Boston zone. Some won’t ever get past his cap hit, but when it comes to a shutdown defender who just goes out and does his job effectively, he’s getting it done.

Torey Krug- In retrospect he’s making anyone who doubted that he could play top minutes and a key role on defense foolish. Night in and night out, he’s one of Boston’s most valuable players, making plays at both ends of the ice and doing his part to get the puck out of his zone and up the ice. Tonight, he made a memorable defensive play while the Bruins were on the PP and allowed an odd-man rush the other way. He burned back on the rush, made a textbook defensive play to deny the pass and shot, then got off the ice because he expended every bit of energy to ensure the Lightning did not capitalize. Krug is here to stay and he’ll be worth every penny of that extension he’ll sign sometime after January.

Matt Beleskey- He scored a huge goal by doing the grunt work and that’s how most of his offense will come this year. He plays hard and is an opportunistic forward- he’s got to be feeling good about his decision to sign with Boston given the way the team has turned things around. Anaheim will get better too, but for now, he’s certainly not sitting around questioning why he made the decision not to accept the team’s offer to keep him in Southern California.

Nikita Kucherov- His goal was pretty much a layup, but man- this guy has a world of skill. The ‘Bolts are struggling with the offense right now, but you can bet that they’ll break out at some point and when they do, Steven Stamkos and Kucherov will likely be leading the charge. With his speed and hands, the best years are yet to come for this diamond-in-the-rough find by the Tampa scouts.

DOWN

David Pastrnak- He’s 19- there will be bumps in the road and tonight was one of them. He might be suffering the effects of a lower body injury suffered last night in Sunrise, but he was not effective tonight and only saw some three shifts in the final two periods. On the one hand- you don’t want to make too much of the struggles he’s bound to have as he continues to grow and develop at the very highest level, but at the same time- it’s a good message to by Julien to the youngster that when he’s not effective, he’s going to take a seat on the bench.

Tyler Johnson- Did not see a great deal from one of Tampa’s breakout players from a year ago. Yes, he’s banged up right now, but he did not display that dangerous element that he’s so capable of much at all. He’s the straw that stirs the drink on that “Triplets” line of Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, and he’s mired in a tough slump.

Kudos to the Bruins for giving their season a good, honest effort. Their fans are pretty consistent- they can handle losing, especially when they know their team lacks the pure talent to hang with the NHL’s powers, but the losing has to be accompanied with an effort. This B’s club played hard even with the tough three losses to open the year but they’ve been a gritty, opportunistic bunch since.

It’s still going to be a dogfight to get into the playoffs come April, but like the 2007-08 Bruins demonstrated- the effort can compensate for quite a bit. And credit Julien and his staff for getting the players to compete. He’s not just coaching like a guy on the hot seat- he’s trying different things and has these guys believing in themselves with a power play that encourages a lot of puck movement and a willingness to take chances. So far, the pucks are ending up in the net and the wins are coming with regularity.

There are 72 games left on the schedule, but if you had told us in August that this club would begin the year with a 6-3-1 record, most would take that and smile.

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.

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.