Mathew Barzal

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Bruins youth movement on display in season-opening win vs. Predators

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The Boston Bruins were without veteran forwards Patrice Bergeron and David Backes on Thursday. And yet they still held on for a 4-3 victory over the defending Western Conference champions from Nashville.

This eventually changed with Brad Marchand‘s late third-period goal (and the winner, as it turned out), but for the longest time in this game, the oldest player to score for the Bruins was David Pastrnak. At the age of 21.

He celebrated that birthday in May, right after a breakout 34-goal season that earned him a long-term deal at six years and a total of $40 million. On a night the Bruins were missing two important, experienced players in Bergeron and Backes, it was Boston’s youth movement that came to the forefront with a productive outing.

It started with Pastrnak and his power play blast before the midway point of the first period. That’s a good start for him after entering this season with added pressure thanks to that lucrative deal. It continued with the first career NHL goals for Jake DeBrusk, playing in his first career game with the big club, and Charlie McAvoy, who also had an assist on Boston’s opening goal.

That’s a promising sign for the Bruins, albeit after one game. Bergeron, one of the best two-way forwards in the game, and Backes are important pieces in Boston’s lineup, but when they were not available, the Bruins’ future stepped into the spotlight and delivered against an opponent with high expectations for this season.

And remember, DeBrusk was taken in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft, when the Bruins management was criticized for a rather curious trio of selections in that opening round — Jakub Zboril, DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn — when someone like Mathew Barzal was still on the board.

DeBrusk finished this game with two points. McAvoy not only scored a key goal to expand Boston’s lead in the second period, but he played 22 minutes.

Those are performances the Bruins must be pleased with. Yes, it’s just one game, and the key moving forward will be to get those outings on a consistent basis.

Still, despite some anxious moments at the end, it’s a positive start.

Barzal, Strome, Patrick among invitees to Canada’s World Juniors camp

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Mathew BarzalDylan Strome, Nolan Patrick, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Tyson Jost, Sam Steel, Jake Bean and Thomas Chabot are among the recognizable names that have been invited  to Canada’s World Juniors selection camp in Blainville, Quebec, from Dec. 10-14.

Canada is hosting the 2017 tournament (in Montreal and Toronto), hoping to bounce back after getting knocked out in the quarterfinals by Finland in 2016.

Patrick, likely to be selected first overall in the 2017 NHL draft, is the youngest invitee. The 18-year-old forward is currently out with an upper-body injury, so his participation at the camp remains in question.

Click here for the full camp roster.

Related:

Isles return Barzal to junior club

Coyotes send Dylan Strome back to junior

Draft-day shocker: Blue Jackets take Dubois over Puljujarvi

Let’s find John Tavares some scoring help

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Newsday’s Arthur Staple reports that the New York Islanders are “trying hard” to find a forward amid increasing scrutiny of head coach Jack Capuano and their general scorers.

That’s a great idea, because sometimes it’s tough to wonder how John Tavares doesn’t lose his mind considering the lack of support around him.

Although to get a goal-goalscorer, Staple says that GM Garth Snow might need to offer one of Joshua Ho-Sang, Anthony Beauvillier or Mathew Barzal, so keep that in mind as we take a quick run through some potential options for the Islanders:

Names floating around

Some other possibilities

  • Evander Kane‘s name has been attached to trade rumors involving the Vancouver Canucks, but why shouldn’t the Islanders consider him as a reclamation project?
  • Radim Vrbata seemingly plays his best hockey in Arizona, yet the team is always looking to add prospects and/or picks. Perhaps he’d be a lower-rent option, especially since his cheap deal ends after this season? Staple believes the Isles had someone watching the Flames-Coyotes game on Wednesday, for what it’s worth.
  • James van Riemsdyk recently enjoyed arguably his best game as a member of the Maple Leafs. With a roster brimming with young talent that could eventually push him down the lineup, perhaps the Leafs would consider parting with him.
  • This one’s maybe the biggest shot in the dark, but what about Andrew Cogliano? The Anaheim Ducks are always trying to save some bucks, so perhaps the speedy forward could help in Brooklyn? He does already have five goals in 17 games, though on the other hand, he only nine all of last season.

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Consider that a bit of brainstorming on this issue for the Islanders, but there are plenty of other options. There’s still hope that Snow will pull another rabbit out of his hat when it comes to identifying a waiver wire bargain, among other possibilities. Or, perhaps instead of trading a player like Ho-Sang, they should call him up and see if he can score himself. Ditto for Michael Dal Colle.

Either way, something needs to change, or else people may start a #SaveJohnTavares hashtag.

Feel free to add your ideas in the comments.

Not ready yet: Isles return Barzal to junior club

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Over the summer, Islanders prospect Mathew Barzal was touted as a wild card who could possibly help lessen the blow of losing Frans Nielsen to free agency.

But after appearing in just two games for the NHL club, Barzal has been returned to his junior club in Seattle.

The Isles announced the move this morning. Barzal, 19, hasn’t played since Oct. 26, when he logged just 9:20 against the Canadiens. He was a minus-2 in that game, a 3-2 victory for Montreal.

His only other game, his NHL debut on Oct. 15 against the Capitals, Barzal took a bizarre penalty for playing the puck while standing inside the penalty box.

Two games. No points. Three penalties.

“Honestly, aside from the penalties, I thought my game was pretty solid on both ends,” he told The Province newspaper recently. “I created a couple of chances in Washington — a pass to Johnny Boychuk and he hit the post — and defensively my line was pretty solid. But at the end of the day I have to produce.”

And he has to play, which he’ll get to do now, albeit in the WHL.

The Isles play in Tampa Bay on Thursday.

No production from Ladd among many concerns for Isles

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The New York Islanders went into last night’s home game looking to prove Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to Tampa Bay wasn’t really who they were.

Alas, it’s hard to say they succeeded, after a 3-2 shootout defeat in which they were outshot 42-27 by the visitors from Philadelphia. With the loss, the Isles fell to 4-6-1 on the season, with possession stats that rank among the worst in the NHL.

What’s the biggest concern for head coach Jack Capuano?

It’s how to replace the offense that Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, and Matt Martin took when they left in free agency

“Where are we going to get point production?” Capuano asked reporters. “One hundred and thirty-four points out of our lineup that we lost. Now we have to find a way. Like everything gets magnified, I get it. You guys are talking about the (losses) lately…but we have to find a way to get some balanced offense in our hockey team.”

The hope was that free-agent signing Andrew Ladd would help, along with youngsters like Ryan Strome, Mathew Barzal, and possibly even Michael Dal Colle or Josh Ho-Sang.

That was the hope. Now here’s the reality:

— Ladd has just one assist in 11 games, which sure isn’t what the Isles were banking on when they gave the 30-year-old winger a seven-year, $38.5 million contract on July 1.

— As for the youngsters, Strome has a respectable two goals and three assists, but Barzal has only dressed for two games, while Dal Colle and Ho-Sang are both in the AHL.

John Tavares leads the Isles with five goals, which is predictable. Dennis Seidenberg, a veteran defenseman they signed on the cheap, is second with four. Great for Seidenberg, but probably not sustainable.

— Let’s forget the offense for a moment, because the Isles are tied for 20th in goals-against (3.00), and that may actually be their biggest issue. Neither Thomas Greiss (2-3-0, .908) nor Jaroslav Halak (2-3-1, .908) have been particularly good in net, which isn’t great for GM Garth Snow, who’s trying to trade the latter.

— The Isles are surrendering 31.8 shots per game. That’s the ninth-highest total in the league, and without good goaltending, it’s no recipe for success.

The good news is that the Isles host Edmonton Saturday and Vancouver Monday, and those are both winnable games, especially the second one.

But then comes a very tough stretch in their schedule, including one trip to Florida and another to California:

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Where they’ll be after those nine games remains to be seen. But they’re already in a hole, so the desperation factor better be high.