Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 30: Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins celebrates with Charlie McAvoy #73 after scoring a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period of the preseason game at TD Garden on September 30, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Day 1 of Bruins training camp at Warrior Ice Arena did not come and go without some echoing thuds along the glass.

The loudest appeared to come in the first session of a two-session afternoon in Brighton, with Brad Marchand fighting for time and space with defensemen Jackson Edward and Charlie McAvoy.

Pinballing off the two defenders, Marchand found himself tied up behind McAvoy, and with a little help from his stick planted right into the back of McAvoy, Marchand shoved the B’s top defenseman down to the ice with authority. McAvoy, whose helmet popped off in the dust-up, remained down for a few moments before he collected himself and returned right back to action as if nothing happened.

It’s not your average ‘Day 1’ kind of skirmish, but it was a welcomed sight for Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery, who has made his objective clear when it comes to this year’s Bruins squad.

“We want physical,” Montgomery said following the first day of camp. “We need to be a more physical team this year than we were last year, in our opinion. So we like the physicality and guys are fighting for jobs. So, you know, there should be physicality out there when the drill requires it.”

Physicality can mean a lot of things. By 2023 standards, physicality doesn’t mean dropping the gloves every two minutes, but rather being grimy, greasy, and downright nasty in high-danger areas. The Bruins learned that the hard way in their all-too-brief playoff run a year ago, and it’s appears to be the biggest lesson Montgomery took from the stunning defeat.

“Well, I think we’re a little bit of a bigger and heavier team. But also, we just think that we need to be more physical at net-fronts, offensively and defensively,” Montgomery offered. “We saw that as an area to improve from what we learned from the playoffs last year.”

And while the Bruins have done their part to beef that up with their newest additions, it doesn’t hurt when the two leading that charge are your team captain and your do-it-all defenseman.

  • An early glimpse at the fourth line?

    NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 03: John Beecher #19 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on October 03, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 03: John Beecher #19 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on October 03, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

  • If you want to read into anything from the first day of training camp — and, boy, lemme tell ‘ya, that can be a dangerous and potentially worthless game — it’s that the Bruins stuck Johnny Beecher between Milan Lucic and Jakub Lauko for the second session of the afternoon.

    When it comes to Lucic and Lauko, it stands to reason that these are the current in-house favorites for the two fourth-line wing jobs. One of them (Lucic) is actually a lock for that role, too. And Lauko spent the majority of his 2022-23 season with the Big B’s a year ago, so he should be considered to be someone on solid NHL footing.

    So, to put Beecher with them out of the gate suggests that the Bruins are at the very least hopeful that he will indeed push for an NHL roster spot this season.

    “We’re just looking to see if there’s chemistry, right?” Montgomery said. “Like [seeing] how is Beecher going to be able to play with guys we expect to be on our team this year.”

    For what it’s worth, P-Bruins head coach Ryan Mougenel heaped a ton of praise on Beecher when discussing him ahead of last weekend’s Prospects Challenge in Buffalo.

    “John Beecher’s growth for us, it’s been great,” Mougenel said. “I would say, he’s not the only player to come down to Providence and and I wouldn’t necessarily say struggle, but maybe have a little bit of identity issue early on. And by the second half he was our go-to guy down there for a lot of situations. His skating obviously separates him from most of his peers down there, the ability to hang onto a puck and get in and be first to puck is something that he did really well. And then the one thing we really liked about John by the end of the year was his willingness to play a physical brand of hockey.”

    Something else to consider here: The Bruins are desperate for another left-shooting faceoff option to emerge. As it stands right now, they’re loaded on righties but short on lefties. Pavel Zacha is by all means the only go-to lefty center option the team has available, especially with the Bruins viewing Trent Frederic as more wing than center. The Bruins could ask Frederic to take some faceoffs, but it’s never been a strength of his, so the door is open for a lefty to push their way onto this roster by winning their battles at the dot.

    “We only have a couple of left-shot forwards right now that are comfortable taking draws,” Montgomery noted. “And if we started getting one off the top, Zacha, if he’s going to be a left-shot center, well, we’re going to need somebody else in certain situations to get out there.”

    On Thursday, Montgomery noted that winning faceoffs would “absolutely” be Beecher’s pathway to a spot on this year’s NHL team.

    And Beecher, drafted with a first-round pick in 2019, has put up 12 goals and 28 points in 70 AHL games with Providence, is more than used to grinding it out in a bottom-six role.

    “I think if I’m to contribute to the team this year and be able to help them, [the fourth line] is probably where I’m going to do the best,” Beecher offered. “And, I mean, it’s not a role that I have any problem playing. I’ve played on so many high-powered offenses. You look back at my time at USA and then over at Michigan, I was always kind of playing that power forward role, being heavy and hard to play against in the D-zone.”

  • Mar 30, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Jakub Lauko (94) controls the puck against Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Kirill Marchenko (86) during the first period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 30, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Jakub Lauko (94) controls the puck against Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Kirill Marchenko (86) during the first period at the TD Garden. (Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

    Lauko, meanwhile, couldn’t help but be starstruck following his first skate with Lucic.

    “I mean, I’m sitting right next to him and like you look at him and even when you’re his teammates, like you get like a little bit of like… he’s a scary guy,” Lauko admitted with a laugh. “Like, I’m not gonna lie. But it’s good. When I was younger and was watching hockey, he was entertaining. You know, like that Ryan Miller hit, it’s something that was entertaining and you wanted to see.”

    But once the terror of meeting the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Lucic subsided came the identifying of what could make the duo an effective winger tandem for any center that the Bruins plug between the two in 2023-24.

    “If it’s all gonna go go well, I might be staying here, right? It’s no guarantees here. But it’s always possible that we can play together, so it’s nice to have somebody with a couple of reps early this camp and just get to get to know him a little bit better,” Lauko said. “Get to know him on the ice [and learn] what’s the position [and] which place he’s trying to be at. It’s a good experience to see how I can play with him.”

    As for the ‘might be staying here’ part of the answer, Lauko added that he can’t allow himself to think that anything is guaranteed, even after having an NHL breakthrough a year ago.

    “Since I was younger, I never took anything for granted,” Lauko said. “So I’m always looking at it like this is day one today and tomorrow’s day two and is a brand new, whole new day. So I’m not looking at it like it’s something that’s guaranteed that I’m going to be here. I’m just taking it day by day. And I’ve always done that. It’s just my approach.”

    As for how he guarantees his days moving forward, Montgomery knows what Lauko needs to bring and what he does bring when he’s on his game.

    “His speed, his tenacity,” Montgomery said when asked about what Lauko does to stand out. “He’s a pretty relentless player. Allows us to play fast because he checks fast and even with the puck, you know he supports plays fast offensively.”

  • Heinen ready for second chance with Bruins

    Jan 5, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Danton Heinen (43) warms up before a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 5, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Danton Heinen (43) warms up before a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports)

  • The locker room at Warrior Ice Arena featured a trip back in time, it would have appeared, as Boston’s room featured a stall for Danton Heinen, and in his familiar spot, for the first time in over three years.

    And there Heinen, who accepted a tryout offer from the Bruins earlier this month, stood, answering questions about the seemingly unlikely reunion between the sides.

    “I didn’t really think about it too much,” Heinen said on Monday when asked if he ever thought he’d be back with the Bruins. “I didn’t know. You never know how life works, and I’m happy to be here and I’m excited for the opportunity.”

    Traded to Anaheim in a one-for-one swap for Nick Ritchie back in 2020, Heinen’s return to the Bruins comes after what was a 193-game odyssey between the Ducks and Penguins, and with no ill will from Heinen’s viewpoint.

    “It’s a business. [Getting traded] caught me off guard a little bit, but that’s the nature of the beast,” Heinen noted. “Those things happen. I loved my time here, and it is what it is. No hard feelings, and I’m happy to be back.”

    The damage Heinen did against the Bruins — three goals and four points in six games — in the head-to-heads following his trade out of Boston would tell you otherwise. But leaving any potential ‘hard feelings’ at the door is something that Heinen’s had to get used to of late. After all, it was after a career-high 18 goals in 2021-22 that Pittsburgh opted not to retain Heinen’s negotiation rights (the chief reason being they didn’t want to pay him what he was likely worth if they did retain his RFA rights), only to bring him back for 2022-23 at a much lower price.

    The production dipped from Year 1 to Year 2 in Pittsburgh, too, with Heinen acknowledging the issues and problems that came his way following a 18-goal first season with the Penguins.

    Some of the issues that plagued Heinen towards the end of his first Boston run came to the table in Pittsburgh, too. After beginning last season with three goals in five games, Heinen went 34 straight games without finding the back of the net. And after breaking that drought with goals in back-to-back games, Heinen then went goalless for the 21 games that followed. Consistent, it was not.

    But in Boston, Heinen has the chance to rebound should he secure a contract from the club. And there’s no denying that some promising signs are there. Heinen has experience (and had chemistry) with both Brad Marchand and Charlie Coyle — and on different lines — during his initial Boston run. (Coyle was actually the first person to text Heinen when word of the PTO broke.) Heinen is also reuniting with his college coach Jim Montgomery, and admitted that that played a factor in his move decision to take the Bruins up on their offer.

    “It for sure did,” Heinen said when asked if his familiarity with Montgomery played a factor in his decision to accept the tryout offer from the Bruins. “I know he’s a smart coach, and I know most of the coaching staff here and some of the guys, so it’s good to have some familiar faces [around].”

    Montgomery, meanwhile, knows that Heinen can bring some added pop to Boston’s bottom-six should he fight his way into an NHL contract with the club.

    “At Denver, he was our best player. I had him for two years and when he got there, all of a sudden we went from a real poor offensive team to a much better one. I know at this level he’s not the same player he was at the college level, and that’s true for everybody. And he’s learned,” Montgomery said. “But if I look at the team that lost to the Blues, he played on the third line and had 12 points, I believe, in 21 games in the playoffs. So he was an important part that helped the Bruins get to the Finals.

    “So this is someone that’s been proven to do a lot of good things and yet at the NHL level and we need to see him show that why he needs the opportunity to be a Bruin again.”

    Heinen skated on a line with Georgii Merkulov and Jake DeBrusk in Thursday’s session.

  • Jeremy Swayman shows off new mask

    Jan 5, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA;  Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) looks on during a time out in the second period against the Los Angeles Kings at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 5, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) looks on during a time out in the second period against the Los Angeles Kings at Arena. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Bruins netminder Jeremy Swayman may not be the gear-head that creasemate Linus Ullmark has been throughout his time with the Bruins, but the fourth-year B’s netminder was more than happy to show off his new mask following Thursday’s training camp session.

    Swayman, who is playing this upcoming season on a one-year deal worth just under $3.5 million, is coming off a 2022-23 campaign that included a 24-6-4 record and .920 save percentage. His 24 wins were the 15th-most in hockey, while his .920 ranked fourth among qualifying goaltenders. Swayman’s 11.63 goals saved above average at five-on-five also ranked 13th in the NHL (per NaturalStatTrick), while his .870 high-danger save percentage was tied for the fifth-best figure among the group of 40 goalies with at least 1,500 five-on-five minutes played.

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