Bruins surprise each other, Giordano thrives and 4 more NHL articles

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Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who was sidelined for shoulder surgery earlier in the season, watched his team explode out of goal in October and half-jokes he was starting to worry.

“Ah, I hope I don’t come back and ruin this thing!” said a smiling Grzelcyk from his box at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Wednesday.

Of course, Grzelcyk didn’t spoil anything. Later Wednesday, the Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 to end a three-game slide and take their pre-All-Star Break record to 39-7-5.

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The Bruins were riddled with uncertainties stemming from the offseason. They had a new coach, an aging core and injured key players. Boston has been a popular pick to miss or narrowly make the Eastern Conference playoffs. Toronto and the Tampa Bay Lightning would lead the Atlantic Division while the Bruins would take third place alongside the Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings.

Today, 51 games later, the Bruins are on their way to an impressive 134 points. That would set a new NHL record, while their projected 62 wins would tie the Red Wings in 1995-96 and the Lightning in 2018-19 for most all-time. None of the factors identified during the preseason proved to be a problem, as a number of Bruins players – including forward David Pastrnak, goaltender Linus Ullmark and defenseman Hampus Lindholm – are experiencing years careers.

“You couldn’t foresee that,” Grzelcyk said.

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Catalyst for the Bruins’ unexpected dominance: Coach Jim Montgomery urged his defensemen to be more aggressive in the offensive zone.

“He showed us a lot of videos early on and he was always like, ‘Rather than being here, you want to go a little deeper. Or, ‘Instead of having to play rush defense, why don’t you try to keep the puck?’ “Said Grzelcyk. “We’re going to spend an extra 20 seconds in the offensive zone now, where the other team is trying to spin the puck for a change, but they just can’t. This approach allows you to get right back into their throat instead of always being consciously defensive.

Lindholm, who has 33 points in his first full season in Boston, added: “If you look at the teams that have had success over the years, they have five players who are involved both defensively and offensively to help them. to create attack.”

In Grzelcyk’s eyes, the Bruins have two No. 1 defensemen in Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy. “He’s 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and he literally skates like he’s 5-foot-7. It’s crazy,” Grzelcyk said of Lindholm. “He’s also super competitive. He’s played a tough game for us this year – tougher than people on the outside probably realize – and he’s very proud of knocking out the best players.

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One thing Montgomery didn’t have to tinker with was Bruins culture. Led by captain Patrice Bergeron and second-in-command Brad Marchand, who learned from Bruins great retiree Zdeno Chara, the Boston veterans set standards for professionalism, focus and unity every day.

“Everyone adheres to a certain level and a certain responsibility. It starts with our point guards and then it goes down,” defender Brandon Carlo said. “[Montgomery’s]acknowledged that too, that it’s not necessarily something he has to tell us again because we’re already hard enough on ourselves.

Lindholm, who was acquired at closing last year, joked, “It’s not like you come in here and sign a waiver.” Instead, what is acceptable and what is not is obvious and it is a no-brainer to buy culture.

“When you see your leaders and you see your best people doing certain things, that also makes it easier for you, and then you pass it on to everyone who comes after you,” he said. “It’s fun like that, and you do things better in a big group. No one is more valued in this locker room than anyone else. Everyone is on the same side and fighting for the same thing.

Old Man Giordano is still thriving

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What a career arc for Mark Giordano.

In 2004, he was signed as an undrafted free agent. Two years later, at the age of 22, he made his NHL debut with the Calgary Flames. He didn’t get his first vote for the Norris Trophy until he was 30, then won it at 35. At 37, he was a Seattle expansion draft pick. He was traded to Toronto a few months later.

Giordano, now 39, is the oldest skater in the league – and a huge boon. His $800,000 cap is money well spent for the Maple Leafs. In Giordano’s 830 minutes to five in 52 games this season (he hasn’t missed a game yet), the Leafs outscored the opposition 35-24.

“He’s really good at the game,” teammate Morgan Rielly said last week. For Rielly, experience is a big part of Giordano’s game. “He’s really not chasing the game. He is calm. He has a good sense of when things are going well and when things need to change.

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Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe was asked what he’s learned about Giordano since the highly intelligent veteran arrived about 11 months ago.

“I just didn’t appreciate how much he struggled enough, whether it was the shooting blocks and getting into the lanes or the recovery or the competition in front of the net or the physical commitment to killing plays and the cycles,” Keefe said.

At the All-Star break, Giordano leads the Leafs with 100 blocked shots.

“He reads very well to make sure the opposition has to go through him,” Keefe said. “He makes very few mistakes. Defensively, you don’t often notice someone passing him or a bad read.

No one deserves — or needs — the Leafs’ nine-day break more than Giordano. Load management on the track would also be wise. If the Leafs are to finally make a splash in the playoffs, the old man needs to be rested.

The whirlwind continues for Horvat

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All-Star Weekend can be a dizzying few days for players. You will be drawn in all directions to meet fans, sponsors and journalists. There is a social aspect to being in your forties. The part on ice is a gigantic production.

It’s safe to say that no All-Star is as dizzy as Bo Horvat, who was traded from the Vancouver Canucks to the New York Islanders on Monday. He answered questions from the Fort Lauderdale media on Thursday.

“You never think of getting a sales call. Never,” said Horvat, 27. “To get one was really weird. I really didn’t know how to take it. It hasn’t quite happened yet, really, not yet. I think it’s going to be more and more when I (in Long Island) and meet the guys and put the jersey on for the first time.

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Technically, Horvat will don the New York jersey for the first time this weekend. He’s a Pacific Division All-Star, which means he’ll be playing with former teammate Elias Pettersson again. However, the NHL wants him to wear an Isles jersey with his new number 14.

“Four plus one is five and four minus one is three,” is how Horvat and his wife ended up turning 53 in Vancouver after nine out of 14. “I really had to concentrate to write ’14’ instead of ’53’ today,” he said when he signed a jersey in Florida.

Horvat, a future unrestricted free agent, says he hasn’t given much thought to a possible extension. He’s trying to get through the weekend and then focus on the hockey part of the transition. Who can blame him?

parting shots

Vincent Trocheck: Count on the New York Rangers winger to break through offensively after the All-Star break. Trocheck’s shooting percentage is 9.5% this season, up from 12.5% ​​last year and 13.8% in 2020-21. He might be ready for a rebound. He also rang 10 pucks off the post and another off the bar; His 11 total games tie Elias Pettersson (seven posts, four crossbars) for most in the NHL.

Trocheck, who ranks ninth in the league in off-cycle chances per game and 11th in forechecking chances per game, lives around the net. He constantly creates high leverage opportunities. These posts and slats should become goals as soon as possible.

Ministicks CO: Tucker Shedd, a defenseman for the USHL’s Omaha Lancers, is only 18 but he’s already giving back. Shedd runs the Mini Sticks Charitable Organization, a non-profit organization that supports children with cancer. The program offers tickets to Lancers games, a tour of the club’s stadiums, a warm-up bench, a shout out to the overhead video board and a take-home care package.

“I’ve never had to deal with cancer myself, but watching it from the outside makes me realize what they’re going through,” said Shedd, whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the 9 years old. (She’s fine now.) “I know distractions can go a long way. It gives them a night’s rest from what’s going on in their lives. Shedd plans to continue the program at Michigan State when he begins college hockey in the fall.

cousin love: Philadelphia Flyers forward Kevin Hayes grew up surrounded by NHL players. His late older brother Jimmy played in the league and his cousins ​​Keith Tkachuk and Tom Fitzgerald had long careers. It created an interesting dynamic when Keith’s kids, Matthew and Brady, started watching the pros. Guess who the young Tkachuks listened to for hockey advice? “Keith let my brother and I tell them things he wanted to tell them,” Hayes said with a smile during media day Thursday. “They really liked us because we were at Boston College or because we got drafted into the NHL. It was funny that Keith Tkachuk, (arguably) a Hall of Famer, asked us about his kids because his kids weren’t listening.

Takes, Thoughts, and Trends is theScore’s fortnightly ice hockey bag.

John Matisz is theScore’s main collaborator in the NHL. Follow John on Twitter (@MatiszJohn) or contact him by e-mail ([email protected]).


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