BRIGHTON, Mass – The good news for the Boston Bruins was that there plenty of positives in the first intra-squad scrimmage on Thursday morning at the abbreviated training camp at Warrior Ice Arena. The pace was excellent, the Bruins didn’t suffer any injuries to speak of and the defense activation in the offensive zone was there after the B’s coaching staff had been preaching that at camp.
“The pace was excellent start to finish. Our intention was to go two 30 minutes halves and with three lines we were hoping to keep our pace up. They did a great job,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I liked the activation of our D. I thought they were up the ice a lot trying to be involved in the offense. I thought our O-zone play with the D was good and crisp.
We finished some plays around the net, so that was good. We didn’t expect guys to be running each other, but the puck battles were good. For the first scrimmage after a long time off, I thought it was really good intensity and pace. That’s what we’re looking for.”
The Black Team ended up taking home bragging rights with a 3-1 win highlighted by a Matt Filipe breakaway goal, and a backhanded top shelf finish from Nick Ritchie while all alone in the middle of the slot. The hulking Ritchie actually looked pretty good skating with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith during the scrimmage and could be the trio we see start the season on the third line. Steve Kampfer had a goal for Team White finishing off a scrum around the front of the net, but they fell short in the scrimmage despite boasting newly minted captain Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and Tuukka Rask within their group.
Here are a few thoughts and observations from my firsthand viewing of the scrimmage:
*Anders Bjork has made it something of a habit of performing well in these training camp scenarios, and the speedy winger was once again noticeable in Thursday’s scrimmage. Bjork had several scoring chances and was regularly buzzing around the net and getting into the danger areas that sometimes elude him during the regular season. Bjork showed good second effort and grittiness to his game, a quality that could really allow him to take his game to another level if he can bring it consistently this season.
*Tons of chances for Ondrej Kase, who had a stuff attempt at the post at one point and had a couple of good looks from the slot area during the second half of the scrimmage. In general, both Kase and Jake DeBrusk enjoyed an abundance of scoring chances in the scrimmage while skating on either side of David Krejci. That’s absolutely a good thing, but we also saw both Kase and DeBrusk get chances with Krejci last summer without many plays where they finished things off with a goal. The question is whether Kase can consistently finish scoring plays or not and that’s a really essential thing to be answered.
*Steve Kampfer is another Boston Bruins player that seems to be at his best in the training camp environment, and he was again very good on Thursday. He was jumping into offensive plays, joining the rush and scored on a play where he crashed the front of the net after his teammates had taken the puck hard to the net. It’s too bad for Kampfer because there are so many Bruins D-men signed to NHL contracts that it’s going to take a lot to keep him in Boston, but he might be an ideal candidate for the Bruins taxi squad beyond the 23-man active roster.
*As far as the young defensemen go, Bruce Cassidy was most complimentary of Urho Vaakanainen (“I thought he was excellent.”) after the scrimmage was over. Vaakanainen moved the puck quickly and managed to dance around pressure with his skating ability. The former first round pick didn’t factor significantly into the offense, but he was also skating with a rookie defenseman in Nick Wolff. Jakub Zboril was just okay during the scrimmage and had some issues moving the puck efficiently at times, and Jeremy Lauzon wasn’t really noticeable at all. Although, I suppose going under the radar as a young defensemen with a quiet performance isn’t exactly the worst thing in the world.
*It was a quiet, quiet scrimmage for Jack Studnicka skating with Patrice Bergeron. Anders Bjork garnered the most attention with the speed and grittiness he showed in the scrimmage from the left-wing position. But Studnicka was quiet without much in the way of offensive chances or significant puck possession while playing the right wing on the top line. Studnicka can afford to move along gradually in this camp given that Pastrnak is out of the lineup for the next few weeks, but the 21-year-old would also undoubtedly like to make more of a splash if he could.
*Jeremy Swayman continues to look like he might be the real deal as a future goaltender for the Boston Bruins. He made some quality saves, but he also just looks fast, athletic and technically sound when moving around in the crease. That’s something to keep an eye on this year with Tuukka Rask in the last year of his contract.
Here are the line combos and D-pairings at the Bruins scrimmage on Thursday with Brad Marchand sitting it out for precautionary reasons: