May 1, 2012

Fischler Report: Explaining the Bruins' first-round exit

By Stan Fischler

Having followed the Bruins all season, our Beantown correspondent, Jared Lane, offers this view of the defeated Champs.

There’s little reason for panic in Beantown. The Bruins can recover after a quick re-tooling this off-season.

GM Pete Chiarelli would be wise to find a roster spot for potential franchise defensemen Dougie Hamilton, the Bruins 2011 first-round Draft pick.

It's apparent that Tyler Seguin is ready to assume the scoring leadership.

His combination of size, speed and skill make him a prime candidate to be the next of young superstars to enter "elite" status (a la the 2011-12 version of Claude Giroux).

"I have improved with experience and confidence,” says Seguin. “It dates back to last summer, working out and knowing what I needed to do.

“And with experience comes confidence. But I don’t want to take that too far and make irrational plays. There are still a lot of things I have to get better at. I’ve learned to be smarter in the defensive-zone; there’s a big emphasis on two-way hockey."

Bringing that attitude to the rink every day, he’ll surpass his totals of 29-38-67.

Examining the nature of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, I note that things happen over the course of a seven-game series that can shift momentum.

In terms of the Bruins seven-game defeat, their opponent deserves a lot of credit.

The Capitals did an excellent job supporting their young netminder, Braden Holtby, and matching the physicality of the Bruins.

Washington limited Boston’s scoring chances by blocking shots and clearing all rebounds. Holtby was able to take care of the rest.

Moving forward, the Bruins will have to use this experience as a lesson learned and return hungry next season to reclaim their presence atop the Northeast Division.

As Bruins alternate captain Andrew Ference stated, “There are no glaring needs, you work with what you got. We had enough to work with to accomplish what we did last year.

“The team is relatively the same and we'll be more experienced next year. Everybody has to pull his weight. Everyone has to play to his potential."

THE NEWEST RANGERS STAR – CHRIS KREIDER

As the Rangers pursue their Cup crusade, our national columnist Tom Murray provides an inside look at New York’s newest superstar Chris Kreider.

This was a week or so before Christmas in 2008 as my two sons and I headed to Andover, Massachusetts to spend a few days with one of my oldest friends.

I first met Dean Boylan a lifetime ago, when we were in college. I was a goalie at BC.

Dean was a defenseman at Yale, where he would go on to become team captain and after graduating, continue his hockey career as a professional. In his first year he played for the New York Golden Blades/New Jersey Knights of the fledgling World Hockey Association, a raw rookie paired on the blueline with a future Hall-of-Famer named Harry Howell.

Dean, the hockey coach at Phillips Andover Academy, invited me and my boys to visit while his team was playing in a local holiday tournament.

We arrived at his house right around dinner time and the entire team was there, huddled around the TV set, watching the Bruins play the Leafs while Dean’s wife Vicki -- an amazing cook -- kept pulling gargantuan vats of pasta, meatballs and chicken parmesan out of the oven.

Tommy was 12 back then. Leigh had just turned 11.

Both have vivid memories of that night and the days that followed, especially the games we watched Andover play and the 17-year-old kid on their team named Chris Kreider who was so clearly superior to anyone else on the ice.

We didn’t know it at the time, of course, but the kid was six months away from becoming the Rangers 19th overall selection in the 2009 Entry Draft, a 6-2, 200-pound prodigy.

“He was huge,” says Tommy, now 16, who plays right wing and center on his high school team.

“He had this combination of size and speed and strength I’d never seen before from someone that age. He cycled around the ice when he was on offense and he was really good defensively.”

Leigh remembers Kreider as being big, too. “But I was only about four feet tall back then,” he says, “so everyone was big to me.”

But what he remembers even more is what a nice kid Kreider was, asking the boys about their hockey careers, always going out of his way to deliver a fist pump as he headed to or from the ice.

Dean called me on Sunday afternoon while I was in a hockey store with both boys, picking up some tape before their game. “I just got a call from some guy named Brooks in New York,” he said. “Do you know him?”

It was Larry Brooks of the New York Post, looking for some background for the terrific piece he wrote on Monday, Kreider’s 21st birthday.

The story was about Kreider’s mercurial journey these last three weeks: The second national championship for his BC Eagles in his three years on the team, his startling debut with the Rangers, the two game-winning goals in six playoff games.

But the story was also about the coaches who recognized the greatness in this kid and nurtured it.

And the one thing they all seem to agree on is, as great a player as he is on the ice, he’s an even better person off it -- dedicated and humble, self-effacing and eager to learn.

Boylan had a great line in Brooksie’s story: “He was a pleasure to coach, but I’m sure God had a lot more to do with Chris being where he is than I did.”

He may be right about that. But the hunch here is Kreider would say Boylan had more to do with his development, on and off the ice, than his former coach would ever admit.

And I’d guess the same is true with another of Boylan’s former players who’s done pretty well for himself in the NHL.

His name is Cory Schneider -- who also went on to star at BC -- and it’s all but a foregone conclusion that he will be the starting goalie for the Vancouver Canucks when another hockey season begins in the Fall.

“Wouldn’t it be amazing if Chris and Cory ever played each other for the Stanley Cup?” Vicki gushed over the phone a few days ago. “I don’t think I could watch. I’d be so nervous!”

Right now Vicki and Dean don’t have to worry about that. They can just marvel at Kreider along with the rest of us.

And later on this summer, Chris, Cory and a crowd of other former Andover players will start calling their old coach, wondering when the annual gathering will be at the house in Andover. Vicki will make way too much food.

And everyone will sit around under the stars and tell stories and laugh and most of all, cherish the memories that will stay with them forever.

GOSSIP

The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons writes: “Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman will have to bite his lip next summer and invite Mike Smith to the Olympic training camp, should Smith continue to play this kind of goal for the Coyotes. Smith, you may remember, was waived by Yzerman, and then offered a pay cut to remain in Tampa Bay. He declined and signed with Phoenix. Meanwhile, Tampa needs a goalie.” …

And speaking of goalies, don’t expect the Bruins to move Tim Thomas. For one thing, last year’s Conn Smythe Trophy winner still has the goods and remains a better puck-stopper than Tuuka Rask. And for another, Rask has yet to prove that he can sustain a full season without injury. …

A pressing question that will haunt Bruins fans all summer: What happened to Milan Lucic and David Krejci in the playoffs?  And, why did the Capitals third and fourth lines outplay their Beantown counterparts?