With the off-season in full swing here in Boston, news out of Causeway street has been few and far between since the B’s first round exit at the hands of the Washington Capitals. In the meantime, I hope you’ve all been enjoying my series of postseason report cards. Soon enough things will begin to heat up again with the NHL Awards and Entry Draft just three weeks away. For now, I’d like to catch up on a few interesting Bruins-related developments that have emerged over the past couple of weeks.
Bruins Ink Swedish Goalie Niklas Svedberg To Two-Year Entry Level Contract
– On Tuesday, the Boston Bruins announced the signing of Swedish netminder Niklas Svedberg to a two-year entry level contract. The 22-year-old Swede has spent the last two seasons with Brynas IF Gavle of the Swedish Elite League (Elitserien). Svedberg posted a 2.47 goals against average and a .912 save percentage in 29 regular season games for Brynas in 2011-’12. It was in the 2012 postseason that Svedberg truly impressed, posting a 1.70 goals against average and recording four shutouts in thirteen games, leading Brynas to it’s 13th Swedish League championship. While Svedberg is expected to spend most — if not all — of the 2012-’13 season in Providence (AHL) or Reading (ECHL), the 6’2″, 176-pound Sollentuna, Sweden native could provide Boston with some valuable depth behind Anton Khudobin and Tuukka Rask as the B’s prepare for a possible future without Tim Thomas. Signed for just two seasons, and likely at a reasonable cost (financial terms of the deal were not disclosed) Svedberg was an absolute steal for general manager Peter Chiarelli in acquiring depth without sacrificing any of his team’s assets.
Bourque Back In Boston?
– After nearly five years of consistent inconsistency (yes, you read that right), the Zach Hamill era is over in Boston. The eighth overall selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft was shipped off to Washington on Saturday in exchange for Boxford, MA native and American Hockey League scoring king Chris Bourque. The undersized, playmaker — son of legendary Bruins’ defenseman Ray Bourque — lead the AHL in scoring last season, posting a career high of 93 points (27G/66A) in 73 games while skating for the Hershey Bears. While the 26-year-old has been able to surpass the 60-point mark four times in his AHL career, he hasn’t enjoyed the same type of success at the NHL level. Picking up just one goal and adding three assists in thirty-three career NHL games, Bourque’s lack of production at hockey’s highest level has undoubtedly been the reason behind his journeyman-like career. For Hamill, the move to Washington is perhaps his last chance at a full time NHL job after spending five seasons in the American Hockey League. This looks to be a low risk/high reward type deal for both teams, in hoping that two once highly-touted prospects can benefit from a change of scenery and finally break through at the NHL level.
Gone Already? But We’ve Only Just Met
– News broke this week that former second round draft choice Alexander Khokhlachev‘s time in Boston may in fact be over before it even begins. Prior to the 2011 draft, the Windsor Spitfires’ forward was widely regarded as one of the top talents eligible for selection. However, the inherent risk with drafting Khokhlachev — as it is with most Russian prospects — is the possibility of him departing for the homeland of mother-Russia and the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Now, just one year after selecting “KoKo” with the 40th overall selection (second round) in the 2011 Entry Draft, the Bruins are faced with the very real possibility that he may never don the sweater with the eight-spoked “B”.
According to the Windsor Star, the eighteen year-old sniper is considering a move to the KHL to join the HC Moscow Spartak in September. The report also suggested that KoKo and the B’s are currently in talks regarding an entry level contract. In the end, it could be a situation of “the NHL or the KHL” for the Russian-born pivot in 2012-’13. This would put the Bruins in an extraordinarily tough spot as the team is already expecting 2010 second round draft choices Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight to compete for roster spots this fall.
While a KHL stint would, in fact, aid Khokhlachev’s development — playing in a league against men, as opposed to 16-19 year-olds in the Ontario Hockey League — it is impossible to know if a player who does defect to Russia will ever actually come back to North America. Just ask the Preds about their four-year wait for Alexander Radulov. After that, inquire about the type of attitude he exhibited upon finally returning to Nashville.
A Cinderella Story: Stanley Cup Final Edition
As you all know, this year’s Stanley Cup Final features two squads that most would not have expected to be still lacing up the skates in early June. I remember standing in a somber Los Angeles locker room back in December after the Bruins had just handily beaten the Kings at the TD Garden by a 3-0 score. It was Los Angeles’ fifth straight defeat. You could sense the angst and frustration amongst the players who had only managed to score six goals in their previous five games. On that night, it was next to impossible to envision the Kings even making it into the postseason, never mind make it to a point where they’ve become favorites to take home the Stanley Cup after running roughshod through the Western Conference en route to a 13-2 playoff record. This further illustrates the fact that any championship team must be able to survive and endure trying times before achieving success.
On the New Jersey side, after what was a truly disappointing 2010-’11 campaign for Martin Brodeur and the perennially-contending Devils, many pundits picked the red and black to miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season. However, key contributions from their third and fourth lines have perfectly complimented the otherworldly play of superstars Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk to lead New Jersey back to the Final for the first time since 2003.
An unusual statistic that may leave many Bruins’ fans scratching their heads is that of Boston’s extraordinary success against this year’s Cup finalists during the regular season. The 2011 Cup Champs posted a perfect 6-0-0 record against Los Angeles (2-0-0) and New Jersey (4-0-0) during the 2011-’12 campaign, outscoring their opponents by an astounding 25-10 margin.
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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Have written for The Hockey Guys and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com.