New players, system highlight Bruins' first day of camp
BOSTON (AP) The Boston Bruins missed the Stanley Cup playoffs last season for the first time in eight years largely because of their inability to score - they ranked 22nd in the NHL with 2.55 goals per game.
So Boston added a new general manager, picked up a 20-goal scorer in free agency, and, on Friday, showed off some tweaks to their style of play at the first day of training camp.
New general manager Don Sweeney, who took over for Peter Chiarelli last May, reworked the Bruins' roster over the summer and made his biggest splash by signing forward Matt Beleskey to a five-year, $19 million contract as an unrestricted free agent.
Beleskey and the new-look Bruins made their official on-ice debut Friday at TD Garden, as the Bruins held their first practices. Beleskey, who scored a career-high 22 goals for the Anaheim Ducks last season, was thrust into the spotlight as the left wing on a line with offensive-minded Bruins David Krejci and David Pastrnak during one of three practice sessions.
''I'd like to take a lot of responsibility for helping this team,'' Beleskey said. ''Coming in and making a difference, that's what I want to do. They went out and gave me a great contract, and I was very grateful for that, and I'm going to work hard and do my best to repay them for that.''
Many of the 60 players at camp were fresh faces as the Bruins returned from a summer filled with turnover. Popular players Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton were traded, and other role players left via free agency. Beyond Beleskey, Sweeney notably added Dorchester-native Jimmy Hayes at forward from the Panthers for Reilly Smith.
But considering they missed the playoffs by just two points - their 96 points were the most ever by a team that failed to reach the postseason - the Bruins didn't see a need for across-the-board change.
Sweeney retained coach Claude Julien for a ninth season, but with an agreement that there would be adjustments to the coach's system. Those changes were evident during practices Friday, as the Bruins have altered their breakout to move the puck faster up ice.
Julien said the Bruins needed to adapt to keep up with the hockey landscape.
''This game changes and what happened in the past is that we had some great breakouts with the way teams forechecked,'' Julien said. ''The game's evolved, the teams have started forechecking a little bit more aggressively with Ds pinching and stuff like that.''
Returning players are on board with the modifications.
''We were a pretty good hockey team last year, didn't miss the playoffs by much,'' Krejci said. ''We need to play with a little bit quicker pace. If you look at this NHL compared to 10, 15 years ago in the league, there are younger guys, and they're not too big or they're ... skilled and small and fast.''