WILMINGTON — The hit left Seth Griffith down on the ice, his body in a semi-circle. It left Anthony Camara out of the game and the playoff series, his Barrie Colts going on to lose without him.
The open-ice hit marked the second major charging penalty for Camara in the series against Griffith’s London Knights — and third in two rounds — and meant he was done for the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, in which he’d scored 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 16 games.
As Griffith, Camara’s fellow Bruins prospect, said half in jest, “He ended up getting kicked out, which was good for us, too. That’s what we wanted.”
They knew it would be easier to win with Camara off the ice.
It was a moment that, in some ways, demonstrates what Camara could mean to the Bruins. Because while there have been notable improvements in the forward’s game over the last year, including his abilities in the offensive zone, there’s another factor that might make him perfect for coach Claude Julien’s team.
“He kind of fits that Bruins mold,” Providence Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “He plays with an edge. He’s nasty.”
Fortunately, the hit didn’t result in any serious or lasting injury to Griffith, and the two were back on the same side last week at the Bruins development camp, which ended Sunday. The dressing room might have been a bit frostier had the hit been more severe.
Camara, drafted by the Bruins in the third round in 2011, has spent the last two seasons in the OHL, watching his game soar last season under Hall of Famer and 500-goal scorer Dale Hawerchuk.
“He’s become a really good two-way player,” said assistant general manager Don Sweeney, who mentioned Camara when asked which player impressed him most during the week. “His skating, his approach to really daily life has changed significantly. He’s grown up. He’s ready to be a pro. We’re excited about where he’s landing this year.”
Sweeney added that Camara took a leadership role during development camp.
One thing that Camara will have to do is find the line between being too physical, taking too many penalties, getting into too many fights. He’ll have to figure out how to “dance over it, but get back,” as Sweeney put it, something that the team has dealt with in Brad Marchand’s game as well.
“He’s a tough player, he’s a good forechecker, but he’s running around and hitting everybody and fighting,” general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “He can do that and be successful at it in the lower leagues, but he won’t in the higher leagues.
“He’s going to have to find his way and find the balance that way. Like where’s the line between being overly aggressive and being aggressive enough that you’ve earned your space that you can produce offensively.”
Camara compared himself with the Blackhawks’ Andrew Shaw – a name that probably isn’t a favorite around Boston, given Shaw’s game-winner in triple overtime of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“Contributes offensively, has a role here and there, but doesn’t forget he can also be physical and can contribute as a defensive guy too,” Camara said. “Just a grinder. Works hard at his shifts, gets in there.”
The self-described “middleweight” isn’t afraid to go after opponents either. He isn’t interested in backing down. He isn’t scared. He’ll take the hits.
And make them.
“He knew I didn’t mean to go after him like that,” Camara said of the hit on Griffith. “I was trying to go for the puck.”
Camara said he wants to make sure that he’s not getting a reputation as a dirty player, even after the three game misconducts got him kicked out. He did try to stay out of the penalty box more last season, to focus his energies on his offensive improvement — and finished first on the team in penalty minutes (91) and second in goals (36).
Though, of course, he also doesn’t want fear of a reputation to take away part of his game, to soften that edge that makes him who he is on the ice.
“He gets in there and bangs around,” Griffith said. “At the same time, he’s got a good shot, he can get the puck in the net.”
That hit could have made for awkward dressing room conversation during the week. But fortunately the two, who haven’t exactly discussed the incident, were able to laugh about it.
But that doesn’t mean it was over, not completely.
Asked during camp if he had considered giving Camara a hard check into the boards, Griffith smiled, a bit wickedly. He said, “I might. I have to do something. We’ll see what happens.”
After a couple of years with little in the way of preseason competition, there will be some change for the Bruins this season with spots up in the air on the team’s third line with the trade of Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley.
“I think it’ll be a new dynamic,” Chiarelli said. “I like the fact that we have guys that are pushing the envelope to play. Maybe a couple of guys here [in development camp], a couple guys we got in trades, a couple guys in Providence.”
Though any team continues to develop its young players, Chiarelli acknowledged that sometimes there isn’t room for them with the NHL club, sometimes they’re used as trade chips. But now might be their time with the Bruins.
“It breathes new life into everybody,” he said. “I think this year we’re going to have a bit of a challenge in that respect because we played so long into the summer, and it’ll be good that there’ll be some young guys coming into the lineup and breathing new enthusiasm into the team.”
Chiarelli did say he has a “general sense” of how he thinks the roster will turn out, though he declined to offer specifics yet.
Chance for Svedberg
It appears the Bruins will give goalie Niklas Svedberg a chance to back up Tuukka Rask, with Chiarelli saying Sunday that he has “earned a look.” The Bruins signed Chad Johnson after Anton Khudobin was signed away by the Hurricanes . . . Chiarelli confirmed that the team is not going to re-sign Jaromir Jagr. “We’re done for now,” he said . . . It has yet to be determined where the Bruins will play Carl Soderberg, who jumped into the Stanley Cup Final when need dictated it, though Chiarelli said Soderberg probably would end up at center. Chiarelli admitted that Soderberg was “out of shape,” because of the time off the ice before coming over from the Swedish Elite League. “He had an up-and-down experience,” Chiarelli said. “He definitely feels he can help the team with his size and strength — you saw snippets of it — and I think he can, too.”
For the Bruins, there was a different look to camp. As Chiarelli put it, “It’s been a while since we’ve had that many European players in one draft, so I think I was watching them a little more closely just for that reason. And I was happy with what I saw.” Those players include top pick Linus Arnesson, as well as Anton Blidh and Peter Cehlarik . . . Chiarelli praised goaltender Malcolm Subban for being “off the charts” on the team’s physical testing.