CHICAGO - The Bruins return home from Chicago on Saturday night marked the midway point of this year's preseason. Up against a Blackhawks team trotting out the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toes and Duncan Keith, the young Bruins roster battled to overtime before ultimately falling, 3-2.
With only three regulars from last years squad (Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk) on the trip to Chicago, the Black & Gold still managed to outshoot the opposition at even strength 38-37. Ryan Fitzgerald and Par Lindholm scored for the B's, while Kyle Keyser stood tall turning aside all 18 shots he faced in the third period.
Calm, Cool, Keyser
After a solid performance in his first preseason action against New Jersey, netminder Kyle Keyser had another chance to impress the Bruins Brass when he came into Saturday's game at the start of the third period.
"He battles," said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. "He did it in Jersey. He did it tonight. Good shooters, this was a pretty good lineup. The shots he seemed to face in the third were power play, overtime, top end skill. He looks like he's going to be a good one."
The 20-year-old netminder turned aside all 18 shots he faced in the third period from the Blackhawks big guns.
"It was a good experience," said Keyser. "Obviously, playing against their top guys, obviously that's what you want to do when you're at an NHL level. The guys made it easier for me to come in the third period and just get comfortable into the game so that was nice."
Keyser noted the challenges of being dropped into a game at the start of the third period.
"It's difficult, I won't lie to you," said Keyser. "But at the end of the day like I said, it's our job to go in there and stop the puck. Whether you're put in in the third period with 10 minutes left or you start the game. That's kind of the approach that I take. I know that I have to be mentally sharp at all times of the games. Especially when you're backing up, you never know what can happen, so you have to be ready the whole time.
"That's kind of the mental approach that I kind of take going into every single game, is that I don't know what's going to happen whether I'm playing or not, so I go and that was kind of just the case tonight."
After a summer focused on improvements, the 6-foot-2 goalie is glad to see the results.
"I just think that I'm playing my game," said Keyser. "Feeling good about myself and jump starting into the season with some good confidence. I put in a lot of hard work this summer and it feels good to know that it's paid off and there's a lot longer of the season to go. By no means does - I have one and a half and then one period in the end. There's a whole season to go and I have to keep proving night in and night out that I'm the same goalie and that I can do this night in and we want to provide that stability in net and know that when those guys put on the jersey, they're going to know what they're going to get out of you every single game."
Video: Postgame reaction from Chicago
How Swede It Is
On Par Lindholm's third period tally to even the game at 12:49 of the third, there was an added layer of familiarity with his teammate dishing out the helper.
Fellow Swede Oskar Steen broke in with Lindholm on the 2-on-1 and ultimately made the slick feed to set up his countryman.
"He has the ability to make some high-end plays - NHL plays," said Cassidy of Steen. "His release, he sees the ice well, can get around well. For him it's just learning the smaller ice surface, how to close quicker in D-zone. Recognize that he is going to get closed on along the walls…Big strong men in this league and you have to be strong on the puck."
Being strong on the puck is a lesson Steen has learned quickly as he adjusts from the bigger playing surfaces in Sweden.
"You have to be strong on the puck here," said Steen. "You cannot give the puck to the opponent. It's everything to be strong on the puck and get it deep and try to get it to the D and into the net. It's much more simple here. Yeah, I try to adjust to it."
While Steen tries to make the adjustments necessary to succeed in North America, he has someone in his corner who has recently made the same transition.
"He's new to this," said Lindholm, who made the transition across the Atlantic Ocean himself just one year ago. "This is his second game after rookie camp so I think it's harder for him right now than it is for me. I'm trying to get him all the information he can need and help in that way."
Lindholm's play on Saturday gave reason to believe his transition has continued to progress.
"He's a steady player," said Cassidy of Lindhom. "He goes to the right spot. He's around the puck. For him it's getting his confidence back to make plays. I think he tried to find his way in the league last year. Usually, if you're in that survival mode, you want to be good defensively - make sure you don't make mistakes. We just have to bring out a bit of that offense that was in him in the Swedish league a few years ago, but still his calling card will be his penalty killing and his defensive zone play and hopefully make a few plays along the way."
Last season, Lindholm appeared in 65 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets. Now he will try to crack a strong Bruins roster.
"It's been really fun," said Lindholm of his time with the Bruins. "The guys are really funny and real fun. I think it's a really good group and especially the leaders. This team is really good, all the players, younger and older and me. I'm happy with that."
Fitzgerald Tallies: The Bruins 2013 4th round pick is entering his third full season as a professional, and his comfort at this level was evident against Chicago. After the Bruins were awarded a penalty shot when a Blackhawks player covered the puck in the crease, Fitzgerald got the nod for Bruins. The Boston College graduate calmly weaved in and slotted a shot low blocker to get the Bruins on the board.
"He's competing for a spot," said Cassidy. "He's had a real good first year in Providence. Last year ran into some injury problems. I don't know if he got his traction for the whole year. He's battling with the other guys. You know what our lineup looks like. I think we were looking at the end of last year, can we add some size and obviously that works against him. He obviously has the talent; he can make plays and see the ice. If he does end up in Providence because of the numbers, he's a guy that would have to play to his strength and look to replace a skill guy."
McAvoy, Grzelcyk, Carlo Preseason Update: Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy noted after the game that the trio of defenseman would likely appear in two of the remaining three preseason contests. He noted that Grzelcyk will likely not play in Monday's tilt against the Devils, while one of either McAvoy or Carlo will be in the lineup.