Youth movement underway on Boston’s blueline

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The Boston Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup with a defense featuring Zdeno Chara (33 years old at the time), Tomas Kaberle (32), Andrew Ference (31), Dennis Seidenberg (29), Johnny Boychuk (27) and the baby of the group, Adam McQuaid (24).

Heading into the 2013-14 season, the unit will be decidedly younger.

While four key parts still remain — Chara, Seidenberg, Boychuk and McQuaid — there’s a group of kids that will be leaned upon to fill the void.

Dougie Hamilton, who just turned 20 in June, is one, along with breakout playoff sensations Torey Krug (22) and Matt Bartkowski (25).

The trio only has 65 combined games of regular season experience — and most of that comes from Hamilton, who was the lone youngster on a veteran defense last season.

This year, Bartkowski acknowledged they’ll all be in line for more playing time.

“It’s shaping up that way and looking that way,” he told ESPN Boston. “I think Kruger, Dougie and me have gained a lot of experience the past year. Especially during the playoffs, Kruger and me gained so much experience, and you saw what he did. And then Dougie played a lot in the regular season.

“I think we gained their trust in the playoffs and they’re able to play us in more situations now. Their confidence in us rose, and because of that our confidence skyrocketed.”

Boston has taken a slow approach to remodeling its defense. Kaberle was allowed to walk following the Stanley Cup win, as was Ference following the 2013 Cup Final appearance.

Other veterans have come and gone — Shane Hnidy, Joe Corvo, Mike Mottau, Greg Zanon, Wade Redden — but with little available cap space and a dearth of defensemen on the open market, Boston must now to rely on its youngsters (two of whom, Hamilton and Krug, are playing on entry-level deals; Bartkowski makes a mere $650,000.)

It’s a movement that GM Peter Chiarelli is excited about.

“I’m okay with it and we do have a different look to our D. There is a freshness, a young look to it. If things aren’t working out as the season progresses I may look into that, but I’m okay with it,” Chiarelli told CSN New England. “What I saw with these guys is there’s going to be some bumps along the road.

“But the new guys that I think will be in the lineup are competitive. They’re young, they’re all good skaters and they’re going to make some mistakes. But I like what they bring in general.”

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.