NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his first weekly appearance of the season Thursday on Middays with MFB, following Wednesday night’s Bruins opener.

Pierre McGuire

Pierre McGuire

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his first weekly appearance of the season Thursday on Middays with MFB, following Wednesday night’s Bruins opener. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

McGuire said there is reason to believe the Bruins, who opened with a 2-1 victory over the Flyers, will be able to overcome the losses of Jarome Iginla and Johnny Boychuk and put together a season similar to 2013-14, when they had the best record in the NHL before falling in the second round of the playoffs to the Canadiens.

“They have a healthy Chris Kelly, I think that makes a big difference,” McGuire said. “Carl Soderberg is a ton better, you saw that last night. I think Loui Eriksson will be a ton better this year. Dougie Hamilton, even though he had a couple of turnovers, you could see when he really amped his game up he was very good. Having Dennis Seidenberg back makes them better. Tuukka Rask is a year more mature.

“I think they’re a lot better in a lot of areas. I think they’re the best team in the Eastern Conference. I’m not changing on that; I won’t change even when we’re on Game 40, barring injuries, obviously. I think this team is extremely good.

“I like the energy of a young player like Craig Cunningham. I love the energy of Bobby Robins. They obviously got last night done without David Krejci and Gregory Campbell. This is a really good team. They’re really a good team, and they’re going to be a ton of fun to watch.”

McGuire said he saw lots of promising things from the opener.

“I thought Tuukka when he had to be was really good,” he said. “I thought Kevan Miller played a solid, physical game. I like the way Torey Krug started to jump into the rush. And I like the way that the Bruins defensemen really held the offensive blue line. And probably more importantly than anything else they’re much more aggressive offensively. I know it didn’t translate because I thought Steve Mason from Philadelphia played a great job so the scoreboard’s not indicative of that. But by and large they’re a much more aggressive offensive team, and I think that’s really important for them.”

Looking at the Eastern Conference, McGuire said the Bruins’ biggest challenge might come from the Lightning.

“I think Tampa Bay’s a very good team, and I know a lot of people are talking about them, but I would look out for the Tampa Bay Lightning. I would be a little bit nervous about them,” McGuire said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how everything translates in Pittsburgh, because it is a little bit of a different roster, it’s a different coaching philosophy going from Danny Bylsma to Mike Johnston. So we’ll see how that plays out. … I don’t know if there’s a team outside of Tampa and maybe Pittsburgh that’s going to be able to play and have enough depth to play against Boston. Boston’s just that good. Montreal’s really good, I just don’t know if they’re big enough to play against Boston when Boston’s healthy. Boston’s a really, really good team.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins.

On the trade of Boychuk: “I’m going to support Peter [Chiarelli] on this, because general managers have to have forward-thinking vision, and one of the things is you want to lock up your key players long term, and he’s been able to do that quietly, without a lot of fanfare. Secondly, because you’re in the cap era, it’s hard to keep everybody. You’d love to keep everybody, but it’s hard to do that. So, what he’s looking at is down the road, what he’s going to have to do with Reilly Smith, what he’s going to have to do with Torey Krug, what he’s going to have to with Carl Soderberg, who he thinks are really important players for his team. So I totally understand the predicament that’s facing him, and it’s not an easy thing to deal with.

“Getting two second-round picks and potentially a third for Johnny is huge. In a perfect world, everybody wants Johnny Boychuk. Not one of those players wanted Johnny Boychuk to leave. But that’s just the reality of where you are because of the cap. It’s really difficult. It’s more difficult than people know, it really is.”

On Zdeno Chara and if the team can manage his minutes so that he’s healthy in the postseason: “At some point they’re going to have that discussion with Zdeno. He’s in phenomenal condition. I spent a lot of time with him the previous two days to today. And I have to tell you, it was phenomenal to be around him. He’s as fit as he’s every been, he’s as gung-ho about the game as he’s ever been. He’s in Year 17 as an NHL player, which is unbelievable, and Year 18 as a professional [lockout season in Sweden]. I look at it, and he’s going to have to have that conversation at some point with Claude Julien. I think they will. It’s going to affect him later in the season if he’s logging the big minutes like he did last night. But I think he’s going to be just fine. I really do.”

On if the league will ever eliminate fighting in hockey: “I don’t think so. I don’t think they’ll ever do away with it. I think the penalty will become much more draconian for fighting, where potentially you’re kicked out of a game, like it is in college.  … Because we don’t have out of bounds and everybody’s locked into the playing surface, it’s hard to get away from that. Everybody’s moving at 30-35 miles an hour, they’re playing on sharp-edged objects and they have sticks in their hands. Stuff’s going to happen. It’s just the reality of the game.”

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar
After the Bruins opening night win against the Flyers, Pierre McGuiree of NBC joins MFB to preview the Bruins season and evaluate the Johnny Boychuck trade.

Among other things, Chris Kelly scored the game-winning goal Wednesday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)Chris Kelly is used to being an effective player.

In theory, Wednesday night’€™s season opener between the Bruins and Flyers should have given us a great back-and-forth battle between two of the NHL‘€™s best centers. Patrice Bergeron and Claude Giroux both finished in the top five in Hart Trophy voting last season, and their lines were matched against each other for most of the game Wednesday night.

But instead of that great battle, what we got was a total beatdown in favor of the Bruins. Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith dominated Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek all game long, rendering one of the best players in the league virtually invisible.

Bergeron won 10 of the 12 faceoffs he took against Giroux and ended up with a plus-16 Corsi (22 shot attempts for, 6 against), according to hockeystats.ca, while Giroux finished the night with a minus-18 Corsi (6 attempts for, 24 against). Bergeron and his linemates combined for seven shots on goal, while Giroux and his managed just two. It seemed like every time the two lines were on the ice, the puck was in the Flyers’€™ zone, and the numbers reflect that.

‘€œThey take pride in being a better line than the line that they’€™re facing up against,’€ Claude Julien said. ‘€œIt’€™s just a trait that they have. They worked hard. You have to give them credit, too, for how they checked against that line because it had a lot of potential to be dangerous offensively. But those guys did a pretty good job of taking away those opportunities.’€

The key was winning battles. Bergeron is one of the best faceoff men in the NHL, but it’€™s not like he won all 10 of those faceoffs cleanly. Some of them required him outworking Giroux on a second or third attempt to win the puck back, and some of them required Marchand or Smith to jump in and beat the opponent to a loose puck.

Battles in the corner led to longer offensive-zone possessions. One of the best examples of this came with around 9:40 left in the second when Bergeron won a 1-on-1 battle in the corner to the left of the net. He came away with the puck and moved it back to Zdeno Chara at the left point. Chara then moved it over to Adam McQuaid, who sent a shot through a nice Smith screen, one that he was able to set by winning a battle for position. The shot didn’€™t go in, but it wasn’€™t an easy save either.

That battling helped lead to the Bruins’ power-play goal that gave them a 1-0 lead as well. Bergeron and Carl Soderberg combined to win a 2-on-2 battle behind the net, and Soderberg wound up finding Smith backdoor for the goal.

When asked what worked so well Wednesday night, Smith’€™s answer was simple: ‘€œBergy. Bergy was doing a good job.’€

‘€œHe was winning tons of faceoffs, which was giving us the puck pretty much every time we got out there,’€ Smith added. ‘€œSo he did a good job, and Marchy was just kind of just being March, winning every puck in the corners and making good plays. Those guys did a good job.’€

Of course, it’€™s not surprising to see Bergeron and his linemates dominate when it comes to possession. All three of them ranked in the top 10 in the NHL in Corsi last season, and Bergeron led the league in CorsiRel (Corsi relative to his teammates). But Wednesday night was impressive even by those lofty standards.

Bergeron had just three games all of last season in which he finished with a better Corsi percentage than Wednesday night’€™s 78.6 percent. One came against a bad possession team in Washington, one came against a Florida team without a true No. 1 center, and the other came against a Detroit team that was missing both Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg at the time. In short, none of them came against a player like Claude Giroux, or a line like his.

See, Giroux isn’€™t normally a bad possession player. His 53.2 percent Corsi last season was more than respectable, and good enough for fourth on the Flyers. And his right wing, Voracek? He led the team with a 55.1 percent Corsi last season and ranked third in the NHL with a plus-8.65 percent CorsiRel. These are really good players that Bergeron and friends made look like bums.

With David Krejci out for at least the first three games of the season and new faces moving in and out of the lineup, the Bruins need Bergeron’€™s line to be the constant. There was no reason to think they wouldn’€™t be, but Wednesday night’€™s performance was even better than anyone could have expected.

Blog Author: 
Scott McLaughlin

After ending last season hurt, Chris Kelly began the Bruins’€™ 2014-15 season with the game-winning goal in the final minute of the team’€™s season-opener against the Flyers.

Reilly Smith scored the first goal of the season for the Bruins. (Getty Images)

Reilly Smith scored the first goal of the season for the Bruins. (Getty Images)

After ending last season hurt, Chris Kelly began the Bruins’€™ 2014-15 season with the game-winning goal in the final minute of the team’€™s season-opener against the Flyers.

With the game tied at a goal apiece, Kelly banged a bouncing puck past Steve Mason to give the Bruins a 2-1 victory. Kelly had nine goals last season.

In a play seen many times a season ago, Reilly Smith went to the left side of the net and took a pass across the net from Carl Soderberg for a backdoor goal on the power play.

After a scoreless second period, the Flyers tied the game on a Sean Couturier goal that might have gone off Carl Soderberg’€™s stick. A Patrice Bergeron holding penalty minutes later put the Bruins in a right spot, but an effective kill (the B’€™s held the Flyers’€™ power play quiet on three power plays), kept the game knotted at one.

Tuukka Rask made 19 saves on the night for the B’€™s.

Here are some takeaways from the game:

- In a matchup of top-five finishers in 2013-14 Hart voting, Patrice Bergeron dominated Claude Giroux. In addition to Bergeron overwhelming the Flyers’€™ captain in the face-off circle, Bergeron and his linemates held a strong edge in possession over Philadelphia’€™s top line.

- The Bruins started the game with Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton as their top pair and Dennis Seidenberg with Adam McQuaid. Claude Julien switched Hamilton and McQuaid halfway though the second period, making the B’€™s top four Chara-McQuaid and Seidenberg-Hamilton. The pairings were switched back and forth throughout the third period, with the Chara and Hamilton allowing the tying goal.

An offensively overzealous performance from Hamilton probably played a factor in the switch, as an attempt at keeping the puck in the zone in final minute of the first led to a 2-on-1 for the Flyers. Early in the second, Hamilton tried to pressure a puck carrier coming out of the Philadelphia zone and got beat, giving the Flyers number the other way again.

Hamilton was also picked off at the blue line in the offensive zone midway through the period to give the Flyers another odd-man rush.

- Ryan Spooner centered a line with Milan Lucic and Matt Fraser that Julien used as his third line. Spooner held his own in the faceoff circle and made some nice plays, but his biggest offensive issue from a season ago crept up again. Spooner does not go to the net, whether it’€™s with or without the puck, and that showed up in his play again Wednesday. He peeled off to the right wall after skating the puck into the zone in the first, while a second-period play in which he dished the puck to Lucic at the blue line saw him loiter at the right circle.

- Playing in his first career NHL game, 32-year-old Bobby Robins got in his first NHL fight when, after he and Craig Cunningham hit Zac Rinaldo simultaneously (Robins was given a charging minor for the hit), Robins dropped the gloves in a feverish bout with Luke Schenn.

- The lineup in the game was as follows:

Marchand ‘€“ Bergeron ‘€“ Smith
Kelly ‘€“ Soderberg ‘€“ Eriksson
Lucic ‘€“ Spooner ‘€“ Fraser
Paille ‘€“ Cunningham ‘€“ Robins

Chara ‘€“ Hamilton/McQuaid
Seidenberg ‘€“ Adam McQuaid/Hamilton
Torey Krug ‘€“ Kevan Miller

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean
We check in with the great Jack Edwards of NESN and preview the Boston Bruins on opening night for the NHL.
Live Blog Bruins season opener

Blog Author: 

NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his first weekly appearance of the 2014-15 season Wednesday, hours before the Bruins drop the puck against the Flyers in the opener at TD Garden. To hear the interview, go the MFB audio on demand page.