The Off Wing

Opinion and Fact…From the Off Wing

2014 Edition: Development Camp…Day Two

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So when last we met the kids at camp had finished their first day and while some appeared a little gassed, others left the impression that they had been here before and seemed like they hadn’t even broken a sweat.  Rob O’Gara, for one, looks like he’s out on a leisurely stroll, no sweat, not even the appearance of heavy breathing.  Development Camp…Day Two brought us more drills and two sessions that ran almost to 2:00 in the afternoon.  This was a better day fitness-wise, as none of those present gave the impression of exhaustion, although the long day must have gotten to some.

We learned some new things about the B’s hopefuls…things such as Anton Blidh, while fast and well-balanced on his skates, he needs to work on putting the puck on net.  He stayed extra time after the official drills ended working on his shooting.  Anton fired shot after shot at the net, hitting everything but the twine.  Taking a line from one of my favorite movies; “Always end on a good shot, I say”, and Anton did just that, scoring and skating off the ice.

The morning session started before it officially began when Malcolm Subban, Zane Gothberg, Matt Benning, Anders Bjork and Alex Globke came out ahead of the full class to work on goaltending drills with Bob Essensa.  Primarily working on post to post coverage, the two young netminders (Subban, Gothberg) were down on their knees stopping pucks shot from the bottom of the circles and in the slot.  The two were also working on post coverage, staying tight to the post through the whole save process before moving to the opposite post to field another shot.

Couple of notables:

Matt Benning has really stepped up his game.  He has shown better vision on the ice and his passing is much more crisp than it has been at prior camps.  Outlet passing has been tape-to-tape sharp.

Rob O’Gara has shown leadership skills on the ice, calling out plays while running drills where the defensive unit is setting up to cover an oncoming rush.  Instructing the younger campers on who to cover as they enter the offensive zone and where to direct the puck once the defense has gained possession.

Cole Bardreau has shown that he has speed and quickness.  His acceleration and balance are strong.  His speed through the neutral zone is good, but his best asset are his hands, very soft and strong, crisp passing.  Would like to see a little more shooting from the young man.

Colton Hargrove appeared to be getting a little “cute” with his stickhandling while trying to gain entry into the offensive zone during drills.  Once he started gaining entry into the zone without all the puckhandling he was more successful.  He also scored a nice goal on his former teammate, Gothberg.

Speaking of former teammates, Oleg Yevenko has shown that he isn’t just a big body on the ice.  He displayed some solid positioning while working the two-on-two drills and was able to keep the puck and skater away from the slot area of the ice.  Oleg may need to work on his skating and work along the boards, but there are some fundamentals in place that can be worked with, a good foundation to build from.

Billy Sweezey has shown that he belongs on the ice.  Being the third youngest at camp, Billy has held his own and doesn’t shy away from the contact, something that will surely not go unnoticed by Cam, Claude, Donnie and Peter up in the stands.  The young man is committed to Yale, where he will be joining Michael Doherty and Rob O’Gara.  Just a side note here.  I witnessed Billy after the second session talking to a young boy, giving him a puck and autograph as well as taking pictures with the youngster.  He seems to have the makeup of someone who others can look up to…giving back to others.

Wiley Sherman displayed some nice positioning on defense, standing up multiple attempts at entry to the offensive zone for a few of the campers.  Doesn’t appear to be overly physical, just doing his job shutting down the rush.  Good footwork kept him in front of multiple attackers, and when they did get by, he didn’t give up on the play.

There were some interesting drills at the end of day two, with players both clogging the slot area while others were positioned in the corners and at the points.  Working on jockeying for position in front of the netminders, things were getting a little more physical in front of the nets.  Seemed to give the guys on the ice the opportunity to work off a little extra energy before the coaches called it a day, with Oleg Yevenko leading stretches for the second straight session.

One final note:  The young men here are soaking in all the education they can get.  On evidence I present Mitchell Dempsey.  The young man, having finished nearly three hours of rushes and defending, was out there with Kevin Dean, assistant coach in Providence, working on net front presence with regards to tip drills and positioning in front of the net.  The two gentlemen spent an additional 15 minutes or so, with Dean shooting pucks on net from the slot and the corners, so that Dempsey could work on his positions and tipping.  Dean would skate over and give instruction to the young man, who appeared to be soaking up every word that was spoken.  Dedication to his craft is not a concern for the young Mitchell Dempsey.

Well, that’s all for day two.  Day three begins in an hour and a half, so  we’ll see you then…

L.W.L.

2014 Edition: Bruins Development Camp…Day One

Not everything went off exactly as expected on the first day of the 2014 edition of Bruins development camp. Sitting in the crowd, one could sense that the fans were just a little unhappy about the more than one hour late kickoff to this year’s party. But once the campers hit the ice all appeared to be forgiven. Then snag number 2…Malcolm was nowhere to be found. With only two goaltenders in camp this year, it was a little more noticeable than it might have been in years’ past. Again the situation was rectified as Mr. Subban made his fashionably late appearance. By the way, he looks bigger too.

The 2014 edition brings 23 campers to Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass.  Twelve of these young gentlemen have been bere before, with goaltender Zane Gothberg present for his fourth development camp.  He is having a solid, if not somewhat spectacular college career at North Dakota, and the Boston Bruins staff appear more than excited to be patient when it comes to this young man.  Working with Bob (Essensa, goaltending coach), Zane can be seen asking  questions and performing the tasks set to him.  During one drill, Zane’s ability to go post to post showed just how quick he is to cover that blue real estate in front of the net.

The aforementioned Malcolm Subban, the first pick for the Bruins two years ago, made his third appearance at Boston’s annual camp.  Standing tall, he appeared bigger than years prior, however, after researching it, Malcolm is as tall as he was on draft day, potentially an inch larger.  One thing that was noticeable was that he was playing much further out of his crease than in the past, something that he has been knocked for, as he appeared to play a lot deeper in his net, a much riskier way of doing things.

A couple other quick notes before heading off to day two…

The only draft pick not present was 4th rounder Danton Heinen.

There are seven invitees to camp this year, the youngest, Billy Sweezey is still in high school.  The oldest, Oleg Yevenko, is 23 and plays at UMass Amherst.

Speaking of Mr. Yevenko, he is a big man.  6’7″ and 230 pounds (as listed by the Bruins), his body appears to be NHL ready, but that is as far as it goes at the moment.  He would definitely be a project, but as he has been draft eligible since 2009, there may be more work here than any team may want to invest.  Skating and footwork appeared to be issues.  Yevenko struggled in the corner while trying to gain possession of the the puck during  one of the drills.

Matthew Grzelcyk came out of the locker room wearing a red, closer to maroon, jersey.  Unsure as to whether he was “no contact” or just forgot his jersey at home.  He did seem to be in shape this year, as last year he appeared a little on the heavy side.  More to come on Matthew.

Matt Benning…what can I say.  He appears to be improving year to year.  When he first arrived at camp he looked undersized and, dare I say, a little overwhelmed.  Harvard is doing him good and his skating and footwork have vastly improved.

Michael Doherty is a nice invite to camp.  He has good acceleration and good hands.  He plays at Yale with Rob O’Gara, so we will surely see more of him.

Speaking of O’G, he is filling out his frame nicely.  He has become a solid blueliner at Yale and I personally can’t wait to see him in a Bruins uniform.  His awareness is improving and he tracks the action well.  He is tough to get around in drills and is hockey sense seems to be improving as well.

Colton Hargrove…He has been one of my favorites since the day the Bruins drafted him.  He followed up a good freshman year with a solid sophomore effort.  Would not be surprised if Andy Murray hangs a letter on his jersey this year!  Colton has improved year to year at camp.  He doesn’t shy away from contact, sees the ice well and has a scoring touch.  Good footwork and hands round out the package.  More to come on Colton as well.

Ok, off to day two…More later today…

L.W.L.

 

P.K. Subban Should Be A Bruin

While watching the second round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs, specifically the Bruins/Montreal series, it reminded me of something that I have been pondering for well over year now. The Boston franchise, while having a top tier defense, and one of the best defensemen in the game, is getting old in that department. Then the 2013 playoffs came around and Boston called up some of its young guns for the push, and youth was served. The issue here is that while the defense is young, none of the gents are yet a candidate for number one defenseman. Sure, Dougie could fill out that role at some point, but needing a leader on the back end is something that the B’s brass should be considering. In other words, P.K. Subban should be a Bruin.

Sure, the Bruins have Big Z (Zdeno Chara for the uninitiated), but at 37 years old he won’t be playing forever.  The Bruins have defensemen in Providence, and a couple youngsters playing for the big club, but none of them appear ready to adopt the mantle of “number one defenseman”.  P.K. has shown that he is the leader of the d-corps for the blue-blanc et rouge.  Especially in these playoffs.  Subban is averaging 2 points per game against the  Bruins.  He has 11 points in 7 games.  Sure he is only a plus 1, but while averaging over 27 minutes a night, he is third among defensemen still active in the playoffs.  At 24 years of age, Pernell Karl would be a nice addition to the blueliners on Causeway Street.

P.K. has stated that he is looking for top dolllar on his next contract, between 8 and 9 million dollars per year.  Whether he is worth that at this stage of his career is up for debate, but the way he is playing in these playoffs, especially against his arch-rivals, definitely begins to tip the scales in his favor.  Another tic in his favor, his age.  At just 24, giving him a long term contract wouldn’t hurt so much.  Structure it so that he gets his money in years 3-6 or something along those lines.

Chara still has four more years on his contract after this season finishes, but can we, Bruins fans or not, really expect him to play 27 plus minutes a night as he approaches the big 4-0?  I would say the answer to that question is probably one that the voracious fans in Boston don’t want to have to answer.

Answer…Bring in Subban.  You still get to have the Big Man roaming around the the blueline.  Pair him up with P.K.  Then it doesn’t matter who hangs back and who pinches in.  Yes the d-corps gets expensive with Seidenberg and his 4 year 16 million dollar deal, but by trading a couple players away, it can work.  It has to work.

By acquiring his services, the Boston Bruins can shore up the number one defenseman slot for the next ten years rather than hoping that Chara can maintain his torrid pace for the next four.  P.K. Subban should be a Bruin…and hey, number 76 isn’t taken!

My Apology to the Readers

Sometimes life gets in the way of us doing the things that we really enjoy.  There are some people that are lucky enough to be doing the thing they love most for their career choice, but most of us are in a field that, while we enjoy it, it isn’t the love of our life work-wise.  I really like what I do for a job, and yes, it pays the bills, but it sometimes gets in the way of doing what I really enjoy.  Watching, studying and writing about the sport of hockey.  I know it doesn’t sound like it yet, but this is my apology to the readers…

I attended the Boston Bruins Development Camp back in July, and while I took copious notes and photos, I never found the ample time to sit down and put my scribbles and hen scratch into a discernible post for others to read.  Sure, I work during the day and could have written at night, but having returned from vacation to a serious situation in my place of residence, that had to take precedence.

To all who read what I put to (virtual) paper, I am heartily sorry for not having written sooner.  I also sincerely thank you for reading the ramblings of a true fan and hopeful writer.  I will still be submitting my post about the young men and hopeful future Bruins that attended this year’s camp.  Watching those young men give everything they had to show the coaches at this year’s camp that they truly belonged should be an inspiration to us to give all we have to whatever it is we want to succeed at, and in this task I have stumbled.  As New England Sports Network continues to do reports about the Boston Bruins, as will I endeavor to write more frequently about the game we follow and love.

Again, thank you for reading and I am sincerely sorry.

Chris (Left Wing Lock)

Let’s Talk About Hardware

All right, two games into the Stanley Cup Final and  the series is now a best of five.  With both games going to overtime, it would appear that this series has the ability to go seven.  Both teams obviously have the talent and the desire to win.  And the big winners here are the fans…yes we got the shaft at the normal start to the regular season when the owners and players couldn’t come to an agreement as to who was at fault, or who was more greedy, or who was getting screwed the hardest…but we are getting our reward now.  But I’m not here to re-hash games one or two, but to talk hardware…In particular, the other award given out after the the 16 wins are achieved.

The Conn Smythe Trophy is awarded annually to the player judged most valuable to his team during the National Hockey League‘s Stanley Cup playoffs. The Conn Smythe Trophy has been awarded 47 times to 41 players since the 1964–65 NHL season. Each year, at the conclusion of the final game of the Stanley Cup Finals, members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association vote to elect the player deserving of the trophy.[1] The trophy is handed out prior to the presentation of the Stanley Cup by the NHL commissioner and only the winner is announced, in contrast to most of the other NHL awards which name three finalists and which are presented at a ceremony.

Unlike the playoff MVP awards presented in the other major professional sports leagues of the United States and Canada (the Super Bowl MVP, the NBA Finals MVP, and the World Series MVP), the Conn Smythe is based on the entire NHL postseason instead of just the championship game or series.

-Sorry, but the above two paragraphs were borrowed straight from Wikipedia, as I couldn’t have written it better myself.  Thanks to Wikipedia for the assist.

To break down what those two paragraphs above, there are a couple of players in this years’s final that could be deserving of the award.  When the hardware is given out, it will most likely be to a goal tender, but maybe the hockey writers need to take a closer look at a couple others that don’t just jump right off the page at you.  Sure most pundits would say that you need to ride a hot goalie to the Stanley Cup, but that shouldn’t be a guarantee of a Conn Smythe award.  Let’s look at it by position:

Goaltender:

Tied for the most wins with Centers, the goalies tend to garner the most interest for this award as they are the backstops for their teams.  Both goaltenders here can be considered for the hardware, with Tuukka Rask gaining a bit more attention than Corey Crawford due to his performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  His two shut outs came at their expense and his .944 save percentage is better than Crawford’s by almost a full percentage point.  Corey is no slouch here either.  His 1.72 goals against is ridiculously minuscule, but with one more game played, he has allowed only one more goal, but on 68 less shots on net.  The amount of activity here gives it to Rask.

Defensemen:

Obviously the top two, Duncan Keith and Zdeno Chara lead the pack here.  Its remarkable that a defenseman has taken home the hardware only 9 times in 47 opportunities since the Conn Smythe was created.  The similarities between these two extremely talented players are amazing to see.  Both have 11 points, with 2 two goals each.  Both average 3:20 of ice time shorthanded per game.  both have a shooting percentage of 4.  The only differences here are that Chara averages over 30 minutes of ice time per game to Keith’s 27 plus minutes, and Chara’s +/- is better at 13 to Duncan’s 4.  It’s really a wash here, and since anyone who has played at any time in the playoffs can conceivably win the award, this writer wouldn’t be surprised if one or the other won it on a losing team.

Right Wing:

Tyler Seguin…what can I say.  Playing out of position, no one can hit the glass with more accuracy…oh wait, sorry, wrong award.  Anyway, Horton certainly would be a candidate at this postion.  As would Marian Hossa.  But again the ice tilts toward Horton, with his +22.  Both have  goals, but Hossa is standing at a plus 8.  Could be a wash, but I don’t think the winner is coming from this position when all is said and done.

Center:

Again…Tyler…never mind.  There are too many good centers in this Final to make jokes.  Krejci, Bergeron, Toews.  Take your pick here.  As with goalie, 16 of the past winners came from the Center position, and you wouldn’t go wrong with any of these three.  Selkes, two way play, leadership, and then there’s Krejci.  Leads all players in scoring in these playoffs.  Second on his team in +/-, but there’s just not enough.  He benefits from playing on a solid line.  He doesn’t come across as the leader that Toews is, or the “leave it all on the ice” that Bergeron gives.  He is a real solid player during the playoffs, but doesn’t really do anything that warrants the Conn Smythe.

Left Wing:

Well, here it is, the best for last.  Although not according to the hockey writers that vote for the MVP.  Only once has a left wing won this prestigous award, Bob Gainey in 1979.  Good thing too, because he was never going to win GM Of The Year honors.  But I digress; this year’s winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy should, in this writer’s opinion, come from this position.  Milan Lucic.  Third on his team in scoring, third in plus/minus.  Plays in all situations.  And hitting…  The key here is that Milan is leading by example.  I heard the quote from a reporter in Canada that the Bruins didn’t win Game 7  against the Toronto Maple Leafs until Milan decided that they were going to win.  He has done this all playoffs long.  He isn’t the leading scorer, but against the Rangers, Milan intimidated then to the point that when he possessed the puck along the boards, there wasn’t a Ranger within 6 feet of him.  And no one would be willing to mess with Lucic during the Penguins series, except Engellund, and he wouldn’t throw down when he was invited to do so by the freight train.  He is doing it again in the Final.  Big hits on both Oduya and Hjalmarsson set the tone down the stretch of game two.

The award will most likely go to a goaltender during this series due to the extremely good numbers both are putting up, but, going by the description given for the winner of the Conn Smythe, Milan fits the bill perfectly.

L.W.L.

Again, thanks to Sportsnetics.com for the assist with most of the stats in this piece.

 

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