Can the Bruins’ defense get up to speed?

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It sounds like the Boston Bruins were taking notes when they watched mobile defensemen Duncan Keith and Victor Hedman square off in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

GM Don Sweeney isn’t asking his group to impersonate Bobby Orr next season, but it sounds like he’s asking for a more active approach, as the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa reports in this interesting piece.

Most obviously, he wants defensemen to skate a bit more with the puck in transition, easing things on the Bruins’ forwards.

“I think they have to,” Sweeney said. “At times, we probably got a little bit too stationary on our breakouts. We need to be in motion a little bit. That means our forwards will be in motion a little bit, because teams were able to smother the walls, pinch, and pre-pinch.”

Shinzawa provides a few additional sensory details about how such a modified scheme might work, at least ideally:

The tweaks are meant to shift the danger level away from the net. Defensemen will be more active, perhaps up the ice and closer to the walls. Forwards will not have to retreat as far to funnel pucks into favorable real estate. There will be greater challenges to zone entries, similar to how MBTA police close down on fare evaders. The goal, as Sweeney likes to say, is to create anxiety for opponents up the ice.

Let’s be honest, though: it’s reasonable to wonder if the Bruins really boast the personnel to make such a modernization work.

(This idea also turns the knife in a little deeper when it comes to losing Dougie Hamilton.)

Looking at the structure of this team, is it better to try to keep up with the Joneses or merely try to do what you do best? After all, there’s always the possibility that Claude Julien, Zdeno Chara and David Krejci will see better days after a bumpy season (which featured serious injury issues for Chara and Krejci).

Striving for a more modern approach is understandable, but sometimes sports teams lose their identity and gain little in return by trying to dance to the beat of someone else’s drum.

Either way, it’s an intriguing development to ponder in 2015-16. The full article is well worth a read, by the way.

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner)

Bruins in talks with veteran d-man Zidlicky

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Per TVA, Boston GM Don Sweeney said he’s had discussions about bringing defenseman Marek Zidlicky to Boston.

Zidlicky, 38, split last year between New Jersey and Detroit, and showed relatively well upon getting dealt to the playoff-bound Wings. He had 11 points in 21 regular season games — averaging over 18 minutes a night — but was a bit of a disappointment in the playoffs, going scoreless in the first six games of the Tampa Bay series before missing Game 7 with an injury.

The former Wild and Predators blueliner has played each of the last two seasons on one-year, $3 million deals with an additional $1M in performance bonuses.

In Boston, Zidlicky would provide even more veteran experience to a group that already includes 38-year-old Zdeno Chara and 34-year-old Dennis Seidenberg. He’d also fill some of the offensive and PP duties that Dougie Hamilton had prior to his trade to Calgary.

While some are clamoring for the B’s to go younger to fill the Hamilton void — like, say, still-unsigned UFA Cody Franson — Zidlicky would likely be a cheaper option, and one seeking less term.

Related: B’s among five or six teams in on Franson, who’s ‘sick of doing one-year deals’

Gillette Stadium will host Bruins-Habs alumni game ahead of Winter Classic

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Retired greats from two of the most storied franchises in NHL history will renew their rivalry on Dec. 31 in an outdoor game at Gillette Stadium, the league announced today.

At this time it’s not known who will be included in the contest, but Hall of Famer Ray Bourque is looking forward to the event.

Boston and Montreal have faced off in more than 900 games, including their meetings over 34 postseason series. They’ve also battled against each other in more Game 7s (nine) than any other combination of teams in the NHL, MLB, and NBA.

Boston will become the first franchise to host the Winter Classic twice after playing against the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park in 2010. It is also the first time the Montreal Canadiens will be featured in a Winter Classic game and the third time the event will pit two Original Six squads against each other.

Gillette Stadium is home to the New England Patriots and seats 68,756.

“It is a true honor and privilege to host the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®,” New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said, during what has proved to be a busy day for him. “Since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002, we have been fortunate to host many special and memorable events. We are thrilled that the NHL and the Bruins wanted to bring a Bruins-Canadiens NHL Winter Classic to our stadium.”

The Winter Classic is set for Jan. 1 at 1:00 p.m. ET and will air on NBC.

Senyshyn out to show Bruins were right to select him in first round

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The Boston Bruins may have gone off the radar with their 15th overall pick in last month’s NHL Draft, selecting Zach Senyshyn out of the Ontario Hockey League. But the 18-year-old winger seems out to prove critics wrong.

Senyshyn was well down the order in Central Scouting’s Final Rankings, sitting 38th amongst North American skaters heading into the draft. But the Bruins, on what was an eventful day for that franchise to say the least, used the 15th overall pick and third straight selection in the opening round, to take the rookie winger from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

This past season, Senyshyn’s first full season in the OHL, he scored 26 goals and 45 points in 66 games. According to multiple reports, he also had a strong showing at Boston’s prospects camp.

“It was nice to be able to show what I could do, and go out there and score a couple of goals,” Senyshyn told CSNNE.com.

“The Bruins showed a lot of belief in my abilities, and I have a lot of belief in my own abilities. It was nice to see their belief in me, and I wanted to show them that they did right by taking me in that spot. And not just by scoring a couple of goals in a game, but also by being really attentive in all of the on-ice sessions during the week.”

Bruins’ Neely: ‘I think we can be a playoff team’

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It’s been an eventful few months for the Boston Bruins, and that may be an understatement.

After missing the playoffs this past spring, the firing of Peter Chiarelli, the hiring of Don Sweeney as the new general manager and two major trades at the NHL Draft that saw Dougie Hamilton sent to Calgary and Milan Lucic to L.A., Bruins’ president Cam Neely apparently sees his team as one that could potentially make the post-season in 2016.

“There’s lots of parity in the East,” Neely told the Boston Herald. “It’s going to be tight, it’s going to be a challenge. I think we can be a playoff team. I don’t want to sound like that’s our only goal, just to be a playoff team. That’s not a very high goal. We’re past that.

“But I want to see us improve certainly from where we were last year. I think if guys can continue to improve — (David) Pastrnak, (Brett) Connolly, (Ryan) Spooner — I don’t see why we can’t have a very good year this year.”

Two years after appearing in the Stanley Cup Final — which was two years after Boston won the championship in 2011 — the Bruins missed out on the 2015 playoffs by two points while finishing 23rd in the league in scoring.

Their failure to qualify for the playoffs ushered in change, particularly in the front office. However, the club’s moves at the draft and in the days after brought instant and heavy criticism.

Based on Sweeney’s comments Friday, the Bruins could still go after available free agents prior to the start of the season.

“There are still players out there that may fit,” said Sweeney, as per NESN.com. “You have conversations with agents about possibilities. I think we’re comfortable with where we are in creating internal competition, but I’m not going to stop sort of asking in areas that we can continue to look at.”